Saturday, February 18, 2012

40K Seems So... Weird Now

by SandWyrm

I headed over to Games 2 Die 4 this afternoon, hoping to get in a game of Flames, but it was not to be. I hadn't known that John was going to be running a 500-point 40K mini-tourney today. So the tables were already covered with 40K-Style terrain in anticipation. While I didn't play in the tourney (had to leave by 3:00), I did pull out the Blood Angels and play a couple of good games of 40K against Spag and TheGraveMind.

It's been about a month since my last 40K game, and I've gotten used to the Flames Of War rules, so even though I've played close to a couple of hundred games of 40K since '08, certain things about the game suddenly seemed really weird and illogical after getting used to Battlefront's system.

As I describe the battles, I'll note the stuff that seemed weird in red.

My List

I was playing the Emo-Wing, my Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard army. For those who are unfamiliar with it, here's the list:

225    Dante

90    Sanguinary Priest w/Jump Pack, Power Weapon
75    Sanguinary Priest w/Jump Pack

250    Sanguinary Guard Squad w/2 x Infernus Pistol, Chapter Banner
220    Sanguinary Guard Squad w/2 x Infernus Pistol
220    Sanguinary Guard Squad w/2 x Infernus Pistol
230    Sanguinary Guard Squad w/2 x Infernus Pistol, Power Fist
230    Sanguinary Guard Squad w/2 x Infernus Pistol, Power Fist
    Fast Attack
140    2 x Land Speeder w/Heavy Flamer, Multi-Melta
140    2 x Land Speeder w/Heavy Flamer, Multi-Melta
180    2 x Land Speeder w/Heavy Bolter, Typhoon Missile Launcher

Total: 2000 Points

This is the same list that I've run since early April of last year.

Game 1: Spag's Grey Knights

Spag offered to play me with his Grey Knights or his Space Wolves (What? No Dark Eldar? Bad Spag!). I really didn't care, as I expected a hard game either way, so I let him choose. Spag chose the Knights. It's a Coteaz build. He was running a Libby + Strike Squad in a Storm Raven, a death star unit of Assassins and Crusaders in a Land Raider Crusader, 3 Psy-fleman Dreds (one venerable) and a standard Dred who was in the Raven. For scoring units, he had 3 small 3-man henchman squads. Plus another small strike squad with Coteaz attached.

Weirdness 1: The Scale

The Armies in 40K and Flames are both company-sized. With a similar number of tanks and infantry on the table. But with the smaller scale, you're able to do things on a 3x larger battlefield. With much more terrain on the table. So seeing all those huge tanks huddled up around a Stormraven in what would be approximately 1/9th of a Flames battlefield just makes the 40K game look kind of... silly. Instead of laying down roads, towns, and a realistic looking countryside with farmhouses and rivers, you have all these abstract pieces of terrain everywhere that don't really look like anything specific.

We went NOVA-Style with 5 objectives. Primary was kill points, secondary was objectives, tertiary was table quarters. Deployment was Pitched Battle.

Here's our game at the bottom of turn 1. I won the roll-off and chose to go 2nd. Spag deployed center-left (his left), so I went all the way to his right, using the handy LOS-blocking terrain to my advantage. The Typhoon speeders managed to kill his Storm Raven in the middle of the table, forcing the Libby and Dred to walk. Nice!

Weirdness 2: Rolling to see who goes first

Most of the missions in Flames have explicit attackers and defenders, and there's a hierarchy of army types when considering who's attacking and who's defending. Mech Infantry always attacks vs. Infantry. While Tank Companies always attack vs. Infantry or Mech Infantry. If you and your opponent have the same army type, you roll off. So if Jump Infantry existed in Flames, they'd probably always be the attacker vs. everyone. Which means that they'd more than likely go first. Not doing their best to go second. :)

Weirdness 3: The Objectives

In Flames, the games are all objective driven in the extreme. The various missions differ in how they're placed and in how the forces deploy, but your goal is always to capture an objective. As in, just one. If you take an objective and it's not contested by the beginning of your next turn, you win the game. Period.

So it's strange to be running around the table trying to kill things first and take objectives second. In the real world people fight over territory. Not simple body counts.

It's also strange to have all these objectives laying around, perfectly placed x inches from the table edges. In Flames, many of the missions only have objectives on the defender's side, which is balanced by making the defender reserve half of their forces.

Weirdness 4: Not Worrying About Ambushes

So let's say that you're defending against someone in Flames. All of the objectives are on your side of the table and you are forced to reserve half of your units. What do you get to balance your on-table weakness? AMBUSHES!!!

Basically, you get to take half of the units (rounded down) that you start on the table with and deploy them in ambush. At the beginning of any turn (even the first), you can put them anywhere on the table that's more than 16" away from an enemy unit, or you can deploy them up to 4" away if they're concealed. Which is basically anywhere that they're in cover. Like in a wood or behind a wall/hedge. When they appear, they can shoot at their full rate of fire and are considered to be dug in. Making them harder to kill.

