Battle Bros is an ongoing bi-weekly column where Drew (PantsOptional) taught his brother Chris (head58) how to play Warhammer 40,000 and now they’ve been challenged by rival Bros. Catch up on their past adventures here.
Meet the Battle Bros
The older of the two brothers, but newer to the game. “Learned” to play Iron Hands and Bostonian Orks.
The younger brother, more experienced in the world of Hams but increasingly obviously worse. Worried that his revelation last column about sneaking in edits may backfire.
CHRIS: Welcome back, race fans! We have a doozy of a match for you today! I’m of course talking about the second of our practice games ahead of our Battle Bros Challenge against the inimitable Dozer and Moonpig.
DREW: Our last match was held at Chris’s house on Christmas Eve Day after a snowstorm and I managed to drive out there and back without turning the journey into a quick session of GTA. It was only natural that he return the favor and drive out to me on a morning when reporters were talking about “icy conditions” and “reduced speeds” and “Sweet Jesus will you two morons just reschedule already.” Whatever, we make great decisions.
Sadly, the decision to hold the game at my local game store meant that this was a practice session with zero cats. Let me just say to those of you who’re about to close this article: I get it. It did, however, provide us with ready access to some truly excellent tacos. We didn’t take pictures of the tacos partially because we didn’t want to look weird, partially because those sorts of pics aren’t either of our styles, and partially because doing so would delay the immediate inhalation of tacos. Again, if this causes you to close this browser tab, I understand.
CHRIS: Let me also emphasize, the taco place was called “J&J Brothers” and was in the same plaza as the game store. It’s like it was preordained from on high. We strongly recommend them. Get an extra side of fried plantains with cheese and crema.
Last game, if you’ll recall, I had to proxy Ghazghkull Thraka because I had not yet assembled or painted the model. I felt terrible about that. You, our reader(s), deserve better, probably. And knowing that Ghaz had another big match coming up I could not let that stand. So may I present to you the Warboss of all warbosses of the Bahston Orks: Gronkzkhull Thraka!!!
What I was not going to do though was buy, assemble, and paint a Stompa for a practice game. You definitely don’t deserve that, as not one of you has bought me an Astraeus (yet)! What I will do for you though is print out a base roughly the footprint of a Stompa and blu-tak our old friend the Primork to the top of it. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
DREW: The best part about this setup, to me, was that every single person who stopped by our table to see what was going on looked at the Proxy Primork like we had just taken a big old dump on the table. Hell yeah, my dudes, feast those eyes on a visual metaphor for our competence!
This time around we decided to use Power Level instead of points to set up the match for two different reasons. First, we were having a little difficulty properly balancing the match with points and PL gave us a little wiggle room. Second, we had completely forgotten that in the Planning Excitement phase, Moonpig specifically requested that we do PL. Of course, within 30 minutes Dozer submitted a theorycrafting list to us entirely done in points, so once again this matchup is proving to be extremely on brand for this column.
Let’s take a look at the Ork side of things:
++ Patrol Detachment (Orks – Goffs ) [20 PL, 6CP] ++ (Whatever, this is half of an army and not a legal list, it really doesn’t matter. As always, send any complaints to email@example.com.)
Big Mek w/ Kustom Force Field [5 PL]: choppa, kustom force field, slugga, stikkbombs
Ghazghkull Thraka [15 PL]: Gork’s Klaw, Mork’s Roar, stikkbombs, Warlord: Proper Killy (Goffs)
Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment (Orks – Goffs, -3CP)
- Lord of War
Stompa [34 PL]: 3x big shoota, deffkannon, mega-choppa, skorcha, supa-gatler, supa-rokkits, twin big shoota
Yup, that’s it: three models, one of which is essentially just a buff for one of the others by providing an incredibly mediocre invulnerable save through the Kustom Force Field aura. It’s more like a remora than its own unit, which is also something you could say about this column’s relationship to Goonhammer proper.
CHRIS: My list for this game was fairly simple: Dreads, Dreads, Dreads! If it’s not mostly dead and jammed into a big metal box, I don’t want to hear about it! Unfortunately I had to take a Techmarine (upgraded to Master of the Forge) as my Warlord and I threw in a Librarian for Psysteel Armor and Reforge to be even more resilient.
