Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Creating a Gaming Ecosystem for Warhammer 40,000

A Portrait of the Blogger at His Desk
          Back in October of last year, I penned a pretty hefty letter which I e-mailed to the White Dwarf team. And by ‘hefty’, I mean the letter was eight pages long, single-spaced, with half-inch margins. In it, I detailed what I considered to be a workable plan for resurrecting Warhammer Fantasy. I pointed out what I believed to be some of the flaws which hurt the sales of the game, how those issues could be resolved, and ideas on how to expand the Warhammer Fantasy player base*. Someone by the name of Dan (Perhaps White Dwarf staff writer Dan Harden?) replied to my e-mail and said he’d forward my letter to the design studio, although I have no idea if anyone there ever read it. For all I know, it went straight to their junk mail folder. Whether it was ever read or not, though, I believe that one of the main ideas which I put forward in that letter, of creating a “gaming ecosystem” for Warhammer Fantasy, is worth discussing. Particularly since, after having finally gotten my grubby little mitts on the newly released rulebook for Shadow War: Armageddon and gotten in a few games, I was reminded that the idea of creating a gaming ecosystem could work just as well for Warhammer 40,000.

(* Please let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to post this portion of the letter in the future.)

"I used to serve the Empire, but I
took an arrow to the knee, so I
became an adventurer, instead."
          First, let me define terms. When I talk about a “gaming ecosystem”, what I mean are multiple games with possibly very different rules and at multiple scales, ranging from a single model per player to massive armies per side, with everything in between, but which exist in the same universe, draw upon the same model range, and can complement and support each other. The idea being that the vast swathe of gamers out there are looking to get very different things out of a miniature game, and a single game can’t possibly meet all those varied gaming tastes. So rather than attempt to sell them one very specific kind of game composed of a single line of models, or multiple games, each of which are accompanied by their own distinctive line of models, instead sell them a wide variety of games which draw upon a single line of models. After all, when you get right down to it, the rules only exist to sell the models. Wouldn’t it follow, then, that multiple rules systems, each designed to appeal to different gaming tastes while using the same model line, would sell more models from that model line than a single rules system?

          When it came to Warhammer Fantasy, I suggested four tiered games which could lead into and support each other, as represented by the games named below.

  • Tier 1 – “Warhammer Quest”: The smallest end of the spectrum, where each player controls a single model. I argued that Warhammer Quest should be revamped in such a way so it could serve as a better lead-in for bigger games, first by ensuring that there were enough available adventurers to represent all the major “good” factions, while the monster models were likewise representative of the major “evil” factions, and were organized in such a way that they could easily be used in larger games (I.E. There should be enough models of each monster type so that they could be formed into a minimum sized unit in a larger game). In addition, I suggested the idea of a parallel “evil” version of the game where the adventurers would be Vampires, Chaos Dwarf Sorcerers, Dark Elf Assassins, Chaos Marauders, and so on, and the “monsters” would be members of the heroic races of the setting, such as Bretonnians, High Elves, and Dwarfs. New players, then, would not only have a wonderfully entertaining stand-alone game, but they'd also have a solid foundation to build on, in terms of the models in their possession, if they ever chose to move on to the larger games in GW's line-up.
  • Tier 2 - "Mordheim": My suggestion was to make a parallel game to the Mordheim game we all know and love, except with the idea that every warband within the game would represent all the principal factions of Warhammer Fantasy (Although they wouldn’t necessarily be limited to that, an important point which I’d like to touch on later). So there would be warbands representing the High Elves, the Lizardmen, the Tomb Kings, and so on, and the game would be directly linked to the games in the tier below and the tier above, as models from those games could be used for it and vice versa.
  • Tier 3 - "Age of Sigmar": Larger scale battles fought in a skirmish style system, which could make use of the models available in the prior two tiers, and could in turn be used in the final gaming tier.
  • Tier 4 - "Warhammer Fantasy": And of course, mass battles featuring ranked combat (Although in this case, I’d say Tier 3 and Tier 4 could run parallel to each other rather than one being a smaller scale than the other, so they’d more accurately be described as Tier 4a and Tier 4b, with possibly a smaller scale skirmish game occupying the Tier 3 position).

