2018 NOVA 40K Narrative

Literally immediately following our 40K Trios Team Tournament, Colin and I again hosted this year’s NOVA 40K Narrative, our third outing as leads.

A good way to succinctly describe the event is that I made a boardgame which 160+ people then played, with each move and action resolved by playing an entire miniatures wargame. Another is that many dozens of us, with many many more dropping in & out, spent ~4 days leveraging the casino-lit unreality of a convention hall, running games almost continuously from 9pm Thursday to 6pm Sunday, to live in and breathe life to another universe complete with maps, factions, heroes, villains. Though not without its challenges, it was pretty amazing.

All told we had seven rounds of standard 40K (including two doubles rounds), four Kill Team rounds, and one Apocalypse, plus four War Council meetings. Most of the regular rounds had 48 players, with one squeezing in 52. The Kill Team skirmishes had 20–26 players and the Apocalypse featured 30 players. Over 160 unique players participated in the 40k Narrative over the course of the convention this year.

There’s really too much to say about everything that happened, so this post is a very quick recap and an overview of the mechanics, how the campaign worked.

Several collections of photos are available:

There is also a newly formed Facebook group for the 40K Narrative community.

Humanity Warlords hold a strategy discussion.

Battles underway.

The Apocalyptic finale.

The Apocalyptic finale.

Forge the narrative!

Gateway

The NOVA 40K Narrative is set in its own fictional universe, originally so that factions could be combined in any fashion as players teamed up and now mostly because that framework has a lot of inertia and attachment among the people who’ve been playing in it for years. There is a recounting of the ongoing story in the event primer. The basic idea though is that the Virtue are an advanced, galaxy-spanning hegemony. Centuries ago, over the course of the first couple NOVA 40K Narratives, the Virtue came to Earth, deemed humans wanting, and wound up destroying the planet. And then again. Humanity though escaped out into the stars. Our story over the past few editions of the NOVA 40K Narrative picks up hundreds of years later, with humanity having regrouped and begun a revolution on the fringe of Virtue space.

Two years ago, we played out the beginning stages of that rebellion, with players securing a foothold for humanity in Virtue space from their hiding places on the Fringe. Last year humanity seized Kaipan, a critical bend gate facilitating interstellar travel in and out of their sector of space. This year they tried to exploit that to spread deeper into Virtue space and attack Gateway, the regional governance center.

2018 NOVA 40K Narrative starting map.

Suffice to say, humanity as roleplayed by the 40K Narrative players tends to have a very “YOLO!!” take on strategy, confident that the species will be retconned back into existence if they screw up. Hence the multiple burnings of Earth. This year they went for broke to claim Gateway, and they… broke? The early going was promising as they seized the important bend gate facilities at Toman and Pau. Virtue came back strong however, counterattacking into humanity’s base in the Fringe while defending Gateway and pushing back on Toman and Pau. This lead into a final apocalyptic showdown in the Fringe, which humanity defended with gusto but ultimately could not hold.

So, coming out of 2018, humanity retained control of the bend gate facility at Kaipain and gained the industrial world of Folr, but is deeply on the backfoot with the Virtue quickly expunging the rebellion’s forces throughout the Fringe.

Final status.

Terrain

A big upgrade for this year was that one of our players, Chris Stover, brought literally a trailer full of super high quality terrain. Black Maria Designs also donated several of their Gantry System and Table-in-a-Box sets to NOVA. Victory Gamers and another of our 40K Trios teams also lent their display boards spur of the moment to be tables, and I brought a handful by my friend Matt and I. TABLEWAR also previously donated stacks of F.A.T. Mats to NOVA. All told that meant we had a full slate of gorgeous, thematic, wonderful battlefields on which to play out the 40K Narrative. Photos of the tables specifically can be found in this gallery. Special thanks goes to Chris, bringing in all that terrain was a huge effort, with setup and teardown a full day before and after the convention proper, and it really leveled up the event.

Just one of Chris’ tables.

Armies

Matching the terrain, we as usual had an astounding collection of armies in play. Some of them on display are viewable in this gallery. The full effect of looking out over a room full of battles with both beautiful terrain and miniatures can’t be understated, and so many of them greatly rewarded getting in close to really enjoy the details.

Rainbow Warriors advance on an abandoned depot.

