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, ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah.
The younger brother, now adrift in a strange and foreign land painted in the myriad hues of nostalgia (but mostly black, and he’s now resigned to the fact that his different batches of Vallejo Black Grey don’t match).
DREW: Y’all are still here? Wow, okay. I hope you’re ready for a close-up view of our horrible creative and decision-making processes, because we’re here today to design our own mission. Just to get things out front, we’re not playing the mission yet – that’ll be next time. As of the time of starting this writing, two-thirds of my household are getting their second panini shots the weekend that we would otherwise play, and I am not down for a three hour drive and a three hour game while in a fatigued and feverish delirium. One hour, maybe we’ll talk.
CHRIS: I’m willing to take any advantage I can get over you in a game, but I’d prefer you don’t crash and die in a ditch somewhere. It needs to be by my hand and none other.
DREW: I think it really says something about us that I just accept both this fact and what appears to be your slow transformation into Doctor Doom. It says that the therapy bills are immense.
DREW: To catch people up on the state of the narrative so far, it’s been a pretty mixed bad in terms of outcomes. As we left off last time, the Salamanders prevented the Black Legion from performing a horrible ritual to the Ruinous Powers and the Necrons, moving on to their blackstone construct on Vordanis Minor, effortlessly swept the Orks away. At this point it’s pretty easy to say that the Necrons have taken the most vital equipment away for their Dynasty and the Salamanders have indeed found a clue to the Artefacts of Vulkan. In other words, they succeeded, and we’re competing for the loser’s bracket prize: a barely controllable super-ork whose mere consciousness will doom this entire sector.
The Primork, as we’re calling him, was last seen in a session of my RPG campaign in which the players navigated the hazards of the ancient prison and discovered the massive ork (krork?) in a stasis field enforced by blackstone monoliths suppressing its psychic field. Theoretically there were some Thousand Sons there too, who sought the Primork for their own purposes, but down that road lies solely complication and time travel fuckery so let’s not go down it. I had thought about taking a squad of Rubric Marines to represent them, but they suck rocks through a straw unless you’re actually using detachments and even though this is about narrative I just can’t do it.
CHRIS: I’m over here looking at my beautiful green boys and salivating over the thought of a 3+ save or a 3+ BS. Four of them with Soulreaper cannons could mess us up. It’s probably better to just assume the Salamanders and Necrons took care of them but were wise enough to not even look at the giant, ancient killing machine in super sweet power armor that will without question spell their doom. Fortunately we have no such reservations.
DREW: You say that about the Rubrics but they’re 18 points per model for a unit in the Elites slot that are designed around the Damage 1 life in a game that’s largely moved on to Damage 2 and I can’t even use their good Stratagems. If I wanted disappointing single Wound models, I have so many other options in this codex, like most of the book.
CHRIS: Sorry, I’ve been waist-deep in orks for so long now I completely forgot two Wound infantry existed.
Krorks, for folks like me who may be newer to the game/lore, are wicked old orks. They were made 60 million years ago by some super-powerful Old Ones to use as a weapon against the Necrons in the “War in Heaven.” They were twelve meters tall and had incredibly advanced armor even by the standards of the Imperium in the 41st millennium. The Old Ones eventually lost thanks to the Necrons teaming up with the C’tan. Honestly the whole thing sounds like an old Star Trek plot where Kirk teaches the last remaining Old One and C’tan how to love or something. Anyway, the Krorks maybe devolved into orks, I don’t know how all this works.
DREW: That’s pretty much exactly what happened, except without Kirk banging Mag’ladroth the Void Dragon and getting alien robot herpes. Spoilers for the War of the Beast series (and holy shit don’t read that garbage): something pretty similar shows up, except it’s not twelve meters tall, it’s only ten meters tall, and that one gave did a real number on the Imperium. And since orks become stronger, tougher, and smarter the bigger they get (or maybe it’s the other way around), an ork the size of the Green Monster is particularly nasty especially considering it had a big ol’ swelled up noggin which was an incredibly subtle way to tell my PCs it was a psyker.
