Sunday, 11 June 2017

Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition: 200th Blog Post Battle Report

I am rather behind schedule on my battle reports.  This year alone I have played three games of Warhammer 40,000 7th edition with 40k Dave; a four player game against him and Derek, paired with Jamie; and indulged in both the Conan board game and Advanced Space Crusade with Priestly Paul.  None of these have yet seen commemoration here so we can observe my win loss ratio.

SURPRISING FACT: I did not lose all of these games.  In fact I even won a game of Warhammer!

Today though is not the blog for that.  Today is my 200th published blog post here on The Bearded Quail and I'm going to celebrate it with a very special battle report commemorating a very silly game Dave and I played recently.

No gluten intolerant girlfriend plus no veggie wife equals LETS GET OUR MEATY PIZZA ON BOYS!

Two is the central number to this story, because it involves Warhammer 40,000 second edition, and we will be as much looking back on this game system as we will be looking over what happened in our battle.

Welcome to my teenage years.

...god they sucked.

Put on your Suede album, comb your stupid haircut, lace up your Caterpillar boots, set your video recorder to tape This Life and put your copy of FHM away.  It's time to go back to the 90s.

John Blanche doing his iconic cover painting thing

Warhammer 40,000 second edition isn't my first GW game, nor is it my first GW wargame.  I went through a few of their products before I got there: Space Crusade, Hero Quest, Advanced Hero Quest, Horus Heresy, Man O'War and Warhammer Fantasy 4th Edition.  My memory of first geting all those previous games is much stronger but 40K second ed is a bit hazy - I can't even remember for definite if I got it before or after Blood Bowl 3rd edition, which seems shameful considering those are two of the GW games I've played the most.

I do remember spending ages pouring over the Black Codex booklet that came with it, making up army lists for several different races.  For some reason putting a Beastman in Terminator Armour seemed a jolly wheeze to me.

Many of my readers are wargamers of a similar vintage to me and so this is likely a game you played in your youth, possibly even your first wargame.  And yet... 2nd ed is something of an odd man out in Warhammer editions - like D&D 2nd Edition it finds itself too old-school for the mdoern crowd to indulge but too new-school for the retro crowd to enjoy.  The OSR grognards & Oldhammer types focus their attention on the seventies and eighties product, while the early nineties tends to be regarded as quite fallow for them.

There is a Middlehammer Facebook group and a couple of games of that era do have a strong fanbase - Blood Bowl and Necromunda for GW,  original World of Darkness and some of the AD&D settings for RPGs - but the games of Major- and Clinton-era get nothing like the love-in that the Thatcher- and Reagan-era games seem to get.

The edition all the old timers love and the edition..... that came after the one all the old timers love.

While we can put this down at least partly to the laws of nostalgia, that first iterations and the versions that cash-rich thirty/forty/fifty year olds remember get the most attention, there are some empirical reasons for this attention spread and some of them are actually similar between D&D and 40K.  The second edition is in many ways a "bug fix" of the first edition, keeping much of the underlying rules structure while changing the presentation and ethos around it.

Third edition marks a clear overhaul of the core system with very different ideas about what it should do - and those ideas give it a clear fanbase of people who prefer that different ideology.  But all too often the 2nd eds of both 40K and D&D feel like too little change for people with real system problems yet too much changes for fans of what came before .

Some period dioramas shot by the GW studio.  The aesthetic of this age often gets it referred to as "The Red Period" and not in a complimentary way..

In 40Ks case, 1st Ed is very much designed as a skirmish game  with hordes of unique weapons and RPG-esque gamesmastered scenarios while 3rd ed sets playing larger, platoon-sized games in a competition like environment as it's design goals.  2nd ed ends up neither fish nor fowl, with rules still detailed enough for a skirmish game but army lists and scenarios assuming bigger games.  It has a repuation of being slow, bloated and overly detailed; complex sub-systems like armour save modifiers, psychic cards and vehicle turning were all excised in 3rd edition to make the game move faster.

We also lost Squats.  Remember Squats?  Remember when I said I would paint a whole army of them?  One day...
Despite this Dave and I decided to play a game of 2nd ed rules as a blast of nostalgia.  It's the first editon of 40K we both played and I still posses the codices for both of our main armies - Codex Chaos which I bought off the back of it's White Dwarf coverage and Codex: Sisters of Battle which I bought while on a family trip to Newcastle to have something to read on the drive home.  My copies of the core rules are very tatty and the various psychic cards from Dark Millennium long since spread across my parent's house, but thankfully the internet assisted with the Warhammer 40K Battle Bible which combines almost all of 2nd Ed's rules in one package.

Not the first time you've seen this picture on this blog.  Probably won't be the last either.

