BATTLE BROS is the ongoing biweekly saga where Drew (PantsOptional) teaches his brother Chris (head58) how to play 8th Edition Warhammer 40K. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Check out parts I, II, III, IV, and V here.
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.
CHRIS: We’re not going to be able to get together and actually play a game any time soon because we’re not complete idiots or willfully ignorant of epidemiology, so what should we cover for our next column?
DREW: I figure we go through a mission in depth and talk about mistakes made while playing or something like that. Easy stuff, teach “how to actually play” rather than “how to follow the rules.”
CHRIS: Maybe the reveal tomorrow will give us something to talk about. Lots of chatter about a new edition?
DREW: It will probably be a box set/campaign. Everyone saying 9th edition is almost as eyeroll-worthy as everyone constantly yelling about new Primarchs or whatever.
CHRIS: Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll be disappointed.
DREW: oh my god
DREW: Are we fucked? We’re fucked, right? OUR ENTIRE PREMISE IS FUCKED.
CHRIS: Okay, now we’ve had a couple days to digest the reality that everything we’ve written about is about to be invalidated and join the Open War cards and Reivers in the bin. They’ve said that we can still use the codices so what the models/units do won’t be changing but how is that even possible if they’re changing the core rules? Since this is babby’s first edition change WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEAAAAAANNNNN???
To give you some perspective the only significant edition change in minis gaming I’ve been through was when Warmachine went from Mk2 to Mk3 a few years back. There were a couple base rule changes, the entire points system for the game and for every model changed, and they revised nearly every model in the game (except for the faction I was playing at the time, because they rushed that shit out the door). It overall made for a better game but it was a huge upheaval and a lot of stuff that was very good in Mk2 was no longer worth fielding, and vice versa. Is that the kind of thing we’re looking at here?
(Note: at the time of writing it’s just been announced that they’re redoing all the points, and I’m terrified).
DREW: As much as I enjoy baseless guessing and clickbait conjecture, there are plenty of other sites which provide all of that already so let’s pump the brakes a little on deep-diving about edition change. First off, I want to go on record as officially apologizing to everyone out there who was right and I was wrong about this edition change. Decades of reading comics have rendered me numb to statements like “nothing will ever be the same” or “everything ends” or “we will not publish a story where Beppo the Super-Monkey and Green Lantern’s power ring make love for seven pages, stop sending us spec scripts”.
CHRIS: Your scripts were good, don’t let it get you down. Don’t give up on your dreams.
DREW: They gave Swamp Thing an entire issue for that shit, is all I’m saying. Anyway, you shouldn’t worry too much about how much this changes. From all indications this is less like the change from 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons to 3rd edition, where people wondered where their THAC0 went (in the toilet, where it belongs) and what these new “skills” were that didn’t involve swords or spells. Instead, it’s more like the switch from 3rd to 3.5, where people wondered why they now had to buy a whole new set of $60 core books.
It’s still incredibly early days to talk about any rule changes with any degree of certainty outside of what’s been discussed, so for now we’re going to stick with the edition that we have. But there’s a great big fuckoff elephant in the room and we have to talk about it: Crusade.
CHRIS: YES. Crusade has me super chuffed. This sounds exactly like what I was looking for. Slow grow, so someone like me without six or seven full armies packed away in the closet can get in without feeling completely outclassed. Specific unit progression through experience points and wounds, like Necromunda or what Kill Team is supposed to do in theory. Kewl lewts to pick up as your forces level up. I absolutely love love love campaign built games. If we’re ever allowed to actually play games at stores again I am definitely going to jump into or organize a Crusade that will inevitably fall apart due to scheduling and disinterest. But for now I am extremely excited to FORGE MY OWN NARRATIVE, and for once that is not a euphemism.
DREW: The only thing that really stands in the way of me completely embracing Crusade is the fact that it’s still going to use PL. The fact that they’re actually going to regularly update PL has me feeling slightly more optimistic, but there’s definitely part of my brain that tells me “they’re going to Bill Buckner the shit out of this.” If you don’t know who that is then unlike us you are not an Old from New England; instead substitute someone from modern times who had the pivotal chance to save the day and screwed it up royally instead, like Star-Lord or the Democratic Party.