Imperial Guard hull down in a desert canyon.

Raven Guard lead the charge.

The Tau invade (photo by NOVA).

Missions & Civilians

The core of the Narrative these past three years has been twofold: Thematic missions, and civilians. We use the same core mission packet here as our LibertyHammer event (June in Philadelphia, join us!). Each of the nine missions is symmetric, so individual players aren’t put at a disadvantage in their games as the alliances attack or defend, but six are themed and have some interesting mechanics. Shuttles crash and pilots have to be captured/rescued; comms facilities have to be taken or destroyed; supply depots and refineries raided; convoys ambushed or escorted; and VIPs protected or assassinated. Each round, half the players get to play a mission of their choosing.

In addition, the 40K Narrative does not happen in a vacuum. Civilians are present in each match which players can either save or slaughter. They’re Neutral NPCs which players can either attach to their units to escort them back to their deployment zones, or attack as though any other enemy unit. Doing so gains players’ armies Fame or Infamy as they build a reputation for savagery or heroism throughout the campaign. Many players focus a lot more on these than they do on winning games, which is perfectly valid, and leads to a lot of roleplaying and interesting dynamics.

Opposing bands of Scouts clash hand-to-hand in an industrial facility as one tries to also protect a civilian.

Stealth Suits save a civilian.

Campaign Mechanics

On top of those core elements is built the campaign. Key to that are the Warlords, players who’ve registered for one of sixteen slots to make strategic decisions for the Humanity or Virtue alliances. In large part to manage our increasing number of players, this year the Warlords divided up into pairs leading four campaign groups on each side, to which other players were assigned and fought together throughout the convention.

This year we also campaigned over the explicit map above, adapting mechanics from the ~6 month Solypsus-9 campaign I ran in Philly several years ago. At their twice-daily War Councils, the Warlords chose attacks on that map which were then played out in the games. The mechanics are simple:

  • Each alliance starts out in control of some subset of locations based on last year (i.e., the humans controlled Kaipan from their victory last year, while no one controlled Satakad, reflecting the continuing unrest on the edge planets).
  • At each War Council, both alliances get six order tokens, two each of Attack, Defend, and Support.
  • The alliances simultaneously place four orders facedown on the map. They must place their two Attacks, and have a choice to Defend or Support or both with their other two orders. Orders are placed on locations controlled by the alliance, and multiple orders may be placed on any one location.
  • Orders are then revealed and the alliances alternate in initiative order choosing an Attack of theirs and designating an adjacent map target and a campaign group to make the attack. The opposing alliance responds with a defending campaign group and a theater—Fear, Blood, Hope, or Death, one of our four rows of primary tables. Each matched campaign group then paired individual players (or doubles teams in some rounds), alternating between one side putting forward a player and a mission and the other responding with a player and a table within their theater.
  • The battle for each map location is then resolved per round with some straightforward calculations:
    • The battle points from each game in a location under Attack are summed.
    • Defend tokens add +7 to the campaign results (not individual games) for each match in the designated location.
    • Support tokens add +3 to the campaign results for each match in the designated location and each adjacent location.
    • The alliance with higher sum in each location wins the round there.
  • Instead of accumulating direct scores though, to help prevent runaway leads, winning a round for a location awarded the current round number.

The specific numbers here (two Attacks, four theaters, etc.) are derived from our particular configuration at NOVA—two factions, four campaign groups, and so on. More generalized mechanics are in the original Solypsus-9 writeup, supporting two or three factions and a variable number of actors (either players directly as there, or campaign groups as in NOVA’s much larger event). The key though is permitting a lot of flexibility for players to come in and out; avoiding players or groups either repeatedly fighting the same opponents, as happens in many map campaigns, or being pushed off the map entirely; and keeping the campaign simple & understandable while also creating an additional layer of strategy. Striking that latter balance is critical as there is already so much going on in 40k, the campaign, and the convention as a whole, but connecting the games all together is of course a huge draw for the event.

Campaign orders.

Sign for one of our campaign theaters (sets of tables).

Warlords gathering for one of the War Councils.

Assets & Advantages

In addition, each round the Warlords chose Recon Squad missions for their campaign groups. These were played out as Kill Team games, mostly by other players just joining the 40K Narrative over lunch or dinner for quick skirmishes. Each mission in the Kill Team mission packet that Games Workshop put together for NOVA was associated with a particular benefit. By winning games, Recon Squad players claimed cards for those benefits that Warlords gave out within their campaign groups to assist their players.