The plan here is they have lots of Heavy weapons and being Iron Hands we will rock the Devastator Doctrine round for all its worth – Iron Hands get to reroll hit rolls of 1 while in the Devastator Doctrine as well as ignoring penalties for moving and firing a Heavy weapon (not that the second part matters since almost everything I’m running gets Big Guns). After the first round I would use the Methodical Firepower strat to keep one of them in Devastator to get the AP and re-roll bonuses each round until Ghaz is right up in my line Pac-Manning through dreads. By that time the two of my Dreads that have close combat weapons might get a chance to shine. But probably not!
++ Vanguard Detachment (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Iron Hands) [53 PL, 4CP] ++
Librarian in Phobos Armour [6 PL]: Chapter Command: Chief Librarian, Psysteel Armor, Reforge, Machine Flense, Smite
Primaris Techmarine [5 PL]: Chapter Command: Master of the Forge, Warlord, Warlord Trait: Target Protocols, Relic: The Aegis Ferrum
Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL]: 2x fragstorm grenade launchers, icarus rocket pod, macro plasma incinerator, onslaught gatling cannon, redemptor Fist
Relic Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, -1CP]: cyclone missile launcher, 2x twin lascannon
Relic Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, -1CP]: cyclone missile launcher, 2x twin lascannon
Venerable Dreadnought [8 PL]: heavy plasma cannon, missile launcher
Terminator Squad [9PL] . Terminator Sergeant: Power sword, Storm bolter,
Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon (Cyclone Missile Launcher) and Storm Bolter, 3x Terminator w/ Power fist and Storm bolter
You may right now be thinking I’m the biggest idiot ever because I’m playing an Iron Hands list with almost all Dreads and didn’t take the Ironstone! You’re probably correct, but not for that reason. All these robo-friends have Duty Eternal baked right in, so there was no need! I instead took the Aegis Ferrum so maybe my Techmarine might survive a little bit more.
The Terminator Squad is a piece from Drew’s side of our list, and really only there to get us to a roughly even PL. The idea here was they would teleport in behind Ghaz and the Stompa and be annoyances that Drew had to deal with rather than just turning my dreads into a fine rust-colored mist.
I’ll save a little time by noting that a) the scenario we rolled required any units placed on the board to be in my own deployment zone, defeating my major intent of using them and b) I completely forgot to ever bring them onto the board. I think it was Turn 3 where I looked down to my right and saw them still on the edge of the table, like that sports movie with the guy who nobody thought would ever be any good but coach, he just needs one chance to get on the field and prove himself. Oh wait, that’s every sports movie.
That was my plan going in. I still had no idea if I would have enough damage output to chew through the Stompa’s T8 and 40 wounds, while at the same time handing Ghaz his 4 wounds every Shooting phase. So let’s see how it went!
DREW: It went Not Great for a variety of reasons. The first thing that we discovered was that the Stompa’s base didn’t actually fit in the deployment zone. That’s fine and good, there are rules for that sort of thing, but those rules meant that it spent the entire first round sitting there unable to move at all. “That’s okay,” I thought, “as long as he doesn’t get the first turn and spend it unloading absolutely everything he’s got into the Stompa, I’ll be fine.”
God. Damn. It.
Once that first turn die roll hit the table, I realized that this turn was going to be a make it or break it situation and so I used the Force Field Boosta stratagem on the Big Mek, which upgraded his Kustom Force Field to grant a 5+ invulnerable save to units within 6” instead of on 6+. The downside, of course, is that afterwards the KFF goes away entirely. The boost definitely helped some but at the end of the day you had still thrown something like 20 damage onto this thing in one turn, proving once again that first turn advantage is real, strong, and your friend (but not mine).
CHRIS: Yeah, I just unloaded right out the gate, which if you examine my dating history… but anyway, four twin lascannons, two big plasma guns, and an absolute fuckload of missiles when you’re getting an additional point of AP and rerolling 1s, and have rerolls from Target Protocols on one dread and Awaken the Machine Spirits on another, that all makes for a heck of an alpha strike. My dice were good, not on fire but good enough to get the job done. I think I knocked 10 wounds off the Stompa and the obligatory 4 off Ghaz. Things were going ok for Team Dead Boy Robot!
DREW: I wasn’t too concerned about this going in, because I thought I still had a pretty decent chance to just out-and-out delete dreadnoughts off the board. Turns out, I’m still very much used to Space Marine accuracy (regardless of loyalty) even though I know Orks are notoriously terrible shots, and all those pretty pretty guns on the Stompa didn’t amount to much. For the rest of the match it deleted one of them off the map per phase that it could participate.
