The Warhammer 40,000 app has finally released. In this review, we’ll look at the app, its features, how it works, and whether it’s worth your time (and money). Note that as the app may change with updates, we’ll come back and periodically revise and update this review.
For the last few years, Age of Sigmar has had a comprehensive app to support it, complete with warscroll information, an army builer, and the option to purchase digital rules that all live in the same ecosystem. Warhammer 40k, on the other hand, was absent such digital support – we were firmly stuck in the realm of paper books (or digital versions which were just straight copies, with somewhat erratic updates if you happened to buy the iBooks versions). GW announced in one of the earlier 9th edition previews that they were finally going to close this particular gap and launch a new 40k app. The app has now released live on Play store (apparently it’s coming to iOS very soon).
The 40k app is a little different in structure to Azyr (the Age of Sigmar app). In AoS you have the option of either a free version or a very cheap subscription, but you have to buy the books within the app – if you own the paper copy, tough luck, buy it again. The 40k version, as described, is different – the free version gives access to the core rules, and also you when you buy a new paper codex you can scan it into the app and you’ll have the rules there too. There’s also a paid subscriber version, which lets you use an army builder (not included at launch), and ‘reference all your rules fast’ – which seems to refer to being able to use the app’s search feature to find datasheets and stratagems.
The trade-off here is that instead of the fairly cheap Azyr, the 40k version costs £3.99 a month. I’m personally pretty price inelastic on this front, but from a business point of view I think this was an unforced error immediately – £3.99 is a fair old chunk for an app and I don’t really get what it does that is worth that amount of money compared to the cheaper AoS version.
Let’s open the app up then, and have a look at it. I’m a fool who is easily parted from my money, so I subscribed immediately. Here’s where we run into our first issue – in the UK I was fine, but in the United States you currently can only subscribe if you select Alabama as your state, and in Canada you are stuck living in the Yukon Territory. Every other option throws a validation error. Given that you select these through dropdown menus this is pretty poor – apparently no-one checked the validation and so you just have to kind of guess at it, which isn’t helped by the US and Canadian options being at opposite ends of the list.
Still, over here in the mother country I was fine, so the app loaded and I got my first look at it.
69% battery, nice. Ok, first impressions – this looks OK. We’re in the reference tab, and there’s a list of publications. There’s an option for Battle Forge, the army builder, which right now just tells you it’ll be released soon. Not launching with the army builder seems like a tactical error, but I can see why you would hit a point where it was better to have the app out and add the army builder later, and per today’s article it’s coming in August. Fine, fine.
Let’s check out the core rules, linked neatly in the bottom right-hand corner!
Yes, the core rules are a PDF that opens in Google Drive. No, I have absolutely no explanation for why this is the case. Note that this is the core rules document that is already on Warhammer Community. I don’t know what a ‘CDN’ is, but I’m told that WarCom have one and they should be using that and not Google Drive, if they must use it at all. This is pretty rough – it’s just a PDF, not at all adapted for using on a phone, which is how 90% of people using this app are going to want to use it. The rules sure exist and I can scroll through them fine and read them, just in the least accessible way possible, in an app which is literally designed to deliver rules to me.
Let’s head back to the app and look at the rest of the rules references.
First up, as you can see from the image above, the list is entirely in alphabetical order. This means that Blackstone Fortress, a set of supplementary rules that matter for precisely one model – Daedolusus, from the Ad Mech range – is first in the list, then Chapter Approved 2019, a supplement for an out-of-date edition, and then the Space Marine codex supplements. We’ll revisit this issue shortly, so hold on for that.
Let’s look at an actual book – since we all love Space Marines here at Goonhammer, we’ll check out their codex.
Ok this is good! The codex is neatly broken down into its constituent sections, with datasheets, relics, and so on. I’ve just realised this list is alphabetical as well, oh no. I am going to do foreshadowing again and tell you once again that this will come up later. Let’s have a look at the datasheets.
Apparently nobody had a picture of the Captain in Cataphractii Armour so he just doesn’t get a picture. I checked out that Blackstone Fortress section from earlier, and a bunch of those pictures are missing too. Not great but they’re just model pictures. (Rob’s Note: Oddly, Obsidius Mallex is missing from Blackstone Fortress but shows up as the Chaos Lord over in Chaos Space Marines. Whoops).