CHRIS: So one of these things is held in suspension in the secret Necron lab/prison. The question is then what were they doing with it? They wouldn’t have a lot of interest in it as a biological life form – they can build big robots, who cares about an enormous walking plant. It must contain some energy or essence of the Old Ones that they were trying to harness. And with the lab falling apart over the millennia it was abandoned and buried the whole thing is probably dangerously unstable.
DREW: I’ll tell you what they were doing with it, they were saving it there for my PCs to stumble onto and shit their pants. Why you gotta complicate things? There’s a five foot room with a goblin guarding a pie, there’s your dungeon. If you really have to know, my barely legible notes say something about them studying its psychic capabilities. Which, by the way, with a Waaagh happening a couple of space blocks over, could have been real bad for everyone if this woke up – or if it died.
CHRIS: If it died would it have done a Watchmen Alien Squid deal, but on a greater scale? Like the Imperium Nihilus doesn’t have enough problems.
You had originally mentioned that this place was like a Blackstone Fortress, which my overly-literal brain took to mean “laid out with hex tile paths like a BSF map.” I spent a couple days churning on that one before you set me straight. I still think a board where there are restricted pathways and beyond them is a bottomless pit or Space Lava or something would be fun, but it’s too complicated for what we’re trying to do here. And it would be nasty on any vehicles.
So we’re looking at the big stasis chamber that is in something thematically resembling a Blackstone Fortress. We know the room contains 1) a Primork of unusual size being held in stasis by 2) some blackstone monoliths. All of these things should be interactive. Braydeez Nutz want to wake the Primork up and have it lead a mega-Waaagh across the stars simply because that sounds like an awesome idea. What would the Bloodied Outcasts do with the thing. Wait, they’re not Slaanesh worshippers, are they?
DREW: No – okay, yes, some of them are, but that’s incidental. If it dies or something then absolutely they’ll turn it into space fungus methlights, but Abaddon’s goal is to seize it for use as a weapon. I don’t know how he’ll do so, but given that his last major plan was “put space station through planet” he could easily just use it to lure Waaaghs around to impede Imperial forces. He’s not a complicated man.
CHRIS: And neither am I! As I said last time, I’m thinking of this place as a Gygaxian nightmare. I’m old as freaking dirt, remember? I want puzzles and death traps aplenty, I want pit traps and death rays galore! This very place hates us almost as much as we hate each other.
DREW: Sometimes our brains work so similarly it hurts. That’s exactly what I was thinking. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of video games (instead of working on this column like a good boy) that could best be described as PvPvE, where the computer-controlled NPCs threaten the players just as much as each other. The constant possibility of having our mutually agreed murder attempts interrupted by a harsh and uncaring AI that just vaporizes both sides appeals to me on a deep and primal level that should probably best be explored by a competent therapist.
In thinking about the design for this mission, I found myself attempting to go back to the wisdom of this very site, but the truth is that the 9th edition mission style did some of the work for us. How long should a game last? It should last five turns, because that’s how long games last. Who should go first? Whoever wins the roll-off. And since we figured out a twist with having the map itself hate us, we just need to sort out a few other things. I’ll lay them out here so we can refer back to them.
- Deployment Map: where our armies will get to start the game;
- Objectives and Marker Placement: how many objective markers (if any) there should be, and where they should go;
- “Primary” Objective: we already know we want control of the Primork to be the focus, so that will be elaborated on here;
- “Secondary” Objectives: the other ways of scoring points so it isn’t solely a fight for the big boy;
- Any other Weird Shit: what it says on the tin.
The easy part, for me, are the “secondary” objectives, because like all good creative minds I plan to steal a little. There’s already a Crusade mission with one big objective worth a lot of points and a handful of lesser objectives – the Ritual, which I just played. That mission has Seize Ground as a progressive objective in which you score points for having two objectives or for having more than your opponent, limiting you to 20 points per turn. It’s not a lot but a clever player can close the gap with it or win outright if they’re able to deny the other player from achieving the bigger goal.
CHRIS: It seems reasonable that those objectives are the blackstone pylons holding the Primork in place. A handful of them scattered around the board that we’re scrambling to control. Four of them feels about right; we’ll take turns placing them rather than just have them in set positions. Boilerplate “six inches from any battlefield edge or other objective, not in deployment zones” language – the board is kind of small so we’ll go with six instead of nine. So far so good.
