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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Warhammer 40k 8th Edition Dark Imperium Unboxing

So 8th edition is here, and The Dark Imperium heralds its release. This is GWs 2-player boxed set to showcase its new edition, and our copy arrived in the post whilst I was in Denmark during the heatwave at the beginning of the week. Now its cooled down and the weekend has arrived, let's take a look inside.

The box itself is a hefty package, weighing just over 2.1kg, or about 4 and a half pounds. Just let that sink in for a moment...that's quite a lot! It's approximately 44cm long, 30 cm deep and 8cm high - 17" x 12" x 3 1/4", which makes it larger than a lot of 2-player sets out there. The art work on the front cover is what you'd expect from GW, with Primaris Ultramarines slugging it out with Death Guard.

The rear of the box then has a montage of the figures, all painted up and arranged in the centre, and some more closer up pictures in typical marketing style. All this comes with the typical blurb you'd expect.

Slightly less expected is the fact that this is a sleeved box, rather than a lidded one, and sliding the glossy sleeve card outer off reveals:

This rather sinister (but undeniably cool) artwork covers the lift-out box containing the sprues, below which is an insert holding the rulebook and indexes:

In this centre section are the rule book, while is a lovely, heavy and beautifully presented 280-page tome, matt with selective glos panels (very much like the current 5e D&D books - well, emulation of good practice is the sincerest form of flattery!). These were shrink-wrapped, but eagerness got rid of that almost instantly!:

Under that are the two guides to the factions with stats etc:

This is followed by the miniature assembly guide:

The most welcome quick reference guide:

And finally the rather splendid decal sheet:

Under each side shelf are the other components; dice, ruler and bases:

Going back to the sprue box, it is sealed with a sticker in the form of a purity seal - break this and you can open the box. This is one of those touches in this productcthat really set it above many others - it really feels like a well thought-out and polished product. There was no real need for GW to seal this box, and they could have just used a cheap transparent sellotape disc - but no - create a custom sticker in the form of a purity seal. It brought a smile to my face, and it (like other elements here) makes you feel that GW are really invested in the box.

For example, having the sprue box artwork - completely unnecessary, but the difference it makes is important. Having the rulebook and other documents in the centre of the cardboard insert (again, with more artwork), gives great box control but also gives you the feeling that GW cares about the product reaching you in good condition.

This feeling that GW cared was something missing in offerings in the past years, where they just seemed to have the attitude of "we will give you whatever we want and you will love us for it". This set is immersive even before you get into it's contents - that's important in today's market. I think it's perhaps the most important part of this whole set - GW are behaving like a games company, not a model company - or that's how it feels. This is a very good thing.

So moving on, lets look inside the sprue box:

There's quite a lot of stuff in here:

I won't go too much into these, since GW have excellent photos of these on their website, but I will just show one sprue. This is the Foetid Drone sprue (with other Death Guard pieces too):

Let's take a close-up view:

As you can see, the quality of GWs plastic in this set is superb - industry leading. Just take a look at the chainmail on the cloak and the drones weapon at the top left - finesse and detail, crispness and a definite lack of mould lines all make this faultless. I'm very excited to put them together - which is something I can't say that I've felt about a GW product for some time.

OK, back to the rulebook. The GW I knew of the late noughties made beautiful rulebooks, and this is exactly the same. You start of with further immersion:

Several double-page spreads of thematic artwork:

Then several sections covering the hobby in various aspects:

I'm not going to go through the book in exhaustive detail (I'll do a proper review later on), but give the first impressions and feel. Throughout the book are sections which draw you into the universe and give you sweeping vista art and gritty detail of locations and technology

All of this is fantastic, and I expect to spend several hours poring over this gamer-porn, just for the simply pleasure of it. The rules section is staggeringly and refreshingly brief and concise, but is followed by sections on other things like terrain and lots of missions. I don't know how many at the moment (another for the review), but it feels like a LOT.

The other nice part that I noticed is that all the add-on playstyles which had separate books when I last played 40k, like Planetstrike, Cities of Death, Death from the Skies and so on are now all included in the one book - another welcome sight. The book gives an impression of being a one-stop-shop, and that GW aren't trying to ass-rape me with endless supplements that cost the same as a rulebook just to play the game in a slightly different way. Again, this is a good thing.

