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.

Update 2024-05-10: Play on Tabletop are running a few King of the Colosseum tournaments, and have shared their rules online.



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 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.

Goonhammer writes about the history of GorkaMorka, which proves to be far more interesting than you might expect. This is a look back at Games Workshop, and how it grew into the corporate behemoth it is today, through the lens of this one game. It’s a fascinating read.

Mordheim: The Thronetaker Campagin

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on January 09, 2023

Tagged: warhammer wargame minis mordheim thronetaker23 28mm

My Mordheim Warband Uplose

This winter the Sword & Board is running a Mordheim campaign. Mordheim is a beloved skirmish game made by Games Workshop many years ago. Players each control a warband exploring the ruins of the Mordheim, collecting the remnants of the meteor that destroy the city, Wrydstone. The game is famous for its John Blanche art, flavourful setting, and its rich detailed campaign system. As you play Mordheim your warband will grow in power game, end up maimed, likely both. I have wanted to play Mordheim for ages, and this league presents the perfect chance to do so.

To start, I needed a warband. I wanted to reuse as much stuff as I owned as possible, and settled on playing Undead. This gave me the chance to continue painting my minis from the Cursed City board game, and build a few extra people using kits and bits I owned. I ended up painting more minis than I need to start, but I have options depending on the direction the campaign takes my team.

Mordheim Warband

Khaimpo the Wretched finds himself in the employ of the Vampire Lord Volchyakrov, exploring the ruins of Mordheim. He is joined by the mercenaries Vrouwer Koning, Humeurige Van Dame and the coward Peters Van der Peters: the dregs of proper society. Zombies, Dire Rats and degenerate Ghouls round out this decrepit warband.

I’ve played one practice game of Mordheim, which was a lot of fun. The rules are … old school: there are tables, lots of dice rolling, and rules scattered throughout the book. Warcry feels like it’s the stronger game, but people aren’t playing Mordheim for its tight game design. Mordhiem is a narrative game, and its the story of this campaign I’m looking forward to seeing unfold.

Getting ready to play Mordheim has been a lot of fun. I enjoy painting, and having the activity be focused around play makes me enjoy it all the more. It can be easy to lose steam with bigger painting projects. Skirmish games present a nice opportunity to build, paint, and play quickly. They are a great way to get into the hobby.



Review: Song of Blades and Heroes

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on September 20, 2020

Tagged: wargame skirmish minis 28mm sobah

Sobah Skirmish

Played a game of Song of Blades and Heroes today because the D&D Encounters game I was expecting to play wasn’t starting till next week. It was the first war game I’ve played since high school. (And high school was a very long time ago now.) Skirmish games are fun. Tempted to get some miniatures. - Me, 25th October 2012, on G+ (RIP)

Many years ago I would attend D&D Encounters on the same night the Toronto Historical Wargaming Club would host their meet-ups. I would hang out and chat with the club members before and after my D&D games. On one such occasion I ended up playing A Song of Blades and Heroes, which was such a charming game I went out and grabbed the PDF. I never played again, but liked it so much I also bought the book in print a few years later. Fast forward a million years and I am stuck at home with a pretty healthy collection of painted minis. So, I decided to make war bands out of my Warhammer Underworld miniatures and play games: Ram vs. Ram.

A Song of Blades and Heroes by Andrea Sfiligoi is a dead simple skirmish game. You play battles between war bands comprised of about 5-15 miniatures. The game can be played quickly, something I never managed to accomplish playing Kill Team with Evan.

Units have two attributes: Quality and Combat. They may optionally have a few special traits that impact the rules, like “flying” or “savage”. Everything about a character is abstracted into these two attributes and these traits. Even different weapons are undifferentiated. People who like a lot of customization may find it a bit disappointing. I find it refreshing. Making your own units is easy. There is a simple point calculator online so you can make your own units that are balanced against everything in the book and everything else you might make. It’s remarkably easy to make units that feel the way you want them to feel.

