White Dwarf 465: Flashpoints and Tome Keepers Review

This month sees the release of White Dwarf 465, which scales back the Flashpoint: Charadon content to give us a single mission and Crusade rules for the Tome Keepers, a successor chapter introduced in a prior issue of White Dwarf – if you missed it, you can find our review of the Tome Keepers here, and we’ve written about them in a competitive sense in our Start Competing: Successor Chapters article.

It’s an interesting twist, and the pack-in for the issue of a Tome Keepers transfer sheet is certainly a nice touch. But are these rules worth your time? Let’s dive in.

The Mission

Credit: Beanith

Rob: The mission is pretty straightforward at first glance: you’ll score 5 points each at the end of your turn for controlling one, two, and three objectives out of a total of 6 placed by you and your opponent, and an additional 5 points if you control more than your opponent. The twist here is in where said objectives are placed: the battlefield is a flooded or ocean area with platforms over top of it, and the objectives have to go underneath one of the platforms, while your forces scramble over top of them to take control.

There’s also something of a catch-up mechanic baked in here: starting in the third round, if you have more VP than your opponent at the top of the round, one of the three objectives on your side of the map “falls beneath the waves,” preventing anyone from controlling it for that round. It won’t remove the platforms you’re fighting on, but it will probably mean that you’re going to have to strike out and go on the offensive if you want to keep your lead.

Condit: I’m honestly not sure how to feel about this mission – on the one hand, it’s a cool pitch, and it’s nice to finally see a White Dwarf mission with a reasonable number of rules and without three separate tables of random effects for me to forget. Plus, it might change the sort of forces you and your opponent will bring in order to play around the unique terrain layout.

On the other hand, though, how many people are ever going to be able to play this sort of game? You’re going to need a lot of Sector Mechanicus gantries or equivalent terrain in order to make enough space to actually fight over, and a lot of people will just never be able to pull together enough stuff to really give this a go.

If your club or gaming group has the terrain on hand to try this, it’s probably worth giving it a go. In particular, the catch-up mechanic is pretty cool, and I’d like to see more gimmicks like it in future missions: the winning player likely controls all the markers on their side of the board as well as one or two on the opponent’s, so taking away one of their objectives for a turn might help make things more interesting.

Greg: I like how the mission secondary is just a better version of Cut off the Head. It’s a return to the old Slay the Warlord, giving a flat 10VP for uh, slaying the warlord.

The required terrain set up is certainly interesting, and done well would be amazing to see, but I agree with Condit that most players just aren’t going to have the table and terrain to really make the concept sing. You could probably kludge something together (in theory, you could get away with laying out a maze of Space Hulk corridors on a flat surface), but for the full effect you’re looking at quite a few Sectors Mechanicus or their equivalent. That said, it’s a fun gimmick, and I like seeing GW try new things – even when the actual results of their brainstorming aren’t super practical, it’s worth throwing them out there and seeing what sticks – worst-case it can still spark ideas from the readers and lead to some new variation on the game. 

I’d actually like to give this mission a whirl, but at a Combat Patrol or even Kill Team scale – trying to fill out an entire Moon Base Klaisus with catwalks takes a lot more specialized terrain than I want to consider.

Rob: I love this shit. I’m already imagining how I can make this work for when y’all come over in a few weeks. I need to order a blue ocean mat but otherwise I’ve got a ton of workable catwalks from the Sector Mechanicus terrain I’ve painted. Get hype, lads. This is a great gimmick and I’m here for it.

Beanith: Holy Shit my time has come. I have the terrain, I have the mat. Today ladies and gentlemen we play “The Floor is Lava 40k edition”

Credit: Beanith

I also like the fairly unique way of setting up the objectives where they are set up at the beginning of the first round after everyone is set up. Admittedly the spacing restrictions pretty much force one in the middle of your deployment zone and one either side but surely you can have some fun with that? The walkway restriction might hamper that somewhat I suppose. 

 

The Tome Keepers Crusade Rules

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rob: The other half of this month’s Crusade content is a set of custom Crusade rules for the Tome Keepers, a primaris chapter given custom rules in White Dwarf 458. The Tome Keepers’ particular peccadillo is accumulating knowledge and wisdom, typically by stealing or reappropriating any scrolls, books, tomes, or pamphlets they can get their hands on. In a similar fashion to other chapters and factions, this book gives us a unique narrative throughline for Tome Keepers’ games, centered around their pursuit of knowledge. 

The operative mechanic introduced here is Knowledge Points, which are accumulated in a few ways. The first is by having a Tome Keepers model take down an enemy Character with a Warlord Trait (1 knowledge point), or any Character model that has any scrolls, books, or other repositories of information on them. Figure out with your opponent beforehand which models have scrolls and other knowledge on them – presumably this will include models holding said items, so most chaplains and librarians and sorcerers, as well as anyone with a tome/scroll/decree relic. This is a wonderful rule.

The other way to get Knowledge Points is to complete any Shadow Operations Agenda (+1 point) or the Psychic Action part of Scry Battle Plans (+1 point), to a max of 3, or by completing the Seek Knowledge Agenda. This Agenda gives you an action to perform on terrain features, giving you a tally each time, though you’re limited to 1 per terrain feature. You get XP equal to your tallies and for having 5+ you get 1 knowledge point.

