Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Corruption Spreads: A Guide to Introducing W40k to friends and family

Now, for younger readers (I'm 31) who don't have children (I have 2), 40k can be a slightly embarressing secret. The number of online alias names such as Admiral Drax and Raptor1313 demonstrate that 40k (like many cerebral pursuits) is a little beyond the pale when it comes to 'chatting' with friends or colleagues.

Or so I thought...

Going to a gaming night at your local club or 'heavens above' walking into a games workshop can give you a pretty good idea of the variety of social skills on offer. Usually these range from fairly assured through to mildly autistic ... but I digress.

I thought 40k was only for uber geeks, but it appears that everyone has an 'inner geek' just waiting to get out. I've previously had some good success converting my extended family (the in-laws especially) to playing Warhammer 40k. The most successful attempt was done by creating a 150pt each 'gladiator' tournament, where six family members duked it out (the other half ended up winning) each with 150 of elite, troops or combined squad.

My Mother in Law had a Carnifex - she really enjoyed it!

During a recent camping trip I 'talked' about W40k and three friends said that they were interested in playing a game. (To be honest two friends said yes, the girlfriend of one of them said 'alright, but I'm bringing a bottle'...). And so below is a quick synopsis on how to introduce friends to 40k, a rundown of the battle and its impact on them.

Armies - 850 pts a piece.

It should first be explained that I gamesmastered this game. The armies were played by two 'teams' made up of the Tau (managed by an #1 Enthusiastic Friend (EF) and my other half) and the Guard (managed by #2 EF and the less than EF - who is a great friend anyhow, its just not her bag). This meant that I could be trusted to supply the rules, rolls and tactical advice to both sides.

For starters, I deployed the two small armies onto trays (this allowed easier deployment) and made up the following A5 sheet for each side.

As you can see, it gave them a brief rundown of their 'balanced' force, plus some ideas about tactics and what to look out for (which proves very useful to both sides).

The idea was to give them something to hang on to a refer back to. For your convenience, I listed it below.

Guard Army
  • Primaris Psyker (70)
  • Infantry Platoon including:
  • Command Squad with Heavy Flamer, 3 meltaguns and a Powerfist (95)
  • in a Chimera Tank, and heavy flamer (55)
  • Squad #1: Flamer (55)
  • Squad #2: Flamer (55)
  • Squad #3: Grenade Launcher, Autocannon (65)
  • Mortar Squad (60)
  • Veteran Squad: Power fist, plasma pistol, Lascannon, 3 Grenade Launchers (150)
  • 7 Rough Riders (75)
  • Leman Russ Battle Tank: Battle Cannon and 3 Heavy Bolters (170)

Guard Tactics: you have strength in numbers, so don’t worry about casualties too much. Get the Heavy weapons (and their squads) set up in a strong position to attack, place the rough riders (horses) nearby to counter attack any surprise attack units. Dominate the board with the Leman Russ and Chimera Tanks.

Targets: The Tau have specialist units that can damage your army, target those which can do the most damage. Use your specialist weapons, units and vehicle to destroy those threats before they get you. Beware the Broadside on your Tanks! Beware the Stealth Team! Beware the Kroot on the charge! Beware the Tau Commander and Bodyguard on your troops!


Tau Army

  • Shas'El with Air Fragmentation Projector, Flamer, Missile Pod and multitracker (91)
  • Bodyguard with Missile Pod, Twin Linked Flamers, multitracker and 2 Gundrones (78)
  • Crisis Suit Monat with Twin linked Missile Pods, a fusion blaster and multitracker and 2 gundrones (90)
  • 5 XV25 Stealthsuits, led by team leader with 5 Gundrones (205)
  • 12 Firewarriors led by a shas'ui (130)
  • Kroot Carnivore Squad with 12 Kroot, a shaper and 2 Kroot Hounds (124)
  • Broadside Battlesuit team leader with Advanced Stabilisation System, Multitracker, shield drone and marker drone. (135)
Tau Tactics: You don’t have the numbers of the guard, but all your units are tougher in their specialised areas, faster and have fantastic. The Stealth team and Kroot can infiltrate or flank, the battle and stealth suits are all deep strikers (can leap behind enemy lines). The Broadside is an antitank monster and very tough and the Kroot are the best ‘fighters’ on the board.

Targets: You ideally want to deploy second to see what the opposition is going to do. You’re faster than him in most units, plus you can turn up behind or on the flank of his army. Use this to your advantage. Postion the broadside out of sight first turn (he can then walk out and ‘hopefully’ kill a tank. Beware the Leman Russ Battle Cannon on your Battle Suits! Beware Lascannon on the Broadside! Beware flamers on the kroot! Watch out for meltaguns on your Battlesuits!


Next, I started with a brief demonstration of the game process using two models (who moved and then attacked eachother), this gave everyone a brief idea of what might happen in what order.

NB: I find the key to this is to always be aware of the fact that as adults we: a) hate perceived complexity when we cannot understand it, and b) control = engagement = fun.

