Warhammer 40k Codex World Eaters might be the last codex of 9th edition Warhammer 40k, and it might be also be the best. Though relatively trim, everything that’s in here feels like it has a purpose in the faction's overall game plan - close with the enemy and put an axe in their face
This review of the Warhammer 40k World Eaters codex is based on a digital copy provided by Games Workshop – I’m now itching to get my hands on the paper version, the World Eaters combat patrol, and a lot of red paint.
Yes, I think the World Eaters look fun to play. Yes, Angron might be the first time that a daemon Primarch has rules that make his enormous, gorgeous model into more than just a giant bullet magnet. But that’s not all that’s gotten me excited.
This may be the very last Warhammer 40k codex before 10th edition 40k rolls around. I’ve had my problems with the rules and army books of 9th edition 40k, but if the World Eaters are any guide to what Warhammer 40k 10th edition is going to be like, then good things are coming our way.
World Eaters army rules
The World Eaters army rules are nasty, brutish, and short. Relentless Rage gives units +1 Strength and +1 Attack on the first round of any combat. The army accumulates Blood Tithe Points as units are destroyed, friend or foe alike, which can be spent on permanent buffs, or to resurrect Angron after your opponent turns every single gun in their army on him.
Two simple systems with no ambiguity about how to use them – close the distance with the enemy, then close the distance between your axe and their face. Simples.
The army is actually split into two subfactions, the main World Eaters army list and the ‘Disciples of the Red Angel’. The Disciples are Angron’s daemonic party posse, plus their land raider low riders. In exchange for a restricted army list, the Disciples get different stratagems, relics, and warlord traits. They also get objective secured and unique buffs for the new ‘Eightbound’ units.
Though it’s not explicit in the World Eaters’ codex, you can also bring a patrol detachment of Khorne chaos daemons as allies. Codex Chaos Daemons notes that a daemonic patrol detachment that makes up no more than a quarter of your overall force gains the Agents of Chaos keyword, meaning it doesn’t interfere with any of your army abilities. So if you want Angron to bring along a Bloodthirster blood-drinking buddy, go for it.
New World Eaters units
GW has previewed all the new World Eaters units found in the codex: the daemon Primarch Angron, refreshed models for the Khorne Berserkers, Jackal cultists, the daemon-riding Lord Invocatus and Lord on Juggernaut, and the daemon-infested Eightbound and Exalted Eighbound.
That’ll disappoint you if you were hoping for kind of range upgrade the Death Guard or the Necrons received, or wanted to see Forge World’s Khorne-aligned Daemon engines like the Blood Slaughterer or Brass Scorpion make the leap to plastic.
I think it’s fine. There’s a case that the current Chaos Space Marine Possessed could have worked in the army list, but with so much combat beef in the lineup they might have been redundant. The Fyreslayers’ Age of Sigmar army is five years old and can still only field short bodybuilders, a pie oven, and a burning cat – the World Eaters are doing a lot better than that.
No, I don’t think this book is undermuscled – I think it’s lean. All the units have defined roles. Jakhals are cheap objective grabbers with low survivability but combat teeth your opponent can’t ignore; Berserkers remain a terrifying melee mincing machine; Terminators are largely unchanged from the main Chaos Space Marines codex , providing a relatively flexible loadout as well as the ability to deep strike.
Both types of Eightbound are frankly alarming combat beasts. The regular Eightbound are able to outflank from reserves with their Bloodscent ability, while their Exalted kin have a 4+ invulnerable save and their mere presence can prevent enemies from falling back or force them to fail actions.
New special character Lord Invocatus’ unique Warlord trait grants him and two core units a pre-game move, opening up a different strategy for your army – but he’s more expensive and less customisable than a regular Lord on Juggernaut. Choose between them, or take both, as they both provide a small aura that buffs core units’ movement.
You can play horde, you can play elite, you can protect your troops with rhinos and raiders, you can balance out your melee prowess with support tanks and daemon engines, you can take Angron and hurl him axe first at your opponent’s hopes and dreams. Finite choices, all of them meaningful.
World Eaters Warlord Traits and Relics
The combination of economy and quality extends to World Eaters Warlord Traits and Relics. There are three of each for the regular World Eaters, and another three for the Disciples of the Red Angel. That’s a lot less choice than the veritable cornucopia in the Chaos Space Marines codex – but how many of those are worth the time it takes to read?
Take the World Eaters relics: there’s the Helm of Brazen Ire, which makes the wearer harder to wound, the Berzerker Glaive, a solid melee weapon, and the Talisman of Rage, which lets the bearer buff a friendly unit’s melee output. Three, distinctive relics, each of which is worth considering.
