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Games Workshop will print you a copy of the original 1987 rules for Warhammer 40K

Print-on-demand run will be available for just over one week

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The Crimson Fist Space Marines make a valiant last stand against a wave of orks on the cover of Rogue Trader, the very first Warhammer 40,000 rulebook, published in 1987. Image: John Sibbick/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.

Getting a hold of the latest products for Warhammer 40,000 can be tricky, given the game’s huge surge in popularity. But getting vintage 40K products — known as OldHammer to collectors — is even harder with sought-after models and rare books selling for huge mark-ups online. So this weekend Games Workshop is throwing us a bone (likely part of a skull) and reprinting the original rules for 40K, first released in 1987. The print-on-demand run of new old books begins Oct. 14 and runs through Oct. 23, according to a news release.

First published in 1987, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader introduced the world to the genetically enhanced child soldiers known as Space Marines and their deeply corrupt theocratic fascist overlords, The Imperium of Mankind. It also introduced their leader, a corpse known as the Emperor of Mankind. The lore was quite a lot different at the time. For once, Chaos wasn’t even mentioned. Primarchs weren’t god-like super soldiers either, but merely renowned leaders drawn up through the ranks from common Space Marines. Aside from those heresies, however, the tone and timber of the text itself feels quite of-the-moment lore-wise thanks to author Rick Priestley’s epic turn of phrase:

For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the Master of Mankind by the will of the gods and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium to whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, and for whom blood is drunk and flesh eaten. Human blood and human flesh — the stuff of which the Imperium is made.

To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. This is the tale of these times. It is a universe you can live in today if you dare — for this is a dark and terrible era where you will find little comfort of hope. If you want to take part in the adventure then prepare yourself now. Forget the power of technology, science and common humanity. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for there is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter and the laughter of thirsting gods.

But the universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed...

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

For modern-day fans, the book is hallowed ground with art and storylines that have formed the core of the franchise to this very day. And now, finally, everyone who wants a copy to keep on their shelves can finally have one. Just don’t ask how much it’ll cost: Games Workshop never tells until the moment these things go on sale.

But this re-release isn’t just for the deep-pocketed olds. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that the title of this book is the same as the new classic-style role-playing video game on the way from Owlcat Games (Pathfinder: Kingmaker). First announced in June 2022 during the Warhammer Skulls streaming event, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is the very first CRPG created to tell stories in the world of 40K. And, given the popularity of crunchy RPGs like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Starfield, the gaming community seems poised to welcome it with open... er... arms.

Owlcat is likewise taking this original sourcebook, at least in part, as its inspiration. In doing so, it’s embracing the fact that at its inception 40K had a lot more elements of tabletop role-play in it than it does today. Those looking forward to exploring the universe from the helm of their own heavily-armed trading vessel might want to pick up a copy as well, if only to be fully able to enjoy what are sure to be plenty nods and in-jokes embedded in the video game.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader the video game is set to release Dec. 7 for PlayStation, Windows PC, and Xbox consoles. For the Games Workshop reprint of the book, the British company has said that orders will remain open on its digital storefront, regardless of the quantity ordered, from Oct. 14 until Oct. 23. Deliveries will be made within 180 days. Many other products — including new models for Warhammer: The Horus Heresy — will also be up for pre-order.

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