So once everyone had an idea of the move-shoot-assault process we deployed - which is a nightmare even for experienced players...

Luckily for me, I'd given the Tau (the more complex army) to a team made up of an enthusiatic friend and my other half. So all the 'detailed' options like infiltration/flanking/deep striking were taken by them. The Tau players deployed their firewarriors on the left flank, the Broadside in the centre and the Crisis Suit commander on the right (hidden behind buildings) keeping everything else in reserve. For the Guard (Who went second) they simply deployed across the line.

Importantly, I'd given the more potent codex to the less experienced team. Multitudes of guard (or space marines for that matter) are good in this role as they are a forgiving army. The loss of a squad is really not much bother.

Game Synopsis

Turn 1-2:
The Battle Tank and Chimera (complete with Primaris Psyker inside) rumbled forwards. While the EF Tau player looked worried for his men, the realisation over the advantage of the Tau 'move-fire-move' option dawned on him quickly. In addition, everyone realised just how tough the Broadside was (despite a few rolls of 1 on their part!).

The Guard players were delighted with their mortars ('they're fun!) and had a good time blowing up the fire warriors with both mortar fire and battle cannon fire. Turn three the fire warriors run.

On turn two the XV25 and XV8 monat arrive. The stealth team scare the bejesus out of the guard with their firepower and manage to nearly wipe out AND pin one squad. Meanwhile the combined fire of the firewarriors (not quite routed) and the Tau commanders Air Fragmentation Toy result in the 20 men uber guard squad taking 11 wounds and routing off the board! A brave XV8 made an impressive deep strike and then failed to hit the leman russ at point blank. Deciding that he was 'rubbish' they opted for a do or die on the LR and got him squished...!

Turn 3-4: Turn three went all the Guard way, with the Tau firewarriors running and the rough riders counter charging the XV25's, although the XV25 hit first (frag grenades v stealth 'cover save' - you work it out?) downing 2 horsies the riders hit back and killed all but 3 XV25s. The XV25's routed, got away AND only ran 6", rallying next turn. They then ended up back in combat with the unbuffed rough rider who eventually topped the stealth team in turn 5... in the words of one player - "the longest, most boring fight ever..."

The Chimera rolled forward and managed to kill all the drones AND put a wound on the Broadside. The Broadside managed to chip off the heavy flamer and nothing else! With the mortars, a vets squad, a lethal command squad, a remnant and rough riders holding the stealth team, it looked like the guard had the board.

Then in turn four the Tau command squad (popping out from behind the building that sheltered them from the leman russ) manged to penetrate the side armour of the Chimera with a missile and blow it up! The command squad sheltered for their lives at an objective. Meanwhile the Broadside (now called 'Roger') managed to shake the Leman Russ - so it couldn't move or fire (thank goodness for the AP1!).

Turn 5- end: Finally the kroot flank in turn 5! Charging into the command squad they unlease 47 attacks and suffer one casualty for wiping out the whole Command Squad led by a powerfist commander (Bob) and Psyker (Jeff)! After 4 turns of build up, this was a particularly dramatic entrance. Then then fan out in the 'wooded' objective and wait for the retaliation.

EF Tau comments "Kraut's are well hard!" - well he was nearly right...

Roger (the broadside) finally managed to pop the leman russ with a 7 (6+1), which opened up the front for the crisis suits to rush the vets squad and unleash heavy flamer death! End of turn 5 and the guard hold one objective (by one sergeant), have two 'spent' rough riders and a mortar team.

Meanwhile the Kroot hold one objective (I do point out to the EF Tau that his rock hard Kroot would have taken 15 wounds in the open from the mortars and grenades instead of 4 - he humbles!)

The game ends turn 5 in a draw! The guard opt to hold their objective with the mighty sergeant renamed 'Bruce Willis' (after he avoided a whole 11 kroot rifles AND a Railgun shot!) and the Kroot holding one objective.


The unenthusiastic player was, well, still fairly unenthusiastic... but both the other players enjoyed it a lot. It was a good evening (pizza, beer, wine, garlic bread) and everybody got to try something new. I'd say by turn 3 they all had a pretty good idea about what was happening and although there were several 'moments' where the Guard player complained about the tau all move-fire-moving and the Tau player wondering at the speed of horses - the explanation (complete, usually, with silly sound effects (ED: This is where being a Dad is very important - no shame!)) satisfied all.

All I can suggest is to keep things 'light' throughout and don't worry about getting bogged down at the start. The small size of the army (and the battlefield) proved useful because it meant that casualties were relatively high - speeding the game along towards its conclusion.

The idea is to 'showcase' 40k, so tight adherence to the rules isn't always necessary, the important thing was that the battle swung in control and was dramatic. That and 'naming' characters meant that the players got involved.


"EF - Guard" text me to say she was very pleased with Guardsman Bruce, but that Jeff and Bob were let downs! EF Tau would like to know when I'm next having a game and come and see more...

And so the corruption spreads... A good time had by all!

Have you had fun trying to 'convert' friends to W40k? What's your experience been - let me know...