I ambushed Farmpunk with a Tiger Tank once and killed an entire Sherman platoon in 2 turns. :)

How do you counter ambushes? With Recon (Recce) units. You can't deploy an ambush within 8" of a recon unit, so if you scoot a recon unit up against a wood, the enemy can't pop out of ambush there. Recon units also allow you to remove cover saves (actually to-hit modifiers for being gone-to-ground) from enemy models, so they're quite useful! 

By turn 3, things were looking very bad for Spag. I'd killed a lot of his vehicles, and the Land Raider full of assassins was stuck on a hedge. I was effectively taking down his ability to move while staying away from his best units.

Weirdness 5: Movement Through Terrain

The movement phase is the least random part of 40K, but I was surprised by how random it feels to me now. In Flames you don't roll for how far troops move through difficult terrain. They simply can't march/run through it. And while vehicles do take a 40K-like test to see if they get stuck, the results aren't permanent. Tanks can roll again to free themselves on their next turn; they also can't shoot while stuck, as they're too busy trying to free themselves.

Vehicles that move flat-out (double normal movement) also don't get to turn more than once as they move. Infantry that run also can only move in a straight line. Moving flat out in Flames is also risky, as it lets your opponent shoot twice at your unit (because they're not advancing cautiously).

Unfortunately for me, I made a grave error on turn 3. I blocked two of the Land Raider's access points with damaged Speeders, but didn't think to move my undamaged Typhoon Speeder to block the third. As a result, the Assassins were able to get out, make a great terrain roll, and wipe out Dante's unit in assault. They then killed Dante during my turn after he failed his Hit and Run roll.

Weirdness 6: I Didn't Get To Shoot At The Assassins When They Assaulted

In Flames, you get to shoot at troops that assault you at your full rate of fire. So to have a hope of succeeding in an assault, you have to pour enough fire into the unit you're charging to pin them. Pinned units can still fire, but they only get one shot per model.

So these Assassins hop out of their Land Raider, run 13 or so inches straight at me, and then assault... and I can't do a thing!

Weirdness 7: Assaults Dragged On

In Flames, you don't stop after one round of combat. You just keep going back and forth until one side wins. Making Close Combat VERY bloody.

Weirdness 8: Losing My HQ Didn't Matter Much

Games in Flames of War are pretty decisive. You almost never have to chase damaged units around the field to win a game. Part of that is the objective system, which gives the win on any captured objective. But the other half of that comes from the fact that you have to take company morale checks once you've lost half of your squads (platoons in Flames). The company morale check is made by your 1iC (First In Command), and if he's dead... you auto-fail and lose the game!

After Spag's Assassins killed off Dante's unit, they proceeded to kill another two Sanguinary Guard units before the game ended on turn 6. We counted up kill points, and I was still ahead by 1. But you have to win by 3 in a NOVA format game, so it went to secondary. Where Spag won it 1-0 on objectives.

Weirdness 9: The Game Just Ended Arbitrarily

There's no turn limit in Flames. You just play until one side or the other wins. Either because one player captures an objective, or the other fails a Company Morale Check. So unless you're at a timed tournament, you don't get these sorts of weird endings where everything just stops mid-action.

I have to admit that our game was closer than I had initially thought that it would be. This was my first time taking the Emo-Wing against the Grey Knights, and I'd really feared being out-assaulted by default. But the Sang Guard held up pretty well.

Spag's 3 Psyflemen Dreds were really only a concern in the early game, when he was playing peek-a-boo with my Speeders. In the late game, I really only feared getting tarpitted by them.

The Assassin death star was a problem, but it's one that I could have handled by either blocking the exits on that immobilized Land Raider or flaming them with some speeders. So it really came down to tactics in the end.

Game 2: TheGraveMind's Blood Angels

My second game was against TheGraveMind, who was running his blue-painted Blood Angels. The game was objectives/kill points/table quarters, with a Dawn of War deployment.

He had a couple of FlameStorm Baals, a couple of Vindicators, a bunch of Las/Plas Razors, and a couple of Typhoon Speeders. He also had Mephiston and a large assault unit with 2 meltas and 2 Infernus Pistols. The assault unit was held in Deep Strike.

TGM set up much as Spag did, so I did a repeat deployment. TGM had a lot more tanks than Spag did, but less AP2 weaponry. He tangled up on the terrain and I was able to make it worse for him by wrecking tanks in key locations. Forcing him to take more terrain tests.

His big mistake was dropping his large 10-man assault unit right in front of my advance. His meltas killed a MM/HF Speeder, but I then hit him with 2 Sanguinary Squads + SangPriest and ate him without skipping a beat. After Dante and both of my other squads dropped on turn 2, his armor really started disappearing too. 

The highlight of the game was Mephiston getting dog-piled by Dante and 3 units of Sanguinary Guard. Mephiston hulked-up and did 5 wounds to Dante, who got insta-killed by a single failed invulnerable save. The feather boys then took the rest of McPhisty's wounds and we called the game on turn 3. With a little more than half of TGM's units dead.

Which was very Flames-like, as in that system TGM would have been forced to take a company morale check when he lost more than half of his units. Without Mephiston, he would have automatically failed it and lost the game. Which is, I think, a better way to win than having to spend 2-4 more turns chasing down every last little model when the game is already clearly won.


