OP ED: Let’s get Digital (Or, How to avoid needing a Back Pack for all these rule-books)

Come take a walk with me down ‘memory’ lane as we take a look at the many books needed to play this game, and what the future of 40k Rules could be (some may argue should be)

Remember back in the day, when if you wanted to play an army you needed 1,702 different books, supplements and FAQ’s? Spending more time looking up rules than playing? Getting caught off-guard by your opponent whipping out a supplement you had not even heard of and making units act in very different ways. It was great. Then 8th Edition came out and did away with all this. First we had the Big Rule Book (BRB) and the Indexes. Only two books needed to play. So sad. Then, Codex’s came out, slowly at first, but pretty soon every army had one. We also got told that if there was not an option in the codex, that was in the Index, we could still use it if we followed this flow chart

Soon to be invalidated by Legends

Soup became more popular, as codex’s helped shore up weakness of each other codex’s – at least for those with the option to soup (Sorry Tau and Necrons). Soup encouraged more books too! A typical Ynnari player could easily have the BRB (1), Asuranyi Codex (2), Drukari Codex (3), Xenos Index (4), and maybe a Harlequin Codex too (5)! That was 5 books now for one army – not too shabby.

Not long after, Vigilus came out to give us more options, and everyone loves options (Sorry Tau and Necrons – none for you).

The new Space Marine 2.0 Codex was just a straight update over the old one, but now they have supplements too. An Imperial Fist player may be looking at the BRB (1) Vigilus Defiant (2), the SM ‘dex (3), Imp Fist Supplement (4), and maybe November’s White Dwarf to add in an inquisitor (5). That is 5 publications for one detachment. Oh – and don’t forget their FAQ’s. Hopefully that player is running pure and not souping…

All joking aside, we are starting to see a very real rules bloat again. It feels as if this is a natural part of the game of Warhammer we all know and love. Yet this literal book keeping can really start to weigh the hobby down.

I believe I have made my point. The Publication Bloat (or rules bloat) is getting out of hand. Now – as I see it, there are three options. First – continue on as things are. Second – stop making new things….

Ok, I lied, there are only two options.

Continue on as thing are (Status Quo), or go to a digital subscription service.

It is this last option I would like to discuss today.

Several different people have floated this idea of a subscription service. There are already digital rules available, over at Wahmmerdigital.com. However, as my understanding goes, these are not updated with the new FAQ’s, points changes etc. I would like to see three tiers of products available.

  • First, the static rules as they are published version we get now. This is for people who don’t mind using the different FAQ’s, chapter approved etc. For these people, nothing is changing. Physical books are still printed, and these digital books are sold as is. No updates provided unless bought as a one-off upgrade.
  • Second, is the Living Rules of each codex. You buy a Codex, and you also purchase the subscription for that codex – lets call it $3.99 a month for a single codex or $9.99 for 3 or more bundled (please note I am completely making these numbers up and they have no actual bearing on any business plan or model). What this gets you is that any updates to that codex is automatically updated within your digital version. If the wording on a stratagem changes, then your version matches it. Points increase, then your version changes to the new cost. Sure, you are paying a monthly subscription on something that may not get an update but three times a year (currently). This would allow for more frequent updates and more finely tuned rules, as well as the convenience of not tracking down multiple rules sources.
  • Finally, there is the Ultimate Edition. This nets you every codex, supplement, and all their support. Call it $69.99 (again, making numbers up!). I know many people who would budget out this much or more for all the rules each month. Some month they may get rules they don’t care about, but overall they have access to all of them.

Now, I am not an app designer, nor do I fully know how much work would go into this. What I do know, is it is 2019, almost 2020. There are systems out there and people with the knowledge and expertise. I also believe there is a market for this. Games workshop is obviously doing something right lately, as evidenced by their stocks . However, I truly believe offering a digital subscription service would help push them even further. Not to mention the benefit it would have for gamers and Tournament Organizers. The last feature I feel this would need is a very good and powerful search feature. Being able to search for “Master Crafted Auto Bolt Rifle” and see every unit that can take it, the relics that replace it, the rules for it, and its points as a search feature would be lovely.

Hopefully this is something Games Workshop hears from many people and is seriously considering themselves – because my back is getting sore from all these books.

Thanks for reading, and happy Wargaming!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



37 Responses to “OP ED: Let’s get Digital (Or, How to avoid needing a Back Pack for all these rule-books)”

  1. Michael Corr
    Michael Corr December 5, 2019 10:51 am #

    Personally, I like it when my opponent has a paper copy of their army list rules and the FAQs.

