Battle Bros: Chapter I: Who Are These Dudes and Why Are They So Broken?

In this biweekly series, we’ll follow Drew as he tries to teach the basics of 40K to his brother Chris “head58,”, who has no idea what he is doing.

Meet the Battle Bros


The older of the two brothers, but newer to the game. Learning to play Iron Hands.


The younger brother, holding his brother’s hand through this terrible ordeal.

DREW: I learned to play 40k in college back in oh god was it really twenty years ago? I got into it through some friends who loaded me up with a bunch of spare models from armies they were abandoning. This led to a very bad habit of building subpar lists with the models that I had available to me rather than planning a good list ahead of time and buying models to supplement that. (We’ll deal with this more in a later installment, when I inevitably have to drink heavily while watching Chris make the exact same mistake.)

One of the things that led to my exit from the hobby for over a decade was that the overall style of play in our group of friends was competitive, and it took me far too long to not only realize that was the case but also that this style was a million percent not my jam. Looking back, it turns out that some of them either went on to join known groups like the ‘Arvard ‘Ardboys or became major tournament regulars. It makes me feel a little bit better to realize that one of the guys who routinely ate my lunch back in the day later became a regular on the tourney circuit with a very respectable ranking. I think at certain points he was in the top 5 of Chaos players within the last few years. 

Drew’s Heavy Bolter Veterans, just driving around in a Rhino suppressing assholes

Chris is responsible for a lot of my entry into supremely nerdy shit in general – he went off to college and left a library of comics and roleplaying games in the hands of an eight-year old who definitely wasn’t old enough for some of them – and he’s indirectly responsible for getting me back into 40K as well even if this is the first time he’s hearing about it. He handed some minis to me a while back to paint for a board game and I got the urge real bad to keep painting. Then one of my coworkers offloaded an extra couple of sprues of Marines on me and everything went downhill from there.

CHRIS: It’s cute that you think I didn’t do that on purpose.

DREW: Readers, I was free and he pulled me back in. I’ll talk more later about why returning to the hobby at the time worked so well for me, but let’s say for now that a lot of it had to do with the community that eventually turned into our home here at Goonhammer.

Here’s the thing that Chris probably doesn’t completely realize: I’m really not all that good at 40K. In the competitive sense, I am absolutely bad. (If you were feeling saucy, you could even say that I’m a Badboi.) Despite this, I’m still the person he wants to teach him the game. I feel like this column is either going to kill me through an apoplectic shock or it’s going to turn out to be some sort of The Wizard scenario where he turns out to be some kind of amazing 40K player despite all appearances. In that event, we’ll need to find him a jerk with a Power Glove to beat in order to prove whatever that movie was about anyway.
(Editor’s Note: It was about the devastating effects of a major tragedy on a family, leading to a bad divorce and ongoing trauma. Also Super Mario Bros. 3, I guess. The movie was weird.)

CHRIS: I have no idea what you’re talking about. What does a Diana Ross movie have to do with a Power Glove?

Anyway, I’m Chris, the smarter and better looking brother, and also I’m old as dirt. Despite that, I only got into miniatures gaming about six or seven years ago. My first game was Warmachine, mainly because the crew I was hanging out with here were really heavily into it. The group lost interest in the game and I drifted on to other systems, like Guild Ball, Star Wars Legion, and Marvel Crisis Protocol.

Chris’s Marvel Crisis Protocol Avengers. He has a problem with skirmish level games.

DREW: The best part of this whole endeavor, to me, is the fact that you tried to tempt me into just about every single one of those games at some point or another with no success whatsoever. But here we are with you coming to me instead. My victory is petty but sweet! 

CHRIS: I’ve been interested in 40K lore for longer than that though and read a bunch of the novels, although I always resisted the siren call of Warhammer itself. I’ve dabbled in some of the specialist games that are of a manageable scope – Speed Freeks, Adeptus Titanicus, Aeronautica Imperialis, and Kill Team – but after collecting and painting two Warmachine armies I was fairly certain I didn’t want to do a large scale game again, certainly not one as complex as 40K. I’m at the point where between family commitments  and run of the mill social anxiety I don’t get out to play very much and tend to enjoy the painting/modeling side of the hobby more than the playing. And yet…

In this column I bend to Drew’s marginally superior kung-fu and hope to learn enough of 40K to not embarrass myself at a table. I get that he’s not tearing up the competitive circuit, and that’s fine. I just need somebody to show me the ropes and dunk on me every other week in this column. My ultimate goal would be to play at least one game in the Narrative at NoVa. That’s five months away, and thanks to COVID-19 I’m homebound for the foreseeable future so this makes a good project. 

The main obstacles along the way are: 

  1. I don’t know the rules, and they seem complex and sprawling and terrifying;
  2. Although I have a few Kill Teams worth of models I don’t own anything near an army;
  3. I very much enjoy painting and customizing models so whatever I do may take me some time;
  4. I’m not even sure what army I want to try (first); and 
  5. I’m incredibly stupid at tactics and generally bad at wargaming. 

Fortunately I’ve recently sold off my Warmachine (people actually bought them! The fools! Also I still have some left so hit me up if you want some random Khador junk) so I’m flush with nerd cash, and my painting queue is down to a couple dozen models, so I’m in a good place to jump in.

My usual play style is “run tough things at other things and smash.” None of the factions I played in Warmachine were very shooty, and I tend to have terrible luck with anything requiring advance planning or complicated Rube Goldberg combinations. I also definitely lean more “fun” than “competitive.”  Given the choice of teams or armies I’ll always pick the janky underdog over the overpowered flavor of the month. When I started playing Adeptus Astartes in Kill Team back in 2018 I was drawn to Iron Hands not only because I could relate to their self-loathing but also because they were a garbage chapter. That was before they were good, but I’m glad to see they’re back to being terrible again.

You want janky? I covered an Adeptus Titanicus Warhound in rhinestones! For a jokey theme!

DREW: It’s very cool of you to put your neuroses just out here for everyone to read. Think of all the nerd cash you’re saving on therapy by writing it here instead!

CHRIS: So here’s what I’m thinking for this series – I’ll read through the rules and codexes and because I’m incredibly dim I’m sure I’ll have some questions. Definitely more basic stuff than Ruleshammer but things that starting players, especially those coming in from other game systems, might get mixed up on. We’ll walk through those issues with lovely illustrative examples. I’ll be confused and overwhelmed at the breadth of models and you will patiently and graciously help me understand what makes a “good” unit and what to look for in making an army list. Once I have that down I’ll descend into the painting mines maybe for a modeling/hobby column or two. At the end of it all, if we’re still speaking to each other, we’ll throw down on some games, building up to 2000 points or so. That’s all assuming a new edition doesn’t drop in the middle of this and turn everything on its head.

But before all that I suppose I should decide on a faction. Join us in two weeks when we’ll descend into my analysis paralysis to figure out what army I’m going to throw away a lot of money on play!

DREW: Wait, what? I thought you already figured that out. This is not a fair thing to do to a man hopped up on cold medicine. I swear I am going to beat you to death with your own indecisiveness.

CHRIS: Social distancing! SOCIAL DISTANCING!


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