Games Workshop has painted itself into a corner over the years, as they have made the Space Marines the heroes of their setting. That doesn’t make any sense if the Imperium of Man is meant to be a cautionary tale about facism. It’s hard to beleive this is their intention when most everything they produce undercuts this message, the Black Library novels being the biggest and most obvious culprit here.
“Everything is bad” is an inherently conservative worldview and as such provides endless, consequence-free opportunities for authors to avoid discussing exactly why things are bad in the first place, who is responsible for them being bad, and what can be done about it.
Tim points out that “everything is bad in 40K” is a weak defense of the setting, but I do think it’s a viable way forward if they fully commited. To paraphrase Rick Priestley, Warhammer 40,000 doesn’t need to be serious business. The setting exists so people can pretend to blow each other up with guns and tanks and monsters. They don’t need to dress that up, but they do need to make sure that in ‘not-dressing it up’ they don’t endorse the reprehensible.
Tim ends the essay with a warning about the neo-nazis that will be cheering the new Warhammer TV shows alongside you. This is another area of the essay I don’t think quite lands: there is no controlling other people’s interests. Even if Games Workshop does an amazing job cleaning up its house, Warhammer is still a fun hobby. It’ll attract all sorts of people. Obviously no one wants to support a company that is actively courting a terrible fan base, but if being a part of the OSR has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes really crap people will like the same stuff as you.
Polygon’s review of 10th Edition 40K is a good companion peice to this article, with its focus on Games Workshop’s shift to removing people the credits of their games and videos, making them feel inhuman and corporate. ↩
I have Warhammer 40,000 miniatures, so I’m going to play a Warhammer 40,000 game.
Necrons awaken to find their tomb ship amalgamated into a Space Hulk, now adrift in the warp. The Sons of Horus have been fighting aboard this ship for weeks, months, years and millennia, all at the same time. The two groups are jockeying for control of a safe haven within the hulk.
I set up a spaceship board with a room in the centre. I had objectives in each corner and one in the middle. The game would end when one side controlled the central objective and two other objectives for two turns in a row, or one side was wiped out.
I needed a few additional house rules for this scenario to work:
Opening or closing a hatch door costs one Order Dice. If the OV of the Order Dice is 4+ you can also move 3” before or after opening or closing the hatch.
Claiming an objective costs one Order Dice. Objectives remain under a warband’s controls until claimed by the other warband.
Here are some highlights from the game:
On the first turn I rolled that no additional Terminators would fill up the 2-man Terminator squad, while one of the Tactical Marines squad had all its units arrive as reinforcements.
On the Necrons turn I rolled a 1 again for reinforcements: the Overlord would be alone the entire game.
On one side of the board a Sergeant and his Tactical Marines were in a firefight with a Royal Warden and their Necron Warriors. The game is quite deadly: if someone shoots at you it’s hard to avoid losing a unit. With reaction dice letting you fire overwatch as a unit moves out to shoot at you, there was a lot of picking off each sides squads. In the end, over a couple turns, the marines came out on top.
In the middle of the board, the Prateor and Terminator were up against a Necron Overlord. The Overlord used a reaction dice to take out the Terminator moving up to try and engage him. The Royal Warden moved up and opened a hatch, shooting and killing the Praetor. He was then killed by the Tactical Squad.
The marines had the central objective and the two on their side of the board. There was on another squad of Necrons, untouched this battle, but they couldn’t get into the fray fast enough. The Space Marines won the game.
The active player has 4 order dice they can spend to perform actions with a squad, the other player gets 2 they can use to react to the active players moves. I would usually focus most of my orders on a single unit, as you can’t move that far if you’re only moving d6 inches. You also need to manage the negative status effects you collect as you move and shoot, which also takes an order. In practice the game felt like it was using alternating activations. The pace and flow of the game is quick. The action moves between the players at a real clip.
It’s very easy to kill units: perhaps too easy. I probably need a board with more cover. Though, perhaps all the death better simulates the closer quarter combat of my Kill Team Space Hulk board.
This is a very early draft of the game. I am curious where it will end up. I’m not even sure Chris will pick this game up again any time soon, he has so many other games on the go. Till then, we have a fun skeleton of a game to play.
I had shipped several books to my brother in UK, one of those was Gangs of Titan City. I don’t think it’s unfair to say this is a Necromunda RPG with all the serial numbers filed off. The RPG is what I’d describe as OSR, but you can see the influence of games like Apocalypse World and Blades in the Dark. The game has a clear structure to play, starting with an escalation phase where you figure out what’s going on and prepare for your operation, an operation phase where you’ll play out the action of your chose mission, and finally a fallout phase where you see how your actions have changed the larger world, tally XP, etc. There its lots of support in the book itself to help you start your campaign and keep it going. The mechanics of the game are quite simple, familiar to people who have played any PbtA game: you roll 2d6 and add an attribute modifier to see if you succeed. There are no predefined moves, you’ll pick the modifier you use based on the action you’re trying to accomplish. The game looks interesting. I’d be keen to try and work in using minis as part of play.
I was in England over the last couple weeks to visit my brother. As has become somewhat of a tradition, I met up with Patrick at Warhammer World in Notthingham. This time we were also joined by Chris. He drove down from Manchester, so was able to cart us off to Bryan Ansell’s retirement project, The Foundry. Ansell turned part of his home (I think) into this storefront and museum for OldHammer style miniatures. I picked up some pirates I may try and use in the next Mordheim league. The minuatures they had on display were really quite amazing. The store is small, but very dense. There are so many metal minis, it’s kind of overwhelming.
We also did the tour of Warhammer World exhibition space. There are lots of dioramas on display that are really quite incredible. It’s well worth checking out if you’re in the UK and love Warhammer. I hadn’t been since 2017, and there were lots of new minis and dioramas for me to enjoy, and even the old ones continue to impress.
They announced the latest edition of Warhammer 40,000 last night at AdeptiCon. I never even managed to play a game of 9th edition, the pace of their releases feels a bit ridiculous. I had told friends I was going to ignore whatever comes next in protest. Except, in a real plot twist, everything they’ve announced sounds weirdly amazing. The rules are going to be free. The army rules, normally sold as (expensive) Codex books are also going to be free. The rules are going to be simplified. (No more lists and lists of strategems!) I am curious if they can pull this all off—and fight the urge to sell you 50 new strategems in a few months.
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.
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.
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.
I was visiting my local game store and saw an art book featuring the work of Ana Polanšćak, the woman behind the incredible blog Gardens of Hecate. As part of the Inq28 scene, Ana produces some really unique and moody miniatures and war gaming ephemera. The art book chronicles her journey through the hobby, and is a real deep dive into her whole process when it comes to producing her work. A lot of the book is about how she thinks about world building, and is likely of interest to RPG nerds. There is a lot of overlap between narrative war gaming and RPGs, and Gardens of Hecate is the perfect example of that.
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!)
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.
For those of you who care about ‘balance’, there are a subset of the cards that are meant to create more symmetrical situations. ↩
Evan and I finished our initial Kill Team campaign. His Anthrodact Vat Guard came out ahead against the invading Skitarii Dravidian. I would say things weren’t even close! It was a fun experience, and perhaps a good example of where both of us are at when it comes to war games: disorganized, laid back, and narratively focused.