Flames has spoiled me. Being so similar to 40K, it really seems miles ahead of GW's game in terms of rules refinement and tactical scope. The scale is much more appropriate to company-sized battles, and the $$$ costs are about half, which is much more reasonable. I bought an entire German Infantry platoon today (48 METAL men on 9 bases) at the store for $29.00. Honestly, I haven't seen that much metal in a blister pack since '89.

I'm really starting to feel that 40K should be re-balanced around the 1000 point mark and made into more of a skirmish-style game with a lot more terrain on the table. Something between what we have now and Necromunda. In a perfect world, GW would compete with Battlefront by releasing a new 15mm version of Epic. With detailed 4" long Land Raiders and awesome Titans that are 12" high. That would rock!


  1. The FoW tables I've seen always seem to look really gorgeous, but you can make gorgeous 28mm scale boards too.

    I agree that the table looks weird but when you're playing with upturned phone packaging, not to mention the weird hedges and ponds in the middle of a desert, then I'm not sure the problem is the scale... :P

    With 40k yeah it's goofy but the Nova format is something pretty specific for a specific type of game. If you want more narrative focused games there's all the Imperial Armour books with hundreds of pages of rules and fluff for whole narrative campaigns.

    With the cost thing, FoW has the dark-side of any historical wargame: If you want a diffrerent era or theatre then, oops, you need to repaint your figs and probably get a whole bunch more of them too.
    A historical setting makes your games feel grounded and that's great but there's a lot of downsides too.

  2. Yeah, you CAN make nice 28mm scale scenic boards, and I've seen it done, but it's an investment of thousands of dollars, not hundreds.

    But putting that aside for a moment, I'm really talking about this from a gameplay and immersion standpoint. 40K NEEDS abstract pieces of LOS-blocking terrain to function competitively. They have to be so high, and spaced just so. The objectives have to be spaced out in the middle of the table quarters and the center, like some abstract gym sport, to provide a fair playing experience. It's like playing Laser-tag from the 80's in a room full of blocky, carpeted shapes. The game's terrain layout simply isn't immersive because the core game is deeply flawed in it's design. If you make a pretty scene to play in, you lose any sort of balance between the forces.

    When Farmpunk and I went to G2D4 for a game 2 Saturdays ago, they had proper 15mm terrain on hand. We laid out some roads next to a river with a few different places to ford it. We laid out an entire town along that road, and then put some fields along the river with farm buildings. One side of the river had a network of hedges, and the other had a wooded hill overlooking everything.

    And then we had a game. Not only was it fun, but I didn't feel like we were sacrificing the competitive aspects of our play to provide a scenic experience. The town provided one type of approach across the table, the farms provided another. There were open areas and dense areas. Infantry could ford the river on foot, while the tanks had to cross at bridges or loose a turn or two of movement fording at the shallows. In 40K, rivers aren't practical because only some armies can effectively cross them. And when was the last time you saw a road in a 40K game? They're so big, scale wise, and their impact on a couple of armies' vehicle speeds is so great, that they simply aren't suitable scenery for competitive play.

    In Flames, buildings matter. They protect infantry and provide places for artillery spotters to hide. In 40K, everyone just treats buildings as ruins because 'real' buildings are treated like static vehicles. Which also doesn't work competitively.

    So 40K ends up feeling like Battlezone to Flames' World of Tanks.

  3. "I'm really starting to feel that 40K should be re-balanced around the 1000 point mark and made into more of a skirmish-style game with a lot more terrain on the table. Something between what we have now and Necromunda."

    *whistles innocently*

    Obviously it wasn't perfect, but it's pretty much what you're describing in spirit.

    I'm actually surprised that people aren't retrocloning 40K already...

  4. Aw, Sandy...
    It's ok, dude. We can just say it...out loud, even.
    Flames is a WAY better game than 40k.

    GW makes really nice models, though.
    But 40k as a game system, and a competitive one at that, seems laughable to me now.

    Whatever you do- stay away from Infinity.
    I've got my first two starter sets, and I'm currently learning the rules.
    It's amazing, and makes 40k look like a game for slow children.

    1. No, don't stay away from Infinity... come and join us (one of us, one of us, one of us). If you think FoW is brutal, you've not seen a gunfight in Infinity.

      OT: I've often thought that the arbitrary game-end bit in 40k is silly from a real-world point of view ("We were on an offensive against the xenos scum, but the ref blew the whistle so we shook hands and parted"), but I must say that (as an outsider) FoW's idea that if you hold an objective for one turn you win seems just as silly. I can't turn around and crush your unit? I imagine it makes sense for "Blow up this fuel depot" style objectives, but is that all the objective types? There aren't "Take this factory" or other objectives that imply you want to hold something without destroying it?

      That said, I maintain a level of "This is a game". Silly as it is random game length leads to a better game in 40k so I don't mind. You've spelled out how "Take this and win" makes FoW a better game than it would be without it, so I've no problem there either.

      Alas, if only it wasn't historical. I like my pewpew lazors too much - even the fantasy systems I play have robots in them.

    2. I like to think of the objective taking as breaking the back of your opponent's defense. Forcing them to fall back to another position and regroup.