CHRIS: It’s almost as if the Stompa isn’t very good. Who knew?
DREW: Jack from our comments knew, as did everyone. Speaking of phases, you had a hell of a discovery and a hell of a lucky turn. You used some nonsense Iron Hands Stratagem that let you shoot Overwatch real damn good (do not @ me, there are like seventeen million Stratagems at this stage in the game and I can barely remember the ones I use let alone someone else’s). Remember, kids, Ghaz can only lose 4 wounds per phase, and Charge is a phase just like when I used to get my outfits at Hot Topic. You really got to chip away at him in Overwatch despite him going on to maul your dreads with the same ease that you or I might dunk on a toddler. Okay, well, I might at any rate.
The end result of this is that you really went to town on him during my turn, and then on your next turn wiped him off the board with a big Smite. To say I didn’t expect that is the understatement of the century; I needed a minute to process this and took a lap around the store. Surprisingly, I came back to the table without having purchased some therapy paint. Don’t act like y’all haven’t bought paint or models to cope with shit before, I’ve seen these last few years.
CHRIS: Fuck, I’ve bought two therapy armies to deal with this whole COVID bullshit. And I still don’t feel any better!
But it turns out that even when you can only do 4 wounds per phase that a shooting, charge, fight, and psychic phase can get the job done. I was as surprised as you were, honestly. Going in I said the game would be done in two rounds, but I thought that would be you tabling me. But there we were. Our strategy worked. I mean, yes, there were a total of 9 models on the table so we didn’t have all the stuff going on of two full armies but Ghaz was down and I’d taken a chunk of wounds off the Stompa. One more round finished that off and I still had 2 dreads and my characters, and those Terminators who went out for a pack of smokes and never came back.
Oh, also we had objectives and secondaries and such, but they weren’t important to us here. This wasn’t a game about who would win, it was more about testing out our plan against the enemy. Although I totally won. Actually, since I won both matches, one as the Orks and one as the Marines, and I went first both times, I think it’s pretty clear that first turn advantage could really be make or break here. Or that the student has become the master.
My big takeaway is that as long as Ghaz and the Stompa aren’t engaged we have the firepower in my half of the list to deal with them, which was our huge concern. Pants-fillingly huge. And just like with nuclear war, Satanic rituals in D&D, or squirrels, our minds built up a boogeyman of fear that was larger than the actual threat turned out to be.
DREW: This really shouldn’t have been too surprising. Ghaz is fairly tough but in this test bed environment you were absolutely free to focus on him, so his lifespan was severely shortened. As far as the Stompa goes, we literally just got an example of this lesson a few weeks back when the rules for the new Tau railgun dropped and everybody without the capacity for critical thought dumped a collective pantload because Gun Big. Sure, the weapon profiles are sexy but when the unit using it isn’t so hot then that sexy turns sour real fast.
CHRIS: We talked about each of our halves of the army working like Lady and the Tramp eating that strand of spaghetti – you prioritize the troops, then the Killa Kanz, then the Deff Dreads while I focus on Ghaz, the Stompa, then the Deff Dreads, then the Killa Kanz. And if everything goes according to plan, like those animated dogs in the alleyway we meet in the middle and kiss.
DREW: Please, readers, do not create fan art of this. Let me clarify, this is not me being coy and winkingly soliciting such; if I see this on the internets I will – as the children say – put you in the pear wiggler.
I do want to talk about something that may be a concern going forward, and I want to stress, this is not about the store itself, this is about me and my limits. This was my first store game since, well, I literally can’t remember. It’s definitely my first store game since the Rona started, and in fact this was the longest I’ve spent in any sort of retail environment in that time. That place was pretty empty aside from the MtG crew in the corner, but it filled up pretty quickly. I was more or less fine as long as we could focus on the game, but as soon as we wrapped up and my tunnel vision faded I became less comfortable. If this had been spring or summer of 2020 I might have had a panic attack, so I guess I’ve “improved” my mental health since then, in the way that a fresh and pristine dog turd is an improvement over one that’s been stepped in.
CHRIS: I agree, my back was to most of the store during the game and I didn’t really see how much it had filled in while we were playing. Once we finished up I wasn’t keen to hang for very long. I did a quick look over the shelves to see if there was anything I needed (they had a sealed copy of MOON BASE KLAISUS!) and then got out of Dodge pretty quick. I’m not so much worried for myself – there’s sufficient Malört in my bloodstream to fight off any infection – but I don’t want to bring anything home to my wife and kid. I have enough self-loathing without getting someone I love sick.