Several other Assets & Advantages were also dungeon-mastered into the event as it ran. For example, to help deal with there being too many Imperial Knights around, we threw in a Saboteurs card that let players use Civilians to deal mortal wounds to vehicles trying to escort them. Several players also got cards for being helpful, like ordering a megaphone to be delivered mid-round so I stopped tearing my vocal chords.

Recon Squad missions and benefits.

The Voice of Authority asset…

Characters

In part because the traditional stratagems have less meaning, or are at least more difficult to make interesting without stepping on any particular faction’s unique advantage, now that the core game itself has so many, this year we also introduced several special characters. These drew from the past several years of storyline, the little bits of fluff here and there in the event primers. So, for example, the 2016 primer had a prominent quote from Premiere Thyx, who finally made an in-game appearance.

Prominent quote from the 2016 primer.

Datasheet for Premiere Thyx.

Three of the five special characters: Phoenix Scout Harris, Premiere Thyx, and the assassin Krass.

Apocalypse

Finally, the last round of the campaign is a giant Apocalypse, with everybody fighting all at once for a particular battle. The specific setup for this gets dungeon-mastered a good bit. Last year we made this the battle for the six gravitic generators on Kaipan. This year, following the evolution of the map over the weekend, it was quite naturally humanity’s last stand at one of their bases in the Fringe.

We’ve been running one or more major (~20+ players) Apocalypse battles annually for six years now, so we have a well established and tested set of rules, procedures, and mission archetypes. For this year’s NOVA 40K Narrative finale we had thirty players fielding a total of 91,000 points, all fighting over a 6×24 table. Four primary objectives were placed by us, secondary objectives by each player, and the alliances given L-shaped deployment zones. Our rules and table layouts help ensure these aren’t just shoot-outs among the biggest units, with much of the game coming down to individual troop movements. This match ended exactly on time, running from 10am to 5pm sharp, with Virtue edging out Humanity in the final rounds for a 160–112 win.

Apocalypse finale map.

Apocalypse table all set up.

The Apocalypse in-progress.

Crew

At this point, the NOVA 40K Narrative is somewhat overwhelming. Suffice to say, probably not too many TOs’ kits include a sleeping bag and a laminating machine. Fortunately we’re building a good crew as we go to keep the campaign running smoothly even as it gets bigger and more complex. Colin oversees all the table and round management, keeping games going and ending on time, on top of a bunch of other tasks. Chris has taken on ensuring we have tons of amazing terrain. Dan, Scott, and Katie work people marshaling and rules development. Greg and Todd do appearance judging. Many people help out. And, of course, the Warlords are now executing much of the campaign mechanics and pairings themselves. We’re already working on designating and delegating more roles for the coming year, so I’m optimistic about both the continued excellence and the sustainability of the event.

Ready for the night watches.

Some pre-dawn narrative forging.

Narrative

Sometimes people ask what “narrative” wargaming means. I’ve had some thoughts over the years. To a lot of people it means playing for fun, rather than competitively, and throwing in a bunch of goofy elements—unusual terrain, environments, stratagems, characters, weird missions, whatever. It is all those things, but I emphasize doing so in service of crafting a story. We try to keep the mechanics somewhat light in the NOVA 40K Narrative, but add just enough to enable meaningful roleplaying and storytelling in a multi-game and even multi-year context. Although simple, our maps and other mechanics present real strategic decisions and create just enough opportunities for participants to make decisions toward their chosen characters. That might be an individual focused on gaining Infamy for their butcherous army, or a group roleplaying collectively, such as Humanity’s continued commitment to just going for it and damn their home base. At several points this year the human alliance knew what the smart campaign decision was and instead played to that reckless character it’s developed over years of play now among this community. That’s what we hope to enable, and it’s great to watch.

Recon Squads fighting to acquire assets & advantages for their alliances.

Next Year

For 2019 we’ll probably make some notable changes, but all in keeping with the basic approach and tone of the event that has worked so well the past three years.

I expect the core mission set to remain similar, but tweaked to freshen it up. If civilians stick around they’ll likely switch to 8th edition Characters rather than using 7e-style rules, which was discussed at length for this year but not implemented.

