Monday, June 5, 2017

REVIEW: Dark Imperium Warhammer 40,000 Starter Set

It's been teased for months now, and finally the new Warhammer 40,000 starter set is here! Dark Imperium brings you the new rules for the latest edition of 40k along with two amazing looking armies, one of which is brand new to the 40k setting. There's so much packed into this box, so let's take a look at everything you get.

There is a lot to go over here, way more then I could conceivably cover in one article. There just isn't the space for it all, and I am also still reading through all of it. So, instead I am going to split this up over several smaller articles, starting today with a review of the new Starter Set, Dark Imperium. I will go over the new rulebook, including the rules and new background lore next, followed by a overview of all of the Indexes and of course, at least one step by step painting tutorial for a Primaris Marine, and possibly a Plague Marine if I have the time. So, in short, expect a lot of 40k coverage for the next few weeks, but I will scatter in some Age of Sigmar articles as well, don't worry. I do have my Coalescence event on the 10th of June that I'll be covering after all.

Let's start with the box. Dang, this is one nice piece of cover art. I know almost everyone here will have seen this already by now, but it's definitely something that was missing from the more minimal approach taken to the Dark Vengeance set of 7th edition. While that box had undeniable graphic appeal in how it was handled, there is just something quintessentially 40k about the art for Dark Imperium. It's busy, action packed, and hits all of the notes for a classic piece of 40k art. I definitely welcome this return to form and dare to say this is the best cover art for a 40k starter set since the 3rd edition one from John Blanche.

The packaging on this is really unique, and I know some of you may not care about it, but as a graphic designer I have to geek out a bit about how slick it all is. The cover art we saw previously is actually just a slip case that you slide off instead of being printed directly onto the box top. Once you remove that you're greeted with this ominous artwork or the split Marine helmet we have been seeing since the first teaser for the new 40k. 

After a brief second of confusion I realized that this was actually a secondary, smaller box inside of the main box. It's about an inch or so thick and contains all of the sprues for the models. This was really rather ingenious, since ever since I heard they were including the full hardcover version of the rule book in Dark Imperium, I was curious as to how they were going to package it without damaging the plastics or the book itself. This is some Apple level slickness in packaging.

Once you take out the top box you find the hardcover book safely nestled into its own little cardboard nook. On either side of it are two "pockets" which have the dice, ruler, and bases for the models. Beneath the book you'll find the other books and stuff all shrink wrapped.

Besides the main rulebook, which is rather hefty, we get, what I would call, two mini Codexes for the new Primaris Space Marines and Death Guard included in the set. These are only about 20 pages each, but have all of the rules for the units, plus a bit of background and color scheme suggestions. I will go over these in more detail a bit further down this article. There's also the building instructions for all of the models, now in color like all of GW's newer instruction booklets, making it even easier to follow what's going on in the pictures, a transfer sheet, and a handy miniature foldout with the core rules for the game. The rules foldout is printed on a pretty sturdy feeling card and will make getting started even easier. While you will probably still take the main rulebook with you to your games since all of the advanced rules and missions are in it, this is undoubtably convenient to have on hand for quick reference, especially while you are still learning the new rules. 

The transfer sheet is for the Primaris Space Marines only, and has transfers for the Ultramarines, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, and Space Wolves on it. Beyond just the normal chapter badges, you also get campaign badges and other decretive bits, like laurels and greco-roman patterns for the Ultramarines. I really like what GW has been doing with transfers lately. They have definitely come a long way from the small 1" by 2" transfer sheets I use to get in my Tactical Squad boxes years ago.

The box the models come in is a slick black box, with minimal graphics printed on it. They made sure to put as much effort into this as they did the exterior of the starter set, but a bit more subdued since they are no longer trying to catch your eye on a store shelf. In a nice little touch, this box is sealed with a sticker that looks like a wax seal from the Inquisition. I tried carefully peeling it off, but it's on there pretty good, so ended up having to cut it in the end. The box is pretty handy though, and I'm using it to store my Death Guard sprues as I build the Primaris Marines in the set.

Each faction gets three smaller sprues, and one larger sprue. Conveniently, these are neatly divided between Death Guard and Marines, making it easier for people looking to split the box with a friend. This is a nice change from other recent starter boxes that had all of the models mixed up on the sprues to maximize space. It's a small thing, but very welcome. Unlike the last 40k starter set, these models are not push fit, so you will need all of your hobby tools to put these together. The models are cut up in some pretty creative ways to pack all of the detail and dynamic poses in that they did, so do not try and build these without looking at the instruction booklet. You'll want to make sure you're making these in exactly the right way.

The Death Guard get seven Plague Marines (Nurgle's sacred number), 20 Poxwalkers (the mutated cultist guys), three characters including the massive Terminator Lord, a Sorcerer, and a new type of character that has a giant bell on his back, and the Foetid-Bloat Drone. This last model and the Lord are probably my favorites from the set as a whole. They are just so cool, and the drone is definitely a plastic version of the Forge World Blight Drone, just with a slightly different look and name. The Primaris Space Marines have two units of five Intercessors (the base level squad), one unit of five Hellblasters (think devastators with souped up Plasma Guns), one unit of three Inceptors (kind of a cross between Terminators and Assault Marines, but with mini Heavy Bolters), and four characters, including the Captain in Gravis Armor, two lieutenants, and an Ancient (the guy with the banner). 

