Da Big Game

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 Da Big Game

A multiplayer game of Warhammer 40,000

by Michael Withington

In late 2000, the club staged Da Big Game - a multiplayer game of Warhammer 40,000.  We had 6 players with an army of about 750 points each, 2 referees, and a big table (6' x 12') covered in terrain.  The scenario, which was entitled 'Forbidden Planet', was based on the 'Carnage' scenario in White Dwarf 252.

THE SCENARIO - an Eldar beacon (actually an old cardboard Elven obelisk) has been discovered amidst the ruins of a human city.  The beacon is an ancient artefact, and had apparently appeared in the city prior to its destruction.  Its transmissions have attracted the attentions of the Dark Angels, who are determined to secure it.  It has also alerted the Dark Eldar from the Kabal of the Flayed Soul, who sense that it is something they can use against the Eldar.  And the local Orks have also heard its call.  HOWEVER (warning - bad plot device ahead!), the beacon's transmissions have had an insidious effect on all who felt them - its psychic waves have generated strange emotions, subverting the Dark Angels and further perverting the already twisted Dark Eldar.  Marine has turned Marine against Marine, and Dark Eldar against Dark Eldar.  It didn't work on the Orks, but they were more than happy to thump each other anyway.  Each army had split into two, and the two halves are determined to annihilate each other as well as their other enemies.  As they race to capture the beacon, however, none of the armies know that the Eldar themselves are also on their way to secure their artefact.

SET UP - The beacon was in the centre of the table.  Around it were the ruins of the city that had once existed there, destroyed by some great power - possibly by the beacon.  The ruins were littered with the remnants of some great struggle - fortifications, craters and abandoned equipment.  To the west was a ruined tower (the recently-released Citadel Scenery piece) that dated back to before the city was built.  An Ork village lay nearby.  To the east was a forest, separated from the rest of the area by a river.  Across the river lay a bridge made of the bones and skulls of the people who had once lived in the city, undoubtedly the work of the DE.

SPECIAL RULES - most of the players were experienced wargamers, but had little or no experience of WH40k, so we simplified the LoS rules and modified some rules to make it easier - and to ensure that people's armies didn't disappear too fast: - all terrain blocked LoS unless you were in base-to-base with it, in which case it provided cover - units that had broken could regroup as soon as they made a successful morale test, no matter how many troops were left - troops in vehicles that were destroyed only needed to take a save on a 5 or 6. - the special rules for Dark Angels and Kult of Speed weren't used.

Victory points were awarded as follows: - 1 point for destroying a transport. - 2 points for destroying a squad (i.e. utterly wiping it out). - 5 points for killing an enemy boss. - 10 points for controlling the objective at the end.  Obviously, anyone who wanted to go head-hunting could win without taking the objective, but we assumed that the player in control of the objective would probably also have killed a lot of enemy units.

Close combat was a problem because of the number of players.  We decided to fight close combats in each player's turn, even if that player wasn't involved (as they did in an earlier multiplayer battle report in White Dwarf).  This proved a bit cumbersome, to be honest, and slowed things down.

THE FORCES - I won't provide full army lists as most of the armies didn't comply with their respective codices.  Basically, we had:

- Warboss Jeff, heading a Kult of Speed ('KoS') Ork army in Wartrukks (fast Ork transports), with Warbikes and a looted Predator (a light tank). His HQ was a Warboss and 5 Nobz, also riding in a Wartrukk.

- Commander Andrzej, leading a fast Dark Angels ('DA') Marine army, with a bike squad, 2 Land Speeders (light skimmers), an Assault squad and a Tac squad in a Rhino APC.  His HQ was a Force Commander.

- Archon Peter, with a Dark Eldar ('DE') army with 3 Raiders (fast skimmer transports) and a Reaver bike squad.  His HQ was an Archon (a very powerful leader), 4 Incubi and 4 Warriors.

- Warboss Richard, leading an Ork army with Shoota Boyz, Tankbustas, Warbuggies and a Battlewagon (a big Ork tank). His HQ was a Warboss, and a Painboss with 5 Cyborks (Orks with lots of bionik limbs).

- Commander James, in charge of an armoured DA Marine force, with a Land Raider (a very powerful Marine tank), a Dreadnought, a Razorback APC and 2 Tactical squads.  His HQ was a Force Commander in Terminator armour.

- Archon Chris, and his DE army of 3 Raiders and a Talos (a floating death machin).  His HQ was an Archon on a Skyboard with a Shadowfield, and 2 Haemonculi with 5 Grotesques (mutilated things that are hard to kill).

The points weren't equal; the Orks had slightly more (we thought the preponderance of vehicles and shooty opponents would put them at a disadvantage, although this proved to be wrong).  Everyone had a maxed-out leader.  Those who had leaders without retinues had more toys in the rest of their armies.

