A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

Smaller Games of 40K

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 20, 2024

Tagged: 40k combatpatrol warhammer youtube 28mm


I’m enjoying the latest iteration of Warhammer 40,000. With the release of its 10th Edition, the designers created a smaller scale game mode they dubbed Combat Patrol. The armies you play are all built from the models in the start collecting boxes they sell. There is no list building. The units (sometimes) have simpler rules than the corresponding unit in the full game. Most armies only have 5 or so units in their list. This all comes together to produce a game that is simple to play. I’ve played many games of Combat Patrol at this point. If you are trying to learn the game, I can’t recommend this format enough: it’s really well done.

What if you want some variety? Warhammer 40K is a game that’s designed with bigger games in mind, so simply making smaller lists can lead to weird situations. Play on Tabletop, a Canadian Warhammer YouTube Channel, has been running a tournament where they pit 500 point lists against one another. To try and avoid some unfortunate pairings have added a small set of additional restrictions when building lists for these 500 point games:

  1. You must have at least one character.
  2. You cannot include any epic heroes.
  3. The maximum toughness of any unit is 9.
  4. You must have two units with the infantry keyword, excluding characters.

They are playing a tournament, and the additional caveat for their games is the winner keeps playing their list till they are beaten. This feels like another, more organic, approach to balance. Challengers will know what they are facing, and try and build a list with that in mind. They also need to keep in mind their list will be frozen in amber if they win.

I’m a big fan of smaller scale games of 40K. I’m curious what other attempts at playing 40K in sub-1000 point lists might look like.



Mordheim 2024

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 02, 2024

Tagged: warhammer wargame minis mordheim 28mm


Since I last wrote about Mordheim I have played through two 10-game campaigns. The first was with the Undead warband feature in my last post about the game, Volchyakrov’s Wolves. The second campaign was set in Games Workshop’s Lustria setting, their take on Amazon adventures. I played a Pirate warband, the Motley Crew. After playing several games of Mordheim I can now its appeal. Mordheim does narrative war gaming incredible well. It is the model and inspiration for so many games that follow.

Mordheim is meant to be played as a campaign, and those campaigns begin with the creation of a warband. You start with a leader and recruit a few heroes and henchmen to join them. In most cases, your starting crew will feel underpowered. The dregs in my undead warband were incredibly crap out of the gate, as were the cabin boys of my pirates. The expectation of the game is your crew’s power will grow over the course of a campaign. (Though injury and death is a very real threat.) You’ll want as many heroes as you can take, as they can explore Mordheim after each game in search of treasure. You should round out your warband with henchmen only after recruiting a full compliment of heroes. I would prioritize bodies over equipment for your first games. Mordheim is a game that rewards ganging up on your foes.

The rules of the game are old-school: roll to hit, roll to wound, roll to save, roll to determine injury, etc, etc. Like a lot of Games Workshop games, there is often a lot of rolling to accomplish nothing. The saving grace of Mordheim is you are generally rolling 1-2 dice, rather than 10-20. Once you’re familiar with your warband the game will play fairly quickly. The core rules of the game aren’t that long: and there are some good cheat sheets out there. The rules aren’t always as clearly written as one would hope, but in the year 2024 we have 25 years of discussion to help us fill in any gaps.

undead warband

Games are split into a recovery phase, movement phase, a shooting phase, and a hand-to-hand combat phase. You need to set up all your charges and reposition all your models before getting into the nitty gritty of combat. Shooting can be effective, but this feels like a game where your crews are meant to get stuck into one another. Most models have one wound. When they lose that wound, you’ll roll to see if you’ve knocked them down, stunned them, or taken them out of action. You don’t need to roll to hit a knocked down model, and if you attack a stunned model it’s automatically taken out of action. Ganging up is the name of the game. My (pretty useless) zombies ended up being surprisingly effective in that first campaign. My pirate crew consisted of a lot of mediocre men, but would often get the kill through teamwork. Most games will end with a warband routing. When you lose 25% of your team you’ll need to make rout tests, rolling under your leader’s leadership skill. You can also choose to voluntarily concede at this point. You want to avoid making injury rolls, so taking the loss may still put you ahead in the grand scheme of a campaign.

After a game you run through a post-game sequence, the beating heart of Mordheim. To start, you will check if downed models are dead, injured, or totally fine. There is a lot of flavour in the injury tables for heroes. Your out of action model might end up in a pit fight, sold to slavers, or other such nonsense. My vampire lost an inch of movement and can’t run because of leg injuries. Your models will gain experience, and in turn gain levels. The initially useless cabin boys in my pirate warband were quite effective by the end of the game. Your heroes can explore Mordheim, rolling on big tables to figure out if they discover anything exciting beyond the Wyrdstone that’s central to the game. Finally you will use the income you’ve earned to buy new equipment for your crew, recruit more models, and get ready for your next game.

The mechanics and gameplay are a small part of what makes the game really compelling. John Blanche did all the art. The various warbands are all very flavourful. This is a seriously vibes-forward game. The game lends itself to maximum creativity. There are lots of beautiful warbands and fan art out there if you go looking.

