Adept Kain’s tentacled machine links withdrew slowly from the interface panels surrounding him. He had to cogitate, quietly, outside the noostream for a moment. Would this be his failure, or a last minute recovery from failures made by those before him? Magos Ferdinand was a fool. This whole expedition had been a miscalculation from the start. From the poor research findings Kain had reviewed so far, he doubted their quarry had ever been more than a myth to begin with. And now the expedition’s position had grown untenable, with incalculably valuable resources being thrown after a madman’s quest. Slowly re-interfacing, he assented to the sector governor’s request for exterminatus. Time to end this throne-cursed debacle.
Yesterday PAGE organized a campaign tournament at Redcap’s Corner: The Debacle on Caldor IV. The core of the event was a fairly rigorous tournament, the missions, scoring, and rules for which we’d hold up against pretty much any tournament around in terms of being fair and formally specified. Around that we wrapped a team event with a light storyline, with the Forces of Order and Legions of Discord working to carry out a strategic mission in the waning hours of the planet’s existence.
All in all it seemed to go really well. Ten players showed up and divided neatly into the two teams. Order carried the day handily, but individual player standings were reasonably balanced. Our victors:
- Overall Winner—Order: Patrick S, Imperial Fists (78/100 points)
- Overall Winner—Discord: Mike P, Tyranids (72/100 points)
- Best General: Byron D, Grey Knights + Inquisition (45/60 points)
- The Artiste: Rob W, Imperial Guard + Inquisition (23 votes)
Caldor IV—once a luscious knight world, now a smoldering husk. Both The Dark Ages and The Heresy it outlasted, but the paranoia and isolation of those times set the kernels of future failure. Over the following eons the houses ossified and turned inward, gazing at all about them with mistrust, then fear, and eventually war. Centuries of infighting eventually slagged the verdant paradise into a charred wasteland. In recent centuries the Mechanicum has resettled the planet, though their motivations for doing so are unclear. Intrigued, the planet has since been the target of continual raids and exploratory incursions by the more intrepid and curious pirates, heretics, and xenos. Weary, stretched to the breaking point, the defense forces have finally all but collapsed after decades of unceasing combat. Sensing the weakness, foes of the Imperium have all piled in, lusting for blood or other, more secret, goals. Beseeched by the Mechanicum, loyalists throughout the sector have poured in to match, deepening the ever swirling maelstrom of the planet-wide conflict. But time and resources have run out.
The Forces of Order and the Legions of Discord are fighting over the war torn Caldor IV and whatever spoils it may have. The planet has three continents: Apollon, Hermea, and Juno. Each of them has a variety of areas—city, industrial, raw wastland, etc.—represented by the different tables in play. Apollon contains the Mechanicus headquarters and primary forges. Hermea has a disproportionate amount of the population. Juno… is not a place people go lightly.
The Legions of Discord have formed an uneasy alliance seeking The Scythe of Unbound Light, a war machine of incredible power believed to be still buried amid the planet’s vast fields of rubble and dunes. Their scryers believe it’s on Juno but will not stake their lives to it, and the precise location is necessary to retrieve it anyway.
The Forces of Order are simply trying to extricate themselves as cleanly as possible from a rapidly worsening quagmire. Originally the Mechanicum came to the planet in search of the Scythe as well, but by this point only fools believe it still exists or ever did. Magos Ferdinand, head of Mars’ expedition, is such a fool and refused to leave the planet until it was too late. Preparations are now underway to virus bomb the planet, the situation having been deemed irrecoverable. However, despite his foolish belief in ancient myths, the Magos’ vast machine knowledge is too valuable to throw away easily. Any effort necessary should be expended to retrieve him if at all possible before Exterminatus. He is assumed to be on Apollon, but his location has not been confirmed since the last round of heavy fighting began.
First round pairings are randomly assigned. Starting with the Legion of Discord, the teams alternate assigning a pairing to a continent and the other team picking a table for that pair. In the second and third rounds, the teams alternate putting forward a player and continent, beginning with the team currently leading in total victory points and descending down the win/loss brackets. The other team responds with an opponent and table. The two players must not have already fought, and must be within the closest possible win/loss brackets.