Also very likely is essentially dropping individual scoring. Games will obviously be scored to determine who wins and by how much, in order to advance the campaign if nothing else, but we just won’t track individual standings. It’s also possible that Fame and Infamy will either use different mechanisms or also be unscored. There’s some ongoing discussion about awarding titles in completely different ways, e.g., accumulating points from some kind of voting for most dramatic or thematic play each round, but this is all very up in the air. The goal is just to continue tweaking the formal rules to match what we all want to get out of the event. All our participants are already pretty low key about results, and these kinds of changes would just further emphasize that it’s a campaign and a collaborative narrative, not a tournament.

Other, sometimes mutually exclusive, idea fragments include:

  • Rebooting to a story in the 40k universe, possibly with the same alliance labels;
  • Removing a round from each day to make the schedule more relaxed;
  • Collecting the Recon Squad rounds into a single multi-round time slot;
  • Having more briefings and executing them a bit more formally, so players beyond the Warlords can more readily follow the developing campaign;
  • More prominent army display & judging, possibly as a social gathering;
  • Expanding to more tables if possible, probably the case for at least Nightfights.

Long story short, the only thing we’re totally sure of is that next year will be another great event. Comments and ideas on all these topics are extremely welcome (in comments below, on the NOVA survey, or please feel free to email).

Blood Angels search a heretical temple.

A Knight strides forth to war.

Facebook

One small step we’ve already taken for next year is to create a NOVA 40K Narrative Facebook group. We hope this will become a fun community forum to display projects from this year, share progress on projects for next year, and coordinate. Please join us!

Wrap Up

Another year of the NOVA 40K Narrative in the books! We thought it was great, and hope you enjoyed it as well. If you like this kind of gaming and are anywhere near Philadelphia, you should check out our other events, either on the Web or Facebook.

Again, there are several collections of photos available from this year:

And don’t forget the new Facebook group.

See you next year!

Doubles games in-progress.

The Green Tide rolls forward.

The Virtue prepare for victory.

The Sword Sworn Campaign

Unfortunately, my friend Sascha is moving away. So we all decided to send him off proper by burning down a monastery of his beloved Swords of Dorn Space Marines!

Fourteen players came together Saturday for our Sword Sworn one-shot narrative campaign. Many heroes were made, villains created, and a ton of great games fought, with literally not a single unpainted model in play. This is a quick recap of the action. Many more photos are available via Flickr or Facebook.

In the grimdark of the far future, a new hero is born every minute… and eaten the next.

Backstory

Brother Mynaugh’s eyes swept the grounds from his perch in the east tower. Even with his superhuman vision he couldn’t see the group of his fellow initiates he knew would be assembling outside the chapel for night training beyond the walls. So soon now they would all deploy to the 10th company, full and true battle brothers of the Swords of Dorn.
Shattering his moment of reverie, the jaw of a servo skull in the tower’s cogitator bank suddenly sprung open and began emitting a piercing inhuman shriek. As Mynaugh looked on in the dim red lighting another and then another followed suit. The import came to the scout like lightning. He whirled around. Far on the horizon, faint lines streaking from orbit. This was no expected landing, no scheduled drop training. Mynaugh tugged his bolter off its wall bracket and pulled it close, not believing this to be any suprise drill either. Perhaps the initiates’ time had come early…

On the quiet planet of Hedron IX, the Swords of Dorn maintain one of their chapter’s training monasteries. This one specifically focuses on training Scouts in the art of piloting Landspeeder Storms to swoop onto objectives in turn five. The monastery has unexpectedly come under attack by the Blood Fed, a wretched mob of traitors, xenos, and galactic refuse come treacherously from their hiding holes to avenge imagined slights and punish the ostensibly vainglorious Swords of Dorn. Opposing them, in their moment of need the Swords of Dorn have called the many valiant allies with which they have shared mutual oaths over the decades to defend both honor and body to join them under the banner of the Sword Sworn alliance.

Icons for the Sword Sworn and Blood Fed alliances.