We played 6 games in total. We decided to end on 6 because our pace of gaming was so slow we needed to call it at some point so we could try something else. In hindsight we likely should have settled on a different structure for our campaign, one with a fixed number of games. If we knew we would only play 6 games, we could have thought through what those 6 games should be. We had a grander and more open ended outline for a campaign structure, which worked well when we remembered the rules we added to Kill Team, but was maybe a bit too ambitious for us. Our games were a mix of pulling stuff from the core rule book and tweaking things a little, or coming up with brand new scenarios specific to our campaign. Our original goal was to be completely bespoke with our scenarios, but we were often figuring things out at the last minute before meeting up. We had good intentions.
The enjoyment of a campaign comes from the small moments that slowly give your minis some character. Some characters were prone to early deaths, constantly missing, etc. My leader, Onthu-Prime turned things around in one of our middle games, becoming a real killing machine. He felt more powerful from then on. In contrast to Onthu-Prime we have Nils 02 of House Shen, the man with a Meltagun. Every game he would die before hitting anyone with it. Finally in the very last game he survived long enough to kill Onthu-Prime! Evan and I both had snipers that would inevitbly end up in these sniper vs sniper shootouts. They would regularly take the other out of action each game.
For the curious, the notes and rules for our entire campaign are available online: The War of the Intolerable Question. They are very rough. One day we will clean them up, i’m sure.
Kill Team was fun, but maybe not quite what Evan and I were looking for? At first blush with its lower model count it felt simpler than Warhammer 40K, but I am not sure this is true. With specialisms and stratagems and other army specific rules the game can get a bit complicated. We would almost always forget the rules for morale. I would regularly forget most of the things the units in my army could do. There are so many rounds of dice rolling when it comes to wounding models. (Warcry simplifies this immensely by giving units bigger wounds totals to differentiate who should survive longer or not.) Once a model had a flesh wouund we’d forget what that impacts or doesn’t. The list goes one. On the other hand, it’s far more rational and straightforward than Necromunda. In that way it’s likely a good middle ground between a game that’s too minimalist, and one that’s overly rules heavy and complicated.
There are a few other games I’ve discovered since we started playing Kill Team that I’m interested in playing.
Starbreach is a miniatures agnostic ruleset, available for free, that has an interesting activation scheme. (I believe it’s borrowed from Bolt Action, which might also be the proginator of Troika’s initiative system as well.)
Using Frostgrave to run a game of Inquisitor seems doable.
Evan and I have been talking about getting back to regular Warhammer 40,000 this year, perhaps slowly building up larger armies than we have played with in the past. I’ve started painting some Sisters of Battle, to expand my hodgepodge of Imperial troops. Who knows what the year will bring.
That was a proper game of 40K, but many of the games Evan and I have played have been with model counts far closer to skirmish games. I was excited when Games Workshop first announced Kill Team, official skirmish rules for 40K. The game sounded like exactly the sort of thing I was looking for: a bigger focus on narrative gaming with rules that are straightforward and modern.
I picked up the Kill Team boxed set a few days after it launched. My original plan was to get the rule book, but I am a sucker for these boxed sets. The game comes with a lot of terrain and sprues for two kitbash friendly units I have been interested in: Genestealer Cult Neophyte Hybrids and Skitarii Rangers/Vanguard. I have wanted that cultist box for a while. It seems like the base for a lot of interesting modelling projects.
We played one game of Kill Team to test out the rules, playing a simple mission that continued on from the 40K mission mentioned earlier. I made a small Space Marine list from the miniatures I had on hand for our first game and made up a mission that picked up where our last 40K game left off. The mission tweaked the ambush mission from the core Kill Team rule book.
After that game there was a big gap in our gaming. I started building a new Kill Team mixing the sprue that came in the boxed set together, dubbing the models the Skitarii Dravidian. (The Skitarii Rangers in the squad are all named after Tamil numerals.) Evan started work building new Imperial Guardsmen out of some sprues our friend Gus sent him some time ago. These two forces served as the inspiration for a narrative campaign we are trying to get going: The War of the Intolerable Question
Like a glittering toxic icicle, Shentech’s manufactorum needle hangs above the infamous hive world of Necromunda, just outside the jurisdiction of Lord Helmawr. No one goes there, and no one leaves–but the manufactorum isn’t idle.
Once a year, a single, battered, yellow canister grav-chutes to a disused landing pad in the spires of Hive Primus. Marked with the Shentech seal, the canister is claimed as salvage, assayed by Helmawr’s inspectors as pharmaceutical compounds, then sold to the waiting Shen agent for a tidy profit. What happens then, precisely how this compound is employed, is a secret of the Navigator House. Or it was until recently, when a report from an Astartes Kill Team on Salmagundi showed the same Shentech canisters present on the planet of the Blbliarchs. The compound was being used somehow in their hypno-savant training.
It was yet another link between Salmagundi and their recidivist employers, the Navigators of House Shen. For the Custodes, the revelation of the compound offered a tantalizing opportunity to smash one of House Shen’s few verifiable assets–and destroy or damage the capacities of their legal team in the process.
The Custodes mobilized one of their many assets on Necromunda: a zealous and crudely innovative local church of the God-Machine. Well-equipped and motivated to learn the secrets of the Needle and stamp out any techno-heresy they might find there, the ops team was shuttled to orbit for the assault.
Debris and dust filling the landing bays showed the station had been inviolate for centuries. Beyond the airlock were dignitaries of the Needle’s degenerate laborii tribes, long-limbed and twisted parodies of their dutiful, hive-dwelling counterparts, planetside. The language was barely comprehensible but the invaders knew instantly that their smash-and-grab mission was going to be more challenging than they’d thought: the laborii were many; and might cling impudently to life. What was worse–the station possessed its own dedicated security detail–somewhere deep in the needle, a force of vat-spawned guardians were rising from their dormant state. The worshippers of the machine god made camp as the sour notes of an ancient klaxon wailed.
There are two forces in play to start, Evan’s vat grown soldiers tasked with defending the manufactorum and my rag-tag Skitarii elimination clade who have invaded. Perhaps in later games we will introduce other units or factions—if we build anything interesting or someone else ends up joining our games. We know there is one weird faction on the station itself to start, the Labourii. Evan came up with 6 regions in the station, and I helped expand them all so they each had 2 areas you can interact with if you win the mission. These provide some additional hooks for the game. We also press-ganged our online friends into helping us come up with a d66 table of events to have happen after each mission.
We have played 2 missions so far, a little bit hodgepodge as we settle into the game and try and figure out how to best run a campaign. It’s been fun to build and paint something with a concrete goal and purpose in mind. I’m thinking about other models that would fit in with the theme of this campaign to build as well.
Kill Team is a fun system. It’s quite simple: if you are familiar with 8th Edition Warhammer 40K you’ll understand most of what’s going on. The turn structure mirrors 40K, but besides the movement phase, all other actions are done in an “I go, you go” fashion. List building is much simpler, as the set of models available for you to use is so small. The game seems like a good introduction to Warhammer 40K, which I assume is quite purposeful on Games Workshop’s part.
I have been digging into Necromunda to get ideas for our campaign. Necromunda offers up a slightly more complex skirmish ruleset, but one that I think suffers from its mix of old and new style rules. With Kill Team there is no arguing about whether a unit is hit by an explosion’s template or not, for example. Necromunda’s advantage is a much richer campaign system, more interesting lists of weapons for your units, more complex rules for injuries and experience, etc.
I’m hopeful Evan and I can get something interesting going with this Kill Team game. Let’s see.
