Barnes on Games Special Edition- WH40k Battle for Vedros Part 2- 40k "Lite"?

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MB July 18, 2016

Now with 99.99% less rules lawyering!

I have to say that one of the strangest moments I have had in a lifetime of gaming was sitting down on our living room floor with a green square of felt laid out, getting ready to play Warhammer 40k with my children. It was strange not only because I didn’t really expect to ever get back into 40k after my last roundelay with it a decade ago, but also because I was doing this with my children and with a set of rules and figures specifically oriented by Games Workshop to be kid-friendly, approachable and easy to manage. We had the usual assortment of painted, primed and bare plastic figures out among a battlefield we made from Heroscape trees and ruins. They were excited to see the figures that they had helped build and paint set up and ready to fight.

The new Battle for Vedros set ships with a rules set that is probably just about as streamlined and edited as anything remotely resembling Warhammer 40k could possibly be. They are shorter than the free Age of Sigmar rules. They are shorter than any tactical skirmish game rules I can call to mind. In fact, almost everything you need to know at least on a very basic level is on two pages that are mostly pictures of obnoxiously well-painted miniatures, as is standard for Games Workshop ephemera.

Veterans of 40k will immediately go down a checklist of what is missing not just in the rules, but also in the component list. There are no templates, markers, scatter dice or anything like that. On the page, there are no rules for Psykers, cover, morale, unit cohesion, or any of the more complex concerns of miniature wargaming. And there isn’t a whole lot of variety between units with a lot of statistics and ability homogenized down to the barest minimum. All you do is move your unit or model’s movement rating (or double it to run, trading out your shooting phase), then you shoot with anything that has line of site, and then there’s a charge phase. You roll 2D6 and can move that much to get into melee. On the fight phase, the Space Marines always have initiative and fight first. Then the Orks. Then the other player goes. Six rounds. There are no scenarios provided, and the rules read like you're supposed to just line up the forces and attack each other.

The streamlining means that the combat subroutines are quite a bit different. Space Marine models always hit on a 3+, Orks on a 5+. But there are some things that fudge that, like how Gretchin get a +1 to shoot. Wounds are always 4+ unless specified, there is no toughness. And then there are armor saves, which do have a corresponding statistics. You can’t go to ground, there are no bonuses for cover. Yet it still manages to feel mostly like Warhammer 40k, even if all of the rules lawyering and debating has been stripped away from it.

For the kids, this totally works. Within a couple of games, they understood things like how the Ork Nobz are total killers in melee, but not that great at range. They learned to get the Space Marine with the rocket launcher into a good spot where he could stand still and shoot. They learned to use the vehicles (Space Marine bikes and an Ork Wartrakk) to move in quickly or to intercept approaching forces. I was surprised at the concepts they were able to grasp quickly and I think keeping the actual mechanics and rules at a minimum helped them to get to the frankly more interesting elements more easily.

But the streamlining comes at cost. I found myself wishing that there were more detail, that there was a stronger sense of leadership and a greater emphasis on unit differences. I really don’t like how, as written, the Space Marine Dreadnaught can only be damaged by the Deffkopta’s rockets or the Warboss’s Power Claw. I think that’s pretty stupid, but the rules are lacking any of the more detailed armor and vehicle rules that would add more complexity to it.

Another cost is that the rules are very under-written in an attempt to make them simpler for general audiences. This creates a lot of questions that I think might frustrate newcomers who have never played 40k or a miniatures game before. It’s not really clear, for example, how mechanics like shooting and fighting work with individual models and units. I found myself referencing my own 40k rules knowledge to sort out some of the vagaries, but those who are sitting down to play this for the very first time with kids might find themselves scratching their heads more than they ought to with a starter set of rules. That said, Battle for Vedros is probably less complex than Heroscape or its more recent incarnation as Magic: Arena of the Planeswalkers- as long as you can work through the bits that seem under explained or omitted. The lack of scenarios or guidance in terms of force composition or terrain setup is a huge oversight, in my opinion.

