Monday, 25 August 2014

Dark Pact Wargaming Weekend, August 2014

This weekend just passed I played my first games of Warhammer 40,000 in over a decade. Three games to be precise. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I travelled down to Cardiff on the August bank holiday to partake in a veritable feast of wargaming fun. The Dark Pact gathered at Firestorm Games for the Saturday and Sunday to ostensibly relearn how to play 40k after a long hiatus for most of us. Matt brought his Warboss Grimteef's mob, Craig his small Eldar force, Jim from the Whispers of Chaos blog his Tyranids, and I took my Dark Angels. 

Bear in mind that other than a game between Matt and Jim a while ago, we aren't frequent players. I haven't played 40k since 2003, and Craig hasn't played since he was sixteen, which is far too long ago for any of us to bother counting. In real terms, the whole weekend was all about learning the rules, how our armies worked and learning to play faster. We decided to play two games on the Saturday, followed by a 2000 point combined game on Sunday. 

My first game was a 1000 point affair between my Dark Angels and Jim's beautifully painted Tyranids. I think that in order to really reap benefit, each game deserves a separate post, replete with photos and commentary. Suffice to say that winning wasn't the objective, which is of course to say that I lost all three games. Nevertheless, I learned a few things about seventh edition 40k, which I will say now.

  1. The rules are fun. There is a reason that Games Workshop remain the biggest played on the block, especially in the Sci-fi genre. The rule are enjoyable, not too complex, and both players feel engaged. There is perhaps an element of micromanagement, but actually the general simplicity of the game, coupled with these fiddly bits, as units have different armour saves or characteristics, makes for a good blend of detail and broader strategy.
  2. The psychic phase is a good thing. If I remember correctly, psychic powers used to be governed by leadership tests. I found that the almost Warhammer Fantasy style "magic" phase made it far more tactical and interesting. Equally, in none of our games did psykers seem to overly dominate the game. 
  3. The game were narratively pleasing. With warlord traits, a simple objectives system, and a great store of fluff, we found ourselves thoroughly amused for two days. The games had cinematic moments and were all enjoyable. Even when the dice were against us.
  4. The game is far more tactically subtle than I had thought. I must admit that from watching YouTube videos, I had the notion that big guns win, especially with Apocalypse sized things. This might be the case, since none of us used anything that large, but certainly the infantry clashes we played punished silly decisions, and encouraged us to play smart. I look back at certain blunders I made, and the military side of my brain can see exactly where I went wrong. The positive point is that I lost because of my mistakes and my opponents exploiting my mistakes or making better choices, not because of dice rolls. Good tactics should really be "luck proof", and Jim exemplified this. He stacked the odds in his favour, so that even if things went wrong, he was never dependent on good luck to pull him through.

I'll leave it there for now, and elaborate more in the battle reports I'll write. One final point though. The key to this enjoyable weekend was the people I played with. Sure there was lively discussion, some of the rules baffled me, and at times seemed "unfair", but in real terms, we were all adults and therefore had a good time. Warhammer 40,000 is, at the end of the day, just a game, so regardless of what I think of some points of the rules, I play by Games Workshop's rules, just like my opponent, and so I need to play to the ruleset, not what I think that ruleset should be. 

A huge thanks to Craig and Jim for putting me up, and introducing me to the Warmaster.

Horus cares little for plastic soldiers.