40K’s new Leviathan set, 10th edition are great but lack a human touch

Decades into producing a franchise, it’s easy to lose perspective on who your fans are and what they value. Look no further than Dungeons & Dragons’ OGL fiasco in January, where the seminal role-playing game managed to piss off just about everyone — including its most die-hard fans. Blizzard achieved a similar feat a few years back when it announced a mobile version of the Diablo franchise. It was a resounding thud when it landed at the convention. As I sat in the audience at this year’s AdeptiCon, I wondered to myself: Is Games Workshop walking into the meat grinder here with its announcement of the 10th edition rules for Warhammer 40,000? My fears turned out to be unfounded.

It is amazing how the U.K. based publisher of games has been able to completely fill their newest boxed release. Warhammer 40000: LeviathanThe fan service is incredible. In addition to reimagining old favorites, the miniatures in this box explores new art and design options for several of these sculpts. In addition, 10th edition rules are now easier to understand and use. And that’s why the crowd at AdeptiCon cheered so loudly and so often during an otherwise ponderous, 45-minute presentation: These are the changes they wanted to see, and I suspect that Games Workshop will be rewarded with another sold-out set as a result.

Two pro-painted miniatures from Warhammer 40,000: Leviathan, a hardcover rulebook, and an assortment of mission cards.

Warhammer 40000: Leviathan The game comes with an assortment of cards in tarot format that covers things like special faction abilities and how to set up missions. The cards are of a much higher standard than those previously available for NecromundaThe following are some examples of how to get started: Kill TeamTheir packaging is also robust. The entire product line will benefit if future expansions maintain the same production standard.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Of course, that’s what makes the company’s more subtle marketing decisions all the more curious. But we’ll get to that in due time. First, let’s talk about what’s inside this box.

LeviathanIncludes 72 new miniatures. There is a mix of both Space Marines and Tyranids, 40K’s blue-armored poster boys and their most hated Alien-like enemies, respectively. The miniatures are push-fit, which means that no glue is needed to put them together. While they’re a real pain for dedicated hobbyists and painters, trying to make their joins as seamless as possible before airbrushing, they’re perfect for newbies. Players 12 and older will have absolutely no trouble at all slapping these bad boys together in record time, even if they don’t really know what they’re doing. And that’s fine — introductory sets like this, while still attractive for veterans, are, as the term suggests, geared toward newbies. This set includes not only a nicely annotated (and index!) rulebook, but also downloadable profiles for each unit. 330-page rulebook; it will also include downloadable profiles (think character sheets, sort of like in D&D but for squads of soldiers) for every unit.

There is only one oversight. Leviathan doesn’t come with any dice. You’ll need to buy a lot of dice or raid the board games you have in your closet.

Apart from these dice LeviathanYou can play it immediately after opening the box. It’s all thanks to the franchise’s all-new “flagship” format called Combat Patrol. It’s a faster style of play that uses smaller, preconstructed collections of miniatures that are already on store shelves all around the world — similar to Commander format in Magic the Gathering. Games Workshop has gone on the record to say that “everything that you need to play Combat Patrol” with another 22 factions will be free to download when 10th edition launches. They backed that statement up on June 2, by dropping the game’s rules free of charge online. The rules of the game were made available online for free on June 2. Leviathan On the day of play, owners can expect to face competition.

Combat Patrol is the launch of the new generation. Leviathan isn’t just the launch of two refreshed factions, Space Marines and Tyranids. Games Workshop teases the release of 24 balanced, small forces. The majority of these will cost less than $100 each to construct. You’ll still need paint and the like, but it’s a huge change for what has perennially been one of the biggest money holes in all of tabletop gaming.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this launch. The launch of new editions has been a tradition, and the fans of 20 or so main factions of the game had to wait a few years for the Codexes (new rules) to be released in order to completely update their armies. These Codexes can cost up to $55 and are the only way to update the factions.

While Combat Patrol isn’t the full version of Warhammer 40KThe price to enter 10th Edition has been lowered to its lowest level in recent history. That publishing decision is, in and of itself, as meaningful — maybe even more meaningful — than a streamlined rule set. This makes the game accessible to a wider range of players.

The complete Warhammer 40,000: Leviathan boxed set includes 72 miniatures, displayed here on plastic terrain that does not come with the set. Space Marines are blue, and Tyrannids are purple and pink. The scene is set along a large battlement.