I picked up Kill Team Commanders over the weekend, despite my better judgement. It’s a small boxed set (a rule books, some cards, and some tokens) that add rules for fielding stronger “commander” units in your games of Kill Team. If you’re on the fence about this expansion, here are my quick thoughts:
It’s 100% not worth whatever they are charging for it where you live. It’s probably a smarter move to pay the extra $50 and get the Rogue Trader boxed set that comes with all those crazy minis—but doesn’t have all these new rules.
No matter, because there are hardly any new rules of note: the rule book is basically a codex of commander units for all the original Kill Team factions. You can probably imagine what rules for fielding a command might look like, and they’d be close to what Games Workshop has published in this expansion.
So, if you are bored of regular Kill Team and want some new units to muck around with, there are a bunch of them fleshed out for you.
There is a lot of recycled artwork. Perhaps all of it?
Commanders can pick up new specialisms unique to them, which are flavourful. If you give no fucks about balance you can use them in your narrative campaign with your random fancy kit bashed miniatures.
There are 12 new missions, which I am always a fan of. (Though, they are mostly commander friendly variants of the missions in the original book.)
It comes in a surprisingly nice box. I assume this is what you are paying for. The box fits the new rule book along with the original one.
If you’re wondering why I reviewed this expansion before reviewing Kill Team proper, i’m wondering the same thing. I love Kill Team and have too much to say about it, I suppose. Now that’s a boxed set worth buying.
I have a few miniatures from Kingdom Death that might work in this sort of setting. I could likely make a neat Dark Souls inspired knightly retinue. The game has a really lovely implied setting—which I will now ignore for the rest of this post. I have a ton of Warhammer 40,000 miniatures, and I’d really like to use them with these rules.
Emmy provides a ton of advice in her game about how to make your characters. For each stat she outlines what reasonable numbers should be. She provides various examples for different types of characters so you can get a sense of what a scholar knight or a monk or an acrobat might be. Using a model’s stats from 40K as a guide it shouldn’t be too difficult to use the rules of The Dolorous Stroke to play games set in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future.
In 40K we have the following stats for a character: Movement, Weapon Skill, Ballistics Skill, Strength, Toughness, Attacks, Wounds, Saves, Leadership. We can use these as a guide to creating characters for The Dolorous Stroke, whose attributes are: Speed, Accuracy, Prowess, Strength, Toughness, Wits, and Education.
Movement maps to Speed and we can more or less use the value as written. 6” movement in 40K is quite common, but in Emmy’s game it seems like 5” is closer to the norm. You should probably subtract 1” from most 40K characters Movement attribute to get your new Speed score. (Note that this may make some characters—like Plague Marines—particularly slow.)
Ballistics Skill maps to Accuracy and Weapons Skill to Prowess. In Warhammer you roll over your skills on a d6. A Ballistics Skill of 3+ (like that of a Space Marine) would be equivalent, more or less, to an Accuracy of 6. Here we use Emmy’s advice that you are usually trying to roll low on a d8. The way you roll with your Prowess stat in combat differs from how your Weapons Skill is used in 40K, but I think it’s reasonable to map scores the same way.
Strength and Toughness serve the same purpose in both 40K and The Dolorous Stroke, though the way the numbers are used differ. Emmy suggests you use the value of 4 or 5 for a typical human. In 40K most human characters have a Strength and Toughness of 3. Space Marines have a toughness of 4. Plague Marines a toughness of 5. Numbers of 6 or higher are usually reserved for giant robots, tanks, dreadnoughts, etc. I think I would map things as follows:
Characters that have multiple attacks in 40k (an Attacks score greater than 1) should be given combat abilities in The Dolorous Stroke that highlight the fact they are proficient fighters. Characters with high Leadership scores may also deserve some skills to highlight that—like the aptly named Leadership skill for example.
A characters Saves attribute in 40K is usually an indication of how good their armour is, or some hint at their natural resilience. Space Marines generally have a score of 3+, with Terminator Armoured characters or heroes being given 2+ saves. The lighter armour of a Guardsmen is usually a 5+ save. These numbers can be used as a guide when deciding the bonuses of the armour in The Dolorous Stroke. I would treat a Guardsmen as having +1 armour (Light Armour) while a Space Marine would be +3 (Heavy Armour and a Helment).
The last two attributes in The Dolorous Stroke, Wit and Education, don’t map to anything in 40K. You should likely use your judgement here, based on how you imagine your particular character.
All characters in The Dolorous Stroke can take at most 7 hits before they die (as you lose 2 Blood cards per hit). You will likely die sooner because of injuries or other circumstances. To represent characters who have more wounds in 40K, you may want to give them skills that limit the ways they lose blood or take injuries.
I would treat Psyker’s in 40K as Magic-Users in The Dolorous Stroke. You can re-skin existing spells or make up new ones as required. In 40K a Psyker risks danger when they manifest powers from the Warp. I would tweak spell casting in Dolorous Strike so that drawing an Ace or a King results in possible peril from the warp. The most straight forward thing to do is have the Psyker lose some number of Blood cards. If the Psyker dies you should have the units around them affected by the turmoil of the Warp. Maybe they explode. Maybe a demon erupts from their body.
I would simply re-skin existing weapons in The Dolorous Stroke for your 40K characters, using their existing Weapon Profiles from 40K as a guide. You can represent weapons that do more damage in 40K by having them result in the loss of more Blood cards. The Dolorous Stroke is straightforward enough that coming up with bespoke weapons should be easy enough.
I haven’t actually tried using any of these suggestions in a game. I haven’t even played The Dolorous Stroke yet! At first glance it looks to be a very cool game, and I suspect a lot of people will be talking about it sooner rather than later. I’ll report back if these ideas work out or not. (Or, maybe you can tell me if they worked for you.)
I bought the new edition of Necromunda, Game Workshops miniatures skirmish game about gangs in the 41st millennium. How did I even get here?
I don’t imagine anyone else I know buying any of this stuffs, so I might just treat this starter set like a (god damn expensive) board game and leave it at that. I think there are enough people in Toronto I can scam into playing with me. (Evan being the most obvious.) When I asked my wife if she’d play Warhammer 40K if I bought the boxed set she said “no”, but the way she said it was, “no—you fucking idiot of course I won’t play it.” My cousin lives down the road and is a gamer nerd. Will report back on just how dumb a purchase this was in a few months.
These were my thoughts after opening the box to Warhammer 40,000: Dark Imperium, the new boxed set for the Warhammer 40K game. This was a year ago, give or take. It was a gift to myself for having to deal with a crazy client upgrade at work. I don’t really remember why I was so fixated on this particular boxed set. I had seen it the week before, and in a moment of stress went off to buy my own copy.
I don’t imagine anyone else I know buying any of this stuffs …
I was wrong. Warhammer is like smoking. You never really quit.
Evan helped me get started with painting, and then quickly fell back into the game. He still had a Tau army, which we played our first game of this new edition with. He then sold it off for store credit at the shop so he could start a new Adeptus Mechanicus & Imperial Guard army. (His units are all kit bashed and crazy—really quite amazing.) We would meet to play games of 40K every few months, depending on our schedules.
What’s funny is that people who don’t live near me also got sucked back into Warhammer, likely due to my incessant posting in my secret Warhammer 40K G+ thread. I chat with Patrick (from False Machine) often about Warhammer 40K, and in the time we started talking he went from sitting on the side lines to buying and painting up a cool Rainbow Warriors Space Marine army. I’m not sure if I should feel good or bad about that. A few other G+ gamers will chime in to talk about Warhammer. 8th Edition looks to have helped get a lot of people back into the game.