What are knowledge points used for? Two things: The first is the Archive Information Requisition (1 RP), which costs 6 Knowledge points and is used when a Tome Keepers CORE unit levels up – you can give it a Battle Trait that no other units in your army has. Pretty great. The other way to spend Knowledge points are for Educated Strategies, unique one-off benefits you can buy before a battle. These include getting an extra agenda (5 KP), buying an extra XP at the end of the battle (2 KP), or extra Requisition Points (3 KP).

Greg: Knowledge Points are extremely dorky and I love them. The abilities they can be spent on are expensive (2-5 points each, for a one-game boost), and points are hard to come by unless you tech hard into them – choosing your agendas or headhunting other nerds. But that’s how it should be – the whole point of these rules is to encourage a particular style of play, and it’s a joy to see crunch and fluff align like this. 

Beanith: I’m a big fan of the Archive Information Requisition especially if you’re Crusading correctly by acquiring your Battle Traits by rolling for them like all good little boys and girls should.

Finally in addition to all this, the Tome Keepers get their own Psychic Fortitudes and a trio of Crusade Relics. The Fortitudes are alright, giving you +1 to tests for Smite and Indomitus powers, respectively. The Relic options are pretty neat. The standout here is probably the Helm of Viator, an Antiquity Relic from the chapter’s founder equipped with all manner of archaic systems. In your Command phase, you can pick a friendly Tome Keepers CORE unit within 6” of the bearer and until your next Command phase, when they shoot or fight, you can pick which Combat Doctrine is active for the unit. That’s pretty great, particularly if you’ve got a unit ready to shoot and fight in the same turn.

Greg: The other relics aren’t bad either – the Vexilla Indomitus proves that Games Workshop has run out of words to use, but an extra wound and a 5+ Feel No Pain, that can be gifted out to a character right at the start of the campaign, is a solid utility pick for any Crusade army. 

The third relic, a Legendary book called the Tome of Istrouma, is good, but the mechanics of it are strange. To start with, it doesn’t do anything, but once per battle it can be unveiled (they sit down and read a book in the middle of a battle like a big nerd). When that happens, for the rest of the battle the bearer projects a 6” aura of auto-passing morale. In addition, if they’re a Librarian they gain one extra power, or if they’re a Chaplain they gain an extra litany.

Given that the effects last for the rest of the battle, it’s odd that this has to be unveiled in your command phase rather than being always-on, but it’s actually more useful this way. There’s still the play of reading the book at the top of your first turn, and functionally making this the same as any other “before the battle” upgrade, but the sneaky utility of this is to wait until the later turns and then audible into whatever spell/litany you didn’t take, but suddenly really wish you had. Which is even better than it sounds, because this is Crusade: you normally don’t get to change your powers at all. Having a way to do this mid-game makes it tremendously versatile, and justifies the Legendary rank required to check the thing out of the library.

There’s also a name generator. Normally I find these to be a waste of time, but for a Crusade chapter from White Dwarf? Whatever, go for it.

Beanith: I love a good name generator because sometimes inspiration just won’t strike and I already have three variations of Steeeve in my Crusade Roster.

 

Final Thoughts

Rob: This is by far my favorite Flashpoints update yet. The mission is really interesting, with a simple but clever hook that makes it something I want to play. It’s not bogged down in a bunch of extra random rolls or turn-based effects to remember, and the rules it does have strongly encourage you to model or create interesting terrain to make a whole battlefield. 

On top of that, the Tome Keepers stuff is exactly the kind of things I want to see out of White Dwarf – competitive tournament players often chafe at the notion of White Dwarf rules, and with good reason: Make them too good and suddenly everyone has to buy a limited release magazine for the rules; make them bad and no one cares. Publishing extra Crusade rules helps fill the gaps for factions that don’t have a codex yet or won’t get one while also giving us interesting rules players will want and making the book a “must-buy.” After the embarrassment that was last month’s issue with its sad Fallen rules, this was a breath of fresh air. 

If I were running White Dwarf we’d be doing custom Crusade rules every month and then re-releasing them in end-of-year compendiums. I’d use it to cover all the game’s subfactions that won’t get their own rules, e.g. Biel-Tan, Iron Warriors, or Catechans.

Beanith: All those in favour of Rob running White Dwarf say Aye, because that idea sounds amazing. Plus, he’ll be too busy to search the Goonhammer offices for my secret hammock retreats.

Greg: The mission looks fun, and I’m excited to play it as long as Rob makes good on his threat, but I suspect that’ll be the only way I ever will. It’s great to see some restraint on the rules side, keeping this to a manageable number of mission rules and avoiding the need for a lot of random rolls on tables, but the terrain suggestions may present something of a barrier to entry for the casual hobbyist.

There’s certain pieces of creative work where you can immediately tell that the people involved in creating it were really enjoying themselves. The end results might not be perfect, or balanced, but the enthusiasm shines through, and that gives it a certain charm. The Tome Keepers stuff has that energy: it’s clearly someone’s passion project. They were willing to go hog wild instead of just giving out re-labelled permutations of the same rules we’ve seen before (and it completely destroys the Fallen content from the previous issue), which to me makes this far and away the best of the WD chapters. My only complaint here, honestly, is that they aren’t all this good.

Finally, insane props to GW for including a sheet of waterslides with this. Rob’s going to nail me to the wall for this one, but I appreciate them throwing a bone to the weary non-freehanding painter. Even if you don’t use them, hang on to them: I expect those sheets to be in high demand down the road, if the periodic runs on Crimson Fists transfers are anything to go by.

Beanith: Great mission and I love the idea of seeing more Crusade rules for White Dwarf’s in house armies… but maybe show some of that creative love something not in power armor next time?

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

 

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