Battle Bros is an ongoing bi-weekly column where Drew (PantsOptional) teaches his brother Chris (head58) how to play Warhammer 40,000 but somewhere along the line they lost that thread and this is what we ended up with instead. Catch up on their past adventures in season one here.
Meet the Battle Bros
The older of the two brothers, but new to the game. Learning to play Iron Hands and – after only three games – building an army of Bostonian Orks, kehd. The Sickness is in him.
The younger brother, now adrift in a strange and foreign land painted in the myriad hues of nostalgia (but mostly black).
The true veteran who has been in the game longer than either of these chucklefucks and who casually dunks on either of their painting skills in his sleep. They’re not bitter.
Long time 40k sideliner. Dabbled in 5th edition, now back thanks to the pandemic to give it another go. Entering his third decade of miniature gaming; if you cannot die until you paint all your miniatures he will still be painting at the heat death of the universe.
DREW: Welcome back, sexy trashy readers. There’s a lot to unpack today as we embark on the first mission of our four-mission campaign, so let’s start right off the bat with the first of our randomly-rolled missions.
Allan's List - Click to Expand
+ HQ +
N’Varr Dra’kar – Primaris Lieutenant: Master-crafted power sword (PL 4)
+ Troops +
Intercessor Squad Bandi’sha – Assault Intercessor Squad (5): Heavy bolt pistols, chainswords, Assault Intercessor Sergeant with hand flamer and thunder hammer (PL 5)
Intercessor Squad Ur’Venn – Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifles, Astartes grenade launcher, Intercessor Sergeant with chainsword, plasma pistol (PL 5)
+ Elites +
Amann Val’kyr – Primaris Apothecary (PL 4)
+ Heavy Support +
Eradicator Squad Iegan – Eradicator Squad (3): Melta rifles (PL 7)
Drew's List - Click to Expand
+ HQ +
Valac Oathbreaker – Chaos Lord: Black-clad Brute, jump pack, 2 lightning claws, Mark of Khorne, Talisman of Burning Blood (PL 7, 2 Crusade points)
+ Troops +
Adharak’s Reavers – Chaos Space Marines (5): Bolt pistols and chainswords, plasma gun, Mark of Khorne, Aspiring Champion with chainaxe, plasma pistol, Icon of Wrath (PL 4)
+ Fast Attack +
The Forgotten – Raptors (5): Bolt pistols and chainswords, Mark of Khorne, Raptor Champion with plasma pistol, lighting claw, Icon of Wrath (PL 5)
+ Heavy Support +
Scyzhar the Malefic – Venomcrawler: no Chaos Mark (PL 7)
DREW: For our mission, we rolled Sweep and Clear. Four objectives, one in each deployment zone and two in the “neutral zone” in the middle, with progressive scoring for “control an objective,” “control the objective in your opponent’s deployment zone,” and “control more objectives than your opponent.” It’s a pretty straightforward mission that really forces you to meet your opponent in the middle.
CHRIS: That board is my worst nightmare for going first. 24” between deployment zones means my stubby little green guys aren’t getting a charge off and will get absolutely mulched. Thinking my decision not to put a Trukk even in this starter list was a bad idea.
DREW: In terms of the narrative, the Salamanders arrived on Vordanis Tertius in search of clues to help them piece together what happened here and answer distress calls from the surface. This planet once held an Adeptus Mechanicus Research Station (Diodatus VI) that burgeoned on becoming a full Forge World, but obviously something terrible happened since “smoking ruin” is the hot new architectural style. While the Salamanders hunt for supply caches for the survivors they come across a Black Legion scouting force out to taint the supplies both physically/spiritually and with scrapcode.
Before the battle we picked Agendas – a set of conditions that, if fulfilled, would allow units to mark XP. Since my army is highly mobile and the mission requires mobility, I picked “Breakthrough” as my Agenda, which rewards me for being in Allan’s deployment zone at the end of the battle. Allan went with “Know No Fear” out of the Adeptus Astartes codex, which rewards him for passing Morale checks and is so absurdly good I would have given him a judgey look if he had picked anything else. The Black Legion are therefore trying to get this done and get out of here while the Salamanders are just trying to stay strong in the face of the Archenemy.
CHRIS: Must be nice having a codex. Say, you wouldn’t mind delaying our game a couple months would you?