… I might just treat this starter set like an (god damn expensive) board game and leave it at that …
I was wrong. Warhammer is a giant money hole.
Between Dark Imperium and Necromunda there has been a lot of minis. I ended up enjoying the building and painting part of the hobby much more than I thought I would. So, I quickly started spending money so I would have more things to paint. (And eventually started spending money when I had things half painted. Like some sort of idiot.)
… Will report back on just how dumb a purchase this was in a few months.
I mean, Warhammer is expensive, so in that regards it was stupid to decide to get into the hobby. On the other hand, I do build and paint and play with the miniatures. Warhammer more or less supplanted much of the gaming I did in 2017 and thus far in 2018. It has become my nerdy hobby of note. I have come to love Warhammer a lot. So, a year later I’m going to say this wasn’t a dumb purchase.
I’ve written up several play reports now of the games Evan and I have played at the Sword and Board, from our modest skirmish sized battles to a big 3-person game with my wife’s friend Devlin. 8th Edition is an excellent version of the game. It’s quite straight forward compared to what I remember playing when I was a kid—though I might just not remember Warhammer Fantasy very well. I have heard complaints the game is too random and not strategic enough, which is likely fair, but I wouldn’t say that’s had much impact on how much fun i’ve had playing. There have been so many fun and funny moments in the games I’ve played so far.
Evan and I managed to get together again after quite some time to continue playing some Warhammer. In a change of pace, he designed the narrative mission we would play ahead of time. In the past, I’ve tried to inject a narrative on top of the Open War missions we would randomly generate and play. What he came up with was a lot of fun, and also a lot more narratively interesting.
He tweaked the rules for the Ambush mission described in the core rulebook, adding a lot of narrative flare. Briefly, the Scribeguard (Imperial Guard) had spoke a great heresy against the Emperor of Mankind, and would now have to face the agents of his wrath. The Anti-Heretic Shield Company His Light From Holy Terra (Adeptus Custodes) and the newly awoken Primaris Space Marine Chapter the Blood Marmots were sent to ambush these blasphemers and make sure none would live to speak again. Evan would win outright if he could get half his infantry off the board, and it would be a draw if even one of these blasphemous units managed to escape. The Custodes would win if they could kill all the Scribeguard infantry outright.
My cousin was in charge of playing the Space Marines, so Evan added a twist to the whole battle. Every time the Space Marines fought the infantry of the Scribeguard, they ran the risk of being turned to their side. As Evan descirbed it, “Every time any Blood Marmot unit participates in a fight phase with a Scribeguard unit, roll a dice for each Blood Marmot unit at the end of the phase to test the the Marines’ loyalty. On 5+ their Blood Marmots hear all the proof they need that the Emperor is perhaps actually maybe dead and they turn against the Custodes.”
Evan’s Army had grown since we last played. He now had two tanks and a whack of newly painted and kitbashed models. My army was as follows:
4-Man Custodian Guard Squad
Captain in Gravis Armour
5-Man Intercessor Squad
5-Man Hellblaster Squad
Captain Styx of the Blood Marmots gave the order that began the attack. Missiles pummelled the ground from an orbital strike. The sounds of bolter fire filled the air. The Hellblaster squad to his right let loose arcs of molten plasma from their weapons. The tank they hit answered back, obliterating the unit.
After the first round Jana and I were worried this game was going to be a cake walk for Evan. His tanks made quick work of what we had hoped would be our tank-killing unit, the Hellblasters. Evan’s infantry were quick footed and began their sprint towards the end of the board. We were lucky that the orbital strike Jana called in hit both of Evan’s commanders (though no one else!) which meant he couldn’t give any orders to his units that first turn. My Custodian Guards were a bit out of the way initially, as I wanted them out of the view of the tank. I probably could have been more aggressive with their placement.
The Custodian Guard surged forward, tearing through some helpless Scribeguard infantry on their way to the tank that had moments earlier killed their comrades. Their power weapons quickly turned the weapon to scraps. Their rage would not be satiated till all these traitorous heretics lay dead.
Then it felt like things were flipping. My custodian guard charged forward and managed to kill the infantry Evan had sent forward to block their path. They consolidated towards the tank, and were able to kill it the following round. This continued from round to round. They removed a lot of models from the board. The Captain in Gravis armour also made his way towards the infantry and started cutting them up with his power sword. Evan’s army was crumbling, but he still managed to get a couple models past us: a single infantry, and a commander.
Evan also had one more tank, which managed to kill off two of my Custodian Guard. His Augmented Ogryn Bodyguard killed the last one. And just like that things and turned once more. Jana and I really needed that unit alive to shoot the two models that were fleeing. At the back of the board we still had a lot of heavy hitters: Jana’s Captain in Gravis Armour, my Shield Captain, and my Vesilus Praetor. (These 3 units were a little over half the points of Evan’s entire army!) Unfortunately, those units were all either out of range or didn’t have line of sight to the models fleeing.
The last round was full of funny dice rolls. Jana need a 3 to make a charge and failed by rolling snake eyes. Evan’s sole model in one of his units killed himself while shooting overwatch as part of that very charge. Evan almost lost his unit closest to the board because he rolled a 6 when making a morale check. (He used a command point to re-roll, his last one) This same unit then failed to flee because Evan only rolled a 1 when rolling to advance. He ended up getting a draw by having his commander command himself to “move! move! move!”—this let him take two move actions, and allowed him to clear the board.
This was a really fun game of Warhammer. Perhaps the most fun I’ve had since we’ve started playing.
For these walking demigods failure was an impossibility. Shield Captain Casius reflected on this briefly as he watched a commander of the Scribeguard scurry away. If failure was impossible than this must be the will of their long silent master: he wanted them to burn this heretical house to the ground.
My wife’s friend Devlin has been collecting and painting Warhammer miniatures for ages. So naturally we had to meet up to play a game. I let him know I could field just shy of a 1000 points of Death Guard (by using everything I own), and he made two possible armies to face me out of the models in his collection: one of Imperial Guards, one of Blood Angels. Evan let me know he could meet up as well, bringing as many Imperial Guard units as he had kit-bashed and painted thus far. This worked out neatly: Devlin wanted to play using his Blood Angels, so Evan could pad out his army with the extra units Devlin brought with him to The Sword and Board.
The last game Evan and I played had about 1000 points of units on the table. With this game we were each fielding 1000 point armies, so we had 3000 points of units in play. It was such a huge jump from what we had been doing thus far.
My army consisted of all my Death Guard units:
Causarius, Lord of Contagion (Warlord with the Living Plague Warlord Trait)
Putidus, Malignant Plaguecaster
The Noxious Blightbringer
5x Blightlord Terminators
7x Plague Marines
20x Pox Walkers
This was a full battalion, so I got 3 extra command points—which I mostly forgot to use while playing.
We were a bit confused about how a 3 player game would work. The rulebook doesn’t have much to say about how to set up a game with an odd number of players. We decided we would roll the dice each round (after the first) to decide the turn order. Otherwise we left the game more or less as-is. I picked what I thought would be a fun objective: there is one marker; units can pick the marker up and carry it around the board; they drop the marker if they are destroyed, the winner is the person whose unit is holding the marker at the end of the game. I thought this would encourage a free for all where we would end up attacking each other as we fought over the objective. (It didn’t quite work out that way.)
