Over the Christmas break, my son Nick and I managed a nostalgic game of 40K. It was great fun to be back in the grim darkness of the far future. Between 1997 and about 2010, we played every Games Workshop game on the market, picking up each new edition and army as it came out. After a few years Nick’s younger brother Will joined in, becoming a very fine painter over time.
We drifted away from GW around the release of Age of Sigmar. I greatly regretted the destruction of the Warhammer world, which had been such a rich environment for campaign games and fiction. I just couldn’t get excited about the Age of Sigmar storyline or rules. But we didn’t consciously decide to stop playing GW: we just found ourselves playing fewer wargames and when we did, we played more historical rules.
We have played the odd game in recent years, particularly enjoying a multiplayer Epic 40k game in 2017. But this Christmas was our first return to GW since then. Although we do have every edition up to the sixth, we decided to play fifth edition, as we remembered this set best and our figure collection stopped growing at that time. I took Ultramarines and Nick chose Imperial Guard. We chose the Blitz scenario from the third edition rules, which required me to break through Nick’s line in an attack down the length of the table. We played this a few times in the old days and it was especially fun with Imperial Guard on the defensive.
We had 1,500 points apiece. I took a unit of terminators thinking they would deep strike, but in the 5th edition Space Marine codex this isn’t possible so instead of landing in the enemy’s rear, they had to shlep up from my base line (believe me, I searched the codex from cover to cover). I also took some scouts and scout bikers because I love the models, but the bikes in particular were a poor choice against a solid defence line. My vindicator was a more sensible selection, along with a razorback and a rhino. Nick meanwhile took a solid force with lots of lascannons, a Leman Rus and some Kasrkrin who could (of course) deep strike.
I sent my main force up the left, hoping to pin Nick’s left with the terminators. They sort of did their job and when they closed with the enemy line they were unstoppable. However, while they trundled forward, slowly losing men, Nick managed to rip my main assault apart. In particular he dropped his Kasrkrin at the right time and point to destroy my command squad with their fire. In the same turn he took out my vindicator with a lascannon-armed sentinel. I decided to debus my tactical squad to deal with the Kasrkrin and shot them up pretty effectively but at the cost of my only chance to get into the enemy rear area. The game ended after turn five with Nick’s centre dented but still in a coherent line and my objective categorically not achieved.
We really enjoyed our return to the grim darkness. We both love the back story of the Imperial Guard, pitting their unaugmented strength against supermen and aliens. This game showed how a good position, investment in heavy weapons and wisely used counterattack capability can spoil the Ultramarines’ day.
I am sure we will return to 40K from time to time but I don’t feel a need to upgrade to the latest rules. Although... it might be fun using an edition that allows terminators to deep strike.
our Epic game on Saturday gave us the opportunity to use my newly made night light smoke stack. I'd rather it was used on a Gargant but it still looked impressive from a distance.
Yesterday we played an Epic 40k game, very loosely based on Operation Market Garden. Nick and Matt led the Orks; Ian commanded the Imperial Guard ground forces and I combined scenario management with leading the Space Wolves force, air-landed to take and hold the Bridge over the river Grime. We had around 4000 points a side. The player briefing was in my last blog.
The Space Wolf detachment landed on open ground north of the river. An Ork Gargant began in the Imperial ruins north of the river, while a Kult of Speed set up just south of it. On turn one, nearly half the Imperial army arrived on the South table edge. The Orks decided to concentrate on wiping out the Space Wolves, so left the Imperial advance unopposed.
Morale levels at end of turn
The Imperials marched up the field while three Ork detachments arrived from the flanks. Imperial siege artillery and armour took out a great many Orks from Zeke'z Army. Using a Fate card, the Orks brought in an orbital barrage against the Imperial siege guns. The Space Wolves were obliterated north of the river.
More Ork reinforcements arrived on the field and started to form a defensive line north of the river. An imperial deathstrike missile hit the Gargant, causing massive damage: the Gargant just survived the turn with three damage points left, three onboard fires and only one weapon unbroken. Two Ork detachments were taken below half strength, but with all objectives still in their possession, their morale stayed pretty resilient.
The Ork line solidified north of the river. The Reaver Titan finished off the damaged Gargant. Ork assaults went in on both flanks: Alarik's Ardboyz, led by Alarik on a Boar, obliterated the Catachan armoured detachment in the East, while Zeke'z Army assaulted but bounced off the Fighting 207th.
