I started playing Warhammer 40,000 in the summer of 1996 with the release of Codex: Chaos in 2nd edition. From then I played pretty regularly through about 2003 when, disgusted with the 4th edition Codex: Chaos Space Marines and invested in other ventures like “grad school” and “dating”, I stopped playing. I picked up the game again shortly after the launch of 6th edition when I met up for a game with BuffaloChicken and while I didn’t love the way the game played, I did love painting and playing.
Since then I’ve run three campaigns and introduced half a dozen friends to the game and 8th edition has been by far the most fun I’ve had playing and the most games I’ve played. Based on my tracker I’ve played 85 games of 8th edition and while those are rookie numbers compared to Wings and some of the other competitive folks, it’s also a huge step up from the 60 games I played of 6th and 7th editions combined and it saw me coming back to competitive play. 8th edition has been my favorite edition of the game by far.
So with 9th edition rapidly approaching, today I’m going to recap my five best games of 8th edition. This will be long and more than a little self-indulgent, but ultimately I think an adventure worth taking as we explore some of what made 8th edition so great.
5. The Paulus Campaign Apocalypse
The third campaign I’ve run, the Paulus campaign had eight players vying for the ice planet Paulus. It was a continuation of the 7th edition Planetary Empires campaign I’d run before, which started with four players doing a linear narrative campaign and then expanded to 8 with more open game planning. We finished the whole thing off in late October 2018 with a big game of Apocalypse that included multiple guest players and five armies (Imperium, Necrons, Chaos, T’au, and Tyranids) fighting over the fate of the planet. Players were encouraged to bring armies of around 8,000 points with their combined assets, and we played using standard 40k rules given that the Apocalypse rules revamp wouldn’t be released for another 9 months.
Normally, big games of 40k are just utter dog shit. They’re slow and involve lots of standing around, particularly if you’ve got other turns going on, and they take an entire day to play. Your big stuff is never Quite Good Enough and you spend a good portion of the game just picking up models that didn’t matter much to begin with. Big games of 40k are a problem to be solved, not a fun experience to be had.
Knowing that, I had come into the game with a plan to fix that. I had previously done OK with this in 7th edition by splitting the Apocalypse game that ended my Corvanus campaign into two concurrent 3,000-point games happening on different tables but that wouldn’t fly for this one. So instead I decided I needed to do four things:
- Create a mechanic for how players would take turns that could let players get an advantage when they needed
- Mitigate the downsides of going later or being attacked by multiple players between turns
- Limit the number of models an army could bring
- Enforce time limits on each turn to keep the game moving
The army problems were easy to solve – for some reason people seem to want to bring infantry to games of Apocalypse, when these models just slow the game down and really don’t matter all that much. I still wanted some – land raiders and terminators seemed like fair game – so I created custom detachments for people to use that would give them a lot of CP (note: This was before Battalions gave you +5 CP) while also giving them the ability to bring all the titans, artillery, and jets they could muster. I’d later add on to this by letting players bring Supreme Command, Flyer Wing, and Outrider Detachments, but keeping the “you need 1 transport per INFANTRY unit” stipulation.
The turns issue I solved by using a turn bidding mechanic I’d seen in White Dwarf. Before the game, each team was given a set of tokens numbered 1-6. Note: The Kill Team objective markers work great for this, since they’re all color-coded! At the start of each turn, teams “bid” for first turn by placing one chip face-down on the table. After all teams have placed their bids, the bids are revealed and the turn order progresses from highest bid to lowest bid, with roll-offs for ties. Players then lose their bidding tokens. So teams who bid high early will get first turn, but they’ll likely lose out on priority later on. It doesn’t make taking the game’s first turn less important, but it does help things a bit and it gives players something to think about.
The game itself was an absolute blast. Yeah, it ran all day (noon to about 8 pm), but we actually finished all 6 turns of the game, had a great time, and with the exception of our Necron players who got eliminated a bit early, everyone got to do interesting stuff. BuffaloChicken’s threat of “punching you in the balls if you take more than 30 minutes for a turn” only had to be referenced like twice, and not having to deal with a lot of infantry let us focus on the big scene-stealing monsters and have some fun. There was a pretty cool moment where a Knight Gallant reached into the Tesseract Vault and squeezed its trapped C’Tan until the star god’s prison shattered and it escaped.
What I Learned
This was a great time! I learned a few key things:
- Big games don’t have to be miserable! With some good players and a few dedicated rules adjustments, you can make something that plays much more smoothly. That said, I’d highly recommend using the Apocalypse rules instead, since they fix a lot of these problems and then some and make for a much smoother game where titans are actually worth fielding and not just pretty showcase models.
- Warhounds are really bad!
