Warhammer 40K Boarding Actions have an even higher barrier to entry

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Arks of Omen: Abaddon, the latest game book for Warhammer 40,000, does an extraordinary job of pushing forward the franchise’s unwieldy storyline. The 88-page hardcover book went on presale earlier this month and is currently making its way to fans around the world. Inside, you’ll also find rules for an all-new playstyle, a game mode called Boarding Actions. Like Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team, it uses small, relatively affordable sets of miniatures for extremely satisfying small-unit skirmishes. But it is definitely not for newbies. In fact, the way the rules are written makes it very clear how high the barrier to entry is for this particular miniature wargame.

Next pages and pages of glorious fluff, Abaddon‘s Boarding Actions rules start on page 50 and are less than 20 pages in full. The rest of the book is filled with pre-generated maps and scenarios carefully tailored to a specific terrain – the $210 Warhammer 40,000 entry-level actions terrain set.

Image: Games Workshop

Of course, if you’ve kept up with the release of Kill team — both Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team: Shadowvaults ($185) and Into the dark ($210) – you already have the plastic components you need to get started. But unfortunately you don’t have the game boards. Kill team uses a single board 30 inches long by 22 inches wide. Entry actions instead use two boards measuring 704 millimeters long by 607 millimeters wide (about 27.7 inches by 23.9 inches). They’re not sold separately, so if you don’t want to buy the big box, you’ll have to make your own – or wait for aftermarket accessories from third-party suppliers to go on sale. Or, I think, just play without a board.

The Boarding Action rules refer to the Warhammer 40,000 core book, where you indicate both generally and specifically which rules of the latter you may use. It’s clumsy, to be honest, and it requires a lot of page-turning and review at the table. The Core book is also expensive, at $70.

Finally you will also need a Codex book for your specific army. These $55 supplements contain the rules for each specific unit of each faction in the universe – basically the character sheets required to actually fire your weapons and use your special abilities in combat. And if you’re playing a specific chapter of Space Marines – Dark Angels, Blood Angels, and anything other than standard Ultramarines – you’ll also need the appropriate Codex supplement, which will cost you another $33.

A Dark Angel with flaming censorship on his backpack looms over fallen Chaos Marines.

Image: Games Workshop

That brings the total in-store cost for two players to enjoy the new Boarding Actions game mode to somewhere between $390 and $423 – plus the cost of Arks of Omen: Abaddonwhich costs $60…plus paint and miniatures.

There are, of course, plenty of ways around this cost problem. You can buy MDF walls and neoprene play mats relatively cheaply. You can 3D print your own thumbnails or buy third-party minis to use as proxies. But the rules are the rules, and the game just isn’t going to work without those books. So even if you want to work your way into the hobby, you’ll still need a minimum of $185 worth of books for a single player.

So now we’re talking about an investment akin to a Nintendo Switch, an almost six-year-old console that continues to get quality games. Therefore, we must take into account the service life of Warhammer 40,000 as a platform. The 9th edition formally kicked off in 2020 with the launch of the Warhammer 40,000 Indomites box set. Judging by the pace at which the last three editions have been released, this means that we are likely to run into the first teasers for the launch of the 10th edition at the end of this year or early next year. That means your $185 investment in hardcover rulebooks will in all likelihood be valid for a few more years at most. Given how the company has pushed cross-compatibility between 8th and 9th editions, at least initially, that’s probably not as bad as it sounds to most players. Nevertheless, it should be part of the calculation when making large purchases like this.

A page from White Dwarf showing a group of players around a virtual Kill Team map.

Image: Games Workshop

However, there is an excellent way out of this money pit, and it is currently being modeled to great effect in the pages of White Dwarf magazine – the gaming club. During a series of articles that began in 2022, White Dwarf’s staff played a five-person story game Kill team on a single, shared set of grounds. Gaming clubs are common in England, but relatively rare here in the United States. The best approach is to find a group of like-minded players at your friendly local game store.

Of course, that same game store is also in the business of selling things. The situation puts US-based retailers, already struggling with major retailers and online giants like Amazon, in a difficult position. While a thriving community of players is likely to drive more traffic to a given store and sell lots of miniatures and books, it can also limit sales of high-quality items for home play – things like the Arks of Omen: Abaddon book and the Warhammer 40,000 entry actions terrain set — when a single set is shared by multiple players in the shop.

It’s a situation made even more complicated by the fact that Games Workshop pushes consumers to place online pre-orders on their own website.

Arks of Omen: Abaddonthe first in a series of five books, is now shipping from Games Workshop and should be available from friendly local game stores soon.

Arks of Omen: Abaddon is now available. The book has been previewed using a pre-release PDF document from Games Workshop. Vox Media has partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s Ethics Policy here.

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