Dark Imperium Starter Set Review

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Warhammer 40,000 eighth edition was released yesterday (17th of June for those of you reading this in the future) and I got the Dark Imperium starter box and I’m bloody chuffed with it.

The box itself is really nice and particularly well put together; opening it is almost an experience in itself.  Whereas previously it’s been a matter of just popping the lid off and rummaging through the contents, this one has a slip cover before you even get to the main box.

Once the cover’s off, there’s a box in a box that contains the models, which you lift out to get to the rest of the stuff.  I particularly like that they’re in their own box; breaking a little purity seal to get to the miniatures is a nice touch.  There’s certainly thought gone into how it’s all been put together.

I haven’t done anything with the miniatures yet, that exciting prospect is looming large though and I expect to be getting stuck in to the Death Guard over the next couple of weeks.  One thing I can say, after poring over the sprues at great length, is how awesome they all look.  Taken at face value, they look like they’re all going to be a treat to work with.

All the things you’d expect in a starter set are present and correct.  The little getting you started books for the Primaris Marines and the Death Guard, dice and whatnot.

One thing that does deserve a mention is the death of the range-rulers of doom.  They’ve been replaced with a flexible see through ruler thingy, which is probably for the best, given how much trouble those deadly, red sods have caused over the years.

The rulebook is one of the full size, hardback beasts and as far as I know, the same sort you’d buy if you were to purchase it separately and on that alone is a mark in Games Workshop’s favour.

It has loads of lovely looking artwork, both old and new.  A good deal of it is the sort you can spend time looking at, soaking up the multitude of things going on.  There’s a particularly nice Imperial Fists piece that deserves special mention, which I think I would have to say is one of my favourites.

As far as the background is concerned, there is loads of it.  This is great if you’re new to the hobby.  Unfortunately, an awful lot of it covers the same ground as previous editions and if like me you got in at the ground floor as far as 40K is concerned, you will have seen a lot of it before.  Whereas this is inevitable up to a point; history of the Imperium and such, there are what I would consider to be missed opportunities.

The section detailing the races of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe is an example of this.  The description of each race is generic and apart from a few instances, doesn’t contain much in the way of new material.  It would have been nice to know how each race is dealing with the changes wrought by the Cicatrix Maladictum, Gorks Grin, or whatever the chosen name of it is for each race, for example.

Also, unless I’m being particularly dense, there is a large continuity error regarding Roboute and the Blood Angels.  I won’t say anything more with regards to that, as it would be spoilertastic for those yet to read it.  Suffice to say, as somebody who likes the background material as much as I do, mistakes of this sort bother me.  As I said, I might be missing something, but I don’t think so.

Something else they need to work on, as far as the background is concerned is their obsession with the Ultramarines in general and Roboute in particular.  I’m not an Ultramarine hater, I have an army of them that I’ve been collecting on and off for close to thirty years now.  But I can understand where a lot of the resentment comes from and some of the stuff in here is likely to exacerbate the strength of feeling against them.

They’ve been pushed hard for a long time now and with the return of Roboute it seems to be getting worse.  Some of the stuff they’ve done is so overblown and cringeworthy that it can read like fan-fiction at times.

I won’t say more about the background, otherwise I might end up coming across as a grumpy old sod who doesn’t like anything and I’m not, honest.  The truth is, the background isn’t awful, but it is, as I said earlier, in part at least, a missed opportunity.

I’ve already touched on the artwork, but the photography also deserves a mention.  There are some fabulous models on show in the book, both in terms of sculpt and paint job and as somebody who has taken lots of pictures of my own models, I can safely say that Games Workshops photographers deserve a pat on the back too.

As far as the rules are concerned, I can’t really go into much detail about them yet.  I’ve read the core rules and cast an eye over the advanced stuff and the scenarios and I like what I’ve seen.

It seems like they’ve removed a lot of the clutter and whereas the core rules are wee, I wouldn’t say they’ve been dumbed down, more streamlined.

Matched, narrative and open play are something I’m happy to see.  A lot of my games will probably be matched play, but I can certainly think of instances where I will play using narrative, or open play as well.

All in all, it seems to be a solid release.  A great starter box with ruleset that seems ripe with potential.  The issues with the background are a little problematic, and whereas it does mar the finished product for me a bit, it’s not a deal-breaker.

This, however is just how feel about it as a crusty old 40K dude and the background certainly won’t be an issue for a newcomer to the game, which is arguably who the starter set is aimed at.  It’s a good box for anyone into Warhammer 40,000, but perfect for newcomers.