Part I. 40k Apocalypse via Warpath 1.0
For those unfamiliar with Warpath 1.0, it is the predecessor to the current Warpath rules, and is essentially the fantasy version of Kings of War with a few sci-fi bits bolted on. Even though they have been supplanted by the current iteration of Warpath, you can download the 1.0 rules for free on Warseer.
The current Warpath 2.0 rules have moved the game beyond simple "Kings of War in Spaaaace!" I still prefer the more streamlined and abstract 1.0 rules, though.
I like giant battles in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but I don't like the 40k rules. Games Workshop's well-known sci-fi battle game is, in my opinion, a serviceable platoon-level game, good for 25 to 35 figures and a vehicle per player, but over the years it has been unfortunately been scaled up to the company level, resulting in battles featuring 80+ figures and multiple vehicles and without the necessary streamlining of mechanics.
If that weren't enough, over the last three editions 40k has become bogged down with almost RPG-like levels of granularity and complexity, with the addition of layer upon layer of special rules. Even the 40k "Apocalypse" rules for battles at the battalion level don't actually reduce the complexity of the system -- they just pile on more special rules. The result is that a game of "Apocalypse" 40k can take -- no exaggeration here -- a day or more to play out.
Enter Warpath, which -- despite what it's creators will say -- is essentially just a skillfully executed and heavily streamlined version of Warhammer 40k. Most of the army lists for Warpath have direct unit-for-unit analogues in 40k, and even the points values and abilities of the comparable units are similar.
Warpath 1.0 is not supported any more, but the four army lists provide enough stat-lines to represent most 40k units with a little tweaking. Of course, that wasn't going to be quite enough, as we also decided we wanted to have titans and superheavy tanks in our battle.
Jon was brave enough to take this on! Check out his custom rules supplement below.
Part II. Game Setup
Each player was assigned a certain number of points and allowed one superheavy unit beyond that, resulting in about 6,000 points per side. Here is the order of battle (Warpath army list used in parentheses).
Forces of Evil
- Karl - 2,500 points of Rebel Imperial Guard (Corporation) and a Wolfhound Titan
- Jon - 2,500 points of Orks (Marauders) and a Stompa
Forces of the Imperium
- Mike - 1,750 Points of Imperial Guard (Corporation) and a Baneblade Superheavy Tank
- Tim - 1,750 Points of Imperial Guard (Corporation) and a Baneblade
- Josh - 2,000 points of Dark Angel Space Marines (Forgefathers)
We scored the battle based on a combination of enemies killed and objectives seized. Mike's beleaguered Imperial Guard defenders set up in the central complex (fortress, chapel and mining building) in the middle.
The attackers -- me and Jon -- set up on one side and the rescuers -- Josh and Tim -- setup on the other side. This pic shows Mike's Guardsmen in the middle with Tim's rescuing tank company on the way and Jon's rampaging Orks on the other side.
And here we see my traitor Guardsmen invading the city. Pay no attention to the lack of shading on nearest two tanks. I built and painted them for this game and hadn't quite finished them yet…
Josh brought a jaw-dropping 35 Dark Angels Terminators!
Part III. The Game
The first turns were largely uneventful, consisting mostly of movement with some long range firing to and from the Imperial Guard defenders in the center of the field. Like many games, Warpath is designed for a 4x8 foot table, and the ranges reflect this. Our table measured 6x10 feet, so it was some time before the majority of the forces came in range.
The game quickly seemed to separate into the Orks vs Imperial Guard and Traitor Guard vs Dark Angels.
The trio of Rebel Basilisks, however, used their long range and indirect fire to pour devastation into the troops on the tower and would continue to do so for most of the game. With three shots coming down per turn, it was reliably deadly.
By the second turn, Valkyrie gunships swept onto the field, doing some serious damage to the Ork rear guard.
The Dark Angel Nephilim wreaked similar havoc on the Rebel Guardsmen.
By this time, the Imperial Guard armor had presented itself in force and was savaging the Ork line. Mike had wisely included a lot of armor in his Imperial Guard army.
In addition, he skipped most of his infantry options in order to include a Knight Titan. His prudent choices paid off as the combatants drew near.
In the city, the Knight Titan moved close enough to fire on the Dark Angels. Return fire immobilized its legs, but the weapons remained deadly and functional.
In the third turn, two Rebel tanks emerged from reserves. Per the rules in Warpath 1.0, I brought them in on the flank, 36 inches forward (one foot per turn).
By this time, Rebel armor, heavy weapons and walkers were close enough to deal some serious damage to the Dark Angels, destroying several units in a single turn.
On the opposite flank however, the Orks were suffering under the Imperial advance.
The Stompa's head was blown off, and though that didn't destroy the giant war machine, it drastically reduced its effectiveness as the crew struggled to control it.
Concentrated fire from the Imperial Guard armor caused further casualties across the Ork line and to the Traitor Guardsmen holding the center.
At this point we called the game. It was only turn 3, but we had started about an hour late and had run out of time. (Editor's note: It appears Warpath 1.0 gives a complete 40k experience, right down to being unable to finish the game!)
In the end, despite doing serious damage and holding three of the five objectives, the Orks and Traitor Guardsmen came up short to the forces of the Imperium.
Part IV. Observations
Reaction to this game was mixed. Two of us absolutely loved it, two of the players liked it with some reservations, and one player reported that we have other games in our stable capable of giving a better game experience.
Though we only made it to turn three, each player turn took less than 30 minutes, which is not bad for a game featuring three players who had never played before, and two players who had only played a couple of times over the last year.
With more games under our belt, I think we could eliminate most rulebook flipping and cut the playing time nearly in half. One major lesson we learned is the importance of making sure that all players have some anti-armor weapons in their force. Josh's force lacked a way to handle tanks and titans, and it proved to be a major disadvantage. I think this will be solved in the future by changing the heavy weapons selections for some of the vehicles and troops and making use of some of the anti-armor close combat and short-ranged weapons available to many units.
For my part, I really enjoyed the whole experience. It is not a complicated game, but for those times when you just want a massive, somewhat ridiculous battle, it fits the bill. Warpath certainly captures the spirit of 40k: cramming an insane number of troops and vehicles onto a comparatively small battlefield. I have no patience for the 40k rules anymore, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the minis and the background, and this definitely scratches that itch.
Also, I've still got quite a number of 40k kits in storage, and a game like this is just the excuse I need to get them painted up. All of this is to say: I definitely hope we'll be playing this again. It fits my personal preferences for fun and streamlined rules that don't get in the way of my favorite part of wargaming: the spectacle of painted armies clashing on the tabletop, which drew me and so many others into the hobby years ago. That is something we certainly delivered in this game.
-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member
-- Photos by Josh, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member
Thanks to Josh for providing the massive central fortress, Jon for providing the Stompa and Warhound, and Mike for bringing a metric ton of tanks to the game.