So, it can hardly have escaped anyone's attention that there is a new edition of Warhammer 40,000 out, a scant 2 years after the last. With a return to the multibook format yielding separate tomes for Hobby, Background and of course The Rules. In this series of reviews we will look at each of these books in turn, comparing them with 6th edition in detail. Is the new edition a worthy replacement for 6th or is this yet another cynical cash grab by GW?
The overall Package:
First up lets take a look at the set as a whole. Presented in a rather nice and sturdy slip case which dwarfs the 6th edition ‘big book’ the feel of the case is very pleasant, its almost like a moleskin effect in places with nice embossing that adds to the feel of a luxury product. The actuall cover illustration (Dark Angels making the first ever consecutive appearance) is presented in a high gloss and overall it does look real quality. Im not sure on the art direction, the red black and white blocky design is a radical departure from anything GW have presented before and comes across as a bit too slick and cold for something supposed to represent the 41st Millenium. Another thing to note is the softer textures of the box picks up dirt and marks incredibly easily, something to bear in mind. I like the way each of the books has the number on the spine, it certainly made the construction of this review series more straightforward!
Book I: A Galaxy of War
The first book is obstensibly billed as the hobby book, a role that was fulfilled by multiple sections of the 6th Edition rules. So first of all lets have a look at the old.
Essentially comprised of 3 sections, the hobby bits in the old BRB were an introduction to the hobby, the actual Hobby section and a miniatures gallery, detailing each of the different races. The introduction section did exactly what it suggested, showed you the game, what you would need to play it and ‘shock’ a few pics of people actually playing the game and enjoying the hobby. There are even a few paragraphs detailing the game and the obligatory shot of post game (non alcoholic of course) drinks.
|Ooo, that looks like fun!|
|Perfect. Alas now out of date due to all the supplements in the game.|
The hobby section is likewise a semi detailed look at the hobby itself, starting with the game as a whole but moving on to models, assembly, painting and converting with pictures for each showing the basics. Never really going into mass detail (that’s not what the book is there for) but just giving you an idea with a gentle push towards the products that GW produces to get you the rest of the way. It also has sections on Warhammer World and Golden Daemon, with a small gallery of winners.
|Again, perfect. unfortuantely now fulfilled by Sprues and Glue in WD weekly, buy that instead.|
|Same here, there is no reason for this to be omitted. Its hardly a tutorial just presenting another aspect to the hobby.|
|Conversions? You got it!|
The Gallery is, well more or less what it says on the tin, race by race showing pictures of the various models available in a great variety of different colour schemes, with conversions and hobbyists models thrown in for good measure. An inspirational pictorial record of what is available and what has been done by others, full of ideas for your own projects.
|Black Templars, Raven Guard, Salamanders, Crimson Fists, and Legion of the Damned, ALL absent in the new book.|
The new edition has, are you ready for this? NONE of that. This is what the new version offers us: A very brief overview of the different aspects of the hobby, which GW have decided are legend, painting and the game itself. Of course they decide not to really show you any of these (I mean where would be the point right?) There is not ONE photo of the game being played, there is not one photo of any people playing the game (or of any people at all). The majority of A Galaxy at Wars text is taken up by (admittedly) narrative descriptions of the various elements of armies presented with some extremely fine photography. Starting with Strike Force Ultra (now where have I heard that before – oh yes it’s the new army deal GW are selling) and moving on to The Crimson Slaughter, who GW seem convinced we want to hear about more than any of the actual legendary Traitor Legions. Before finally featuring a combined Imperial army with all sorts of elements like Marines, Knights and Imperial Guard.
|That rather nice captain has a backstory now.|
Now I appreciate the narrative and descriptive elements that GW are including here (indeed Forging the Narrative is a recurrent phrase in this edition of 40k) and some effort has at least been imparted in this section of the book, it can be quite interesting reading about the different characters and their histories, but did we really need THREE armies to be featured? You are looking at 35 of the 45 pages of text being entirely encompassed by models and descriptions of who they are.
|Expect lots of this. They are VERY nice Photos though.|
Hang on, 45 pages? A Galaxy of War is over 100 pages long! Well this is true my friend but the text stops after 45. The remaining pages are taken up by GWs favourite thing, pictures of their models. It reads very much like a copy of Warhammer Visions without the trilingual aspect. As I have already mentioned the photography IS top notch, there are some close up shots that are bordering on Macro and show some of GWs better painted models off in exquisite detail. It is a feast for the eyes. The models are well lit and in sharp focus, adding a lot of atmosphere to the pictures (which are nearly exclusively in battle shots)
And lots of this.....
It is unfortunate then that it is all so monotonous, just like Warhammer Visions. All the models featured are studio ones, hardly any of them are even named (only a few characters) it is nothing more than a picture book, a catalogue without prices. Barebones, there are no variant factions featured at all. THERE IS MORE TO THE HOBBY THAN JUST YOUR MODELS GW!!
|That's your section on painting and converting|
|Would you like to know more?|
There is a pathetic section on painting and converting (maybe a paragraph on each) with NO pictures of anything being painted or converted. In fact there are NO unpainted models in the book at all. Then there is a double spread advert with the painting guides and digital editions that GW sells. There are similar promos for WD Apocalypse and Black Library, Dataslates and the various Codexes available.
A Galaxy of War is staggeringly inept at being a ‘hobby introduction.’ It bullishly refuses to even feature a great deal of what makes the hobby so great and instead functions solely as an advert for GWs products. It makes no mention of community or the hobby on a wider scale and having no pictures of the process of painting or gaming is in my eyes completely unforgivable. Im not even sure what its function is, and I mean that, it completely escapes me. On the plus side the photography is sumptuous, by far the best I have seen from GW. The product is glossy and high quality, though the moleskin spine is already getting very mucky. The internal design is also very slick if a little bland with lots of white space like the now defunct White Dwarf. It looks like the product has been primarily designed with the digital format in mind and has suffered a massive loss of character due to the concessions made. Once you have read the limited amount of text that there is and flicked through the pretty pictures there is little to entice you to pick the book up again.
The pictures themselves are nearly always battle shots which can make it difficult for individual models to stand out, indeed as some are in sharp focus others are always blurry in the same shot. The old edition at least focussed individual models giving you a better idea of the variety available tyo the hobbyist. In the new book it all starts to look a bit samey and fatiguing with little standing out.
At the end of the day A Galaxy of War is akin to a blonde bimbo supermodel, pretty and might hold your attention for 5 minutes but of little substance and indeed utterly vapid with regards to the grander scheme of things. This is a book like Michael Bay might produce; all looks and explosions but of little value elsewhere. Inferior to the content held in 6th Edition in nearly every way. Bitterly disappointing.