The Cataclysm on Caldor IV

With the idiot Magos Ferdinand safely locked away in temporary quarters where he couldn’t affect any important decisions, Adept Kain signaled the fleet that only expendable resources remained below. Immediately the giant cruisers could be seen through the viewscreen moving into position to begin bombarding the planet in extremis. Let Chaos take the world, for all it would be worth broken in half! But then, from behind the second moon and hurling by directly under the Imperial ships, a bevy of dark, rounded ships became silhouetted in Caldor IV’s reflected light. For a momentum Kain was terrified—Tyranid! But then he realized the bioships had not stopped to engage in battle, instead moving directly to perilously low orbits and were launching spore pods at the besieged planet, streaming down even alongside the torpedoes and plasma of the Imperial barrage.  Even better, he thought…

On Saturday PAGE wrapped up our November and December tournament/campaign series at Redcap’s Corner with The Cataclysm on Caldor IV. The day consisted of two parts: Four rounds of Recon Squad followed by a Cataclysm game. Our Recon Squad format is a 200 pt Kill Team-style skirmish variant in which each model acts independently. Cataclysm is our framework for multiplayer, Apocalypse style games, in this case a mini-Apocalypse with 500 pt armies.

We had eight players, organized into two alliances: The Legions of Discord, and the Spoilers. The Spoilers handily won the first act of Recon Squad games. Discord redeemed itself with a strong victory in the Cataclysm. Individual awards went to:

  • Overall Winner—Spoilers: Justin M, Tyranids (75/100 points)
  • Overall Winner—Discord: Colin K, Chaos Daemons (72/100 points)
  • The Artist: Jason W, Imperial Fists (10 votes)

Full details, including the mission pack, campaign mechanics, and other rules are up on the event webpage. Full results with breakdowns are in the final spreadsheet. More photos are up in the Flickr gallery.

The Spoilers arrive.

The Spoilers arrive.


As developed in last month’s campaign, Caldor IV is a former Knight world ravaged by infighting and strife eons ago. Several decades ago the Mechanicum began resettling the planet as cover for an expedition searching for The Scythe of Unbound Light, a long lost relic weapon. All manner of xenos, heretics, and traitors eventually learned of the true motivation for this effort and recently descended on the planet. In the outcome of last month’s campaign, the Forces of Order located and evacuated Magos Ferdinand, head of the Mechanicum expedition. The Legions of Discord located The Scythe but did not manage to retrieve it.

Still convinced The Scythe is a myth and unwilling to continue wasting resources defending the planet, Order has abandoned Caldor IV and declared it Exterminatus. With the relic actually located though, the uneasy Discord alliance has fractured in a bitter struggle to secure it before the end. Working quietly amidst the planet-wide conflict, one band of Chaos Daemons has pinpointed the remaining pieces of The Scythe on Apollon, the primary continent. Broken into several major pieces long ago, a shanty town has grown up around the mostly buried wreckage, no one aware of what lies just below. With the larger Discord alliance fallen apart, the Daemons have tricked and co-opted several groups of stragglers from the departing Imperial forces to help them strike for the ensorcelled relic and secure the components before it’s truly destroyed with the planet.

However, several more factions new to the battle have also arrived in force to capitalize on the disarray and gorge on bloodshed while disrupting their hated foes’ efforts. Most menacingly, a large group of Tyranids and Orks working together, possibly awful mutant hybrid products of the Octarius War, have come to stop them.

Orks ride into combat, going head-to-maw with the Daemons.

Orks ride into combat, going head-to-maw with the Daemons.


Starting the day, each player chose a legacy for their Recon Squad from eight options: Bodyguards, Excavators, Headhunters, Killers, Penetrators, Scouts, Sentinels, and Warriors. Legacies represent their squad’s path through the final fighting on Caldor IV, defined by three specific missions and roles they’re trying to fulfill from eight thematic scenarios in the Recon Squad rounds: Ambush, Assassination, Battlefield, Breakthrough, Encirclement, Excavation, Installation, and Skirmish. In the Cataclysm they then also received a personal objective based on their legacy. Achieving two of their three missions also granted a bonus in the Cataclysm. For example, the Sentinels were attempting to defend against a Breakthrough, survive an Encirclement, and protect an Installation. In the Cataclysm they were striving to have their units in place on each of their home objectives. The bonus for achieving two of their missions was bolstering a piece of terrain or fortification, and their non-vehicles and walkers gaining Stubborn.

Legacy card for the Sentinels.

Legacy card for the Sentinels.