Map

Our campaign begins with the invaders amassed at the monastery walls. The campaign is played over seven major regions of the chapter monastery:

  • The Siege Front where the Blood Fed are encamped;
  • The Primaris Gate, Cawe Tower, and Saleron Tower keeping them at bay;
  • The Dormitorium where the monastery’s residents live;
  • The Munitorum where the Landspeeder Storms and other equipment are kept;
  • The Chapel of Mons where initiates pray and train in the combat arenas.

The Blood Fed start in control of the Siege Front and are working toward the chapel: Even if the Sword Sworn successfully rebuff them in the larger battle for the monastery, the Blood Fed’s leader and his personal army advances forward each turn.

There are three separate measures of success for the campaign—

  • Tactical: Taking/preserving the monastery (controlling a majority of the regions);
  • Strategic: Wrecking/preserving the Swords of Dorns’ recruit pipeline (higher total campaign points earned, a combination of victory points and campaign rewards);
  • Campaign: Looting/preserving the chapel relics (controlling the chapel).

Training monastery of the Swords of Dorn on Hedron IX.

Missions

A specific mission is associated with each map region, with the alliances alternating choosing regions to attack each round and thus the missions for each match to use—

  • Siege Front: A kill points style mission;
  • Towers and Gate: A breakthrough mission in which players place objectives whose worth is determined by how far they are from the player’s table edge;
  • Dormitorium: Both sides work to capture or rescue the many non-combatants enabling a Space Marine chapter’s operations, represented by Civilian NPCs.
  • Munitorium: Both sides work to destroy or extract equipment, represented by objectives that may be scored a finite number of times;
  • Chapel: An open battle with players vying for their choice of a combination of specific objective markers or kill points.

All of these are well tested and tournament-ready, based on our standard scheme of 20 victory points: 9 for primary objectives, 6 for secondaries, 5 for tertiaries. Each mission has a short list of secondary objectives from which players choose individually. This enables players to make strategic choices and play to their strengths, e.g., doubling down on killing versus objective grabbing or vice versa.

Mission writeup for the Munitorum.

Special Characters

There are multiple special characters at large in the campaign, including the aforementioned leader of the Blood Fed. In addition to their in-game presence, each special character awards 10 campaign points each round to the alliances for either their survival or death (interpreted as being forced to retreat) as appropriate.

The only characters known to both teams initially are the Scout Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus. Having been caught in the initial fighting, they are now swept away in the battle. Completely overwhelmed and seriously questioning signing up to be Space Marines, sheer luck just barely lets them survive, carried from one awful circumstance to another. This is represented by the Initiates being randomly assigned to a match each round, in which they are placed somewhat randomly between the two forces and huddle down until saved by the Sword Sworn or overrun by the terrifying invaders.

All of the special characters and tokens.

Tokens

In addition, there are three types of tokens given out at various points—

  • Blood Favor: The very first unit across the event to claim First Blood each round gets a Blood Favor which it may discard to ignore D3 wounds/damage.
  • Blessing: The lowest scoring players on each side each round get a Blessing from their gods or the Emperor, which they may discard to reroll any single die.
  • Relic: Each alliance choose one final round match in the chapel to be for the relic they consider most important, earning or losing an extra 10 campaign points by holding the central objective or not. The token may be revealed to make all runs, flat outs, and charges +D3 inches that player turn. Players may choose objectives in this mission, so the opponent may not necessarily care about the central objective unless this revelation is made.

All of the tokens may be used at any point, and carry into the next game if not used.

Campaign

Appropriately enough, the Blood Fed wound up comprised of primarily Chaos Marines, a few Space Marine contingents apparently having just thrown in their lot against the Emperor, and a band of Tyranids come for the feast. Facing off against them, the Swords of Dorn were backed by a full host of Space Marine loyalists, Tempestus Scions, and an Emperor’s Fist Armoured Company.

As kind of a going-away party we wanted everybody to get a chance to play with multiple people. So we played rotating doubles, with the alliances choosing which of their players to team up each round. After some quick strategy discussion about first round teams and missions, the campaign was on!

Traitor Governor Friedman launches the surprise night attack.

Round 1

Scout Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus find themselves amid the heaviest fighting, defending the Primaris Gate. Caught without any support, they’re exposed to a massive charge by a ravening horde of Tyranid monsters. Mynaugh lays into the horde with his minigun, but both barely escape the Red Terror.