      Most of the time armies don't fight to the death. Once the objectives are lost, it's much better to fall back and regroup. Real world casualties are usually less than a quarter of the forces involved. The battles are really more about messing up the enemy's organization and moral. Forcing them to regroup and lick their wounds.

    3. That's a good point for FoW. I'm too used to skirmish games (Infinity, WarmaHordes, etc) where objectives are literal things, not "Take the high ground, force them back!".

      40k's universe isn't "real" war though - Imperial Guard are thrown at problems like it's WWI again, Tyranids don't "fall back", Chaos are often out for blood not territory. While this is Rule of Cool, I'm just pointing out that the rules for a Historical WWII game are going to be closer to "life" than rules for a Grimdark macho-bash in the future. To me, this doesn't make it a worse game but rather a worse simulation of war.

      I notice you play 2000pts. I really don't like anything over 1750 unless I'm just playing for laughs, as I feel 40k is at it's competitive peak around 1500-1750. Obviously you have different experiences of 40k than me, especially in how competitive I feel it can be, and I'm not trying to convince you - just trying to understand your reasons for feeling the way you do.

    4. It's not real war we fighting, but the further away from reality you get, the more people will encounter logical 'WTF?' moments. Battlefront found a way to end a battle once it's decided, not at some arbitrary number of turns or when every last model has been killed. Chasing down survivors isn't interesting and can really turn off casual players. If you can't contest that objective within a turn of your opponent grabbing it, it's pretty much over anyhow. You're not likely to get it back.

      As for point levels, I think I can speak for most of the NOVA-going folks on this. While the older books (Tau, Eldar, etc.) were definitely balanced for 1500 points, all of the new 5th Edition books have been balanced for 2000 points. I say this not because someone at GW told me it was so, but because I and others have played so many games at all point levels that we know where the sweet spot is.

    5. You raise a point many FoW players seem to forget- There are TWO ways to win a Flames game.

      -Win via objectives.
      -Break the enemy force via morale.

      This is why I never put a Shrek or Faust on my 1ic- it would encourage me to put them on the front somewhere, instead of keepin' 'em alive for re-rolls on morale checks.

      Or, at least...that's how I used to do it....2ic does re-rolls now in 3rd.

  5. First time reader. I think you hit on several interesting points without stating 40K vs. .... I've been playing Warhammer 40K since 1989 and have seen a very similar trend throughout all these years that you point out in this artice.

    I have never played FoW, but have observed many games of it as we have a fairly solid local player base. Your article hits one thing I see that is a day and night difference between 40K and FoW: painted minis and terrain.

    Locally, the FoW terrain and every model is fully painted before it ever is placed on the game table. I am yet to see an exception to this. Terrain is set up in a more logical manner and overall, the game is more visually appealing.

    This is not to say 40K can't be the same way. However, most folks I know don't hold up to the same standard as the FoW crowd. To broaden this observation, historical gamers have a higher standard than 40K players in regards to the visual aspect of a tabletop wargame. This is something I've noticed in over 20 years of miniature wargaming.

    Locally, this is a huge reason I bring my own terrain to the FLGS and won't use unpainted models. While I believe 40K is not an intuitive game system, I can enjoy it and overlook a lot of poorly written rules simply by having two fully painted armies on the table with visually appealing terrain. It is a very rare day I don't have an enjoyable game of 40K when these two things are met.

    Terrain doesn't have to cost a lot of $$$$$, but careful planning, time and effort does need to be applied.

    The scale of the game has gotten too large in relation to the points value and table size we utilize. Locally, 2000 points on a 4 x 6 table is the norm, which I believe does not mesh well. You touched on vehicles, but watching the parking lots set up in 5th edition how they interact with terrain is a bit saddening. Seeing vehicles teetering on top of terrain reminds me of playing with my Tonka toys as a kid (and I am tempted to make 'vroom vroom' noises every time a vehicle moves).

    I hate to admit it, as I really enjoy large events such as the NOVA, but 40K really is not a good system for competitive play. These days, I mainly attend the larger events just to ensure I play on decent terrain and against nicely painted armies. If I win so games, cool. If not, no big deal as I really don't believe 40K is a competitive (tournament) game. This not to say I just roll over for my opponent; I will play as well as I can, but won't be bothered by losing.

    Thank you for the post. It really clarified a bit of what I've been feeling for quite awhile now. It is a bit saddening to see some one of the most visually stunning games in the business end up being played with plastic colored models and styrofoam blocks.

  6. A comprehensive article for sure and I appreciate the effort, but looking at the photo of the 40k board, I can see where the frustration comes from; rules aside, who wants to play with half ass terrain with unpainted models. I'm not trying to troll, I mean, where is the visual appeal? Magic is more visually appealing than that when you look at it that way.

    As to thousands of dollars, it doesn't take that much to decorate a table unless you are building it all from GW terrain. Myself and another TO built 40 tables worth of terrain buildings and hills in one week and painted and flocked it all the next and it looked better (much better) than the standard terrain at any GT I've been to and blew our players away. Paint is also something we have added scores to locally for tourneys - not the subjective judge style paintscore, but based on the percentage of your army that is painted, thus we see people start to paint their armies. For too long store tourneys have been all about allowing bare plastic (it'll get more people in, huzzah) and not about the experience of playing the game and players who should know better have been lazy due to it.

