I had some spare time last week, and needing some new dice, I wandered over to Games Workshop. Although they don’t supply the gel-dice I was after, they did have some lying around unclaimed from previous warhammer tournaments. While I was there, the assistant offered to take me through a demonstration game of Warhammer 40K, the futuristic version of the table-top wargame Warhammer, in turn based loosely on Dungeons and Dragons.
The rules themselves are fairly simple, with each player commanding their own army of 28mm high models belonging to a specific race (Space Marines, Orks, Eldar, etc.) with specific objectives in mind (usually the decimation of the opposing army). Each player’s turn is threefold; move, shoot and assault (hand-to-hand), with the success of all attacks determined by the roll of six-sided-dice (and occasionally a “scatter” die which determines artillery inaccuracies). Rolling over a pre-determined amount will result in a kill, although armour allows the defender to deflect the killing shot by rolling a high enough value of their own). Each soldier is part of a squad (usually of five), and one squad may only attack another per round.
In essence, the engagements are simplified versions of encounters in role-playing-games, with the health of each soldier assumed to be one of two states – alive or dead. This simplification brings the strategy aspects to the fore, and is necessary for the fast-pacing of the game, in which the fate of a squad can be decided in a few seconds – the sheer number of attacks involved in a single encounter can be mindboggling, with a fistful of dice being rolled at once.
The game I played was the one included in the starter kit Assault on Black Reach, which includes a rulebook and two small armies – Space Marines and Orks. It was fairly enjoyable, although the role-playing aspects of it seemed somewhat incongruous to me, and £50 is a weighty price-tag for something unless you’re willing to devote as much time as cash to it.