          The idea behind this plan was that Games Workshop could appeal to vast swathes of gamers with four or more different game systems, all offering very different modes of play and appealing to varying tastes, while at the same time selling those players the same line of models. And most importantly, each game could potentially lead into the other. The new players who start gaming with Warhammer Quest would not only find an easy gateway into the Warhammer universe, but already owning a respectable number of models from the set and any possible expansions, might opt to use a few of those models as the basis for a warband at the Mordheim scale. If they get a taste of larger games, they could then expand even further to the skirmish scale. And ultimately, they could find themselves at the mass combat scale. Player which started with their individual hero delving into the dungeons of the Old World might eventually end up using that model as the start of a mass tabletop army. Likewise, the veteran player who already owns a large army could vary his gaming experiences by using his models in the skirmish version of the game, build a Mordheim scale warband from a mix of models he already owns as well as new figures, or even buy a box of skeletons or zombies to fill out his dungeons when he decides to take one of his hero models and use it as an adventurer in Warhammer Quest. A tiered gaming system as outlined above would provide accessibility for new players and variety for seasoned players, all while selling the same set of models to all concerned.

          Which brings me back to pursuing a similar plan for Warhammer 40,000 by creating an entire gaming ecosystem around it which both complements and supports it. As outlined above, a gaming ecosystem would not only help in making the 40k setting and game more accessible to new players, as well as provide more variety in terms of gameplay, it would also give Games Workshop the opportunity to produce models which they otherwise wouldn’t produce. There’s so much more to the 40k universe than the main factions of the setting, and yet we don’t see even a fraction of that because they typically wouldn’t work as a full-fledged army in the Warhammer 40,000 game. The idea has been that, unless it can function as part of a well-rounded force, it shouldn’t exist as a model. Thankfully, as we’ve seen with the introduction of Harlequins and the Inquisition as separate factions, along with the likes of the Adeptus Custodes and Sisters of Silence, GW seems to be moving away from the idea that every model must be part of a large, well-rounded force, and have decided that it’s okay to produce less varied forces which are intended for use in smaller games or to be taken as allied choices. With a wider gaming ecosystem, however, that not only gives GW a reason to produce even more models for those smaller organizations, but it allows them to put those forces within the context of a game where those mini-factions of the setting can truly shine and come into their own.

          So, applying the idea of a creating a gaming ecosystem for the 40k universe, here’s how a tiered gaming experience could be built:

TIER 1 – INQUISITOR

          First off, let me preface this section by saying that I never played Inquisitor, nor am I familiar with its rules. I always assumed, however, that it was the 40k equivalent to Warhammer Quest, with each player taking control of a single model, and the "adventurer" leveling up after each "dungeon delve", or mission. If I'm wrong about that, then please correct me in the comments section below. In my defense, though, there's a very good reason for my almost total ignorance of Inquisitor, which ties directly into my argument. Namely, the models were 54mm, and I saw little reason to play a game set in the 40k universe when I wouldn’t be able to use the models for it in a 40k game. For that reason and that reason alone I opted to avoid a game which I may have played otherwise (Which is saying quite a bit, given that at that time I was playing just about every game that GW had on the market). Looking at Inquisitor from the perspective of creating a gaming ecosystem around 40k, it was unsuitable to the task for several reasons, the first of which being that you couldn't use the models from Inquisitor for 40k or any other 40k related game, or vice versa.

          I’m not necessarily suggesting that GW resurrect Inquisitor exactly as it was, albeit with 28mm models, but it’d be interesting to see a game like Inquisitor, or more accurately, a 40k version of Warhammer Quest, which can be used to introduce new players to the universe of the 41st millennium while providing a fun and fast-paced game. New players which, preferably, are drawn from the wider populace which has never stepped foot into a gaming store. By making an Inquisitor style game available in big chain stores like Barnes & Noble alongside other similar games like Star Wars: Imperial Assault, Castle Ravenloft, and so on, GW could potentially reach out to a wider, untapped market and draw in new players which they may not be able to draw in otherwise. A quest style board game would likewise be of interest to veteran 40k players, as it’d provide them a new and entertaining past time, one which would give them something new to do with their models as well as a reason to go out and purchase additional models to serve as new adversaries in their board game adventures. Models which they may not have purchased otherwise.

