However, where Warhammer 40,000 involves small battles between forces of a few squads of troops and two or three vehicles, Epic features battles between armies consisting of dozens of tanks and hundreds of soldiers. Due to the comparatively larger size of the battles, Epic miniatures are smaller than those in Warhammer 40,000, with a typical human being represented with a 285 scale high figure, as opposed to the 25 and 28 mm minis used in Warhammer 40,000.
Plastic and metal Epic miniatures are available through the Specialist Games section of Games Workshop's online store. An additional lineup of resin models is available via GW's Forge World subsidiary.
A game of Epic will normally take around two hours to play.
Gameplay-wise, the major difference between Epic and other Games Workshop games is that instead of a player moving and firing all of his forces at once, players take turns moving one or two formations at a time, giving the feeling of a battlefield developing in real time, and also resulting in a game that is more tactically complex than Warhammer 40,000.
The comparatively smaller size of the miniatures also allows players to use many of the larger vehicles and creatures of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, such as Titans and Super-Heavy Tanks, even in small games.
Epic's rule system incorporates Aircraft as well as ground units, and allows players to utilize many aircraft at once. Epic-scale aircraft are also used in the game Aeronautica Imperialis.
The monetary commitment needed to play Epic is relatively small when compared with other Games Workshop products. The greater benefit is that Epic is comparable to W40K: Apocalypse in the sense that they both center around larger battlefields with a larger number of troops and vehicles in command, but the monetary investment is much smaller with Epic. GW and FW both still offer a line of troops and vehicles, as well as classic pieces being sold cheaply on Ebay every day.
The current, fourth edition of Epic is often referred to as Epic: Armageddon after the first rulebook released for this edition.
One interesting feature of Epic: Armageddon is that, unlike previous editions of the game and other games produced by Games Workshop, the development of the game was conducted in an open way with 'trial' rules published on the Epic 'Playtest Vault' and feedback solicited from gamers via the associated playtesters forum.
This collaboration with the community has continued with the development of further army lists. The Epic: Armageddon rulebook contains the core rules for the games, and army lists for Space Marines, the Armageddon Steel Legion Imperial Guard regiment and Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka's Ork War Horde as they were fielded in the Third War for Armageddon.
The 4th edition also includes rules and charts for the classic line of Titan, including the ork Mega-Gargant and the Imperator Titan. These were previously omitted from intermediate rulebook editions.
The second rulebook released for the fourth edition was Epic: Swordwind, which was released both as hardcopy and as a downloadable PDF from the game's official website. Epic: Swordwind contains army lists for the Biel-Tan Eldar, the Baran Siegemasters Imperial Guard Army and Warlord Snagga-Snagga's Feral Ork Horde. There has been active involvement of players with playtesting the new armies for the game on the epic forums, with "army champions" co-ordinating playtesting and revision of the army lists. Unlike other Games Workshop games that use a generic army list for all deployments involving that army, Epic uses specific army lists that represent how an army was fielded in a specific military campaign. There have also been officially released army lists for Da Kult of Speed, an Ork army favouring bikes, the White Scars Space Marines, the Black Legion Chaos Space Marines, and The Lost and the Damned cult army.
The rules for the first edition of Epic came in two parts.
The Adeptus Titanicus (1988) rules and miniatures set, which dealt with battles between opposing Imperial Titans, was published first. Rules for infantry and vehicles (the troops and vehicles of the Heresy era Space Marines) followed in White Dwarf 109.
Space Marine, another miniatures and rules set (for two opposing Space Marine armies), followed after (in 1989). They could be played as individual games or as a combined game.
Where Adeptus Titanicus included 6 plastic Titan models with swappable weapons and styrofoam buildings, Space Marine included alongside its sprues of infantry and vehicles folded card buildings with styrene roofs.
Numerous articles supporting the Adeptus Titanicus / Space Marine game were released in White Dwarf magazine including a variety of optional rules, army lists and organizational charts. The biggest supplement for the game was called Codex Titanicus, which provided a medium for linking the Titan-based (giant robot) combat of Adeptus Titanicus with the conventional units (vehicles and infantry) of Space Marine 1st Edition. The codex also properly introduced Eldar Titans.
As months passed by Adeptus Titanicus more or less stagnated apart from the introduction of smaller war machines called "Knights" (both Imperial and Exodite Eldar ones) and later for the appearance of the mutated Chaos Titans. While Space Marine prospered with the release of a new army list system heavily based in semi-realistic orders of battle with support attachment, multi-tiered command structure and regimental/battalion levels. Imperial guard, Orks, Eldar, Squats, Chaos and Tyranid sprues of 6mm figures, artillery and support weapons were released while vehicles came in white metal and were sold in blisters containing most often two apiece (One just in the case of larger models like Shadowsword or Baneblade tanks).
The second edition of Epic was again released as two compatible but stand-alone games, Space Marine which consisted of the core rules, and Titan Legions (1994) which contained enhanced rules for Titans.
