GW 40K ...
"Love" them, "Hate" them, but you cannot ignore that "They are there, they exist, you cannot deny it. They are out there!", but have you ever played them? I've seen the staggering prices of some of the figures and I've even collected and bought some of those same staggeringly priced figures (well the ones that appealed to me) but (and it's a big BUT) I have not actually played them. 40K? Before I cast a stone I should give them a go. Afterall I am a Sci-Fi fan, RPG'er as well as being a Historical gaming buff. For my sins I have played DBM, DBMM and DBR enough times to establish a position on a continuum of LIKE .. DISLIKE .. and it was finally "dislike" (but DBA is still OK). 40K was a compete mystery to me. Time to unlock the 40K box (see below):
I found I was an "Orc in Space" (and there was my first philosophical grievance or conundrum, "How" was that possible?). I was also a 'Black Orc' because most my my army was undercoated .. OK I am being a 'it really should be painted' wargaming snob here (the kit that was painted I have to confess did look brilliant if somewhat implausible), but in a perverse sense it was also a liberating feeling of 'naughtiness' too. (I'm sure they would break your thumbs at the Chess Club for turning up with a novelty chess set but that's another story). I seemed to have lots of Orcs packing various different types of weaponry, three "Huge" Orc "War Boss" things, some helicopters, no sorry Choppers and motorbikes, the ones which were painted looked really fab. As you can tell, I dig the painting side of the GW hobby .. but what about the gaming side? Instinctively I hid as much of my kit as possible in cover as far up the table as possible (see below), as in true Orc fashion I had been advised to charge at the enemy and try and rip them apart in the 'close assault'phase. OK, battle plan fixed, action!
My opponent may only have been twelve, a bit tired after finishing his home work, also just learning the game himself but his father has assured me that I didn't stand a chance because basically his Chaos Space Marines cost more than my Orcs. Judging by the size of the models there were several birthdays worth of presents coming at me. Large curiously shaped warped vengeance machines were reverberating in anticipation of a slaughterhouse of Orc. I think the Orcs were putting on a brave face while waiting for Xmas before Santa brought them a AFV "can opener" model. The armies point wise may be the same but the technological edge lay with the renegade Space Marines (and to be frank, so it should, after all my troops were all born in vats an literally "green" .. I blinked, wasn't I playing Vietnam? I blinked back again and the game has started).
I moved forwards to see lazguns and worse thing tear holes in my ranks of "green things" ('things' that I have to confess I was getting rather attached to). Finding the cover not really helpful and the shooting capability of your typical "Orc Grunt" rather poor I soon elected to forgo shooting and take the extra variable movement bonus to "get in close and anti-personal" (ahem, sorry I'll get my coat). It seemed to pay off, kind of, for despite the slow learning curve and increasing pile of dead Orsc, the rules things started to be making sense. Range bands in segments of six inches, to hit rolls, penetrating rolls and saving throw rolls (the first two bits were like tank combat Command Decision, the latter straight from the pages of D&D). The statistics were volume based probability which did have its appealing moments (read on later). Finally I got close enough to take on a big Chaos Space Marine figure, a sort of "one demonic thing and its dog" with a hoard of Orc Grunts and a War Boss. At this point we got utterly lost, but as we were at the 'local wargamers club' (I emphasis not just 40K'ers, in fact 40K is a minority sport there) help was at hand, in quite a charming way. Other members upon seeing our distress put their dice down (from a game of 'Steam Punk') and came across to decipher the 'scripts' associated with close combat. Apparently I had to roll dice, lots of dice (see below, count them all, there are fifty in total). Juvenile perhaps, but it had a certain buzz, the sheer time involved in counting them out and tumbling chaos as I threw (well there was that many) all over the table. Adolescence squeals of delight, gawd was I going through puberty again? Did I hit anything, needing sixes for the whites and fives or sixes with the blues, there was something about a 'Power Claw' and a 'Waugh Cry' but I really didn't follow.
Twenty nine hits! It must be dead. What roll more? Are you sure (see below), oh for penetration, each needs a six (white) or five-six (blue), eight penetrating hits great, is it dead now? Oh roll for saves, er one hit, no two but the first one goes on his dog? OK. It was a lot of hard work figuring it all out but it usually meant that I was doing two hits to the other figures one for each round of melee. It seemed to be going slowly in my favour but the rest of my army was getting (very politely I may add) torn apart by Chaos Space Marine weaponry. Despite my losses the table seemed very crowed with laz guns wielding troopers that had surprisingly short ranges for hi-tech weaponry and I saw the WWII "only fire when the tank barrels are touching each other" syndrome. My initial score of hits (see below), what could survive that?
After three hours of playing we tried to concentrate on finishing "one melee to the death" but sadly failed. I was whittling away at this Daemon Lord, but seeing as the young chap had mislaid his Chaos Space Marines Codex and Army List we had the peculiar feeling some strange Daemon Sword artifact or special rule might have been able to come to its assistance. See the final stand off below, can you spot the difference from the start other than we must have thrown over five hundred dice to get to this point? We were being guided at this point by some old pros who certainly seemed to know what they were doing .... so it this it? It was an empty sort of feeling.
We packed the bags away. I felt that the battle (3000 points a side) had been too big for a novice like me and somehow in a way "more on the table had meant less fun". I have the inkling that I might have more time for just a 'basic game' without the 'silly big models' that cost a modern mortgage to most young children. Basically Space Hulk. I did have an "Apocalypse Now" moment when my "Orc Huey Gunships" attacked a Giant Mechanical Possessed Spider (which I thought was cute in a Harry Potterish sort of way .. that was meant as a complement), an action shot is shown below. See what I mean about the tank barrels touching though?
Experience over ... was it a game too far ... certainly I like the GW "Grunt" figures but my inclination is to use them with another rule set, more in a RPG way. Though that said I can sense the appeal of the genre to my oldest child (pre-teen) and where he goes the other two will follow (for my daughter I can already see I will have to paint up some Sisters of Mercy at an unspecified point of time in the future). Game on? I will keep my mini GW collection going, but not following there army lists other than the basic HQ and two troop types. Tyranid, Tau, Necron, Eldar have caught my eye as nice models to paint and why not eventually do the Daddy of them all a Space Marine unit? Plenty of historical stuff to do first though ;)
What next, well the other ugly games brute I haven't tried yet, more in my period, is Flames of War (FoW). Watch this space.