The Blood Fed’s leader is revealed by his thrust against the Primaris Gate as the Planetary Governor Friedman, unsurprisingly turned traitor. More is at hand though then just a minor rebellion as Governor Friedman is clearly being rewarded for his actions, growing in power and size as the blood flows.

Outside the gates, the Sword Sworn gamble on a counter-offensive, attacking into the Siege Front. They are eventually rebuffed, but at the worst moment the Warp-fired visage of Brother Edelkraut, a storied hero of the Swords of Dorn presumed long dead, appears and empties his wrath into the invaders.

Outcome: No change in regions, but the Governor breaks through the Primaris Gate.

The map after Round 1.

Chaos Daemons overwhelm Swords of Dorn Scouts while Crimson Fists rush to their aid.

Presumed long dead Brother Edelkraut appears from the Warp to support a Lamenters Chaplain in his moment of need.

Scout Initiates Te’Janus and Mynaugh stare down the oncoming horde.

Round 2

Having barely escaped being eaten, the Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus immediately stumble into an even worse horror: The soul corrupting might of Chaos! Still trying to escape the carnage around the Primaris Gate, they’re harried by Raptors and driven toward the maw of Nurgle’s mightiest minions.

His rage growing ever more powerful, Governor Friedman sweeps through the Dormitorium feeding civilians to his dark gods. The Swords’ desperation growing as the heretic works ever closer to the chapel, Brother Edelkraut lives up to his legend, moving so fast from fight to fight that he often seems to be in two places at once.

At the previously quiet Munitorum, the defense forces are overtaken by terror as they suddenly realize there is a silent stalker among them: The governor’s secret henchman Assassin Timday appears at the airfield and begins hunting down Tempestus Scions.

Outcome: The Blood Fed cleave a clear path from the Siege Front through the Primaris Gate and the Dormitorium to the very edge of the Chapel.

The map after Round 2.

Tempestus Scions hold their ground at the Munitorum airfield.

Chaos overwhelms the Munitorum’s refinery.

Assassin Timday hunts among the airfield.

Round 3

Now a lumbering hulk, Governor Friedman smashes through the chapel walls and makes his way to stake a claim on a chalice said to have been drunk from by Rogal Dorn himself. Despite dispatching ever more frenetic vengeance, Brother Edelkraut’s furious hauntings are not enough to stop this sacrilege. Meanwhile the twisted Assassin Timday lurks the outer edges of the chapel battle, continuing his persecution of the Tempestus Scions.

Blown by the winds of war from fight to fight, the Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus find themselves having gone full cycle, from the very first contact at the Primaris Gate, to the very last fighting at the Chapel of Mons. There they find themselves almost snared in the clutches of the Alpha Legion when an angry company of Lamenters Space Marines comes to their aid just in time. Rallying to their brave example, they join a squad of their brethren Scouts in a suicidal fight to hold the left flank and protect the Lamenters’ main position. At long last the Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus have truly learned what it means to be one of the Emperor’s finest.

Outcome: The Sword Sworn make a successful raid into the invader’s encampment as well as retaking the Primaris Gate, but do not stop the Blood Fed’s push to the Chapel of Mons and the precious relics inside.

The map after Round 3.

Snipers pick off targets from the rooftops of the refinery buildings.

Packs of Warp Talons and Nurgle bikers roam through the Dormitorium.

Ill-fated Brother Maximus, cursed with Black Rage in his Dreadnought armor tomb, surges forward to assault a Chaos Havoc squad.

Outcomes

The Sword Sworn maintain marginal control of their monastery on Hedron IX (Sword Sworn tactical victory). Their recruiting pipeline however is wrecked by the Blood Fed, who have indeed feasted on many of their trainees and destroyed much equipment and supporting personnel (Blood Fed strategic victory). Worst of all, the cursed Governor Friedman manages to loot the Chapel of Mons and makes off with the relics he came to steal for his masters (Blood Fed campaign victory)!

Like so many chapters before them, the Swords of Dorn will have to rebuild from this loss, no doubt to become even mightier warriors for the Emperor…

Newly trained Swords of Dorn stand their ground to the last in the chapel.

Awards

Full campaign and individual results are posted here (XLSX). As this was purely a casual narrative event, we awarded the following as small store credit prizes:

  • Best Generals: Top overall points in each alliance, encompassing victory points + sportsmanship + army appearance (a 5 point rubric for minimum standards);
  • Craftsperson: First and second place in player votes for best army appearance;
  • Lucky Warriors: Our two primary prizes were drawn from a raffle, each player having earned 2 tickets for a loss and 1 ticket for a win.

