Thought I would speak out on current events. I often refer to the possibility of being on the verge of a 'golden age' of GW. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, for starters let's look back at what we've had for the past few decades in terms of 40k.
It started off with Rogue Trader, a very complex and loosely-strung together set of rules and mostly metal models which, if we're being honest, were rather average when you compare them to modern day creations. Then we moved along to 2nd edition (where I first played and collected) which took things up a notch. Factions were each given a codex, which contained all the rules for that army, although a set of core rulebooks in the starter set and the occasional WD rule entry were also seen. Plastic and metal kits of higher quality began to emerge and most armies had precedents set which would continue for the next few decades.
Then came 3rd and 4th editions, which sadly I missed out on. From what I understand, the concept of additional smaller rulesets to be used in addition to the main books were experimented with and ultimately dropped to streamline things. More and more plastic kits, many of which are still around today, came into existence and several new factions entered the eternal war. Not to mention forgeworld, who began producing specialist models. Did I forget to mention apocalypse, introduced towards the end of 4th edition and allowing war was war machines on an unprecedented scale. 5th Edition cranked things up a notch. A better starter set, streamlined rules and factions getting whole new model ranges (dark eldar and necrons) to replace the old were but a few of the perks. In addition to whole new model ranges, all the codexes were brought up to speed so they were in the same format.
So where do we stand currently with 40K now 6th edition has been around for a while? Well, we have a comprehensive range of hobby supplies, with a better range and system of paints that I suspect will be here to stay a while. Even the trusty White Dwarf has has a reboot. I have to admit that although Visions has yet to grow on me WD weekly is a great little magazine. While we're speaking of publications, 6th edition has seen GW producing digital products ranging from codexes to simple munitorum articles. For many the advent of auto-updating digital rulesets is a dream come true. For those who prefer the traditional paper 6th edition has been a treat too - hardback full colour codexes and also supplements for the parent codexes, allowing the die-hard fans to further flesh out their armies. It now appears that the supplements are being released on par with their digital counterparts too.
Onto the models then. Well, they're getting bigger and better all the time, and although GW seems to have eased off on the annual price hikes it does seem they've more than compensated with some questionable pricing of new kits. However, it does seem just when you thought they've done something crazy (such as the Riptide) they go and top it again (Wrathknight) and again (Lord of Skulls) and again (Imperial Knight). While on the topic of the Imperial Knight, this has shown us that they are happy to be even more bold in their direction, creating a whole codex (not a supplement) for just the one model. Finecast has made metal a thing of the past and I suspect that plastic kits and the rumours of all resin production (for special characters etc) going to forgeworld may be correct. With every one of the very frequently codex releases being accompanied by more or less all the outstanding units (and adding new ones), the model ranges are now very comprehensive. Plus, as we are now starting to see, weekly release schedules allow for any old models to be updated almost on a whim.
As a game system 6th Edition has introduced a whole new concept of allies which allows both the use and collection of other armies to go with your parent army, but also gives GW a sales boost and opens the competitive scene for some abuse too. Speaking of adding things into armies, 6th edition allowed the use of fortifications (and later introduced stronghold assault) and, most controversially, escalation allowed lords of war to be taken in regular 40k. I shouldn;t neglect to mention flyers and the impact they;ve had on the game. Speaking of which, Forgeworld shouldn't be forgotten as now their models are also clarified as being offiical for 40k. Around the same time as 6th came out Forgeworld also brought us the pleasure of the Horus Heresy books and models, finally allowing us to play 30k, Primarchs and all.
Leading me to here. Well, if you had said to anyone 10 years ago that this is what 40k would be like then they would possibly have laughed it off. I truly believe that GW has hit full stride now and we will see the following come to pass in the next few years.
Codexes - all will be updated to 6th edition standard and we will see others come to pass as being official. Knights are but the first. The latest Imperial Guard (sorry, Militarum Astra) rumours show a codex release for stormtroopers - not a supplement, a full on codex, meaning they can be taken with any Imperial army as allies. If this much is true, I can't believe that both sisters and the mechanicum won't get books and models in the near future.
Supplements - not quite the same as codexes as they still need the parent dex to play, I fully expect all the traitor and loyalist legions/chapters of legend to be fleshed out, as well as eldar crafworlds and other supplements. These will almost certainly be released alongside models in the near future to aid sales.
30k - will continue to see nice black book releases and all the Legions and Primarchs (plus custodes, mechanicum etc) will be represented.
Models - we are at a stage now where so many of the armies have complete ranges it's getting hard to predict what will be released when. There are many finecast and old plastics in the CSM, CD, tyranid and ork ranges that I dare say will be replaced over the next couple of years. I also predict we will see more escalation/apoc scale releases, Imperial knight variants (forgeworld), offshoots of main armies (Arbites, Eldar exodites) and a redone range for sisters. However, while there are still new models to be made and older ones to update I doubt the fabled plastic thunderhawk will emerge.
7th Edition - some rumours say it will be here as early as May. Who knows in such uncertain times. I can only hope that the main purpose of it is not to rewrite what, on the surface, seems to be a perfectly good ruleset. Rather, that it tries to address some of the smaller balance issues that exist and that are simultaneously making some units undesirable and others auto-includes.
So, as to this golden age of 40K. Will it ever emerge? I would argue it already has crept up on us unawares. All of things that fans have cried out for seem to have come to pass in the last 18 months. Digital editions, more frequent updates for codexes, model releases for all armies, allies, terrain, Horus Heresy models and rules, flyers, bigger models, collectors editions, new factions etc etc etc. The list goes on and on. This has much more the feel of the 2nd Edition I knew and loved, where new and wonderful things are being released all the time and that the codex is not a constraint to your army seeing as dataslates, formations and allies allow you to breathe fresh life into it well past its release date. Yes, I would argue that with weekly leaks and discussion points now, 40k has become interesting again.
With Imperial Knights now entering the fray and the release schedule proceeding at such a hectic pace it does seem that one can get a little left behind with everything. Being able to grab and paint the latest purchase before the next is out is nigh on unachievable now, as is adjusting to a new meta before the next codex or randomly released unit comes along and throws it into disarray. Is this a good thing for the hobby? On the surface I would argue yes, but does it also leave GW overextending itself and fans being left behind and frustrated. Time will tell, but for now let's enjoy what the golden age has to offer before the age of srife descends.