Games Workshop has a complicated history with the concept of licensed Warhammer games. The company has been quite reserved about it in the past – this despite some very high-profile successes in the early days – but even when it finally started to open the gates more generally it took a while for the quality to match the demand.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a round-up of ten of our top picks, four from fantasy-land, and six from the grimdark. We were going to keep it 50/50 but to be honest there’s far less fantasy games than 40k, and far more mediocre choices. We’ve also not strictly speaking gone for the ‘best of the best’, although most of these options are considered pretty good; we’ve chosen notable titles that are worth highlighting for more specific reasons as well.
Thankfully, things are getting better, and as things get better more Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 games are starting to appear that are worth checking out if you’re fans of Games Workshops’ iconic tabletop settings.
Here is a list of excellent Warhammer games:
BLOOD BOWL 2
If you want to get technical, Blood Bowl isn’t actually a Warhammer Fantasy game. It’s a game set in an alternate universe of the Warhammer Fantasy setting where disputes are settled with hyper-aggressive games of the Rugby/American Football analogue ‘Blood Bowl’, instead of a mighty clash of armies.
AGE OF SIGMAR: STORM GROUND
Despite the fact we had muted feelings for Storm Ground, it is worth highlighting mainly because it’s the first decent Age of Sigmar strategy game to come out since the tabletop game slew its older Warhammer Fantasy Battles sibling six.
WARHAMMER: VERMINTIDE 2
Following up on 2015’s The End Times: Vermintide, Fatshark managed to ramp up everything that was good and create an excellent co-op murder-fest for the sequel. With distinct character classes, everyone has a role to play and a unique way of fighting, and Vermintide 2’s melee combat is the best you’ll find outside of the truly dedicated games like Chivalry
TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER 2
Really, the entire Warhammer Fantasy line of Total War games can be celebrated, but we single out Warhammer II because one, it’s better than Warhammer I, and two, because Warhammer III isn’t out yet. While Creative Assembly’s historical Total War line has been quite successful, the studio was propelled further into mainstream success when it brought Warhammer Fantasy to life with Total Warhammer.
WARHAMMER 40,000 GAMES
Here are our top pick of 40K games: SPACE MARINE
Space Marine released amidst the growing hype around third-person shooters thanks to Gears of Wars’ glorious ascent. But when the PR buzz phrase is “You are the cover”, you know you’re in for a special time. A random departure from strategy games, this is one of Relic’s hidden gems that offered a surprisingly robust Space Marine power fantasy where you live up to the one-man army mythos surrounding the Adeptus Astartes.
SPACE HULK TACTICS
The history of Space Hulk digital adaptations has been rocky, to say the least, which is why Space Hulk Tactics was a very welcome surprise in that it was actually quite good. It follows the design of the original table-top game more closely, offering a turn-based tactics game that’s slick, and comes with a few new ideas to brighten things up. GLADIUS – RELICS OF WAR
In the long history of things that nobody asked for, I’d say a ‘Civilization-but-it’s-Warhammer-40K game’ is high up the list. Gladius is a 4X strategy game that strips out diplomacy, trade, and other niceties and keeps it focused on the setting’s core purpose – war.
BATTLEFLEET GOTHIC ARMADA 2
While there are some elements of the original Battlefleet Gothic Armada game that I prefer, Armada 2 gets to claim the top spot because it got a lot more love and support in the end, with every major 40K faction represented at launch. Inspired (but not a direct translation) of Games Workshops’ fleet battle spin-off game, Armada is a real-time tactics game where you command fleets of grimdark warships and fight it out in space. DAWN OF WAR
The undisputed king of 40K PC games still remains Relic’s masterpiece in the original Dawn of War. Based on the award winning Company of Heroes format, it allowed you to experience the visceral, bombastic action of the grimdark in real-time tactical action. The original game featured Orks, Space Marines, Chaos Marines, and Eldar, but over time and expansions the Imperial Gaurd, T’au, Necrons, Dark Eldar, and even the Sisters of Battle were added as additional playable races.
HONORARY MENTION: WARHAMMER 40,000: BATTLESECTOR
Despite our guarded Battlesector review, this gets a place on the list for two key reasons. Firstly, between the points-based army setup, to the wargear options, to the turn-based design, it’s an excellent distillation of the tabletop game. Secondly, if you like Space Marines and Space Marine wasn’t enough, this does make you feel very good.
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