Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen – what is it?

Games Workshop’s Arks of Omen book series is the next big narrative event for Warhammer 40k, adding new game rules and lore - here’s what we know

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen - Games Workshop image showing Abaddon the Despoiler with his Black Legion marines

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen is a new Games Workshop book series that promises to shake up the ever-evolving narrative of Warhammer 40k in 2023. It’ll introduce fresh plot developments, brand new main characters, and a whole new game mode for spaceship boarding. As we await the first Arks of Omen releases, here’s everything we know about the next big thing in 40k.

GW says it’s bringing out four Arks of Omen books, which will introduce new daemonic main character Vashtorr the Arkifane, and advance the overarching story of the Warhammer 40k Chaos forces as they plunge the galaxy into a new era of war.

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen - Games Workshop image showing an artwork of Vashtorr the Arkifane

It looks like this series will deliver 2023’s biggest events for all the Warhammer 40k factions, and may well lay the foundations for Warhammer 40k 10th edition. Here’s what you need to know.

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Arks of Omen Grand Tournament Mission Pack

The Arks of Omen narrative books coincide with a separate product from Games Workshop, the Arks of Omen Grand Tournament mission pack. This provides the missions and matched play rules for competitive Warhammer 40k, for the first half of 2023.

The Arks of Omen season brings several changes to the game. The Arks of Omen detachment makes list building far more open-ended, making it easier to construct an army list however you like. As with previous matched play seasons, GW release a Munitorum Field Manual with updated points values for all units, and a Balance Dataslate that makes tweaks to their rules. We’ve produced a rundown of the differences between the Arks of Omen Balance Dataslate, and the previous season of matched play.

Arks of Omen models

When GW first announced Arks of Omen, it said that a key design goal was to prevent players having to use more than one book – that means there will be no new Arks of Omen models. But each book will have a strong theme, and some new special characters are confirmed to be releasing alongside the books

Daemon Primarch Angron should release alongside the World Eaters Codex and range refresh in Spring 2023, in time for Arks of Omen book two, while the Las Vegas Open preview on January 27 announced that Vashtorr the Arkifane’s mini would be part of the ‘Wrath of the Soul Forge King’ box set, which will release alongside Arks of Omen book three.

What are the Arks of Omen?

In essence, the Arks of Omen are the latest ploy for galactic conquest by everyone’s favourite Chaos warmaster. No, not Horus Lupercal – we’re talking about Abaddon the Despoiler. After splitting the galaxy in half with the Cicatrix Maledictum and blowing up Cadia in the 13th Black Crusade, Abaddon has discovered a bit of a problem on his hands.

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He’s trying to overrun the galaxy, but there’s only so much he, the Black Legion, and his allies can achieve – especially when you’re trying to take on the Imperium of Man without relying on the Chaos Gods too much. After all, he saw what happened back in the 31st millennium with the Horus Heresy, and has vowed never to let the machinations of Khorne, Slaanesh, Nurgle, or Tzeentch get too much of a hold over him or his forces.

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Enter Vashtorr the Arkifane. Unaligned with any of the four Chaos Gods, this malevolent warp entity has allied itself with Abaddon, sharing its knowledge of combining daemon-flesh with technology to help construct the Arks of Omen.

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At the heart of each ark is a colossal space hulk wreck, twisted and enhanced with dark magics and daemonic weaponry to create devastating battleships. Around each Ark of Omen, an armada of heretic vessels has been assembled, forming vast Balefleets that can wreak untold destruction on Abaddon’s foes.

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Abaddon has awarded Arks of Omen to select Chaos warbands, deployed across the galaxy to hunt down and retrieve arcane artefacts of mysterious purpose. Bristling with furious intent and filled with swarms of the warmaster’s loyalists, these mobile space fortresses may be the tipping point he needs to turn the long war in his favour once and for all. The Arks of Omen are coming, and nowhere looks to be safe from Abaddon’s long reach.

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen - Games Workshop image showing a graphic for the Arks of Omen books' release schedule

Arks of Omen Books

Games Workshop is set to release four Arks of Omen books, each focusing on a particular character as part of the overarching narrative. The first three of these have been unveiled, seeing us get a closer look at Abaddon the Despoiler; Angron, Daemon Primarch of the World Eaters; and Vashtorr the Arkifane.

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen - Games Workshop image showing Chaos Space Marines in battle

The fourth book has not been publicly titled, but GW has said it will feature a 40k Xenos character or faction. With this entire narrative arc revolving around space hulks, it may be possible that we’ll see a Tyranid hive fleet or Genestealer cult knocking at the airlock door.

In addition to lore updates and tales that expand upon the events of the 41st millennium, the Arks of Omen books will include new rules. However, unlike 2020’s Psychic Awakening story series, these new campaign books will not include new rules for specific Warhammer 40k armies. Instead, Arks of Omen introduces an entirely new Warhammer 40k game mode, titled Boarding Actions.

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen - Games Workshop image showing Ultramarines space marines fighting Black Legion Chaos Space Marine models in a Boarding Actions game

Boarding Actions

Boarding Actions see players take smaller armies of 500 points into the Arks of Omen themselves, fighting room-by-room to achieve objectives, kill foes, and retrieve loot.

This game mode looks set to act as a bridge between the larger-scale battles in Warhammer 40k 9th Edition and the smaller squad-based Kill Team system – while nodding at the earlier Warhammer 40k tabletop game Space Hulk. You need two sets of the terrain from box sets like Kill Team: Into the Dark to play Boarding Actions, or you can buy a Boarding Actions terrain set for $210 / £130. There’s also a new Void War Bases kit for army customisation.

Players familiar with Warhammer 40k will find new restrictions forcing them to adapt their tactics and army composition in Boarding Actions. For a start, there will be no models with the Vehicle or Monster keywords allowed, making this very much a game for infantry units.

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen - Games Workshop image showing Tyranids models in a Boarding Actions game

In addition, tight corners and small rooms mean long-range units may not provide much benefit. This means it may be a good idea to leave your missile-lobbing Eldar Dark Reapers at home and pack your roster with Striking Scorpions instead.

Arks of Omen: Abaddon launched for Christmas 2022, and the series will continue until late Spring 2023, so we’re going to see a lot of both these space-bound fortresses and of Vashtorr the Arkifane.

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen - Games Workshop image showing Ultramarines space marine models in a Boarding Actions game

The big question still to be answered, however, is if this campaign will lead into the reveal of Warhammer 40k 10th edition by summer 2023, or if Games Workshop is saving that announcement for a later date.