The game has an unusual turn structure. On your turn you need to ‘activate’ a model to use it by rolling up to 3 dice. Each roll equal to or greater than the unit’s quality is a success, otherwise it’s a failure. Each success lets you perform an action with the unit: move, fight, etc. If you roll 2 failures you don’t get to activate any additional models and play flips to your opponent. You can obviously play it safe and only roll 1 dice, but you won’t accomplish much. It’s satisfying rolling 3 dice and getting those 3 successes; surprising when you roll snake eyes with your high quality unit.

This is (basically) all there is to the game: that simplicity!

Andrea has built many games on top of this chasis. There is a slightly more advanced version of a Song of Blades and Heroes, with a name you can likely guess, and then a million variations with names you likely can’t. His catalogue of games is all over the place. He’s an impressive and prolific game designer.

I love this game and I can’t recommend it enough, but I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a small amount of time moaning about the books frumpy layout and information design: it’s frumpy. I feel like a good editor and graphic design person could turn this book into something superlative. As it stands, it gets the job done.

Anyway, I am reviewing the game not the book. The game is fucking great. If you are interested in miniature war games this is the one to grab.


Review: Warcry

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 26, 2020

Tagged: warhammer wargame warcry minis 28mm

Warcry 40k

In 2019 a lot of people were expecting (hoping?) Games Workshop would release a skirmish game in the vein of Mordheim, to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Instead, Games Workshop announced Warcry, and I don’t think people were too upset because it was looking pretty hot. Warcry feels like a throw back to the old Realms of Chaos books: it’s a game about Chaos cultists killing each other. Warcry will look familiar to people who have been paying attention to what Games Workshop has been doing recently, but I think this might be their best game yet. (Maybe that’s a low bar, because a lot of their games aren’t actually very good? Ha!)

Becca Scott can teach you how to play in 9 minutes. You can go and watch that video now, I can wait.

Warcry feels like it strips away everything I find aggravating about traditional Warhammer games. So, if you also dislike the things I find annoying about Warhammer 40K or Kill Team this might be the game for you! Let’s dig in.

Warcry is a skirmish game. This means its model count is low. Fantastic. The number of units each faction can field is also quite small. Each unit is described by a card, and that is the end of that story. There are no data sheets with a bunch of options and upgrades and all that nonsense. A unit has some stats and one or two weapons. This makes list building pretty simple. You might have 6-10 different units available, and you would mix and match to units to end up with 3-15 models, with one leader, all costing under 1000 points.

The starter set comes with 4 decks of cards that are meant to help you kick off a game. For those of you who have used the Open War cards for Warhammer 40K, it’s very much in the same vein. A terrain card tells you how to set up the board, a deployment card tells you how to deploy troops, a victory card tells you how you will win the game, and a twist card adds a special rule to the battle. Deployment in Warcry is a bit unusual. Each deployment card has 3 symbols: a Dagger, Shield, and Hammer. You must split your models up into three groups that correspond to these symbols. You might have games where you and your opponent’s Dagger units start the game right next to each other. In other games you might be on the opposite sides of the board. Some deployment cards will indicate you deploy your troops in subsequent rounds. Your Hammer may show up in the 3rd round, turning the tide of the battle. This makes for interesting and unique games.1

The game play itself is also simpler. You move your movement score in inches, any which way you like. If you want to climb a wall go nuts. If you want to jump a gap, just jump. The game feels very dynamic. Attacking is also much more straightforward. You roll a number of d6s depending on your weapon, try to beat a target score based on your weapon’s strength and the target’s toughness (which should be familiar to any warhammer player), and finally if you score hits you do a fixed amount of damage. (If you scored a 6 that’s roll is a critical hit and do more damage.) That’s the end of that story. There is no rolling to wound, no rolling for armour saves, etc, etc. They’ve basically moved all of that dice rolling into the damage and hit point scores of the various units.