    The problems with 40k have something to do with it as a system and compared to a historical based game, will likely seem fictional (what can I say, I have seen giants riding huge wolves on the board), but many of the things that I have seen stem from players and not the game or the models. In fact I want to say that again; we have player-based problems in 40k.

  7. Have to agree with (some) of the consensus... if you're not happy with the terrain you're using, its your own fault. Even if whatever store you're at doesn't have 40 tables worth of master-crafted terrain, you can still generally put out a good general feel. Try picking the type of world you're on first - industrial? Hive city? Farm or jungle planet? Get terrain that matches... don't just put some trees next to a styrofoam fort and call it a day.

    As far as scale, that's always up to the players as well... I agree that 1000 points is a lot of fun. When's the last time you looked over a Cities of Death book? It's meant for the sort of thing you're talking about - more dense terrain, smaller boards (typically 4x4). A slew of different missions to shake things up, as well as a few minor rule tweaks and strategems that you can use. Plus, the simple face that terrain is more plentiful and pushed together means army composition will often be a little different. If you can expect closed off lanes for vehicles, you'll be more likely to look at infantry selections (or at least jump out of the boxes a little earlier to get around). Flamers start to be an option to rival melta, when everything and its brother-cousin has a cover save, and vehicles are more limited by nature of the field.

    Different is good - that's why Necromunda has sparked so well at the North Store. It's the same game (more or less)... but vastly different in playstyle and feel. I think more people really should break out the expansion books more often (I've been dying to). Play VP's instead of KP's (yes, killing the other guy helps, but objectives are typically worth far more). Shoot, even break out some of the old missions from the 3rd and 4th ed rulebooks. Ambush? What? I have to escape the board as I'm being assailed from all sides? Or trying to destroy your heavily guarded [insert appropriate building here] by assaulting it for a full turn?

    Thems good times...

  8. I'm not going to talk about the terrain aspect as I found it interesting to see the comparison of 40k to FoW in terms of odd rules. The headline got my attention for this article and I'm glad I stopped by for this one.

    I play 40k with an illegal list and adjust the rules as I see fit with friends (when I do play). Of course I'm not anywhere near playing competitively. I think 40k has potential, but you have to be willing to change what seems odd to you and have an opponent who can do the same thing as well.

    Ron, FTW

  9. @Von

    I first got into 40K a few months before 3rd Edition came out, at GW's creative peak. So yeah, I do remember 2nd. There are a lot of interactions from 2nd (like real Grenades) that I miss, but it was also Hero-hammer at it's height. Where 2 static forces would line up on either side of the table and just shoot without moving much.

    I also remember how SLOW it was. Using the 5th-Edition equivalent of 1000-point armies, the games would take at least 3-4 hours to complete. When my little group of friends made the transition to 3rd, we were MUCH happier with the system because it played faster and spawned fewer arguments.

    1. I don't entirely disagree, although I don't quite follow the connection between Herohammer and static armies either.

      Herohammer was I think part of the development from pseudo-RPG into platoon-level wargame. Fourth/fifth edition WFB and second edition 40K both suffered from that to an extent, that neither-one-nor-the-other-ness, where they'd done away with the GamesMaster but not quite the level of interactions that needed one.

      It was slow as hell, no denying that. The system needed a good hard de-cluttering and third certainly gave it that, although I think in doing so it put an end to another style of play (the 'narrative wargame with a GM' approach, which you can do with the later GW games but which I have never seen anyone do).

      I have to admit though, I don't miss 2nd's Close Combat phase, which was very much suited to Necromunda-style games (lone models, fine, but when you've twenty Orks to administer through it).

      The thing that always stuck with me was a WD article I read just after I got started, all about Andy Chambers' 500 point campaign; that was a character and a couple of squads or maybe a squad and a tank per side and playable in a lunchtime. Second edition was nice at that size. I've never understood the drive for bigger and bigger games, more and more stuff, in 28mm. There comes a time where the system is just so inflated that you'd be better off moving to 10mm games... and isn't this where we came in?

  10. @SinSynn & Charlie

    You've captured my new attitude exactly. I had fun playing these 2 40K games with my friends, but the competitive obsession was gone. It just seems so silly now, given 40K's tactical sloppiness. I still do my best to win (it is a game after all), but I really don't care at the end of the day whether I win or lose. I have my Marine army, which hasn't changed at all since last April, and that's that.

    TheGraveMind said that he was sad when I sold my Guard army because he didn't know when he'd get to play IG again. But I showed him my German Panzers and told him that I was still playing Guard. They'd just shrunk. :)

  11. @OldSchoolTerminator

    I used to have a fully painted IG army, I sold it last December. The Blood Angels are a work in progress, albeit one that hasn't seen much progress lately. :)

    I also didn't mind the packing crate terrain. Because it was more balanced GAMEPLAY-Wise than realistic buildings (that don't block LOS) would have been. But even if they had been fully-modeled buildings, the PLACEMENT would still bother me, because it's completely abstract and divorced from any real sense of PLACE.

