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

23 thoughts on “Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition (2012) review

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  • June 30, 2012 at 12:24 am

    GW lost me as a customer for just this type of decision. There is nobody at their HQ who is speaking up for the true customers out there (i.e. not the 11 year old kid who takes the hard sell in-store, blows $200, then promptly quits the hobby after a month). In their eyes, if they offered a scaled down, portable version of the book they would lose out on extra revenue. Not sure why they can’t understand that offering their loyal customers some choice will actually pay off in the long run. And honestly, easily 80% would end up paying for a portable book AND for the glorified rulebook – given the choice that is…..

  • June 30, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Great review… thanks for detailing all the major changes from 5th to 6th!

  • June 30, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Interesting, the Salvo rules seems to be adapted from the rules for light machineguns in Warhammer: The Great War.

  • June 30, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Great review. Following the price-hike in GW goods I had all but written off 40k as a game (Ive been pretty much priced out of starting a new army with £70 being the ‘official’ price for the covetted SM battalion). However after selling my tyranids, dark angels and tau I seem to be able to finally afford to start that Blood angels army I have been wanting for 15 years or so =D

    I understand that wargaming is first and foremost a business for those providing the medium, but I just cant help but think that the younger people who dont earn megabucks are slowly being pushed out of the buyers market. A shame if that ends up being the case as I dont begrudge a kid the wonder I felt 20 years ago when I first walked into GW in Manchester and saw all the nice toys 😉

    Keep up the discounts, Big Orbit, and Ill keep buying!

  • July 1, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Thanks Guys, glad you like the review.

    I also don’t quite understand the logic of chasing the younger customer. As HoosierVA says they may spend a lot in one drop but then GW have to acquire a new customer once they loose interest. The older gamer may, potentially, spend less in one hit but they will trickle in money month in month out.

    Ash, when I was a lad, the cost of the hobby felt prohibitive, I’m trying to remember how much 1st Ed cost me, I think it may have been £9.99, I have just used an inflation calculator (http://www.whatsthecost.com/cpi.aspx) and it would now cost £18.20, so £45 does seem high. Even £14.99 (which I recall the Realm of Chaos books costing) would still only be £27.31. I know the new book is larger and much more lush but surely the increased print volumes they likely have now would counter this, either partially or completely (not working in the print industry I don’t know).

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:34 am

    sounds pretty good, pitty i cant afford to buy it for a month or 2!

  • July 1, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Nice to finally find a good summary of the actual 40k 6th Ed rules !!

    I’ve only picked 40K up since christmas, use to play in my teens 15 yrs ago. Glad the rules havent changed drastically, as I’d only just learnt 5th !!

    The whole hobby is definatley hard sell from my point of view – “WYSIWYG” – Killa Kans and Grotzookers “How many boxes do you need for a Kan Wall ??”

    Like the Allies rules, but it did make me laugh to see the two page spread in white dwarf for Battleforce boxes tho !! (WD391 P56)

    In one way this is a cheap hobby to anybody with a job “£25 a box of models” “£45 for a rule book – i.e. same price as a PS3 game etc.”. But for kids and pocket money, its not cheap at all. Especially when you start looking at 1500pt + armies “X boxes of these, Y boxes of them”

    Though as an adult if you compare it to £’s per hour of time spent, its far cheaper than going to the pub, cinema, meal etc.

    The hobby does need the “Assault on Black Reach” style mini rulebook tho, and if it gets released in a new box set, I’d still buy this aswell for its ease of use. (Nb I picked up my copy of the 6th edition rulebook on pre-order from the shop yesterday)

    • July 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Dr Bob – You’re right, still definitely cheaper & healthier (on the liver at least) than spending repeated nights down the pub. Frustrating for kids though (as you mention), how many weeks pocket money for a Tactical Squad?!

  • July 3, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Nice and interesting review.
    I agree with the part of getting a smaller book, only with the rules.
    Manuel Duarte

  • July 3, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Good review.
    Highlights format, content and significant changes.

    Interesting contents.
    “Hull points”? Will this require a die or a card with boxes to cross off *cough* warmahordes *cough*

    Poignant comments.
    When I was younger and RTB01 was the greatest thing ever, I had all the time but no money, now I have the money, but not the time 🙁

    It’s a hobby, its a way to spend time/money to amuse yourself. Although the hard sell does seem a little overpowering at times, but they’re abusiness with shareholders to please.

    Thanks to Paul for working out what the Realm of Chaos books “should”, add a “1” to the front of that £27.31 and I might consider selling one 😉

    As Dr Bob mentions, why have one rulebook when you can have two 😀

  • July 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Well I like many of the new rules like Overwatch, Focus Fire and (perhaps) Challenges. As well as the fact that snipers have regained some power and might be useful again. But with Hull Points and AP3 power weapons, does anyone else think that a unit of Lightning Claw Termies in a now ridiculously tough Land Raider would essentially be immortal in close combat as well as fast-moving around the battlefield? They just couldn’t be slain in CC, and could hop around in their fortress-tank before charging straight into combat…

  • July 4, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Great review, very pleasant to read.

    As a gamer from outside UK,Brasil actually, it is even harder forme each time GW raises its prices. But even so i must agree, the cash / time spent ratio is still excellent. The product is great, love those paints… I could not ask for a better hobby, my wife also started her own Craftworld just by watching me painting the assault on black reach.

    It is not a game for kids anymore, and it is not just about prices, it is also about attitude. In my furrent country any hobby demanding so much time and skill would be left behind for any fast shiny PS3 game and so, cant say much i have 2 PS3 at home, the child of today is not patient, it does not read fluff and fall in love with heroes, it falls to the charm of fast moving light and quick less than deep plots of a video game.

