Despite a near-lifelong simmering love for the 40k universe, until this past weekend I’d only played 40k once or twice. That was back in 1993, when I pitted a box of Squats against my then-girlfriend’s Tyranids for a game or two. For a variety of reasons — some good, some irrational, let’s file them all under “it’s complicated” — I wrote off 40k for the next, uh, 27 years.
In 2020, I decided to start painting 40k minis with an eye to maybe playing the game again at some point. The pandemic’s “official” start date, March 12, was about two weeks later, so I spent the next three years painting 40k minis without actually playing the game. That got me properly into miniature painting as a hobby in its own right.
But once things opening up again lined up with a shift in my family’s pandemic risk calculations, it was time to kick those 40k tires. So on June 10, 2023, I met up with my friend Shay to play the first game of 40k I’d played in 30 years — with two fully painted forces, on a fully painted table, to boot! It was a blast.
Blood Angels vs. Dark Angels
We played a stripped-down 9th Edition Combat Patrol learning game: no CP, no stratagems, no secondary objectives. Shay is a veteran 40k player, but hadn’t played in several years; we muddled through things together.
40k, at least in 9th edition, is an odd mix of relatively simple rules but a complex array of extras, fiddly bits, and exceptions. Even with all the stuff we ignored, it still took us two hours to play two rounds. A fun two rounds! But it’s a commitment.
I know we got some stuff wrong, but despite that, and even after just a single game, the strategic and tactical decision space has opened up for me. I learned stuff; I’d build my force and play differently next time. I came away with plenty of rules questions, but those will smooth out over time. The bones are sturdy. This is a game I’d love to keep playing.
A light battle report
Due to some technical hurdles, we had to work out Shay’s points on the spot with only my copy of the Adeptus Astartes Codex for reference. Those points have changed over the years since that book came out — which didn’t occur to us at the time — so in hindsight I had an unintentional 52-point edge on Shay. I’m also pretty sure 2x Plasma Cannon isn’t a valid option, and I forgot to get my Sergeant out of the case (the first Blood Angel model I painted for 40k, no less!).
Our scenario was Incisive Attack, minus the secondary objectives.
Blood Angels, 497 pts.
- Chaplain Arrius
- Close Combat Terminators, Squad Barakiel – 1st Company, 1st Squad – 4 Terminators led by Sergeant Barakiel (5x Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield)
- Tactical Marines, Squad Karios – 2nd Company, 1st Squad – 7 Space Marines (6x Bolter, 1x Heavy Bolter) led by Sergeant Karios (Chain Sword and Hand Flamer)
- Primaris Infiltrators, Squad Dolos – 2nd Company, 3rd Squad – 4 Space Marines led by Sergeant Dolos (5x Marksman Bolt Carbine)
Dark Angels, 445 pts.
- Terminator Captain (Storm Bolter, Power Sword)
- Terminators – 5 Terminators (4x Storm Bolter and Power Fist, 1x Assault Cannon)
- Tactical Marines – 10 Space Marines (8x Bolter, 2x Plasma Cannon)
We played two rounds and the start of a third, and called the game at that point for a late lunch. My Blood Angels won, but again: points imbalance.
The fun was the important part, and man is it every bit as fun to play with fully painted armies as I’d hoped it would be! There’s a real immersive joy to seeing these little dudes on the table.
It’s Bolter time!
My pictures didn’t turn out great, largely due to a mix of interior lighting and my desire to focus on the game rather than the photos. I’ve spared you the irredeemably blurry ones.
We played at Mox Ballard, which has excellent gaming tables and terrain. It was great to be able to uncover only the amount of battlefield we needed while using the covered half of the table for dice and storage.
Looking at the Incisive Attack mission map after the fact, I see that I somehow put our deployment zones too close to each other. If we’d deployed differently, that really could have turned this knife fight in a phone booth into a chainsaw fight in a phone booth.
Our Tactical Squads took plenty of pot shots at each other, which is how I learned that even vanilla Marines are pretty tough.
This was my decisive play, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Once my Terminators started taking fire, I got to see just how tough they really are — especially with Storm Shields. We both spent a lot of points on our Termies, but man were they worth it.
My Terminators clinched things by wiping out a chunk of Shay’s Tactical Squad and claiming objective 1.
We both had a ton of fun with this short match. The glitches, shortened game, and outcome played no role in how much fun this was for me. Getting to play 40k for the first time in decades, with my friend, with an army I painted was an absolute hoot.
We’re on the cusp of 10th Edition, so this might turn out to be the only game of 9th Edition I play. I’ve already started learning the 10th Edition rules.
What’s that on the horizon? MOAR TERMINATORS
And, somewhat predictably…I’ve also started planning a fifth army. Terminators were my favorite thing in the 40k universe before I saw them in action. And now, after seeing how well their performance matches the fiction — they just laugh at small arms fire! — I love them even more.
Just a couple hours after our match, I started drafting Grey Knights lists. Terminators as troops! Tiny knight helmets! The Baby Bjorn of doom! Terminators as far as the eye can see!