    Whenever I go to a tournament and want to check a rule or something in their army list, it takes so much longer on a tablet, than if they have a copy there in front of them. A lot of this is down to the search function being poor for the digital copies.

    At least when they have a tablet it is ok, but most of the time it is just their phone. I can hold on to this to reference during the game and it takes forever to scroll through a full Battlescribe army list.

    • Faitherun
      Faitherun December 5, 2019 2:05 pm #

      Sure, the current version of the digital rules does not make for a quick lookup. As I noted, this would have to be a new app, not just PDF, and have much better search functionality. And using battlescribe to look up rules always takes forever.

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    David December 5, 2019 11:41 am #

    If you don’t want to carry a lot of books, then build an army that requires less books.

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      JVail December 5, 2019 12:04 pm #

      I think the issue here is that going with a single army even some factions require 4 or more books. Imperial fists for example need now, CRB, CA2019, Vigilus 1, PA2, C:SM, CS:IF. Plus all the FAQs for each of these. That’s WITHOUT allies or forgeworld units.

    • Faitherun
      Faitherun December 5, 2019 2:10 pm #

      Unfortunately with how GW is releasing supplements etc now, that will not be an option unless you want to really hamstring yourself. I gave the example of Imp Fists, and just with that one army some of their absolute best strats and abilities are in different books. Is it really fair to tell a player that their options are to kart a ton of books around, and their FAQ printouts for each, just to play their army? Sure, it is the players choice, but we have other options available.

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        David December 5, 2019 5:12 pm #

        If not using your arm muscles is that important to you, then yes hamstring yourself.

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          WestRider December 6, 2019 12:31 pm #

          It’s also a matter of how much table space is available at events to have all of those readily usable, and the time needed to dig through them for corner case rules and clarifications. It’s a significant disruption to actually playing the game.

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    Ohlmann December 5, 2019 11:54 am #

    Going digital would be helpful, but won’t magically fix everything. Going through all the options is very time consuming, to the point checking if your opponent army is legal isn’t realistic.

    The rules themselves need to be organized in a sensible way. While GW made an effort to have all the rules of a model on his slate, they didn’t do any effort to do the same for stratagems, relics, army-wide rules, and army construction perks.

    To the example in the article, you can add (6) Psychic Awakening tome 2. Even worse, they are organized vertically, AKA you have to check stratagems and relics in all 6 books, have your psychic power in three book, etc. You have to peruse everything at each step of list making !

    • Faitherun
      Faitherun December 5, 2019 2:13 pm #

      I agree that this will not magically fix everything. It will be nice to have everything in one area, and updated. To know that the Strat you are reading is indeed the actual strat with all the FAQ changes etc. It would be lovely to have an app that also shows you all the strats, relics etc available to your army – similar to battlescribe but more official and possibly better? Like I said, I am not a programmer, but I have seen other programs with features similar and I cannot help but imagine this is possible.

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    Jace December 5, 2019 1:51 pm #

    Hate multi book nature of the game, I’ve always thought it’s annoying from logistics and the feeling of a cash grab for cheap skate me.

    One clarifying point to some comments, many of the books aren’t required for an army, but it performs better with them.

    Ah well, c’est la vie

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    Rob Butcher December 5, 2019 1:54 pm #

    Having the official GW books is a sign that my opponent is using the rules correctly. Or that I/the judge can check them.

    How many would buy a digital subscription compared to the paper one ? Remember the digital subscription for White Dwarf ?

    10k played in ITC tournaments last year – many more than that would have to digitial subscriptions to make them financially viable; but a lot more to make them unhackable. Folks who nudge water-bottles et al would think nothing of doing that. Even a kid can hack a pdf nowadays (just upload it to MS Word.)

    Maybe the solution will be a digital, official GW roster maker that’s up to date – unlike the current version of BattleScribe. Then print out your army list with full rules etc.

    • Faitherun
      Faitherun December 5, 2019 2:16 pm #

      I am not sure that many would try to hack their codex’s to cheat – perhaps you play with a different group of gamers than I am used to. Even so, I am not advocating more PDFS, but rather a new app for this. Would it be hackable? Probably. It amazes me how hackers can get into things. But army lists would still have to be submitted before hand and I am quite sure that other people at an event would also have copies of someone’s rules, physical or digital, to compare them to. This would not be the magic fix-everything solution, but it certainly can help both in army creation and in not having to cart a backpack for rules.

      • Avatar
        David December 5, 2019 5:09 pm #

        Hacking really isn’t the main issue, Power is. As entertaining as it would be the first time watching a dozen people fight over the wall socket it would get old fast.

