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Warhammer 40K’s slick new app gives a lot of its game rules away for free

Combat Patrol will remain free within Warhammer 40,000: The App

A Space Marine Terminator Index Card and a Battle Host Datasheet as shown on an iOS device inside Warhammer 40,000: The App. Image: Games Workshop
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 10th edition of Warhammer 40,000 arrives on June 24 when the new Warhammer 40,000: Leviathan box set hits the street. To herald its release, publisher Games Workshop has been giving lots of things away for free — including the core rules as well as detailed unit rules for every faction in the game. On Wednesday it also launched a revised version of its mobile app, and there’s even more free stuff available inside.

This is the second iteration of Warhammer 40,000: The App. The first, which launched alongside 9th edition, was a bit hinky. In particular, it would sometimes allow users to create an army that wasn’t legal to play. Games Workshop vows that the app’s accuracy has been much improved, but what’s most interesting here is how it will become a showcase for the franchise’s newest format: Combat Patrol.

Combat Patrol is a preconstructed format, not unlike playing with off-the-shelf Commander decks in Magic: The Gathering. Players snag one of the many army boxes currently on store shelves, plop down somewhere around $120 give or take depending on the army, and get to gluing and painting. When they’re done, Index Cards, i.e. the rules for how to play each unit included with their Combat Patrol box, are available for free inside Warhammer 40,000: The App. So are the Combat Patrol core rules, which makes rules for the entire format, containing around two dozen different playable factions, completely free. It’s quite the change in approach for a company that has perennially walled off its gameplay behind numerous pricey hardcover books.

For new players the advantages are obvious, but it’s a boon for veteran players, too: Commonly fans will spend months if not years building and painting a massive army of hundreds of miniatures for their chosen faction. While all that time builds rapport between budding generals and their collection of plastic warriors, it also silos players into a single style of play. With Combat Patrol and Warhammer 40,000: The App, things open up dramatically. Players can collect smaller groups of figures, paint them up quickly, and put them on the battlefield to see how they perform. From there they could go deep, painting a whole other army, or go wide and collect many different factions. It’s a move that synergizes with consumers’ voracious appetite for new minis and the growing hobby of miniature painting.

“The app is available for download on iOS and Android, and you can try it for free right now,” said Games Workshop in a news release. “It will remain free for an initial period so you can plan lists and try it out in your first games of the new edition. The Core Rules element and the Combat Patrol datasheets in the app will remain free, while other elements will eventually become paid features.”

Check out our full review of the Warhammer 40,000: Leviathan boxed set, or dive straight into the deeper 40K lore.

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