What makes this particular interesting is that a new edition of 40K is due out in the middle of June and some of it's amendments hark back to elements of 2nd Ed: upping wounds for heroes, adding in save modifiers to weapons again and the return of the Movement stat.  If ever there was a time to play this version again it was now.

What's Old Is New Again

Dave and I each made a 1500 point army: in my case Chaos Space Marines with a little bit of Chaos Cultist allies, in his case Sisters of Battle accompanied by Imperial Guard and an Inquisitor.  Dave noted he hadn't played this edition of the game since 1997 and enjoyed just flicking over the old books, finding what was and wasn't supported by this edition of the rules.  He was a bit bummed to find the Exoricst tank wasn't there but delighted to be able to take Vortex Grenades and Frateris Militia.

Look how happy he is!

Below you will find my army list.  Those of you familiar with 40K will note that it is far smaller than a 1500 point army in modern 40K - the points scores of 2nd Ed are at least double.  You will also see far fewer troops and those HQs that are present are notably more powerful than regular guys - it is for this reason that this era is known as "Herohammer" and the characters & vehicles seemed to win the day with troops reduced to mere backing dancers.

Chaos Lord 91
4 7 (9) 7 5 (7) 5 3 7 3 10
Power Armour, Bolt Pistol, Frag Grenade
Mk 1 Plasma Pistol 5
Mark Of Slaanesh - Immune To Psychology 20
Scream of Slaanesh (Causes Fear when charging) 5
Blades of Puissance (Daemon Weapon of Slaanesh) 25
(+2 WS, +2 S, Always Strikes First)
Conversion Field (4+ Extra Save, Causes Photo Grenade attack  10
(Range = attack Str, 4+ on D5 or Blind)
Strategy Rating 5 Allies Use Leadership Within 12" 156
Sorcerer Champion 151
4 6 6 5 5 3 6 2 8
Power Armour, Bolt Pistol, Frag Grenade
Mark Of Slaanesh - Immune To Psychology 20
Boltgun 3
Psychic Mastery 3:  1+ Slaanesh, rest Librarian or Adeptus 20
Vortex Grenade (1 Use) 50
Force Sword (Store 1 unused Force card; Str + Mastery; 10
expend stored force card for psychic or +2 S, -2 Save)
Daeonic Aura (4+ Unmodified Save) 10
Aspiring Champion 30
4 5 5 4 4 1 5 1 9
Power Armour, Bolt Pistol, Frag Grenade
Mark Of Slaanesh - Immune To Psychology 20
Power Axe 7
Boltgun 3
Bionic Eye (+1 To Hit, Detect Hidden In 24") 5 65
Aspiring Champion (Noise Marines) 30
4 5 5 4 4 1 5 1 9
Power Armour, Bolt Pistol, Frag Grenade
Mark Of Slaanesh - Immune To Psychology 20
Mk 1 Plasma Pistol 5
Boltgun 3
Power Fist 10
Doom Siren 15
Combat Drugs (1 use, until wounded M x 2, I x 2, A x 2, T+1, S+1) 25
(Roll at end of every turn, suffer unsavable wound on 1) 108
(Lasts until wound suffered)
Chaos Space Marine Squad 5 125
4 4 4 4 4 1 4 1 8
Power Armour, Bolt Pistol, Frag Grenade
Boltgun x 2 6
Heavy Bolter 12
Missile Launcher w/ Frag & Krak 35
Mk 1 Plasma Gun 8
Chaos Space Marine Squad 5 150
4 4 4 4 4 1 4 1 8
Power Armour, Bolt Pistol
Mark Of Slaanesh - Immune To Psychology Inc
Psychic Cacophony Inc
Sonic Blaster x 4 40
Blast Master 45
Chaos Space Marine Squad 3 105
4 5 5 4 4 1 5 1 9
Power Armour, Bolt Pistol, Frag Grenade, Infiltrate/Dispersed
Power Fist 10
Power Maul 6
Power Sword x 2 (Lightning Claws Proxy) 12
Bolter x 3 9
Rhino Transport SEE DATAFAX 50
1 Driver, Targeter (+1 To Hit), Twin-Linked Boltguns
Warp Amp (Within 18", -1 to Break/Psych tests;  25
12", -2; 6",-3) 75
Chaos Cultist Coven 12 48
4 2 2 3 3 1 3 1 5
All have Sword/Axe
Lasgun x 10 20
Heavy Stubber 10
Las Pistol 1
Chaos Dreadnought SEE DATAFAX 135
1 Driver, Targeter (+1 To Hit), Twin-Linked Boltguns
Mk 1 Heavy Plasma Gun 40
Power Claw 15
Auxiliary Combi-Melta Inc

A lot more cards and tables were used in 40K 2nd Ed.  In the case of the vehicles this was easy enough filled in with the codices we had, giving us access to the Datafaxes that had the unique damage tables for each vehicle.  For Wargear it was fairly easy to substitute the Battle Bible lists and just record who is carrying what - cards are pretty but not actually vastly better at the table.  Same with Mission Objectives: of which I was randomly given Witch Hunt (bonus points for slaying the Inquisitor psyker) while Dave got Assassin (bonus points for slaying my Chaos Lord).  Cards aren't necessary, strictly speaking, if you know the options.

