Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition (2012) review

Well, the long awaited Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook has landed at Big Orbit Games and we’ve spent the day pouring over it.

As expected, the book is absolutely huge and a single day isn’t anywhere near enough time to read it cover to cover, but if we waited to write a review until we’d finished going through the thing you wouldn’t be reading this until well after release.

The Book

The 6th edition rule book is 40% thicker than the previous edition, running to 432 pages, all rendered in glorious techni-colour, with loads of new artwork.

The book comprises of:

  • 130 pages of rules
  • 101 pages of background information
  • 63 page miniatures showcase
  • 29 page hobby section
  • 45 pages of example missions, details of the various expansions and information on running campaigns
  • The book is capped off by a comprehensive reference section

The book has a black ribbon bookmark to help you keep your place.

There  seems to be increased use of headings and bold text which makes flicking through to find those all important rules mid-game significantly easier, it certainly helped with the writing of this review.

The Rules

Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook Rules
6th Edition Rules Pages

The core game rules (before special rules) only comprise 30 pages – which is nice and concise and will help new players ease themselves into the game.

Below is a run down of some of the main changes to the rules in Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition.

Though core principles such as unit statistics and the basic turn sequence remain the same, there are some significant changes; fortunately the game remains recognisably Warhammer 40,000.

Rules – Core Game

On page 4 is one of the main differences to the core game “You can always check any distance at any time”, basically introducing pre-measuring like in Warhammer Fantasy Battle 8th Edition.

Rules – Army Selection

The Force Organization Chart (FoC) is still in use, but with the addition of new sections Fortification & Allied Detachment (a reduced FoC for a secondary army attached to the primary one).

Fortifications are static defences / weapons that are not included in current Codexes but some are presented in the 6th Edition book and more are promised for White Dwarf later.

Allied Detachments must be from a different codex from the  primary army, so no using this rule to double the number of a particular unit in your army. There is a complex grid that shows which armies can ally – it is too complex to summarise here.

Rules – Movement Phase

Movement is pretty much the same as in 5th edition with infantry able to move 6″, Jump Infantry 12″ and so on. Unit coherency rules also remain the same.

Rules – Shooting Phase

The basic rules for ballistic skill and rolling to hit remains unchanged, as does rolling to wound and using AP to either ignore a save or leaving it unmodified.

That said, there are substantial changes to shooting in 6th ed.  Saving throws are now taken before wound allocation, wounds are then allocated to the target unit member closest to the unit that it shooting at it. Additionally only models within range and visible to the shooting unit can be removed as casualties. These rules must inevitably result in a screen of standard troopers being used to protect special weapon troopers and unit leaders.

A completely new rule is “Snap Fire”, primarily allowing some heavy weapons to shoot on the move and units being charged can also get off shots before they are assaulted, in both these case firing is resolved with a Ballistic Skill of 1, meaning a roll of 6 is required to hit.

Other rule changes affecting the shooting phase:

  • Rapid Fire weapons can now fire at their maximum range whether they move or not – that said they can still only fire twice at targets up to 12″ away.
  • When shooting at a unit that is only partially in cover a player may choose to “Focus Fire”, targeting only those models that benefit from a lower (or no) cover save.
  • Most grenades can now be thrown up to 8″ in the shooting phase, this is limited to one grenade per unit per turn.
  • There is also a new weapon type “Salvo”, these can  fire at maximum range with a full number of shots if the model carrying it doesn’t move, or at half range and with half the number of shots if the model moves.
Rules – Assault Phase

Although many of the core tables, to hit, to wound etc are the same as 5th edition, the assault phase is significantly changed.

The core rule changes affecting the assault phase are:

  • As in Warhammer Fantasy Battle 8th ed, charge distance is now slightly random, in this case 2D6 inches.
  • A unit can shoot in “Overwatch” if being assaulted, this is a passive ability, basically “Stand and Shoot” for Warhammer 40,000 using the snap fire rules, discussed previously.
  • Units declaring multiple assaults are now deemed to have performed a  “Disoriented Charge” and do not get the bonus attack for charging.
  • Individual close-combat weapons now have AP values.
  • Models that are in base-to-base contact with the enemy are removed as casualties before those that are not in base-to-base contact.

Rules – Vehicles

One of the main changes to the vehicles rules is the introduction of hull points as the vehicle equivalent to wounds – a vehicle reduced to zero hull points is considered wrecked. Consequently the wrecked result has been removed from the vehicle damage table, to be replaced by an increased chance of a crew shaken result ( now on a roll of a 1-2) with all other results shuffling up the table i.e. 3 =  Crew Stunned, 4 = Weapon Destroyed, 5  = Immobilised & 6 = Explodes. Most vehicles have 3 hull points but light vehicles, Space Marine Lander Speeders, Eldar War Walkers etc with just 2 hull points and the likes of Space Marine Land Raiders & Necron Monoliths with 4.

Another significant change is that most weapons can now be fired most of the time. The classification of vehicle weapons as defensive or primary weapons has been removed, players can now fire all weapons on a vehicle at any time. Moving over 6″ in a turn (i.e. at combat speed) means that only one weapon may be fired at normal ballistic skill, the remainder using the snap fire rule, that keeps cropping up in 6th ed rules, so shooting on these is resolved at ballistic skill 1.