          The one difficulty in producing such a game is that, unlike a setting like the Old World or other fantasy settings where humans, elves, dwarves, and other races adventure together, the races of the 40k universe traditionally don’t tend to work together. This is especially true at the individual level. However, where some might see complications, others might see that as opportunity. For example, Games Workshop could release a core game with multiple expansions, the first of which could be titled “Inquisitor” and which could feature various Imperial heroes, such as Inquisitors, Battle Sisters, Space Marines, Astra Militarum officers, and so on. They could then face off against a wide variety of Xenos and heretical threats, with the contents of the box designed with an eye towards including a collection of models which could then be used by players for other 40k related games, including 40k proper. That could be followed by a supplement featuring the Ynnari as protagonists, with Craftworld Eldar, Dark Eldar, Harlequins, etc. as the adventuring heroes, which could then be followed by a Tau expansion, and so on, until most if not all the major 40k factions have heroes representing them, and each of those groups of heroes are confronted by opponents from every major faction of the setting. Not only would games like this provide a great entry into the 40k setting for new players, but by combining models from one or more expansions, those new players could then potentially use the models included in the various expansions as the basis for a brand new 40k army.

Got a little
captain in you.
          The other great advantage of producing a quest style board game is that it would give GW the opportunity to create character models which they may not have a justification to create otherwise. For example, the set centered around Imperial heroes could include characters such as Rogue Traders as an option. That’s a character which can easily appear on the battlefields of the 41st millennium in command of various Imperial forces, but which sadly has never appeared so far because it’s not tied to a single faction, nor does it have a fixed faction built around it. In a quest style game, however, the Rogue Trader could be introduced as an individual hero for that game, with rules attached to it for inclusion in 40k or the other tiered games outlined below. A Rogue Trader character box also represents a wonderful opportunity for a truly customizable character kit. One with maybe two bodies, male and female, multiple heads, some of which are young while others are old and grizzled, with various pieces of headwear and bionics, and a whole host of wargear options, from standard Imperial fare like laspistols and bolters to more exotic gear like needle pistols and C'Tan phase swords.

          It wouldn’t have to end there, of course. Other Imperial heroes could be introduced, like Arbitrator Judges, for instance, or an Inquisitor kit which also has two models in it, male and female, and the full range of options available (Nemesis Daemon Hammer, Null Rod, Scythian Venom Talon, and so on). And each supplement could introduce more heroes which currently don’t exist as a model in 40k. The Ynnari supplement could introduce Eldar Corsairs and Exodite Dragon Knights. The Tau supplement could introduce Gue’vesa heroes, including one or more in Spyrer suits. The Chaos supplement could feature a Chaos Magus, rogue psykers, and mutant cultists. And every adventuring hero, whether a pre-existing 40k character or not, could all be made as kits with a wide range of customizable options to allow players to personalize their heroes. Those models could then be sold in small packages in the big box stores the same way that Barnes & Noble sells X-Wing ships or Imperial Assault characters, as well as in normal game stores where I’m certain veteran gamers would be happy to be able to create a truly unique warlord or hero for their pre-existing 40k army.

TIER 2a – SHADOW WAR: ARMAGEDDON

          Games Workshop already beat me to the punch and produced a game I've always wanted to see; Necromunda, but with the 40k factions. In concept, Shadow War: Armageddon fits right into the idea of creating a 40k gaming ecosystem. I believe, however, that Games Workshop isn’t making full use of Shadow War’s potential. First by not giving the game enough support, as evidenced by how quickly the initial boxed set sold out. This resulted in a great many people who were interested in playing the game initially unable to gain access to the rules. Thankfully, GW quickly recovered from this misstep by releasing the rulebook separately. They even went one step further by including the rules for all the other factions which weren’t in the original box set rulebook, but that’s a situation which shouldn’t have needed rectifying in the first place.

I'm using classic Scouts,
like the one pictured above,
as my Novitiate Scouts.
          The release of Shadow War: Armageddon was also a perfect opportunity for GW to replace older model kits which they expect players to use for their Kill Teams with newer plastic models. Space Marine Scouts, for one, have long been due for a remake. GW could have used the chance presented by Shadow War’s release to produce newer, more characterful models with a wider variety of options on the sprue in terms of weapons and gear, redesigned camo-cloaks which can fit models other than ones holding sniper rifles, made new heads with different facial features and even helmeted options (Helmeted Scouts are something many Space Marine players have wanted to see for a long time), as well as an option on the sprue to help distinguish a Novitiate Scout from a normal Scout. Shadow War’s release would’ve also greatly benefited from the release of an Imperial Guard Veteran Squad kit, one which contains all the options for the Astra Militarum Kill Team found in Shadow War, including camo gear, carapace armor, and shotguns, while remaining compatible with the rest of the Imperial Guard range. And of course, it goes without saying that Adepta Sororitas players would have liked a plastic kit for their Kill Team, as well.

