Friday, January 31, 2014

Hobby Table VIII

Well met noble readers, and welcome back to the Hobby Table.  Today's article was inspired by a somewhat spur of the moment decision on my part, and really features something I love about the hobby; the ability to use the models and the rules as jumping off points for your own ideas.  While I was meandering through the halls at work today I found myself returning again and again to a movie I watched last night, and couldn't help but draw ideas on how to re-create the feeling I got from the film on the tabletop.  So if you fancy a look at some of the ideas I've had so far, then read on as I try to capture the feeling of the film.

So like it or hate it, the film I watched was The Grey, and while I can honestly say it wasn't a perfect movie, it does get a few things very, very right in my opinion.  I basically found myself wanting to watch something new and found this movie on Netflix.  I am a huge fan of Liam Neeson, and had never seen it before, so I thought it was as good a time as any to see it.  I had heard it got negative reviews which had kept me away from it in theaters, but it had always been something I thought about seeing just to judge it for myself.  It has always been my thought that in order to really understand something, you need to try it for yourself, otherwise you risk the chance of missing something that you may enjoy even if others do not, and it is for this sentiment alone that I watched the film.  Now that I have, it's given me some inspiration to try to craft something unique.

Warning: The following paragraph will contain spoilers, but give a brief rundown of the plot of the movie.

Lliam Neeson plays a gruff and tough Irishman trained to keep Alaskan oil drillers safe from wolves while they dig, which we see early on in the flick.  However, after boarding a plane to return to Anchorage, the plane mysteriously crashes after what I believe is damage sustained through heavy turbulence.  After surviving the crash, along with a few other men, they soon find themselves amongst several mangled bodies and wreckage, surrounded by the frigid arctic tundra.  Not long afterwards, the survivors are attacked by feral wolves... and not just any wolves.  Huge ones!  Basically the rest of the film follows the group attempting to navigate their way out of the tundra and search for rescue.  But as they continue to move, they not only face the dangers of the environment, but the relentless attacks of the wolves.

Ok, so looking at the film's production values, namely the plot, the action sequences, and the special effects, it falls a little short.  Honestly there isn't much in these areas that is worth seeing the film over.  However, where the film gets my praise is in the creation of the atmosphere, most of the dialog, the subtle yet gorgeous soundtrack, and the characters.  As I said, they are facing the harsh tundra, and every moment is a bone chilling trudge through snow and ice.  Blizzards, freezing water, and the near eternal darkness are all major factors which lead to several intense moments in the film.  And not only is the environment nearly perfectly depicted, the characters themselves are genuinely interesting to watch, and see their reactions.  Remember that these men are just average guys placed in a horrific situation.  Their dialog (for the most part) is great, and how they react to moments that arise is excellent in my opinion.  It's a shame that so many people judge this movie as being bad due to the short comings of it's production values, because there is a lot here to really make it worth the watch.  The moments of terror come on quickly and many times without warning, while the moments of pain and anguish are drawn out slowly and, well painfully.  These are great elements to capitalize on, especially given the source material was only a short story.  Judging the film, I'd easily give it a solid, well-earned 7/10.

So how does this have anything to do with 40k?  Well let me explain.  While This could be used for more than just the following, it seems to fit perfectly within the fluff as something that does occur.  While I am not myself one of their ranks... cold, wolves, and fighting for survival sounds exactly like the harsh trials of becoming a Space Wolf.  But as I said, it could be a fun way to really get some other elements of 40k involved.  Not everything in 40k happens because one army clashes with another.  In the vastness of the galaxy, there must be times where things like this happen.  Where few are pitted up against demanding odds, and forced to adapt and overcome not an enemy force, but the environment itself.

For me, I feel like the perfect place to make this scenario specifically (The Grey) work out is by using Space Marine Scouts.  The are resilient, but still feel like human beings.  They also have a variety of options, ranging from melee to shooting, to Heavy Weapons to allow them a chance to make each model diverse and unique.  I'd love to even spice it up further by adding in some other options for them, such as the ability to purchase the sergeant (your Lliam Neeson if you will) power armor, basically making him a little beefier, but not a full fledged Space Marine.  If you like the idea, I'm pretty sure the going rate for Power Armor is 8 points.  This makes the Sergeant capable and ready to deal with the harsh conditions, but still feel vulnerable and not entirely prepared.

So lets get to the meat and potatoes of how to make this happen.  When I ran this, I very simply knew a few good places to start as jumping off points.  First and foremost, this is a small-scale game, so the newly reworked Kill Team rules are perfect.  It gives us rules for treating models independently, we get specialists to help us create some hero-like unit(s), and most importantly it feels balanced and vetted for a start point.  Use these rules as normal, but add the following special rules to make this a game of surviving The Grey, ala the Grim Dark:

Night Fighting
Roll for Night Fighting as normal.  However, if Night Fighting is in effect for the first turn, it remains in play.  Roll a dice at the beginning of each game turn.  If the amount rolled is equal to or above the game turn itself, it remains in play.  If the result is lower than the game turn, Night Fighting rules are no longer used. Should a 6 ever be rolled when making this test, stop rolling.  The fight has come at the dead of night and Night Fighting rules are used for the remainder of the game.

If Night Fighting is not used on the first turn, then roll for it again as per the rule.  However, it is treated as passing on a 3+ instead of the normal 4+.

