White Dwarf 457 Review: Flashpoint and the Argovon Campaign, Part 1

An article by    Narrative Play Reviews Warhammer 40k        0

White Dwarf 457 is out and it introduces a new ongoing series called Flashpoints, which explore specific warzones and regions within the 40k universe, with new backstory and rules. Based on this initial entry, they seem like an interesting way for Games Workshop to create interesting narrative rules without releasing full supplements, and a good fit for White Dwarf in terms of creating interesting content for players. In this first article they cover the Argovon System, a key system within the Pariah Nexus, and the battle to claim it, with factions from all corners of the galaxy attempting to conquer the region. They’ve split the campaign into three phases or parts, with plans to cover each phase separately across White Dwarf issues 457, 458, and 459.

Long-time Goonhammer readers will know that I’m a glutton (read: sucker) for narrative and campaign content, always looking to find new hooks and interesting ideas to add to my own campaigns. So I was excited to see that White Dwarf was taking the plunge into new narrative content. 9th edition’s Narrative Play overhaul and the addition of Crusade is one of my favorite things about it, finally giving us a narrative framework for army and character progression that feels like more than an afterthought. The new campaign supplement Beyond the Veil and the new codexes give us further insight into how GW plans to do more Crusade content, and now we have the third piece of the puzzle through new White Dwarf content.

OK, so what’s here, and is it any good?

There are three parts to this first article:

  1. Campaign Rules, which lay out the general way the campaign will play
  2. Theatres of War, which define the battlefields you’ll play on
  3. Agendas, which give certain factions custom agendas to pursue

 

The Campaign Rules

The Argovon uses a Mass Campaign structure that splits players into broad teams or factions. We’ve talked about Mass Campaigns before, but the general idea is that you have a lot of players and they’re free to play games however each round, with results counting toward a larger goal. In the Argovon campaign, play is split into three phases, with players accumulating points through wins across each, and the overall winner being the alliance/team that does the best over all three phases. As players play against rival factions, they score War Zone points, with more points for winning and playing larger games. At the end of each phase, the team/alliance with the most points scores Strategic Points and the total War Zone points for each team/alliance are reset. Strategic Points are used to determine the campaign victor at the end of the campaign, so this gives teams a bit of a chance to catch up if they fall behind or lose in the first or second phases.

 

Theatres of War

The Argovon Campaign introduces a few new theatres of war, or battlezones depending on when you got into 40k Narrative Play content. The rules make it clear that these are only playable when you pick the Argovon System Flashpoint as your setting, but they seem cool enough to pull from and use parts of elsewhere. The Argovon campaign introduces three theatres of war for you to use:

  • The Argovon Fault Zone details battles that take place in a realm of tectonic instability. Battles here have players placing fracture tokens on the battlefield which can then be used to mark fissures and fault lines that open up each battle round. These fault lines wreak havoc on units attempting to cross over them, and units can fall down them and be swallowed by the planet if they attempt to Charge or Advance over them.
  • The Sarronik Lakes are a large wet area of marshes, rivers, and lakes. Idealy a battlefield here has lots of area terrain features with lakes, rivers, and other water features. Fighting here applies three effects – Treacherous Waters, a hazardous effect rolled at the start of the game that applies to all water features, Miserable Weather, a turn-based random effect that can hinder units, and Mysterious Objectives, a random effect applied to all objectives rolled at the start of the battle.
  • The Hishrea Mountain Valley represents battles taking place on snowy peaks, wrought with dangerous footing and icy storms. There are two sets of rules at play here – a random weather effect applied for the length of the game, plus an Avalanche effect that can occur every time a player fires with a Blast weapon.

Of these, the Fault Zone rules are probably the coolest, if the hardest to represent visually – it’s a simple mechanic that’s intuitive to understand and see on the table, and plan around once it does happen. It reminds me a lot of the Vigilus battlezone that features flowing lava covering the battlefield – another banger as far as scenarios go. The Mountain Valley rules are fine too, and the avalanche effect is well thought-out, though potentially something that just won’t come up in that many games if you aren’t playing with blast weapons. The Sarronik Lakes are the worst of these, piling three random effects onto the mission in a way that’s unhelpful at best and likely to be forgotten in the thick of a game. This is a bit of a shame because there are some neat ideas here, like having areas of deep water that only units with FLY can traverse or having acidic waters, but ultimately they’re wrapped up in random tables that don’t do much for me.

Agendas

Finally, the first article on the Argovon Campaign introduces us to a series of new agendas for use in Crusade games that take place in the Argovon System. There are seven of these in total: One generic agenda, Scavengers, rewards players with XP for controlling objective markers, while the other six provide extra options for Astra Militarum, Adepta Sororitas/Sisters of Battle, Imperial Knights, Adeptus Mechanicus, Genestealer Cults, Deathwatch, and Necrons. While the generic agenda is boring, some of the faction ones are pretty cool – Genestealer Cults get Flee the Sinking Ship, which rewards them with XP for putting their units within 6″ of an opponent’s battlefield edge, representing Genestealer Cults attempting to flee the Pariah Nexus on transports so they can spread their infections to the stars. The Deathwatch Agenda Loose Ends rewards you for killing units early in the game, which adds an interesting dimension to your decisions. On the whole, these are fine additions that give some cool extra context to factions that so far haven’t seen any love and may not see any support for months.

The other interesting thing about these agendas is that they incorporate ways to score additional war zone points, i.e. campaign victory points. You can’t overlap the faction agendas with the generic one – they all constitute a new, semi-unnamed category of agenda – so this isn’t so bad, and it gives you a real incentive to take up these extra objectives, since losing a game and scoring one of these can be better than a win at some points levels.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall the rues presented here seem a bit bare, and that’s because the plan is to release more content in future issues. The Theatres of War are interesting but not impressive, and it’s not immediately clear how they fit into the larger narrative of the Argovon System Campaign. This is really an area where having a more detailed campaign framework or guidance on narrative could have been helpful, and the lack of missions is a bit odd as well. Which isn’t to say they’re completely necessary – the Argovon System is part of the Pariah Nexus, so this could be considered a part of or companion to Beyond the Veil. But in that case, it’s a bit disappointing: Paradoxically, while I am happy that this can stand alone from Beyond the Veil in the sense that it’s kind of lame to have White Dwarf content that requires the expansion, at the same time it also feels like a missed opportunity to tie the two together and use the Investigation Points mechanic or have more going on there. So where does that leave us? Well, I think this is a good start – I’m excited to see ongoing campaign and narrative content in White Dwarf! It’s better than putting completely necessary faction updates in the magazine and I want all the narrative content I can get my hands on. On the other hand, there isn’t a ton here, and I wish there was a bit more. The Theatres of war are decent, the Agendas are a smart idea but boring in execution, and the Campaign rules are just fine. If you already have Beyond the Veil and want to add these into your Crusade campaign or turn you and your friends’ Crusades into a bigger campaign, I think this is a good, easy way to do it, and I encourage that!

So in short, these are OK. A good start, and I want to see more of this, with better rules.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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