Here are Commander Cierpicki's Dark Angels:

And here is Warboss Jeff's Kult of Speed:

The models were mostly mine, as was the terrain.  Wayne provided some DE Elites and some Eldar.

THE BATTLE - it took a long time to play (over 5 hours), but the actual course of the battle is easy to describe, because for most of the game there were 3 separate battles going on.

In the opening turns, the 2 DE forces agreed a temporary truce and moved forwards at full speed down their respective sides of the table.  The armoured DA force moved somewhat hesitantly towards the centre, and foolishly sent a Tac squad in a Razorback to the west, towards the KoS.  The KoS zoomed towards the centre, the looted Predator taking a supporting position behind a pile of junk.  The fast DA force headed for the ruined tower, where they would be able to threaten the KoS.  Meanwhile, the 'vanilla' Orks moved cautiously forwards, keeping plenty of cover in front of them.  The shooting would start almost immediately.

Here's a shot of the game after the opening phase:

(Note Warboss Richard is sticking to Diet Coke, in order to keep a clear head.  It proved a wise decision.)

Things began to heat up quickly after the opening phase.  The bulk of the 2 DE armies' Raiders had headed towards Commander James' armoured DA force.  With plenty of cover, the Raiders would be able to position themselves to strike when they chose.  Realising they were the target, the DA sought cover in some conveniently located defensive works, and the Land Raider's Lascannon began to track the approaching Raiders.  On the DE right flank, the Reaver squad continued down the table edge, towards the Orks.

On the other side of the table, the KoS roared out towards the ruined tower.  The fast DA also headed towards it; clearly, both were intent on controlling this commanding position (or, more likely, Commander Andrzej and Warboss Jeff had a bone to pick with each other).  And, having also agreed with the DE that they would not molest each other, Warboss Richard's Orks began to move cautiously towards the objective, making good use of cover.

The Land Raider got first blood, a Lascannon shot ripping through one of Archon Chris's Raiders and bringing it down.  However, the Land Raider could not get LoS on the others.  The other 2 Raiders then emerged.  The first Dark Lance shot struck the Land Raider, penetrating it and destroying it (so much for my most impressive model!). The other Dark Lance shot stunned the Dreadnought.  The Commander and the Tac squad that had been in the Land Raider emerged from the wreckage unscathed, but found themselves facing the Haemonculii and their Grotesque minions, as well as 2 squads of Warriors.  Strangely, despite the perilious situation their brothers were in, the Razorback squad did not return, but continued towards the KoS, perhaps hoping to support the fast DA force (or perhaps because Commander James had no idea what he was doing).

The KoS, seeing that the fast DA force would reach the ruin before them, veered away - and one Wartrukk promptly crashed into some trees.  Warboss Jeff, already rather the worse for wear from the effects of squig juice, unaccountably ordered his Boyz out of their Wartrukks, sent the Ladz towards the DA on foot.  Fortunately, he sent the Warbikes ahead (he'd misunderstood the meaning of the term 'Invulnerable save', thinking it meant they couldn't be killed - silly old Warboss Jeff).  Meanwhile, a Rigger attempted to re-start the stalled Wartrukk.

The DA had by this time occupied the ruined tower, and the Assault Marines lined the wall facing the KoS.  The bikes zoomed around the ruin towards the Warbikes, while the Land Speeders took up firing positions on either side.  With skilful timing, all the DA let fly at once.  All but one Warbike was shot to bits, and the Warboss's Wartrukk was blown apart.  A few Trukkboyz also died in a hail of Assault Cannon fire.

Here is what it looked like after the DA had opened fire:

(Note Commander Andrzej, striking an inspiring pose in the ruin.  I don't know who the Tac Marines are looking at - the Orks are coming from the other way!)

While all this was going on, Warboss Richard's Orks inched towards the objective.  Warboss Jeff pleaded for assistance (his actual words were "I'm getting it up the bum from these bloody Marines - give an Ork a hand, would you?").  Warboss Richard obliged by targeting a Land Speeder with Big Shoota fire, and damaged it.  But he was becoming increasingly concerned at the Reavers approaching his rear . . .

Back on the eastern end, Archon Chris's DE fell upon the now Land Raider-less Dark Angels.  The Blasters and Splinter Cannon felled a couple, the Haemonculii's Destructors killed another, then they assaulted.  In the ensuing battle, all the Marines died except the Commander himself, and he fell back, wounded, to the Dreadnought.  The Dreadnought fired its Lascannon ineffectually, then collapsed in smoke and flames as Dark Lances slashed through its armour.  The Haemonculii and Grotesques advanced through the smoke towards the Commander, their Raiders hovering above them.