    And lastly, you can blame the players all you want. But we have these divergences within the playerbase on how to make 40K playable and fun because the RULES are half-assed, unbalanced, and incomplete. So (touching on Ron's point) instead of unity, we have a hundred different ways of patching the holes ourselves.

  12. Great article; to me, what you've identified is one of the underlying causes of the hobby vs. WAAC argument, and the heart of GW's "play for the narrative" intent of the game system: there is a major cognitive dissonance in tournament-style terrain vs. narrative terrain, likewise in "waac" lists vs. fluff lists. Although I think 5e has improved a lot in terms of making codexes both fluff- and competitive-consistent, there are still lots of models that are simply unplayable from a competitive standpoint. Been looking at a lot of terrain lately, and I find myself wishing for better battlefields that have a narrative quality, rather than simply being placed on the board in a balanced manner so one side doesn't have a huge advantage. If FoW came out with a DirtsideII-type future variant, I'd be all over it. Quite bored with anything WWIIish. =\

    @Von: I'd count Infinity and Warpath as retroclones, and Malifaux as a steampunk version of Necromunda...

    1. I think 40K's problems have more to do with the central rules. When cover is the ONLY way to modify your opponent's chances to hit, that causes huge imbalances on the tabletop. It dictates the abstracted terrain layouts that competitive play requires. If there was simply a -1 to hit for long range, another -1 for gone-to-ground, and double shots to hit fast moving targets (as in flames), then you could have a reasonable play experience even without any terrain at all.

    2. I think Infinity and Malifaux occupy a similar niche, perhaps slighly smaller in terms of bodies on the board, but they're too divergent in mechanics for me to call them retroclones with a straight face. I understand the term 'retroclone' to mean a very faithful re-iteration of a dead rules system, with a few changes to things the individual developer finds objectionable.

      This example may lie in 'teaching Grandma to suck eggs' territory, and if it does I apologise: look at things like Labryinth Lord, Swords and Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, OSRIC etc. and compare them to AD&D. Compared to the closeness with which those cleave, Malifaux and Infinity are just waaaay too divergent and innovative to qualify.

      Not sure about Warpath. Can't say I'm really interested. Kings of War looks a bit like Warhammer 6th with all the bits that would get 'em sued stripped out, though.

    3. Remember too, tho, that "fast" in 40k and "fast" in WW era's are vastly different things. Going fast enough in 40k means you're going *so* fast it's much harder to hit... half of the time while jinking up and down on the way because you're in a fully effective anti-grav tank.

      I'm by no means against to-hit modifiers to replace cover saves, although I've never seen it first hand on a large scale, only small, small skirmish. But be careful when you bring rules over fully like that. DE vehicles and Ork Trukks rely on that bonus from moving fast to have any survivability at all - turning it into a penalty would turn those armies (vehicles, at least, and armies in some cases) into paperweights.

    4. Well of course you can't just bring new rules over to 40K without re-balancing the factions. :P

      In the Orks' case, I'd give them something similar to Flames' Russian rules. The entire army is considered one big unit, and only takes a morale check when half of the units are gone. So blow up that truck. They don't care. We'll spore more... :)

    5. Well, that's the point I was making. Not that I'd expect you to not expound on the idea you put forward. The above Russian example seems, to me, perhaps too close to the Mob rule that orks already have... it could be a suitable replacement for that alone perhaps, but together it's either too redundant or makes them more unbreakable than a fearless army (cause that's somehow possible).

      I think it's difficult to do something that simplistic, though (blanket to hit mods based on speed), when the speeds in question are so very drastically different. The WWII tanks of Flames are more akin to Leman Russ's... so lumbering that if you want to Cruise, it's a d6" extra, not a 12" movement.

      If a to-hit table were to be implemented, I'd prefer something closer to the "leaked 6th ed". Stationary targets are easier to hit because they're standing still. Vehicles moving up to Cruising are probably standard. Faster is harder, depending on how fast you go. Skimmers that moved at all would be harder to hit than a tank that moved at all, because moving 10' in a straight line is easier to predict than something that, again, is jinking in all 30 directions at once.

      It's all hearsay, at the least.

  13. Wow it is great to hear a player who is making the commitment to getting into table top miniatures and advance in their understanding of this kind of game. I have compulsively playeed 40K since the summer of 1987 when it came out. I have since 3rd Ed been consistently heartbroken by the inability of this multi million dollar corp to simple write a good set of rules for what is the greatest gaming universe there is.

    I have been playing historical and writing rules for over 30 years and like you have now discovered 40K is very likely the worse published rule set on the market. My frustration and maybe yours is that the miniatures and the universe are so fantastic that you keep playing hundreds and hundreds of games just hoping for that one time that the stars align and the game is compelling and enjoyable.

    I am surrounded by 10's of thousands of dollars in gaming minis, terrain. About a third of it is 40K at any time. I even own a games publishing company and had a game store for years. Even so, some kid who has never played anything but a card game, clicky minis game or the such will get envolved in 40K and call me a hater, you will be one now also, just because you point out that the game system itself is a giant stinking pile of garbage.

