Warhammer 40,000 (informally known as Warhammer 40K, WH40K or simply 40K) is a tabletop miniature wargame produced by Games Workshop, set in a dystopian science-fantasy universe. Warhammer 40,000 was created by Rick Priestley in 1987 as the futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, sharing many game mechanics.
First Edition (Rogue Trader)
The first edition of the game, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, was published in 1987. Game designer Rick Priestley created the original rules set (based on the contemporary second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle) alongside the Warhammer 40,000 gameworld. This original version came as a very comprehensive rulebook, covering armies and statistics for all the major factions, weapons and equipment, alongside rules for psychics and mutants, and lots of background information. Several elements of the setting (bolters, lasguns, frag grenades, power armour) can be seen in Bryan Ansell's Laserburn, while many others are taken from 2000AD, Dune etc.
While a complete and extensive wargame in it's own right, supplemental material was continually published in White Dwarf magazine, which provided rules for new units and models. The first supplement Chapter Approved: The first Eventually, White Dwarf began to describe formal army-lists. The rule additions were compiled in several books, including 40K Compilation, 40k Companion, Waargh The Orks. The Realms of Chaos Books spanned both Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40k and WFRP, and Warhammer Siege.
Second Edition (1993)
The second edition of Warhammer 40,000 was published in late 1993. This new course for the game was set by the direction of editor Andy Chambers. The second edition came in a boxed set that included Space Marine and Ork miniatures, scenery, dice, and the main rules. An expansion box set titled Dark Millennium was later released, which included rules for psychic powers. Another trait of the game was the attention given to "special characters" who had access to equipment and abilities beyond those of others (the earlier edition only had three generic 'heroic' profiles for each army: champion, minor and major hero). Second edition started the practice of having separate 'codexes' or army-lists for each separate army or faction.
Third Edition (1998)
The third edition of the game was released in 1998 and, like the second edition, concentrated on streamlining the rules for larger battles. Third-edition rules were notably simpler and were less prone to give characters abilities only on the roll of a die. The rulebook was available alone, or as a boxed set with miniatures of Space Marines and the newly introduced Dark Eldar. The system of army codexes continued in third edition.
Towards the end of the third edition, four new army codexes were introduced: the xeno (that is, alien) races of the Necron and the Tau and two armies of the Inquisition: the Ordo Malleus (called Daemonhunters), and the Ordo Hereticus (called Witchhunters); elements of the latter two armies had appeared before in supplementary material (such as Realm of Chaos and Codex: Sisters of Battle). At the end of the third edition, these armies were re-released with all-new artwork and army lists. The release of the Tau coincided with a rise in popularity for the game in the United States.
Fourth Edition (2004)
The fourth edition of Warhammer 40,000 was released in 2004. This edition did not feature as many major changes as prior editions, and was "backwards compatible" with each army's third-edition codex. The fourth edition was released in three forms: the first was a standalone hardcover version, with additional information on painting, scenery building, and background information about the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The second was a boxed set, called Battle For Macragge, which included a compact softcover version of the rules, scenery, dice, templates, and Space Marines and Tyranid miniatures. The third was a limited collector's edition. Battle for Macragge was a 'game in a box', targeted primarily at beginners. Battle for Macragge was based on the Tyranid invasion of the Ultramarines' homeworld, Macragge. An expansion to this was released called The Battle Rages On!, which featured new scenarios and units, like the Tyranid Warrior.
Fifth Edition (2008)
The fifth edition of Warhammer 40,000 was released on July 12, 2008. While there are some differences between the fourth and fifth editions, the general rule set shares numerous similarities. Codex books designed prior to the fifth edition are still compatible with only some changes to how those armies function. The replacement for the previous edition's Battle for Macragge starter set is called Assault on Black Reach, which features a pocket-sized rulebook (containing the full ruleset but omitting the background and hobby sections of the full-sized rulebook), and starter Ork and Space Marine armies. Each army contains a HQ choice, either an Ork Warboss or a Space Marine Captain.
New additions to the rules include the ability for infantry models to "Go to Ground" when under fire, providing additional protection at the cost of mobility and shooting as they dive for cover. Actual line of sight is needed to fire at enemy models. Also introduced is the ability to run, whereby units may forgo shooting to cover more ground. In addition, cover has been changed so that it is now easier for a unit to get a cover save. Damage to vehicles has been simplified and significantly reduced, and tanks may now ram other vehicles. Some of these rules are modeled after rules that existed in the Second Edition, but were removed in the Third. Likewise, 5th edition codexes have seen a return of many units previously cut out in the previous edition for having unwieldy rules. These units have largely been brought back with most of their old rules streamlined for the new edition. Fifth edition releases focused largely on Space Marine forces, including the abolishment of the Daemonhunters in favour of an army composed almost exclusively of Grey Knights, a special chapter of Space Marines, which, in previous editions, had provided the elite choices of the Daemonhunter's army list. Another major change was the shift from metal figures to Resin kits.
Sixth Edition (2012)
Sixth Edition was released on the 23rd of June, 2012. Changes to this edition include the adoption of an optional Psychic Power card system similar to that of the game's sister product Warhammer Fantasy Battle as well as the inclusion of full rules for flying vehicles and monsters and a major reworking of the manner in which damage is resolved against vehicles. It also includes expanded rules for greater interaction with scenery and more dynamic close-combat. In addition to updating existing rules and adding new ones, 6th Edition introduced several other large changes: the Alliance system, in which players can bring units from other armies to work with their own, with varying levels of trust; the choice to take one fortification as part of your force; and Warlord traits, which will allow a player's Commander to gain a categorically randomized trait that can aid their forces in different situations. Replacing the "Assault on Black Reach" box set is the "Dark Vengeance" box set which includes Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marine models. Some of the early release box sets of Dark Vengeance contained a limited edition Interrogator-Chaplain for the Dark Angels.
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