I'll go over the rulebook in a lot more detail in its own review, but I can say that it's packed full of old and new background lore, as well as all of the core rules and a bunch of advanced rules. These advanced rules include pretty much every expansion the previous edition of 40k had, like City Fight and Planetstrike. The production quality on it is really great too and I can safely say I think this is the best looking rulebook they have done for 40k yet. Besides the main rulebook, there are also two "mini" Codexes for the Death Guard and the Primaris Space Marines. 

The Primaris Space Marines book includes a brief overview of what they are, but doesn't go into too much detail yet. I'm really looking forward into taking a full dive into the new lore for this next generation of Space Marines. For now, this is kind of an appetizer. It also goes over a bit of background lore for each unit included in the starter set, so you do get to learn a little bit more about the specific units. The Lieutenants are probably the most interesting addition for me, since they represent something that didn't really have an analogue in the previous army. It basically says they are there to support the captain, and let the other leaders like the Librarians and Chaplains focus on their more specialized roles instead of being secondary battlefield leaders. 

It also gives you several color scheme examples, including some brand new Chapters from the Ultima Founding. After that is a small gallery of the 'Eavy Metal painted models, and finally all of the datasheets for the units from the box. A few interesting things that stood out to me are that the Ancient is actually an Elite choice, not an HQ, and the Lieutenants both only take up one HQ slot combined, but act independently on the table top. There is also a list of the points values for everything, including all of their wargear, which you need to add in. For example, the Inceptors all come with two Assault Bolters, but the weapon's cost is not built into the points value for the Inceptors themselves, so make sure you add that all in. The same goes for the Hellblasters. This definitely make me think that these units will have multiple weapon options once they get their full multi-part kit outside of the starter set. Some wargear, like the standard Bolt Rifle or Frag Grenade cost zero points, so the Intercessors essentially have all of their wargear included in their cost, since all of their wargear costs zero points. I did notice that the points for some of the Primaris Space Marines were different between this booklet and their listings in the Index Imperium 1, so I would assume the Index is the correct points cost.

The Death Guard book is similar to the Primaris one in its layout and content. The overview of the Death Guard will be familiar to anyone who already knows their history in 40k, but there is a bit of new stuff in there with the advancing of the timeline. The main draw here lore-wise are the unit descriptions, since everything is new except for the Plague Marines. I really love all of the Death Guard stuff and I can't decide whether I want to add it to my existing army, or do a new scheme I'm thinking about. I'm a huge fan of painting army projects with mostly washes to save time, and a dirty bone colored Death Guard force would be the perfect candidate for that. I'll definitely have to give it a try at least.

There are several color scheme examples in here as well, mostly variations of green and their old pre-Heresy color scheme. All of the rules and points are here for them as well. The unit listings in here tell you what wargear each unit comes with, for instance it says that the champion from the Plague Marine squad has a power fist, but in the version in the Index Chaos you get all of the choices presented to you. Each of these factions comes close to 1,000 points, which is fantastic for a starter set. You pretty much already have half of your army if you stick with all of these units. For a slow painter like me that's perfect, especially on the Primaris side of things. That means I only need to paint 19 models to have half my army, and I imagine some of the bigger tanks and the new Dreadnought for them will be quite a few points to help fill up the other half. Plus, those Custodes look pretty fun to paint and add into an army.

GW knocked it out of the park with the AoS starter set, and with the Dark Imperium set they just knocked it into the stratosphere. I love that they included the full hardcover rulebook in the starter set. That's something I never thought I would see and something that always bugged me in the past. I prefer the hardcover, full version of rules and in the past I would have to choose between the starter set models or the hardcover rules if I was tight on money. Now you don't need to make that choice. The models are some of the best GW has ever made and I absolutely love the Primaris redesign of the Space Marine range. Also, I know it's a small detail, but the packaging layout and design is super slick on this, which is something I can definitely appreciate. 

Dark Imperium is the absolute, perfect way to start 40k if you're new to the game. It gives you the full rules and background, two pretty much fully complete 1,000 point armies, and even your first taste of what a Codex for those armies will be like. If you're a 40k veteran it's still a great way to grab the new rulebook and some amazing models. More than likely you will want at least one of the armies in here and can split the other one with a friend. Dark Imperium costs $160, while the rulebook you get in it costs $60 on it's own, which means you are getting 2,000 points of amazing new models for only $100! For any AoS players out there who have been 40k curious I can say that the rules are similar enough to AoS that it'll be easy to pick up. They are about half way between what the 40k rules use to be and what AoS is, leaning a little heavier towards the AoS side. 

I'll be going over the rules mechanics and advancing background of 40k next, so keep an eye out for that soon!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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