I also spotted a section on campaigns, which (combined with the above) will be welcomed by gaming groups I'm sure.

Lastly, that all-important word for a rulebook that is oft-overlooked - Index. It has one, as all should.

The final thing, and one you've probably spotted in my photos (and I did it deliberately) is the ribbon. This is nicely tucked in before shrink-wrapping, so you don't notice it until you open it. Again, it's a nice touch and has been present in rulebooks of the past, and it's one of those things that both gives it an air of quality but also is a very practical addition - I wish my D&D books had them.

Now onto the guides, or mini-indexes. Again, I won't go through them both, nor show them in exhaustive detail, but give a general impression. Unsurprisingly, this is also very positive:

So you get nice fluff with photos of nicely painted and arranged models...

...and of course some chapter-related background with squadron markings and more nicely painted models:

Then you get each type of unit broken down with their all-important stats:

Finally you get a page with a summary of all of them, so you're not constantly page-flicking to make units. 

Once more this seems to demonstrate that GW have thought about how people will actually be using their products, rather than just giving them something and that's that. Another good thing.

Let's now take a look inside the construction guide for the marines:

As you can see, the book clearly lays out the sprues, and gives generic instructions at the start - ideal for first-time gamers. This again, is a big step-up, and what you'd expect from proper plastic-kit model companies making historical models like Tamiya. Next you get into the actual construction, and each squad is treated individually, with excellent renders with colour-called components to show how things fit together. Really top-notch stuff.

Finally you get a painting guide that actually calls out a whole range of colours that would be needed for the finish. All Citadel range, of course, but still welcome.

So once again we're seeing something directed from the users perspective, a helping hand into the hobby. It feels like GW's attitude to this box is completely different to others before it. Now, let's move onto the core-rules quick reference. When I saw it was present from the on-line pictures, I had assumed it was a large affair - A4 or US Letter size, which I thought might be a bit awkward. I was wrong - this is a petite little man-bag format, here it is next to the assembly guide:

It's a REALLY handy size. it also folds out really easily, no weird multi-folds like an Ordnance Survey map:

This is a another really good thing, and something that every company should do for their games. A quick rules reference is a great hand-holding exercise into the game, and makes it very easy to do demo and intro games. A handy one like this is a really superb addition. Kudos to GW for not only making it, but making it well. It's well laid out, clear and a greta size. Once again, we come back to that feeling that someone actually thought about how this would be used - and then tested it, went away, improved it etc, until it was right. 

Finally for this unboxing and first impression, I leave you with the ruler:

This 12", flexible transparent piece of plastic really represents what this box is to me. Just look at the photo above carefully. This is a very simple idea, but it's executed so well, and it will make a huge difference to day-to-day play.

The plastic it's made from is that strange, semi-rigid stuff that is almost impossible to destroy (so it won't just snap), it's slightly translucent rather than 100% transparent, so you can see it on a surface if you put it down, but as you can also see, it's very easy to see what's below. The lines for each inch go completely across the plastic, so it's unambiguous. The numbers are large and clear, so even grumpy old gamers can see them. and they have arrows to ensure you associate the right number with the right line. There is subtle embellishment that makes it feel like it was loved when designed, and add to it without detracting from its practical use. In short, it's awesome.

Compare that to the "f*ck you" red plastic PoS that used to come in sets and are littering landfills everywhere across the world now. It may not seem like much, but it belies the intent and approach of the whole company behind it.

I'm very happy with my investment in this set - it actively draws you in every step of the way, and each part of it feels like someone behind it crafted it lovingly and owned it, rather than being churned out in some far-east sweat shop under threat of being whipped. There's pretty much nothing to fault about it, for me even the pricepoint is within normal expectations. It's as close to a perfect release as I've probably seen in this space.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no GW fanboy - I've been massively critical of the company, it's direction and its products for almost a decade. This boxed set, however, seems like a new leaf for GW, and a return to the company that dominated the gaming industry so much. They seem to have remembered now that what got them to that position was gamers, and that working with your customers, rather than trying to milk them like some sort of dairy cattle, is actually a better long-term way of building your business. If that's really the case, then watch out everyone else - GW is back, the dragon has awakened!