Variety is the Spice of Life
Hey all, Kinne here. I’m new to LO, so as my first article, I’ve decided to address an issue I see not only affecting my local gaming community, but, seemingly, the whole of the internet as well. And that is the diversity of gaming.
Think about the last time you went to your FLGS, maybe even on a local club’s gaming night. I don’t know about where you’re from, but at my FLGS on Wednesday nights, it gets pretty crowded. We have five 6’ x 4’ tables upstairs with two more downstairs, and a smattering of folding tables for sitting around, painting, or playing other games that don’t require a gaming table. Usually, by 5:00 or so, you’re already waiting in line for a table. The thing that gets me, however, is that if you look amongst the fourteen guys playing, and glance at the dozen or so armies of the guys hanging around or maybe even working on models, you’ll see lots and lots of 40k. Sure, there’s the occasional Warhammer or Privateer Press force sprinkled in, but almost all of the gaming is 40k. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, or that 40k is a bad game. I’ve been playing for over seven years and, though my army interests have changed, I still enjoy the game quite a lot (especially since 5th edition). My point is that it seems to be all about 40k, and nothing else. While it is a fun game, playing the same opponents with the same armies using the same three missions is a bit repetitive for even the most avid 40k fan.
So I’m suggesting that you mix it up. There is a wealth of games out there, ready to be explored. Just looking to Games Workshop, where we get our 40k fix, you have a spread of specialist games: Necromunda, Battlefleet Gothic, Epic 40k. All three of these are based in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, so you’ll already be familiar with the backdrop.
First, we have Necromunda. For those of you not familiar, Necromunda is all about gang wars in the human cesspool that is the bowels of a great Hive City. Most of the weapons are going to be familiar to an experienced 40k player: lasguns, bolt pistols, plasma weapons, chainswords, etc. The rules will be quite different from the latest incarnation of 40k, as Necromunda came out over a decade ago and thus two editions of 40k ago, but most of the basic concepts are the same. As a bonus, do you like RPGs? Well, Necromunda is one of those great hybrids between tabletop game and role-playing game. Your gang members gain experience, cash and special weapons, so your models actually improve (and also die forever) from game to game as well as getting better equipment. The downside is that all of the Necromunda models are metal, older, and, in many cases, out of print. This is a major drawback to anyone who is a fan of the 80’s cyberpunk style (think brightly colored clothes and Mohawks), but a great opportunity to anyone who has some newer, plastic models and a wealth of ideas to convert them up. Necromunda gangs are also limited to humans, but since there’s no Necromunda competitions and you just play with friends, I’m sure you can find plenty of models in your 40k collection to represent a gang.
Next on the list, Battlefleet Gothic. This is my favorite of the 40k specialist games. Here you’re commanding massive fleets from every 40k race. Battleships the size of small continents fire weapons capable of annihilating entire armies from miles away while swarms of escorts, fighters and bombers buzz back and forth, stinging the enemy with smaller but more accurate fire. Here, the rules are a major departure from 40k. There is no Ballistic Skill or Weapon Skill, there is no Toughness or Strength or Armor Saves. But this does not mean the rules are overly complex. The latest rulebook, which you can download from GW’s website for free, has simplified the rules a bit over older editions, and it’s fairly easy to pick up. This game is a lot of fun, as you fire apocalyptic salvos at the enemy across the vast reaches of space, before closing with each other to launch boarding craft and teleport attacks. The drawback here is that you probably don’t have the models to proxy for this game, and investing in a decent-sized fleet can be about as expensive as a 1,500 point 40k army. Still, it’s a great game that’s a lot of fun, and gives you another avenue down which to expand your favorite army, by providing them the means to travel from planet to planet.
Tying right in to BFG is Epic 40,000. Here we have tiny Space Marines running around and battling Imperator Titans that are only the size of 40k Dreadnoughts. This is like playing Apocalypse, but on a massive scale. You can field entire armies of titans, super-heavy tanks and swarms upon swarms of infantry, and finish a game in the same amount of time it takes to duke it out between a Space Marine detachment and an Ork patrol in 40k. The best summation of this game I’ve ever been told is this, “When you get two units into close-quarters fighting, that’s a 1,000 point game of 40k.” And you resolve that in about thirty seconds. This game captures the true scale of battles in the 40k universe, where your Basilisks actually get to fire at the enemy for a long time before the enemy will ever assault them, and you can field squadrons of Stompas instead of just one or two. Again, we have a departure from the 40k rules, but Epic is fairly easy to pick up, just as Battlefleet Gothic is. Yet Epic suffers from the same weakness as BFG – cost. An Epic army can cost you the same as a 40k army, and there really is nothing you’ll have on hand to represent the models (unless, of course, you play Flames of War).
So there you have a few alternatives for your tabletop gaming, and I heartily encourage you to try some of them. Obviously there are many, many other games out there, including my favorite, Mordheim, and countless non-GW games. I focused on the three above because the company and story would be familiar to all 40k players, and with the exception of Necromunda, you would have the option of playing the same army as you do in 40k. And while all three of those games can be expensive to get in to, don’t forget that you have many options, such as trading websites and auction websites, where people are always selling or trading off those old models.
And lastly, don’t think that you have to play an entirely different game to spice things up. Warhammer 40,000 has a plethora of alternative ways to play that will be vastly different from your typical 1,000 to 2,000 point game. Try, for example, simply dropping the points into the 750 – 1,000 point range, shrink the table to a 4’ x 4’ area, and see how drastically different list building and strategy will be. You also have several rules supplements to choose from, most notably Cities of Death, Planetstrike, Battle Missions and, of course, Apocalypse. The first three offer great opportunities for unique, alternative games without requiring you to increase your model collection, as Apoc does. While Cities of Death did come out in 4th edition, the rules can be easily adapted and provide for a great alternative to simply playing another game of 40k inside of a ruined city. Planetstrike is a great way to mix things up as well, and can reveal hidden strengths in armies or less-used units. And while the Battle Missions book has a lot of one-sided scenarios, they can still be a lot of fun. You may find yourself completely outgunned and out-maneuvered, in a totally lopsided situation. But that’s war, and as we all know, War is Hell. I say try out one of those scenarios and see how many of those dirty heretics you can take down with you! Don’t be afraid to go outside of the nice, clean, three mission/three deployment box that we seem to be stuck in. Go out and crawl through the mud. Remember that it’s not about winning or losing, but having one heck of a time and throwing around dice, and I think you’ll have a lot more fun.