Wrath & Glory is a game from Ulisses Spiele North America, based on the popular Warhammer 40,000 setting by Games Workshop. This game is not an evolution on the Black Industries and subsequent Fantasy Flight editions of the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying, but a ground up rebuild. Gone is the d100 percentile system, and in its place the designers have built a d6 system. I think this is a solid choice stylistically, as Warhammer 40k players are very familiar with d6s and should have quite a few of them lying around, particularly if they have bene playing the most recent edition of the miniatures game. Given that the primary market for this game would be fans of the tabletop wargame, this makes a lot of sense.
Weighing in at just over 450 pages, this is a decent sized book. The hardcover has a matte finish that is pleasant to the touch. It is full color and has a number of evocative illustrations, many of them pulled from the miniatures game. There are two ribbons provided for keeping track of relevant pages or points of interest in the book. The sector map is very well done. Everything feels very polished and professional.
The first forty pages or so are an introduction to the game, with twenty odd pages devoted to the setting, which is not an adequate amount of space to get into the meat of the universe. There is so much going on in the lore and meta of the game that attempting to condense all of it down would be a herculean undertaking. Broad strokes are given the various factions within the imperium, the forces of chaos, and a handful of the xenos races. This is not a significant problem since, as previously stated, the people who are likely to buy this game are likely fans of the setting already. However, if some kid off the street buys this they are in for a surprise when they realize how deep that rabbit hole goes. There are entire wikis and youtube channels simply devoted to exploring the voluminous lore or the Warhammer universe.
The next section covers the rules of the game, which are rather crunchy. The core mechanic is assembling a pool of d6s, determining the difficulty number, and looking for 4,5, or 6 results. 6s are treated differently than a 4 or a 5 and may offer additional effects if certain criteria are met. One die is always the wrath die and rolling a 1 or 6 on this die has its own special effects. Additional success beyond what is needed can be shifted in various ways, such as to speed up the time needed or gain extra information. Honestly, the rules can feel a bit fussy. There is a lot going on here, and this is before getting into Wrath points, Glory points, and Ruin, which are each acquired and spent in different ways. Individually these are far less powerful than the older fate points, but you get a whole lot more of them. Combined with shifts, Wrath, Glory, and Ruin are the methods by which you can inject some narrative tricks and flare into the game, and they work well in that capacity. Or you can just get rerolls with them, which is… fine. I guess.
The book then goes into character creation, which is 140 plus pages of rules on the various tiers, which set the expected power level of the game, different archetypes that can be played, including Chaos, Eldar, and Ork characters, and character advancement. You can level a character up to another tier if, for instance, someone really wants to play an Imperial Guardsman in a game with Space Marines and not die horribly in the first three minutes. The main focus of this book is the imperium, and there are a healthy number of imperial archetypes to choose from. Everything from Scavvys to Rogue Traders to Techpriests. If it is an Imperial group and you want to play it, you probably can, unless you are looking for the Custodes or something, but then your entire game is going to focus on standing around the golden throne making sure no one gets too close. Chaos, Eldar, and the Orks only have a handful of options available by comparison, and I would expect them to be built upon in subsequent releases. I understand including them in the core book, but it feels like they would really benefit from a deeper exploration in the future. I imagine most of the major factions will get a treatment, perhaps baring the Tyranid and Necrons, where free will does not exist in any real sense.
Following character creation, we have combat rules. Unsurprisingly, Wrath & Glory has a heavy focus on combat and doing damage. In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war, after all. The combat rules, much like the core rules, get finicky. You will need to compare your attack roll against the target’s defense to see if you hit, then compare your damage roll against resilience to see how much damage is done, then the enemy may or may not get a soak to see how much of that damage gets downgraded into stress vs wounds. There are rules on fighting mobs, grappling, critical hits, multiple actions, scattering, called shots. It gets overwhelming pretty quickly. When I ran the game, I did it using the stripped-down rules from the quick start I found even those to be unwieldy. I do not love all the various subsystems and special cases found in this section. It all got to be too much and required several rereads. The initiative system is a very curious beast. There are no rolls. The players always get to nominate one of their characters to go first. Then the GM picks an NPC, then back to the players. This is easily my favorite innovation in the game, as it leads to tactically interesting choices and discussions among the players. Do they want the Space Marine to try to mow down the mob, or have the Psyker try to neutralize the leader first? There are tools to spend Glory, for players, or Ruin, for the GM, to seize the initiative, altering this flow a bit. It works really well at the table.
The remainder of the book covers adventuring, weapons and equipment, cybernetics, vehicles, voidships, psychic powers, corruption, and mutations. The vehicle rules need more attention and fleshing out. The decision to give them defense, resilience, and wound ratings like the characters is not one that I love, though I do understand why it was done. They had to keep it brief and focus on the characters. It was simply an odd choice given how almost everything else has special rules. Perils of the warp and Corruption have their own specific systems that have to be interacted with, for instance. Psychic powers have the potential to be seriously unbalancing but are also a hell of a lot of fun. The book culminates in a bestiary, which offers a selection of iconic foes with which to harry the hapless protagonists or slow them down slightly if they are playing Space Marines. The enemies have threat ratings to give you a sense of how they should be employed against the different tier levels. A genestealer is a significant problem for a Tier 1-2 party, but an inconvenience for Tier 4 characters.
In terms of the experience, the game does give you the feeling of being in the world of Warhammer 40,000 in a way that previous incarnations sometimes struggled with. The percentile system was often times unforgiving, and while that was fine for a game like Only War or Dark Heresy, you needed to be rather generous with bonuses when playing Death Watch or Black Crusade to make characters of that caliber accordingly epic. In Wrath & Glory the Space Marine feels like a Space Marine. The Guardsman feels like a Guardsman. The characters work well, and each one had something unique and interesting about them mechanically. With that said, the grim dark and perilous nature of the 40k universe has been replaced with a far more heroic sensibility. Traditionally there are not any heroes in the lore, just degrees of awful, and a sense that everything is continually getting worse for the galaxy. This tonal shift is something Games Workshop has been making in the core game, with the reintroduction of the Primarchs and a focus on the Imperium as somehow being the good guys, despite being fascists that willingly sacrifice tens of thousands to keep the astronomicon glowing and subjugate entire worlds to fuel a war machine that has spun out of control. #horusdidnothingwrong
I would recommend Wrath & Glory to any fan of Warhammer 40,000 who longs to play a game set in that universe, if only because it is effectively the only way to do so. With the implosion of the Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop alliance those books are all out of print and notoriously difficult to come across at rates that do not border on extortion. Simply understand you will be interacting with a traditional style game with a heavy focus on combat and few bolted on narrative tricks. It gets the job done, and in the end, that is impressive enough given the source material.