Warhammer 40k was original released in 1987, the rules where marked by roleplaying games, with deep stories and random army creations. Several supplements where released, which added rules to the game and the different armies, all expanding the game greatly.
The rules and supplements, where cleaned up with the second edition in 1993, where each army got its own codex. The basic rules stayed the same, but the randomness in army creation was removed.
In 1998 the third edition arrived, changing the game forever. The basic rules where changed and streamlined or where supposed to. Lot of the nuances where removed, but the game wasn’t really faster to play than the original, they usually just made less sense, e.g.: loads of firearms couldn’t fire longer than a man could charge, often making a knife stronger than a lasgun.
The fourth edition arrived in 2004, but did not change much in the game, but did make one annoying change for me as a gamer: some codices wasn’t renewed, so the armies began to fall behind or becoming uninteresting.
In 2008 arrived the golden age of vehicles, with the fifth edition. When looking at the armies on the board, the game often looked like a skirmish game with armies consisted of 5-10 tanks and transport vehicles, sure they where loaded with vast armies, but the people usually stayed in their cars. With fifth edition the a lot of space marines codices arrived, leaving some armies codices even further behind.
Sixth edition arrived in the summer of 2012, a book so big its almost impossible to use, but still the rules have gotten more varied, mimicking some elements from the first two editions, like different rules for close combat weapons, the basic rules though are the same as third edition. But its nice to see that shooting is beginning to be of use again. My hope for this edition is that they will renew the old codices fast, but I fear they will rerelease all the imperial armies before even thinking about the other armies.
I started playing in around 1988, with first set of rules, now known as Warhammer 40.000 Rouge Trader.
An edition which remembered by many as a skirmishing game. They rules might have been intended as a skirmish game, but we did fight quite big battles back then, without problems. The armies I field haven’t really grown bigger, they just got a loads of transports thanks to fifth edition.
I never really got used to the rules after the second edition, though I have played the game for all those years. After the third edition I have wandered of to other games, which is quite sad since warhammer 40k was a good game.