I know we’re not as ultra-careful as we possibly could be, and even going to a store in the first place may seem incredibly stupid to some folks. But I’m hopeful that as long as we’re fairly smart about things COVID won’t completely fuck us.
++ THIS IS A BATTLE BROS NEWS FLASH ++
CHRIS: Hey, guess what folks? COVID completely fucked us! You know how the entire theme of this season was building up to the big Bro-off against Moonpig and Dozer at a local con in February? Well that was planned in the heady days between Delta and Omicron when it briefly looked like such a thing might not be akin to giving a tongue bath to the inside of a garbage truck.
DREW: Between the general conditions out there, our individual and collective risk budgets, and a con policy that inspired less confidence the more I read it, one of us decided to bow out. Frankly, all of us were looking at the situation with increasing dismay, so really the question was who would bow out first. We’re not naming names here; no shame in any of this.
But it does leave us with a big blinking question mark. What the hell do we do now? We tossed around some ideas. Frankly, I thought it would be entirely in keeping with the Battle Bros style to suddenly declare “The End! No moral,” and close the curtains on season three, but that seems like it might be unsatisfying to readers.
We have a few choices as to how to proceed from here:
- As noted above, we kick the entire affair into the air and run away like Matt Berry on Snuff Box. Pros: We are freed from the bonds of servitude and no longer have to toil to produce Words until such a time as we hold Season Four. Cons: We may be beaten to death by irate readers. Or maybe just irrevocably poison our brand with such a move, if that’s indeed possible.
- We slap a giant “To Be Continued…” on this and hold the match at a later date, possibly twenty-five years later when no one expects a sequel and it doesn’t make much sense anyway. Pros: A satisfying conclusion, or at least a conclusion at any rate. Cons: We don’t really know when this conclusion would happen. It’s possible there could be a whole new edition by that time or that we’d all have forgotten how to play.
- Pinch hitters! We find either Allan or Josh from Season Two, slap a bag over their head and whisk them off in the dead of night to play in place of the missing Bro. Pros: We get to rather quickly solve the problem. Cons: If we do this at the con it’s pretty much the same risk factor; if we do it elsewhere we have to make those arrangements. Plus the match gets a big asterisk put next to it in the Battle Bros Hall of Fame since the whole “actual Bros” aspect flies out the window.
- We still go to the con with as many Bros as possible. The missing Bro calls in via Zoom or Discord video, and his partner at the con wears an iPad around his neck. Pros: It would be extremely amusing to see a Bro yell at his partner through the internet to just move the goddamn models already. Cons: Again, same risk factors, plus the number of Arrested Development jokes would become tiresome. Also I have never been to a convention where I would trust the data/wifi connection to get this done.
- Play the match remotely somehow, whether that’s by staging some sort of webcam affair or using some sort of third-party software to digitally recreate the whole deal. Pros: I guess it technically gets done? Cons: Almost too many to count, ranging from technical difficulty/tedium to questionable legality to odious ethics involved.
I’ll be honest, that last one is absolutely my last choice by a country mile. I do not want to do it. I’d take option 4, where we expose ourselves to risk and turn a fun time into every staff meeting you’ve had for the last two years (“oh, sorry, I was muted”) any day above that last option.
CHRIS: I’ve tried to learn online gaming platforms for playing 40K many times over the past two years and I guess I’m officially Old because I can’t for the life of me figure them out. Plus a Certain Platform has gotten all fashy so I’d avoid that. Could be manageable, could be annoying, who knows?
I would suggest an option 4.1, where we remote in the one party who cannot be here in person but play the game at an undisclosed, secure location rather than in a plague pit.
DREW: I’m not 100% on how viable that is since travel plans got cancelled, but we’ll try. Other than that, we really don’t quite know what to do. So…
Next Time: Why Don’t You Just Tell Us What to Do
We want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below, Twitter replies, Facebook comments, pointed emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, the Goonhammer Discord server, wherever. (I don’t think the column gets posted to Reddit? Even if it did, we’re not reading that.) Which option do you think we should take – or do you have a genius solution not offered here? We might not necessarily go with the majority decision depending on Circumstances, but it will definitely give us a starting point.
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