In the beginning there was an idea, let’s not play another skirmish scale campaign and instead play a narrative campaign of the big game, Warhammer 40,000. This meant a lot of work for Bill and I but we eventually roped some other people into playing at the Sentry Box and elsewhere in Calgary. I’m still not sure who is winning, but it isn’t me.
I however have typed up over twenty battle reports and before typing up the next one I thought I would read back through them all in order to better forge the narrative as Bill has apparently been slacking at that.
In the before times
Before the campaign had a silly name, before it even had official participants there was just Bill and I playing a game of Warhammer 40,000 for the first time in almost exactly twenty years. I had recently bought Kill Team and I thought that was a more realistic scale for an apartment dweller with ever worsening eyesight. I don’t know what possessed Bill to go big in 2022, probably years of being stuck with no gaming at the Sentry Box during the pandemic, but he complains repeatedly about the chaos he has unleashed on the galaxy or at least Calgary.
I would of course be using the Diseased Sons, the same army I was using last time Bill and I played twenty years ago. Bill would not be using Orks instead he would be defending the Imperium against enemies foreign, domestic, alien, and immaterial.
There have been many heroes of the Diseased Sons: Oderous the Unclean, Leperous the Obese, and sandwiched between Epilepsius the Unbalanced and Malefactor the Marred in a censored data slate was a nearly forgotten figure who had never been documented leading a major campaign, Maceo the Maligned. Would he rise to glory or would he fall and endure the wrath of fickle gods?
Before the campaign could start we had to learn the new to me 9th Edition rules, as apparently I don’t know everything. More miniatures were dusted off McFly the Malevolent, Boris the Defiler even a much derided rhino APV. The great rebasing of 2022 was contemplated and begun, maybe in 2023 or 2024 it will be complete.
As Bill fleshed out his plans and attempted to find additional participants for his experiments more models were dusted off and tried on the table terminators and cultists made of lead oh my. Alas defeat greeted them in the grim darkness of the world’s largest gaming store.
Shadowy figures began to emerge bleary eyed but not yet warped into being brushy tailed. Are they Dark Angels, have they Fallen, or are they merely pawns deceived by promises made by the Chaos Gods or Bill? Mr. Piggie, Vaal the Asharian, Nixan, and Skink threw there lot in with the Diseased Sons, now truly a hive of scum and villainy.
Warhammer 40,000 only becomes more complicated with every book released and data slate updated. There are a lot of campaign rules, relics, and agendas. My starting forces began to take shape with Cancerous the Extremely Naughty and Billalexdevin being added and McFly being removed, will we see his beatific face again?
It Begins, Vanithros’s Bastion must fall!
The forces of the Ultramarines and the Chosen Sons of Mortarion, the Diseased Sons, the Death Guard, led by Maceo the Maligned met at censored coordinates in the Pariah Nexus, the galactic sector which housed the mysterious Vanithros’s Bastion, both forces trying to sweep and clear. Skulking in the shadows were the Fallen. Would the enigmatic Aeldari be drawn into the conflict, would a random space hulk filled with orks crash on the planet mid-battle, who knows. The Chaos Gods are notoriously fickle and the warp storms know no master.
In the second week McFly the Malevolent officially joined the campaign, perhaps he was delayed due to being tired from all that practice. Having defeated the Ultramarines in their initial skirmish the newly reinforced Diseased Sons had to randomly sweep and clear again, this time it was the Dark Angels Chapter of Space Marines impeding their path or was it? Elsewhere in the Pariah Nexus the Aeldari did predictably appear, there was no rejoicing.
The third week of the campaign was marked with the appearance of the Sisters of Battle. Surely mere women could not stop the Diseased Sons from seizing the supply cache now that they were further reinforced by the Hellbrute known as Toe Jam? There was pitched hand to hand combat in some back alleys of some inconsequential settlement, with Maceo failing to kill the Canoness as darkness fell.