          Shadow War already has links to 40k as its Kill Teams are pre-existing squads found in 40k, so, the above issues aside, there’s no question that it easily falls within a 40k gaming ecosystem. If, however, GW were to indeed produce the Tier 1 suggestion mentioned earlier, it would make sense to ensure that many of those heroes available as playable characters in the Inquisitor style game are also available as options in Shadow War, whether as leaders, members of existing Kill Teams, or Special Operatives. Perhaps many of those heroes could even serve as the basis of new Kill Teams which aren’t based on existing 40k factions. An Eldar Corsair, for instance, could be the beginnings of a Corsair Kill Team, representing a team of Eldar Corsairs pillaging where they go. The Arbitrator Judge could be the basis for an Adeptus Arbites Kill Team, defending their world from invaders, a task which Arbitrators have often been called upon to perform. Those heroes, then, would take on additional significance for players, as they would go from using them as individual heroes to the core of a Shadow War Kill Team. And for new players, taking their “40k Quest” hero and building a Kill Team for Shadow War is the next logical step.

TIER 2b – NECROMUNDA

          I remember when the announcement was made that Specialist Games was being resurrected and that Necromunda would be among the games returning to the fold. I was thrilled at the news! Necromunda is still one of my absolute favorite miniature games of all time, so to see it return with updated rules, superior plastic terrain pieces, and potentially customizable plastic kits for the various gangs? My excitement knew no bounds. With the advent of Shadow War, however, my excitement has been tempered a little, as I’m now worried that maybe, in GW’s mind, it’s already taken the place of Necromunda, and so there’s no need for Necromunda proper to return in all its heavy metal glory. To that notion, I’d counter with the following points.

"There can be... ONLY ONE!"
          First, Necromunda’s campaign system is far more detailed and in-depth than the simplified version found in Shadow War. The experience system encourages greater risk taking for greater rewards across the board, as experience is accrued based on what each individual model accomplishes during a battle, rather than simply awarding an advance to one model of the player’s choice, regardless of whether that model accomplished anything or not. The campaign system makes the acquisition of territory vital to the growth of your gang, as different territories provide different amounts of resources, which is more interesting than simply awarding each side 100 points at the end of a game. And while the injury chart for Shadow War is perfectly functional and easy to use, it doesn’t have nearly the level of depth or character which Necromunda’s provides. You won’t, for example, have an incident like what happened after my most recent game of Necromunda, where one of my House Cawdor Gangers (Appropriately named ‘MacLeod’) ran a House Goliath Gang Leader through with his sword, inflicting a chest wound on him which permanently reduced him to Toughness 2. A Necromunda release, therefore, can not only be a standalone release, but it can also act as a supplement for Shadow War: Armageddon, providing players of that game with a more intricate leveling chart, resource acquisition system, and injury table.

"I AM THE LAW!"
          Necromunda would also make a fantastic addition to a wider gaming ecosystem surrounding 40k. Like the Harlequins, Inquisition, and Sisters of Silence, the models which we see in Necromunda could become playable options in both lower tier and higher tier games, all the way up to the level of Warhammer 40,000 itself, where they could serve as allied units or maybe even the basis for a full-fledged force for the more colorful players out there who aren’t as concerned about playing a balanced army. The most obvious example of this would be the Adeptus Arbites. They’re an organization which, while not as varied as the Adeptus Astartes or Astra Militarum, have long had a place on the battlefields of the 41st millennium. Along with the Planetary Defense Force, they’re most often the first on the front lines against invaders, Genestealer and Chaos Cults, and rebel uprisings, and are frequently still holding out long after the arrival of the Space Marines and the Imperial Guard. The Enforcers of Necromunda, which are purposefully modelled on the Adeptus Arbites, could not only provide Arbitrator heroes for the smaller scale Tier 1 game, they could also represent Arbitrator Kill Teams fighting against the Ork invaders in Shadow War: Armageddon, and can quite easily find a place within the larger scale games.

