Warhammer 40000 (4th Edition)

Thanks to Ewan for the following detailed account of a Warhammer game played at the club in February 2024. Jon was his opponent.

Amongst our jungle infested urban ruin, Jon and I chose a basic 'Standard' scenario from the 4th Edition rulebook, deploying from table quarters and victory decided by pushing the enemy out and holding most of the quarters to win.  The rulebook is very rich in hobby and scenario material including Standard, Battle, Breakthrough, Raid and Special categories with a total 17 set missions.  These give unique challenges, from sabotaging a power station, up to fixing-bayonets and assaulting a bunker line protected by minefields (I've got these home-made and ready for future club battles).

The scenarios also include a graded level of complexity, where ambitious players can add in such excitements as Escalation (phased deployment: so there is rarely that stale 'line-up and shoot' feeling); Concealment (limited shooting on first turn: to stop the first turn player having too much shooting advantage); Night Fighting; Random Game Length - and many others.  Personally these small differences make 4th so much better than 2nd, which felt very formulaic, rigid and unrealistic.

Our patrols contacting along the line of the dried out and rust-polluted industrial canal,  Jon's Space Wolves quickly brought more squads into the fight.  Very soon the Eldar were outnumbered.  Added to this, using the Eldar Guardians to defend up front from the canal wall with range 12" Shuriken Catapults, was a big mistake.  The Space Wolves' Grey Hunters chose to be canny and stay put at a distance.  They held back their legendary blood lust in order to remain still and fire their bolt guns at max range, inflicting punishing small arms casualties while the Eldar troops could only respond with their Scatter Laser which had little utility against heavily armoured troops. As the elite Eldar Fire Dragons moved up, keen to melt the metal-clad enemy, the second Grey Hunters squad and supporting bikes did not hesitate to ruin the small Eldar formation with high strength high volume infantry fire.  Soon the Eldar Dreadnought joined the battle, committed to sticking near the Farseer due to it's sensory issues (being a wraith entity).  Brutally, this forced its exposure to the Wolf Scout sniper section, whose weapons had a unique power to pick out the weaknesses in the mighty Eldar machine - it didn't last long.

Mostly Jon played a steady clinical game, using his range advantage to reduce the Eldar every time they tried to gain better positions.  His bike squad however was keen to get into the action and once they were deep in the Eldar half they were pounced upon by Eldar Jetbikes and Warp Spiders.  With two out of three destroyed they were forced to fall back, however the ensuing pursuit caused the Eldar to expose themselves again and these new forces were almost utterly destroyed.  The only saving grace on my left flank was when the Warlock on a jet bike managed to destroy the assault cannon of Jon's dreadnought with his enchanted Singing Spear. The Eldar did have even more significant firepower arriving in the form of a deadly Falcon Grav Tank, but unfortunately after just two turns on table the Space Wolf Long Fangs sporting 5 missile launchers finally made their presence felt and no amount of dodging and holofields could shake off that storm of AT projectiles and the Eldar's last hopes went burning to the ground.

In the end the only remaining Eldar was the plucky Warlock up against most of the Space Wolves who were wandering around like it was a trip to the beach and their only challenge was the queue for ice cream.  Clearly the table quarters issue was settled and there would be no arcane tech artefacts for the Eldar this week.  Looking back in hindsight from the comfort of their Spirit Stones, the Eldar should have been less hasty to meet up close with the Space Wolves over the very open terrain surrounding the canal, a bit more subtlety was called for, and that's no surprise with the Eldar!  Jon played a careful and soundly thought out game and deserved to take the field.

Warhammer 40K-IV is the well refined development of the the version III which overhauled II, so is a great read of a rulebook with few mistakes and loads of smoothed out mechanics.  Especially good are the Universal Special Rules which gather together the disparate and wacky traits of many army books and units into a standardised form that doesn't require a solicitor to read mid-game when the toxic bio-splatter is hitting the grav tank exhausts.  Additionally I'm in the habit of using the brilliant Cityfight Battlezone Codex which has loads of clarifications and rule simplifications to make city fighting easier and more realistic.  It's also got some scary scenarios and really brings an urban battle to life.  40K-IV is still a gritty and detailed rule set, requiring some study and intellectual work like Chain of Command.  It has less of the in-depth tactical story of Chain of Command but allows you to go deep into battle planning with your army lists and field a very diverse and colourful sci-fi army of your choice.  For those who like that sort of thing it must be one of the best.