Various supplements were produced, including Armies of the Imperium (1991), which gave rules for the Space Marines and Imperial Guard, Renegades (1992) which had rules for the forces of Chaos and the Eldar, Ork and Squat Warlords (1992), which featured the Orks and Squats , Hive War (1995), which featured the Tyranids and White Dwarf Presents Space Marine Battles (1993) which was mostly reprints of Epic-related articles from White Dwarf.
The Space Marine boxed game included three armies; the Space Marines (with their Land Raiders MkI and Rhinos), Orks (with their Battlewagons), and Eldar (with their Falcon Grav-Tanks). The Marines were depicted the same as their Warhammer 40,000 Second Edition counterparts. There was also the plastic Imperial Warlord Titan MkI (nicknamed the "Beetle" due to its curves, while later Warlord Titans have an more angular design) with interchangeable weapons. The Games Workshop studio army was the Blood Angels Space Marines and Eldar from the Alaitoc Craftworld.
Titan Legions was notable for introducing the Imperial Emperor-class Imperator Titan and the Ork Mega-Gargants, all of which were immensely powerful and could constitute small armies in their own right. These 'Mega' class vehicles could only be used in large games and none of the other races had such an equivalent. They were gradually phased out in later additions, though the current 4th edition has optional rules for them. The Imperator and Mega-Gargant are considered collectors' items today (the only other time that Games Workshop released them was as a "reward" in return for getting a yearly subscription to White Dwarf in the November 1997 issue). Besides one Imperator and two Mega-Gargants, the boxed set also contained ten Imperial Knights (these "mini-Titans" are also collectors' items) and twenty Ork Battlewagons.
Epic's 2nd Edition was vastly popular and supported a huge range of miniatures.
A series of sculpts of Eldar Exodites, a Space Marine drop ship and other designs were made around the time of the Titan Legions debut, but were never officially released.
The third edition of Epic was released as Epic 40,000 in 1997.
In contrast to previous editions, this was released as just one set of rules. The game had a very short period of support (six months) from the company before it was withdrawn. Epic 40,000 never enjoyed the popularity of the previous two editions, and after support was reduced many of the miniatures planned for Epic 40,000 were never released.
Though it was a failure for the company, designers Jervis Johnson and Andy Chambers still maintain it was the best set of rules they ever conceived, as it was the game that most rewarded good tactics over luck and special abilities. This was achieved by streamlining the game mechanics and abstracting many of the areas which the previous editions had dealt with in specific detail. The current 4th edition of Epic still retains some of the third edition's streamlined game mechanics.
As noted above, Epic became more streamlined during the third edition, in order to fit entirely within three (relatively thin) A5 rulebooks (the Rulebook, the Armies Book and the Battles Book). Army and Company Cards were eliminated and detachments were picked from largely unrestricted detachment rosters of a very general type (Imperial Guard Infantry, Space Marine Armour and so on, in the case of the Imperial army list). Titans and Super-Heavies (now collectively War Engines) were simplified to the point that their rules were contained entirely within six pages of the new small-format rulebook.
Collectively, this increased the speed of gameplay significantly, which was Games Workshop's stated aim, but it received a mixed reaction, in part because it was considered too abstract and no longer accounted for unique features of certain units.
The boxed set contained the armies of Space Marines (including Rhinos, Land Raiders MkII, and Whirlwinds) and Orks (with their Battlewagons and Stompas). The cover art showed a Blood Angels Space Marine advance pushing away the Orks. Games Workshop's 'studio' army during this period was the Imperial Fists chapter, a departure from previous feature armies which usually depicted the Ultramarines or Blood Angels. Armies for other races included the Imperial Guard, Eldar (studio armies are the Biel-Tan and Iyanden Craftworlds), and Tyranids.
Spin-offs from this edition included the Epic Firepower magazine, an A5 magazine started in 1998 which ran for 8 issues (the first of which was reprints from Citadel Journal and White Dwarf), the Epic 40,000 magazine, an A4 magazine which picked up where Epic Firepower left off for 20 issues, and Final Liberation: Warhammer 40,000 Epic, a turn-based strategy game for the PC in 1997.
An additional rule set called Adeptus Titanicus II (AT-II) came out as a free download on the Fanatic web site, which is now the Specialist Games web site. AT-II put a new twist on the original Adeptus Titanicus game and articles for it were also printed in the various Epic magazines until they were canceled and later became a free webzine on the Specialist Games web site.
NetEpic is an unofficial but popular fan version of the game derived from the 2nd Edition rules, started originally because many players did not like the changes made for the third edition. NetEpic is a collaborative effort, with work being coordinated through the NetEpic website. It includes a broad range of armies based on models from all the other editions, as well as some created especially for NetEpic itself. As of March 2006, the NetEpic rules are currently at version 5.0.
In the context of Epic, Heresy can refer to either a Games Workshop in-house game that was abandoned before the first edition of Epic was created but later used as a basis for the third edition, or to a more "gritty" game mechanics version of Epic which was produced by Peter Ramos, co-ordinator of the NetEpic project (Ramos, 2005).