Warboss Jeff, incensed at the Marines' unprovoked attack on his Ladz, launched a furious counter-attack on the Commander Andrzej's force.  Rokkits flew out from the Wartrukks and downed the damaged Land Speeder.  The Predator fired away at the Assault Marines, its ill-aimed shots bouncing off the stone wall. Then the Warboss bellowed a warcry and charged into the bikes with his Nobz.  The bikers were no match for the big Orks, and 2 were smashed from their mounts.  One mob of Trukkboyz charged into the ruin, where they crashed into the Assault Marines, and a furious HTH combat began.

Warboss Richard, deciding that the KoS could take care of themselves, turned his attention to the Reavers.  The Tankbustas (who were riding in a borrowed Wartrukk) swerved towards them with a couple of Warbuggies, and a flurry of Rokkits and Big Shootas downed all but one Reaver; the survivor fled.  There was a curse from Archon Peter - he should have known better than to trust an Ork!  He re-directed his Raiders towards Warboss Richard's Orks. Revenge would be had!

Commander James, who had sought cover behind the wrecked Land Raider, was cornered by the Haemonculii and their Grotesques. Worse, the Archon came sweeping over them and straight at him.  He fought bravely, but was soon despatched by the sadistic DE leader.  Of 'Force James', only the Razorback squad now remained; it rather foolishly loosed off a few Heavy Bolter shots at Warboss Jeff's troops, missing with everything.

Warboss Jeff and his Nobz soon accounted for all the Marine bikers, although the brave Marines had wounded the Warboss twice.  His Trukkboyz hacked their way into the ruin.  The Assault Marines felled a couple of Boyz, but were losing the combat.  Commander Andrzej leapt from the altar in the centre (where he had been posing heroically to inspire greater efforts from his men) and attacked the Trukkboyz in the flank.  He killed an Ork, but was wounded in response (Commander Andrzej's luck turned to pure crud at this point).  The ferocious Trukkboyz soon fought their way into the ruin, pushing the Assault Marines back.  More importantly, (after some abysmal armour save rolls), they killed Commander Andrzej.  And, to add to the Marines' woes, the second Land Speeder was shot down, again by Rokkits from the Wartrukks.  In the meantime, despite Commander James' protestations that he'd fired at the Orks "just to test whether the guns were working", Warboss Jeff's Predator fired back at the Razorback, stunning it.

Archon Peter, having moved his Raiders into position, unloaded his Warriors and targeted the Orks who had shot down his Reavers.  To his frustration, the Dark Lance shots bounced off the Battlewagon's steel hide, and he had to be satisfied with destroying the Tankbusta's Wartrukk and killing a few Tankbustas.

Having virtually destroyed the DA force, Archon Chris regrouped. He had a good chance of taking the objective now, although the other Archon and Warboss Richard were both closer to it.  He would need his Archon, arguably the best HTH fighter on the table.  The Archon, however, was skimming off towards the Razorback, perhaps looking for more victims (we're not really sure what she was doing).

Warboss Jeff continued butchering Marines. His Trukkboyz ejected the Assault Marines from the ruin, and, reinforced by a second mob, they launched an attack on the Tac squad.  The Nobz followed their fearless (but wounded) leader back towards the ruin.  To cut a long story short, the Tac squad was soon broken, and fled the ruin; the Assault Marines regrouped and assaulted the Warboss, but were killed, and the only thing left was the Rhino. Commander Andrzej was effectively finished as well.

Warboss Richard found himself facing a line of Raiders.  Calmly, he took aim, and the Battlewagon's Zzap Gun took one down, while another fell to Big Shoota fire.  Against better advice ("Er, Peter, don't you think that's a bit risky?"), Archon Peter sent his men towards the Orks on foot, the Wyches in the lead.  They raced across open ground, where they met a storm of fire from the Shoota Boyz in the Battlewagon and the surviving Tankbustas, who couldn't believe their luck at being given such easy targets.  The Wyches made it, knocking out the Warboss's Wartrukk and evicting its occupants, but the Archon suffered the indignity of having his entire retinue shot away (and by greenskins too!), and fell back.

At this point there was the sound of anti-grav motors (realistically rendered by Wayne), and a small fleet of Eldar skimmers appeared over the forest behind Archon Chris.  At the same time, a force of Guardians, supported by a Falcon, emerged not far from the ruined tower.  The Eldar had come to reclaim their artifact!

The newly-arrived Eldar mobile force consisted of a Wave Serpent loaded with Banshees and a Falcon full of Fire Dragons, with 2 Vypers in support.  Archon Chris, who had been poised to head for the objective with most of his army undamaged, was the first to feel the Eldar's sting.  His Talos, which had been buzzing happily along towards the objective, took a couple of hits from a Pulse laser, while a beam from a Bright Lance pierced a Raider and blew it apart.  Archon Chris had an unexpected fight on his hands.

