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Ex-Warhammer dev previews rules for new grimdark wargame

Tuomas Pirinen, a Warhammer designer during the 90s and creator of cult classic Mordheim, reveals rules for skirmish game Trench Crusade

Warhammer designer Tuomas Pirinen previews trench crusade rules - Observer model, a red armored warrior with boar spear, designed by Mike Franchina and sculpted by James Sheriff

Former Warhammer designer Tuomas Pirinen has outlined the rules and design principles for the recently announced Trench Crusade skirmish wargame. Pirinen is best known for his work on Mordheim, a gothic skirmish game from 1999 that’s still played today; it owes its cult following to Pirinen’s compelling campaign rules and apocalyptic setting, and a rulebook packed with incredible illustrations by Warhammer 40k visionary John Blanche.

The upcoming Trench Crusade wargame is an adaptation of an original IP by concept artist Mike Franchina – to give you a sense of his style, Franchina supplied MTG card art for Phyrexia: All Will be One and concept art for Diablo IV. To our knowledge he’s never done any work for Games Workshop, but his grimdark tone would be pitch perfect for any number of Warhammer 40k factions.

Warhammer designer Tuomas Pirinen previews trench crusade rules - art by Mike Franchina of a huge reinforced trenchline with incomprehensibly sized artillery

In an update post on a Kickstarter to produce miniatures for the setting, Pirinen summarises the Trench Crusade: “During the Crusades a heretical band of Templars dared defy the Almighty and, casting aside their sacred vows, unleashed the forces of Hell upon the Earth. Over 800 years later, in the Year of Our Lord 1914, this brutal, merciless war between the forces of Heaven and Hell rages on”.

The core rules of the game are straightforward. Players alternate activating a warrior from their warband, and a model’s stats will determine how many actions it can take per turn. Movements are free, but players must test to take other actions by rolling 2D6, adding any bonuses, and attempting to beat a target number (usually a seven). Should they fail the roll then the model’s activation ends, giving control over to their opponent.

The technology level of Trench Crusade is somewhere between the Crusades and WW1, so expect to fight with trench clubs, profane hell-daggers, and browning rifles. Successfully hitting an enemy will have a very immediate effect: rolling a D6, you’ll knock down most enemies on a roll of 1-4, and take out most enemies on a 5+, but there will be exceptions: “Some other opponents, such as the zombie-like Metastatic Vessels, are immune to being knocked down and keep coming unless they suffer a debilitating damage”, Pirinen states.

Warhammer designer Tuomas Pirinen previews trench crusade rules - black and white art by Mike Franchina, a trench soldier shoots at a werewolf thing

Pirinen outlines more features players can expect from the game, including rules for six different warbands, and a campaign system where heroes can gain favours, equipment, weapons, or “scars, both mental and physical”; everything that skirmish game fans expect from the best miniature wargames.

The Trench Crusade wargame grew out of a successful kickstarter campaign funding UK sculptor James Sheriff to create tabletop miniatures from Franchina’s designs. Pirinen’s involvement came after the campaign closed; you can follow the Kickstarter campaign updates to get the latest news from Pirinen. As yet, no release date has been announced for the game.

If you’re a fan of gothic skirmish games and can’t wait for this one, check out our interview with Chris McDowell about upcoming wargame The Doomed. It’s follows bands of kit-bashed misfits as they battle hideous monsters on a doomed planet, and it’s coming out this summer.