There were now five opposing forces in the Pariah Nexus. What does Vanithros’s Bastion contain? Does it contain treasure, forbidden knowledge, the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe or is it merely a MacGuffin? Having failed to secure the supply cache and kill the Canoness, Maceo was in a truly foul mood before being forced to confront both the Ultramarines and the Aeldari. Had they allied against the Diseased Sons? Regardless, Nurgle hates blue armour.
If only I had remembered the true power of the Contagion of Nurgle, Bagonhead the Unbearable would not have had to been so heroic.
The enbiggening of my starting five man plague marine squads had begun but I’m actually wondering if nine is not the sweet spot because more plague marines is clearly better and they’ll never be a true gun line. Nine model squads leave room for a character in the rhino. Twenty weeks of hindsight is all well and fine but I’m telling all y’all it’s a sabotage that I have to keep fighting the Fallen or am I fighting the Fallen? Can the Right Hard Posse turn their hope into rot?
On Easter Sunday it fell to Maceo and McFly to try and defeat two enemy forces simultaneously. Would twenty plague marines be enough? What if they painted their armour purple would that make a difference? And why do the Fallen keep lurking in the shadows do they have something to hide? And is everyone aligned against the Diseased Sons? Will the Farseer ever tire of Dooming chaos space marines?
In this battle, Billalexdevin earned the Mark of Shame.
Once again the Diseased Sons faced off against their newest and most hated foes the Ultramarines. Take that Iron Hands! Could Maceo the Maligned complete the ritual in time? Would this remove the shame of Billalexdevin or the disgrace of the Cancer Cell? The Siege of Vanithros’s Bastion was long and the battle scars were earned.
Having completed the ritual and defeated the Ultramarines once more would a Chris finally join the campaign? What about a Kris? Or would we have to settle for a Thomas and an Aiden? Does twice as many players make the campaign go twice as long or does that rule only hold for four-way games versus two-way games? Would the next game be a complete catastrophe and why do the Ultramarines, the Sisters of Battle and the Fallen all want to stop your humble narrator and his Diseased Sons?
This game did feature my most successful Blight Bombardment, how many Sisters of Battle died? Stumpy, spawn of chaos didn’t have enough fingers to count, maybe he’ll grow some more. Once again Maceo could not kill the Canoness in hand to hand combat. He did earn a second Chaos Boon. Other Diseased Sons gained battle honours after this lengthy four army confrontation.
When the dust settled and a new day dawned Maceo the Maligned stared across the battlefield at the Aeldari once more. Where had they come from, what do they want? Would the addition of Killious Bilious the Silliest turn the tide of battle in the Diseased Sons’ favour, did he possess crucial intelligence on how to defeat the Aeldari?
After suffering defeat at the delicate and dainty hands of the Aeldari, Maceo the Maligned learned of a new Chaos Lord in the Pariah Nexus, would Lord Godrick be a friend or a foe? Chaos on Chaos conflict soon commenced because there can be only one Lord of Chaos in the Pariah Nexus.
Who would dominate the field this day? Maceo did defeat multiple Chaos Knights in melee combat, one even had to be struck down twice.
With Lord Godrick escaping Maceo’s grasp and the Aeldari presumably off doing something enigmatic, could the Diseased Sons defeat the Ultramarines yet again, could they dominate the field, or would their hope turn to rot?
In the twelfth week of the Siege of Vanithros’s Bastion campaign it fell to the forces of the Diseased Sons to fight two battles on the same day. Where are all these armies coming from, Imperial Fists, Orks, and Adeptus Custodes arriving made the Pariah Nexus even more conflicted. Maceo defeated Waaargh ‘Eadripper but could not overcome the golden host with the most difficult to spell rules. Win or lose, battle scars would be earned.
Is that a Chaos Knight I see towering off in the distance or is the Pariah Nexus playing tricks on our sensors yet again? The Shroud is as inexplicable as it is impenetrable. As the battle climaxed, Maceo the Maligned and the Ultramarine Gravis Captain met in hand to hand combat, who would triumph? Would Maceo the Maligned ever achieve daemonhood?
