Thursday, September 12, 2013

Digital Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook Review

Finally, a digital version of the core rules!
As much as I like Games Workshop’s printed books, my shelves are filling up with them.  But with the constant stream of FAQs, I am now less likely to rush out and buy a new release.  One such release, now a few weeks old, was the mini hardcover Warhammer 40,000 rulebook.  At first one might question its purpose, in that you can get a mini rulebook in the Dark Vengeance box, but the significance of the release is not in it being hardcover, but that it is actually updated to reflect the current FAQ status of the rules.  As far as I know, this is a first for GW.  And although the little tome is likely very nice, I see little reason to get it.  What necessitated printing it in the first place is the very reason it is hard to justify purchasing it; the next FAQ is likely just around the corner.  But I am not writing this to complain about GW’s inability to get their rules right the first time; I wanted to say a few words about the little talked about sister release of the revised rulebook:  The Digital Edition of the Warhammer 40,000 Rules.

Since GW’s start at making digital codex books on the iPad, I was excited about the prospect of them expanding the idea to a broader consumer base, but still maintaining the convenience of a digital product with the ability for it to be updated with each new FAQ.  When GW/the Black Library unveiled their new line of digital products a while back, ones that could be viewed on smartphones and eReaders, I was understandably excited.  I talked a little about their first codex release in this format, Codex Eldar.  The rules contained within it were not up to date, however, and I had trouble fully recommending the product.

All of the rules, including the missions are included with this release, leaving out all of the Painting and Background material from the original printing.
When the newly updated mini hardback rulebook was released, however, they went one step further and released it in both of their digital formats.  The ability to have the complete ruleset for Warhammer 40,000, up to date and accurate at your fingertips without lugging around the hefty tome and FAQ sheets was an exciting prospect, so I had to see what it was like.  At $32 it is relatively cheap for a GW product (certainly better than the $75 we all spent when 6th edition was released).  And when it can be viewed on any eReader, computer, or smartphone, it is certainly the most accessible, and simple to keep within easy access.

After loading it onto my Kindle, I have spent much of the week reading through sections and bringing up random rules on my commute to work.  Since I usually carry around the Kindle in my backpack, it goes most places I do, making it very easy to reference the rules wherever (not getting the opportunity to play that frequently, my mastery of the rules is quite limited, and needs constant reminding, ha ha).   They have done a good job translating the printed version to digital.  Gone are the fancy borders and watermarks, replaced with well spaced airy blocks of text.  The effect is one that allows easy and quick reading.  Each new concept has a title that is all in caps, making every section distinct, but more importantly easier to search.  With the Kindle, I was easily able to use the search function to find any rule I was looking for.  The all caps of the titles is especially helpful when searching because it makes the rule entry, rather than simply a reference to that rule, easy to pick out.  Since each section of the rulebook is rather short, even just using the table of contents would be functional, and not too much of a pain.  I thought navigation might be a little cumbersome, compared to the physical version (which I am pretty familiar of its layout), but I was pleased to find this was not the case and feel it will be quicker in most instances.

Notice how the boldface of the Deep Strike entry separates it from any other instance of it in the rules.
And although it is not entirely certain that this Digital Edition will actually be updated (on account of the Eldar Codex), I think it will be.  I say this because they advertise the date when it was last updated on the Black Library site.  Also it appears that the Space Marine Digital Codex was updated to reflect the recently released FAQ.  But I suppose we will have to wait until we get the next rulebook FAQ to find out for certain.

Although it was a rather short review, I just wanted to let people know how pleasantly surprised I was with the release, and that it might represent a more reasonable approach to staying up to date with the ever changing ruleset.  If any of you have similar or divergent opinions, I would love to hear about it!

-Godwyn Fischig

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