Again, though: we’re not really here to go over 9th stuff. We’re here because
Rob still has the negatives and has demanded that Number must go up or else I am going to teach you to play the game that we have. No “or die trying” involved. If I fail, I’ll probably just whine a bunch and then go drink whiskey and eat ice cream until I pass out.
We talked a little between columns and panicking and we decided that we are going to go over a mission in further detail. After some back and forth we settled on The Scouring, mostly because it’s in the core book and I really want to save Crusade from CA19 for our actual match. I’m really excited to go over this with you because it lets me do what I like best: complain!
CHRIS: We’re not doing anything from CA19 my dude. Nobody is. CA19, more like DOA19 amirite? It had a few glorious months before the Roni descended and shut that down, and when we actually get to throw down together it will probably be some time in the late Barron Trump’s third term.
But for the sake of the column I picked The Scouring for a couple reasons. First it’s Eternal War and not Maelstrom; I don’t think my wee brain could handle tactical objective cards right out of the gate. Also it shakes things up by having variable point rewards for the objectives. You set up six objectives, plunk down your armies alternating between players one unit at a time (and I like this too, better than I drop my whole army and then you drop yours. Much more dynamic), and only after everything is deployed do you figure out which objective is only worth one point and which is worth four. That, without question, will fuck me every. single. time. But I like that you have to adjust your strategy on the fly.
DREW: There’s so much that I don’t like about this mission – end of match scoring, deployment zone chosen by last-pick objective marker, old-school First Blood instead of new and sexy First Strike – but really you can’t beat the fact that the Superior and Inferior objectives are determined by random roll. It’s the same problem that I have with seizing – far too much of the mission rides on the result of a single die.
Before anyone, probably you, says some shit about how I hate dice rolling or whatever and should pick a different game like Operation, let me clarify. Obviously there’s a place for randomization in the game; there wouldn’t be much point to it otherwise since every match would become a solved game. But that’s a series of dice rolls which interact with unit stats, not a completely random single roll that decides a major advantage.
Let’s get into it, though. You see that this is your mission, and let’s say that we place the objectives fairly evenly throughout the board, and you place the last one which means that you also get to choose your deployment zone after the deployment map is determined..
CHRIS: I rolled a 5. “Front Line Assault.”
Okay, I like this because I’m going to be running fairly dread-heavy, which means probably lascannons. And I want to be able to reach out and tag you turn 1 without having to worry about trundling up the board too far, so FLA puts everything you love within 48” of me no matter what. It also has the tip pushing forward rather than the flat horizontal zone of Dawn of War, so if I want to put something more aggressively forward to grab objectives or deliver pain I have that option.
DREW: For expediency’s sake, let’s say that you take your Babby’s First Warcrime list from Chapter Four, which we’ll list right here:
Babby's First Warcrime (1000 pts) - Click to expand
Babby’s First Warcrime (1000 pts)
Patrol Detachment (0 CP, 998pts)
Chaplain Venerable Dreadnought: Catechism of Fire, Twin lascannon (167 pts)
Chapter Master in Gravis Armor: Stratagem: Chapter Master (-2CP), The Ironstone (108 pts)
Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifle, Sergeant w Chainsword, (85 pts)
Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifle, Sergeant w Chainsword, (85 pts)
Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifle, Sergeant w Chainsword, (85 pts)
Invictor Tactical Warsuit Twin ironhail autocannon (136 pts)
Primaris Apothecary Father of the Future, Stratagem: Chief Apothecary, Warlord (-1CP, 60 pts)
+ Heavy Support+
Contemptor Mortis Dreadnought: Cyclone missile launcher, Two twin lascannons (200 pts)
Eliminator Squad (3): Bolt Sniper Rifle (72 pts)
And for mine, I’ll go with something relatively simple as well, sticking to Marines so as not to muddy the waters too much. Something a little like this:
Teachable Moment (1000 pts) - Click to expand
Imperial Fists Patrol Detachment (3 CP, 994 pts)
+ HQ +
Captain in Gravis Armor: Indomitable, Master-crafted boltstorm gauntlet (108 pts)
Primaris Lieutenant (89 pts)
+ Troops +
Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifles (85 pts)
Tactical Squad (5): Boltguns, melta gun, Sergeant w combi-melta and melta bombs (94 pts)
+ Elites +
Aggressor Squad (3): Auto Boltstorm Gauntlets/Fragstorm grenade launchers (111 pts)
+ Heavy Support +
Centurion Devastator Squad (3): Centurion missile launchers and heavy bolters (240 pts)
Hellblaster Squad (6): Plasma incinerators (198 pts)
+ Dedicated Transport [5 PL, 89pts] +
Razorback : Storm bolter, twin heavy bolter (89 pts)
Now, this isn’t a particularly good list both because I am bad at 40k and also as the name suggests it’s an opportunity for you to apply recently taught wisdom. Take a look at this list with three questions in mind:
- What is my obvious play style from this list – what moves am I likely to make?
