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Warhammer 40k alternative lets you field literally any model

Three Aussie brothers weren’t satisfied with Warhammer 40k and other games - now their homebrew alternative has an international community

Warhammer 40k alternative Warsurge - photograph by Three Brothers Grim, two armoured warriors face off in a duel

If you’re looking for a Warhammer 40k alternative, you’re not alone. Tired of house-ruling away problems in the popular wargames they’d grown up playing, Australian indie wargame designers The Brothers Grim made their own game system, Warsurge. Billed as a universal wargame that allows you to play with any model, the game is free to try, already has an international community, and a hardback rulebook is currently on Kickstarter.

The Brothers Grim is made up of three, real-life brothers, Nicholas and Richard Hollingsworth, and Brad Lane. The team developed Warsurge over the course of five years, and gave the game a soft launch with a digital rulebook back in 2020. The team tells Wargamer “players all around the world are joining in” with its online community. A hardback rulebook for the game is crowdfunding on Kickstarter, something the team says the community kept asking for.

Warhammer 40k alternative Warsurge by Three Brothers Grim - human soldiers in combat armour face off against beastial raiders

You can download the Warsurge rules for free from the Brothers’ Grim website. Unlike Warhammer 40k, Warsurge uses an alternating activation system, in which players take turns choosing units to take actions. Separate rules modules cover competitive and narrative games.

The supporting app allows players to create stat-lines and calculate point values for any unit they can think of. If you’ve always wanted your Warhammer 40k Space Marines to face off against a friend’s Age of Sigmar Nighthaunt, or you simply like painting miniatures from all and any wargame, now’s your chance to test them out on the field.

Warhammer 40k alternative Warsurge - photograph by Three Brothers Grim, a giant, daemonic entity terrorises a medieval city

Brothers Richard and Nicholas grew up playing games together. “I used to play games such as Warhammer 40,000, Warmachine/Hordes, Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer Age of Sigmar, Lord of the Rings and Infinity” says Richard, who ran a wargaming club from his family garage for school friends.

Warhammer 40k alternative Warsurge - photograph by Three Brothers Grim, shot of a fantasy wargame in progress on a sandy battlefield

When his brother Nicholas returned home during a break from tertiary studies, the pair began to experiment with homebrew rules to try and improve on the games they were playing. It wasn’t long before they decided that modifying the rules of older games wasn’t enough, and they began creating their own game from scratch. “The concept was that players should have the freedom to do as they wish with their armies, even allowing them to create their own factions”, Richard tells Wargamer.

Warhammer 40k alternative Warsurge - photograph by Three Brothers Grim, shot of a wargame in progress on a tabletop battlefield

Brad joined the pair to assist them in creating “a mobile-based platform” to handle unit creation and army roster management. You can download a free version of the app to test out the functionality on Android and iOS, though there are caps to the number of units you can create in it unless you upgrade with a subscription or one-time membership purchase.

The Warsurge rulebook Kickstarter is open until 11pm PST January 30 / 2am EST January 31 / 7am GMT January 31, and you can download the core rules from the Warsurge website.

Warhammer 40k alternative Warsurge - photograph by Three Brothers Grim, armoured warriors face off against technobarbarians on an alien world

If you’re dissatisfied with your army’s 9th edition Warhammer 40k Codex, or you’re not keen to play until Warhammer 40k 10th edition comes along, Warsurge’s open-ended army building could let you rebuild your army the way you think it should play. Alternatively, you can look for recommendations on our list of the best miniature wargames.