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          WestRider December 6, 2019 12:33 pm #

          Now *that* is an excellent counter-argument. I see issues with people keeping devices powered through events already on occasion.

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            Ohlmann December 6, 2019 12:45 pm

            Less excellent than it seem. We know from other game (like Warmachine) that’s it’s something people are able to do in an orderly manner.

            Now, the W40K players might be even slightly more unruly, but nothing that seem undoable.

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    Luke December 5, 2019 5:05 pm #

    One of the problems is rules bloat under the guise of “streamlining”.

    GW needs to go back to the old style of Universal Special Rules. Feel No Pain could be re-introduced for instance, which would remove dozens of the same thing (with different names) throughout several codexes. You can apply the same changes for all sorts of stuff. Then instead of each separate FAQ/Errata getting adjusted, you just bang it into the BRB version and you’re done.

    However, you can’t sell as many things if you don’t spam the customer of multiple “essential” products, so this problem is only going to get worse.

    I reckon GW would jump at the chance for subscription based services. They’ll screw it up royally (that’s what they do), but a guaranteed monthly income for doing nothing? That’s what they want. It’ll also give more opportunity for them to charge exorbitant amounts depending on what country you’re in (Australia and NZ will be double the price of anywhere else, of course).

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    AlamoMelt December 5, 2019 6:22 pm #

    I use the Enhanced Edition codexes through Apple’s Books app. They are dynamically updated after each chapter approved to reflect the new points cost, and after each FAQ to show the new rules.


    They do require a device in Apple’s “ecosystem,” whether it’s a tablet, phone, or laptop (or all three). GW is clearly playing around with the idea, but the implementation has been buggy and inconsistent. I can go into details if someone is super bored.

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    Pyrothem December 5, 2019 11:02 pm #

    I don’t understand people that say GW are cash grabbing for the amount of books they release. They have employees they want to keep employed that run their art, lore and rules. The books are for collectors if you really think about it.
    All the rules are shared online and GW allows this for review copies they give out. Of you want rules just a bit of effort will get you PDFs of pages you need.

    Dead trees with ink are not required to play the game if you don’t want to, no one if forcing you. I think getting a few books a year is not that crazy way to support a company if you want. If you are one of the lucky ones with an army that got a bunch of new units maybe you just buy models to support it so don’t feel bad using other means to get your rules. 🙂

    • Avatar
      Zweischneid December 6, 2019 12:02 am #

      Those online pdf-thing is a bit of a slippery slope though.

      People start with that Russian download or Chinese Re-cast, and before you know it, it’s army cases disappearing and other people having to launch go-fund-me campaigns to get their stuff back.

      Piracy is the “broken window” of this hobby.

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        rvd1ofakind December 6, 2019 12:30 am #

        Pretty much everyone already gets PDFs where I live. Less money spent on books = more money spent on miniatures.

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          Zweischneid December 6, 2019 12:34 am #


          So maybe I’ll just snag Jim Vesal’s case if I ever run into him at an airport. Less money spent on miniatures = more money spent on books.

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            rvd1ofakind December 6, 2019 5:13 am

            One hurts an individual not just monetarily but much more so emotionaly, the other hurts a multi milion dolar company. Nice try tho.

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            Zweischneid December 6, 2019 5:52 am

            One hurts a person’s disposable income he spent on a luxury good to begin with.

            The other one is money out of people’s salary for food, mortgages, etc..

            And even if it wouldn’t cost anyone anything. By and large, the community is fairly strict on far, far more minor and insignificant “violations” of just good manners and gentlemanly behaviour such as loaded dice or pushing toy soldiers with water bottles.

            Seems like the definition of hypocrisy if people get bad online-reps and even thrown out of events for – comparatively – nothing-burgers like that, but genuine law-violations, the ITC code of conduct just says … “fine, we don’t care, go for it” Lol.

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            rvd1ofakind December 6, 2019 6:00 am

            What a naive way to look at things. The profit doesn’t go to the workers. Almost all of it goes to the CEOs. Oh no, he won’t afford the 20th jeep. Wow, such sad. Oh wait, he’s getting the same amount of money as he would get from me anyway. If I can spend 200 a month, I’ll spend them either on 1 book and 6 boxes of minis or 8 boxes of minis.

            Also did you miss emotional investment? That’s far more important for the person, IMO. After you paint you army for 5 years.

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            Zweischneid December 6, 2019 6:11 am


            Stealing is stealing.

            Your attempt to justify the version you indulge in is cute.

