Despite being out for a few months already, we only just recently played a game of Warhammer 40,000 8th edition. While the initial Dark Imperium boxed set was enticing, filled with all manner of nice Primaris Space Marines and Death Guard models, and a hardback copy of the rulebook, its price and sheer number of models (that would likely end up in a box unassembled for a long period) ultimately swayed our hands. It was almost as though Games Workshop knew our plight, and that of new hobbyists, and released two smaller introductory boxed sets, Know No Fear and First Strike. First Strike is heralded as the “ideal first purchase for those new to the Warhammer 40,000 hobby” by Games Workshop themselves, so we thought it would be fun to get the box and see if it lived up to the statement. If nothing else, it would give us a few of the new Primaris and Death Guard models to experiment with, so what was there to lose (aside from $40, ha ha)?
What’s in the box:
Upon first getting the First Strike box, you will notice that it is about the size of one of GW’s standard small boxes (like a Space Marine Tactical Squad), but it is far heavier. Opening it up, there is a sturdy cardboard tray that slides out (and serves as a piece of terrain when turned upside down), containing all the components of the box. There are four small plastic sprues, two green and two blue, designating the different forces, along with a small bag of slotted bases for them. There is also a nice translucent plastic 6” ruler, along with a bag of 6 small six-sided dice, enough to play your first small games of Warhammer 40k. Impressively, beneath all of these contents, there is a shrink-wrapped bundle of printed material, ensuring they are not too bent or damaged in transit. A “Read this first” book is included that gives some introductory information about the hobby, including assembly and painting information, as well as some background material about the universe and Space Marines and the Death Guard. Importantly, it also includes a series of 4 missions that ease you into playing Warhammer 40k, introducing you to all the basic concepts, including movement, shooting, and close combat. Nicer still is a small printed booklet that includes the entire core rules for the game, expanded slightly from the pdf version available for download on GW’s website. This will surely prove helpful to any player as an extremely portable copy of the core rules, easily fitting in any model case. A set of four data cards, one for each of the included units in the game (Plague Marines, Poxwalkers, Intercessors, and Reivers). Although they are rather large (~5.5x8”), they are still a nice inclusion, as they contain all of the units rules, including weapon options and special abilities. Finally, to make the games a little more cinematic, they included a dual sided paper playmat (~22x22”) that depicts a ruined city-scape. Together with the aforementioned cardboard tray building (made to look like a series of armored storage containers), the playmat goes a long way towards making your first few games seem more complete and meaningful, requiring no effort on the player’s part.
|Although a small box, First Strike contains a lot of nice components.|
|There are four colored sprues, two for each faction, the Death Guard and Primaris Space Marines, respectively.|
|The box serves as a piece of makeshift terrain, and there is even a paper play mat included.|
|First Strike also contains 4 data cards containing the rules for each unit.|
First Strike come with quite a lot of models, 3 Plague Marines, 6 Poxwalkers, 3 Intercessors, and 3 Reivers. Each assembles easily with less than 3 parts, snapping together without necessitating glue. Overall the models are nice, but I feel they fall a little short of what was included in the larger Dark Imperium box. While it is nice that all of the models are new for the box, their poses tend to be a little wonkier than their Dark Imperium counterparts. The Plague Marines are particularly gaudy, and seemingly lack some of the direction of those from the former box. The poxwalkers look good, but still are covered in gigantic spikes that seem out of place and lazy in terms of design. I ended up clipping all the spikes off and sanding them down so they look like they were never there, and I believe they benefit greatly from it.
|The snapfit Death Guard Marines do not benefit from the improved proportions of the Primaris models.|
|The poxwalker models are dramatically improved with the removal of their ostentatious horns.|
|In addition to removing his horns, I also removed a ridiculously oversized hammer. Both make the model more subtle, but still striking.|
|A sickening band of degenerate humanity. Praise Grandfather Nurgle!|
We spoke at length about our thoughts on the Primaris Space Marines earlier, and our thoughts still stand. They are a marked improvement over traditional Space Marines due to anatomy improvements, but their oversized bolt rifles detract from the improvement. The three Intercessors included emphasize the unwieldy nature of the rifles, since two of them are holding them in a single hand. Having no particular need of the Intercessors, I decide to experiment with them and see how easy it would be to turn them into “true-scale” Space Marines by simply swapping out their rifles for traditional bolters. The process was really easy, only requiring the the bolt rifles to be snipped off at the wrists and replaced with traditional bolters. The single Primaris holding his rifle in two hands was slightly harder, but still really straightforward, requiring me to cut off the nub on his wrist and replace it with one of the cupped hands from a Space Marine Tactical Squad kit. For the one, I removed his awkwardly held scanner and gave him a combat knife. Furthermore, I gave all of them regular Space Marine backpacks because they are slightly smaller due to having less armor plates. Although not perfect, the entire process was really easy, and I think the resulting Space Marines look quite good. One could go a step further and sand away the crests on their knee pads and replace their helmets with another kind, to make them look even more like traditional Space Marines, but I do not think it is absolutely necessary. The three included Primaris Reivers look pretty nice too, despite poses that make them look like they are walking on the tiptoes. Their knives are also a little too large for my tastes, too large to even fit in their scabbards at their waists. Their heavy bolt pistols are pretty large too, but I feel they might work well as the basis for some sort of bolt carbine conversion in the future.
|The only aspect of the new Primaris Space Marines that I am not fond of are their huge bolt rifles. While still not perfect, replacing them with standard bolters helps.|
|By just replacing the bolter (and possibly their backpacks), a Primaris Space Marine works quite well as a True scale Space Marine.|
Playing the game:
Although I didn’t quite assemble all of the models in the box yet, it didn’t stop me from trying out the first few missions detailed in the First Strike book. Each one is short, taking less than 30 minutes to complete. The first few only present certain parts of the rules to prevent a new player from getting overwhelmed. The first focuses on the movement and shooting phases, while the second on the close combat phase. Finally, the last two put everything together. It is a simple system, and one that works well, allowing you to replay the missions to include all the rules, if you had left some out during the initial playthroughs. Although small, the games were fun, and certainly seemed like Warhammer 40k, despite some streamlining from previous editions.
|With a bunch of the models assembled, I played the first scenario, my first game of 8th edition.|
|The forces of Nurgle needed to advance across and finally leave the board edge, while the Primaris Marines needed to annihilate them.|
|Despite their rapid fire bolt rifles, the Primaris Marines struggled to gun down the shambling poxwalkers.|
|Close combat proved more decisive, allowing the Primaris to cut down the remaining poxwalkers.|
|Game 2 had a Reiver Sergeant (proxied by an Intercessor with a knife) face off against a raving mob of poxwalkers.|
|His blighted foes are within sight.|
|After felling one of the poxwalkers with his heavy bolt pistol, the marine charged into close combat.|
|Although only two wounds were inflected by the poxwalkers, they were enough to lay the Primaris Marine low.|
Overall, I have been quite impressed with First Strike. It really does seem like a good place to start for newcomers to the miniature wargaming hobby. The models included are easy to assemble and look pretty nice, serving as a good place for someone to practice building and painting models before ultimately selecting an army to start. The box comes with a lot of small additions, like the data cards and playmat, that really work synergistically to create a good first experience with Warhammer 40,000, without necessitating you to have prior experience. It would have been easy for Games Workshop to simply throw a few sprues and dice into a box and call it done, but they went that extra mile to make it feel special from opening the box to playing your first few games.
- Eric Wier