Saturday, November 14, 2020

Imperial Armour Compendium Critical Review: Part 1- Book Overview

This review will not discuss Death Korps of Krieg, that's going to be a whole separate topic. Trust me, this will be long enough, because whoooo boy. This book is... not good.  I am really trying to not be salty in this, and I am going to be as factual as possible but maintain a critical eye, the intent of which is to inform you and maybe, just maybe, let GW know we notice and care about this stuff. The details matter in an expensive hobby like this, and if it takes a small time blog to hold them accountable (much like the petition years ago) then so be it.

This review will be an in depth 11 part series, and I will update and link each successive article below, so keep checking back for updates.

  • Part 1- Book Overview
  • Part 2- Space Marines
  • Part 3- Astra Militarum
  • Part 4- Grey Knights, Inqusition, Adeptus Mechanicus, Adeptus Custodes
  • Part 5- Imperial Knights, Titan Legions, Chaos Knights and Chaos Titan Legions
  • Part 6- Chaos Space Marines, Death Guard, and Chaos Daemons
  • Part 7- Craftworlds and Drukhari
  • Part 8- Necrons and Orks
  • Part 9- T'au Empire and Tyranids
  • Part 10- Death Korps of Krieg Focused Discussion
  • Part 11- Forgeworld Warhammer Legends

So on the surface the book is nice. It is full color (but more on that in a bit) and a nice quality hardcover binding. We will see how that holds up over time, but there is nothing to make me think that the material quality of this book is poor. Pages are a nice thick semi-gloss heavyweight paper. Its basically the same as the current codicies  and a definite step up from the previous softback index. And at $65 it should be.

It would have been nice if it had had a fabric book marker or three to it. They've done this for core rulebooks before, so I know its in the real of possibility. With 144 pages of datasheets, but most armies containing no more than 1-3 forgeworld units at a time, it would have been really really nice to be able to mark pages for quick and easy reference.

Also, noticeably missing are unit pictures. And I say this is noticeable, because every data slate has on the outer edge a "fluff" box that is identical in form and function to that found in the new SM/Necron codicies and supplements. In this box is a large circle area. That area is blank. But if you go look in the codicies, that is where every unit entry has a picture of the unit. It just feels like a lack of detail and effort in this book, especially when it costs $15 more than a codex.

A comparison of Imperial Armour units (left) to Codex: SM units (right). The lack of unit pictures is just lazy, especially when there is clear design intent for them to be included.

It also makes me wonder why the book is in full color, as beyond the introduction page, the only other pages with color images are

  1. Chapters of Renown, pages 8 and 9
  2. Grey Knight filler art, page 49
  3. Death Korps Guardsmen, page 53
  4. Techpriest art, page 96
  5. Mechanicus/Titanicus art, page 107 (which is the Imperial Knights points value, so it is even out of place)
  6. Titanicus art, page 113
  7. Chaos Daemons art, page 153
  8. Necron Art, page 191
  9. Tyranid Art, page 224
Removing the introduction, that is a total 1 color image for every 24 pages. And none of the artwork is new (including any black and white artwork in backgrounds).  Some of it is actually suprisingly old, like the Necrons art is the 3rd Edition Necron Codex cover.

But the rest of the book is this brown/cream/grey/black/white pallete. 

Now this is ultimately a quibble, but once more it all just seems indicative of a lack of effort. I understood the Index books at the start of 8th were intended just to be a quick reset of all the rules. But this book isn't. Its a comprehensive update clearly meant to last for a good portion of the edition. So it is a bit of a let down that there is no unit images or a variety of real artwork.

Then there is the editorial decisions. I'll be discussing this more in the subsequent parts, but I find it incredibly poor form to leave out wargear stats on countless units, especially base wargear. And this is even a poorer decision considering just how much blank space there is in the book. And all that blank space leads me back to: why are there no pictures? Imperial Armour and FW publications used to be the hallmark of awesome set piece photos using models. Where did that go to? Why did it die?

Just look at those. How cool is that? It just makes you want to buy these units and use them in game.

But back to the missing wargear/weapons stats. The point of a datasheet is to give me all the info I need ready to reference on the unit. If I am being made to go between pages, or in the case of this book, to another book entirely then the datasheet isn't doing what it is supposed to. And that is how it is for the majority of datasheets in this book. This would not be as bad if there was an index/summary table of weapon stats like in a codex, but there isn't, which is another disappointment. Even the paperback index from 8th edition had a summary table of weapons stats alongside the points table. This is a definite downgrade from the previous edition of the book.   

Then there is just the plain editing mistakes. I get this is par for course at this point with GW rules products, but how have they not figured this out yet. Get more or new copy editors. I'm not going to dive into this took much here, but I will call out each mistake as I find them in the subsequent parts of this review series.

Lastly, there is the general blaseness to the rules in the book. I don't want to get into this too much here, as I will be deep diving it as well in subsequent parts of this series, but overall... what happened? Sure they toned down some OP units, but they also heavily nerfed mediocre units and removed a lot of fluffy bespoke rules (and even did so in Legends too!). There was A LOT of hype around this book I feel, and it really under delivered on it. Not only were a lot of units fully removed and sent over to legends (some of which still have models available), but nothing was added to the game (30k Admech? Sisters of Silence?) and in general, everything was made lack luster. With all that promise we got of the main studio taking over FW rules and integrating them better into the game, it seems like they had this as the lowest priority and really just couldn't be bothered ensuring this premium priced models were both balanced and fun to use, so instead they just made it all bad to ensure it couldn't ruin any balance else where. And while you may be okay with that, it is a lazy decision IMO and really does a disservice to veteran and loyal customers and players. 

So what's my overall take-away.
The book looks nice but is a let down. The paper index had better value for the money. It falls short of current equivalently priced codicies, and is a far cry from the amazing quality of Imperial Armour books of yesteryear. Even the old IA Apocalypse books were far superior to this. It fails to deliver on the potential it had, and that potential really was a lot.