Devlin went first, fanning his troops out towards Evan and I. Devlin Death Company moved towards me and shot up my Malignant Plaguecaster, who managed to survive through some good luck for me and bad luck for Devlin. He moved a big Redemptor towards Evan’s troops and also rolled surprisingly bad, killing a handful of units. A unit of his Death Company dropped into the battlefield as close as they could get to the objective, which was set up on top of a floating island. The island wasn’t big enough for another unit to do the same thing, so he took control of the objective (more or less) to start.
I started moving my Death Guard towards the warp gate that would take them up to the objective—the trip would take my slow moving troops several rounds. I pulled one group of pox walkers away from the mass, sending them towards Devlin’s approaching Death Company and my Plaguecaster. With no other pyskers on the board my Plaguecaster could use his abilities without being contested. I made quick work of a few of Devilin’s space marines this way.
Evan began his turn by teaching us the true power of tanks. The punisher canon on one of the Lemun Russ’s decimated a Death Company unit advancing towards him. A posse of guard with anti-tank guns then proceeded to make short work of the Redemptor, leaving it heavily damaged with two wounds.
Devlin was worried he’d be tabled before he got to deep strike more units onto the board, but luckily rolled high and got to go first when we began our second round. (It probably took us over an hour to get to this point!) He deployed his remaining units onto the board—a Sanguinary Guard and The Sanguinor—behind my line of Death Guard. No one wanted to fuss with the tanks. He killed my Plaguecaster (damn it!), most of the unit of Pox Walkers who were nearby, and a few Plague Marines, but I still felt like I was in good shape over all.
On my turn I teleported in my Blightord Terminators and started my retaliation, wearing Devlin down more. I forgot that I also had a Lord of Contagion—the warlord of my army!—that I could have also teleported in at this time. I moved it closer to the table so that I wouldn’t forget it next time, and then promptly forgot about it again.
Evan advanced his troops and took out more of Devlin’s army with his tanks and heavily armed guardsmen. My Bloatdrone took another barrage of fire and was reduced to 4 wounds. Evan also managed to drop a unit near the objective as Devlin had lost the troops that were up there to my army.
We started our third round and tried to race through it quickly to see where things would go: Evan needed to run. By this point we’d been playing for at least 3 hours!
My terminators moved up on to the floating island and killed Evan’s guard, putting them closest to the objective. Devlin’s remaining units were tied up fighting the remainder of my army, and it would be impossible for them to make it up to the objective even if they could miraculously kill everything in their path. Evan’s army was still quite healthy, but he was also too far from the objective now that he had no more troops he could grav-chute in. So like the last game, I won more or less by default.
In hindsight we might have wanted to do turn sequence differently, perhaps some scheme where we alternated activating individual units. A three way game is quite odd: Evan described it like playing a game while also watching a game. The gaps between your turns can be quite long. I’m hoping we can all get together again.
Evan managed to kit bash another weird mini before we met to play a couple weekends ago. His army was now power level 25 (500ish points), which meant I had many more options in what I could bring to the table. It’s like we’re playing some sort of escalation league, but the escalation is based solely on whether Evan is in the city or not and has a cool idea for a mini he wants to build out of the garbage he buys at the Sword and Board.
I had 3 different ideas for armies I could run, but ended up settling on an army very similar to the original list I used when we played our first game of Warhammer 40K:
Causarius, Lord of Contagion
7 Plague Marines, including a Plague Champion
Evan’s army consisted of the following units:
Two Kastelan Robots and a Cybernetica Datasmith.
Some number of Imperial Guard
A commander that had this crazy sword
Probably some other units I’ve forgotten
Once again we used the Open War cards to set up our game. This time our objective was to kill as many units as possible, scoring points for the power level of the unit killed. (You got twice as many points for characters, vehicles, and monsters) The game’s twist was that all units could move an extra 2”, and advance an extra 1”. This was a huge boost for my incredibly slow Death Guard. Because Evan’s army was slightly more powerful than mine I also got to draw a ruse. (The one I drew let me redeploy one of my units anywhere on the board, so long as I was 9” away from any enemy unit.) I don’t think I could have asked for a better set up.1
The Plague Marines emerged from the warp and found themselves floating on an island of rock. The warp had left this land twisted. Below them stood the Navigator Endogaurd, but no sign of the robot they had been sent to retrieve. They opened fire all the same.
I decided to go first—having fewer units than Evan meant I got to make the choice. I began the game moving my Pox Walkers, and the Noxious Blightbringer travelling with them, up and around a large floating island in the middle of game board. I teleported my Lord of Contagion in behind Evan’s Crusaders, hoping he’d be able to charge them, and deployed my Plague Marines using the Outflank ruse mentioned previously on top of the floating Island in the middle of the table. This meant they could start firing right away. They managed to take out a few of Evan’s guard doing so. My Lord of Contagion failed to charge, and that was my turn.
Evan decided sticking around on the ground waiting for my Pox Walkers and Lord of Contagion to show up was a bad idea, so his crusaders and guardsmen made a bee line for the warp gate that led to the level my Plague Marines were on. His command squad shot up at my marines, killing one.
Causarius shook back into existence, the teleportatium sending him into the heart of the fight. He was covered in the gore of the Navigator Endoguard’s command squad when the Kastelan robots opened fire.
My Lord of Contagion advanced towards command squad Evan had left behind and then charged: they didn’t survive my turn. The Plague Marines were unable to kill any of the Crusaders with their guns, though did a little bit better in melee.
Evan’s Robot’s were now in murder mode and proceeded to decimate my Lord of Contagion. This put Evan up 14 points, as my Lord of Contagion is my most expensive model at 7 points, and scored him double as it’s a character. His Crusaders resurrected a model using their Act of Faith ability and proceeded to kill another one of my marines.
The Pox Walkers poured through the warp gate and fell upon the guardsmen. The vox caster carried the screams of the endoguard hundreds of miles away to the emotionless man who keyed in the coordinates for the orbital strike.
It was just my Pox Walkers and Blightbringer on the ground along with Evan’s murder robots. I could see how that story would end, and had that mob also run through the warp gate. We ended up with a big mess of minis on the floating Island, everyone ending up in a giant melee. My Pox Walkers net their first kills (ever), taking out 2 of Evan’s Guardsmen.
Evan’s Guardsmen all “affixed their bayonets,” which let them make melee attacks during their shooting phase, as well as during the actual fight phase. The units struggled to harm my marines, however. During the morale phase they would all run away. Evan used this opportunity and some command points to call down an orbital strike, a new stratagem from the new Imperial Guard Codex. All the units within 6” of the downed unit would have to make a save or take some mortal wounds: this included my Noxious Blightbringer, my Plague Marines, and my Pox Walkers, but also his Crusaders. By luck my units all survived, while his Crusaders were wiped out.
The commander became the vessel through which the Plague Marines poured forth their hatred for the False Emperor. His faith would not save him. It would not save any of them.
On my turn my remaining units managed to kill the commander, the last of Evan’s units on the floating island. Our armies were now split between the ground and this island. At this point I was now in the lead when it came to points, and Evan’s Robots wouldn’t be able to make it to me before the game ended. At this point we called the game: victory for the Death Guard!
My cousin Jana arrived just as the game got underway, and would help us look up rules and remind us of when we were probably making mistakes—despite never having played before. We’ll need to figure out how to get him involved in a 3-player game. ↩
The Sword and Board was busy with people playing Warhammer. Almost all their gaming tables were being used. We snagged an industrial desert themed one and started moving terrain around. We played in a 4’ x 4’ space as our unit count is still quite low. While we were setting up two more players arrived and borrowed some of our excess terrain to play a Shadow War: Armageddon game. Warhammer seems to be quiet popular since the new edition dropped. (It may always have been and I just wasn’t paying attention.)
