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Warhammer 40K: How Much Change Do You Really Want?

5 Minute Read
Nov 12 2021
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Games Workshop often says they are aiming to REALLY shake up the grimdark’s background. But how much 40K change do the fans want?

GW has shaken up their games in a big way on several occasions. We had the Rise of the Primarch series at the end of 7th Edition, and Psychic Awakening at the end of 8th bring tremendous 40K change.

While Rise of the Primarch saw the return of Guilliman it was the launch of 8th that saw Primaris Marines and Cawl rolled out, along with the Great Rift. All pretty huge events for the Grimdark. Fast forward to Psychic Awakening and I think it didn’t live up to its promise to be bigger and more eventful than the Horus Heresy at all. When the new 9th Edition core rulebook arrived, the entire Psychic Awakening was duscussed for only for two pages in the background section.

 We have already seen what an almost entire reset of a universe looks like – The END TIMES series that transitioned Warhammer Fantasy’s Old World into the Age of Sigmar showed us what GW can do when they mean to REALLY shake up a game-system. With all the drama and near-death experiences of that game system’s first year, I don’t think everyone wants to ever see a repeat of anything that extreme.

I’m the new boss!

What do Big 40K Changes Look Like?

On the other end of the scale, we DID see some big shakeups during the transition from 40K’s 7th to 8th edition, and 8th to 9th. We saw:

  • A Primarch returns
  • The Great Rift emerges
  • Primaris Marines are introduced
  • Human Psykers are reemerging en masse
  • The Eldar have a plan to defeat Slaanesh and are discussing it seriously
  • Magnus and the Planet of Sorcerers have returned to Prospero
  • The Adeptus Custodes are at full strength and have been unleashed across the Galaxy
  • There are three unclaimed Blackstone Fortresses and they are up to no good.
  • The Dark Angel Fallen are uniting under Luther in full Legion strength in the Imperium Nihilus.

By the standards of 3rd-7th Edition – those are all monster changes, yet people have taken them all in stride. So this gives us two endpoints on our spectrum of future Grimdark Change. On one end, a complete Age of Sigmar style reboot, on the other a set of major events like the three listed above.  I would assume that GW is looking to land somewhere in the middle for future narrative events throughout 9th and beyond.

Here are some “big events” that have been hinted at in the background for you to consider.


Let’s Shake Things Up

The question I have for you is would you support things of this level of change in the game? Think not so much of the specific details, but of the size and size effects of events of this magnitude and how it might affect not only the lore, but the game itself.

  • More Loyalist Primarchs Return.
  • More Traitor Primarchs Return.
  • There is a second Horus Heresy, splitting the Imperium in two along uncertain lines.
  • The Eldar fuse into a single new faction.
  • The Eldar defeat Slaanesh.
  • or…the Eldar get eaten by Slaanesh.
  • The Orks unify under Ghaz and decimate large portions of the galaxy.
  • The Necrons rise en masse and reclaim, or ally with other races (for example the T’au) to carve out their own realms.
  • The Necrons perfect the Pariah Nexus zones and cut off large parts of the galaxy from living sentient creatures.
  • The Tyranids hive fleets strike from below the galactic plane and decimate the heart of the Imperium
  • Those Blackstone Fortresses power up and do something really sinister.
  • Chaos conquers large parts of the Imperium – maybe even Terra.
  • The Emperor dies… or rises once more (He’s a Perpetual after all)
  • Squats return (hinted in Psychic Awakening)

Would Big 40K Change Help or Hurt?

Any of these would be big major events from a single edition, but many of these have been hinted at already. I think a case could be made that a side-effect of the Age of Sigmar’s “clean slate” is it fueled a tornado of GW studio creativity that has been refreshing for Age of Sigmar these last years. Just look at all the unique and amazing new armies over in the Mortal Realms. I mean come on, Teclis and his Lumineth stomped Nagash, and then Kragnos showed up with Kruleboyz – it’s NUTS over there!

40K hasn’t had that kind of petal-to-the-metal creativity since the 80s-90s. In 9th Edition we have seen GW move to knocking out several 2-part Campaigns. But both Charadon and Octavius have a LOT of factions fighting and namedropping units, but all end pretty inconclusively. It’s clear that so far in 9th, GW wants a lot of battle noise coming from the orchestra but not a lot of plot movement.


The Horus Heresy Wildcard

There is also one more card GW has up it’s sleeve. After about a decade, the Horus Heresy series is coming to an end soon. With Dan Abnett closing out the show I would expect that while the big-picture events of the Horus Heresy will remain unchanged – the Big E will still end up in his chair. But, we will get HUGE REVEALS, and additional secrets and context that will make us re-evaluate everything we know about the “current” 40K universe. What if some bad guys are secretly heroes, or vice versa?  It could be that GW is saving some big Holy Terra shaking reveals as a set up for something giant to wrap up 9th Edition.

What Do You Want?

The question I have for you dedicated fans is – how much 40K change do you really want? 

Do you like the grimdark status quo, with ever shifting rules, but a somewhat static (but ever grimmer) sandbox to tell your own stories in, or do you want to see GW really advance and reshape the game’s background into something different and unexpected. Probably not as extreme as the END-TIMES to Age of Sigmar transition, but something closer to what we see in Age of Sigmar these days.


~Let us know, I’m genuinely curious.


Author: Larry Vela
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