In the Cataclysm, all the players came together for a joint mini-mega-battle. The battle was fought over six cumulatively scored objectives, two in each deployment zone and two more in no-man’s land. On top of this, each player was trying to achieve their legacy goal. With four players a side and 500 points each it wasn’t actually a particularly big game, but with everybody on one table it was suitably chaotic and bloody. Whole units were wiped out at a blow, armies lost ground as quickly as it had been claimed, and giant monsters did battle with brave warriors.

All of this was contested among heavier terrain than usual. Recon Squad games were on 4×4 boards. Several were Infinity setups that the store uses regularly. Others used a great deal of Warhammer Fantasy and 40k terrain. For the Cataclysm we simply took two of the similarly themed shanty town boards people had been fighting over all day and put them together for a heavily terrained 4×8 board.

Kingbreakers fight Genestealers and Broodlords among the corridors and laboratories of a now-abandoned research facility.

Kingbreakers fight Genestealers and Broodlords among the corridors and laboratories of a now-abandoned research facility.


The Spoilers effectively disrupted Discord’s forces throughout the end of the battle, with their Recon Squads winning the first rounds  90 points to 71. Discord however repelled the attack in the Cataclysm, holding the majority of the objectives for a 20 to 15 victory. With a slight lead remaining at the end of the day, the Spoilers thus achieved their goal of general slaughter and carnage to disrupt the other armies, while Discord managed to persevere through that affliction and ultimately retrieve The Scythe before the Imperium cracked the planet into pieces.

Among the squad legacies:

  • Though tragically working for the dark side, a squad of the Sentinels of Terra lived up to their name, successfully defending an important communications facility, living through an encirclement, and successfully organizing the defenses around the Discord home objectives.
  • A small force of Imperial Guard fought desperate battles throughout the day against Tyranid monsters towering above them, but eventually had their due when they assassinated their foes’ Brood Lord warlord in the Cataclysm.
  • Horribly lead astray in the fog of war and Chaos trickery, Kingbreakers and Raukaan wound up at each other’s throats, with heroic but misguided sergeants oathing crusades against their own battle brothers and plunging forward in their transports toward mutual annihilation in the closing moments.
  • Despite the loss of their Brood Lord, the Tyranids managed to swarm the Imperial Fists leading the Discord defense and eat their Sergeant whole, consuming his biomass and assimilating his traits.

Over the course of the whole Caldor IV campaign then, each faction (Order, Spoilers, Discord) won one of the three acts. Order secured the Magos Ferdinand in The Debacle, the Spoilers had their fill of hand-to-hand combat and biomass consumption in The Twilight, and Discord retrieved The Scythe of Unbound Light in The Cataclysm. With that the story of Caldor IV and the planet itself ends, but there’s little doubt these elements will appear again.

Again, there are lots more photos are in the Flickr gallery!

Sentinels of Terra defend a research facility... at the orders of a pack of Daemons...

Sentinels of Terra defend a research facility… at the orders of a pack of Daemons…

Next Up

Our next Redcap’s event is set for January 24th. It will almost certainly be more conventional, 1500 or 1850 points with new missions but using the same basic mission format (primary/secondary/tertiary objectives, superheavy debuffs, etc.) we rolled out last month. In the Interim we’ll be tweaking the Caldor IV missions and campaign and then putting out a PDF for other groups to make use of. Come join us next time, it’s quite different from standard 40k and tournaments, and does a good job of combining tournament play with a narrative campaign!

The Cataclysm!

The Cataclysm!

The Debacle on Caldor IV

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)

Full details, including the mission packs and other rules, are up on the event webpage. Full results with breakdowns are in the final spreadsheet. More photos are up in the Flickr gallery.

Rob W's now "award winning" Imperial Guard.

Rob W’s now “award winning” Imperial Guard.


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.

Mike P's Tyranid swarm sweep the skies clean.

Mike P’s Tyranid swarm sweep the skies clean.


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.

The Legions of Discord stare into the abyss after a rough first round.

The Legions of Discord stare into the abyss after a rough first round.

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.

The Forces of Order discuss their strategy of "We don't know what we're doing, but we're doing it well, so let's keep doing it."

The Forces of Order discuss their strategy of “We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re doing it well, so let’s keep doing it.”


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…

Tom M's terrifying Night Lords mutants lurk in the shadows...

Tom M’s terrifying Night Lords mutants lurk in the shadows…


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.

Patrick S' Sentinels of Terra will hold any ground.

Patrick S’ Sentinels of Terra will hold any ground.

Next Up

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…

Again, full details, including the mission packs and other rules, are up on the event webpage. Full results with breakdowns are in the final spreadsheet. More photos are up in the Flickr gallery.

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!

Never fear, the Maynarkh are here! Lovell H's alternate Necrons for the Forge World dynasty.

Never fear, the Maynarkh are here! Lovell H’s alternate Necrons for the Forge World dynasty.