Wrath and Glory is a new roleplaying game (RPG) by Ulisses Spiele/North America that allows players to roleplay in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 (40K) setting. This isn't the first time the setting has been available in an RPG. In the early 2000's Games Workshop released a miniatures game called Inquisitor that used larger than normal miniatures (54mm over the standard 28mm for Warhammer 40k), which brought in some RPG elements to the wargame. In 2008, Black Industries released Dark Heresy which was true Warhammer 40K roleplaying and allowed players to play as an Inquisitor and the retinue. Dark Heresy was taken over by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) when they acquired the Games Workshop card, board, and roleplaying game licenses, and they expanded to allow players to play as Space Marines, warriors, and servants of Chaos and Imperial Guardsmen. Support for that line ended in 2016 when FFG and Games Workshop stopped producing content together.
When Ulisses Spiele/North America acquired the roleplaying license for Warhammer 40K, they began work on Wrath and Glory, which is now available on PDF via DriveThruRPG. Wrath and Glory is completely separate from FFG's range and has a system designed from the ground up by Ulisses Spiele/North America. We've been lucky enough to be provided a preview copy of the physical Wrath and Glory Core Rulebook, which we are using for this review.
I played Games Workshop's Inquisitor briefly, and played through all versions of Dark Heresy and its supplements for the entire run of FFGs lifetime as well as being a veteran Warhammer 40K player. I began playing Wrath and Glory when I was lucky enough to get a spot on in my local games store's Free RPG Day release of Blessings Unheralded (a quick play preview of Wrath and Glory) in June 2018, which is also now available on PDF. I was initially skeptical about the changes to the system, having enjoyed Dark Heresy for so long, but I enjoyed my game of Blessings Unheralded as a player so much that I ran it a couple of times for my own groups as a Games Master (GM).
The Wrath and Glory Core Rulebook comes in at over 450 pages, making it a weighty tome. The reason for this is that it on top of all the usual rules expected for an RPG, it also includes the full rules for several races and different character types. Wrath and Glory allows you to play as one of 31 different archetypes, which are split into 5 different species' (Human, Chaos, Eldar, Ork and Space Marine). Humans are also split again into 6 different organizations. The available archetypes are:
- Ministorum Priest
- Death Cult Assassin
- Sister Hospitaller
- Sister of Battle
- Imperial Guardsman
- Tempestus Scion
- Imperial Commissar
- Space Marine Scout
- Tactical Space Marine
- Primaris Marine Intercessor
- Inquisitional Acolyte
- Inquisitorial Adept
- Sanctioned Psyker
- Rogue Trader
- Hive Ganger
- Chaos Space Marine
- Rogue Psyker
- Aeldari Corsair
- Aeldari Ranger
- Aeldari Warlock
- Ork Boy
- Ork Kommando
- Ork Nob
Games of Wrath and Glory are set into one of five tiers, which sets a limit and tone to the adventure. Tier 4 includes Primaris Marines and Inquisitors, so know it's a high-level game and lower Tier characters, like a Tier 2 Sister of Battle would get a boost in terms of stats, abilities, and wargear in order for them to play at that level. It also means that players will know the level of enemies they will be facing going in, and the GM can set the threat of them accordingly. The different Tier's are essentially a shorthand listing of the starting points value for a player -character build. Once a Tier for the campaign is set, it's fixed for the campaign, characters can gain ranks within the Tier during the campaign, but won't change Tier. Players are able to play lower Tier characters in higher Tier games by taking an Ascension package, which gives bonuses along with the extra points from the build costs to bring your lower Tier character into line.
The core Wrath and Glory mechanic revolves around D6s and looking for a certain amount of successes or Icons. A roll of a 4 or 5 is one Icon, and a roll of 6 is two Icons. Tests in Wrath and Glory require a certain amount of Icons to pass (a standard test requires 3 Icons), so the amount of dice you roll for a test has an input into the chance of success or failure. One of the dice in the pool is always a Wrath dice and should be a different color from the other dice in the pool. A roll of a 1 or a 6 on the Wrath dice has positive or negative consequences that add to the scene and can be used by the players or the GM to add effects or positive or negative outcomes.
The levels of rules beyond that are just used to add detail in terms of damage and options. There are a few details to remember in terms of character options and what they do, and that's what adds the complexity to Wrath and Glory. The core system in Wrath and Glory is fast, it involves smashing together some numbers, rolling that many dice and looking for 4s, 5,s or 6s and noting the number on the Wrath dice. The D6s make it very entry level friendly, but what we like most about it, is that it feels like Warhammer 40K. There are rules for mobs included, and chipping away at a horde of Orks with your crew of lasgun wielding Guardsmen by throwing down some D6s is what it's all about.
If there are any 6s in a players pool, beyond what is required to achieve the task, extra options open up to the player in terms of improving how they achieve the task, known as Shifting. This could be simply doing something better, with more flourish, or faster. In combat, it could be more damage, or maybe the attack affects more enemies than originally intended. Outside of combat, commanding a group of Guardsmen with a shifted roll could lead them to being truly inspired by you, and give them a bonus beyond them simply doing what you told them.