I am just about to start another campaign at the Sword and Board. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one plays, now that I’m a lot more comfortable with the game. Mordheim is an incredible game. The 25th Anniversary of the games release is happening this year. There is no better time to give the game a try if you haven’t played before, or jump back in for old times

pirate warband


I am a man with too many hobbies and interests, but James’s lovely ode to OD&D has me thinking about the game once again. Some of the longest campaigns I’ve ran and played in have been OD&D games: impressive for a game that came out 6 years before I was born. The 50th anniversary of D&D is this year. I suspect we’ll see a lot of writing about the game over the coming months. For example, here is a great post from Gus that looks at the history and design of the earliest D&D dungeons: The Underground Maze or Primordial Stack. Something worth revisiting this year is Philotomy’s Musings by the enigmatic Jason Cone. A lot of the modern thinking about OD&D feels like it comes directly from his writing about the game. I plan to re-read the OD&D booklets: it’s been a while.

Last year Prismatic Wasteland ran a cool little tournament of sorts called the Bloggies, where he picked an initial pool of really cool blog posts, and then had people vote to crown the best blog post of the year. Zedeck won last year, and so was tasked to continue the tradition into 2023. And so the Bloggies 2023 have begun. The first round of voting is taking place now, with a set of 16 posts on RPG theory.

I love this: nicer warband and campaign sheets for The Doomed, aka Grimlite from traaa.sh. If you haven’t seen traaa.sh before, it’s such a well designed blog. They always post useful stuff. So this is really par for the course. Evan and I have been playing The Doomed recently, continuing our epic multi-system neverending Warhammer 40,000 campaign. I’ll have to write about those games soon. I have been tracking everything in Google Sheets. Looking at these sheets gives me ideas for how to tweak my digital set up, though I like the idea of writing things out on paper. That feels more legit.

I haven’t played Magic: The Gathering seriously since High School, though I stil have many of my cards and decks from the 90s. (Sadly most everything I have are the sorts of cards that no one cares about, nevermind my cards are hardly pristine.) Reading Jay Dragon talk about a diffferent format for playing the game, what he’s dubbed the Magpie Cube, was really facinating. I was only vaguely aware of the cube format of organizing games, which Jay sums up before expanding upon in ways game design nerds will surely enjoy. Briefly, you and your friends play magic games drafting cards from a very small fixed pool of cards. If you’re already playing Magic and want to make it feel more fresh, this seems like a great approach. This format also feels like it strips away the whole pay-to-play aspect of the game. Every so often I’ll see something about Magic and feel this energy trying to pull me back in. Thus far I’ve always resisted: not today, satan!

Mythic Bastionland Art

The Mythic Bastionland Kickstarter is wrapping up today. For those unfamiliar this is the Arthurian take on Chris’s games Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland. I’ve been excited about this game since he first started talking about it, as it ties into my interests in this genre. (You may recall my aborted attempt to create a vaguely Arthurian / Dark Souls setting many months ago now: The Misericorde.) Chris is working with Alec Sorensen, and the art they have shared so far looks really incredible. My friend Alex was running the playtest version of this game when it was first announced, and we had a fun time questing around the hexcrawl he created. The game works well, and I assume knowing Chris it’s only been tightened up and improved upon since first announced. He’s one of my favourite game designers. This will be great.

Speak False Machine Illustration

Patrick turned his blog into a giant bible sized book: Speak, False Machine. I have the more modest PDF, which I have been reading on my iPad here and there. When Patrick told me he wanted to make this book I thought him a bit mad: “who wants an absolutely beastly book of blog posts?” I thought. The scope of this thing is kind of incredible. Reading it now, though, I can see the appeal of this format: it’s a much nicer way to read his writing. There is some slight rearangement of texts to form more of a cohesive narrative of sorts through his posts. I had forgotten some of his earlier posts, like his gaming with “the teenagers”. The new art work he commissioned for the book is great! There is no reason not to grab the PDF, and if you love False Machine the big book looks amazing.

Now that Speak, False Machine is shipping, he has moved on to getting his Wodlands setting turned into a proper book. Once again he’s found a great artist to work with. This project is looking great, and so obviously good I don’t really understand why it isn’t more wildly successful. (Well, probably because Patrick refuses or fails to do all the things people do when running Kickstarters, I suppose.) The original Wodlands posts are on his blog, for those who want to read them before throwing your money at the computer screen. I am looking forward to this book a lot.

Michael, of Trilemma fame, has started running a zombie survival game set on the Isle of Wight. The game takes place at the end of the cold war turned hot. The players are all crew of the cargo ship BF Fortaleza. I managed to join in for one session, and hope to make some more in the future. I love Zombie World, as you all ay now, but the system Michael cobbled together for his game worked really well. I think it illustrates neatly how you can really jam a bunch of ideas together and make something compelling enough. (I hadn’t encountered the encounter move from The Regiment before, and it seems like something everyone should steal for their games.)

Eric’s Hobby Workshop takes a look at one of Game Workshop’s craziest games, Inquisitor! The video is a great overview of the game if you aren’t familiar with its whole deal. Eric managed to track down a bunch of 54mm models from the range which he’s built, painted, and shown off in the video. It’s been a few months since I last mentioned Inquisitor. I should write about my own experiences with the game. One day.