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Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is the first CRPG in the grim, dark franchise’s history

From the developers of Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The Warhammer 40,000 franchise is finally getting its own CRPG. Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, announced Wednesday during the Warhammer Skulls streaming event, is the first 40K-themed isometric role-playing game designed exclusively for PC. Best of all, it’s being made by the experienced developers at Owlcat Games, the same team behind the well-regarded Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous CRPGs. An early access version is expected soon, and pre-orders begin Wednesday.

In the lore of 40K, a Rogue Trader is an explorer officially sanctioned to carry out their duties by the God Emperor of Mankind. As exploration generally occurs well outside of the range of Imperial space, Rogue Traders have absolute authority over their own operations. Some become rich after establishing lucrative trade agreements with unknown civilizations, while others instead choose to put those unknown civilizations to the sword. From Wednesday’s news release:

Thanks to their Warrant of Trade — the Rogue Trader is endowed with privileges and power beyond imagination as well as the task of expanding the borders of the Imperium. At their disposal is a gargantuan voidship of immense strength and innumerable personnel ready to follow any undertakings of the leader. Show your subjects mercy or disdain, stay faithful to the Emperor or consort with enemies of Mankind — every decision and every act of the Rogue Trader sends ripples throughout entire star systems, changing the in-game world and those who inhabit it.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader will take place in the Koronus Expanse, a region of space on the northwestern fringe of the Imperium. The player’s party can include “a mighty Space Marine, a mercurial Aeldari Ranger, or even a courageous Sister of Battle armed with bolder and ardent prayers.”

Cover for the original Warhammer 40,000 rulebook, released in 1987. Its formal title is Rogue Trader: Warhammer 40,000.
Traditional “beakie” helmed Space Marines, soon to be released in plastic once again with the reboot of Horus Heresy.
Image: Games Workshop

Rogue Trader does not yet have a release date. Owlcat Studio said in its press release that fans who pre-order a Founders Pack will be given access to both the early alpha and the beta release of the game.

The name Rogue Trader is a nod to the very first incarnation of the now iconic tabletop miniatures wargame, Rogue Trader: Warhammer 40,000, written by Rick Priestley and released in 1987. While the original lore inside that book remains the foundation of the franchise today, the gameplay was quite a bit different at the time. In fact, it felt a lot more like a traditional role-playing game, with elaborate character creation and a game master to adjudicate its battles.

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