Since we last met Evan had built and painted a cool robot to add to his Navigator Endoguard. Since most of the parts for the minis came from the Adeptus Mechanicus he decided to field them as units from that army. His armies power level was now 15, so I could field an additional Death Guard unit this game.
5 Plague Marines, including a Plague Champion
Who even knows what else?
We bought the Open War pack of cards, which is designed to randomly generate Open War missions. It’s probably more than anyone should spend on a pack of cards, but it was very convenient and generated a cool game to play. The mission we drew had us set up on opposite ends of the table, with 2’ between us. Our objective would join the battle on the 3rd turn, it’s location on the board determined by a die roll. (We used a cool robot Evan had built as the objective.) You also draw a twist with this card set. (The Open War mission in the book doesn’t feature anything like this.) We drew ‘restoratives’, which let us return d3 wounds to one of our units each round. Finally, because my army was underpowered compared to Evan’s I got to draw a secret ‘ruse’. I drew ‘Ambush’, which let me redeploy 3 units in my army anywhere on the board so long as they were 12” from any enemy unit and outside the enemy deployment zone. This let me advance my troops a whole foot up before the game began: this was really a huge boon for my slow moving army. With that we were ready to get started.
The Angarius Machina hurtled through deep space: its message was not safe for the warp. As its destination finally drew near it reflected on all the years it had passed in the silence of space. Why was it programmed to think at all? It only had one purpose, after all.
On the planet below the Plague Marines ambush was in full swing. Their presence a cruel coincidence.
Evan focused all his fire on my plague marines to start off the game. Between all his units I lost 3 of my marines.
On my turn my Poxwalkers and Noxious Blightbringer moved up and then advanced a further 6”. The Poxwalkers are a pure melee unit, so they lost nothing by advancing. The Blightbringer only had a pistol, so it needed to get closer before it could start shooting. My marines moved up and shot at Evan’s robot, accomplishing nothing.
They had been harrying the men of this planet for weeks. This ambush had been carefully orchestrated, yet they were the ones suffering all the casualties? These men had been emboldened by their victories over the Vectorium: they had the audacity to charge the Death Guard.
Evan begins by shooting my Poxwalkers with one of his units, killing 3 of them. His Rangers were within the range for their rapid fire weapons to shoot twice when attacking. They also attacked the Poxwalkers, killing all but one. My marines take another wound from his remaining units, which I assign to my Plague Champion. His units then charge my remaining Poxwalker and the Noxious Blightbringer. The last walker dies during the melee, my
Noxious Blightbringer survives unscathed. (At this point I forget that my Noxious Blightbringer can now fight as well: Evan remembers when I’m fighting on my turn and lets make the rolls for the phantom fight then.)
My marines shoot the units that are sitting on some dunes away from the melee, killing one of them. They then join the Noxious Blightbringer in melee. Between them and the Blightbringer they manage to kill 3 more of models.
The warmth of the atmosphere pressed against its cold exoskeleton. The ground came upon it quickly. The silence of space replaced by the tolling of the Toscin of Misery and the screams of war.
On the third round the objective crashed into the battlefield—and lands right on top of the dunes Evan’s troops were camped on. We were all scrunched up on that corner of the board, so it was a funny bit of luck that that’s where it ended up.
Evan’s troops in melee fall back. At this point the last of my plague marines die from a mix of gun fire and flame throwers—if I recall correctly. My notes from this point on are terse or missing.
Now out of combat, my Noxious Blightbringer moves up and lobs a grenade at Evan’s troops on the dune. (To little effect, but at least I remembered my dudes had grenades this time!) I then had the unit charge up the dune and attack the troops that were stationed there.
The Blightbringer watched as the men fled from his presence. The automata that fell from the sky cowered before him. Somehow he knew it was important, but the bloodlust called him elsewhere.
Evan’s troops that were on the Dune fall back from my Noxious Blightbringer, while his other troops move up and shoot. Lucky for me they can’t score a wound. His robot is more successful, but thankfully the Noxious Blightbringer has several wounds to burn through.
On my turn I lob a blight grenade at the troops that fell back, killing 2 of the models. I then charge the robot located at the bottom of the dune. (I wanted to tie up the robot and the tech-priest-commander-thing that controlled it.) Nothing of note comes from the combat, however.
The Angarius Machina watched as these machines and men fought back the Death Guard. Truly they were worthy of its revelation.
Once again it’s too late for me to win. Evan had more units left and would be able to claim the objective. At the end of his turn he couldn’t kill my Blightbringer, which I will call a minor victory for myself.
Our previous game was over quickly, so we started another game. We kept things much the same, simply rotating the playing field 90 degrees while leaving the terrain alone. Evan fielded the same army, while I swapped out my Blightbringer for a unit of Pox Walkers.
5 Plague Marines, one of whom was a Plague Champion
10 Pox Walkers
Knight-Adjutant—power maul, command shield
4 Knight Adjutant Command Paladins–3 plasma guns and one medipack and pistol
5 Navigator Houseguard–one with hotshot lasgun, two with volleyguns, one with vox-caster and pistol, squire with chainsword and plasma pistol
5 Navigator Houseguard–one with hotshot lasgun, two with meltaguns, one with vox-caster and pistol, squire with chainsword and hotshot laspistol
I had my Pox Walkers lined up just out of range of Evan’s troop’s weapons—by accident. My marines were set up on a building in cover. Evan’s troops were set up in a similar building across from me, with one unit held in reserve once again.
The marines eyed the Navigator Endosquad hunkered down in some ruins ahead. The men had fallen back upon the arrival of the Sons of Nurgle, but clearly the objective was of some value: they weren’t quite ready to just give it up.
Evan began his turn by grav-chuting some of his Navigator Houseguard behind my line. Thankfully their weapons failed to hurt my Plague Marines. (Disgustingly Resilient has saved them so many times.)
My (incredibly slow moving) Pox Walkers advanced, while the Plague Marines behind them stood their ground and returned fire, wounding two of Evan’s troops and causing a third to flee. As starts go I was off to a good one?
The Pox Walkers continued their march, as incautious as they were hungry. There was a frenzy when they saw the men, there steps quickening, but the Navigator Housegaurd held their ground and held them back with a rain of laser fire.
Evan moved his troops up to bring more of his weapons into range, firing on both my Pox Walkers and Plague Marines. I lost one walker and assigned one wound to my Plague Champion, but survived the round largely in good shape.
On my turn I moved my pox walkers once more, and then attempted a charge with them. Lucky for Evan they failed, just an inch short of reaching his men. (Thinking about this now, I wonder if they were in range: you need to be within an inch to fight, not touching bases.) I lost another Pox Walker to overwatch fire. My Plague Marines focused their fire behind them again, but failed to kill the remaining models in the unit.
The Champion watched as the Pox Walkers were felled by the men and their guns. He eyed the chest, the prize he had sent the Pox Walkers to capture, but the sounds of the melta-guns behind him claimed his attention.
The Navigator Endoguard to the rear of my Plague Marines continued to take pot shots with their big melta-guns, but were unable to land any hits. My Pox Walkers weren’t so lucky: the rest of the unit (8 models) fell victim to laser gun fire. They never got to fight! They got in the way, I suppose.