There are many changes to the vehicles rules in 6th edition – here are a few highlights:

  • Full, and comprehensive rules, for flyers are now in the main rulebook.
  • To accompany the new vehicle damage table (mentioned above), modifiers are also changed on AP2 weapons adding a +1 modifier to rolls on the table, AP1 weapons add +2, AP- no longer results in a -1 modifier.
  • The full strength of blast weapons is now used even if the central hole is not over the vehicle.
  • Disembarking infantry can now be placed up to 6″ from the vehicle access point.
  • There is a new vehicle type, Chariot – the rider may fight any model in base to base contact with the chariot.

Rules – Other Rules

Psykers now have a Master Level, the level can be either one or two, for each level the psyker gets one warp charge counter, the number of warp charge counters a model has dictates how many psychic abilities a model may use per turn.

Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook Space Marines
6th Edition Space Marine Artwork

Another significant change to psychic abilities in 6th edition is the introduction of 5 new psychic disciplines, each has 7 powers and each army has access to different disciplines, if it has access to psychic powers at all.

In 6th edition, the HQ model in your army with the highest leadership becomes your Warlord. Warlords get a roll on a one of three tables, there is a choice of Command Traits, Personal Traits or Strategic Traits – these abilities can significantly change the outcome of a battle. For example, the Warlord and his unit may gain the outflank special rule or enemy units may have to use the lowest leadership in a unit within 12″ of the Warlord rather than the highest.

The 41st Millennium – Background

There are nearly 30 pages of history and 2-7 pages of background per army.

The history section has a 10 page illustrated time-line covering the age of the Imperium.

Warhammer 40,000 Miniatures Showcase

This section is pretty self explanatory, we have a brief introduction followed by 61 pages crammed full of beautifully painted miniatures.

Warhammer 40,000 Hobby

This section comprises 29 pages of hobby advice, giving useful advice on building Citadel miniatures to those new to the hobby.

I use the word Citadel intentionally here as a couple of the pages are essentially adverts for Games Workshops products, shops, Warhammer World and events, such as Golden Demon.

Warhammer 40,000 Battles

Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook Missions
6th Edition Scour the Starfort Mission

This is section provides details of 5 example missions illustrated with some beautifully produced battlefields – this section contains some real eye candy as well as ideas for novel games, the highlight for me being “Scour the Starfort” (The Bane of Daemons). Following these is a list of more mission ideas and 11 War Zone Traits, special rules that can be applied within games to add variety.

This is then followed by a series of entries detailing various Warhammer 40,000 expansions including Apocalypse, Planet Strike and Cities of Death.

Finally, in Iconoclasm, there is detailed information on the battles that were fought for the cathedral world of Eydolim – Lots of resources that would allow players to create a rich setting for their games.

Our Opinion

As with most Games Workshop books, the Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook is great to look at and well presented. There seems to be increased use of headings and bold text, which makes flicking through to find those all important rules mid-game significantly easier than the previous edition.

All in all, you definitely get your £45 worth here. Calling this simply a rulebook does it a disservice – as detailed above the rules only take up the first 130 pages. The remaining 300 pages contain more background, hobby and gaming ideas than a whole series of source books. However, this is potentially a problem, as many would be happy with just a copy of the rules, which could retail at say £20, as they have all the details of the game background in their previous rulebooks / codexes.

I do feel that Games Workshop do need to start thinking about breaking away from this case of tome-creep they seem to be suffering from – maybe selling rulebooks and sources books separately. However, I feel certain they won’t as I’m sure they see the rulebook as a great way of selling everything Warhammer 40,000 to their target audience – expect 7th Ed to be at least equally weighty… These books just aren’t of a size that you want to lug around from game to game, many players may want to wait until the  6th edition boxed games has been released to get a pocket sized rule book (assuming one is included) along with a whole host of models – details on what these might be are unknown right now.

As with the recent Warhammer 8th Edition Rulebook it could be said that a couple of dozen of these pages are simply advertisements for other Games Workshops products but, at the end of the day, Games Workshop are a business and they are hardly going to recommend that you use a different companies range of paints, for example.

With regard to the rules, there have been some very significant changes and the way people play the game will change significantly. There will be winners and losers, but all in all I like the sound of most of the new rules concepts, hull points & warlords particularly – as with any rules changes,  individual opinion is likely to hinge on how they impact your particular army.


In terms of content and book quality the new Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook cannot be faulted – it is an excellent tome.

There have been some very significant rules changes and the way people play the game will change significantly, as with any rules changes, individual opinion is likely to hinge on how they impact your particular army.

The only downside is the price, the book is well worth what Games Workshop are asking for it but the question remains should all this content form part of a single book or should a cheaper “rules only” book be made available. This isn’t a deal breaker by any means, as any fan will lap up the new full colour art and gaming ideas, even if they are now reading the background for the 6th time. That said it does stop us being able to award a full 10 stars, therefore the Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook gets…

Overall score: 9/10

Gale Force Nine Magnetic Bases now in stock

Big Orbit games is now stocking Gale Force Nine Magnetic Bases, these bases represent great value for money costing no more than many regular (non-magnetic) bases.

There are a large number of different bases available, from 20mm square to 50mm x 100mm chariot bases.

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Soda Pop Miniatures now in stock

Soda Pop MiniaturesBig Orbit Games is now stocking Soda Pop Miniatures. Soda Pop produce a great range of 32mm heroic miniatures inspired by manga and Tokyo pop culture.

Checkout the full range here: Soda Pop Miniatures

Or go straight to the individual miniatures below: