Warhammer 40K: 2019 Year in Review & Roundtable

Along with some personal retrospectives from some of our authors, over the next week or so we’re going to be publishing reviews of the year for various games. Today, let’s look at what happened in 40K in 2019, and how our team feel about it.

Year in Review

Nothing hammers home just how much has happened in 40K this year quite as well as going back and looking at the final matchup in the 2019 Las Vegas Open. January 2019 was pretty quiet for Warhammer 40K (not something we expect to be repeated) and the calendar of noteworthy 40K events for the year past really starts there. Looking at what the final two players in the largest event in the world were packing at the top tables almost feels like looking at a different game – a Knight Castellan facing down Ynnari, with Brandon Grant’s Astra Militarum-backed knight eventually taking the crown. The Castellan had been dominant for a while, but there were plenty of other powerful lists kicking around, and the question at the time was whether anything in the year to come would knock the House Raven Knight Castellan (present in 3/4 of the top lists at that event) off its perch as the de-facto best model in the game.

Imperial Knight Castellan
Imperial Knight Castellan. Credit: Jack Hunter

As our readers know, it would. Even as the LVO was being fought there were sinister murmurings in the darker reaches of the 40k universe as the Genestealer Cults codex arrived. This very much had the feel of a first codex in a new “phase” of the game, being more complex and (so it would prove) more powerful than anything that had really gone before. The absurd skill ceiling on using it effectively meant that it would take a while for even top players to master it, but over time more and more of the game’s finest minds heard the call of the Four Armed Emperor and switched to the Cult, and even through multiple rounds of nerfs and the later rise of Space Marines it has remained a key part of the metagame all year. It may be that the brutal nerfs some of their best units have received in Chapter Approved will finally put them on the bench for a bit, but history suggests it would be unwise to count them out.

Acolyte Hybrids
Acolyte Hybrids
Credit: Pendulin

Early 2019 was a strange and different time where there was often only one major new thing out each month, and the next big pieces of news for 40K didn’t arrive until March, with new rules for Imperial Assassins in White Dwarf and Vigilus Ablaze and the revised Chaos Space Marines codex coming later on. Both had huge and lasting impacts on the game – Assassins are enormously powerful and the ability to flexibly pick between them in Imperium forces turned out to be extremely compelling. They were also a very hot topic in the community, and our guides to playing both with and against Assassins proved enormously popular. Vigilus Ablaze, it’s fair to say, landed with a bit less excitement, though has still had a significant impact largely because it brought the Lord Discordant into the game. It’s difficult to believe that at the time people were sure it would be terrible because it had enough wounds to be targeted at range.

What fools we all were.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The other big new thing to come out of these books was the addition of the various Renegade Chapters, providing newly tuned up faction traits where The Purge and the Red Corsairs especially stood out, with Dreadnoughts powered by the former going on to be a metagame staple and the latter being a powerful option. It’s fair to say that the rest of what was in these was a bit less impactful, but big point drops to a lot of the new models have recently arrived in Chapter Approved, and combined with some other exciting new options for Chaos, which we’ll get to, there’s a good chance that people will finally get to fully leverage the tools from these books in the new year.

March also saw a demonstration that yes, people could adapt to the twin titans of the metagame, with only a single (relatively unusual) Ynnari list making it into the top four and Jim Vesal’s Nurgle/Thousand Sons list and Stephen Fore’s Genestealer Cults throwing down in the final. The Castellan continued to be popular, but not the dominating force it had once been, and April was the point at which some savvy players also noticed just how good the beta rules for the Caladius Grav Tank were, with some top UK players switching to them as the Imperial firebase of choice.

Credit: Immanetized

The final nail in the coffin for the Castellan came among the titanic changes to the game that landed at the end of April, with the release of the spring FAQ and the updated Ynnari index. Pretty much every strategy that had been on top early in the year took a hit. Aeldari lost cross-faction Doom, plane blocking and the original version of Strength From Death, a set of changes that ended up pushing them towards either Drukhari Covens or Craftworlds plane spam as the strategies of choice for most of the rest of the year. Orks lost the Loota star, stopping them having access to (probably) the best single shooting unit in the game, and even newcomers GSC got an extremely quick nerf to the horror that was Mental Onslaught as originally printed. The headline news, though, was the nerf to Castellans – a 100pt hike and a cap on their invulnerable save that effectively eliminated them from the metagame entirely, leaving triple Crusaders and change as the Knight build of choice.

Tau Commander
Tau Commander. Credit: Jack Hunter

We predicted at the time that Tau, Daemons and non-invulnerable save-toting vehicles would be the big winners out of this, and honestly looking at the results for the rest of the year we weren’t far off, with underestimating the enduring power of Genestealer Cults being our only big miss.

After that seismic shift the summer was remarkably quiet in terms of releases. We were busily getting ourselves into gear and starting to put out our Start Competing series and strategy guides for various formats, while tournament players the world over were throwing down with updated lists, with a wide variety of strategies proving they had what it took to compete at the top. Orks, Tau, GSC, Custodes, Aeldari planes, Triple Crusaders and various Chaos Soup strategies all had significant success, and the summer had a gloriously diverse metagame that was one of the best periods competitive 8th edition has seen.

Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner
Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner. Credit: Jack Hunter

The next major releases didn’t immediately shake that up massively, although the first new appearance in July, the new Skorpius chassis for Ad Mech, did boost them up to play in the big leagues. The next release, Chaos Knights, was less immediately impactful as the metagame wasn’t quite in the right place for them, but later shifts have made the triple dual thermal Despoiler build extremely powerful and one of the better counters to the upcoming shock of the Marine codex. The first outrider of that was here too, with the Repulsor Executioner landing at the end of the month, and immediately seeing action in lists alongside Roboute Guilliman, giving even Space Marines a way to compete in the summer metagame, achieving success unheard of for most of the lifespan of the edition.

Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant
Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant. Credit: Artum

That success was about to become much more routine. You knew it was coming folks – August saw the release of the new Space Marine Codex and the first two chapter supplements, covering Ultramarines and White Scars. Unlike the re-released Chaos codex, this represented a near complete overhaul of the faction, with powerful new Doctrines and the strong mobility options of White Scars being the initial standouts. A staple of the summer metagame was also taken out, with major changes to the Caladius Grav Tank landing with a re-release of the Forge World Custodes rules. The last super-major prior to these changes, the NOVA open, saw big success for Tau and Genestealer Cults, but how would the metagame be impacted by Space Marines being good again?

Iyanden Hemlock Wraithfighter
Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Initially, it looked like the metagame might adapt – Aeldari lists skewed towards planes still dominated at the London Grand Tournament, although Space Marines formed a far larger part of the (still healthy) metagame and had a greater presence on the top tables than ever seen before. If things had stopped there, then it would have been reasonable to hope that the healthy metagame of the summer would continue for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Iron Hands Intercessor by Booley
Iron Hands Intercessor. Credit: Jack Hunter

The second wave of Space Marine supplements hit shortly afterwards, and they were of a power level that utterly outstripped their predecessors and (arguably) anything else seen in the edition beforehand. Iron Hands and Raven Guard both have outrageously powerful suites of tricks, with the Iron Hands book on launch containing some combinations and abilities that were demonstrably broken. This was, mercifully, addressed relatively swiftly by an FAQ, but by that time the Imperial Fists supplement was also imminent, bringing with it yet another extremely powerful option (with poor Salamanders being rather left in the dust by the rest of the books).

With these incredibly powerful books in hand, the story of the rest of the year tournament wise has been Space Marines achieving an unprecedented level of single faction dominance, and there was some degree of initial doom and gloom when the next release, the first book in the much hyped Psychic Awakening series, turned out to be at least something of a let down for Eldar players. Coming alongside Imperial players getting more toys in the form of the Inquisition index, it looked like we might be in for a rough period in the game.

Adepta Sororitas Sister Superoir
Adepta Sororitas Sister Superior. Credit: Jack Hunter

However, while Marines have continued to dominate all was not lost. The second Psychic Awakening book, Faith and Fury, turned up and while it added some new Marine tricks it also brought a whole bunch of new options for Chaos Space Marines and they are awesome, and pitched at a much higher power level than anything seen before within that faction. At the same time, the Sisters of Battle codex landed, infused with powerful new mechanics and boosts to the faction and strongly suggesting that, with the designers having really hit their stride, books of the power and depth of Genestealer Cults and new Marines are intended to be the new normal, not an aberration.

The story continued with some extremely tasty buffs to Tyranids in the third Psychic Awakening book, along with the Blood Angels getting lifted up to level of their codex compliant brethren, something that hopefully augurs extremely well for Dark Angels fans going into the fourth book.

Tau Riptide
Tau Riptide. Credit: Jack Hunter

The final big bits of news to close out the year also hold some substantial promise for the future. Chapter Approved landed and (with a few exceptions) handed out generous presents to a lot of non-Marine factions, coinciding with the buffs they’re receiving in Psychic Awakening to give them much more of a competitive leg to stand on. Last but not least, and the final notable major of the year Richard Siegler went all the way with Tau, proving that there are options out there for those who don’t want to join the Marine train, something that will only become more true as the dust from Chapter Approved settles.

So what can we expect on the horizon for the new year? Well, we know for a fact that one Psychic Awakening book is going to be landing per month through to March, and given recent trend we expect there will be other releases slotted in amongst them. The 2020 Las Vegas open also beckons, giving the world’s best players a chance to show off what they’ve devised with the new tools and options gifted to various factions. We can’t wait to see what new toys come out to play, and many of our authors will be there battling alongside them.

No one can say there haven’t been a few power armoured bumps in the road this year, and the relentless release schedule of the back half of the year has been a challenge to both players trying to keep on top of the metagame and hard working content providers trying desperately to produce reviews. Despite that, the year as a whole has been a tremendously strong one for 40K. The upcoming LVO will be half as big again as 2019’s, tournaments across the world sell out in minutes, and the community’s hunger for releases and content is greater than ever. 2020 promises to be another exciting ride, and we look forward to enjoying it with you!


James “One_Wing” Grover

So, I don’t have a huge amount to add here because I pulled together the summary above  and I’ll be doing a short, more personal retrospective of the year separately. However, I do want to stress the most important thing that I don’t want to get lost, which is the extent to which it feels like the design of the game has blossomed this year. Yes there have been mis-steps in both directions (Marines and Phoenix Rising springing to mind) but they have been the exception – by and large the new rules published this year have shown off the extent to which the game’s writers have mastered how to get depth and interest out of the solid design core that lured me (a game design nerd) back into 8th edition after many, many years of being out of the hobby.

I think the two things that show this best were the Spring FAQ and the Chaos components of Faith and Fury. The former was an extremely well tuned document, featuring both sensible, well put together updates to the core rules and targeted changes to factions that were well pitched to the balance issues of the day. It gave birth to the summer metagame which was, in my opinion, the best competitive 8th has ever been, and gives me confidence that if Space Marines do continue their current dominance, the design team will fix it in due time.

Faith and Fury’s Chaos rules are a masterpiece – my route back to this hobby has been via writing game systems for live action roleplaying, so I know far, far too well how nightmarish it is when you’re starting at blank pages for six different factions, all of which need a certain quota of flavourful, functional and mechanically distinctive abilities. That this book manages this while also combining with the Chapter Approved updates to make Chaos Space Marines a real force in the metagame once again is a triumph, and I firmly hope that’s indicative of the kind of update we’ll be getting going forwards!

We’ll soon find out – 2020 beckons, with Thousand Sons, Grey Knights and Dark Angels apparently first in the queue for an update. The Sons of Magnus have always been pretty strong, but the two Imperial factions are among the game’s weakest, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new book brings for them. Sleeping is much less important than writing reviews, after all.

Liam “Corrode” Royle

2019 has been an interesting year for 40k for sure. From January 1st to December 31st we’ve gone from Genestealer Cults being a sideshow joke army to an absolute meta terror to being kind of on the shelf again following the Chapter Approved points changes. Many people have suddenly realised that they always loved Space Marines, actually, and they’re very attached to their long-standing history with the Iron Hands Chapter which they definitely knew existed before September 2019. T’au have emerged as all of our heroes against the Marine menace, a turn of events which will surprise anyone who’s ever had to watch their opponent take six wounds from lascannons and pass them all off to Shield Drones who don’t even have the grace to die.

Model wise, we had a ton of great stuff this year. Genestealer Cults was literally only half a range until their update brought with it a treasure trove of great stuff. Chaos got a double update with the new Chaos Space Marines range – including finally updating the godawful old Chaos Marine sculpts and the new Abbadon, one of the best models in the entire GW range – and a half dozen new Slaanesh toys. We also got new Chaos Knights, the Skorpius hull for Ad Mech, PLASTIC ASPECT WARRIORS!!! (one shrine, anyway), plastic Incubi, plastic Drazhar and Jain Zar, updated Mephiston, a slew of new Space Marines models, and of course plastic Sisters of Battle. If you’re into the modelling and painting part of this hobby as much as the gaming, it’s been a banner year to an extent which I think is unmatched in GW’s history.

So as we close in on 2020, how do we feel about the game as it stands? Personally, I am cautiously optimistic. I think it’s fair to say that the fallout from the Marine release has put a dampener on things, as it became clearer that for some armies there was no amount of “playing the mission” which could overcome the power imbalance. Coming out of the meta from April to September which was about the healthiest it’s ever been, it’s disappointing to feel like we’re taking a step backwards. That said, there’s good reason to have hope – as Wings already touched on, the newer books have shown a maturing of the design philosophy around 40k, with some intelligent, modern rules writing exemplified by the Genestealer Cults at the start of the year and Sisters of Battle at the end. My main hopes for 2020 are 1) that we get a 9th edition which is more or less a tidying up of 8th edition with some beefing up in areas that need it – terrain rules spring to mind – and 2) that going forwards we continue with the trend of interesting, thoughtful design which enhances a faction’s capabilities. Some of the oldest 8th edition books could really do with revisiting in the manner of the Marines codex, and it would be great to see armies like Eldar and Grey Knights following a similar trend – though hopefully one which is a little less oppressive power-wise.

Alternatively, of course, there’s always Age of Sigmar. I hear that nu-Tomb Kings are a bit tasty….

Charlie Anderton

Reading back through the year’s summary, it’s hard to believe it’s only been ~10 months or so since we first saw the Genestealer Cults Codex. That seems ages ago and an army that has been a required consideration of competitive lists since its release. As a Chaos player, lately it’s all too easy for me to be salty and complain that I’m not playing Marines, but Chaos got a good amount of love this year with Vigilus Ablaze, Faith and Fury, the Chaos Knights codex, new Slaanesh units, a new Chaos Knight kit, new Chaos Space Marine sculpts, Abaddon sculpt, Havocs sculpt, sorcerer sculpt, the Dark Apostle, and more that I’m forgetting about. No, Chaos as a super-faction aren’t tearing up the competitive meta at the moment, but from any other perspective, they came out of 2019 smelling like a rose. Let’s not forget the several-month-long spree where Chaos lists made popular by TJ Lanigan, Jim Vesal, and Don Hooson needed to be factored into any GT-winning list.

Despite the indisputably large number of Chaos releases in 2019, some of those new rules and models affected the meta and others failed to rock the boat. I’m not sure Chaos will ever be the same after the Lord Discordant was released. Immediately flamed by armchair generals everywhere as “trash,” “not worth taking,” and “proof that GW hates Chaos,” Disco Lords have emerged as one of Chaos’ stronger units, thanks in part to some rules in Vigilus Ablaze. Speaking of, some of the specialist detachments from VA like the Soulforged Pack have become a common occurrence for Chaos lists, while others like Host Raptoral were “cute” on paper, but no one really utilized them to great success.

Now that Chaos has gotten a lot of point reductions on key units through Chapter Approved 2019, this may change and I think the floodgates are open, per se, on various lists and archetypes for Chaos moving forward. These point reductions, along with point increases for some of Chaos’ other staple units like Thousand Son Daemon Princes and Plaguebearers, combined with the new rules in Faith and Fury, have thrown Chaos lists on their heads. Experienced players like Nick Nanavati and TJ Lanigan have gone on the record to still trash talk units like Obliterators, even at their decreased point costs, but with neat, new stratagems from F&F that make a unit of Obliterators untargetable or even -2 to-hit when targetable (thanks to a Dark Apostle), it’s tempting to want to take them to a test game. Are Thousand Sons Daemon Princes still work it at nearly 190 points with wings? Time will tell.

With more Psychic Awakening books on the way for Thousand Sons and Death Guard, Chaos as a super-faction could get even more legs as a soup-based competitive force. No, they aren’t Marines. I don’t think they ever will be Marines. But they just might get the tool necessary to hold their own in 2020. I’m hopeful that 2020 will continue to give Chaos more rules and new models and will always keep my fingers crossed for an Emperor’s Children and/or World Eaters-specific full-length codex.

James “Boon” Kelling

2019 is almost in the books and what a year it has been. We’ve actually come a long way in terms of game balance as GW took very proactive steps to address some of the worst mechanics or challenges to the competitive game. So much so that by the time the Fall FAQ rolled around they officially declared the game to be in a good spot – and I agreed. But we’ve also seen some not so great balancing or new, disruptive releases that have upended the competitive scene.

Early in the year two long-standing boogeymen had been neutered or killed off entirely – first the Castellan and then the Ynnari. The former saw a recosting of stratagem CP that I think better balanced the entirety of the Knight codex, though the point increase on the Castellan was likely too much as it’s been pretty niche ever since. While I don’t think a point hike was out of the question, the +100 it eventually received was a bit of a nail. While I’m not terribly sad to see it go since it singularly invalidated so much of every codex, it was still an unnecessary hit. Ynnari are still the gold standard by which overpowered things are measured, even in our new age of Space Marines, so it’s unsurprising that they caught an eventual nerf by way of a White Dwarf index update.

What IS surprising is that GW didn’t just nerf Ynnari – they killed them. The faction makes little sense, and as we’ve discussed previously, it feels like the (very short) different sections of the Ynnari update were written by completely different people who weren’t familiar with the underlying armies (see: Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising). It has resulted in the almost total disappearance of a faction that was once a prominent part of the meta. To a lesser extent GW also addressed flyers by limiting how they can zone out or block unit movement in/around their bases and the flash in the pan that was Custodes Caladius tanks. While this didn’t kill these units, it did change how they play in this game for the better.

Some new releases in GW’s Psychic Awakening series have been exciting and opened up a lot of new variability in how lists may be constructed or armies played and resulted in new interest in different units – even for the Craftworlders or Drukhari who, far and away, were victims of the biggest campaign misfire thus far. With Chapter Approved, the meta would seem to be in a great place, but unfortunately, GW also released the Space Marines supplements that are clear mistakes. I’m not going to dig on this too hard, but it’s clear that Marines, which are representing 30-40% of the scene in some tournaments are providing an advantage above the worst excesses of Ynnari. That’s the biggest challenge for GW in the new year, in my opinion – how can they rebalance not just one, but many Astartes factions without giving them the Ynnari treatment and murdering them altogether?

Overall, I feel like GW has taken many, many small steps forward in 2019 with rule updates/changes, and their new release plans, but then one giant step backwards with their Supplements release. The game provides for more options to field different units that previously never saw the table, and GW has shown significant interest in game design and testing, but Marines are still oppressively hanging over the scene and until something changes there (April… maybe?) we’re unlikely to see any real shifts away from the Marine dominated meta. For that reason, it’s hard for me to say that the game is in a good place, but it’s certainly not in a bad place either – we’ve merely exchanged the boogeymen.


It’s June 26th, and I am penning the worst take I will ever have:

Greg: To pitch in on this one, I asked for input from our local Iron Hands player, Goonhammer author haha I’m kidding we don’t have one. No one plays this army and no one ever will.

This is not ironic, but it will be.

It’s August 2019, and the new Space Marines Codex has been released. From long-time favorites like Ultramarines and Imperial Fists to newly-minted Salamanders and Iron Hands books, Space Marines are the newest army to draw accusations of power creep. With new units, Doctrines, rules for Successors, and a host of new stratagems, they finally play they way they’re depicted in the fluff. A thousand chapters, and everyone except Dark Angels, Space Wolves, and Blood Angels are now capable of seeing the top tables at every event. This new world does last, but when Hands are nerfed, Fists remain strong.

It’s December 25th 2019, and Warhammer Community has pulled back the curtain on Psychic Awakening 4, which finally has rules for Dark Angels. The future becomes unclear, and I see two paths: one where the Unforgiven remain bad, and I explode with inchoate rage, and another where they are suddenly elevated to “playable” and I also get angry, because now I have no excuse. Both paths spool out before me, and I see that as long as I remain Pissed Off, I will remain powerful. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

Primaris Kevin

I feel like 2019 was The Year GW Almost Got It Right. Over the summer we saw a lot of diversity, with a lot of lists getting Top 4 results and Space Marines seeing a lot of positivity with the core codex. We saw what happened since then and it’s not the best, but there’s always another FAQ and GW has made it clear they’re willing to balance and cultivate this game in a way that hasn’t been the case previously. What’s really important is that Warhammer 40K continues to grow, and that with Psychic Awakening everyone seems to be getting something. At some point we should also begin to see the first portents of 9th Edition, and while personally I don’t expect any seismic changes on the level of 7th to 8th a few tweaks here and there might go a long way.

Personally I think what’s made this year particularly awesome is in the support of ancillary games set in the 40K universe. Apocalypse is an incredible game that everyone should be playing. Kill Team continues to grow and gain in popularity. Adeptus Titanicus and Aeronautica Imperialis are getting a ton of awesome support, and Necromunda might be the most fun you can have with painted miniatures and dice. There’s just so much to do and enjoy. If you’re not happy with 40K or your current army, try checking out something a little different.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone for their enthusiasm with Hammer of Math. I never thought I would be in a position to put together a weekly column, and the reception has been incredible. It definitely makes writing thousands of words for no pay worth it. Enjoy your holiday, and let’s see what the New Year brings!

Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

As January drew to a close and we finally had Codex: Genestealer Cults out, I remember feeling a little relieved. After nearly two years of breakneck, monthly releases, we had finally reached the end of the 8th edition Codex cycle. I remember looking at yearly earnings reports news for Games Workshop that showed significant growth and thinking “of course sales are up, they just put out one codex a month for two years.” How could they possibly top that?

At the time, we just had our first blueprint for the future: Vigilus Defiant showed us a vision for future army release updates that gave us big, fluff-heavy campaign supplements that would add new units and specialist detachments for armies. Then the updated Chaos Codex hit with Vigilus Ablaze and it looked like we’d be getting updated codexes with new units and slight tweaks to accompany the releases. Then everything went insane with the Space Marine codex and its supplements. And as we were all adjusting to that and hoping for a massive errata/adjustment for Iron Hands to reduce their dominance, Psychic Awakening started and it became a little more clear: that the future for us is not revised codexes — at least not yet, anyways — but rather campaign supplements that are all at once very light on campaign rules, fluff, and scenarios (particularly compared to Vigilus) and heavy on new rules and stratagems that directly augment or adjust the existing codexes.

It’s been an odd year, overall, with several false starts from a design perspective that are hard to understand:

Specialist Detachments

The Vigilus Campaign Books gave us Specialist Detachments, which in many ways felt like a modern re-imagining of 7th editions formations. They were less strict, more forgiving, and less essential, and while some of them were better than others, I very much liked what they brought to the table. The good ones are like tools that help emphasize specific strategies, but their rewards, costing 1 or 2 CP depending on whether you want to add a field commander, can add up very quickly, particularly when their primary benefits also cost CP.

Unfortunately, it now appears that GW thinks Specialist Detachments were a mistake. This is sad to me, particularly given that I think they can add a lot of flavor and variety to army builds in a way that goes beyond just giving the stratagems to an army. On the other hand, I also see the logic in just giving the detachment’s stratagems to the army itself, but at the same time there are clearly things that you want to be gated behind an increased initial cost but not cost you 2 CP for every use. With the replacement of the specialist detachments’ stratagems in the Marine codex, it seems like they’ve abandoned them.

Codex Patches

When Codex: Chaos Space Marines 2nd edition was released, it seemed like we were in store for a series of updated books done in a similar fashion, incorporating new units and some FAQ adjustments. Instead, we got the new Marines dex and its supplements. In the light of those, the v.2.0 Chaos Codex looks lazy, refusing to give the faction updates it desperately needed in service of the dubious goal of allowing players to keep playing with the existing codex, which was invalidated in several ways not covered by Shadowspear and Vigilus Ablaze. So I’m not exactly sad to see this shit way of doing things is gone. I just wish they’d done this bad experiment with some other faction’s codex.

Final Thoughts

So where are we left in 8th edition? I’m left to agree with One_Wing in that the April FAQ really did leave us in a pretty solid place with regard to faction balance and while I think the points updates from the 2019 Chapter Approved were for the most part very well-considered and executed, we’ve also got a meta being totally warped by Space Marines supplements. So far, I’ve liked Psychic Awakening — I don’t think Eldar needed much help and the Chaos aspects of Faith and Fury and the Tyranid parts of Blood of Baal are just excellent. But everything they do about Marines feels like it’s on another level power-wise, and many armies have problems that can go well beyond points updates and new stratagems.

And all of this ignores the creeping issue with bookkeeping and complexity creep in the game: The number of available psychic powers and stratagems has exploded, and so far none of the stratagems introduced in the various campaign supplements have cards, making tracking and using them more difficult. And the number of books you need to buy to have access to your faction’s full range of powers has increased, and so has the number of relics. The end result is a game that has more and more options to keep track of, but few of them that will actually see use in most games, in part because while there are more relics and stratagems and powers, the number of relics you can take, the amount of CP you have, and the number of powers you can cast hasn’t really changed. It’s a weird state where the game is more complex than ever, but in a lot of ways has fewer meaningful choices.

Which is all to say that I hope they start finding ways to streamline the amount of rules and give us a way to streamline things a bit so we aren’t always running around with 80 stratagems per faction. They really need to find a way to give us more meaningful choices, and I’d like to see them replace unit-specific stratagems by just giving those abilities to the relevant units.


Gunum and Naramyth here. We travel all over the US pretending to be good at this game. We did that last year, and this year. We’ll do it next year too. Thanks for coming to our TED talk.

Also. We’ll win our Best in Faction this year at LVO if it kills us. (Dark Angels and Ad Mech, respectively).


Seasonal Greetings to you lovely folks! So prerequisite introduction: I am Apostle of Ruin and this is the first time I’ve had the chance to chime in here. Which is kind of fitting, because it’s almost New Year’s! And my what a year it has been!

I’ve been playing since May of 2018, and while we have seen a lot of changes in the second half of 2018, 2019 has been an amazing year in it’s own right. We were almost able to kiss Index Hammer goodbye, we were finally able to put a temporary sock in it for the Castellan [sleep well my sweet prince], and we got to see what the second iterations of codices might entail with the releases of Codex: Chaos Space Marines and Codex: Space Marines 2.0 being shipped. That last part may be the most exciting, and infuriating, thing we’ve seen yet.

While it is true Space Marines are everywhere, winning everything and beating everyone, we cannot ignore that for the most part GW has shown the ability to “Get It Right”. It might take a while, certainly too long, but they will get the game where it needs to be. The reign of the Iron Hands, with its vehicle hell, was brought swiftly to its end with noticeable nerfs, and this is after the laundry list of improvements that all but stopped the terror that was the Castellan Knight [again sleep well my sweet prince]. Sure Marines are on top right now, but I truly believe that Psychic Awakening and similarly placed updates will help level the playing fields. With that hope, we can get back to the summer of 2019 which I believe was the Golden Age of 8th edition. Everyone and everything was viable if you had the player-skill and determination to run it. [Rubric Marines won a Major!!!!] I’m sure we will get there again. GW as a company are adamant that they listen to our feedback, good and bad, and as I listed, they’ve shown a willingness to change for that.

From a personal perspective though, 2019 was an awesome year. I went to my first GT at the beginning of the year, and I had so much fun. My growth as a player since that event seemingly mirrored the continued growth of 40K’s playerbase. And truthfully, I only hope our community continues to grow more people can enjoy things like the friendships and memories I’ve made.

Jack “BenBooley” Hunter

This has been one hell of a year. 12 months ago Goonhammer “existed,” but only as somewhere for us to post about our hobby progress. None of us had any expectation of being anywhere remotely close to what we’re doing now back when we started – even six months ago we weren’t seeing as many views in a month as we’re now getting in a day. Somehow, thanks to the tireless efforts of all our writers, gamers, artists, and webadmins we’ve managed to do the unimaginable and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m going to be writing a bit more about my personal hobby progress in a separate post on the 31st (got one more model I badly want to finish before the end of the year), but I want to take a moment to think about where the game’s come over the last year. We saw the last of the codices release, followed by GW moving into two different styles of supplement books to continue the relentless march of content – first Vigilus with Specialist Detachments and a campaign, and now the Psychic Awakening books that are simply handing things to armies. I found Vigilus to be a much more interesting product, both in the fluff written to run alongside the campaign and mechanically in how specialist detachments work. Between Space Marine supplements, Psychic Awakening, and rules scattered across White Dwarf there’s a huge rules overhead to keep track of now, and specialist detachments were an interesting way to help cut that overhead down at gametime. While they had their issues (such as locking successor chapter players out of using them or being made up of useless stompas), they let armies target how they want to interact with the game, freeing players on both sides of the table from having to remember quite as many different things. I hope GW returns to an iterates on them once we make it through Psychic Awakening.

Balance in the game has been a contentious issue of late, with the marine supplements giving Imperial Fists and Iron Hands an absurd amount of power, and Psychic Awakening not quite being enough to bring anyone up to that level. A snapshot of this moment shows the definitely out of balance, but with new content releases at a frenetic pace we’re sure to see something new pop up and take over the meta in a few months. Until then we’ll need to be satisfied that while everyone is wearing power armor, at least the different colors actually play differently.

Model wise, everything GW has been doing lately has been nothing short of amazing. Nearly every release has me wanting to start another army, and on my plate (and evergrowing backlog) for 2020 will be a new AOS Slaves to Darkness army, both my first AOS army and my first army that isn’t on the side of “good.” Props to GW for making such amazing models.

To all our readers, thank you for your support. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without you, I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.


Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year to you all. This has been a tumultuous year for me on the hams front. After the Space Marine codex I started to feel pretty burnt out on 40k, as someone who doesn’t play the “core” Marines I initially hoped that the new codex would be a sign that future codexes would follow a similar format. When that didn’t happen, I began to feel a sense of dread, that we’d only be seeing Space Marines from here on out.

That’s…still pretty true. Taken as a whole, I’m not very happy about Psychic Awakening. It feels like a band aid solution onto a serious balance issue and it duct tapes mechanics onto armies that desperately need complete rewrites. I would have preferred a whole new line of codexes because it would cut down on the amount of book clutter. None of the books so far have really “wowed” me in the sense that they helped disrupt the current power structure, but they’re also still important enough that you have to bring yet another book (or at least the relevant details). But GW works on a pretty long turn around, so it’s possible going into the new year they can take some of these criticisms to heart and get to fixing it.

On the Fantasy side of things, it really gave me an opportunity to get to know and love Age of Sigmar. In March this year I played my first GT at Adepticon with Legions of Nagash and that solidified my love of the game. It was dynamic, fast moving and felt like any army could win with the right play in mind. While I had been playing for a while, playing in a major competitive setting really pushed me to dedicate myself to the game more. This love helped push me over to writing for Goonhammer, which has been such a great experience, to write about the things I love.

Age of Sigmar has been growing steadily since the 2018 Soul Wars box set and this year represented an explosive change. Too many to list but every month has brought out at least one new tome, often two. Now every army but Seraphon have a mechanically useable (even if not super powerful) battletome with 2.0. We already know Tzeentch and Kharadron overlords are next so the Lizards can’t be far behind. Then hopefully we can see some of the late “1.5” tomes like Nurgle, Daughters of Khaine and Idoneth Deepkin.

It’s been my personal opinion that there hasn’t been a “bad” book so far either. There was a lot of frustration about the culling of old world models when Cities of Sigmar launched, understandably so, but people seemed to move on and ultimately what we got was a dynamic book with a lot of options for heavy collectors.

If I had to name one misstep, it would be that Slaanesh dominated the tourney scene should have been foreseen, due to the obvious utility of the Depravity Point system being exploited. GW did seem to notice this for the Christmas update and while it remains to be seen if it was enough, its a large step in the right direction. Even during Slaanesh’s tyranny through the tourney scene did not have it’s Iron Hands moment 40k had this year. Other armies remained competitive, even ones with old codex’s before “Age of Sigmar 2.0” which for me says some strong things about how well AoS has balanced the game.

I’m hoping to do AoS events at both Adepticon and also attend Nova for the first time. It’s been a wonderful experience bonding with the Goonhammer team and other players through the shared love of the hobby and I wish you all the best in 2020.

Coda, The Cool and Good.

I’m writing this on the road so I’ll keep it short. 2019 owned for being a ham, tourney coverage has been great, the releases have been excellent all around and the community has truly prospered.

’19 was my first year properly back in the ham saddle and I you better believe I’m kicking that into high gear in 2020, with my first big name ITC tourney at Cancon and a trip to Adepticon in the US of A. I can not wait to meet up with the US crew and I’m going to try and see the UK lot in 2021. I’m also hoping to run a narrative ZM game at my local FLGS if everything goes to plan!

Content wise I really like that we aren’t just doing competitive articles. With a little bit of luck and hard work we’ll keep producing narrative and painting content. Personally I’m keen to start my road to adepticon, write up a article on how to backpack and Ham and do some more stuff with Astartes Genealogy Online.

Something that I need to call out is how welcoming the hobby has become in the last few years. I hope we all double down on that hard next year.

All in all, thank you, the readers for all of you comments on Disqus, Facebook, Bolter and Chainsword and Reddit. I honestly value every single one and will always try and badger the right person into giving you a response. Please keep them coming in thick and fast!

Oh and to the rest of the Goonhammer crew, I truly care for you all and wish you the best 2020 ever.


Wrap Up

2019 is in the books, but 2020 is on our doorstep and is sure to bring more dramatic changes and updates to the game we all love. We hope that we’ve managed to increase your enjoyment of 40K over the past year, and will do our level best to continue that next year as well!

If you have any comments, questions, feedback or suggestions then you can reach us at contact@goonhammer.com or via our Facebook page – otherwise, see you next decade!