My Plague Marines again focused their fire behind them, which in hindsight was a waste of my time. With only 5 round in this game I should have started advancing on the objective. This unit moves so slowly I should have been on the move as soon as I lost my Pox Walkers.
The loss of two of their brethren stirred the Death Guard to move. This was their true purpose, the unrelenting march.
Evan focused all his fire on my remaining Plague Marines, killing two. He had nothing else to shoot at, after all. My Plague Marines finally start to move on the objective—no time to waste! I think it was likely impossible to move all the way up to the objective without some lucky rolls.
I can’t really remember how the last round went. We were in a bit of a rush to wrap up, as Evan needed to run. I have a note that he killed another one of my marines. And I know my Plague Champion didn’t destroy his entire posse of infantry, since I lost the game.
Perhaps next time the Death Guard will find their groove soon!
There is nothing they can do but watch as the Endogaurd flee with the chest. Had the psykers who sent them here known how their story would unfold?
The soldiers they could see poking their heads over the ruins in the distance were of as little consequence to the Death Guard as the objective they had been sent to secure. Still, they marched forward, their sense of purpose unwavering.
Evan and I met once again to play some Warhammer 40,000. Since our last game he did in fact end up selling his Tau army, replacing it with his newly built “Navigator Endoguard”—a heavily kit bashed squad of Astra Militarum. The minis looked great, though he lamented no one would notice just how painstakingly put together his new models were.
He fielded the following army, which (I think) are simply different Imperial Guard units (despite the flavourful names):
Knight-Adjutant—power maul, command shield
4 Knight Adjutant Command Paladins–3 plasma guns and one medipack and pistol
5 Navigator Houseguard–one with hotshot lasgun, two with volleyguns, one with vox-caster and pistol, squire with chainsword and plasma pistol
5 Navigator Houseguard–one with hotshot lasgun, two with meltaguns, one with vox-caster and pistol, squire with chainsword and hotshot laspistol
I returned with my fairly pedestrian Death Guard. I still need pick a name for their vectorium. More important, I need to figure out how best to play them. I ended up fielding two units, because I wanted to match the power level of Evan’s Army (11).
5 Plague Marines, one of whom was a Plague Champion (and the true champion of my army).
We set up a 4’x4’ battlefield filled with ruined buildings and walls arranged sort of like a town square. In the middle was a raised platform where we placed a treasure chest, the single objective we would fight over. We were fielding armies more suited for a skirmish game than 40K. Trying to chase and control more than one objective didn’t feel like it would work with our smaller armies.
The marines watched as the troops descended from the sky, their grav-chutes kicking in with a low hum. They quickly set up shop in an abandoned building to the Death Guard’s right and opened up fire.
The battle began with my plague marines marching toward’s Evan’s troops. My first round of shooting was completely ineffectual.
Evan deployed one of his reserve units using their grav-chutes, flanking my Plague Marines. A take aim order was issued, ultimately resulting in my marines taking 2 wounds they promptly shrugged off using their disgusting resilience power. This success was short lived: a second set of Evan’s Endoguard shot the marines, resulting in the loss of two of my Plague Marines in the first round. (And I really didn’t have that many models to lose.)
They could see the objective to their right, but the soldiers cowering in the ruins straight ahead were a far more captivating sight. The marines would have been on top of them if not for the gunfire pinning them down.
My Plague Marines advanced, but then failed to charge. (Evan’s overwatch fire was ineffectual at least.) I probably should have simply moved, shot, and perhaps risked a charge. I might have whittled down a few of his troops.
Evans troops started to move towards my marines, getting some of their fancier guns in range. My blightbriger was brought down by melta-gun fire, ending the round.
The first shots destroyed the Tocsin of Misery the Noxious Blightbringer carried upon his back, ending its incessant tolling. There was a moment of silence before the remaining shots incinerated the Death Guard.
My marines once again attempted to advance and charge, though my Plague champion would be the only model left by the time the unit reached Evan’s troops. The champion killed one solider, causing another to flee.
Evan’s soldiers fell back and wounded the champion with gunfire.
Slow and methodical murder was all the champion knew. His fists pulverizing the solider before him. He could see the terror in the men before him, one scurrying away covered in the blood and guts of his comrade.
The plague champion charged again, killing two enemies with its power fist. Still, I could see the writing on the wall. The troops that had previously flanked my marines advanced on the objective, capturing it. The rest of Evan’s troops fired on my plague champion killing it. And that was that.
The failure tasted like ash in the Plague Champion’s mouth. He could hear the guard all around him as his life slipped away. The objective was lost. His death couldn’t come soon enough.
I need to figure out more missions suited for smaller army play. The default missions in the book seem to assume armies with far more units than ours. I had started sketching out skirmish rules that built on top of the 40,000 rules, but since we were trying to learn how normal 40,000 worked we stuck with that. I suspect you could borrow parts of A Song of Blade and Heroes and cross them with parts of Warhammer 40,000 to produce a pretty cool games.
We had some time before Evan had to leave so we set up for a second game.
Causarius, Lord of Contagion, could hear the gun fire before he saw the ship. The plague marines of his vectorium had already engaged the Tau, the battle taking place around the wreckage of a downed Tau ship.
Evan and I played a low power-level game over the weekend: his battalion of Tau versus my Death Guard patrol. The goal of the game was to learn the rules for 8th Edition. I had “played” two games with Mythilli, if you could call what we do that. I had a rough sense of how the game worked. Evan had experience playing several other editions of the game, so he also had a vague sense of what a game of Warhammer should probably be like. We played at The Sword and Board, and were sandwiched between two other tables playing larger games of Warhammer than us. This was convenient: we occasionally bugged a table of Space Marine players about the rules.
My Death Guard consisted of the following units:
Causarius, Lord of Contagion
Putidus, the Malignant Plaguecaster
7 Plague Marines (one of which was a Plague Champion)
10 Pox Walkers
Evan fielded … an army I will list out here if he remembers what it contained.
Each of our armies had a power level of 27. This is the new system Games Workshop has devised to help you balance to armies against one another. It works well enough, assuming your troops aren’t overloaded with expensive weaponry. All the numbers involved when using power levels are smaller, and you are doing far less addition.
We played “Open War”, the first mission type described in the Warhammer 40,000 rule book. We marked out a 4 x 4 space on the table to play. Our objective was “Domination”, where you score a point at the end of each turn for each objective marker controlled. (As I would soon learn, my army was ill suited for this objective.) I deployed my plague marines on one objective. My plague caster was within close reach of a second. Evan had troops on the other two objectives. The game was set to run for 5 rounds, with Evan going first.
Causarius watched as his pox walkers collapsed before him. The Tau’s weaponry was impressive, wasted on these diseased horrors.
Evan’s drones were able to secure the objectives he controlled while his actual troops could move into positions better suited to engage my army. My pox walkers were the first victims to the Tau’s gun fire. I forgot that like my plague marines, the pox walkers were also “disgustingly resilient” granting them an additional 5+ save when taking wounds. Since their normal saves were 7+ (impossible to roll) I was simply removing them from the game as they took wounds. My pox walkers were all dead by the end of the end of the second round. I also forgot the Lord of Contagion granted a power area of effect ability to each unit in his aura, making the pox walkers even more deadly. Played properly they may have been a far more effective troop. The way I played them they were a distraction and then they died.
The plague marines laid down fire from their vantage point high above the battle field. They would hold their objective at all costs: they had nothing else to live for, after all.