Every type of vehicle had it's on card, but lists of these can be found elsewhere.  Seriously, the Battle Bible is a lifesaver!

Psychic powers, however... that required some inventive proxying!

Released just a few months later, Dark Millennium was a key supplement to 40K from the era of "always split the core rules across two boxes".  All the psychic rules and most of the wargear & vehicle rules came from here.

Moving, shooting and fighting in hand-to-hand look broadly the same in pretty much every edition of 40K.  You move a certain distance, more if you're trying to get into melee; certain heavy weapons require you to not move in order to fire; melee requires you eschew almost all shooting; WS/BS determine the chance of hitting while Strength vs Toughness determines the chance of wounding.  Lots of details vary - 2nd ed's close combat system is an odd beast for example and the Overwatch system allows you to eschew your own turn of shooting to fire if someone moves in front of you - but that the games are related is clear.

Special Sustained Fire dice used for firing full auto weaponry add a bit of weirdness but the core engine is familiar.

The psychic phase however is it's own weird sub-game in 2E and resembles no other version.  Psychic powers come from either 4 or 8 card random decks representing different styles of magic.  We were both allowed to draw from Adeptus which  is the generic suite of powers, with a little of everything: some attack, some scanning and some movement powers are hidden in there.  Dave got to use Inquisition (mostly has anti-psyker and anti-chaos powers) and Librarian (mostly buffs to melee) while I got access to my Chaos patron Slaaneh's 4-card deck (with lots of things keyed to Leadership tests).

The many bits and pieces within this box.  Dice, playing cards and tables were used to proxy this for our one night only game.

Note that you get to discard and redraw cards once but you must declare which Decks you are drawing from and how many cards from each first and any redraws come from the same place.  Also note that there's usually a shared set of cards per 2 players which means you can choose to hang onto a power of little personal use to you just because it means your opponent has no way to draw it themselves.  (Maybe you don't really want to teleport your troops using Adeptus power The Gate because you're guarding the objective, but want to make sure the enemy can't teleport behind your defensive lines!)

Yeah, Squats had psychic powers.  Remember Squats?

Modern 40K uses "warp charges" for psychic powers, essentially a pool of dice recharged every turn which can be used either to activate your own powers on your turn (4+ on D6) or dispel enemy powers on theirs (6+ on D6).  Powers have a Warp Charge cost of either 1 to 3 which represents the minimum spend required to cast them, though you can use more, and the nullify cost is essentially the same as what was used to cast it - three successful Warp Charge spent activating it, three successful Warp Charges required to Nullify.

In the broadest of senses this part of second ed 's rules are similar, but the execution is wildly different.2nd Ed uses a War deck from which cards are dealt out every turn: thirty six cards, of which there are 22 Force Cards (with no die roll required), 8 Nullify cards (4+ on D6 modified by who is the best psyker) and 6 special cards.  Powers have a Force cost from 1 to 3 but there's no need to use extras and only one Nullify check is required.  The player whose turn it is always gets the first action but psykers from BOTH forces can cast powers on their turn if they have enough Warp Charge and a single Nullify cards will nullify almost any power.  Yes, this means the enemy can killerate you with Hellfire or Vortex on your own turn.  Yes, this means that you can draw a hand with no Force cards and have little chance to do anything.

Yeah, I know, this art is actually from third ed.... but it seemed the most appropriate picture for this sanity blasting moment.

The six special cards are particularly noteworthy for their game-warping powers - one is an insta-success at casting with no Nullify possible, for example, while another Nullfies a psychic power and has a chance the enemy psyker will forget it for the rest of the battle.  Again this deck is shared between two players so if you have the Ultimate Force or Daemonic Attack card and hang onto it, there's no way your opponent can use it themselves.  (In larger games or games with 3+ players, though, you'd probably have to use double or triple sized decks in order to get anything done.)

JERVIS used CONFUSION!  It's super effective!
This sounds quite convoluted, I imagine.  Make no mistake: it is.  If your psyker is dead and the opponent still has theirs, you are basically a sitting duck for a whole stage of the game, and taking no psyker is very risky.  (Armies of the era often brought two along as insurance for the first getting popped.)  It's also part of the "Herohammer" aesthetic which may grate for some: psykers have big flashy powers and a whole game phase dedicated to being awesome.