            Of course stealing from Jim Vesal is indefensible, except if one would follow your labyrinthine criminal logic. Which was the point.

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            rvd1ofakind December 6, 2019 6:27 am

            Ok, then go bad battlescribe and photo of a book and every tactics discussion. Because guess what, most people here just write down or take a photo of the stratagems and just play with battlescribe.

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            rvd1ofakind December 6, 2019 6:28 am


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            Ohlmann December 6, 2019 6:34 am

            If GW want me to buy books, they better provide value. You can try to say anyone who pirate PDFs as thief, but you need to be two for a trade, and if GW abuse too much the logical conclusion is to forego the book and use the rules regardless.

            Also, there’s a lot of country where if they own the book but use a pirated PDF, then it’s not theft.

            Now, to be less inflamatory : they *do* make efforts for them to have a value outside of being paid game system patches. I don’t think they do anywhere near enough of that tho.

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            Zweischneid December 6, 2019 6:43 am

            That’s not how it works.

            If I don’t think a pricy Starbucks coffee is good-enough value for me, I don’t just get license to steal it.

            And even if it’s not by-the-letter illegal in some countries, neither is plenty of other things like using loaded dice or whatever.

            The community is build on a minimum of human respectability, decorum and gentlemanly behaviour, yet unfortunately it’s still home to thieves and cheaters that erode the fabric of the community and risk giving everyone a bad name.

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            Ohlmann December 6, 2019 7:40 am

            That’s not how it work either. GW make you pay for the book, and using the rule in it isn’t the same as stealing the book. That’s a case of forced bundle, which can be alright if it’s not abused of… and saying that GW is abusing a bit on that side is certainly a defensible opinion.

            In addition to that, GW is trying to have their captive clients (the game user), which is a big no in any actual capitalism system.

            When a company is working against the intent of the system, saying that common courtesy is to let them have their way make a lot let senbse.

            Also, I don’t mean that using PDF when you have the book being by-the-letter legal ; it’s often legal by intent of the legislator, with actual law made only to have that stay legal.

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            Zweischneid December 6, 2019 8:52 am

            Again, IF (!) it were truly the case that this “against-the-intent-bundle” would give me license to choose what I pay for and what I just take without paying, it would work with any part of that alleged forced-bundle .. stealing the books/rules to play with the miniatures, or stealing miniatures to play with the books/rules.

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            Pyrothem December 6, 2019 10:36 am

            What part of “GW allows their review copies to be shown” don’t you get? Not Recasts, not Russian download, hell you can just snap a screen shot of the GW Approved youtube reviews and print that.

            They not only allow it they continue to give out review copies to those that show and tell you all the points and rules.

            Again if you want the book to have a book, if you just want models and rules just print off the rules you need and buy models. This is not stealing. GW is a publicly traded company so just giving away product in a blatant way (they produce rules) is a sure way to have the stock fall. But almost all investors are not gamers and do not get that GW allows reviewers to show everyone the books.

            GW is letting you have rules if you do just the minimum work on your end or you can just buy the book.
            This hobby has some of the best are and models around support it in the way you want.

            This little kid like whining is making me sick.

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            JVail December 8, 2019 7:29 am

            RVD1, you realize that literally last year, all excess profits (anything above their initial estimates/goals) went DIRECTLY to employees as bonuses? GW is actually a decent company to work for, maybe not on the retail store side in America, because, you know, min. wage. But they’re actually pretty ethical when it comes to their employees. They have a larger workforce than most people think they do. So please stop being so naïve.

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        WestRider December 6, 2019 12:39 pm #

        How is online pirating functionally different, from the PoV of the effect on GW, from me borrowing that book from a friend. Anything I’m actually going to use, I buy, but I like to flip through the others to check out the fluff and art and any rules I might need to watch out for from the other side of the table. Regardless of which of those two routes I take, GW ain’t getting the money for that book from me, but one is a whole lot more convenient. I know there’s a legal distinction between the two, but is there any actual moral distinction?

        Also, as someone else pointed out, the broken window theory has never been shown to be more than partially true.

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      Jace December 6, 2019 4:40 am #

      I sincerely thought it was theft to find online and print. Is everyone fine with that? If so why does anyone whine about multiple books?

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        David December 6, 2019 6:46 am #

        Because everyone these days wants to be a victim. That way anything they choose to do, regardless of how selfish or immoral, is justified in their minds.

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    Ohlmann December 6, 2019 12:37 am #

    Relevant to that conversation : the broken window analogy was never proved as right. Apparently it seem to be entirely irrelevant.

    As for me, the book feel very low value to me, but YMMV.

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