I had foolishly placed one objective at the top of a building. This made it easier to reach for Evan and his Tau army (which was mostly composed of units that could fly) than my slow moving Death Guard. I deployed my Plague Marines on the objective, and there they remained for the entire game. (It would take two turns for my marines to climb down from where they were perched.)
The Malignant Plaguecaster Platidus watched as the energies of the warp ripped apart the Tau’s drones. This would provide no satisfaction: he ventured deeper into the battle.
My plague caster was a solid killer, but one unit spitting out mortal wounds wasn’t going to win this battle. The caster claimed an objective in the first turn, and held it till the 3rd. After I lost all my pox walkers it seemed clear I wasn’t going to be able to claim another objective. I decided I’d just kill Evan’s units instead. I moved the plague caster out to start dealing some death. (The problem with this strategy was that killing units didn’t actually net you victory points in the game we were playing.)
Causarius stalked the Tau leader, the giant mechanized armour staying out of the reach of his plague axe.
On his second turn Evan deployed one of his fancier Tau units behind my Lord of Contagion and Pox Walkers by using its deep strike ability. I had planned to ignore the unit and focus on taking one of Evan’s objectives, but with the death of my pox walkers, capturing the objective seemed unlikely at best. The Lord of Contagion moves so slow I spent the remainder of the battle chasing this unit down. I managed to kill its shield drone after a successful charge roll brought me into combat with the unit. In hindsight, I think I could have moved 3” around the shield drone using the pile-in rules, and then fought the model I was actually interested in killing.
The Tau secured their ship and their people. A shameful defeat for his vectorium. Thankfully Causarius had long since forgotten what shame felt like.
Evan easily won the game. Still, it was a lot of fun. 8th Edition is fairly straight forward a game. We both managed to muddle through without needed to spend much time digging through rule books. The game plays quite smoothly.
The tables at the Sword and Board are amazing. They have lots of cool looking terrain and scenery. The board we played on was some bombed out city scape. (It was much more evocative than playing on my floor with Mythilli’s toys as terrain.) They also have lots of used models and bits you can waste your money on. All in all it’s a great place to go play Warhammer.
I won’t get to fight this army again: Evan sold it all to the Sword and Board for store credit. He finds the clean lines of the Tau boring. So our next battle will be my Death Guard versus his kit bashed probably guardsmen.
Previously I had made a half hearted attempt at painting my Reaper Bones miniatures. I found Reaper’s meagre advice on the subject and my attempts at painting lacking. I painted a handful of minis before putting this new hobby aside. (We call that half-assing it in Canada.) A couple years later and I find myself with with 53 new miniatures to paint. That’s a lot of plastic. I don’t know why I thought things would be different this time.
Painting your miniatures seems to be an important part of the Warhammer scene. Tournaments often require your miniatures are painted to a particular standard. People don’t want to play someone whose minis are all grey plastic. (I suppose painting helps identify what’s what on the table.) My Warhammer minis looked amazing and cost me enough money I didn’t want to fuck them up. This was a real quandary. Conveniently, my friend Evan is an amazing painter and spent his youth as a Warhammer nerd. He offered to come over and help me get started.1
Evan came over one Sunday with a bag full of spray paint and we got to work priming. Games Workshop has a house style that is very structured in how you go about painting minis: prime, shade, layer, layer, layer, highlight, highlight, highlight, etc. Their magazines are full of minis that are so vivid and detailed, they often look like cartoons. Evan suggested a different approach: paint as much as you can with spray paint because ain’t nobody got time to paint that 4th layer of anything.
We started with the Space Marines. They were primed with black spray paint. Once dried, we did a light coat of grey sprayed from above, and then followed that with red painted in much the same way. This left the minis looking like they were being lit by moonlight, or emerging from the shadows.2 They were interesting without anyone having to take out a brush. The Death Guard followed. With the base coating done, I was left to figure out what to do with all the details.
At first, I just painted everything that was supposed to be black, black. This turned out to be easier than I thought. Emboldened I started painting parts of their armour metallic. And so on and so forth. I’d pop into The Sword and Board to pick up paints I was lacking and work on some new detail. I realize now that paint is to Warhammer what booster packs are to Magic: The Gathering—a cheap way to throw money down a hole.3
Painting a miniature is quiet and relaxing work.4 You need to be patient to produce a mini that looks good. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve managed to make my way through most of my Space Marine army. Some units are “done”. Others are quite close. I don’t think I’ll win any contests, but they are painted to a standard I didn’t think I’d be able to accomplish. I didn’t think I would enjoy painting, but here we are.
And so Evan was pulled back into Warhammer himself. ↩
I hadn’t given Warhammer much thought since junior high. Back then my friend had bought a starter set and some minis for an orc and goblin army. We played elves and humans versus orcs and goblins for several weeks, but ultimately that all petered out—no one else had the money for miniatures at the time. By the end of junior high we all got into magic and that became our (somewhat cheaper) money hole of choice. All throughout high school I would joke about wanting a Blood Thirster for my single unit Chaos army, but that was the extent of my interest in Warhammer.
Last week I walked into The Sword and Board and bought the new Warhammer 40,000 starter set, Dark Inperium.1 This is their first product that introduces the new 8th edition of the game. I saw the set the week prior and it had been on my mind since. I’m not sure why. It’s a very cool looking box, I suppose. To quote Patrick Stuart, “The thirst is real.”
Dark Imperium was expensive ($190 CAD!), but in the grand scheme of Games Workshop a good deal. The set comes with 53 miniatures that make up two armies, a Space Marine Imperium army and a Death Guard Chaos army. It also comes with everything else you need to play: the new hardcover rule book for 40K, two mini “codex” books that describe the armies that come in the set, a smaller card stock printing of the core rules, some dice and a range ruler. Everything about the set is nice and fancy.
As a beginner boxed set goes this one is crazy. You open up the box and are presented with another box. It features a cool picture of a space marine on its cover: amazing. But wait, that box is full of sprues! Like, a terrifying amount. What the shit? The rule book opens with a very short introduction to the Warhammer hobby and then it’s like 150 pages of lore: “in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war,” and all that nonsense. The rules for actual Warhammer 40K are buried 2/3rds into the book. (They are a modest 12 or so pages out of this almost 300 page book.) There are instructions for how to make the models in a separate booklet, though nothing about the finer points of modelling. There isn’t any advice on painting. There isn’t any sort of quick start guide to get you going with the game. Perhaps that makes sense: there isn’t anything quick about this hobby. Probably best not to give anyone any false impressions.
I made the first model sitting on my deck, a space marine. That model, along with the other space marines, were fairly straight forward to assemble. All the models seem well thought out in how they are sculpted and disassembled for manufacture. There are little nubs all over to make fitting everything easy. The models are generally designed so that they hide seams and joints when put together. I’m curious how much the aesthetics of Warhammer are shaped by the nature of these little gaming pieces.2
It took me a week of modelling here and there to get all the minis built.3 They are sitting on a bookshelf now waiting to be painted. I’ll report back when they are painted or I’ve played a game. Hopefully that’s soon—so this purchase wasn’t entirely foolish.
An impulsive purchase. (Of course.) I had to wake up at 8:00 AM that day to help one of our clients upgrade their install of the software I work on, and it was this really complicated sort of gong show that lasted 5-6 hours. So, it was a bit after lunch time when it was all done, and I just felt like buying something to calm myself down and feel good. It was a real “treat yourself” moment. I probably should have just had a beer. It’d have been much cheaper. ↩