Perhaps the last notable thing about Warcry is its abilities system. You start a round by rolling 6 dice for initiative. You set aside doubles, tripples and quads. The number of singles you have is your initiative, the higher number goes first. The other dice you’ve set aside can be used during the round to use special abilities each faction posesses. These are listed on a small card. There aren’t pages and pages of strategems to worry about. Some abilities can only be used by particular units. Maybe that’s the most complicated thing about them. Abilities help differentiate the various armies, and introduce some more twists into the game, without adding a lot of complexity.

I haven’t gotten to play Warcry much: just one game with Patrick while I was in the UK. One day, when this pandemic is over, I hope to play it again. Maybe run its weird-ass campaign strucuture—a topic for another blog post.

  1. For those of you who care about ‘balance’, there are a subset of the cards that are meant to create more symmetrical situations. 


Review: Age of Fantasy Skirmish

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 22, 2020

Tagged: warcry opr onepagerules aof ageoffantasyskirmish skrimish 28mm

In these days of social isolation, we must all find ways to pass the time. So, after one week of working from home, late last Friday night, I laid out my Warcry terrain, placed its two war bands on the field, and played a game of Age of Fantasy: Skirmish. One Page Rules has convenient quick play army lists to help you get going with the Warcry armies, and simple AI rules to play solo games. It was Ramanan vs. Ramanan: too close to call.

This is our life now: stay home and save lives.

Age of Fantasy: Aerial View

One Page Rules makes a set of games seemingly designed to give you a (far) simpler alternative ruleset to play wargames using your fancy Warhammer miniatures.1 They have two main games, Age of Fantasy, which could be used as an alternative to Age of Sigmar, and Grimdark Future, an alternative to Warhammer 40,000. There are two matching skirmish games, and for those of you who miss Warhammer Fantasy Battle they also have one page rules for that style of game. Impressive!

Compared to the other games Games Workshop puts out Warcry is a pretty simple game, but Age of Fantasy Skirmish manages to be even simpler. Units are defined by: two stats (quality and defence), the weapons they may have, and in some cases a few special abilities. Weapon profiles themselves are also quite simple: a weapon tells you how many dice to roll when attacking, and if the has any special attributes—there aren’t that many to worry about. Here’s an example of the leader of one of my warbands:

Golem Dominator: Quality 3+ / Defence 3+
+ Great Weapon A3, AP2
+ Hero, Tough(3)

This character needs to roll 3 or higher to both attack and defend. His Great Weapon rolls 3 dice to attack (A3). You score a hit by beating your quality score on a d6. This is a quality test. You defend hits by rolling a d6 for each hit and trying to beat your defense score. In this case defenders will have a penalty of 2 when rolling for defense because of the weapon’s Armour Peircing score of 2 (AP2). This unit is a hero, so regular units within 12” of this model can use its quality score when rolling for morale. Tough(3) means he can take 3 wounds before he needs to start rolling to see if he’s taken out of action.

The game uses alternating activation: each player alternates activating a single unit. Units can move, shoot, or charge into melee on their turn. When your army is at half size you roll for morale. There honestly isn’t much more to the game than this. The extra abilities help differentiate units and keep things interesting.

The various One Page Rules games all play fairly similarly, so if you learn one you’ll probably have learned them all. The rules fit on a sheet of paper, you can just read them and see if they sound interesting.

Age of Fantasy: Minis Fighting

The following day I set up the game again and played two games against my daughter. I was helping her with the rules, but for the most part she picked things up quickly and by the end understood the important bits and bobs of the game. I think something like Warcry or honest-to-god Age of Sigmar would be a bridge too far for her.

I plan to give Grimdark Future a go next. Will report back with how that goes.

Age of Fantasy: Mythilli vs. Me

  1. Or, paper miniatures, stuff you bought in one of those Reaper Bones Kickstarters, stuff from a CMOM boardgame, whatever!