Designers Note: Codex Wargear or units that ignore night fighting should not be taken.  This is a very important element of the game, and so ignoring it just isn't in keeping with the spirit of the game.

The Terrain
For the sake of making this a harsh climate to exist within challenging, open terrain is considered dangerous terrain.  The harsh winds and freezing temperatures means that being in the open can lead to death quickly.  These conditions only get worse when the sun goes down.  The temperature drops substantially, and not even the environmental systems of Astartes Power Armor can keep out the cold.  Should Night Fighting rules be in effect then dangerous terrain tests are considered to be failed on a roll of a 1 or a 2.

All terrain features are rolled for on their respective Mysterious Terrain tables in the Big Rule Book.

The Survivors deploy in the center of the table.  Their deployment zone is anywhere within 6" of the center of the table.  This creates a 1' diameter circle in the center of the table.  Wolves can deploy anywhere on the table following the rules for Infiltrate.  This deployment can not be stopped by models or wargear which normally stops Infiltrate.

Designers Note: When setting up terrain, Keep in mind that this is supposed to represent a scenario where soldiers are lost and alone.  Try not to use too many ruins or urban style pieces, unless you wish to depict soldier being lost in the remnants of an abandoned city.  For added fun, using pieces like the downed Aquilla Lander in the survivor's deployment zone helps add to the feeling of hopelessness.

Flares, modified cutting torches, or just plain old burning sticks all help to add to the feeling of seeking refuge from the cold.  In order to survive the harsh cold, fire is one of the most precious resources one could ask for.

For the sake of this game type, Fire is treated as one of the Specialist Skills which can be chosen for one of your models.  The bearer of the torch is considered to be using one hand to do so, and in doing so cannot use two-handed weapons, heavy weapons, or any other weapon which requires two hands to operate.  The Torch has an 18" radius area of effect.  When firing at enemy models within this range, they gain no benefit from Night Fighting.  Additionally, the model bearing the torch, and any other friendly models in base to base contact with the bearer do not take dangerous terrain tests from open terrain.  They must still take the test as normal if entering into dangerous terrain.  Torches keep out the cold and the dark, but not much else.

The Wolves
The wolves represent the bloodthirsty enemy of the survivors.  These intruders have disturbed or trespassed into their lands, and they will not abide their presence.  They are fierce, cunning, and vicious hunters.

Ok, so the wolves are basically the enemy force in this scenario.  Find a friend or challenge yourself in a solo game using the following rules for the wolves:

Stat Lines:

Omega Wolf (Outcast) - Use the rules for Fenresian Wolves, but add Rage.
  • This is a 0-1 choice and consists of a single wolf.

Pack Wolves - Use the rules for Fenresian Wolves.

Hunters - Use the rules for Flesh Hounds of Khorne, but remove the Daemon rule.  They do however maintain a 5+ invulnerable save.  They're just that cunning!

The Alpha Wolf - Use the rules for Karanak (The Flesh Hound Upgrade Character), with a few modifications.  Remove the Daemon rule (while again still keeping the 5+ invulnerable).  The Alpha gains a 4+ armor save, 1 additional wound (giving him 3 in total), Feast, and has Rites of Battle (granting all wolves use of his leadership of 10, unless it is lower than their own for any reason).

Feast: If the Alpha Wolf kills a model, it may forgo it's following movement phase to feast on it's prey.  If it does, it regains a single wound lost earlier in the battle, but may not exceed it's maximum number of wounds.  It may act normally from that point on, allowing it to run and declare a charge in the same turn.
  • This is a 0-1 choice and consists of a single wolf.

All wolves have a 2+ invulnerable save against wounds caused by Dangerous Terrain.  They have adapted to the harsh climate and conditions of their home.

The units cost the appropriate points per model, but are not bound by a minimum number per squad.  The Wolf player should control an equal number of points as the survivors' player.  The goal of the survivors is to kill all of the wolves.  There is no escaping them on foot, so the only way forward is over their dead bodies.

While I am not sure if people while ever play this, it was something that I felt was inspired enough to share.  I personally think this could be a fun way for those of you out there who play the Space Wolves to test your wits in the harsh environment of Fenris.  I think its a unique twist on the newly updated Kill Team rules, and allows for anyone, not just the Space Wolf players to see how they can handle the deep freeze of the forgotten corners of the Grim Dark.  I hope you guys enjoyed it, and would love to play a game against anyone interested in testing it all out.



  1. "The Torch has a 12" radius area of effect. When firing at enemy models within this range, they gain no benefit from Night Fighting." - correct me if I'm wrong, but at 12" or less (or 11" if you're being pedantic) models gain no benefit from Night Fighting anyway?

    Other than that, this seems like a fun scenario to play.
    I'm planning to convince my group to play Kill-Team at some point and this could be a fun little game to play to add to the story! Thanks! :)

  2. I had actually at one point toyed with Night Fighting Ranges, but decided in the end not to do it. The Torch was designed for that rendition and I didn't correct it. I have gone back and fixed it to 18".

    I'm stoked to hear you may use this. Let me know how it goes it you do. :)

  3. That makes sense - sounds cool, look forward to giving it a go!

    Will do; I appreciate it's always good to get some feedback on these things. :)