    When some one like yourself points out these flaws in a public way it does a great service to the community. It puts pressure on GW to create something decent and or it prepares the community to come up with its own option. You should try some of the other options. You can even play 40K using different rules sets. Try Killzone for one or maybe Jim's new rules for larger games he is working on. You could even try out Bellum Astra and Bellum Terra when my company releases them. Of course the problem with those options is that if you enjoy the tournament system it will not work for you. However it seems you have discovered how superior FoW is and their tournament system is excellent.

    Expand your reach where gaming of this type is concerned. Try Infinity or get Osreys new "Tomorrow's War" rules set. All great options and it will feel like you are driving a sports car compared to peddling GW's old tricycle.


    1. Woah now, while a applaud the fact that Battlefront has a supported tournament circuit for Flames, I am concerned that it seems to be built on the same soft-score foundation that 40K is only now starting to shed en masse. Frankly it's the one dark stain on an otherwise excellent game.

  14. I played one of the Vraks missions a couple of months ago.

    It's funny how fairly small changes can make a big difference to how a game like 40k plays out.

    The scenario gives the assaulting player "without number" for his squads but requires him to get troops into the enemy trenchline to score while he gets killpoints for any squad he wipes out.

    It's a game with two infantry guard lists but it's also one of the most dynamic games I've played. We used the entire table trying to lure each other out of position.

    For cheap, great looking scenery we use cardstock. We've got an Ork settlement at the club which I downloaded for free on the net (I think the guy who made it was called Tommygun). It blocks LoS nicely and a cluster of Orky buildings and barricades looks good however you set it out. Anyway, I'm pretty convinced that 40k is a game where more terrain is almost always better.

    1. That's another thing I'll speak up for second edition over. Those cardstock buildings, and the bunkers from Warhammer 40,000 Battles, were the only terrain I owned until I got into WFB a few years later. That was enough to populate a 4x4 board. The mission design could easily (though I didn't do this at the time) be redefined into "game ends when one player has fulfilled their Primary Objective" - would that give you something like Flames?

  15. My turn to jump in and mess up the party. We all have opinions as seen here by ANOTHER RANT AGAINST 40K!!

    My opinion:

    40K is better than FOW anyday. I have played both and gave my army away. (Still waiting for those models I gave it away for.....) :)

    FOW is more of a hobbist game than a competitive game that I like. Do you see younger gamers playing FOW very often? Not as much. As most of you have stated, almost every detail has to be perfect to play. Whether it is terrain, how the model's are painted, if the tank has the actual real gun or not, etc. I am highly competitive and therefore enjoy the game more than the fluff and am NOT interested in history and WW2.

    40K as a competitive game is in my opinion easier to get into. A lot of people like to switch armies which creates the ability to obtain armies at a $$ amount that is reaasonable. At FOW once you buy it you are stuck and no one will want your stuff unless is extremely painted well. In 40k I can build a great army by building and kit bashing, and maybe changing the colors of some things. I can't do that in FOW because the old guys are going to have a fit if I try to use my americn tank as a german one.

    40k players are more adaptable than people think: Everyone thinks 40k players all want to play giant games all the time. For Grand Tournaments that is the way it is, but numerous people have started playing small 500 point tournaments in between larger tournaments here in Indy and they have had tremendous success at bringing in all kinds of 40k players. Try something different once in a while.

    Futuristic verses Historic: Many people enjoy the concept of our future vs history. I am the same way and therefore for me it is more fun to play something like 40k. When I did play FOW i didn't care what happened in what battle hundreds of years ago. I actually played a game where someone said after they lost. "This wouldn't have really happened if you would have brought a more realistic army list." How much of a whiner where they? Since I am playing a game I should be able to dream up what I want to happen not try to recreate what already did happen. What's the point to that?


    Maybe it's weird because you were playing an army that you haven't played very much, against an army that you never have with that army, on 2 table that were set up for 2 500 point hero hammer games, and as you admitted, you thought you had me.....

    Or maybe you will just never be happy with 40K again.....

    1. You're being more ranty against Flames than I was against 40K. I never said that I didn't have fun in our game. It's right up there in the article, I had fun! :P

      Our game wasn't weird because of the matchup or the table. It was weird because of all the illogical 40K-isms that I was suddenly more sensitive to. Your Venerable Psyfleman Dred, for instance, only needed a 2+ to hit my partially hidden Speeder across the table. That just seems… wrong. Yes, yes, it got cover and all that. But Flames handles it much more logically.

      There's no doubt that 40K's Sci-Fi setting makes it a more attractive game to younger players than WWII will ever be. Space Knights and Monsters are forever cool, and GW does make the best infantry and monster models in the business. Their vehicles are well… dumb looking; but so is every comic book tank/airplane ever devised. 40K is a comic-book universe, after all.

      As long as you stick to playing the Marines and Space Monsters, you'll have a good time. As a Blood Angel player, I can still enjoy the game for what it is. As a Guard player though, I was getting increasingly frustrated with the game's sloppiness.

      Cost also is a huge factor for me. I simply can't afford to stay on the GW upgrade treadmill. Not in this economy, with 2/3rds of the family income that I had 2 years ago. If GW's rules were as good as Battlefront's (or better), then I could justify paying their premium prices to play Sci-Fi. But Battlefront is offering a superior game, with good-enough models (and lots of low-cost model competition), for a total cost-to-play that's about one-third of 40K's, model-wise.


