Fury of the Swarm: mini 40K co-op campaigns are now go!

Fury of the Swarm is an attempt at a co-op mode for Warhammer 40,000, in which the players face off against a swarm of Tyranids following instinctive protocols. This week, we add two new missions, making it possible for you to play a three-game mini campaign.

The concept for Fury of the Swarm was always to be able to play a co-operative campaign with your mates as you try to defend a planet against a Tyranid invasion. There are three broad phases to these campaigns: you try to curb the worst of the initial assault in Sporefall, then fight out the Fulcrum, after which – depending on how you did – you’re either playing evacuation missions or extermination missions.

This week we start to explore those other campaign phases, with the Sporefall mission Big Guns Mustn’t Tire (your classic static defence) and the Evacuation mission The Last Shuttle, which is more of a skirmish game in which a gaggle of broken defenders make a desperate attempt to escape their dying planet.

Eagle-eyed readers will note I’ve said two new missions, and yet according to The Original Plan there should be a third new mission. I really wanted to get the Extermination mission Burn the Nest ready to go, but frustratingly I won’t be able to for another week at least. As soon as it’s ready it’ll go in the rules document. At that point we’ll have one mission for every possible campaign phase, unlocking the ability to play mini-campaigns that cover both victory and defeat during the Fulcrum (as of today you can play a campaign, but only if you lose during the Fulcrum). [edit: I’ve now done this with the addition of Extermination: Let None Escape – mini campaigns are now fair game!]

The good news is that the rules document now has guidance on different styles of campaign, and for the rest of the open beta period I just need to concentrate on producing more missions and responding to feedback from you, dear reader. Assuming you get a chance to try it out, of course.

Feedback so far
People have been emailing the Goonhammer offices in surprising (and heartwarming) numbers. I wasn’t expecting much response to what I assumed to be a project as niche as it is ambitious. What feedback I’ve had so far from people who’ve played games has been very encouraging, and has already helped shape my thinking going forwards. I wrote back to everyone who got in touch, but more collectively: thank you. It has absolutely helped motivate me to spend most of my free time over the last fortnight getting this thing off the ground.

The Light Metal Team
I’ve been able to test the game against a growing variety of Tyranid units thanks to the efforts of my old friend Tom, who’s been painting new bugs and then dropping them off at my place. There’s no way I could be writing rules and scenarios and grunting out heaps of Tyranids, so Tom’s Tyranid swarm (which he painted with the explicit intention of making a narrative gaming resource for our group) is the key resource that has enabled me to test these rules. Just this last month he produced a trio of Tyranid Warriors, a Zoanthrope brood, 30 ‘gaunts, and a winged Prime. The swarm now weighs in at over 2,500 points, meaning I’ll finally be able to test how FotS works with 2k player armies.

What have we learned so far?
Honestly my biggest take home from all the tests so far is that FotS facilitates a very different kind of cinematic moment than traditional player-versus-player 40K. Automated Tyranids are easier to fool than a human opponent, but more numerous, making you feel like a big damn hero, and able to showcase 40K units behaving just like they do in the lore. Heavily armoured troops in forward positions can absorb damage for their smaller mates. Skirmishers can kite Tyranids away from the main fight, freeing up objectives.

Point is: it’s a very different game, tonally. I wouldn’t say it’s better than PVP or anything, but yeah. It’s different.

Black Templars Marshal and Bladeguard versus 70 ‘gaunts and a Carnifex over three turns. The results: conclusive.

Mission design goals
One of my hopes is to make each mission feel substantively different and thematic. You do want some missions that pretty much boil down to ‘grab objective A,’ since that’s easy to adapt to lots of different terrain collections and narrative contexts, but you also want to do some really scenario-specific stuff.

Because the Tyranids can respawn in FotS, one design lever I can pull is the location of those spawn points. In Retake and Hold your backfield is secure, since you’re playing as the speartip of an organised assault. By contrast in The Last Shuttle there’s a good chance Tyranids will come in from right behind you, which really makes players think about how timid they should be about loitering around in their deployment zone shouting pew pew rather than moving up into the midfield. In turn, that hopefully evokes the feeling that this isn’t your planet any more; the bugs are everywhere, and they’re coming for you.

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What’s next?
The number one priority is getting Burn the Nest written and tested so that mini-campaigns are functional. [edit: again, done, except that it ended up being a different mission since this way the first Extermination mission doesn’t require players to have special Tyranid terrain. We’ll worry about that later.] At that point I can relax a bit, adding individual missions and tweaking existing rules as we go.

If you have thoughts or comments then there’s plenty of ways to get in touch listed in the opening paragraph of the rules document. You can also drop a comment on any FotS post, or ping an email to contact@goonhammer.com.