Jake C with his Tyranid and Brian M with his Ravenguard won the raffle prizes. Steel Thunder Mike and Sam L from the Berks PA Gaming Club took home Best General titles for the Sword Sworn and Blood Fed respectively. A relative newcomer to our Redcap’s community, Fernando V took second in the painting votes with his Crimson Fists while man of the hour Sascha and his Swords of Dorn once more won that ballot, donating his prize to our ongoing Shadow War campaign. Congratulations everybody!

A Crimson Fists Fire Raptor makes a last ditch strafing run in a futile attempt to hold the airfield.

Next Up!

I have a bunch of thoughts on different aspects of this campaign to tweak. But it seemed very successful at creating the feel of a larger story and throwing in lots of fun little bits without being overly complex or unbalancing. A PDF with all the missions, tokens, map, etc., is mostly prepared and will be posted once 8th edition is released and the necessary changes made.

As a bonus, I was blown away by all the amazing armies and models that came out to play. Many under-utilized models made an appearance, particularly among the Chaos Marines. Many more photos are available via Flickr or Facebook.

All in all, I had a great time, everybody else seemed to have a great time, and I hope it was a fitting community tribute to Sascha, who has been the heart of our 40k group the past few years. We’ll miss you, and we’re sorry we burned down your monastery!

For everybody else, if this is the kind of Warhammer 40,000 gaming you crave and you can get to Philadelphia or Washington DC, you should join us for our upcoming LibertyHammer weekend in June and the NOVA 40k Narrative over Labor Day!

    

Scout Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus fight on, having become true warriors of the Swords of Dorn.

First Playthrough: The Molokh Gambit X-Wing Narrative

Saturday PAGE hosted its first X-Wing event: We did our first full playthrough of The Molokh Gambit, a new lightweight narrative campaign for X-Wing. Fourteen people played, twelve in the missions and six in the concluding epic battle, graciously hosted as usual by Redcap’s Corner in West Philly. This is a quick recap to post some photos and introduce the campaign. In the next couple weeks we’ll be cleaning up the packet, collating links to all the necessary supporting materials (ships, cards, dials, etc), and posting it for the public much like my other unofficial game supplements for 40k.

Many more photos than those here are in the Flickr gallery.

Prep

The campaign is built around a mess of toys, including Senator’s Shuttles, Cargo Pods, Crawlers, Stormtrooper Transports, Satellites, a whole bunch of custom tokens and cards to go with them, a collection of official huge ships, and a giant Nebulon B frigate.

My buddy Matt and I 3D printed and painted boxes and boxes of the unofficial models, some of which I designed and some I downloaded and edited to print better, assemble easier, or be in a more useful scale. For those interested but completely unfamiliar, I have previously written a general introduction to 3d printing in the context of wargaming. A step beyond that, recently I posted a detailed tutorial on modeling & printing, using GR-75 Cargo Pods I created for this campaign as the exemplar. Again, when we finalize the packet shortly we’ll post a full manifest of resources for those with and without access to a 3D printer to produce the models or counters for them, all the tokens and cards, etc..

UPDATE: There is a growing collection of links here to resources for getting or making the various components needed.

Many more photos of various stages of printing and assembly are in the gallery.

Modeling the Cargo Pods.

Modeling the Cargo Pods.

Colin playtesting the VIP Escort mission.

Colin playtesting the VIP Escort mission.

Printing a fleet of DX-9 Stormtrooper Transports.

Printing a fleet of DX-9 Stormtrooper Transports.

Working out mounts and a base for the frigate.

Working out mounts and a base for the frigate.

Cards, dials, tokens, and even a custom maneuver template to be mounted and cut.

Cards, dials, tokens, and even a custom maneuver template to be mounted and cut.

Campaign

Key design goals of the campaign, as with most of my narrative wargaming designs, are flexibility and a reasonable tradeoff between cool mechanics and simplicity. It’s intended for public events or casual home gaming as either a 1-shot over a long-ish day, or a small number of evenings or afternoons. There aren’t extensive mechanics or game modifications to learn, the number of players is variable, people can drop in and out between rounds, and it won’t run so long as to just peter out. For all the X-Wing players that really want to enjoy more storyful gaming but don’t have a fully committed play group or who just want to jump into going pew-pew-pew without everybody having to read lots of extra rules, this is going to be a campaign you should try.