- What are my weaknesses and how can you use your forces to prey on them?
- What is my likely deployment order and how should you try to respond?
CHRIS: Nothing in that list is super fast, although the Razorback gets the Tacticals up the field pretty darn quick, which they need to be because melta range isn’t great. I suspect you’re going to park the Centurions somewhere and in waddling distance of an objective and hope it’s not the 1 pointer. That lack of speed, other than the Razorback, could be your weakness there. Also your Tacticals are probably going to be outside of your Cap/Lt bubble, and that’s good, I want to keep it that way because they’re terrifying otherwise.
It feels to me like you’re going to play those Tacticals very aggressively but with only two Troops units maybe you’ll hold them off for objective securing, using the Razorback to get them to get them to the 4 point objective and just melta-ing my face if I try to get close. I’m not sure about how helpful those Aggressors are going to as they need to be in closer before they can do much and they’re slow as molasses uphill in January (which, given our shared love of the Great Boston Molasses Flood, is actually horrifyingly fast under the right conditions). But if they can get at my troops, especially them and the Centurions, you’re going to effectively block me out of scoring points. I’m now rethinking my favorable opinion of Front Line Assault. It would have been better if I could make your lack of speed work for me, like with Hammer and Anvil.
You’ve got a lot of heavy firepower in the launchers, meltas and the Hellblasters that you’re going to wait to drop to see where my dreads or tanks go. I need to hold those until last and I need to block line of sight to my beautiful not robot sons with something to slow you down until I can kill them. Sadly cover isn’t going to help me so I can pretty much ignore it as I choose where to deploy.
DREW: I’m glad that you mentioned cover not helping you, because it shows me that you actually considered my list beyond “X unit does Y” and started thinking about higher-level rules like Fists ignoring cover. Just don’t get cocky, kid – if you keep “putting thought into it” and “making good choices” the flimsy underlying premise of this column is in danger!
CHRIS: Cover is only going to be a hindrance to me so I may as well deploy around it so I don’t get myself bottlenecked up. My plan is to keep my Contemptor and Invictor toward the back on the wings to hold them for a second wave once I see where you’re going, put my Chaplain Dread a bit further up so that chonker can help defend an objective, make the Captain the little spoon behind the Chaplain Dread to let the Ironstone do it’s thing, bunch the Intercessors up around the Apothecary, somewhere inside the Chapter Master bubble. Probably drop the Eliminators somewhere they can snipe out your Captain or Lieutenant because I don’t know that they’ll have much other effect. I don’t feel good about any of this.
DREW: Honestly this is a pretty solid plan, but I’m glad that you don’t feel good about it. If you felt ultra-confident in your very first hypothetical game, Dunning-Kruger would come at you like a train.
CHRIS: “Dunning-Kruger” is the name of the Knight household when I inevitably start them as my
second third fourth army.