DREW: Hey, I’ll be in the same boat as you, hoss. Someday I’ll have two Wounds…. Someday.
RON HOWARD NARRATOR: Neither Orks nor Heretic Astartes will ever have two wounds.
DREW: Again, I won’t go play by play because aside from one thing you can pretty near write this one out in your own heads. As predicted, this match turned into a great big mess in the middle of the table as my forces rushed up to capture objectives and threw themselves into the meatgrinder.
CHRIS: The joy of going first. “Let me just move my models to where it’s more convenient for you to kill me on your turn…”
DREW: Allan’s Salamanders (Chris’s note: Allamanders) really ripped through my infantry and put some extreme hurt on the Venomcrawler, which had to scuttle around the backfield since I stupidly didn’t realize it couldn’t fit through the gap ahead of it. The Salamanders Chapter Tactic put in a lot of work in this match protecting his models. The vast majority of my attacks were at AP -1, and while the ability to straight up ignore that didn’t exactly decide the game, it did put an Andre the Giant sized thumb on the scales. (See you at the crossroads, Andre. We miss you, big fella.)
CHRIS: Pour one out for Bionic Bigfoot.
DREW: I made a move in turn 3 that I considered at the time to be an extremely dumb Hail Mary, but I’m glad that I did. In turn 2 I had charged Adharak’s Reavers over to the Eradicators, hoping to tie them up and prevent at least one if not two turns of shooting. In my wildest dreams I would fly among the clouds wipe them out handily, but instead I achieved absolutely nothing while they managed to club most of the unit to death with their fuckoff big Gravis salami fists.
CHRIS: Wait, before you go on, what the hell kind of die is that? I can’t make heads or tails of whatever those symbols are.
DREW: I don’t know how to break this to you, Gramps, but they’re just upside down.
CHRIS: Oh, Jesus fucking wept, I’m the biggest idiot ever. Wait, don’t leave that in!
DREW: I’m the one who finalizes posting to the site, I’m leaving in whatever I want. The Eradicators then Fell Back and the Assault Intercessors charged the Raptors, which left Adharak himself free on his turn to make a beeline for the objective in the Salamanders’ backfield. By forcing a reaction to this and pushing Scyzhar across the board and up into a turn 4 charge, I kept the Salamanders from being able to push forward and claim the midfield objectives and move on to grab the one in my deployment zone. It may have been incredibly dumb, but it ended up being the play that won the game for me in the end despite getting tabled on my own fourth turn.
If you need a way to sum up my life, to define my brand, this is fucking it, folks. I did something extremely stupid, got my ass thoroughly handed to me, and still managed to squeak out a win.
CHRIS: You know that look that Bert gives Ernie when he does something nonsensical and yet everything works out for him in the end? That, me to you, now.
DREW: “Bert, his eyebrows furrowed” is some strong Darmok energy. After the game we marked XP, rolled Out of Action tests, and determined who was Marked for Greatness – essentially picking the MVP of the match on each side. Since I was the victor, I got to pick two units to be Marked. This sequence is where a lot of the real character work of the campaign shined through
For me the choice was easy. It had to be Valac Oathbreaker, the Chaos Lord, going fully megalomaniacal over here and claiming glory despite doing nothing and getting completely and thoroughly corncobbed. To further the idiotic supervillain theme I also picked the Forgotten, my Raptors who did get the only unit kill in the game but also earned the “Disgraced” Battle Scar (which prevents me from using Stratagems on them). If you’re having trouble reconciling being shamed and awarded at the same time, remember that Starscream is somehow second in command despite being a total and complete fuckMuppet and Megatron has to give him a “you fucking wot m8” rant in 96% of the episodes.
Allan’s choice for Marked for Greatness was Lieutenant Dan N’Varr Drakar, who not only handily aced my Chaos Lord but also jammed his sword into the face of the onrushing Venomcrawler to end it. He really put his work in and honestly deserved to be MVP on his side. A bunch of other units also racked up XP for Know No Fear but no one on either side managed to level up. As far as Agendas go, that one is absolutely great. You know you’re going to lose someone but you at least get a consolation prize out of the affair.
CHRIS: Very nice. Definitely flavorful and in keeping with the whole spirit of the Crusade thing.