Oh no. So yeah, the Indomitus stuff is missing too – I guess that technically those units are not actually in Codex Space Marines, so they wouldn’t be in this specific list, but they’re not in the app at all (there’s a search function and they don’t show up) so all the new stuff from the new boxed set simply does not exist in the app right now. I guess you can scan the Edge of Silence booklet, or the new core rulebook? Except now that I look at it, there’s no actual option to scan anything. There’s just the list of rules in Reference, the non-functional Battle Forge bit, and the Core Rules which takes you, I repeat, to a PDF hosted on Google Drive.
Speaking of search, that function is mostly ok, except that if you search for e.g. Eliminators you get 4 different entries (confusingly, three are called Eliminator Squad and one is called Eliminators) with no identifiable difference between them. Once you click through you can tell that oh yeah, one is the entry in Codex: Space Marines, one is the BA version in Blood of Baal, one is in Saga of the Beast, and so on, but there is no way to tell that from the search bar. Equally, because it’s looking for the string ‘elimina’ the ‘Elimination Volley’ and ‘Preliminary Bombardment’ stratagems are also there, which is fair enough – but they just say ‘Stratagem’. Some simple labeling here to say ‘Dark Angels Unit’ or ‘Adeptus Mechanicus Stratagem’ would be really helpful. I shouldn’t have to click through to find out this basic information. You also apparently can’t search for special rules – searching for ‘combat doctrines’ brings up nothing. Some people have also reported search crashing the app for them, but I’ve not had that issue.
Similarly, right now, you cannot find ‘Intercessor Squad’ in the Dark Angels unit list. It’s a legal unit entry, but technically the datasheet was replaced in Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned, so if you want Dark Angels Intercessors you need to find it there instead. If you kind of squint you can understand the choice made here, but from a usability point of view this is awful – why on earth do I have to go and find a core unit for a faction by clicking out of its section, scrolling down to a different section, going back in through the layers of publication -> datasheets, and then find it there? I could search, of course, and at least in this case the images for each type of Intercessor Squad are different, but that’s poor functionality. Also, Death Company Intercessors are missing an image.
Speaking of Psychic Awakening, well, here’s the list of stratagems from Psychic Awakening: Engine War:
Yes, they’re all just in alphabetical order – remember when I kept mentioning this? This is why. Everything in this app is in alphabetical order and there is zero filtering or grouping available. Check out the relics, too, it’s the same deal:
Given that PA books have anywhere from 2 to 4 different factions in, this is really poor. If I just want to browse through the app and find out what a faction does – which to me seems like my primary use of the app right now – then I have to scroll through every single rule in each book in alphabetical order and just kind of hope I don’t miss any? At the very least it seems like you should be able to sort stuff, but really why would this be anyone’s default view – nobody reads the books like this. Grouping stuff by faction is the bare minimum I would have expected here.
Two other side notes from Psychic Awakening before we move on. First, the extra Chapter litanies from Faith & Fury are simply missing entirely. Secondly, SURPRISE, it’s the Pirmachr of the Aphal Legoni!
This has powerful ‘slamming in the data entry 3 hours after I was meant to go home’ energy.
I mentioned just now that the Chapter-specific litanies are missing, but there’s actually a much more surprising omission from the app – the 9th edition core rulebook. Not the core rules; as we outlined above; you can find those on Google Drive, but if you consult this article you will note that subscribers are meant to have access to the core rulebook in full. Presently this does not exist in the app at all, as far as I can tell. On the plus side, someone did remember to include all the Forge World datasheets that are currently only available on their website, so that’s a bonus. For some reason the Death Korps of Krieg have been split out of the Astra Militarum index, as well.
Let’s take a look at a datasheet.
Ok! Now we’re rocking and rolling! This is actually good! There’s a nice picture of the model, the stat block is broken out, all the relevant stats are there (although they…. seem to be slightly misaligned? I think the numbers aren’t centred?). The unit’s options are listed, and then there’s the weapon profiles below. This is good! I will use this!
Oh no! The model abilities are in no order at all. They’re not alphabetical, they’re not sorted by model-specific vs. generic. They’re just kind of dumped in there any old way. I checked a couple of other unit entries and this is ‘the same’, not in the sense that they’re in the same order but in the sense that they’re all just haphazardly inserted wherever. Oh, also, since we’re talking about a Chaplain, here’s the Litanies of Battle list:
Yeah they’re all just named ‘Litanies of Battle.’ Good luck with that, I guess.
It only gets worse if we look at something like a Primaris Lieutenant, which has actual wargear options.
