Cubicle 7 has released a new game, but it has the DNA of mighty predecessors that has me very excited for this line. Imperium Maledictum is the new 40K RPG, but to me it’s really Dark Heresy 3rd Edition- and I think that’s a good thing. Imperium Maledictum takes my favorite parts of WFRP 4th and Soulbound and mashes them together into something new, but familiar. I can’t wait to dive into this game, and this part of the core book review will be more of an overview and my first takeaways without having a chance to play it- yet.
One of my favorite things about Imperium Maledictum (IM) is that it is built off the bones of games I’m very familiar with, namely WFRP, Dark Heresy (DH), and Soulbound. If you’ve played any of those games, you’ll be right at home here. If you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat! IM uses the d100 system we’re used to from all the way back to WFRP 1st edition. Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, Will Power, it’s all there. IM does add Perception as a base Characteristic (like DH did compared to WFRP 2nd), which I am a fan of. There are Skills to put Advances into and Talents to buy to make your character better. Fate Points and Corruptions play a major role in your character’s development, and psychic powers can make or break your day. Critical Wounds work pretty much the same as WFRP 4th, and combats are resolved with Opposed Tests (my favorite new addition to the 4th edition of WFRP). It’s not all copy/paste from other games though, there’s plenty that makes IM stand on its own.
IM has a few new stand-out features that separate it from other Cubicle 7 games. The two major ones I’m going to focus on are the Patron rules and Superiority. First, Patrons have an entire chapter focusing on creating the Party’s Patron together. I love the group storytelling possibilities here. It makes me think of the Kids on Bikes system where the whole group works together to build the town the Players will adventure in. Here the GM and Players build a Patron together, rolling or deciding what Faction they’re a part of, their Demeanor, Boons, and Liabilities. The GM could always build this behind the scenes, but if your group is more off-the-cuff, this system is great and really makes the character pulling strings feel like a real Character. The Patron can gain and lose influence with the different Factions as the PCs go on missions, and their Boons and Liabilities can have real effects on the lives of the Party. Overall I love this new addition and will do a more detailed post about it in the future. (Disclaimer here: I never played any of Fantasy Flight’s 2nd edition of Dark Heresy, so If I missed more Patron rules there, then I apologize).
Superiority is another wholly new addition in IM, and one people online are already raving about. Superiority is similar to Advantage in WFRP, but instead of tracking it on an individual basis, each side in a combat gains and loses Superiority. This ranges from 0 to +3. If you have Superiority, you can use it to gain Success Levels equal to your Superiority on one Test each turn. This can translate into extra damage, or less damage received if you use it while defending, or to be better at whatever it is you’re trying to do on your turn. At the same time, Superiority is used as a mechanical way to help a GM determine when a group might flee the battlefield. Not everyone in the 41st millennium is a fanatic, foaming at the mouth and fighting until they’re brought down, I’m sure you’ll come across them eventually, but some people are fighting for a payday, and you can’t collect if you’re dead. If the Party’s Superiority exceeds the Resolve of the enemy (found in their stat block), they will likely flee. There are ways to mitigate this as a GM, like having gangers fight on their own turf. Alternatively, this break of Resolve could force an enemy to surrender, or lash out like a wild animal backed into a corner. This system will help to speed up combats and make them really impactful.
IM has plenty of new ideas, but Cubicle 7 also copied some ideas from other games they’ve made. Most notably to me is the movement system from Soulbound. You don’t need a grid and a ruler for IM, instead maps are broken up into Zones and movement and ranges are based on which Zones the combatants are in. This is an elegant system that streamlines combats without simplifying it too much. And, if you’re really a fan of more crunchy combats where your exact positioning matters, they include optional rules for that as well. The Zone system works well for Soulbound at his high-powered level, with spells wiping out enemies in entire Zones, and I think it will translate perfectly well for IM.
Another idea borrowed from Soulbound is when determining damage, only armor is considered when determining how many Wounds are suffered. This will again speed up combats compared to WFRP, which takes the defender’s Toughness into account as well and will make those without armor more afraid of taking a lasgun blast- there are no Space Marine characters here!
After an initial reading of the book, done almost exclusively on a very well timed flight, I can say I am pleased and excited for this game. I have played quite a bit of WFRP (2nd and 4th), Dark Heresy, and some Soulbound, and Imperium Maledictum feels like the perfect amalgamation of the three. Keeping connections to 40K’s RPG past but acknowledging growth of RPGs at the same time can be a delicate, and risky, move for RPG developers (not to mention working with a beloved I.P.). No game is perfect (sorry Slaanesh), and I’m sure there were be issues that pop up once we start playing, but based on my time with this so far, it will sit proudly on the shelf next to WFRP and Soulbound.
I’ll be doing more posts about parts of the game, and for now, I’ll see what people want to hear most about. So leave a comment on what section you’d like me to deep dive into first!
Dan is a founding member of the PCN, GM/host of “A Grim Podcast of Perilous Adventure,” and “Settling the Southlands” as well as a player in The Lost Omens Podcast, and The Slithering. Dan is also a novelist and writer of adventures.