Daemonhood exceeded Maceo’s grasp, after once again failing to kill the enemy commander in mortal combat, despite undertaking a successful flanking maneuver, the fickle forces of chance had had enough. Having been struck down by Lord Godrick for what turned out to be the final time, what made its way back to the Diseased Sons lines was barely humanoid, but it clutched a familiar looking mace…
News of Maceo’s untimely demise spread quickly through the Pariah Nexus and a certain Gravis Captain was eager to take advantage of the Diseased Sons’ weakened state. Who would win during the Obolis Incursion? Is this yet another MacGuffin? With McFly now leading the Diseased Sons he chose the path of calculated eradication and of course he had to turn their hope into rot. Was it a victory for the Diseased Sons or was it a victory for the Ultramarines? Does it even matter to Khorne?
Fresh off his less than triumphant draw, McFly had no choice but to soldier on as the campaign entered a new phase. Forces were now divided up into a Chaos contingent so the Alpha Legion, the renegade Knights and the Death Guard were no longer enemies instead attempting to defeat the combined might of the Ultramarines, the Imperial Fist, the Sisters of Battle, the Adeptus Custodes and any Xenos scum that may have temporarily allied with them. Was there any doubt who would win, evil will always triumph over good, because good is dumb.
After a long march, the Diseased Sons infiltrated the ring and turned the Imperial Fists’ hope into rot.
The very next week Bill changed his mind and forced the Death Guard to again attempt to destroy the ever more powerful Lord Godrick. Can you kill a Chaos Knight with a plague knife or a bolter shell? Would the Chaos Knights even bother to hunt for tech or would they just stomp on everything arrayed before them? Would you believe Aiden got tired of winning?
After not getting tabled by the Chaos Knights only the Ultramarines were brave enough to confront the Diseased Sons. Would the Ultramarines methodically eradicate their opposition or was today in fact not a good day to die? Had Captain Acheran and the Avenging Sons of Ultramar grown tired of winning too? Regardless an ill ash wind was blowing across the battlefield as the opposing forces crept into position.
First the Chaos Space Marines received a new codex, then the Chaos Daemons received a new codex and with the Chaos Knights already running wild crushing all who oppose them in their giant metallic fists, everything was coming up chaos.
Joining the campaign was a certain podcaster and finally the campaign would have a Kris. Alas the battle to see who the dice hate most would have to wait as the golden host with most difficult to spell special rules were declared the official opposition of the ever growing forces of the Diseased Sons. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I lost the first key roll of the game.
After twenty weeks of extremely difficult campaigning there would be no golden armoured super soldiers arrayed before the Diseased Sons this week, instead the “green” tide of Waaagh ‘Eadripper was back and they brought a Kill Bursta tank this time. My tradition of rolling ones to start the game continued.
Apparently, Beasts of Nurgle take a long time to rebase and touch up, starting that project randomly has hurt the Diseased Sons as no reinforcements have appeared on an actual battlefield for a long long time. We haven’t even gotten to see the family squabble of Nurgle versus Nurgle instead we got more complaints from Bill and even more orks joining the campaign, apparently green is good. But I used to play orks many many editions ago and I can tell a choppa from a big choppa.
With the orks now being everywhere could the stunties be far behind? I haven’t gotten to fight against them but I hear the Leagues of Votann are in fact strong. But alas it was again time for Chaos on Chaos crime as the Alpha Legion get up to their old tricks, or do they have new tricks?
After almost a full year of campaigning with the Diseased Sons, the Chosen Sons of Mortarion, the Sons of Barbarus, have I learned anything? Well after reviewing every single battle report and summarizing them for the greater good, I decided I would add a short list of learnings.
1) More than ever, 40K has become an arms race
You may start the campaign with your warlord having a power weapon and a snazzy hat, but others will be bringing relic weapons and armoured fighting vehicles just short of a titan. GW very much increases its codices in power as an edition goes on, so armies with the latest greatest codex will be difficult to defeat even with balanced data slates contemptuously throwing crumbs at the older armies. A knife and a bolter is not cutting edge weaponry in the 41st Millennium.