Good: the datasheet is there again. It lists the unit’s options, i.e. you can take 1-2 Primaris Lieutenants. Bad: all the weapon profiles are given in a single long text block, before you’re even given the weapon options, which are just randomly in a little box after that section. You can only imagine how this looks on a Relic Contemptor which can take about a dozen different guns. Then it’s the great big block of unit rules – and again, to emphasise this properly, every single Space Marine unit has every component of Angels of Death reprinted in full, yes that means the entirety of Combat Doctrines, all of Bolter Discipline, the whole lot of it – and then something I didn’t mention before, they keywords at the bottom.
This structure is crazy. Why is none of this stuff collapsible? Why do I want to see Combat Doctrines reprinted on every single unit’s entry? There’s a section for that, put it there. Link to it. Let me expand and collapse it so if I really do just want to re-read an army rule while looking at a specific unit I can but don’t put it in a giant vertical block that gets in the way of key information like the actual unique rules for this unit or the keywords it has. I note incidentally that Combat Doctrines is printed correctly, per the FAQ update, so one mark there, at least.
Ok. There’s not a lot else to say here – ultimately this is an app that has rules in and right now it doesn’t do much else, and it doesn’t even do the rules bit well, so there’s no need to drag it out.
Let’s be clear up front – this is an app that should not have shipped. It is not good enough. It is definitely not good enough for £3.99 a month, or local equivalent. Whose fault it is that it did ship in this state I honestly cannot say, but whoever looked at this and thought it was a product that was suitable to sell to customers should be answering some serious questions on Monday, because it’s not.
Is it usable? Sure, if you like to use things that are actively unfriendly to your primary use case for them. It’s not too bad if you just want to look things up in a single codex – though again, if one of your units was updated in a Psychic Awakening book, it simply doesn’t exist in your unit list and you have to go and find it again, so bear that in mind – but any time you want to use any of the expansion content,you’re going to need to enjoy wading through an alphabetical list of, literally, 100+ rules at times just to find what you’re looking for. Search is good, but search does not replace good data organisation, and organisation is almost non-existent here.
I suspect that this was made by too few people in too little time and then pushed out the door because We Can Fix It Later, but frankly this isn’t ‘a few silly errors that need to be caught and corrected’ – there are core, paid-for features missing, there are core features which are implemented insanely, there is a complete lack of consideration of how a user would actually want to use the product and what would enable them to do that. If someone told me that the first person to pick this up and try and use it who hadn’t actively worked on it was me, I would believe them.
What needs fixing? Here’s a short list:
- Make sure that people in your largest market can actually register without having to pretend to live in Alabama – I cannot believe that nobody bothered to check this
- Core rules should load in the app like everything else, and not link to fucking Google Drive, I cannot get over this
- Where is the 9th edition core rulebook? Where is the feature that lets me scan a QR code and add new books? It does not exist at all as far as I can see
- Filtering. Honestly, not even filtering – there is absolutely no use case where I want to open Engine War and read through all of the stratagems in alphabetical order. Break that stuff out by faction. Within factions, let me look at units by detachment slot, not just in a giant alphabetical list
- Cross-linking. I get it, you updated a datasheet in another book. There is absolutely no reason that it shouldn’t still be linked from that faction’s section.
- Expandable/collapsible lists. There are way too many blocks of text in this thing. Again, there is no reason that I should want to have the entire text of generic faction rules printed on individual datasheets. If you must put them there, make them linked or expandable. The current implementation is awful to use.
- Search doesn’t work. Typing in your search term without waiting for the filtered list to load crashes the Android app.
- Some kind of Preferences settings. For something requiring a login to “MyWarhammer,” the presentation here should really have been built around letting me choose which armies to show rules for by default. Nobody needs the full list of books as the first thing greeting them when they open the app.
- Unsubscribing. Right now it looks like you can’t actually unsubscribe once you’re in. That doesn’t seem great!
Obviously also fix the typos and the things that are missing completely, and let’s maybe also have FAQs for the things that haven’t been fixed for months (looking at you, Saga of the Beast) and have those implemented too.
That just about does us for Warhammer 40,000 – The App. The thing that is disappointing here is that you can see where the potential is. Where stuff is done right, it’s really nice – if I just want to read a rule or whatever in the app, that works and it’s nicely formatted and such, it’s just getting there that’s rough. Someone taking the time to fix my checklist above would improve this thing ten times over and it would be a useful resource, but right now it feels completely unfinished. We’re going to keep monitoring this thing and see if it improves, and we’ll be the first to tell you if it does, but right now I cannot recommend you subscribe, especially since it seems like you can’t unsub even if you wanted to. Waiting costs you nothing and hopefully you get a better product at the end of it.
EDIT: There is now an unsubscribe button! It seems that the only way to get there right now is with a direct link, so here it is: https://app.warhammer40000.com/subscriptions/cancel