"Put me in, Coach'Ui!"
          Then there’re the Spyrer Hunters. When the Tau were first released and hints were dropped that the Spyrer suits were made by them, I must admit that I was a bit miffed. It irked me that my beloved Spyrers turned out to be wielding heretical Xenos tech, as opposed to relics of the Dark Age of Technology, which was my original assumption. I also found the idea more than a bit disconcerting, given the well-known propensity of Spyrer suits to record everything their wearer sees. But given that the connection has been made, why not expand on that? By bringing the Spyrers into 40k, GW could kill two birds with one stone. They’d not only give the Gue’vesa badly needed representation in the forces of the Tau Empire (Isn’t it time for humans to become a permanent part of Tau military forces in the same way as the Kroot and Vespid?), but with whole squads of Orrus, Malcadon, and Jakara Spyrers, their presence would give Tau armies some much needed punch in close combat. They could perhaps even represent their own mini-faction, like the Harlequins, with the Spyre Patriarch and Matriarch serving as HQ choices, Orrus and Jakara as Elite choices, Malcadon and Yeld as Fast Attack choices, with possibly new Spyrer suits added in, with the bulk of the force composed of the traditional Gue’vesa troops, who would be a hybrid of Imperial Guardsmen and Tau Fire Warriors, similar to the Tau Human Auxiliaries previously seen in the pages of Chapter Approved.

          And lastly, there are the Underhive Gangers, who at a glance would seem a tough fit outside of the context of Necromunda. After all, what would Underhive Gangers of Houses Orlock, Goliath, Escher, Van Saar, Delaque, or Cawdor be doing on the battlefields of the 41st millennium? Nevermind Scavvies, Redemptionists, and Ratskins. When you think about it, though, why wouldn’t they be there? There are tens of thousands of hive worlds in the Imperium, and in the upcoming 8th edition timeline, nearly every Imperial planet is enmeshed in a war of some kind or another. Wouldn’t the gangers of those worlds potentially play some role? While most gangers across the Imperium wouldn’t necessarily be members of the Necromundan houses, the models could be treated as being representative of gangers on other hive worlds. In addition, their presence on the battlefield could easily be explained away. They could have been conscripted into the PDF as an ad hoc formation and forced to fight alongside the Adeptus Arbites, Astra Militarum, or even the Adeptus Astartes forces fighting to defend their home world (Not to mention the Redemptionists, who could be fanatical followers of any Ministorum Priests present on the battlefield). They could represent rebellious Imperial citizens who’ve been corrupted by Chaos Cults, Genestealer Cults, or who’ve even chosen to rebel against the planetary governor of their own volition based off heretical notions like “freedom”, “democracy”, and “representative government.” Or maybe they’re taking advantage of the fog of war between Imperial and Xenos forces to attack one or both sides and steal valuable military hardware, either for their own use or for sale on the planetary black market. There are countless possible reasons to justify the presence of Underhive Gangers on the battlefields of 40k, either as an allied contingent or even, if a player feels inclined to do so, their own separate force.

          There are numerous advantages to bringing back Necromunda as a stand-alone game. Whether as a companion piece for Shadow War: Armageddon which offers greater rules depth and compatibility, or to serve as a vehicle through which GW can produce models and characters which normally wouldn’t be made, but which nonetheless give the Warhammer 40,000 universe its distinctive character. Whether it’s the Underhive Gangers of Houses Goliath, Escher, Van Saar, Cawdor, Delaque, and Orlock, Outlanders like the Ratskins, Scavvies, Redemptionists, and Spyre Hunters, hired guns like Underhive Scum, Bounty Hunters, and Pit Fighters, known rogues like Kal Jerico and “Mad” Donna Ulanti, or the Enforcers of House Helmawr’s rule, all give the 40k universe more richness and depth. Rereleasing Necromunda would not only bring back an incredibly colorful and exciting game, it’d also open the door to giving gamers within the 40k universe an even wider array of gaming options to play with.



TIER 3 – KILL TEAM

          The Kill Team rules which were first released with 6th edition saw a recent rerelease, one which I was delighted to see. Unfortunately, no modifications were made to the rules, which from the start were clearly something that had been quickly thrown together as a footnote to the release for the 6th edition of the game. And while it’s a fun set of rules, it seems to have been supplanted by the tighter and better developed Shadow War (Which isn’t surprising, given that Shadow War is based off Necromunda, which itself was as a full-fledged game with more development time devoted to its creation than the Kill Team rules undoubtedly received). Unfortunately, Shadow War is no replacement for Kill Team. For one, Shadow War is far more limited in its choice of units than you would see in Kill Team. Space Marines, for example, aren’t allowed to use Tactical Squads, Sternguard Veterans, or Bike Squads, Astra Militarum aren’t allowed to use Ogryns, Ratlings, or Tempestus Scions, and so on. Likewise, the scale of Shadow War doesn’t allow for the inclusion of psykers, vehicle transports, or light walkers. Shadow War is also very specifically geared around combat in an Underhive, whereas a Kill Team mission could occur on any kind of battlefield, from a hive city to a jungle or a desert. There is clearly a need for a game at Kill Team’s level, occupying a tier just above Shadow War, and there are several ways to further distinguish it from Shadow War.