Speaking of flavorful, Josh and I started our day off right by eating a metric fuckton of ham. My wife and son don’t like ham (I know, right?) so I don’t get to have it much, and here it being Easter weekend and Josh will eat anything I baked up a ham. Ham for the Ham God!
Then down to business. Remember above when I said Sweep and Clear was my worst nightmare? Guess what we rolled! Narrative-wise, the Necrons show up on some shitty moon of the outermost planet of the Vordanis system and begin the process of collecting the data keys to re-enter their lost facility. They’d left the keys here hidden in whatever the roboskelly equivalent of a flower pot would be, but between 60 million years of geological shifting and (much more recently) the Imperial clusterfuck from Drew’s rpg campaign the keys are scattered around a bit. Meanwhile the Orks are Kool-Aid Manning their way into the system and see the Necrons looking around for stuff. Their limited reasoning abilities conclude that said “stuff” must be “good stuff” and therefore it should belong to the Orks. Let the krumpin’ commence!
Chris's List - Click to Expand
+ HQ +
Keytaah Beah – Weirdboy: Da Jump, Warpath, Warphead (PL 4, 1 Crusade Point)
+ Troops +
Reveah Raidas – Boyz (20): Sluggas, choppas, rokkit launcha, tankbusta bombs, ‘Ard Boyz (PL 8, 1 Crusade Point)
Allston Ratz– Boyz (20): Sluggas, choppas, rokkit launcha, tankbusta bombs, ‘Ard Boyz (PL 8, 1 Crusade Point)
+ Elites +
The Morky Morky Waaaghtones – Tankbustas (5): Rokkit launchas (PL4)
Josh's List - Click to Expand
+ HQ +
Overlord: Orb of Eternity, Resurrection Orb, staff of light, Thrall of the Silent King (PL 6, 2 Crusade Points)
+ Troops +
Immortals (5): Gauss blasters (PL 4)
Necron Warriors (10): Gauss reapers (PL 6)
+ Elites +
Canoptek Spyder: Particle beamers (PL 4)
+ Fast Attack +
Tomb Blades (3): Gauss blasters (PL 4)
Looking at the dreaded 24” of no man’s land in the middle of the board I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get near Josh’s Necrons if I went first so I chose to go second. It still didn’t work because Josh is smart and knows Maths, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. He killed three of my five Tankbustas right off and I was very concerned about how I was going to deal with his Canoptek Spyder. There was no way I was going to kill that thing with just shootas and choppas.
Smash cut to: where I Da Jumped a unit of Boys onto his board edge and proceeded to kill his Spyder with shootas and choppas. Turns out when you’re rolling All The Dice some of them actually get through. It helps if you’re playing against someone with legendarily bad dice luck like Josh. “Why do I play dice games,” he cried more than once, shaking his fist at an uncaring sky. I now had a big old blob of Boyz on the objective in Josh’s deployment zone, which was definitely a problem.
DREW: Many years ago someone introduced me to the greatest wisdom of all in this game: your solution to any and all problems is AMDAP (As Many Dice As Possible). Or to put it another way: “quantity has a quality all its own,” and no one actually knows the source of that quote despite numerous claims so I’m gonna muddy the waters some more and say it was Gandhi, although probably the ultra-murderous Civ Gandhi. Either way, throwing a million dice on the table and watching your opponent’s soul wither away is a grand feeling.
CHRIS: Fuck Civ Gandhi. I hate that asshole. Always cockblocking me from getting Flight Before Christ. Aaaaanyway, in round 2 Josh moved up his Warriors and between them and his Tomb Blades he reduced my second unit of 20 Boyz down to 4 models. This should have been a triumphant moment for him but I’d been saving my CP for Unstoppable Green Tide, so I just reracked that unit and my Warphead Weirdboy Warpathed and Da Jumped them back into the fray. Doing this against Necrons specifically was, as the kids say, tasty as fuck.
Honestly this was where I won the game. I’d managed to roll a 9 on my charge roll in the previous round for my Boyz into his Immortals. This round I rolled a 3 for the Ratz but Orks get to reroll charges and I got a 10 into his Warriors. Getting these two successful charges off really sealed it. And I then mopped up during round 3. It wasn’t quite completely living the dream but rolling 52 dice for Orks in melee was maybe the only time I’ve felt joy in the past year.
