How Long Will Your Forge World Book Remain “Valid”?

Looking at the remarkably hard to put together data set of Forge World book release dates that underpinned this post, I started thinking about other things that could potentially be done with it, because one should never let a perfectly good data set go to waste.

I turned to another question I often ask myself: If I buy this book, how long until a new Codex release, edition change, etc. renders it useless as anything other than a book of cool fluff and pretty pictures?

Lets find out, shall we?

For this analysis, each Imperial Armour book gets broken up into several possible data points, one for each army represented within it. For example, Imperial Armour Volume 13, War Machines of the Lost and the Damned gets a single entry in the data set for “Chaos”. In contrast, Imperial Armour Volume 11, The Doom of Mymeara gets three entries, as it covers Eldar, Space Wolves, and Imperial Guard. Then, for each one of these faction-specific entries, I looked up how many months it was between the book’s release, and the release of the next Codex for that faction. There are two major exceptions to this. The first is Imperial Armour II, which covers a number of factions, and which I chose the original release of the Games Workshop Apocalypse book to be the moment it could be considered out of date. The second are any other multi-faction books, which I treat as being obsolete the moment there is an edition change, rather than a codex change, to represent the point where getting most of their rules to cohere to how the game is currently being played becomes a bit of a pain.

With all that in mind, how long do you likely have between buying a newly released Forge World book and having a new codex release go “Yeah, none of that works anymore…”?

Time to Obsolescence for Imperial Armour Books
Time to Obsolescence for Imperial Armour Books

On average, judging by the median time? 31 months, or just about two and a half years. As with the previous post, the red line measures the time between a Imperial Armour book being released and it becoming obsolete. Draw up from the y-axis to the red line, then over to the x-axis, and that tells you what proportion of books had been rendered obsolete by a new codex or edition release by that point in time. There are some very quick ones (a poorly timed Space Marine codex rendering IA Volume 6 obsolete for them in just one month) and some very very long ones – Imperial Armour II lasted 85 months before Apocalypse came out, and the original Siege of Vraks books were remarkably long-lived for Chaos players.

The dots on the red line represent books that are not currently obsolete (for example, IA Volume 13) and how many months they have been on the market. In this analysis, they’re assumed to become obsolete sometime after today, and there’s statistical ways to handle that. For those interested, it’s called “right censoring”. The oldest of those is, amusingly, Imperial Armour Volume 3, Second Edition, which covers The Taros Campaign, and if the rumors of an impending Tau release are indeed accurate, they’re also right on time.

Out of interest, I also looked Imperial vs. Non-Imperial factions, and because they’re vastly overrepresented as a faction, Imperial Guard vs. Non-Imperial Guard. Those survival curves are below:

Imperial vs. Non-Imperial Faction Obsolescence
Imperial vs. Non-Imperial Faction Obsolescence
Imperial Guard vs. Non-Imperial Guard Faction Obsolescence
Imperial Guard vs. Non-Imperial Guard Faction Obsolescence

Generally speaking, the Imperial factions seem to go obsolete just slightly faster, likely due to the Space Marines never being a codex that languishes without a new release for very long, in contrast to a number of other factions. The Guard don’t seem to be particularly longer lived as a faction than any other, at least not to the extent that likely matters for most gamers.

There are, of course, some caveats to this analysis. The biggest one is that what I’m actually estimating is the time to potential obsolescence, and this can in no way actually measure the severity of how outdated a book is. For example, the Badab War books, despite now being two codexes out of date, are pretty easy to port forward with a few assumptions because the core Space Marines haven’t changed all that much. On the other hand, The Doom of Mymeara‘s Eldar Corsair army list went from “an interesting alternative way to play Eldar” to essentially unplayable with the release of the 6th Edition codex, as it was both markedly inferior in almost every respect to the main Eldar Codex. In contrast, out of the same book, Bran Redmaw can probably be fielded by a Space Wolves player with little or no struggle.

This also isn’t necessarily going to predict the future – the combination of rapid codex release cycles, and wild swings in design philosophy from the pared down Dark Eldar, Space Wolf, Ork and Grey Knight codexes to the very formation heavy lists that dominate their current design means both the timing and severity of a book being obsolete are difficult to predict. To draw from The Doom of Mymeara vs. the Badab series, a number of Eldar units cannot be fielded in the Craftworld Warhost formation without an errata (see my attempt to do so here) whereas books that don’t tinker with core units much but introduce lots of special characters, as is often the case with Space Marines, may fit much more cleanly into the Demi-Company. So, to echo what my broker tells me: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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