          The first way to distinguish it would of course be with the rules. A revamped Kill Team would have to be rebuilt from the ground up, possibly based on the upcoming 8th edition rules, rather than using a modified 2nd edition rules system, which is what Shadow War does. Also, unlike Shadow War, a proper Kill Team game wouldn’t be about playing through a campaign where individual models gain experience and level up. Units in a Kill Team game are already highly trained veterans, and as such would already begin as highly adept and capable individuals with unique skills, as denoted by the Specialist rules. Rules which could be expanded in such a way that every member of a Kill Team could potentially be upgraded into a Specialist for a set points value.

Schaeffer: Shoot any officers you see in there!
Fingers: Which ones? Ours or theirs?
          The size of a standard force in Kill Team is another difference. What that specific size should be is up for debate, but I have an idea of how to determine an appropriate size. I’m certainly biased, but I think a revamped Kill Team game should be designed around accommodating the most famous Kill Team of them all, Colonel Schaeffer’s Last Chancers. It’s a perfect exemplar of what a Kill Team game should offer and could be, as the Last Chancers are more than simply a unit of Veteran Guardsmen, as they're all Specialists in one way or another, they're led by one or possibly two heroes (Assuming Kage is included), and would be accompanied by a vehicle transport. It’d also give GW a reason to produce a plastic remake of the classic Last Chancers squad set which features Colonel Schaeffer, Grease Monkey, Shiv, Scope, Warrior Woman, Hero, Animal, Brains, Fingers, Rocket Girl, Ox, and Demolition Man. Add in Lieutenant Kage and a Chimera (Which all thirteen of them, Kage included, would be able to fit into. Grease Monkey wouldn’t count against the 12-man transport capacity of the Chimera as he’s the driver), and that would be an ideal starting point. Particularly if the Last Chancers box were compatible with an Astra Militarum Veteran Squad kit, like the one I suggested earlier for Shadow War: Armageddon, as well as standard Imperial Guard parts. That way players would have the option of either playing with the Last Chancers in their Kill Team games as they are, or put together their own custom units for both Shadow War and Kill Team using a mix of parts from those various sources.

          The Last Chancers are also a prime example of how the existing Kill Team rules stifle creativity and narrative options. Under those rules, there would be no option allowing for Colonel Schaeffer, because HQ models are specifically excluded from becoming a choice (And even if they were allowed, a Colonel would normally have to be accompanied by his Command Squad). However, by rebuilding the game from the ground up as its own game, rather than a kludged together adaptation of existing rules, GW could review the options for each faction on a case-by-case basis and find instances where, say, an HQ option or a Heavy Support option should be an allowable choice for a Kill Team mission (A similar example is the Inquisition Kill Team, which should allow for Inquisitors to lead them, as that’s the scale where an Inquisitor is most likely to appear in), as well as instances where existing units may be granted entirely new weapon options, in the same way that the Last Chancers have access to weaponry normally unavailable to Veteran Squads and are even capable of wielding heavy weaponry single-handed rather than being forced to form heavy weapon teams. On top of which, the Last Chancers can also serve as an example of what GW could do with other factions, by creating “Special Character” Kill Team sets where potentially each model within the box is a minor named character and has a specific set of skills and equipment. Whether it’s an already existing unit which fits precisely that mold, like Kill Team Cassius, or potential new teams, like Kaptin Badrukk and his Freebooterz, or Inquisitor Czevak leading an Inquisitorial Retinue in search of lost Xenos artifacts, there are countless possibilities for creating characterful Kill Team sets where each Kill Team member has a name and a distinguishing character trait. Two such Kill Teams could potentially even serve as the starting forces in a Kill Team boxed set (I.E. “KILL TEAM: ARMAGEDDON”, featuring Colonel Schaeffer’s Last Chancers against Boss Zagstruk and his Vulcha Boyz).

