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!


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.


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.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

2018 NOVA 40K Trios

This past weekend Colin and I organized the Warhammer 40,000 Trios Team Tournament at the NOVA Open, our third year hosting the event.

Trios is kind of an unusual format: Players register in teams of three. Each round two partner up with 1000pt armies for a doubles game, and the third plays a 2000pt standalone game. It’s a tough format to hold in a smaller scene because you need a bunch of players, but it works well at NOVA. Somewhat uniquely, in addition to the usual painting competition, the event also has a strong theme component. There’s a whole major prize category not strictly tied to technical hobby execution but just the storymaking and cohesiveness of a team’s assembled armies, and this is a huge component of the event for many participants.

I think by all accounts this year was again a huge success. Three years ago NOVA expected us to get 8 or 9 teams and we got 18. This year we had 34 teams, 102 players! That’s largest event we have organized (our NOVA 40k Narrative has more participants overall, but not in any given round), and a legit tournament by any measure. Fortunately we had done just a bit of work to hone our processes a bit—such as improving our scoring spreadsheet to be faster to work with, and bringing in friends to help with appearance and theme judging—and it went very smoothly, meeting tight schedule constraints (I literally give out the last award, go to the bathroom, then come back to immediately kickoff the 40k Narrative). Many amazing armies were on display and in play, and for the third year running we had not a single sportsmanship report!

More photos are in this Flickr gallery and this Facebook album. Greg Hess also has many 40K Trios photos in his gallery, as does NOVA in its convention-wide galleries, including podium shots. As discussed below, we have also launched a NOVA 40K Trios Facebook group for teams and players to share and coordinate.

2018 NOVA 40k Trios underway.


Trios awards 5 categories, and our 2018 winners are:

  • Renaissance: Team Vengeful—Paul Bowman, Jessica Bowman, David Penfold
    • Sum total highest battle points, sportsmanship, theme, and hobby scores.
  • Storytellers: Team Quarrelsome—Patsy Kovac, Phil Kovac, Josh LeBlanc
    • Best combined theme, following the 40k Trios rubrics.
  • Artists: Team Judicious—Fernando Villanea, Jason Woolf, Alexander Cragg
    • Best painting and hobby work, following convention-wide NOVA rubrics.
  • Strategists: Team Nefarious—Brian Silkey, Gabe Lewis, Avilan Hiem
    • Most battle points (Vengeful & all teams being only eligible for a single prize).
  • Warmaster: Jonathan Grasser, Team Dogmatic
    • Highest scoring individual on our list of warlord achievements.

These awards were deeply satisfying for me. Trios now has a really great community of players who’ve been coming back each year, and almost all of these winners are prominent parts of that. Phil & Patsy have lead teams to winning the theme competition twice in a row now and are really committed to it. Paul, Jessica, and David—better known as Team Warhammered—have previously won the Strategists title, were really close last year, and finally claimed the overall title this year, awarding their dedication in coming all the way from California.

Best of all for me, my friends Fer, Jason, and Alex won the artistry competition (we have independent judges for that somewhat more subjective category in part because we have multiple teams of friends participating). It was really something to announce their title. Jason, Colin, and I first went to NOVA five years ago to play in the 40k Trios and the 40k Narrative, and Jason’s been chasing that artistry title ever since. Our good local friends Lovell, Tim, and Carlo of the Crew Shaken podcast also claimed second place overall, a huge achievement in a big field. Lovell got me started in 40k many years ago when he gave me a couple sprues of 2nd edition Tactical Marines, a metal Champion to use as a Captain, and talked me into some demo games. Just look at us all now—organizing some of the biggest events at a premiere convention, and placing in true competitions! All this was icing on an already good event.

Team Judicious’ artistry-winning display.

One of Alex’s many nightmares.


A highlight of the Trios event is the theme competition. So much so that this is really what many of the teams are focused on, more so than gameplay. Importantly, the scoring for this is objective and straightforward. The event primer has a whole set of rubrics on exactly how “theme” is evaluated. Team Quarrelsome’s title-winning entry of course demonstrates almost all of it, including elements such as:

  • A cohesive display board;
  • Plausibly allied armies;
  • Cohesively painted armies;
  • Team flare, t-shirts in their case;
  • A story, told by video in their case!

Notably, “cohesively painted armies” doesn’t mean all sharing the same paint scheme. What it does mean are things like figures’ basing roughly matching each other and the display board. Many top entrants over the years, including this one, have also had matching campaign badges on all of their major figures.

The theme competition also doesn’t strictly relate to technical execution. Team Quarrelsome always has excellent models and great display boards. This year though I thought at least one display board exhibited better technical mastery, a stunning piece of terrain work. But this competition is about having and presenting a narrative through a bunch of different elements, and Quarrelsome nailed that holistic storytelling and group presentation once more this year in a tight competition–the theme track was hotly contested and the title basically came down to having team flare or not.

Team Quarrelsome’s theme-winning forces.

Wrong turn!

Campaign badge on one of the Knights.