What I keep coming back to though isn’t the rules anyway. Let’s face it - 40k has never really had the best or most interesting mechanics and in fact I think that some of the system is genuinely bad. But just as I’ve felt in the past, all the bad stuff (for example, the laughably antiquated “roll to hit, then roll to wound, then roll again to save” thing) doesn’t really bother me. Because 40k is so much about the look, feel, atmosphere and setting. When we sat down and saw our Ultramarines and our Goff Orks on that felt, it was that same feeling I had in the 80s and the 90s and ten years ago- that we were playing Warhammer, and we were going to have these greenskins screaming and bellowing while they smash into these Space Marines blasting away with their bolters, Purity Seals billowing in the hot wind of battle. I taught my kids about “Dakka”, the Emperor, the Ultramarines, explaining to them bits of 40k lore the whole time we played and they were fascinated, as if I were telling stories about real history or cultures.

This is why 40k is great, not because the rules are good. So it kind of doesn’t matter that it’s missing so much in terms of process, mechanics and stricture. It’s not hard to almost wish that Games Workshop would completely overhaul the 40k rules set and winnow it down to something more modern, direct and without so much bulk. Maybe Battle for Vedros is a step in that direction.

I’m at an odd impasse though, because as much as I like how basic it is I want to bring in more rules to see how far my kids want to take it. But then there’s a part of me that wants to keep it simple with the Battle for Vedros rules. I think the happy medium, at least until they are old enough to read a Codex, is for Dad to work in new units and models with extremely simplified versions of their abilities and traits from the main game if Games Workshop doesn’t support the Vedros line with more products. Whichever way we go with it, Battle for Vedros has made Warhammer 40k a family activity in our home and that is not something I expected to happen until my kids were ten years older, if at all.

Next time- Where do we go from here?

There Will Be Games

Michael BarnesFollow Michael Barnes Follow Michael Barnes Message Michael Barnes

Editor-in-Chief

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film. 

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Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #230436 18 Jul 2016 20:28
Actually the bit that only power claw and rocket can hurt the dreadnought is pretty much accurate within the original rules. Unless you have grenades or whatnot, the dreadnought is impervious to small arms attack. Or shoot it in the back. I suppose there's no facing rule?

I'm curious on whether they'll expand the rules or not. Interested on how they're going to make the rules with the multitudes of wargears.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #230438 18 Jul 2016 21:10
Funny that you mentioned that...the first thing River asked me is if you can shoot the Dreadnaught in the back since it has all of that exposed, unarmored machinery. But there is no facing. And no grenades.

The Runtherder can take a weapon that can damage it, that Grot-prod or whatever it's called. You can mount a melta on the attack bike too.

The approach to the units is to give them one or two special abilities, which may be tied to wargear. The Captain's Mastercraft bolted gets a reroll, for example.

Also, for the record, the Wartrakk is just about the worst GW model I have ever seen. I was laughing at it the whole time I put it together. The Orks are too small, out of scale, and the whole thing has already been dubbed - by my 4 year old daughter mind you- the Three Wheeled Jokemobile. She got that from Zootopia, when she called it that I just about died.

The sprue is from 1997, so they are definitely getting some mileage from that mold.
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #230440 18 Jul 2016 21:38
Well, even if those boyz could shoot it in the back, that's like 5+ to hit and then 6+ to penetrate/wound. I see the rules are directly referencing other units (ie. can only be wounded by xxx).
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #230451 18 Jul 2016 23:10
The finest 40k orks ever casted.

www.games-workshop.com/en-US/Ork-Goff-Rockers

Still in production!
Columbob's Avatar
Columbob replied the topic: #230469 19 Jul 2016 09:39

Michael Barnes wrote: The sprue is from 1997, so they are definitely getting some mileage from that mold.


IIRC, they were first released with GorkaMorka.
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #230474 19 Jul 2016 10:33
Barnes, for articles about minis games...I wanna see how yall are getting on. Share a pic or two of your models and terrain in play. Dont worry about them looking as nice as the stock gw photos, those photos can be seen anywhere. Plus, stock gw photos don't inspire. I'd rather see kid painted minis battling around coke cans and heroscape trees than the highly polished photos put out by gw marketing.
Dogmatix's Avatar
Dogmatix replied the topic: #230511 20 Jul 2016 04:15
Sunnovabitch, Mr. White, I had no idea those bloody things were still being produced. I always wanted a set of those but just assumed they were long-since consigned to the Dustbin of History [aka "Ebay"].

Now I gotta get me a set for, well, everything that uses greenskins of any sort.

Edit: And, in looking at them more closely, for all of GW's efforts at IP protection, i wonder if they got permission from Motorhead to turn them into Greenskins...cuz, that has just gotta be Lemmy....