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Top ex-GW designer releases rules for brutal new wargame

Trench Crusade, an occult horror WW1 setting, now has wargame rules by Tuomas Pirinen, designer of cult classic skirmish game Mordheim

Trench Crusade by Mike Franchina now has rules by ex-GW designer Tuomas Pirinen - a soldier of new Antioch wielding a sword, wearing a mixture of WW1 field dress and plate armor

The first set of playtest rules have been released for the Trench Crusade wargame project, a collaboration between horror artist Mike Franchina, sculptor James Sheriff, and ex-Games Workshop designer Tuomas Pirinen.

We’ve been following Trench Crusade with interest for some time now. Mike Franchina is a professional concept artist who’s worked on Magic the Gathering, Diablo IV, and Path of Exile: Trench Cusade is his original creation. We’d describe it as ‘Warhammer 40k meets the crusades meets World War One meets a black metal album cover’.

After a portal to hell opened in the Holy Lands, the Crusades never ended, and now the armies of hell and Christendom wage war with arcane artefacts and industrial technology.

Trench Crusade by Mike Franchina now has rules by ex-GW designer Tuomas Pirinen - the Witch Hunter General, a crimson armored figure wearing a judge's mantle, a tall pointed helemt, and carrying a cane

A fantastic setting for a grim and gritty miniature wargame, then, and a great fit for games designer Tuomas Pirinen. Pirinen is best known for his role as lead designer on Mordheim, a skirmish fantasy wargame set in the Warhammer Old World that released in 1999. Mordheim still has an active player base despite being long out of production.

The playtest rules are free to download from the Trench Crusade website. They’re still a work in progress, and the foreword notes that they are still missing “explanatory diagrams and gameplay examples, campaign and exploration rules, supernatural powers, most of the warband lists and scenarios”, but there’s a full, playable game in there already.

Trench Crusade by Mike Franchina now has rules by ex-GW designer Tuomas Pirinen - an artillery witch, a black-clad figure with a ruff, cape, and a face-obscuring mask

If you haven’t seen Franchina’s illustrations for the Trench Crusade setting before, we can’t overstate how absolutely metal this universe is, and how well it translates to a tabletop setting.

Here’s an example: the Artillery Witch is an elite unit for the Heretic Legion, a mute, faceless creature that “can pull an infinite number of Infernal Bombs from a portal to Hell”, the hell-forged explosives appearing “from a gate of midnight blackness”.

Trench Crusade by Mike Franchina now has rules by ex-GW designer Tuomas Pirinen - a Shrine Anchorite, a huge walking war machine that looks like a blood stained roadside shrine

Or what about the Shrine Anchorite, a “colossal suit of machine armor fuelled by diesel and faith”. The insides of this machine are “spiked” and “blood-stained”, with a tormented pilot-monk locked inside. It’s like a Sisters of Battle penitent engine, only the pilot has chosen to be there. The Anchorite can even use another member of the same warband as ablative armor, strapping them to the torture wheel that it wields as a weapon.

Independent sculptor James Sheriff has already designed several Trench Crusade models, which are shipping to Kickstarter backers now – see the video from YouTuber scannerbarkly, below, to see what they’re like. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the rest of these gnarly creatures get turned into miniatures.

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Can’t get enough of grimdark horror gaming? We have guides to the best horror wargames, best horror miniatures, and also to World War One wargames. Or if you want to get in the mood for a death metal universe, check out our interview with Richard Pell from Warhammer 40k metal music project Our Martyred Lady.