The Great Gargant and Mega Gargant arrived at the North table edge (to their frustration as it meant a long walk). Meanwhile three flights of fighta Bommaz appeared on the horizon and nearly wiped out a marching Detachment of Imperial armour. Zeke'z Army managed to stay alive for another turn. Alarik's Ardboyz with their boarboyz spearhead assaulted and broke another Imperial armour detachment.
Alarik and his boars suffered heavy damage from advancing Space Marines but heroically charged a Warhound Titan, who promptly squished them. Thus passed the mighty Alarik. The Orks on the north bank of the Grime started to crossed the bridge to engage the Reaver, surrounding it on three sides. Four detachments broke down its shields then a detachment of battle fortresses destroyed it. One reactor meltdown later and the Reaver was no more. On the Western flank, Zeke and the not-so-fighting 207th both failed to remove a single blast marker, so stalemate fell over that part of the field. The mega Gargant fired a krooz missul into the Imperial siege artillery and took out a manticore and a hydra. Imperial morale took a serious tumble this turn.
The Imperial Fists closed up to the river, while the Great Gargant waded into the water intent on making its mark. Three squadrons of fighta bommaz smacked the Imperials in the West; both great and mega Gargant let rip their armaments and both Warhounds ceased to exist. A second Krooz missul took the Imperial siege artillery below half strength and by turn's end, imperial morale went into the negative. The
Until turn five, the game seemed well balanced. However, the outcome was already becoming inevitable. The Imperials did have some poor reinforcement rolls that delayed the arrival of two big artillery detachments, the Imperial Fists and the Warhounds. Their advance fell into successive waves, which the Orks were able to contain one after the other. Perhaps the most significant decision of the game was in turn one when the Orks ignored the southern front to concentrate on crushing the Space Wolves north of the bridge. The removal of this threat cleaned up the Ork front and made passage over the bridge easy. Obliged to cover ground fast, the Imperials used a lot of March orders and when Ork air power turned up, this proved lethal to the marching Imperial armour.
I hope it was some compensation for the Imperials that the outcome in our game mirrored the outcome of Market Garden. Even with more strength coming up the road, the Imperials would be obliged to halt south of the river.
The day flew by and the game was great fun. As the forces on the table multiplied, it looked pretty impressive too. Hats off to Matt and Nick, and commiserations to Ian, who may have felt a little puzzled that despite being on his side, I seemed to take as much pleasure in the outcome as the Ork players. Of course I'd rather we had won, but I was delighted that the scenario had given a tense game and arresting spectacle. What will inspire us next? The Bulge maybe?
I've just finished painting my Orks to fill out a 4,000 points Epic 40k army. Saving the best fun until last, I ended with a Great Gargant for my Warlord to ride. I have a basic Gargant in shades of metal but thought Warlord Tamrine would demand a red paint job. Writing the detachment lists ready for a practice game next week, prior to the big game on the 8th.
It's funny how one thing leads to another. I have been greatly enjoying "It never snows in September " by Robert Kershaw, an account of operation Market Garden from the German perspective. I have read a few books about the campaign, but all from the Allied viewpoint. I am used therefore to the broad narrative (with variations) that the Allies overreached themselves; that they had bad luck with unexpected German dispositions and the weather; and that XXX Corps lacked the necessary drive to break through to Arnhem in time. Kershaw's account however brings out just how much the Germans achieved with a motley collection of scratch formations, constantly forming new defensive positions and mounting counter attacks. Perhaps rather than focus sing on how the Allies lost Market Garden, it is more accurate to consider how the Germans won it.
The book provides countless ideas for Bolt Action scenarios, especially for those who fancy throwing every possible combination of troops together in the German force. But it has also stirred memories of a mission in one of my favourite game systems, Epic 40,000. I mean the boxed game from the late 1990s, not Epic Armageddon. We have both sets but I think the extra chrome in Armageddon tends to slow the pace down. Jervis Johnson's original rules are elegant, streamlined and for my money, they work better with large armies. And surely, it won't be epic unless there is a shed load of models on the table.
The Blitzkrieg scenario in the Epic Battles Book involves one side desperately trying to block an enemy attack, with units coming on at random and trying to stabilise the situation. Shades of Hell's Highway there. Several years ago my son Nick and I had some great games of Epic, but we haven't played it for over a decade. Time, I have decided, to dust off the figures and get Waugh! Tamrine back into gear. I just need to twist some arms to get a multiplayer game going.