None of our units on either side ended up with any battle scars, sadly. I picked both my units of Boyz as Marked for Greatness. We had both picked Reaper for our Agenda and that game one of my units, the Allston Ratz, enough XP to level up! I chose a Battle Honor and rolled “Veteran Warriors” which will let them reroll hit rolls of 1. Super awesome. Josh’s Tomb Blades also got enough XP to be “Blooded” and he rolled for the spiffy Battle Honors table in the Necron Codex. Have I mentioned Josh is terrible at dice? He rolled “the Will To Serve,” which may be the worst Battle Honor in the game – that unit now auto passes Out of Action tests. Woooooo?
DREW: You say that, but I racked up a Battle Scar on my Raptors as a result of a failed Out of Action test that keeps me from fulfilling their intended purpose (using Fury of Khorne to fight twice) so you can talk to the wrist ‘cause the hand is pissed.
I initially hoped that you would get a different mission so that our next game could just be you and me taking the last mission that was left, but us both having the same mission lets me open up a little and vent about this mission. Sure, I won, but I think it’s actually a pretty terrible mission. The nature of the objective placement really gives the advantage to whichever army is more mobile than the other one since it’s hard to shift the one in your opponent’s deployment zone otherwise.
Moreover, it suffers from the dreaded Turn 5 Scoring Debacle, which I’ll break down since I know there are some people who aren’t super tuned in to the rules and just read to see us dunk on each other. As it stands, the scoring occurs at the end of the Command Phase from Turn 2 onward. This is a problem for the player who goes second, because the first player can finish their scoring at the top of the turn and then dedicate the rest of the turn to screwing with player two to try to deny their scoring. When the second player’s turn comes they don’t have anywhere near as much agency since scoring happens before you actually do anything. They fixed it in the Grand Tournament missions so that the second player scores at the end of Turn 5, but they didn’t fix it here and that honestly could have changed the game for Allan.
CHRIS: It is odd that GW listened to the wisdom of the folks at Goonhammer who know what they’re talking about and fixed this for the GT book but not the core book. They also didn’t apply the “winner of the roll off takes the first turn” fix. I guess they assume that filthy casuals like us wouldn’t really care, but it would be nice for them to be consistent, he says proving he hasn’t been in the 40k rules world all that long. I vote that we adopt those rules for the rest of the campaign, all in favor?
DREW: Normally I like home brew rules about as much as a cold Drano enema during a lutefisk buffet but in this case I’ll allow it since it’s such an obvious fix. Hell, theoretically the Matched Play missions that are in both the GT and the core didn’t actually get these fixes for the core either so if you’re just playing with the core book you’re out of luck. Again, to emphasize: in some cases these are the exact same missions, word for word, except for these fixes.
CHRIS: So narratively where do we end up? The Necrons were chased off the moonlet and the Orks now have a bunch of data keys, although they don’t know exactly where the facility is. The Black Legion mucked with the supplies sufficiently that they are of no use to the Salamanders, who have now learned the valuable lesson that stopping to help survivors is a sucker’s move.
DREW: Let’s be real, they will never learn that lesson and that’s not a bad thing. Their compassion for the simple people, the common clay of the Imperium, is what defines them. Okay, that, excessive amounts of fire, and convoluted item quests, but it’s mostly the compassion thing inasmuch as a group of brainwashed transhuman former child soldiers can grasp compassion. If they learned the lesson that saving people is bad, that would be missing the point of their characterization so hard that Zack Snyder would direct their next movie.
CHRIS: Harsh. The Salamanders don’t deserve that. No one does.
DREW: Narratively, where we’re at now is that both the Orks and Black Legion are now probably fairly aware of each other’s presences in the system since one side has the subtlety and quiet approach of an air raid siren and the other has embraced full-on Saturday morning cackling supervillainy. They’re going to make a move on each other, testing defenses and trying to make a small surgical strike to deter the other side.
Mechanically, this means that our next mission is Assassinate. One of our forces is going to try to take out the opponent’s leadership, but it’s an awkward situation since neither of us know which one of us will be the assassin and which of us will be the target. So now we play mental 5D chess for a week while we figure out which of our CHARACTERS we should bring. I’m so glad we can spend this time in analysis paralysis.
Next Time: Cut the Head Off
We’ll put an end to our anxious dithering and get on with it. There will most likely not be ham.
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