Now since these objectives are the things keeping the Primork in suspension, we’re going to go into the “Weird Shit” category and say controlling the pillars allows you to Weekend at Bernie’s the big guy around. Not fully waking him up but making him go over there and beat on someone. Should you have to control more of the objectives than your opponent to control the Primork? Nah, that’s less wacky. If you control at least one of them, a unit near the Primork can perform an action and if they finish the action you can move it and make an attack. I’m basically just stealing attacks from Knight datasheets here since it’s about that size. If it were fully awake it would probably be far nastier.
DREW: Well, not only that, but if you control two of them you’re already scoring points so it feels like a double-dip. If there’s anything I stand for, it’s denying either of us good things. I think our stance on Malört confirms that.
CHRIS: If this column hasn’t established we don’t deserve nice things I don’t know what will. You noted earlier the Primork is all jacked up with warp energies in that big M.O.D.O.K. sized noggin of his, right? That’s got to do something to psyker powers in the chamber. Now, neither Orks nor Black Legion are particularly known for having top shelf psykers so maybe it leads to random effects, most good but some bad. I always love random tables in gaming, thanks to an adolescent encounter with a Wand of Wonder. Make a psychic action and get a prize! The prize may be that you blow up your own head! Fun for the whole family!
DREW: I still tell people about how you accidentally cast “Enlarge” on Takhisis the five-headed Dragon Queen of Chaos in your dying moments as a way of maybe discouraging random effect tables. Good times.
Similarly for “weird shit” let me put out there an idea that I had: we know thanks to Blackstone Fortress that these sorts of ancient facilities keep weird drone defenses handy to repel intruders. Right now we have some real strong incentives to hang out near the middle of the board, controlling objectives and shoving the kaiju at your enemy. That’s too easy. We need a stick to balance out this carrot. I say we stick in some Spindle Drone equivalents to zap people trying to get to the fireworks factory. The gimmick with those is that the more you hurt them the nastier they get, so dealing with them is very much a gamble.
CHRIS: Right, use the Inverse Rule of Ninjas, where they get more powerful the fewer there are. But even at baseline they still could mess up any given bunch of orks that wanders by. And keeping in mind that this place hates us specifically, each should attack the closest unit at the end of each shooting phase, not the end of the round. We’re both equally fucked on each and every turn unless we’re clever (we’re not) or very good with positioning (also no).
I think the only thing left is the endgame primary objective, which is obviously making off with a giant uncontrollable rage monster that can kill half a system with its brain. Since we’re moving the Primork with control of the blackstone monoliths, we could set a goal of moving it into our deployment zone. That would be thematic but I don’t know if we’re going to get it that far in five rounds. Maybe it’s more attunement – the side who completes more of the actions gets a chunk of points. I haven’t seen actions really do much in games so far, I’m usually too busy trying not to be killed to want to take a unit’s whole turn raising flags or such nonsense. This really forces us to do that.
DREW: It’s either that or it forces one of us to try that while the other one racks up objectives and blasts the living bejesus out of the fools performing the actions. Either option requires forethought on our parts, which seems unlikely.
We do have one small thing left, which is the deployment map. Given how we have essentially built a giant mosh pit in the middle of the board, I don’t think any of those weird maps where we deploy up to half the map or up to a bubble around the center will work. Instead, I propose that we’ve complicated this thing enough – perhaps too much – and we stick to something simple. We both want shorter distances to the other side, so let’s go with the long side deployment and call it a day.
So what does that give us in the end? After a bunch of adjustments, reworkings, and me cursing at you about standardizing your language, it gives us this:
Look upon our works, ye mighty, and despair. This is it: we will play this and our final column (for this season, at least) will be the bleary-eyed and disbelieving after-action report as we realize the folly of our ways.
Next Time: My God, What Have We Done
What do you mean, next time? We just told you what we were going to do next time: embarrass ourselves. Until then, feel free to let us know in the comments (in the comments here, on FB, Twitter, in a complaints letter to email@example.com, hire a skywriter, whatever) if there’s anything here that needs adjustment or that we’ve overlooked. We may even take it under advice!
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.