Second place theme finishers Team Courageous made an incredible fortress gate for their display. Grand scale like this is always compelling, but what’s really amazing is how crisp all of the elements are when you look closely. This is masterclass terrain building among the best I’ve seen, and will no doubt go on to be an amazing centerpiece display for their local shop. Courageous also had a great handwritten book for their story, and only lost out on the Storytellers title by a couple points.

Display from Team Courageous.

Balcony detail.

Incredibly crisp terrain work, carried out on a large scale.

Team Ubiquitous, former theme winners who took third place on the podium this year, also put together a neat video for their forces:


One nice touch this year complementing all these great armies and themes is that one of the 40k Narrative players (Chris Stover) brought in a literal truck full of high quality terrain. Combined with a few boards by my friend Matt and I, we had a large number of comparatively fancy layouts. They varied quite a bit in type and density though. So we split the field, with the more competitive top half playing on standard NOVA GT competition-oriented setups, and everybody else playing on the narrative terrain. I hope to do something similar again next year.

Next Year

Our version of the Trios format and rules have held up fairly well. We’re not currently planning dramatic overhauls, but here are a couple ideas kicking around:

  • Rebalancing points. Given the focus of most teams, we’ll likely shift the ratio of points toward the overall scoring to being more equal across the categories, increasing those for theme and hobby work versus match results.
  • Freshening up the missions. In particular, I would expect the Open Ground mission and some of the secondaries to be replaced or tweaked to be more interesting and more in line with the general feel of 8th edition 40k.
  • New warmaster achievements. We talked about replacing these for this year, but didn’t come up with a system we particularly liked. Fortunately, this year’s warmaster was indeed on a team that did not win one of the other prizes, as we more or less hope, despite strong competition from several of them. Regardless, we have some ideas coming out of this NOVA that we will work on to improve this aspect of the event. The goals here are two-fold: Make a broader slate of warlord units viable for the competition, not just the more aggressive types; and better decouple the achievements from winning games, so even players struggling to win matches might go for the warlord title.

Games in play.

  • Better highlighting of the army displays. A lot of players are putting a ton of time into the hobby aspects of the competition, particularly the themes, which is amazing. So we would like to dedicate more visibility to those efforts than the hour of judging they currently get. In general space is at a premium at NOVA, but unless additional events are slated for Thursday next year we might be able to coordinate with the convention’s operations leadership for tables dedicated to putting armies on display. The bigger issue is time. We would love to spend more like two hours with the boards on display, and maybe even make a real social gathering of it. But we don’t want to start much earlier in the day given that many teams are arriving at the convention either late the night before or that morning. And we can’t end any later without also adjusting the 40k Narrative. So this will take some real thought. One half-wild, half-plausible idea is to have the final round cut to the top 8 or so teams to battle it out, and everybody else have a social gathering with food, beverages, and army displays to kickoff NOVA.
  • Display board rules. All that said about giving more attention to the themes and displays, expect some basic rules placing a limit on how big the display boards can be, before things get further out of control. On the other hand, it’s possible we’ll add a benefit for making a playable board which we can use throughout the weekend for the 40k Narrative. Several teams coincidentally did so this year, and it was really fun. It would also be an interesting challenge to make the boards good at both displaying armies, and being a good battlefield. Obviously this is also working against having size restrictions, but a possible compromise is encouraging display boards that include sections appropriate for playing Kill Team.

Comments and ideas on all these topics are extremely welcome (in comments below, on the NOVA survey, or please feel free to email).

Bert gets it.


One small but important step we’ve already taken for next year is to create a NOVA 40K Trios Facebook group. We hope this will become a fun community forum to display their team projects from this year, share their progress on projects for next year, and to coordinate. Fielding a trio can be challenging. It might be hard to find three players to come to NOVA, and if any one of a team’s members have something come up then they’re all out of luck. So we hope this forum can provide some support for potential players to find each other and form new teams, and for teams to reach out for replacements on short notice when members have to drop. Please join us!

Wrap Up

That’s a wrap for another year. Full results are available here (XLSX). Many more photos of all the luscious armies and great displays are in the Flickr gallery and the Facebook album. Greg Hess also has many 40k Trios photos in his gallery, as does NOVA in its convention-wide galleries, including podium shots. The NOVA 40k Trios seems to have again gone very well this year, and I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. We hope you all enjoyed it too! We expect to continue most of the main ideas for next year, but have some thoughts in progress to make it even better, a topic on which we welcome your feedback. See you next year!

We have a great group of competitors.

2017 NOVA 40k Trios

Colin and I headed up the NOVA 40k Trios Team Tournament again this year. We had 21 teams for 63 players, up from 18 teams last year. Trios features a somewhat unique format, in which teams of three play a doubles game and an individual game against an opposing team each round. It really only works at a large event like NOVA because of how many players are needed to have a good number of teams, but it works really well there. It’s a great way to start off the convention because you spend the whole first day hanging out and playing with friends.

