Warhammer Apocalypse Through the Ages

Apocalypse is coming… again…

If you are new to Warhammer 40,000, Apocalypse is wargaming on a scale that is seen in the novels. Gigantic battles that are not determined by a few squads and tanks… but are decided by regiment after regiment of infantry and columns of tanks and titanic warmachines that unleash terrifying firepower.

Apocalypse brings entire collections of miniatures to a table, what would amount to tens of thousands of points of models in standard games.

Apocalypse games have been around for a while, so let’s take a look back to where it all started!


Before we had Warhammer Apocalypse in any real format… We had Forge World. Forge World created unique tanks variants based off the Leman Russ and Chimera chassis and the first Baneblade model. The published Imperial Armour books that presented the first Super Heavy Tank and flyer rules. Initially, Forge World’s tank variants allowed Imperial Guard players to add some much needed depth to their armies… It wasn’t just Imperial Guard though, Orks, Eldar, and Dark Eldar got additional tanks and flyers to add to their armies. This was the age of the Gargantuan Squiggoth and Battle Fortress and Eldar Vampire Raider… But adding depth and cool models for games, did not Apocalypse make…

Apocalypse is born

Apocalypse as we know it today was first born in 2007 with a larger than life hardback rule book with rules for Baneblades, Stompas, and formations for various armies (though not much for Dark Eldar or Necrons who had precious little support in 2007). Apocalypse had a ton of focus on Forge World monsters and model conversions. Much of the first rule book showcased models that were converted for the game. Another key component of this book was the huge fold out pages which had photos of giant in studio battles and tables. This format allowed GW to delve into megabattles from the lore… like the Battle of Cold Steel Ridge, where the Ultramarines fought against the Tyranid Horde… a game worth over 20,000 points. Additionally, the book dug into some really obscure background for battles and armies… including the only known reference to the Tau mercenary force the Morralian Deathsworn… And somehow Captain Stern took down multiple Bloodthirsters and Abaddon… Truly an amazing book for its time.

Reloaded – 2008

In 2008, we saw a follow up with Apocalypse Reload. While the primary purpose of this book was to bring everything in line with the newly released 5th edition of Warhammer 40,000, this book alos continued its focus on building out rules for conversions and included such amazing things as Ork Pulsa Rokkits and Necron Doomsday Phalanx and Khorne Tower of Skulls… The ability to convert models for the game created a lot of dynamic models and cool themes in armies. And the conversions coming out of the general GW studio for everyone to emulate created a culture of real creativity. This was the age of scratchbuilt Gargants and websites and forums dedicated to creating cool miniatures. TheWaaagh forum was a place for Ork players to go to learn about building Ork vehicles before Orks had much at all… ever hear the term “Moar Rivitz?” it was born from this age of gaming.

Forge World’s Additions

While GW proper was producing Apocalypse books for crafty converters… Forge World produced Imperial Armour Apocalypse books that sold their products. In 2007 the Forge World IA Apocalypse we saw vehicles with their Forge World upgrade kits and resin models. Tanks like the Macharius and Malcador variants made their debut in these pages for Apocalypse. Flyers and gunships entered the fray and the Tau Manta entered into our collective gaming brain. The Manta… a model so large you could have a battle on top of it… an airship that transported transports… no joke… The Manta had room to carry up to four Devilfish plus battlesuits and up to 48 additional infantry models… What a glorious day to be a gamer… Tau saw a sort of glorious birth during this time – they got sensor towers and sentry turrets and Remora Drones and Tetra Speeders and the first iteration of the Piranha before it became a plastic kit.

In 2009, Forge World continued their expansion with Imperial Armour Apocalypse II. In this book we got a ton of new Imperial vehicles (most of which came from the Siege of Vraks books) and the Reaver Battle Titan. People had scratch built large titan before… and Armorcast/Epicast had made a Reaver Titan in the past… but the Reaver Titan that arrived in IA Apocalypse II was a sight to behold. Even Orks were getting a resergence during this time, with the release of their “Kill” tanks (Kill Krusta, Kill Bursta) and the Big Trakks and Mega and Mekka Dreads. Ultimately, it was a time of real ingenuity in the development of the large scale game, especially because the support of many of the smaller scaled games (Epic, Battlefleet Gothic, Titanicus, Warmaster) were dwindling.

6th Edition Apocalypse – 2013

As the rules of Warhammer 40,000 evolved and editions changed we got adjustments to Apocalypse. In 2012, 6th Edition Warhammer 40,000 arrived an encouraged us to continue using the older books to organize games, until 2013 when a new Apocalypse rulebook hit the shelves! This book had a different feel than previous books. There were no weird conversions or crazy terrain… or any unit that did not have a model. In fact, if you had played Apocalypse from the beginning, there was a lot missing from this update. Though there were some really neat additions to the range as the Khorne Lord of Skulls and the Necron Tesseract arrived, effectively bringing Necrons into the land of superheavies (without paying for Forge World resin). They also spent some time examining Armageddon, and had a collector’s book that separated it out as it’s own book.

Something else happened in 2012-2013, the release of Apocalypse War Zones. There were four books in total (in addition to the Armageddon book from the collector’s edition): Damnos, Pandorax, Valedor, and Damocles. Each book took a magnifying glass to major battles throughout the Imperium and created a campaign and datasheets to use for each warzone. Damnos followed the Ultramarines as they struggled to clear a newly awakened tomb world of Necrons. Pandorax explored a large and varied force of Imperial Armies arrayed against a Chaos incursion. Damocles saw the Raven Guard and White Scars fighting against the Tau, with the first Imperial Knight models striding across the tabletop to battle against the Riptide. Valendor focused on Eldar and Dark Eldar joining forces to repel the insatiable Tyranids. These small Warzone books had around 70 pages and served to really look into the forces and history that led to an important event in Imperial history. Really great additions to the game.

Big games come to small tables

Additionally, Escalation came out in late 2013, which allowed players to begin using large models (normally for Apocalypse) in regular games. Suddenly players began worrying about random “pick up games” with people turning into massacres as Baneblades and Khorne Lord of Skulls had potential to appear in standard games. New phrases entered our collective vocabulary… “Looking for a 2000 point game, no Superheavies…”

Today’s Apocalypse

Now, 2019, we are seeing the rebirth of Apocalypse in 8th edition. In the new edition, Apocalypse is a completely separate game and uses none of the Warhammer 40,000 rules. In fact, some might say it looks a bit similar to old Epic… Units stay until they are totally removed with wound counters… activation of units bounce back and forth… infantry are getting movement trays… the scuttlebutt is that a large scale game can be played in hours, not days… We don’t know for certain as the release is still a week away, but you can take a look for yourself at the Games Workshop Apocalypse Website (where you can download your faction rules for free!)

What are your thoughts? Did I miss something?

What are your plans for the next step of Apocalypse?