Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Timewalking Archive Trap: 40k, Part 1 of 4

Like anyone whose desire to say something is matched only by their desire to waste time saying it on the internet, I've been blogging for a while. Timewalking Archive Trap presents select treasures from yesteryear for the enjoyment of my readers and the easing of my creative duties. 

This one is dated 15 October 2007:

I played some Warhammer 40k yesterday for the first time. I didn't really like it.

'The Guys' started showing interest in Warhammer about 3 months after I sold my dust-covered, all-but-forgotten starter box to someone else. It was the wargamer equivalent of finally throwing away my little black book, only to have that hookup whore on the side end up in all of my classes at school. At any rate, I managed to be supportive, given that after getting interested in April, Terry and Derek played their first game a few weeks ago. It isn't entirely fair to say that though; I've got a library of hundreds of Battletech that I've never fielded, which parallels Terry's contentment honing his mini-painting and landscaping techniques without ever rolling initiative.

So Terry's been the number one guy on this; subsidizing minis, going over the rules, downloading army builders. He's spent the last few months going through the books at a leisurely, but characteristically thorough pace. There was a time--and I think many gamers can parrot this sentence with honesty--we'd rip open a new game system or sourcebook every week, devouring it, as Russo's zombies devour brains. Derek, the number two guy in 40k, was never so fond of that. He's really the type of guy that's more inclined to focus on the essential information and let practice do the teaching.

But why am I playing? I got myself re-hooked on Battletech by my game against Josh last Friday (By the way, having my own technology, 'mechs, and random-allocation tables is awesome!), so I've been pushing it pretty hard. Terry, Derek, and I played a game a few nights ago, and not too long after that, Terry and I went head to head. It was only fair that--after I'd trounced Terry at a game of Battletech--I take him up on his offer to partake of Saturday night's four-way, 1,000 point Warhammer 40,000 battle. 

Terry talked with me a bit about the opponents we'd be facing. He was going to play Richard and Derek, but a three way in gaming is never as satisfying as a three way outside of gaming. I had actually learned the basics from my old boxed set, which worked about because much of Terry's teaching consisted of skipping the rules to talk about his army list and strategies against Derek. He expected me to go Eldar, (space elves being well within my idiom) but I opted for a simple, 'mono' force of Space Marines because he had extra space marine minis and because I figured he and Derek already knew Space Marines and Space Marine weapons pretty well. I selected three different types of guys: jump pack guys, scout guys, and one command guy whose sole purpose in life was to give all of my other dudes a high leadership rating (We later dubbed him Space Captain Captain Jesus once I understood his really good stats). It took me about twenty minutes with Terry's Army Builder program, and I had a good force made up, dubbing them The Earls of Sandwiche.
The Earls' scouting elements and jump troops with Space Captain Captain Jesus.
Picture taken during The Second Battle of My Magic: the Gathering playmat. 

Terry and I played out a game. Between the two of us, the 'squishy' terrain and movement wasn't really a problem. I think it's my more conservative half that has doubts about exactly what areas are jungle when they're represented by very particular spaces around the fronds of a small, plastic fern. No problems there though. I was rather put out that 40k turns give the initiative winner such a significant advantage(properly-ranged units can hit opposition pretty hard, eliminating units before they even get a chance to fire). I have always believed that initiative does not exist to give one side an advantage, but rather to regulate the order in which things are done. The 40k brawling/melee rules do use initiative this way, and I'm very happy with that.

I was decimated in that game. Terry did an adequate job of stepping me through the rules and suggesting things, which was simpler because of my no-frills weapon loadout, but he had longer-ranged units and no compulsion to move(something I do find rather unsporting) while I charged and ended up in multiple, unfavorable melee situations(still better than getting shot at). In addition, the characteristic bad luck which had--until recently--been a constant companion to me in Battletech, seemed to have found a new home in Warhammer. The game ended on the sixth turn. I had five men left, all scouts, surrounded by three times their number in full-on space marines (This is out of an initial force of forty-five). That's not counting Captain Jesus, who I'd unwisely left cowering behind a bunker. 

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