In the meantime, Commander James' surviving Tac squad were manoeuvring aimlessly near a forest; they barely had time to see the Archon that descended on them.  Most were killed, and the survivors fell back into the forest pursued by the Archon. Meanwhile, the KoS had seen the Eldar Guardians approaching and Warboss Jeff began to de-deploy his Boyz to face them.  The Predator rumbled out to seek out the Archon, who Warboss Jeff had realised (despite the effects of the by-then copious amounts of squig juice he'd consumed) was a dangerous threat.

The Wyches hit Warboss Richard's Orks, ploughing into the Warboss, the Painboss and the Cyborks.  Archon Peter also despatched the sole surviving Reaver and his last Raider to the objective (the first player to actually reach it).  A bitter fight between the Orks and the Wyches followed, during which most of the Cyborks were killed and the Warboss was badly wounded.  The Wyches found the Cyborks tough going, however, and were wiped out.  The Orks were therefore largely intact. The Raider and Reaver hovering next to the objective were quickly destroyed by the Falcon that had come in with the Guardians.  To add insult to injury, Archon Peter (who had crept back towards the Orks after losing his retinue) was caught sheltering in a crater and gunned down by Big Shootas.

(It was dark by now, so I stopped taking pics after this because there wasn't enough light)

Archon Chris was finding the Eldar tough going. Although he managed to shoot down a Vyper, and the Talos managed to drag the Falcon down with its pincers, his troops were shot by Fire Dragons and assaulted by Banshees, and largely wiped out. The Talos was also melted to slag by the Fire Dragons.  He now lacked the means to contest the objective - unless his Archon could get there.

The Archon, however, was still messing around in the forest near the KoS.  She killed the last Marines, but found herself dodging Heavy Bolter and Autocannon fire from the Predator.  A lucky Autocannon hit shorted out her Shadowfield, leaving her exposed and vulnerable to anything that could target her.  She was unlikely to be able to get to the objective now.

Warboss Jeff realised he too could not get to the objective, and would have to satisfy himself with killing Guardians instead.  His Trukkboyz set off towards the Eldar, followed by the Warboss.  Unfortunately, the Guardians' Starcannon demolished the Warboss's requisitioned Wartrukk (he'd been allowed to use another Mob's Wartrukk), and the Warboss (who was down to one Wound) died in the explosion.  The Boyz took their revenge on the Guardians, wiping them out with minimal losses.

Warboss Richard took out the Falcon with his Zzap Gun, and was then able to move across to the objective with little opposition.  His Battlewagon and Warbuggies took up good defensive positions, while the Warboss (also down to one Wound) and the Painboss sheltered amongst the vehicles.  With no one in a position to challenge him, Warboss Richard was the winner!

It was actually very close.  Warboss Richard won by only 2 points, just beating Warboss Jeff, who had killed more units than anyone else.  Warboss Richard had played the waiting game to perfection, and it paid off (the lucky Battlewagon once again proved invaluable, shrugging off numerous hits and keeping the Shoota Boyz in one piece).

Warboss Jeff had learnt the value of close combat very fast, and proved a natural Ork player (he was also fiendishly lucky with his Rokkit shooting).  Archon Chris came third, but might have won if not for the Eldar; he was also quick to appreciate his army's strengths and weakneses.  Although Commander Andrzej's army was destroyed, he really was a victim of bad die rolls, and should have killed a lot more of the KoS (he could have positioned himself better to defend the ruin though; his Tac squad should have been along the wall and the Assault Marines should have been behind).  He was also perhaps unnerved by Warboss Jeff's incessant taunting.  Archon Peter learnt the hard way not to charge across open ground, but he lost far more men than he should have due to Warboss Richard's incredible dice rolling.  He said afterwards that he should have lurked on the edges until everyone was worn down, then leapt in.  He certainly should have stayed in his Raiders a little onger.  Poor Commander James had no idea what he was doing, and was perhaps unfortunate in having started next to the DE with such tempting targets for their Dark Lances.

A few comments by the people who hadn't played before (remember most were experienced wargamers): - there should be opportunity fire to stop defensive positions being overrun too easily - it should be possible to hit troops in open-topped vehicles with blast weapons, since the troops are all able to fire out (a good point, actually) - there was too much dice rolling involved, especially with the 3 steps involved in resolving combats (roll to hit, roll to wound, roll armour saves).  One commented at the end "It's basically a dice game, isn't it."  Well, yes, but I like rolling handfuls of dice! - overall, 4 players would have been better, although we knew that when we started.

Wayne and I were exhausted by the end, Warboss Jeff was rolling drunk, and Warboss Richard was very pleased with himself.  It was good to see the Orks do so well, but I think it would go very differently if we had a re-match.  Pity my lovely Land Raider went up in smoke so easily.

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