      For the $450.00 that it cost me to build the Emo-Wing (a 'cheap' 2000-point 40K army), I have 5000 points of Germans. That's 24 tanks and 100 infantry. Plus transports, Anti-Aircraft trucks, and Artillery. Which means that I can play the game all sorts of different ways, even against a small number of opponents.

    2. We all know the Venerable Psyfleman dread is just the latest Mat Ward special.

      I found out the other day that he wrote the 8th ed Fantasy book. It explained SO much...

    3. I gotta go with Spag on this one.

      Yes, Sandwyrm. 40K and FOW **are** different games. Yes, 40K is very high-cost (at full retail, from GW), and that's an issue. Yes, 40K is a comic-book game, and FOW is (vaguely, loosely) based on WW2.

      But some people like the comic books. And as for FOW, it's rather purposely overlooking three big, historical elements in order to keep the game artificially competitive and fun:

      (1) China
      (2) Japan
      (3) A-bomb

      So yeah. Each to their own. And as for FOW, if you're worried about "sloppiness", there are WW2 systems that are tighter, more detailed, less sloppy, etc. Once you're in the historicals arena, there's a wide wide world of options, and FOW is just the sloppy, cartoon-ish entry-level system for a lot of long-time hard-core WW2 enthusiasts. :p

    4. Note also that except for your "weirdness" #6, you've described WarmaHordes.

    5. @Orcboy

      My experiences with those other WW2 systems is why I resisted trying Flames for so long.

      My comparisons of Flames with 40K are happening because the 2 games are so similar in structure and overall feel. While playing Flames it doesn't feel like a wholly different game. It feels like a refined version of 40K. The Russians ARE Orks. Their rules fit the green tide idea better than 40K's rules, because they change the way the force is LED. The Germans ARE Tau. The Americans are more like 40K's IG, because they can bring everything and the kitchen sink, making it all work together, without excelling at any one particular thing.

      It makes me dream of horde Orks, where only the Warboss matters to morale. Or Tyranids without any HQ at all. Or Tau having the best, most costly tanks in the game.

  16. Great stuff - I still enjoy playing 40K (and I don't have a huge amount of choice most of the time to be honest) but yes - I agree with everything you now find weird.

    Perceived 'competitiveness' aside, I really like that FoW is designed to be a far more collaborative game too.

  17. Oh my! So now we have to talk about how logical the game is? It's a game, set in the future, with fictional characters, fictional acts of heroism and combat, and people want it to be more realistic to every detail? That is a problem.....

    1. Not realistic. Logically consistent. They're separate things.

      If your model is carrying a gun, and someone is running at them, it's logical to wonder why you can't shoot at them. If one target is further away than another, it's logical to wonder why you need the same roll to hit both. If our game doesn't account for things like ripping weapon arms off of a Carnifex, then why do we track weapon damage to tanks? Why is damage to a monster more determinative than damage to a vehicle? 40K is full of little moments like this. That doesn't make it a bad game, but it does make it a less immersive one.

  18. I don't think this is about Sci-fiction vs. Historical fiction.

    What I find interesting is how a Game company that also produces models approaches the hobby, vs. how the Model company that also produces a game approaches the same hobby.

    I overall agree more with BF's business model approach. Selling Books, and making a solid game makes money. Models are the gravy.
    This is different than GW professing to be a model company (although it seems they drop the ball on that a lot. Nids, and Thunderwolves, I'm looking at you.) and wanting a game to sell more models. It's also been pointed out recently pointed out ( GW wants to be an 'Elite' game, and wants to ultimately pull as much of your entertainment disposable income out of you as possible.

    I've been disenchanted with GW for over a year.

    they still have a 'fun' game.

    I'm finding red superhuman vs. blue superhuman to get a little old. I know there are other forces out there. I could field green superhumans, or silver superhumans. If you don't like Superhuman armies, there's the mediocre men. They're just not as Super.... and it all gets a bit... blah.

    I still play Necromunda, and it's as good as it ever was. (we even had 10 people show up to play Necromunda last night at the North GP.)

    as a game system, I find FoW to be a more elegant game than 40K.
    after playing 40K, FoW feels like playing football on a Polo pitch, instead of playing football on a Tennis court.

    At the Same time, 40K and Flames cover two different genres.

    Genre preferences aside, I find myself wanting to play FoW the Game system more than I want to play 40K the game system.
    I feel like FoW allows for a more strategic experience, and more tactical possibilities. Part of that might be the scale. As 40K pushes to more and more stuff on the same size table, tactics become more limited.

    as to fluffer-nutters.... they occur in all systems. I've had people curse my 40K armies and tell me they lost because I didn't bring a very accurately fluffy Inquisition army because (insert made-up fluff reason here about Sisters of Battle).

    yep the histori-fluffers have history to compare every thing to.

    in the end:
    40K is a Science Fiction game.
    Flames of War is a Historical Fiction game.

    in all endeavors to improve, it never hurts to shop around.


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