Several types of optional decks are also used in Wrath and Glory, and we were given access to PDFs of the cards as part of the review. The Wrath deck serves to add some flavor to critical hits (there is a Critical Hit chart in the Core Rulebook if you don't wish to use the Wrath Deck). An example of a card from the Wrath deck is Merciless Strike, which deals a mortal wound to the receiver of the attack. The Campaign deck includes cards that can be used throughout play and offer bonuses, challenges or direct influences on the game. Our favorite example is the 'I am Alpharius' campaign card, which can give the player who plays it, insight into someone who might not be what they seem. Examples of other available decks are the Perils of the Warp or Gear decks. All the decks aim to speed up gameplay and improve interactivity and are completely optional, as charts, tables, and details are included for those that don't wish to use them.
Some of the game rules are clearly written with miniatures in mind and work very well if you like to include miniatures in your system. Ranges are clearly laid out for movement and weapon ranges. The issue we found in our test games is that combat can be pretty brutal, and in smaller encounters, ranged weapons clearly dominated over those who were solely dedicated to close combat, as the fights were usually over by the time the two forces engaged in close quarters. It was only when situations began in close combat that our melee experts were able to act fully, or in larger encounters where our enemies weren't removed so quickly. We usually opted for a more abstract range system, and only counted range specifically when it really fed the narrative. Having a physical representation of a horde of Genestealers rampaging towards us on the table, with an accurate distance in squares, as we tried to cut them down did add a significant level of drama to our game. If your group aren't using miniatures though, having specific ranges for some weapons does feel odd. For example, the Assault Bolter has a range of 36m and the Boltgun 40m. Keeping track of the last 4m when using abstract range bands is interesting and some house rules or hacking may be required for those not using range specific game mats.
In terms of entry-level, if run by an experienced GM, the players could all be first-time tabletop players and would still pick up the system very quickly. The system and the D6s used throughout make it very beginner friendly. For a beginner GM though, there is a lot to take in coming straight into the Core Rulebook and starting with the planned Wrath an Glory Starter Set would be a better product as it contains pre-generated characters and a full adventure, as well as beginner rules. After that, moving across to the full Wrath and Glory rules would be straight-forward.
The layout of the book isn't as polished as we'd like and that might have something to with the sheer amount of information that's in it. It's great that all the options are there from the Core Rules, but it feels like somethings suffered for it. There are a huge amount of options in terms of what you can play and how you create your character, but if you're coming from 40K, it feels like there is a lot missing. A lot of this will almost certainly be produced in future supplements, but if there had been less options, the book would flow nicer. It's strange to be complaining about having too many options in an RPG product, but the Core Rulebook for an RPG, especially in early games tends to get a good bashing in terms of page turning and because a lot of the details are in tables around the book, Wrath and Glory gets a lot of page turning. If your game is about a squad of three Primaris Space Marines, you won't be using a lot of the options in Wrath and Glory and will be flicking past them to find what you do need. This isn't such an issue in the PDF where you can bookmark and search, but we found with the physical rulebook, some tables and options were not placed optimally. For example, in character creation there's a block of table at the start of the chapter, then the pages are set out going through each option. You can find yourself flicking from the creation page you are on back to the tables frequently looking for values or Tier restrictions. There isn't any other option in terms of layout, but the level of detail in character creation and throughout the Core Rulebook makes the product feel less smooth than it could be.
The Wrath and Glory core system feels very Warhammer 40K. The system is punchy, easy to run and play. The detail on top of the system is also very straight-forward to add, in terms of either using the card decks or rolling on tables. The Core Rulebook itself contains a huge amount of options and depth for players which makes it feel slightly bloated and less streamlined in terms of layout. We would have liked to seen a more focused Core Rulebook with limited options, but full details that could be expanded with future supplements. It is nice to have multiple options and appealing to a large audience makes sense. Having a huge amount of top layer options is a great way of bringing players in, adding the fine details in as products are released, but a really polished and punchy layout, would have really emphasized the very user friendly and fast-paced system.
In terms of setting, Wrath an Glory has a great introduction to the Warhammer 4oK world, including some flavor text at the start of the Core Rules by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, one of the best writers from Games Workshops' Black Library, the producers of their fiction line. The Core Rules give a concise but detailed introduction to the 41st Millennium, as well as the Gilead System, and on top of the details for the races and NPCs, it is enough to get new players started.
The Bottom Line:
Wrath and Glory is a great system that really feels like a Warhammer 40K roleplaying game. Some rules are clearly made for miniature use and will require some work from the GM to bring in purely melee characters if you are relying heavily on a measured game mat. The core system and use of D6s make it very beginner friendly and it's fast paced and brutal, with loads of extra depth to the rules. The Core Rulebook suffers from having too many top level options and not enough detail, which also affects the layout and polish of the product. Being able to roleplay as an Ork or Eldar is great out of the Core Rulebook, but their options aren't fleshed out enough and would be better placed in their own full supplement. It's still a great product and we look forward to seeing where Ulisses Spiele/North America take it.
You want a roleplaying game that feels very Warhammer 40K.
You want to roleplay in the Warhammer 40K setting.
You want to roleplay as an Ork.
You love smashing D6s on the table.
Avoid this game if:
You’re new to Games Mastering, start with the Starter Pack that’s planned soon and build up to this.
This copy of Wrath and Glory was reviewed on PDF and physical copy and was provided by Ulises North America.
Have you played any of the previous editions of Warhammer 40K roleplaying? Which was your favorite and why? What do you think about this version and where Ulisses are taking it? Does it feel like Warhammer 40K to you? Let us know in the comments below.