- If you’re over 30, don’t stand around on hardwood floors all day without shoes. In what was a rude “you’re old as shit now” wake-up call, I almost couldn’t stand up the next day, my back hurt so bad. We had a wedding to attend and my wife was not happy at all at the suggestion that she just “go without me.” I had to slap like 3 Icy Hot patches on me before I could stand up straight.
4. The Horrible, Awful, No-Good Very Bad Planetstrike Game Against SRM
I had a pretty good time at NOVA 2018. OK, that’s not exactly true. I had an OK time at NOVA 2018. At the time, Goonhammer hadn’t really started; we’d only just joined a Discord and started talking about a place to post battle reports and so I went to NOVA without really knowing anyone that was going to be there (my local crew at the time were not into competitive gaming yet). I went 0-3 on day one and while my opponents were all pretty chill, it was kind of a miserable experience. I was packing my army away between every game like a chump, I had no one to talk to, and I just wasn’t enjoying myself. Things eventually picked up on day 2 when SD-47 dropped by and I went 3-0 to close things out, though that day started with me accidentally leaving my wallet at my in-laws’ place.
One of the few people I did know at the event was SRM. I’d met him in person previously at one of BuffaloChicken’s big cabin weekend slams and given him a ride back to the bus and so in between games of the GT I took the chance to look seek him out. He was in the Narrative so our schedules didn’t really overlap but we had time to talk while he was getting absolutely destroyed by Katie Horras’ Eldar. As it turned out, I was going to be up in Boston later that week for a conference, and so we resolved to play each other while I was in town.
So four days later I was on a train to Boston with a case full of my metal Night Lords in tow, ready to slam against SRM’s metal Ultramarines in a wonderful throwback battle. I actually didn’t really feel like playing another game of 40k at that point – I was a bit burnt out on 40k after two straight days of games – but since I put in the time and effort to lug that case full of idiots up to Boston, I may as well get that game in. We agreed to play a game of Planetstrike, mostly because SRM had some cool terrain to use for it and also because he revealed that he had never bought Chapter Approved 2017. So we cracked open a couple of beers and started chucking some dice.
What followed was the most terrible, awful, no-good, very bad game of Warhammer 40k I have ever played. At no point did anything in this game go my way. My reserves rolls kept key units off the table. I failed every charge. My terminators failed to wound. Every plasma gun exploded, even after CP re-rolls. Every shot I needed to hit one of the fortifications whiffed, including one memorable moment where my Raptors missed the bastion they were standing on at the time.
This included three full turns of me throwing everything I had at a Thunderfire cannon and techmarine and ending up with a still very-much-alive techmarine and a Thunderfire cannon shooting my units. My Helbrute showed up on turn 3, walking on from the table edge, then was promptly shot to death by Lascannons.
What I learned
Not a goddamn thing.
SRM is a pretty cool dude though, and despite how bad it was, this was a very fun game. It was seriously terrible, though. At one point, Campbell was literally on the floor laughing at my bad dice rolls. Just a bad combination of luck, mission selection, and army (Night Lords were really bad pre-Faith and Fury). The upside is that playing this game did help me avoid a hobby funk/post-NOVA slump that I’d fall into a year later after NOVA 2019. It also made going to Boston for a couple of days a much more fun affair, since I wasn’t keen to travel again at the time. As an added bonus, on my train ride back my wife called to tell me that our toddler had pooped in the tub, so I got to miss that experience.
3. Christmas Schemes vs. Evan
My wife and I have a deal of sorts in place: Every year, we visit my family for Thanksgiving, and we visit her family for Christmas. This makes a ton of sense, because my family is much bigger on cooking and football than hers. That means that every Christmas, I’m back in the lower Maryland area, and looking to get some post-Christmas games in before we drive back up to New York. Third Eye Games in Annapolis is one of the better stores on the US Northeast, offering a large, well-lit space with lots of tables, great terrain, friendly staff and decent parking, and so we try to meet up there.
So last Christmas, I met up with Greg “ANAmal.net” Chiasson and Evan “Felime” Seifring for a 2-on-1 game of 40k, pairing my White Panthers space marines and Greg’s Dark Angels against Evan’s Adeptus Custodes and Militarum Tempestus Scions, using the Schemes of War missions. We’ve talked about Schemes of War before, and I’m a big fan – they really fix the Maelstrom of War game mode and make it much more interesting to play.
What followed was one of the tighter games I’ve played in a long time, with tons of back-and-forth, last-ditch efforts to capture objectives, and a Land Raider Crusader that refused to die, continually falling back from Custodes and charging in to do mortal wounds. My Assault Marines also ended up being pretty useful as well,
Greg’s Dark Angels ended up being… more useful as ablative wounds, I guess. The Inceptors did some work on the drop, and the bodies of his hellblasters and devastators shielded me from the trouble that some deep striking custodians would cause, but his Darktalon wasn’t able to push through the last wound we needed on a shield captain, which really hurt. Greg lost his whole army around turn 3, which worked out anyways since that’s when Condit showed up to play and they did a separate game that ended up being a lot of fun, where Greg let Condit choose between the army he’d just been blown off the table with or… the MYSTERY BOX army.
