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Plastic Bastards is like Warhammer 40k but extremely petty

Indie game designer Grant Howitt, best known for making 100 one-page RPGs, has released a free wargame for scrappy battles between kit-bashed models

Warhammer 40k alternative Plastic Bastards by Jack Emmert - scratchbuilt Ned Kelly style bandit

Indie Warhammer 40k alternative Plastic Bastards is a game about gangs of “little weirdos” who “murder each other over insignificant vendettas”, according to its author Grant Howitt – frankly not that different from the kinds of fights that get started in a typical Warhammer 40k story arc. RPG designer Howitt shared the rules for free on his Patreon on May 24.

Plastic Bastards is played using gangs of three to six kit-bashed miniatures. Howitt says in his Patreon that “you make the models first and then work out what it is they do on the battlefield”. The idea for the game came from his personal love of kit-bashing; he has a big collection of custom minis using parts from many Warhammer 40k factions and Warhammer Age of Sigmar armies.

Warhammer 40k alternative Plastic Bastards by Jack Emmert - incomprehensible pipe conversion

The theme of ‘extreme pettiness’ was established during playtesting, as Howitt explains: “First playtest I did, we were establishing the objectives, and I draw ‘SABOTAGE’ for my opponent. And he immediately says Right, that’s your leader’s dad’s grave and I’m going to desecrate it because you owe me money, and I feel that established a tone right off the bat. Even though he desecrated the grave we called it a draw because I was able to steal more stuff from the graveyard after my defence failed.”

Warhammer 40k alternative Plastic Bastards by Jack Emmert - gang of fallen knights in a woodland

The game’s rules fit onto four pages, one of which is an example warband, and it uses a deck of playing cards for combat resolution, with players each drawing cards and the high draw scoring a hit. A warband’s Motivation grants them some abilities and a trump suit; drawing a trump card automatically beats your opponents’ draw unless that’s also a trump.

Howitt tells Wargamer that Plastic Bastards is heavily influence by Mordheim, a skirmish spin off from the now defunct Warhammer Fantasy Battles (soon to be resurrected as Warhammer: The Old World), released in 1999. He says “I feel like it’s pretty much the best thing that Games Workshop ever put out. The grottiness of it is gorgeous but really the stunned/down/dead mechanics are brilliant and take so much of the admin out of running a skirmish game. So I stole them and changed one of the names.”

According to Howitt, Plastic Bastards is “not a balanced wargame – it’s a narrative miniatures game that happens to be about fighting each other”. You can download the full rules for free from his Patreon.

Warhammer 40k alternative Plastic Bastards by Jack Emmert - kitbashed motorbike gang

Howitt is primarily an RPG designer, best known for the linked games Spire and Heart, both available from publisher Rowan, Rook, and Decard. His Patreon supports an ongoing project to create 100 single-page RPGs; so far he’s made 83, with titles including ‘Sexy Battle Wizards’, ‘Pride and Extreme Prejudice’, and ‘Jason Statham’s Big Vacation’.

Plastic Bastards fits perfectly into the continually growing Inq28 scene of indie wargames and heavy kit bashing. We wrote on Monday about new miniatures being created by the team responsible for the influential 28 magazine, and on Friday about the retirement of legendary Warhammer 40k artist John Blanche, who was monumentally influential on the scene.