Let’s start with the easy stuff. Wrath and Glory is a gorgeous book. It’s just over 450 quality pages, shiny print, quality hardcover and two ribbons for marking your place in the book. If you’re a Warhammer 40K wargamer who takes pride in how things look then, you’ll have no objections to Wrath & Glory on your shelves.
Warhammer 40K is both the curse and the blessing of Wrath & Glory.
It has been nearly 30 years since this blogger last did anything with Warhammer 40K. I was at school and in the Roleplaying and Wargaming Club. We had a classroom to ourselves and thousands of paper cutouts from Warhammer Epic because we couldn’t afford the miniatures. We never even started our battle as it took hours just to set up our mighty armies. From that one aborted experience I know there’s an absolute volume or lore and legend around Warhammer 40K and I know it has updated, evolved into story arch after story arch since then. My main concern as I picked up Wrath & Glory was whether this RPG would be able to reassure me that I can roleplay in the world without getting it wrong.
This vast legacy and on-going series of updates are the is curse and blessing I speak off. Wrath & Glory needs to be accurate and rich enough to appeal to the Warhammer 40K fan base. It also needs to be open and welcoming enough to appeal to gamers who don’t know anything about the universe at all.
I think pitching Wrath & Glory is a make or break issue. Publishers Ulisses North America, part of the German power-house Ulisses Spiele, get it right. The setting is a win for Wrath & Glory. This RPG is a grimdark sci-fi game that’s worth your time.
The universe of Wrath & Glory
Take a deep breath. This attempted summary won’t be as successful as Ulisses North America’s telling of the lore of the mighty Warhammer 40K but let me pick out key bits that appealed to me.
Humanity grew into an impressive intergalactic empire that spanned countless worlds. How it did so was the use of faster-than-light travel that tapped into the Realm of Chaos. This realm, this sea of souls, is the same source the Psykers (psionics) get their power. It is the same realm in which demons and the Chaos gods live and escape.
The current era is known as the Dark Imperium because it is not going well for the spiralling and hugely bureaucratic human empire.
The figure who rose to god-like power, the human emperor, was betrayed by his son. Horus took nearly half of the specially bio-engineered ex-humans known as Adeptus Astartes, the space marines, led a rebellion and crippled the Emperor. In the end, Horus lost , humankind saved (for now) from Chaos but the Emperor is stuck on a life support machine known as the Golden Throne and is effectively out of the picture.
More recently, a great Rift in space as opened up as the forces of Chaos tore through reality. This huge space-time distortion has sundered the human empire in half. Thousands of worlds are beyond help and are left to survive on their own.
In Warhammer 40K humanity is not alone with the demons of Chaos. There are many other races. There are the Eldar. These ‘space elves’ were great before humankind found space, rose and fell. Their civilisation was torn apart by their decadence, a death which gave birth to a new Chaos god and which would have destroyed the race had some not seen it coming and fled on huge spaceship worlds.
There are the Orks. These warriors are bred for battle and grow like fungus under the ground. Whole planets lost to the infection of an Ork horde. Who made the Orks? These space-orcs were created by an ancient alien race known as the Old Ones to battle another ancient super-power known as the Necrons. These are races that existed even before the Eldar and are both touched on in Wrath & Glory and operate at such elevated power levels that either make for campaign level villains.
No wonder humankind has turned to science to try and help them stave off these forces. The Primaris Astartes are Space Marines 2.0. They are the next generation of bigger, better and amazingly powerful warriors.
All of the races, except the Old Ones and Necrons, mentioned above are available as PC races in Wrath & Glory. Chaos Space Marines are possible as are non-Imperium aligned humans.
Other common NPC races include the T’au Empire, a new race that has ventured out into space and met with some success, and the deadly Tyranids. I know Tyranids as the parent race to the Genestealers, the alien foe from the Games Workshop board game Space Hulk, and very similar to the xenomorphs in the Aliens movie franchise.
Wrath & Glory mechanics
This is a system which uses d6; one of which is a different colour and a significant wild card. It’s called the Wrath dice.
Add your stats together to get the number of d6 to roll. If you manage a 4 or 5 on the die, then it counts as a success. A roll of 6 is worth 2. If you have surplus 6s, then you can shift them to additional effects. For example, you can shift a success in combat to describe an effect that gives you some panache or perhaps the chance of a follow-on tactical advantage.
You earn Glory by shifting these 6s. You bank your Glory total, spending the points later to increase damage, dice pool, increase critical hits or seize the initiative.
There’s Ruin too, the opposite of Glory, which the GM earns and spends on behalf of the NPCs acting against the player characters.
Wrath points, on the other hand, are earned when the Wrath dice rolls either a 1 or 6. The 1s add complications to your scene and the 6s add some advantage.
This RPG is based off a wargame, but the combat is narrative. There’s no initiative system as such (except the ability to go first by spending points) band players take turns with the villains.
Oddly, this turn-about system lends plenty of tactical considerations to combat in Wrath & Glory. The group, as a whole, has to think carefully about how they want to handle any fight. The urge to spend points will be high.
Characters in Wrath & Glory
We’ve already looked at the races in this darkly far future setting. There are also nearly 200 classes, known as archetypes, to pick. Not every race is able to select from every archetype. If you want to play an Ork Nob, you have to be an Ork.
It’s here, at the end of the review, that we address the second biggest problem I foresaw in Wrath & Glory. In the world of 40K, you have an incredible range of power and skill. A standard human, even one a space pirate, a ganger or one with psyker power, isn’t on the same level as an Eldar or Space Marine. Heck, even the Space Marines have two ‘races’ within their ranks now that seem like worlds apart.
Wrath & Glory handle this well. The game is split into five different tiers. Tier one represents those basic humans. Tier 5 is the mighty Primaris Astartes and their ilk.
Characters are built on points, and the tier of the campaign governs these. Some archetypes have a base build point cost and requirements to meet.
As a result, if you want to have a human ganger (tier 1) in the same game as a space marine (tier 4, normally) you can but you follow the rules to create an exceptional ganger who has extra points to spend to bring them up to tier 4. They may be a gang boss, for example, with troops to use and direct as she needs.
Wrath & Glory summary
I think it’s fair to say that I approached Wrath & Glory with some caution. I wanted to enjoy the game but knew the writers had a proper challenge on their hands.
Pleasingly, I really enjoyed the book and I was quickly reassured that I would enjoy the book. Ulisses find the balance between writing for expert Warhammer 4K readers and total beginners very quickly.
The Wrath dice mechanic is also very quick to prove its worth. This is a system where characters are heroic but there’s also danger in every situation as there could be complications around any corner and a GM with Ruin ready to spend.
Worth looking at? Absolutely!
Geek Native was provided a copy of Wrath & Glory for review. This article was published on Black Friday when Wrath & Glory with 33% off is the top selling RPG on DriveThruRPG.