World Eaters stratagems
The World Eaters stratagems have also benefited from a diet. Stratagems have been one of my biggest frustrations with 9th edition 40k. The command point system gives players a fluid resource they can use to do cool stuff that reflects the lore of their army, but there are too many damn stratagems for the system to actually work.
The Space Marine codex has four pages of stratagems, and the codex supplement for each subfaction like the Salamanders or Blood Angels adds two more. Six pages to try and remember in game, or to flick between when looking for the single wretched ability you need to reference. And some of those stratagems are so situational as to be irrelevant, others have been FAQ’d to work differently…
The World Eaters have just 16 stratagems, and you’ll only have to consider eight of them at a time, because eight are restricted to the Disciples of the Red Angel, and another eight are just for the basic World Eaters list. One page of stratagems per sub faction, and they all seem to have a purpose. Bliss.
World Eaters Crusade
The World Eaters Crusade rules are all about gathering heaps of Worthy Skulls and offering them to Khorne – top marks for theme. Unfortunately, it falls foul of the Crusade system’s main weakness. There’s too much admin.
A World Eaters crusade force gains skulls at the end of the battle based on the number of enemy units you’ve killed. These get allocated to one eligible unit, so alongside XP, Rank, upgrades, and number of units killed, you’ll also be tracking the size of each unit’s skull stash.
Whenever you feel ready you can offer up those skulls to Khorne, rolling some dice – higher ranked units rolling more dice – and subtracting the result from the unit’s skull total as the God judges some skulls unworthy. The more Worthy Skulls there are left over, the better the table of random rewards you get to roll on.
This is a parallel progression system alongside XP, and another randomised progress system to go with Chaos Boons (also present). Some of the ‘Lesser Rewards’ are actually economic buffs – Favoured Killers lets you reroll Khorne’s judgement of a skull offering as if you were haggling with a pawnbroker, while Lessons of Slaughter increases the XP the unit gains from killing enemy units.
Administration is not Khornate, counting is more of a Nurgle thing. I don’t really hold this against the book – it’s a problem with the Crusade system as a whole. Narrative play has a reputation for being less intense than matched play, but it’s no less procedurally complex, it just happens on pieces of paper rather than the tabletop.
I enjoy Crusade despite my gripes with it, and if you do too then these are another fine set of Crusade rules, but it won’t change anyone’s mind about the system as a whole.
World Eaters lore
If you’re a fan of the World Eaters lore there isn’t anything skull-shattering here, but – having just written Wargamer’s guide to the World Eaters’ legion and its history myself – the codex does a great job summarising the legion’s tragic history, fall to ruin, and current lives as psychopathic warmongers.
There are some neat details I’ve not come across before, like the Slaughter Sages, revered World Eaters who achieve a zen-like self-abnegation when fully consumed by violence. Some of the lesser World Eaters warbands described are a lot of fun – the Voidbutchers are pirates who capture enemy vessels with harpoons, and have a great sense of irony when it comes to renaming Imperial ships
The new hell-rhino riding special character Lord Invocatus is sadly a total blank slate, but then again so was Khârn the Betrayer when he first appeared in the second edition Chaos Space Marines codex, so there’s hope for him yet.
If you enjoyed the tragic fall of Angron as told by Aaron Dembski-Bowden in Betrayer – one of the best Horus Heresy books, and perhaps one of the best Warhammer 40k books full stop – you’ll be glad to hear that Angron still wishes he was dead even though he is immortal. Irony loves a World Eater.
Warhammer 40k 10th Edition
Warhammer 40k 10th Edition may not be announced, but unless GW pulls a year’s worth of codexes out of a hat, it’s safe to say it’s coming this year, most likely in the summer. I sincerely hope that the World Eaters codex is the model for what’s to come.
This book feels usable. That sounds like a weak complement, but plenty of 9th edition codexes have been nightmares, whether the morass of overlapping buffs and conditional abilities in codex Adeptus Mechanicus, or the poor content organisation in the otherwise solid codex Imperial Knights.
This might be the slimmest codex of 40k 9th edition and that might make it the best. Everything that’s here feels like it should be. I was intrigued by the World Eaters when I saw their models – after reading their codex I’m excited.
I can picture myself mid-game looking something up in this book, finding what I want, being able to easily ignore everything I don’t, and then getting right back into the fight. Perhaps more importantly for the health of the game, I can picture a new player doing the same thing.