First Edition of Warhammer 40K Source:

In 1987 Games Workshop released a science fantasy version of their Warhammer game titled, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. Rogue Trader was essentially the first edition of the game, which set up the initial setting of the Warhammer 40k Universe. The narrative of Rogue Trader was not as centered toward the Imperium as later editions, and more openly encouraged some cross-faction cooperation as opposed to the more xenophobic Empire of more recent editions. First edition also featured three other races that later editions did away with. The first edition of the game also had a more RPG feel to it, as the original rules were heavily influenced by the RPG games of the time such as Dungeons and Dragons. At the time that first edition was released there was no such thing as a codex, however, there were several books which served within that capacity, these books were.

  • Book of the Astronomican
  • Compilation
  • Compendium
  • Warhammer Siege
  • Battle Manual
  • Vehicle Manual
  • Slaves to Darkness
  • The Lost and the Damned
  • Waaargh: Orks
  • Ere We Go
  • Freebooterz

2nd Edition boxed set cover Source:

The second edition of the game was released in 1993 and was included in the starter box. Second editions shared the same rules for shooting and battle as Necromunda, another Games Workshop game that takes place within the Warhammer 40k Universe. The second edition box set also includes the books “Codex Imperialis”, “Wargear”, and “Codex Army Lists” which detail the background of the universe the various factions within it. The starter box of the game also included 20 Space Marines and 20 Orks, buildings, dice, and templates (used to mark the range of a flamethrower attack, as well as the blast radius of several weapons). Warhammer 40k introduced several codices for several factions, including;

  • Codex: Ultramarines
  • Codex: Angels of Death
  • Codex: Space Wolves
  • Codex: Sisters of Battle
  • Codex: Imperial Guard
  • Codex: Chaos
  • Codex: Eldar
  • Codex: Orks
  • Codex: Tyranids
  • Codex: Assassins

Source: wh40k.lexicanum.comSource:



The third edition of the game was released five years later in 1998. The new rulebook was referred to as the Big Black Book and featured the Black Templar chapter of Space Marines. Although the rules were still very similar to the previous two editions of the game, there was an effort to streamline the rules by removing some of the more complex concepts from previous editions. The streamlining was met with disdain from many veteran players which saw the new rules as too simplistic. Overall the change to the rules opened up the game to a wider and younger audience, increasing the reach and popularity of Warhammer 40k.


It was during this edition of the game that the narrative began to take a more Imperial-centric point of view. The third edition is also where a lot of the “grimdark” began to take over the narrative of the game, blurring the lines between who the good guys and the bad-guys. After all, can Fascist-Xenophobic-Space-Catholics really be considered the good guys when they spend most of their time committing genocide? The third edition was accompanied by the release of the following codices.

  • Codex: Space Marines
  • Codex: Blood Angels
  • Codex: Dark Angels
  • Codex: Space Wolves
  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines
  • Codex: Imperial Guard
  • Codex: Catachans
  • Codex: Assassins
  • Codex: Orks
  • Codex: Tyranids
  • Codex: Eldar
  • Codex: Craftworld Eldar
  • Codex: Dark Eldar
  • Codex: Witch Hunters
  • Codex: Daemon Hunters
  • Codex: Tau
  • Codex: Necrons

The third edition also came with codices for expansions to the game, these were Armageddon, Eye of Terror, and Cityfight.



2004 saw the release of the fourth edition of the rules which was released as a hardback book, as well as an abridged version released with the “Battle for Macragge” boxed set. The rule set for the fourth edition didn’t change significantly, and most of the supplements for third editions could still be used for this edition of the game. The edition took a closer look at the background of Warhammer 40k, however, it remained very focused on the human experience within the grimdark universe. The codices covered the same factions from the previous edition, with updated rules. This edition also saw the addition of two expansions for the games, “Cities of Death”, and “Apocalypse”.



2008 was the year that I first got into Warhammer 40k through the boxed set of “Assault on Black Reach”, this was also the start of 5th edition. The fifth edition added running mechanics to the game, as well as changes in the use of cover, vehicle ramming. 5th edition also added the “line of sight” rule, meaning an attacking model has to have an actual line of sight on its target. The newest edition also went into further detail on the Warhammer 40k fluff, especially detailing a lot of Imperial fluff. Some of the factions that previously had their own codices were incorporated into other factions, for instance, the Catachan Jungle Fighters were incorporated into the Imperial Guard Codex. The Grey Knights received their codex during this edition as well. The overall rulebooks released during this edition were.

  • Codex: Space Marines
  • Codex: Imperial Guard
  • Codex: Space Wolves
  • Codex: Tyranids
  • Codex: Blood Angels
  • Codex Dark Eldar
  • Codex: Grey Knights
  • Codex: Sisters of Battle
  • Codex: Necrons
  • Apocalypse Reload
  • Planetstrike
  • Planetary Empires
  • Battle Missions

The 5th edition was also the edition where Matt Ward turned the Ultramarines into a bunch of goddam Mary Sues.


6th Edition Source:

2012 saw the release of the 6th edition of the core rules, and only two years after that was followed by the 7th edition update. The 7th edition was unlike other editions in that it was split into separate books. The first book, titled “Galaxy at War”, is focused on collecting and painting miniatures. The second book, titled “Dark Millennium”, focuses on the story of Imperium of Man and their enemies, both domestic and exterior. The third and final book covers the rules to play the game. The newest edition also advanced the story of the overall Warhammer 40k Universe through the books “War Zone Damocles”, “War Zone Fenris”, and “Gathering Storm”.



7th Edition Source:

7th edition also added codices for factions that not previously codexed. This included the Chaos Daemons, Deathwatch, Genestealer Cults, Adeptus Custodes, Sisters of Silence, Imperial Knights, Cult Mechanicus, Skitarii, and the Eldar faction known as the Harlequins. 7th edition also saw the reason of the codex supplements.

  • Orks: Waaagh! Ghazghkull
  • Space Wolves: Champions of Fenris
  • Astra Militarum: Cadia
  • Space Marines: Flesh Tearers
  • Space Marines: White Scars
  • Space Marines: Raven Guards
  • Space Marines: Angels of Death
  • Traitor Legions

7th edition also came with fifteen total expansions and campaigns for the game.


8th Edition Rulebook Source:

Finally, in 2017 we received the latest iteration of the rulebooks through the release of the 8th edition of Warhammer 40k. The latest edition of the rules actually allows for three different ways to play, these are Open Play, Narrative Play, and Matched Play. Open play allows players to just grab some models, place them on the table, and start playing. Open play can be easily played with the basic core rules, with more advanced rules being added on later on as you begin to master the game. The narrative play is based around recreating the great battles found within the lore with your very own army. Then there is Matched Play where warriors bring in matched armies based on agreed upon point limits then going on to play through several tactical scenarios as you face off in the grim dark future. 8th edition also continued to advance the story of Warhammer 40k, introducing new units such as the Primaris Space Marines. This new edition was ushered in through the release of the starter-set titled “Dark Imperium”.

The history of the game is incredibly vast and complicated. I hope you enjoyed this very brief look at the history. The best way to learn more about this amazing story and hobby is to simply jump into yourself. Although this hobby is not the cheapest hobby out there, it is still made accessible through the sale of bundled starter sets such as the “Start Collecting” boxes, or starter sets such as “Dark Vengeance”, “Dark Imperium”, and “Forgebane”.