This year seemed to be a big success, continuing on from last year’s well regarded event overhaul. As mostly expected, Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition seems to be holding up well to large competitions. We had extremely few rules questions come up and they were all easy to resolve. There were of course some powerful units kicking around, but no grumbling about specific units and armies at anything approaching the scale of last year. Games Workshop also again donated really awesome trophies for our top team. In addition, something I especially appreciated as someone who takes a lot of photos and spends almost literally 4 straight days at NOVA staring at games, TABLEWAR donated F.A.T. Mats to cover all the tables. Combined with numerous excellently crafted armies, the visual appeal of all the games was really high this year.

Many more photos from the event are available in the gallery here.

2017 NOVA 40k Trios underway!


We ran our three most traditional missions, battle tested now over many events:

  • Open Ground: Controlling markers, choosing to score continuously or game end.
  • Slaughter Zone: Our take on Annihilation, using percentages of units killed.
  • Battlefield: Players choose from several primary objectives to either hold specific markers, kill enemy units, or preserve their own units.

Each of those missions also has a selection of secondary objectives, enabling players to either double down on the primary objective style or go for something else. For example, an army good at holding ground might choose a secondary to claim terrain pieces in addition to the objective markers, while an army better at killing units might choose a kill points secondary objective.

In addition, special to the 40k Trios and our local annual Tournament of Blood, each player is working toward a set of ten Warlord Achievements each round. These award the head of the army for personally capturing objectives or slaying enemies.

The full event primer with missions and details is available as a PDF here.

Rough Riders are apparently a thing now, there were several armies of them!


NOVA 40k Trios awards five titles:

  • Renaissance Trios: Overall winners across battle points, sportsmanship, craftsmanship, and theme.
  • Strategists: The team with the most wins and then battle points.
  • Artists: Best painted team as judged by NOVA/Capital Palette painting judges.
  • Storytellers: The most original and best presented story of why a team’s forces are fighting together.
  • Warmaster: The individual who scored the most Warlord Achievements.

Our winners this year:

  • Renaissance: Zac Schooley, Ashwin Ooi, David Beardwood.
  • Strategists: Sam Thorn, Aaron Beeson, Sawyer Philbrick
  • Artists: Jesse Gaskins, Trevor Aleho, Casey ?
  • Storytellers: Phil Kovac, Patsy Kovac, Billy Evans
  • Warmaster: Sawyer Philbruck

Full results are available as either XLSX or PDF.

Final overall standings.

Final overall standings.

Everyone, even the simplest soldier, has at least their life to offer the Emperor.


Lots of teams really get into the narrative aspect of why their teams are fighting together, making extensive writeups and display boards. We very much enjoy seeing that effort each year, especially as it was our primary interest when we were Trios players. There were many great displays this year, so please check out the photo gallery. But four teams came up tops in our scoring matrix (detailed in the primer).

Team Audacious, our eventual overall winners, had an amazing, cohesive display of an Eldar force escorting Ultramarines through The Webway to reinforce Imperial Guard under Necron siege in their Ceresia Campaign background story.

Teams Gallant and Indignant, last year’s theme winners, again had an extensive writeup and display for their Liberation of Bellatain Prime storyline.

But our Storytellers title went to Team Courageous for their Crystal V and Hive Hyatt Prime storyline. You can read their introduction here. The competition was really close between all four of these teams, but what put Courageous ahead were three totally aligned factions and small details tying the armies and story together, like HQs having campaign shoulder pads shared across the armies.

This year’s event again though featured numerous incredible army displays in addition to these. More photos are in the gallery.

Next Year

Overall I think the NOVA 40k Trios is working well. Major changes for 2018 aren’t expected, mostly procedural tuning and the usual mission rotation and tweaking. However, a few larger changes come to mind.

One possible addition are small buffs to help the second player defend against a first turn onslaught. That needs more thought, testing, and consensus building as 8th edition continues to shake out, but it sure seems like among most players the first turn is perhaps overly strong. A return of tertiary points for killing Lords of War is also probable. We kept those in the Narrative this year but tested Trios without. We’ll probably also adjust Sudden Death and Boots on the Ground to also include Lords of War with the Fly keyword, or a similar ruling. Their technical exclusion from the errata for those rules came up in both 40k Trios and 40k Narrative, and I think goes against their intent and is probably inadvertent.

Another great army display, from Team Sacrosanct (CREW SHAKEN!).

Another great army display, from Team Sacrosanct (CREW SHAKEN!).

The most significant potential change on the docket right now is a very different slate of Warlord Achievements. Both years now the Warmaster title has gone to a player on the Strategists-winning team. To some extent that’s not surprising and maybe inevitable. However, the current set of achievements encourages that by being goals you generally want to attain anyway, like slaying the opposing Warlord. It would be interesting if the achievements were just enough off track that you had to make a stronger choice between playing toward the mission or the achievements. We’ve thought about this idea a fair amount and haven’t yet come up with anything which we didn’t think was either overly complex or too distracting from the main mission, but will put more thought into it. It would be great for this title to wind up landing in another team, much like how we’ve seen a good spread among the team titles.

These are all somewhat minor issues though. It was another great year for the 40k Trios, and I look forward to yet another in 2018. Don’t forget to check out all the other awesome armies in the gallery!

UPDATE: Greg Hess also has pictures up of the 40k Trios.

One of the team shirts, dispensing important advice.