          Kill Team could also be the place where pre-existing smaller forces with only a small number of units available to them, such as the Adeptus Custodes, Harlequins, and the Inquisition, are given a place to truly shine. A single unit of Adeptus Custodes, for instance, could potentially be the entire Kill Team (And would fit better if they were in a game designed to take 2+ Save models like them into account rather than arbitrarily banning them, as they are under the current rules). And as with the Tier 1 and Tier 2 games, a Kill Team game could serve as the means to introduce new units and models which currently don’t exist in 40k, and which would be best represented by the scale of play in Kill Team. It could be the place, for instance, where the full range of Adeptus Arbites units become available, like riot control vehicles, bike mounted Arbitrators, and airborne hovercraft. The Chaos Magus and Rogue Psyker suggested for Tier 1 could be the foundation of a more well-rounded Chaos Cult force, one which includes a Cultist Coven Leader, Imperial vehicles retasked to serve the cult’s needs (Similar to how Genestealer Cults appropriate Goliath Trucks and Goliath Rockgrinders for their own use), mutants (Perhaps the Scavvies which would already be available in Necromunda), Beastmen, and other abHumans, all fighting alongside the pre-existing Chaos Cultist models.

          Wholly new forces could be introduced through a Kill Team game as well. The Rogue Trader, Eldar Corsair, and Exodite Lord suggested in Tier 1 could potentially reappear here with several varied kinds of troops at their back. GW could also reach back to the lore found in the old Realm of Chaos books and use Kill Team to reintroduce the Illuminati and the Sensei to the 40k setting. The biological sons and daughters of the Emperor, the Sensei are immortals born in ages long before the founding of the Imperium during a time when the Emperor still walked among mortal men and women. The Sensei are a wild card in galactic affairs which have gone ignored for far too long, and it's time for them to make a reappearance. A Kill Team boxed game would be the ideal way to bring them back into the limelight, as they and the Illuminati pursue unknown ends which sometimes put them into conflict with Xenos, Chaos, or even Imperial forces. Kill Team could even be the place where John Grammaticus and the Perpetuals make their first foray to the tabletop.

          A Kill Team game as described above offers one additional advantage as well. It could serve as an excellent test bed for potential new full-fledged armies for 40k itself. For instance, why commit the resources to producing a Hrud, Demiurg, or Exodite Dragon Knight army without having any idea if they’d be popular or not? But by first producing models for them for a Kill Team game and allowing them as allied units in 40k, GW could gauge their relative popularity and make a more informed decision as to whether it’d be worthwhile to expand those factions even further. They may ultimately decide that a handful of units is more than enough for those forces and leave it at that, but they may find that one or more of those concepts is popular enough to justify their becoming a full-fledged force, one which they could slowly build up through Kill Team and allied units until they at last become a fully realized and well-rounded army.

TIER 4 – WARHAMMER 40,000

          This one needs no explanation, of course. The final tier would be Warhammer 40,000 itself, as anything bigger would be the size of an Apocalypse game or be relegated to the world of 10mm or 6mm gaming (Although personally, I’m in favor of seeing the return of Epic 40,000). The one difference here is that those models which normally wouldn’t find a home within 40k, but which could appear in the lower tier games, would be given rules so that players could use their models from those games in their 40k games. Rogue Traders, Adeptus Arbites, Underhive Gangs, Spyrers, Sensei, Exodite Dragon Knights, Chaos Cultists, Colonel Schaeffer’s Last Chancers, and more could be given appropriate rules so that all could fill a role on the battlefields of the 41st millennium if their players so choose.

          And those are just some of the ways in which Games Workshop could create a viable gaming ecosystem around Warhammer 40,000. One which helps recruit new players into the setting and encourages them to add more and more models to their collection in order to try out the larger games in the subsequent gaming tiers, all while giving veterans who perhaps are tired of playing larger battles a different way to play using their existing collection of model as well as a reason to buy models which they may not purchase otherwise. There's a lot of untapped potential in approaching the Warhammer 40,000 universe as a mutually-supporting ecosystem of games rather than a single game, an ecosystem which caters to various styles of gaming while selling possibly non-overlapping customer bases the same line of models. With any luck, GW will one day realize that potential and make full use of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Doing the Happy Dance (Or: Revisiting My Hopes for 8th)

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."             A little over a month ago I wrote a blog post titled A Cr...