+ Battle report: Outskirts of the Plains of Tethys +

+ Battle report: Outskirts of the Plains of Tethys +

A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice: ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker? 

+ A Warhammer 40,000 8th edition battle report +

New Bartle was the last sinktown before the open plains, an exposed and inward-looking frontier settlement, but important as the only reliable source of fresh water for the South-western flats beyond it. It was inevitable that the invaders would strike here – particularly given the warlord Og Throatchoppa's demands for a solid supply line to support a second front in his assault on the coastal cities. 
Unseasonal storms – that some claimed were caused by the atmospheric displacement of the wallowing, hovering starcraft of the green-skinned aliens, and others put down to the Emperor's wrath – had battered the town, but the Arcturan planetary defence forces were dug in around the sink, with ranging patrols exploring the outskirts.  
Hot, heavy rain was lashing one such patrol when the orks emerged from the murk...

+ A Narrative game using lists of 50 power; we played the Patrol mission +

+ Opening moves +

+ Ork boyz and a mob of killa kans advance alongside a big mek. The rain fizzed and boiled in a crackling half-dome over the creature's strange generator, indicating some sort of force field. +

+ The orks close on a temporary command post, defended lightly by a company commander and his retinue, an infantry squad and some ratlings, all sheltering from the rain. +

+ The orks close the gap quickly, racing forward to engage the defenders. Blurted reports from both sides draw in reinforcements – including the fabled Space Marines. +

+ Bolstered by the presence of humanity's champions, the guard turn the street into a killing ground, the central mob being shot to pieces, and one of the killa kans detonating with a dull thump. +

+ ...But there are plenty more where they came from! A mob of orks arrive on the eastern flank, and the big mek jogs to meet them – diving over a hedge to do so. +

+ The battle escalates +

+ As more guardsmen pour in, the killa kans advance on their power-armoured counterparts. As the Astartes and walkers trade fire, a gout of blood is torn from one of the Blood Angels. Grimacing, he gets back to his feet, continuing to fire. +

+ Throatchoppa himself arrives on the field, yelling angrily through the rain for his boyz to 'urry up!' +

+ The guard grenadiers meet the ork charge, but even these elite humans are no match for the raw power and ferocity of the aliens – they are swiftly overwhelmed. +

+ The orks allow the Imperials no space. Desperate screams are heard from the eastern flank, and the central street has turned into a brutal close-in brawl. + 

+ The Astartes struggle with the killa kanz. At last, Brothers Barbarigo and Engel manage to barge one of the clanking behemoths over, pinning it for long enough for Farnese to unload a full magazine into a weak point. Thick, murky blood sobs from the rents in the kan's armour and it falls limp. +

+ The melee in the east continues to rage, bodies steaming in the humid air. More Imperial Guard reinforcements arrive and are drawn in – but the press favours the orks and the squad and their platoon commander are torn apart. +

+ The final killa kan batters aside the Astartes and turns his spiteful attention on Commander Burton-Gogh, seizing him in a wicked claw. The Commander struggles free, bleeding and injured. +

+ Closing stages +

+ As the remaining Imperial forces drive into the centre, Throatchoppa reveals his ace in the hole – a mob of kommandos on the west. +

+ The orks on the Eastern flank start to flounder as they advance into the centre. Their numbers are thinned by disciplined fire from the guard and Astartes. +

+ Throatchoppa's reinforcements finally arrive, but too late – he grunts dismissively and waves forward his kommandos, who leap on and butcher the Rough Riders. +

+ With Burton-Gogh gravely wounded, Sergeant Raphael rallies the guard. Splitting the forces in the centre, he directs the guard to drive off the mob advancing from the east, while his warriors turn to confront Throatchoppa and his kommandos. +

+ With booming bolt and scything laser, the lightly-armoured kommandos are cut down. Seeing how the wind is blowing, Throatchoppa scowls and shakes a threatening fist at the scarlet-armoured champions of humanity before loping off into the rain. +


+ Imperial Victory +

+ The orks have been driven off – this time – but doubtless they'll be back, and in greater numbers... [/Obi Wan] +

+ Well, that was quite an intro to 8th edition! Regular inloaders will recognise Bob Hunk's awesome Blood Axes, who have clearly been plaguing the Imperium for millennia. It was great fun to get the Lamb's World back on the table – orks and guard are a classic match-up; and it was fun to have a new pairing of enemies in place of Nuzzgrond and Dresden. +

+ While it ended with a victory for the Imperium, I think that was down as much to luck as anything. Had Throatchoppa's boyz arrived more evenly – rather than half right at the start, and the rest dribbling in on the final turn – or the central mob had held back a bit to draw the Lamb's Worlders in earlier, I wonder if things would have been different. +

+ Stars of the match for me were Burton-Gogh himself – the rules now allow Guard commanders to be a bit braver – and, of course, the Blood Angels. They were critical to the victory; holding and eventually destroying the killa kanz, who would likely have rampaged through the guard. +

Og Throatchoppa and Maxim Burton-Gogh give each other the stink-eye.
+ We picked the mission to ease us into 8th – it starts with a small number of units on the board, and gradually builds up. +

+ My first impressions are that the game's much cleaner. It is simpler, but that's definitely a plus point for me. Since we play more detailed skirmish stuff when the fancy takes us, it's good to have a good clean system for bigger games. Similarly, we both agreed that the 'power' system of picking an army was quick and simple – both faster and more convenient than the more familiar granular points system. +

+ It did turn into a bit of a scrum in the centre; which meant that my guard were basically forced into the defensive – it was just a case of throwing more men into the melee and hoping we'd outnumber the orks. Not particualrly tactically satisfying, so I hope that a bigger game with a different mission (and perhaps on a bigger board!) would help add a bit of breathing room. +

+ Another big plus is that everything feels a bit more like a company-level game than older editions, which have swung from over-burdened skirmish systems with needlessly complex rules for vehicles and monsters; to soulless exercises in exploiting paper-scissors-stone type mechanics. 8th edition seems to have made basic troops – my favourite thing – more relevant. Ork boyz have received a lot of great boosts, and the order system makes even Imperial guardsmen something to be respected. +

+ So, a cautious thumbs-up from me for 8th edition. I did very much like the command point system, and the cleaner, simpler organisation in both army building and the game itself is very welcome. Perhaps the best bit of all was how much more like the stories the game played – far fewer weird game mechanic interactions, and less need to check the rules (even taking into account our unfamiliarity with the system). +

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