    At least thats the issue the game faces here, aft the custom reaches around his 18 years that changes, and. we start to get new blood. By this time they usually have the cash to afford the hobby.

    The new book is an eyecandy for sure and i am sure they will make the small black and white pocket versions, those are always practical and welcome, never damaging the sales of the big tomes.

    I always had the pocket ones but the production value of this rulebook got me by surprise. I am su to have this one for bookshelf.

  • July 4, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I wish it was as cheap as £45 pound in New Zealand. The embargo GW put on selling out of Europe really killed it for me because Here in NZ its $146 for the rulebook which if you convert the currency if £75.

    Its like that accross the board with GW’s product here everything is nearly double the cost and the discounts at our better retailers are still over 50%more expensive than straight from GW England…

    Thats why people are being driven from the hobby, you might not notice so much but there are a lot of players in less fortunate places where a complete 2000 point army is going to set you back .

    As an example, My usually 2000 point ogre kingdoms army (sry its not a 40K example) including the armybook
    GW New Zealand – $1047 NZD – approx £538
    GW United Kingdoms – £347.50 – approx $ 676 NZD

    So you can buy the same army as me and still have 200 quid for the pub. Or you can buy 2 armies for the cost of my one. Don’t defend GW’s prices for them, they are just expensive everywhere else in the world and they don’t let customers buy from places where they could get a good deal.

    So much for being part of the british empire.

  • July 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    One quick correction to the rules on shooting. Rapid fire is half the guns max range for the double tap. Tau players have finally gotten their wish.

  • July 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    The GWs in my country sell 6th ed rule books for £75 (space marine battleforce £110). The local games store however, managed to buy and ship the 6th ed book from a non GW store in the UK, and sell it on for £50. Come on GW it’s cheaper for me to buy it from your store and personally ship the one item half way across the world than it is for you to bulk ship it to your own store? I think not.

  • July 8, 2012 at 10:05 am

    i dont care to much for some of the changes made in the new rules but what i find ridiculous is the prices changes, im still at school so dont have a job and therefore dont make much money but i have been collecting warhammer for 4-5 years and have spent a fair bit of money considering i dont make any, i dont see how i am meant to afford anything now they are upping the prices so much.

  • August 2, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Hey, Great review only prob is see is that in the shooting phase you stated that:
    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.

    Im under the impression that rapid fire is now HALF of the weapons MAXIMUM range. ie 24″ to 12″ for a boltgun but 30″ to 15″ for a Tau pulse rifle.

  • August 2, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Excellent review of the changes thank you.

    Interestingly you’ve summoned up my issues quite nicely:

    130 pages of rules
    101 pages of background information
    63 page miniatures showcase

    So in other words 130 pages of rules vs 164 pages of filler

    I’ve been buying Citadel material since before 40k was released. I know the history and background. And the miniatures might be beautiful but I’m paying to look at what could be considered to be a catalogue.

    GW have overpriced for years and whilst their stuff is beautiful it makes me sad they don’t realise the pain they have been causing to their customers.

    I’m looking at this for my son who plays (I abandoned the hobby many years ago) and it’s prohibitively expensive. Even for a Christmas gift it would be a huge chunk of the budget and mid year? Sorry can’t do it.

    And he has no chance of affording it. Yet aged 13 he is their target audience – or he should be – get him hooked and he’ll buy for years! (I did.)

    And I wager that the usual expansions will be coming out and be as ‘optional’ as all the previous years. Sigh.

    Anyway great review, it looks like a beautiful product but the price point is insultingly wrong.

  • August 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    It does look interesting, but after playing 40k for 15 years I’m just tired of it. Tired of rule sets that are more complex than they need to be, tired of having to learn a new bunch of rules every few years, tired of constantly having to buy extra books just so I can play the game and tired of constant price rises which are well in excess of inflation.

    On top of that I really don’t like the atmosphere in the average GW store any more, they definitely seem less friendly than they used to be, more interested in selling you the latest product than getting to know who you are, what you like about the hobby etc.

    Unfortunately I think this will be the first edition of 40k since 2nd ed. that I won’t be investing anything in

    • April 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      “On top of that I really don’t like the atmosphere in the average GW store any more, they definitely seem less friendly than they used to be, more interested in selling you the latest product than getting to know who you are, what you like about the hobby etc.”

      Agreed! About 3-4 Days a week I would go to GW, say hello to all the guys, talk about the new models while painting. Then have a coffee break, come back and paint till my girl showed up. It was a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. One of the reasons I went so much. Now they have adopted a new “painting camp” Where they offer to teach your kids how to paint you just need to spend 50 euro a month. The prices jumped and all the guys left now it only has a few rich snobbie kids whos parents cant stand them so they pay 50 and drop there kids off. They even have lunch with the kids. When I go there to say hello and paint, its loud and has kids running around breaking things, shaking the table and fighting with each other. Im sorry but my old GW store has turned into a daycare.

  • September 16, 2012 at 3:36 am

    i just think that the hobbie has got two much and is not worth playing any more with a new rule book that will cost more and some of the new rule just over power army that would of coures be the more in cost IE space marine or chous

  • April 26, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I used to work for GW. I left around 15 yrs ago and was disturbed by their trend of increased cost even then. When I was there, it was still a pocket money sized hobby with big spends being Christmas, Birthdays and major release days. Imagine my surprise when my ten year old expressed an interest, and I walked back into a store. By God, it’s ridiculously expensive! That said, it’s still a great hobby, and I’m really tempted by an Imperial Guard army to stuff my sons Blood Angels!

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