Not the 8th: Grimdark Future25 Jul 2017 0
The 8th edition of Warhammer 40.000, the biggest tabletop miniature wargame in the world, is out. And while it addresses many of the complaints fans had before, it's not perfect either. However, you need not despair if you have some Space Marines and Eldar, yet no wish to play with any of the Games Workshop's rulesets. This series of articles will focus on addressing that issue by playing Warhammer on unofficial and generic rulesets! To start it all off, we're going to look at Grimdark Future, previously known as 1p40k (one page Warhammer 40K).
The brainchild of onepageanon (actually Gaetanno Ferrara), it started out as project to condense the good of Warhammer playing experience into one page (8th edition claims that the current ruleset is at the historic low of 12 pages). The main rules fit onto one page, there was an another page of separate advanced rules, and most army lists also fit on – say this with me – one page. This idea has since spun out into one page projects covering Kill Team fights, Warhammer Fantasy Battles and even Infinity. The project was recently renamed to Grimdark Future for the Patreon launch, and all of the factions and units have been given sly generic names.
So, to trial the game, I built two army lists of about 1200 points. My Space Marine force, which is going to be mostly unchanged through all the articles, was made up of a Primaris Captain, an Apothecary, a Vanguard Veteran squad, two squads of five Intercessors, a squad of five Hellblasters and a unit of the new jetpack marines. I aimed for a blend of regular Space Marines and the new Primaris dudes. This list that would be worth about 1000 pts in 8th ed. However, GF’s peculiarities kick in immediately, as Apothecary was demoted to an upgrade to the Veteran squad (and in Grimdark, Veterans are just upgraded regular Tacticals with one more melee attack). The normal unit size in GF is 5 models, but two identical units can join together to form a bigger one. A hero can join a unit to gain ablative wounds, as the inferior models are removed first.
The Guardsman list is going to be a lot more flexible and building it in GF required some creative thinking. For example, Inquisitors and Priests aren't usually a part of the Human Defense Force (wink wink, nudge nudge) lists, but I took them anyways. So I took an inquisitor, eight groups of regular guardsmen (joined into four squads), three Drill Sergeants and a Priest to shepherd them, a Grenadier (read: carapace) Veteran squad (of two joined squads) to provide wounds for the inquisitor, a Chimera for them to ride in and a base Leman Russ.
The game is usually played at 500 pts, on a 6x4 feet table by setting your troops up on the long edge. The players roll off for deployment and alternate placing their troops in the deployment zone that stretches 12” from their edge. After an another roll off they alternate placing objectives to capture. The one to hold the most of them at the end of the 4th turn wins. Now here's the kicker: the players alternative activating units, too, with the one who finished placing them going first and the one who finished activating first going first on the next turn. One of my biggest gripes with 40K is the lack of alternating activations – IGOUGO makes bigger games into a snoozefest on the opponent’s turn – so this is great.
The first turn showed the tension that rises from the activation system. You have to be mindful not only of your own units, but also what the enemy could activate next. For example, my veterans on the right flank faced off against a Leman Russ and an infantry squad, all in cover and unable to shoot them. Should I move the vets forward? But that would open them up for the tank. And the Guard can bid their time – outnumbering the Marines in both bodies and units, they can wait for the end of the turn when the Space Marine player runs out of units to activate and the Guard can move with relative impunity.
The first turn showed that while plasma guns are a viable way to deal with light armor, melta guns just kill everything. A Primaris Space Marine has quality 3+ (meaning that he needs a d6 roll of 3 or more to hit) and a defense of 7+ (meaning that an enemy who hits him needs to roll a 6 follow by a 4+ roll to wound him). It’s a tough nut to crack for a quality 5+ Guardsman, who is hitting, at best, one third of the time. However, an AP3 (armor piercing 3) plasma gun turns that 7+ to a 4+ (a 50/50 chance of killing) while an AP7 melta gun kills them.
The truth of that was made apparent when the Leman Russ faced off against the veterans. It’s anti tank cannon was only able to kill one soldier at a time and he had to close in with his AP1 six-hit flamer to start killing the vets faster. However, their plasma guns and plasma cannons were basically powerless against Defense 9+ Tough (9) (meaning that the tank had 9 hitpoints to lose), only managing to strip 2 or 3 HP by the end of the game.
However, melee is brutal, especially when you’re a Space Marine and you charged in. Unlike in 8th edition, there are no extended melees. Since units are activated individually, each melee is resolved immediately. If you win (by causing more wounds than the enemy), then your foe is either pinned or routed off the table, or, at the very least, forced to retreat an inch away (if the attacker lost), which allows it to be counter charged or just shot up. And the Primaris Captain, with his ability to give himself and his unit one additional attack in melee turns the normally shooty (but still two-melee attack to differentiate them from regular Space Marines) Intercessors into great Guardsman blenders.
All in all, the game deals very nicely with leaders. You don’t have the weird situation of 8th edition where they are running around alone in web of strange rules, you don’t have 7th edition’s insanity of challenges and look-out-sirs, you can’t do the Horus Heresy thing of tanking all the shots with your 2+ armor sergeant (I guess this was Forge World’s attempt to get leaders to lead from the front in a 7th edition-derived ruleset). Once you join a unit, all of the other miniatures must be removed – using the majority’s quality and defense rolls for tests - before you can kill the hero, which isn’t too hard since they usually only have 3 HP. And you don’t have hide-the-plasma nonsense, either, as the defender chooses which models to remove.
The more I played, the more I realized how cool the ruleset is. For example, a model in a unit must be at least within 2” of one other model in the unit. Just like 8th edition, right? However, a model can’t be more than 6” away from all of the others in the unit. This simple rules prevents all sorts of shenanigans with deployment and movement. And deep striking isn’t as dangerous to the deep-struck player, since the units only arrive on a 4+, can’t all activate at once, and an additional 5+ roll can give the defending player the control of where the unit is placed, provided it’s no more than 12” inches away from the original drop point. It’s not Stargrunt II’s “raise a token over the table and see where it falls", but it is nice.
In the end of the match, all of Guardsmen save the tank had been slaughtered while Space Marines had probably less than 10 casualties. However, this is still a game that favors Guardsmen players more than 8th edition. Your army will be smaller – the models I used wouldn’t amount to 1000 pts in 8th. You’ll have more toys, with each 5 man Guardsmen group getting special weapon. You can still have your Carapace Vets, missing in 8th edition. And your tank will be a beast, never exploding easily, never decreasing in efficiency, though also beastly in costs.
In the end, I feel like Grimdark Futures could clarify some rules (like vertical movement), but at the end, it’s does what it sets out to do well. It’s a one page ruleset that allows you to play Warhammer faster than you ever imagined. It doesn’t have weird hero rules, mortal wounds and the mind bogglingly horrible modifier and reroll systems of the new addition. And if you play at only 500 points – the way the game is meant to be played – you won’t even have to paint that much, and isn’t that what we all want in the end?