Last week I hit a milestone — I hosted a game night at my place for the first time since moving to Oregon. Huzzah! I regularly hosted games with my old game club back in Chicago, and ever since relocating to Oregon I found that was the thing I missed the most — getting some friends together for an evening of fun with toy soldiers. The group last week was a mishmash of friends from work (who in turn brought some of their friends from the local theater), as well as a couple guys I had gotten to know through Facebook.
The one thing we all had in common was a more-than-passing familiarity with Warhammer 40,000, so we decided to try out One Page 40k, the free, fan-made supplement designed to give a little taste of tabletop gaming in the grim darkness of the far future.
I’m a huge fan of rules-lite games in general, so I was particularly excited to try out 1P40K. I’m one of those rare gamers who is unimpressed by your huge rulebooks and encyclopedic knowledge of whatever game. I get a few hours per month for miniatures games, so I’m focused like a laser on anything that lets me maximize my time spent actually playing a game. Rules-lite games are a great starting point.
I had six (!!) players last week, so I set up a basic 3-on-3 team game and perched on a nearby chair to serve as gamemaster. We all agreed that this would be a learning game, and mistakes were encouraged as they helped us learn the rules. Here’s a look at the battlefield at the start of the game.
So many new friends! I am rich beyond measure.
All but two of the players had their own 40k miniatures, which was awesome. On the left we had two Chaos players plus a Necron player. On the right: a strange alliance of Orks, Imperial Guard and Tau. The industrial facility in the center included three objectives (described at the outset of the game) that the players could battle over.
The game got underway, and we began to put 1P40K through its paces. I’ve played quite a bit of In the Emperor’s Name, which is a skirmish-sized ruleset for fighting battles between Inquisitorial retinues and chaos warbands in the 40k universe. ITEN is playable but still fairly rough around the edges, and it doesn’t really support more than maybe 10-15 figures per side.
By contrast, 1P40K is specifically designed to play 40k-sized battles — maybe 30+ models per side, plus a couple vehicles. And even though it’s a ruleset that prizes brevity above all, there’s still a satisfying amount of crunch to the rules. We found ourselves nodding sagely over any number of little details or special rules that we uncovered during our game. They all made sense and it was clear why the author included them. That’s the sign of an internally consistent game design.
The one thing that 1P40K doesn’t do is try to approximate the actual gameplay of current edition Warhammer 40k. A typical turn, while familiar enough to most players, doesn’t feel like a turn of 40k. Phases are different, and game terms aren’t transferable (1P40K uses “block” instead of “armor save” when trying to shrug off hits). The game also uses alternating unit activation, which is a great mechanic that I wish more games would embrace, as it keeps the other players much more engaged throughout.
So all of that is my way of saying that while this is a tremendously fun and playable game, it doesn’t really prepare you for a full-fledged game of Warhammer 40k. That’s fine by me! I like the models and story of the 40k universe, but I’m not looking for a stepping stone to the full 40k game (in all its overwrought, cumbersome glory).
The other players pretty much agreed with this assessment. We were particularly impressed with the low entry threshold to get started with 1P40K. There’s the eponymous One Page 40k Rulebook, plus a longer, more thorough rulebook called the Beginner’s Guide, plus a few supplements covering damn near every newfangled model that’s been released over the last couple decades. It’s all free and downloadable off ye olde Internet!
Clearly a lot of work has gone into these rules. 1P40K is just one part of a larger mini-empire of rules, all produced by fans for fans of the games. Just in the last month or so they’ve been moving toward a Patreon system of soliciting pledges from users to fund new content. Just based on my first brush with 1P40K last week, I’m definitely inclined to support this kind of thing.
Oh! I almost forgot. Here are a few pics of a truly epic clash that took place in our game last week. Sarah’s Chaos Daemon Prince was flying around the battlefield looking for something to carve up, and Jimbo was only too happy to oblige by sending his Ork Warboss into close combat.
The Warboss was dispatched in due course, leaving the Daemon Prince temporarily exposed in the center of the battlefield. Paul’s Tau managed to bring a fearsome array of firepower to bear on the poor Daemon Prince, but even after rolling 24 dice, the Prince still survived. We commemorated the magnificent fusillade of gunfire by replacing the terrain piece with a huge smoking crater.
Truly a 40k moment if there ever was one.
Anyway, the game night was a great success! I’m not sure if it showed in the photos, but each player only fielded two squads and a hero … we didn’t even worry about points. The idea was to just throw some guys on the table and get started playing. So, after the game everyone was excited to invigorated to paint miniatures, build up a proper army list, and meet up again soon to try this game out again!