DREW: You’ve got the gist of all of it largely: depending on objective placement, I would try to rush your Dreads with the melta crew and waddle the rest up the board in a bubble shitting out masses of bolter (heavy and vanilla) fire and praying for 6s. Once the Razorback dumps its hot load of melta boys all over your silly walkers, it would then proceed to be as major of a pain in the ass as possible by blocking your LOS or charging to tie up your infantry.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the all-important first turn. Many games of 40k are decided in that first turn, and even though you might think it’s always best to go first there are times when going second works a lot better. For example, in a recent game I set up with a fairly heavy long range gunline centered around a three-character bubble of shooting buff auras, against a slow but tough army. The mission had Night Fighting style rules which limited our weapon ranges, so we had to get pretty close in order to start hurting each other. In that particular mission, it made sense for me to go second and allow him to come to me.
In newer and better missions, one of the players would have to make a strategic choice about whether to go first or second. Unfortunately this is one more way in which this mission is as big of a letdown as we are to our parents. The decision as to who goes first was made when I wrote down fewer units than you did. Some people might argue that the strategy of first turn is part of list building, but I can’t agree – it gives armies with expensive units a marked advantage over others and that rubs me the wrong way.
CHRIS: I’ve done some math (probably poorly). If I go first (by Seizing) and dump everything at that Razorback that can conceivably hurt it (3 lascannons from the 2 dreads, the Contemptor’s krak missile, the Invictor’s six-shooter, and even the Eliminators using Mortis rounds) there’s a thin but not impossible chance I can delete it in the first round under Devastator doctrine. However in my gaming circle “to Chris something” has become a phrase meaning “to leave something with 1 hit point” due to the alarming frequency with which this happens. Do I take the chance? I can almost certainly finish it the second round, even without Devastator. Or I deploy my Invictor in deep and in addition to the lascannons just try to beat the Razorback to death. That doesn’t feel like a good trade since either the assholes inside will just melta it. I can hope for it to explode I guess, but it’s not a Kytan and you’re not Rob so I won’t bet the farm on it. But then this is me, and the stupidest possible path to defeat calls to me like a siren, so what the heck? Who wants to live forever!
Damn, I really want to actually play this out and see just how stupid it is.
DREW: We really didn’t expect a pandemic quarantine when we came up with this column, and we always had an end in mind: we would finally meet up and play a game and have that be our final column. We’d try to stage a Malört-fueled reunion tour at AdeptiCon 2021 (sadly I can never attend NOVA due to work scheduling), but for the most part the grand finale would be our final Highlander-style showdown.
Well, okay, that’s a lie. My actual plan was to secretly teach my son to play at the same time without telling Chris, then show up with the boy as Chris’ surprise actual opponent. Chris getting his ass whipped by a pre-teen would be so incredibly delicious and I would roll around in his shame like the filthy pig that I am.
CHRIS: I have made pre-teens cry at the gaming table before (Origins, 2017, playing a Star Wars version of Full Thrust. The kid just rammed his Star Destroyer up the board to sit inside my range and firing arcs and my dice caught fire. It mostly wasn’t my fault and I’m sure I probably felt a little bad about it at the time or something) and I’m certainly not afraid to do it to a blood relative. He has to learn what being a Tatro Boi means.
DREW: He’ll say: see you late-ro, boi.
CHRIS: I have never hated you more than right now.
DREW: Again, though, quarantine. So now we have a choice: break quarantine to play a match, or figure out another plan entirely. Friends, our mother came to drop something off for me last week and I didn’t even come within six feet of her after not seeing her for months, so I am definitely not down with breaking quarantine for a game.
CHRIS: This is why I’m the Good Son and she loves me more. But seriously, I’m also not so keen to play a game that I want to see my wife and/or child on a ventilator. So we can continue throwing out Theoreticals rather than Practicals until we have a vaccine or even more solid 9th ed info to riff on, but I don’t think that would be too satisfying to read (Theoretical: we have actual readers).
DREW: Practical: we are already on first name basis and/or live with with 95% of them.
CHRIS: Instead, I have a saucy suggestion. Much like the classic Cage/Travolta film Face/Off
I’m going to cut off your face and wear it let’s flip this around. I’m going to teach YOU to play a game! The student has become the master! Behold! (pulls cloth off game table) MARVEL CRISIS PROTOCOL! Allez Gaming! (bites into a drop pod like an apple)
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.