The point of choosing continents is to achieve each or block team’s campaign objective: Discord is trying to locate and retrieve The Scythe of Unbound Light, while Order is trying to do the same for Magos Ferdinand. Two sets of envelopes are prepared with search result cards for a campaign divided by the three continents. Cards reveal the precise location of the target, a clue as to its continent, a false lead, or nothing. At the end of each round both teams draw search results for each continent they control. Control is determined at the end of each round by the accumulated sum total victory points earned in that continent so far.
At the end of the day, the team has achieved its campaign objective if it has found the precise location of its target and controls that continent. It still achieves this if it reveals the location in the last round and controls that continent. If one team achieves its campaign objective and the other doesn’t, it achieves a strategic victory. If both teams achieve their campaign objectives the war has been a strategic draw. If neither team achieves their objectives, they have both failed. Tactical victory over the planet is determined by total victory points earned toward the campaign: Match results plus potential bonuses.
To those bonuses, there are a variety of covert missions available. In the second and third rounds the bottom players on the team behind as well as the bottom player on the leading team are given covert missions from a random pool of them. If they achieve these they receive a boon for their team irrespective of match results, such as additional points toward continental control or extra search results.
With an all out press to secure the Magos and any other retrievable resources before the planet befalls Exterminatus, the reinvigorated Forces of Order rebuffed the Discord aggressors and took a resounding lead. Control over all of the continents yielded possible clues to the Magos’ location, while the Legions did not advance in their campaign.
Concentrating on the wastelands, in the second round Discord retook control of Juno but learned no information. A successful Night Lords covert mission on Hermea infiltrated the Order tactical networks through an exposed data port revealed the disposition of Order forces on the continent and substantially closed the gap for control. On Juno Discord managed to capture an Order Dark Angels sergeant alive for interrogation but he knew nothing. Meanwhile, Order firmly secured the primary Mechanicum installations on Apollon and was able to scour the data records, learning the precise location of Magos Ferdinand: Cowering in hiding among the hab blocks of Hive Promethe on Hermea.
Barreling toward Exterminatus, Discord locked up control of Juno but to no avail as their scryers had failed: A daring Night Lords covert raid through Apollon actually located The Scythe at the last possible hour but it was irretrievable, buried in the previously lost Library of House Etrakus, deep in Order’s stronghold on the continent. Simultaneously, a contingent of Space Marine commanders forcibly picked up Magos Ferdinand and carried him into a waiting shuttle as the virus bombs began launching, ending his “foolish” quest. Perhaps fortunately for him, none were the wiser as to what had been right under his forces through all the years of the Mechanicum’s expedition…
In the end Discord controlled the mysterious wastelands of Juno, found but did not secure The Scythe of Unbound Light, and claimed 123 victory points. Order controlled the Mechanicum headquarters on Apollon and the population centers on Hermea, secured Magos Ferdinand, and claimed 175 victory points to take the day. Along the way:
- A regiment of Imperial Guard was sent to an unimportant continent to be literally fed to a Tyranid onslaught in vague hopes of achieving absolutely no strategic import…
- The Night Lords carried out several successful covert missions under cover of darkness, winning their true objectives while harrying Order forces.
- Grey Knights took desperate risks to decisively battle and expel Lord Typhus, Herald of Nurgle in a wall of reality ripping psychic attacks.
And many other acts of bravery, treachery, and foolishness were undertaken.
All in all the event seemed to work out well. The rules and scoring capture the crew’s current consensus on how to balance 40k a bit, as well as incentivize hobby aspects and casual social play, without being subjective, informal, or applying outright bans. I think that has already had effect on who came out and what they brought, mostly on the hobby aspects as balance isn’t generally a huge problem at Redcap’s. We noted several minor tweaks to make to the specific missions used and their basic template, and have a good number of thoughts on further tuning these campaign mechanics to keep the narrative competition a bit tighter. Comments and suggestions are more than welcome.
The most tragic outcome of course though is the virus bombing of Caldor IV, a regular setting for PAGE events, in several game universes now. We’ll undoubtedly have to quietly retcon that to avoid actually coming up with a new planet…
We are scheduled to run another 40k event at Redcap’s on December 20th. That is tentatively planned to be a skirmish campaign tournament using our Recon Squad variant on the traditional 40k Kill Team rules and ending with our Cataclysm mini-Apocalypse pile-in. See you then!