The campaign is built around a two phase structure:

  • Missions: Themed, asymmetric missions toward strategic objectives.
  • Epic Battle: A concluding team-based mega space battle.

Players naturally divide up into Rebel and Imperial alliances, with Scum going to either side to balance as necessary. Short collaborative planning sessions are held by the alliances to divvy up unique pilots and upgrades among themselves, and to help each other tweak squad builds toward particular missions.

We ran this first event as a 1-shot narrative over a single day of gaming, so we did two rounds of missions and then the epic battle. There’s no reason though that there couldn’t be more or fewer mission rounds, the mechanics normalize for that. Each round the alliances alternate choosing missions and players to execute them.

The selection of five missions available is:

  • VIP Escort: A Senator coming to the sector to coordinate the Rebels’ plans is ambushed by an Imperial squadron.
  • Holonet Intercept: Rebels attempt to slice an Imperial holonet relay network to learn about the ultimate target of their campaign.
  • Depot Raid: Imperials attack the Rebels’ covert supply lines.
  • Clandestine Meeting: Imperials come to kill or capture a Rebel Agent meeting covertly on the ground with a Spy traveling undercover among a Mining Clan.
  • Dogfight: A standard X-Wing battle, but augmented by nominating Hero Aces that have a few buffs but yield extra campaign points.

The first four missions listed are grouped into two tracks, Information and Resources. The former yields information helpful in the final battle, while the latter yields raw troops and materials. Dogfights can be allocated toward either one. Each mission has a 5 point rubric for scoring based on campaign objectives like slicing Satellites. Players thus need to work to achieve those, not necessarily just to keep their ships alive and destroy the opponent’s. It’s a very different and fun way to play X-Wing.

Concluding the campaign is a final battle themed around an attack on a critical Imperial Nebulon-B frigate, the Redemption. Storyline and details on that to come!

All the extra toys used for the day.

All the extra toys used for the day.

One of the Senator's Shuttles (3D printed)

One of the Senator’s Shuttles (3D printed).

Cargo Pods (3D printed) unloaded from a GR-75 Medium Transport.

Cargo Pods (3D printed) unloaded from a GR-75 Medium Transport.

DX-9 assault craft and Mining Clan Crawler (both 3D printed).

DX-9 assault craft and Mining Clan Crawler (both 3D printed).

Holonet relay satellites (3D printed).

Holonet relay satellites (3D printed).

The Nebulon-B frigate Redemption (3D printed with the base a mix of printing and scratchbuilding).

The Nebulon-B frigate Redemption (3D printed with the base a mix of printing and scratchbuilding).

Story

Beginning their campaign, Rebels successfully escorted two Senators into the sector to lead their efforts. However, the Imperials were able to defend their holonet relay as well as destroy a Rebellion supply shipment. A clandestine information exchange was a strategic toss-up, with the spy escaping Imperial forces but the Rebellion’s agent unable to bring the data back. The general balance of operations remained neutral as both sides fought to a draw on dogfighting, but the Imperials took a slight lead on strategic factors through the strength of their victories.

Rebels attempt to escape a thwarted clandestine meeting.

Rebels attempt to escape a thwarted clandestine meeting.

Imperials and Rebels think hard about how to stop or enable a Senator to enter the sector.

Imperials and Rebels think hard about how to stop or enable a Senator to enter the sector.

The Senator's Shuttle flies into the thick of a dogfight.

The Senator’s Shuttle flies into the thick of a dogfight.

Rebels and Imperials debrief and make new plans between rounds.

Rebels and Imperials debrief and make new plans between rounds.

Regrouping from the uptick in Rebellion activity throughout the sector, the Empire struck back. Rebels managed to slice the Empire’s holonet relay, but the Imperials destroyed one Senator, stalled another, and destroyed a Rebel supply drop. The Empire also caught a traitorous spy and destroyed their agent contact just in time before the latter could escape with stolen data. Rebels took a slight edge in the sector’s general combat operations through successful dogfighting, but lost ground strategically.