When it was all said and done, the last turn came down to a desperate push to take out Felime’s Inquisitor, which my assault marines were barely able to do. The ensuing points ended up putting me just where I needed to be to end up with… a tie game. Even after all the maneuvering, the back-and-forth where killing each Custode was a battle and Trajann refused to go down, we still only ended up with a tie. But a good tie! This game was so good and had so much back-and-forth – to give you an idea of how tight it was, here’s the turn-by-turn scoring:
What I Learned
Evan’s always a blast to play against, and Greg’s a good teammate. Playing with the Schemes rules was a lot of fun, and led to a lot of turn-by-turn strategy at the end as we figured out how we could max out the points we were pulling from card objectives. Custodes are always brutally tough to kill, but Tactical Doctrine makes it significantly easier. Mostly, it was cool to get an occasional game in with my Space Marines. Now they can go back on the shelf for another year.
2. The Rematch Against Robbie Triplett
If there’s a right foot to start NOVA 2019 out on, it got severed and left in a ditch somewhere on my way down to DC. My first game of the 40k GT was against noted Space Wolves player Robbie Triplett, who was running a flying circus army that, on turn 1, blew up my Kytan Daemon Engine. It then exploded and took out more than half my army, taking out a Lord Discordant, two sorcerers, a Dark Apostle, a Rhino full of Berserkers – which then itself exploded, killing more models – and a number of cultists and chaos space marines. I essentially lost the game before my first turn began, leaving me with lots of time to go check on how my friends were doing. Robbie graciously offered to buy me a beer, and i had to explain to him that no, the hotel bar wasn’t serving beer at 9:45 am.
And whether it was divine providence or just stupid luck, the next time I was down in Maryland for a 40k tournament (The Valentine’s Day Massacre in Timonium), game 1 had me squaring off, again, improbably, with Robbie Triplett. This time, playing Raven Guard with pre-Doctrine-nerf rules. Fellow Goonhammer author and TO that day Shane Watts has insisted to me several times that this was complete chance and entirely unintentional and one day I might even believe him. But regardless of the circumstances, it was a good opportunity for redemption.
…and it kind of was? Like, I still lost – Robbie is a better player and he had a better army than I did – but it was a fairly close game at points, with me getting in some good shots and actually killing some of Robbie’s units and some good turns in the middle where a Chaos Spawn got the jump on some of Robbie’s cultists and helped keep him from maxing out Recon. In the end, Raven Guard Centurions proved to be just a little too much for me to handle, and combined with some bad Overwatch Casualties on my part and a staggering number of sniper headshots on Abaddon, ended up costing me the game. But the important thing was that it was a good game that didn’t end on turn 1 in embarrassing fashion.
What I Learned
Hm. I don’t know if I really “learned” anything. I hadn’t really played against Raven Guard yet in a tournament format, so that was enlightening. Also this was one of the last RTTs played before the most recent round of marine nerfs and the new ITC format missions were introduced, so I didn’t really get to play with those, either (a Brohammer Iron Hands list won the event). What I did get out of it was a reasonably close, competitive game that at least felt validating if not vindicating. And also it makes for a wonderful, weird narrative and I’ll take that over a generic win any day.
1. Playing Greg at NOVA 2019
If my first game of the 2019 NOVA 40k Grand Tournament was a low point in my 40k career, then game three was the high point. I was pretty beat by this point; I’d had a disastrous game 1 against Robbie Triplett, followed by a draining game 2 where both my opponent and I were on edge after 0-point showings in game 1 leading to some shitty mistakes. Sitting at 0-2, I was then overjoyed to find that game 3 would be against none other than my sparring partner and forever-bro, Greg “ANAmal.net” Chiasson.
The game itself was decent; Greg put up a better fight than he had in our practice games, and I think he’d started to get a handle on the army. Thanks to a Discord note that suggested people who did not stop by our game may have had low-quality dicks, we quickly amassed an audience and since it was the end of day one, it made our table a good place for Goonhammer peeps to stop by and plan for the evening. And so after a stressful and somewhat disappointing day one, being able to just relax and have a whatever game with someone I’ve known for twenty years was an absolute delight. NOVA 2019 wasn’t going poorly or anything up to that point, but that was a game I needed.
Otherwise, it was a rout/tabling. I told Greg before the game that if he wasn’t careful I’d put a horde of Bloodletters in his backfield and that’s exactly what ended up happening. The Kytan did its first-turn charge thing, and generally the army behaved exactly like it was supposed to, which was cool to see happen once or twice at the event.
What I Learned
The real best games of 40k were the friends we made along the way.
Bring on 9th edition!
Have any notes or feedback? Want to tell us about your own best games of 40k? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.