2) Complexity increases as the campaign goes on
The 9th Edition of Warhammer 40,000 is complicated enough but as the campaign went on there were an ever increasing number of new agendas, stratagems, relics, honours, and scars to remember. Units gained objective secured and improved armoured saves while others lost benefits, the rules as written were no longer always the rules as written. Attempts by GW to rebalance points have little affect on a campaign using power level.
3) Don’t permanently lose your warlord
The most important roll of the entire campaign may have been the random third Chaos Boon I attempted to generate. I was learning the rules as I went and for the good of the narrative repeatedly took random boon. Other codices may have rules that give players setbacks but losing your warlord and any relics he may have is a major setback, much worse than losing an eye or picking up the Mark of Shame. The Diseased Sons have arguably not recovered.
Other warlords which have not been permanently turned into Chaos Spawn have only become more and more powerful as the campaign has gone on. Maceo could have been alive with a legendary campaign relic of his choosing, let some other minor character try to randomly become a Daemon Prince or just requisition one. If rumours are true you can have two Daemon Princes using the new Arks of Omen rules.
4) Become a good bookkeeper
There are a lot of rules to keep track of and a lot of record keeping that must be done in a narrative campaign. The three random rolls to generate your initial disease can give the Death Guard a random boost or it can just force you to play oddly. You’ll have to choose agendas over and over which can earn you Virulence points. There is a relic which can make tailoring your disease more feasible and less random but when the primary and perhaps only model that can spread the disease turns into a chaos spawn, did I mention this was a major setback? But as you may have already guessed, it was also a cause of additional record keeping. I could have just selected the relic that makes tailoring your disease easier, no randomness, no risk.
As the campaign has entered a new phase I must try to accomplish a new set of challenging agendas to collect corruption points. I never spent my inflection points which now seem useless, so less than MacGuffins. As the campaign goes on you must keep track of various tallies, many agendas have them, and your tactics may need to majorly change to achieve these suddenly high priority agendas all the while attempting to spread your disease and please your patron.
5) Maneuverability is paramount
You might want to use the same models you’ve used for twenty plus years trusting in their resilience and their trusty bolter and rusty knife, but being slow is a huge disadvantage in many of the missions you’ll encounter during the campaign. You may think you can hunker down or stoically advance but in order to spread the disease or gain corruption points or pursue some other MacGuffin you will be forced to play against type, so running a foot slogging list of plague marines or ork boyz will be a hard slog in a lengthy campaign. I’m not saying a line of guys with guns couldn’t do well, but given the sheer number of different missions, agendas, and campaign rules, planning to just stay in your deployment zone and fire away may not be optimal 100% of the time.
There are ways to improve the maneuverability of the Death Guard but they’ll likely never be a fast and manoeuvrable force. Obviously GW wants me to buy more models, say fast attack daemon engines, but somehow I have not. Enhanced engines was very powerful on Lord Godrick and the similar fleet of foot rule will benefit many units, basically a couple extra inches of movement or a rule that gives you a more reliable advance roll will prove valuable over the course of a campaign.
Tabling your opponent does not guarantee victory, I think I lost a practice game that way, but see my very first observation, as the campaign goes on bigger and more powerful models will frequently be encountered, so you will be tabled at some point. So in addition to finding ways to increase the mobility of your units you’ll want to increase the lethality of your starting force. I don’t think we’ve ever played a larger campaign game than 50 Power. So I should be giving Deadly Pathogens and Relics of Decay to every single unit champion that can have one instead of recruiting yet more plague marines.
This post has gotten long enough. I can write additional briefer learnings another day. If you’ve learned anything from reading this summary of year one of our Warhammer 40,000 narrative campaign you can leave a comment below. I’m mainly playing for fun and to dust off and get some use out of my miniature collection, but I assure you it is a lot of work trying to modernize an army started in 2nd Edition, this is why I’ll probably never go back to my Rogue Trader era Orks. I would do things differently if we do another narrative campaign, but by then it may be the 10th Edition.