Last night was a blast from the past. I'd been threatening my Tuesday night gaming buddies that I'd be running a retro throwback game of Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader in the spirit of good old late 80's gaming.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend I'd dug out much of my old 40K collection, predominantly figures collected between 1987 and 1993. I'd set about putting together 7 forces and the scenario for the game. There were several things I really enjoyed about the Rogue Trader games of my youth. Having started the game as an alternative for our D&D group, we were still very much in the role-playing mindset. Many of our games reflected some manner of storyline, something the rules very much encouraged. For this particular game I was looking to make a multi-sided engagement with competing agendas and perhaps some surprises. Those familiar with Rogue Trader will recall that it's not exactly a swift game with multiple sides and that lots of quirky rules would result in very long games. My setting for Tuesday night gaming was a game store with only about 4 hours of time max. So something had to give and it wasn't going to be the quirky rules.
What went out the door was the IGOUGO turn sequence. Instead of going round robin with each player taking a turn sequence, I instead tapped into a little of Epic inspired command tokens and the use of simultaneous phases- a first fire phase, charge phase, advance & fire, reserve, psychic, and rally phases. Fire would be simultaneous in each shooting phase aside from overwatch, and conflicts with movement would be settled by local initiative only when necessary. Pretty much everything else stayed per the rules and forces were drawn up from material in the original 40k book, the Astronomican/Chapter Approve supplement, and the red Compendium books.
The scenario for the game would be the ubiquitous planetary revolt so common in the 40K background fluff since the beginning of the game. In this case I wanted to add rebels, loyal and traitor planetary defense forces (aka Imperial Guard), Space Marines, and an eclectic force of gun running independent alien traders.
What follows are the forces I originally put together based on 7 players and myself as a non-playing GM. Of course no plan survives contact with scheduling 8 adults on a weeknight, so the end state ending up being 5 of us all playing.
The first two commands were Space Marines and were both played in the game.
Player 1- A lieutenant minor hero "Graxis", medic champion, techmarine with rhino, and a basic tactical squad.
Player 2- A librarian Codicier "Bewlogh Jax", 2 assault squads, a dreadnought, and a techmarine. All had jump packs. The specific goal of the librarian was to capture or take out a rogue psyker in the rebel force.
The planetary defense force commands were altered somewhat.
Player 3- A lieutenant "Daylor", commissar, command section, 2 tactical squads, a thudd gun, and Adeptus Mechanicus techpriest. In the original game plan the lieutenant had originally been a conspirator in the rebellion, but recently changed sides and needing to take out the rebel commanders so the marines or his commissar would not realize his treachery. In the actual game, we made this force a rebel force from the beginning.
The unused imperial guard force was another lieutenant "Raul Keppler", command section, a tactical squad and an Ogryn squad. Ogryn are really tough in the game and I'm a bit disappointed we didn't get to try them again. Raul's mission was to try and link up with the alien pirates to escape off planet in employ as mercenaries.
Of the official rebels, 1 of the 2 forces was fielded.
The unused force was a charismatic high leadership champion and 3 squads of rabble each with basic weapons and a heavy bolter. Also included in this force, and retained for the game, were pits that could be placed around the rebel base and several crates of supplies from alien gun runners that were random weapon rolls during the game.
Player 4 (yours truly) was another rebel force under the command of the traitor magistrate Rankin Bass. Rankin's retinue was a slightly modified command section (no medic, and the heavy weapons were a heavy stubber and lascannon), a squad of ratling snipers, a squad of penal legion troopers, a rhino, and a rogue psyker. Rankin had betrayed the alien traders in their last dealings and kept the money.
And then there were the aliens...
Player 5 had an Eldar pirate minor hero "E’Trin Z’lourn" , an Eldar pirate "Lightning squad", a squad of 4 Zoats, and a squad of 10 Drantakhs. Now Drantakhs don't exist in the 40K universe officially, never did, however they are exactly the type of alien that would have been in the spirit of the original 40K setting so they were included in a slightly modified template of imperial guard. The sergeant had a needle pistol, the special weapon trooper with a needler, the heavy had a lascannon, and the troopers had autoguns. The Eldar pirate leader, E’Trin Z’lourn, was looking for revenge and after the rebel leaders for killing his cousin in the last arms deal gone bad.
The surface of Paxilon 9 is fairly rough and characterized by rock formations and clustered flora. Primarily a backwater mining world, it only drew the attention of Space Marines due to the request of an embattled planetary governor and the discovery of a rogue psyker assisting the rebels.
Shown below is the rebel staging area and base being attacked by the space marine force as it enters the table.
The alien smugglers attacked from the opposite side on turn 2.
The assault group from the space marine side used their jump packs and initially covered quite a bit of ground. On the other flank, a space marine half squad advanced within the rhino. Of some worry was a lascannon trooper from Rankin's Retinue, but the other half squad of space marines with the missile launcher took out this threat allowing the rhino to advance and in later turns disgorge the half squad with bolters and a flamer right in front of the defenders. Practically all of the rebel heavy weapons and plasma guns on the other side were focused on the assault dreadnought. A few unfortunate rolls of the power field synchronizer resulted in two hits getting through. One caused a leg malfunction and immediately followed by an autocannon (found in the weapon crates) being used to finish off the dread.
However all that fire directed at the dreadnought allowed the jump pack troops to get in, despite losses to pot shots from the guardsmen and ratling snipers taking a slow toll.
The rebel rhino was controlled remotely by Rankin via his communicator to the rhino communicator and its auto-fac and auto-aim systems. It launched smoke grenades, although that does not limit the space marines at all (oops..) and upon disembarking they fire. The retinue command section is eliminated and the 2 remaining ratlings faced with fire from both space marine teams opt to rout.
Meanwhile, the pirate smugglers had a hard time getting into the rebel base. Although lightly guarded by one squad, the surprise pit traps sprung within 12" of the perimeter significantly slowed down the advance. The Zoats did close after losing one to a lascannon, and another wounded by the penal legion troops with bolters. Both the lascannon and bolters were in game upgrades from the smuggler weapon crates, perhaps adding insult to injury. It would however be a foregone conclusion that the rebels would not hold for long...
Towards the end, the librarian charges Rankin, as the ratlings are routing from the wall, but he doesn't realize he's outclassed in this fight. Rankin with a higher initiative strikes first with bolt pistol and sword. The librarian fails both his displacer field and powered armor save. He falls.
The psyker having not succeeded well with his wind blast ability had left the perimeter. In the chaos, Rankin would have a good chance of joining him, however the rest of the rebels were likely to be crushed when we stopped after 5 turns of play. The marines took heavy casualties going into the assault, but then again...Rogue Trader space marines have a toughness of 3.
I had a great time running the game and look forward to doing so again.