Images: Games Workshop

Models that are included Leviathan? To my eye, they’re just OK. Yes, it’s nice to have new plastic terminator Space Marines for the first time in more than a decade, and they’re scaled well to stand alongside the new, taller Primaris Space Marines. Yes, it’s nice to see the Tyranid Screamer-Killer — an iconic design that dates back to the beginning of the franchise — updated for modern audiences. The veteran Space Marines’ flowing loincloths are a nice touch, but some of the models, such as the little long-range Space Marines dreadnought and their stumpy design, seem a little rote. Tyranids in general feel more like subtle improvements than significant evolutions. This is perfectly fine. You will see a huge difference in your mileage if you are a longtime player. Leviathan, but it’s an absolute smorgasbord for new or returning players.

Games Workshop’s pre-release strategy continues to be a success, but there are some caveats. For instance, I’ve been sitting on a boxed copy of Warhammer 40000: Leviathan for about a month now and I still don’t know how much it will cost. The hardcover version of the rulebook is no different. As a critic I have no idea if this box is worth your money right now. Nonetheless, in exchange for access, I’m effectively tied to a publication date and time — today, right now — when I’m supposed to give you my opinion on that box. And honestly, it’s not something that I’m super comfortable with.

Space Marine Librarian dressed in Terminator Armor. It makes me laugh that the mustache has a very strong State Police trooper feel.

I’m also not super comfortable with a few other things. Games Workshop has made some very strange decisions since January in how it puts its staff out into the world to engage with the company’s global fandom. Most notably, sources tell Polygon that Games Workshop’s painting presenters on YouTube and on Games Workshop’s own streaming channel are no longer allowed to show their faces on camera. This depersonalization extends to editorially on the Games Workshop Community Website, where employees are no longer allowed to indicate their last names.

As a result, you get bizarre articles like this interview with “Steve,” the guy who’s designed not one, not two, but three of the most striking new miniatures released in recent memory. Honestly, I’d like to know who this person is, and find more examples of their work out in the world to shower additional praise on — but these new policies make it a lot harder. It’s possible that this policy shift is due, in part, to past presenters launching successful YouTube channels, or hobby product lines outside of Games Workshop.

Tyrannid Screamer and Killer. Aaron Richmond used an original stippling technique adapted by YouTuber Richard Gray to paint the bone colored elements. We’ve adjusted the arms slightly from the standard model.

These choices clearly have impacted on the Warhammer 40000: Leviathan This boxed set includes the core rulebook. The only attribution listed is for “THE WARHAMMER DESIGN STUDIO.” Gone is the one-page designer’s commentary, attributed to Robin Cruddace, that was present in the 9th edition. Two Games Workshop employees are named on the box, but only as the painters for two Combat Patrol units. Polygon was given access to studio manager Stu Black, but it was only through a formal email interview handled by Games Workshop’s community outreach team. And while the community outreach team has been more agile and accommodating in the lead-up to 10th edition than in years past, the company’s methodologies still feel a bit behind the times.

The same time that Warhammer 40,000The tabletop version of the game has become more affordable, accessible and popular than ever before. Warhammer 40,000, both fans and critics are being held at arm’s length from the humans making it all happen behind the curtain. It’s an odd state of affairs. It’s a strange state of affairs.

Or maybe I’m wrong. You should never bet against Space Marines.

Nonetheless, as we sit through what promises to be a very lengthy and a very fractious writers’ strike in Hollywood and New York — but also in Chicago, and Georgia, and Vancouver and wherever else great movies and television programs are being created — it’s important to point out that Warhammer 40,000, the franchise, not the tabletop game, will soon be coming to screens near you with a cinematic universe crafted by none other than Amazon, the largest retailer on the planet.

In a game about genetically modified authoritarians and their ravenous alien enemies, it’s reasonable not to expect much humanity in the fiction of 10th edition when it launches. However, I would like to see a little more on the edges. “Steve” did a great job, and so did a lot of other folks on Black’s team, in the lead-up to bringing Warhammer 40000: LeviathanMarket. It’d be nice to see them all get better representation in the final product and all of the public-facing content produced by the company that they work for.

Warhammer 40000: LeviathanPre-orders will be available online as well at local stores. The physical item will be available in time. It’s pretty good, especially if you’re new to the franchise.

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