After months of effort, Charlie has finally completed his experimental co-op mode for Warhammer 40,000 where you and a friend (or you alone) can team up to fight against a non-player-controlled swarm of Tyranids. He has, unsurprisingly, written a lot about it recently, with many many revisions of the rules and his fortnightly development blog posts over on Goonhammer, so I have volunteered to step up and write this announcement post and save him the decidedly unsettling (if you’re British) experience of having to write about his own work without being self-deprecating.
If you just want to jump straight to the finished product, jump on over to Goonhammer where he’s sharing this supplement. Otherwise read on for a somewhat less biassed view of the game. Obviously I’m still Charlie’s friend, the supplement is stuffed full of photos of my army and I’ve been supporting the project from its inception and even painted extra models just for this. So, you know, I don’t exactly have Swiss levels of neutrality here.
Tom’s Thoughts on Fury Of The Swarm
It’s really fun.
I prefer roleplaying to wargaming. I’d always prefer to be on the same side as my friends fighting heroically against a villain than playing against my friend. A few years ago Charlie achieved peak overlap with the Samalut IX narrative campaign he ran. To this day the most fun I have had with 40k. Fury of the Swarm achieves about 80% of the fun of Samalut with 20% of the effort. It’s a good ratio.
The nature of playtesting being what it is, I haven’t had a chance to play through the full campaign sequence end to end, but I’ve played a bunch of games through various iterations (some in 9th edition where we knew 10e was coming but Charlie was just roughly sketching out how things would work) and they have consistently been fun.
Playing against an non-player opponent with some clear behaviour rules means you can do some really fun and thematic stuff, like using Gravis armour units to physically shield your more vulnerable stuff, or dropping in some grav-chute Reivers to lure the swarm in a different direction. Also, because your opponent isn’t a person, you can be an absolute bastard without having to feel bad about it. But Charlie being Charlie, the game is still quite tough so you really do have to work at these cunning bastard tactics if you want to win.
A few standout cinematic moments for me:
- Having a brave squad of Incursors standing on the top of pyramid shaped Mechanicus structure desperately fighting off a swam of Gaunts completely covering the lower layers, knowing that as long as they can hold on for just one more turn their heroic sacrifice will have saved their brothers and let them win the game.
- Nervously deciding which unit was going to stand closest to the Exocrine, and thus absolutely eat it in the dick next turn if we failed to kill it as was likely.
- Taking a complete dickhead 100% airborne list of Raven Guard, a Storm Eagle and it’s Storm Hawk escorts, flying over the swarm to drop onto and destroy one objective, then completely relocating my army next turn to do the same on the other side of the board.
- Special Mention: Those horrifying moments when, against all odds, a really nasty monster you thought you’d killed respawns and all your plans go right in the bin.
As the other person that has done a whole bunch of playtesting with Charlie, a fair amount of FotS, almost all of it using Black Templars. A lot like Tom it's laser guided at some of my favourite bits about tabletop wargaming and roleplaying: interaction between player characters, building emergent narratives and relationships between them, and facing down an enemy army with your friends as opposed to your friend's army being the enemy. It's also really great for helping with that awkward moment in a gaming group where everyone wants to do space marines... Good news! Now so long as you've got some bugs you don't need to endlessly come up with convoluted reasons for Imperial marines versus Imperial marines - though admittedly that isn't an issue for our specific relatively well established set up between us.
Tom's covered what it is (along with a 10 part Goonhammer series that is far better written than anything I'll come up with) and I'm just as biased as he is, so I'll just give my take briefly on what the game mode offers that differs to ordinary 40k. It's a challenge, but a very different flavour of game given the predictability of the Tyranid unit actions - you know they're coming towards you, you know they're going for their preferred target if they can and you where they're coming from (usually) when they respawn or deep strike. This informs your decision making in a way that you just don't have in normal 40k where your opponent can surprise you by taking an action you hadn't considered. The challenge doesn't come in out-thinking the horde then, because the horde largely reacts to your movements as the player, it comes in managing the tide of respawning bugs and being able to limit their ability to harm your own forces (because they will -almost- always win a battle of attrition).
It's a really fun different challenge to normal 40k, and I'm looking forward to playing more of it as other factions - particularly the Nightfall 31st, with their light infantry and lack of any meaningful big guns. That will be bracing.
I'll leave you with my single most implausible moment from any game of Fury of the Swarm, which has convinced me of a tactical truth: Watch-Marshall Antilochus Ortiz and his Sword Brothers carving through about 70 'gaunts and a carnifex, tying up almost an entire flank of a battle and crippling the Tyranid push into our objectives. The lesson learned? Punch them hard in the nose, if you can. They don't like it up 'em.
|Not pictured: The above battle, but Ortiz and his brothers have had too many ridiculous kill scores in FotS for it to be a coincidence...|
Tom: Not everyone has a whole spare Tyranid army lying around, but if you know someone in your group who does, or maybe you and a friend bought the Leviathan box, this is the game for you.
Harvey: Its a very different experience to normal 40k, with different considerations and tactical challenges. As if that wasn't enough, it's a way to play really narrative games with your mates about purging 'nids together. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's absolutely mine.