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Warhammer 40K: The 10th Edition Launch – What Went Right & Wrong

7 Minute Read
Sep 19 2023

After three months, it’s time to look back at Warhammer 40K’s 10th Edition launch, and what went right and wrong with it.

Warhammer 40,000 10th Edition has been out for a few months now. We’ve gotten the first Codex of the edition (hi Tyranids!) and the second one (Space Marines) is on the way soon. We are clearly past the initial launch and now firmly into the new edition. I think now is a good time to take a look back at the 10th Edition launch and what was done right and wrong with it.  Any launch like this is something to learn from and improve on. From my perspective as someone whose played every edition of 40k since 2nd, the 10th Edition launch was the shakiest edition launch we’ve ever had. So lets take a look at why.

The Marketing Lead Up – The Good

10th Edition had a decently long lead up with a few months of teasers and news drops. This is something GW has improved on massively in the past few years. In a number of older Editions you would hear basically nothing about what was coming, with very few teasers. GW played things very well, building a steady, continuous drumbeat of information and builing up interest for months. In addition, GW has gotten much better about sharing info with news sites. A number of of news sites got advanced access to rules and teasers allowing for independent reviews and commentary. This is not just good for consumer information, but from a marketing standpoints. These were all good moves on GW’s part.

The Marketing Lead Up – The Bad

However there were a couple issues with the this process that I think it’s important to point out. The first has to do with leaks. Now this might not matter to a lot of people as a reader, but it does matter to websites. 10th Edition had a fair number of leaks, with rules and pages of the books getting out way ahead of time. When GW sends a news site an advanced copy of something there is an embargo date, and before that date you can’t talk about what you’ve been sent. Because of the leaks, illegitimate sites could often break news well before media sites that followed the rules could. This left media sites that try to follow the rules at a disadvantage which isn’t great. GW needs to work on this.

Secondly was the issue that GW when giving out samples of product, such as the Leviathan box for review did not give out prices. This left a number of reviewers feeling they could not give it a fair look. Polygon for instance, a large and important website, could not endorse the box because of this. And it’s easy to see why. How can you say you tell people to buy a boxset when you don’t know if it will cost $200 or $600? I think it’s important the GW be more forthcoming on prices for highly important releases like Leviathan.

The New Boxes Are Bad For Newcomers


So lets talk about the new boxes, both the Leviathan Launch box and the new starters. First off, some good parts. GW seems to have fixed its supply issues for big launches and Leviathan was available in good numbers. Despite some rumors in the lead up I don’t know anyone who really had issues getting a box that wanted one and scalpers did not ruin things for everyone. The box is also a decent deal, for the models you get at least. Releasing the core rules for free was also a smart move.

On the other hand all the new boxes starter armies aren’t ideal for new players. Now the starter and launch boxes are always going to have Marines and a less popular faction in them. This time it was Nids, not the most popular non-Marine faction, but not the worst. Their stuff is pretty decent. However the Marine units in new edition boxes are problematic for a new player. You get absolutely zero Battleline/Core/Troop units, which I think might be a first for 40K. Instead you are stuck with the oddball Infernus Marines and a bunch of elites – just a highly unusual set of units.

Both factions also give you character with no units to join. It is almost as if the box mini contents was designed before the rules on joining units were written. There’s also no box with everything you need to play  to physically play a game. Each one either missing cards or dice or something. All of this is combined with a shortage of models that makes it very hard to get into the game. 

The Indices and The Rules

OK but all that stuff is is kind of ephemeral. What about the rules? Well again, here GW has learned some things. Starting over from scratch with a bunch of new Indices is a pretty good move in theory.  It lets you have everyone start on the same foot and allows for a refreshed and balanced game. Giving out the rules and the Indices for free was also a great move by GW. It allowed people to get started playing right away with their existing collections, and also took some of the sting out of having you collection of 9th Codices invalidated.

Having the app come out, and work, and be free was also a really strong move. These were all calculated to get people exciting about the game and playing it. Though the warning that you would only have free access to the apps for a limited time, with no real indication of what that meant wasn’t ideal from a customer information point of view.


The release was also a bit odd at times. For instance the core rules were released a while before the Rules Commentary. This lead to a few weeks of players asking questions that were answered already, but GW was just hanging on to the answers. The timing of these types of rules release could use further tightening up.

The Army Balance

However all the good GW had done releasing the Indices fell apart when people actually played with them. The biggest single issue with the 10th launch was its complete lack of balance between the armies. From the get go the game was woefully uneven. Anyone who looked at it, even pre-release could see the flaws. The armies had some massive power imbalances in them and many seemed rushed. Indeed rumors state that some of the Indices were completed in a handful of days so rushed was the schedule. The first months of the 10th Edition have been a story of a few armies dominating the game despite repeated attempts to nerf them.

It’s not even just an issue with the Indices. The core rules had and have some glaring issues. Leave aside the fact that the rules are split into two, with the rules commentary being an essential  document that isn’t in the rulebook for… reasons. Some of the big issues with the rules included Towering, Devastating Wounds,Line of Sight issues and more. Some of these have been fixed, others have not. It’s troubling enough that months into the game GW has been forced to re-write portions of the core rules. All this gives the impression that the games’ rules writers weren’t themselves sure how their creation would play – out in the real world.

The Legacy

To me this is really why 10th has been a shaky release. All the other issues aside, its the balance and rules. The community narrative around 10th Edition has mostly focused around how unbalanced the game is. Instead of people being excited for the simpler or faster game (which hasn’t fully panned out) they are talking about how a handful of armies dominated everything.

You simply don’t hear people talking much about how 10th ruleset is so much better than what came before, and that’s largely because balance issues have over taken everything. For some people the first few months of 10th have been pretty much unplayable. I do think 10th is moving in a better direction and there is hope for the new edition. There is also hope for the future, hope that GW will learn form what happened these past few months here and do better when Warhammer 40K 11th Edition inevitably comes out.


Tell us what you thought of the 10th Edition launch, down in the comments! 

Author: Abe Apfel
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