When 3rd ed came along they paired the powers WAAAAAAAY back until they were basically just funny-named guns/equipment that needed a Leadership roll to activate, something controversial at the time and which dropped psykers way down the order of priority for most armies.  While this was a lot less characterful a rules choice, it was substantially quicker to play and easier to balance.

Anyway, at this time we've touched on all the wonders of 2nd ed as a game system.  What about the actual battle we played?  How did that go?  Well this post is long enough already so let's take an abbreviated spin through

Dave set up a table in his living room and scattere some terrain about.  We deployed in a standard style, each 12" in from the short edges and 12" out from the long edge.  Everyone started on the table apart from one of my units...

...a tiny three man Veteran squad who infiltrated witht he plan of chucking grenades and stabbing power weapons into tank hulls.  Unforutnately that pink sponge markes a Hellfire psychic power that his Inquisitor deployed, which didn't harm them but did block line of sight, so they could do piss all on turn one.

My Rhino went speeding up the left hand side of the table and very quickly it became apparent thar whereas ramming is a really weak strategy in current editions - troops just run out the way and very occasionally break - in 2nd ed a vehicle that rams an enemy infantry unit can do a lot of damage.  The Seraphim were the first of many heads to get crushed under tank treads that night

Meanwhile my cultists are proudly marching into the valley because that's what you do with disposable infantry, you send them to die in the killzone and take the heat off your useful units.  Being an evil overlord is easy - your own troops make excellent sandbags.

So, um, success I guess?  That's an Immolator, a burning flamethrower tank which promptly incinerated most of the culstists and caused the others to break.

Interestingly our reading of the battle bible was note that broken units ran off the table.  Instead they head into cover and try to stay out of enemy line of sight.  This means that no longer do units effectively become destroyed - or blindly run back for turn after turn - but they stay on the battlefield albeit not doing anything useful.

That's exactly what happened in fact - the four survivors decided to sod this for a game of soldiers and sit the conflict out.

When I started unelashing ranged fire, things went poorly for the imperial lapdogs.  A heavy weapon squad, a psyker and a Dreadnought are at the bottom there and they unleashed hell at the Frateris Militia squad.  In no time at all their vehicle was destroyed and a few casualties were taken by the infantry...

...but the real 2E moment was when I used Fleshy Curse, a Slaanesh psychic power which can turn enemy into Chaos Spawn.  The Inquisitor was unable to nullify the power nor resist the toughness check and with one card placed down on the table the enemy had lost their psyker, one of their two HQs and had a demon running randomly in their back line.

The Veterans tried to capitalise by moving in on the now disordered and unprotected militia unit.  If all you have to worry about is lasguns and autoguns, being outnumbered that heavilly doesn't seem so bad.

The Seraphim jump-packing sisters who survived the encounter with the Rhino flew south and tried to take on the Chaos Lord in a duel, but his hilarious daemon weapon made him a brutal close combat monster.  Despite jamming his plasma pistol and being outnumbered he held that unit in a brutal struggle.

Having learned from me how ramming is fun, Dave tried to repeat it by sticking his flaming Sisters tank bang on my heavy weapons and Dreadnought.  This seemed a great idea but when the Dreadnought didn't break he found himself with a giant angry death robot trying to killerate him at close range and.... yeah.

Although to be fair when I blew up the tank the explosion also ended up killing my psyker, so things were hardly perfect for me!

The Rhino dropped off the noise marines, who caused some central table havoc, and then drove to assist me ploughing into the Frateris Militia's rear while the marines close combat into the front.  CLose combat is weird in 2E so a lot of these models weren't acutlaly fighting - in modern eds, two marines charging a large Guardsman-esque unit seems a lot more risky.  Here I could have probably kept this up all day.

Aw, look, a surviving Seraphim is trying to cause some trouble!  Poor ol' Dave had very poor luck this game but he seemed to have a ball enjoying the crazy gonzo results of the game.

Those few Frateris Militia who finally saw sense and ran went into cover.... not realising that the slavering Chaos Spawn that was once their Inquisitor is hiding in their two.  The immediate aftermath of the battle is going to go poorly for them!

Everyone else is posting right now about 8th Ed 40K and it's upcoming release but to be honest I'd quite like to play some more 2E in all it's bonkers glory.  

However, if there's any game reports upcoming from me, it's more likely going to be another entirely non-sci-fi game.  I'm afraid my interests have gotten more... bloody.

Stay tuned, sports fan!

1 comment:

  1. Wow that brings back soooo many memories!. Looks like a right laugh. now wheres my old white dwarves.....