Sunday, 28 November 2021

The Great Rationalisation of '21: Epic Battles

I started playing roleplaying and wargames in the late 1980's - the "Golden Age" of Games Workshop to many, the time of WH40K: Rogue Trader first edition, WFB 3rd Edition, WFRP, Realm of Chaos and the Big Box Games.

Yes, the Big Box Games... I had a lot of them: Space Hulk; Mighty Empires; Advanced Heroquest; Space Marine; Adeptus Titanicus.  I'll focus on the latter 2 today.

I started buying White Dwarf magazine with issue 113.  There were regular articles with rules expansions for many of the games in every issue.  Epic started with Adeptus Titanicus, White Dwarf articles added rules for infantry (Space Marines and Imperial Guards) and armoured vehicles, Dreadnoughts, Robots and more.  Space Marine arrived soon after, and White Dwarf ran a competition to win a copy of the game or a £5 voucher off the price, I won a voucher and eagerly rushed to our local independent games shop Truro Micro to nab my copy.

The voucher got me 25% off the £20 price tag for my box of 16 Land Raiders, 32 Rhinos, 320 Marines plus a small cityscape of car and plastic buildings.  A few months later, I added Adeptus Titanicus with its 6 mighty Warlord Titans and some marvellous polystyrene buildings to fight amongst.

My sorting in the loft included checking the current contents of my boxes, I've acquired extra copies of SM and AT over the years and I wasn't sure which boxes were which.  The original boxes contain only part of the games now, the painted vehicles being stored more safely in multi-compartment plastic hobby boxes.

As an aside, the cover of the Space Marine box is the point at which the Dark Angel Space Marines changed from black armour to dark green armour.  Apparently the box lid was supposed to depict the Salamanders chapter but owing to confusion somewhere along the line they ended up with the Dark Angel insignia.  Despite the fact that there was were already multiple colour references to the Dark Angels having black armour (40K Space Marines box, Rogue Trader, 40K Compendium, Space Hulk supplement Deathwing to name a few), the decision was obviously made that the new colour scheme would stick instead.

My original Space Marine box now contains a hugely expanded city comprising 3 complete sets of buildings.  I have a fourth set too, which is in a CityTech box and gets used with BattleTech games instead.  I like the design of these buildings, the Space Marine rulebook detailed all the different building types which added nothing to the game in terms of rules but did let you try your city planning skills (no, the generatorium wouldn't be sited by the residential buildings, but is next to the administratum really the correct place either...?).  The buildings were ideally scaled for infantry and armour battles.  You didn't need huge structures like those in AT, these smaller buildings allowed you to create a more maze-like set of streets with plenty of cover but not so tall that they made it awkward to reach into the gaps to move your models around.

You can see from the cover of Adeptus Titanicus that the original Titans weren't really 1/300 scale, more like 1/900 or 1/1000 (so infantry abotu 2mm tall or smaller). There are teeny tiny marines milling around the feet of those Titans!

The AT box contains an odd assortment.  I have the cover of the Codex Titanicus rules expansion which introduced Orks, Eldar plus a whole load of new vehicles including the Thunderbolt dropship, plus revised rules for Dreadnoughts, Robots and a whole range of support weapons/vehicles (Rapier, Tarantula, Landspeeder etc).  The actual rules from this supplement are elsewhere, they came loose-leaf in the card cover ready for insertion into a ring binder.  Most of the bog box games had a rulebook designed to be cut apart, punched and inserted into a binder to allow expansions to be added. As well as scenery, blast templates, counters and the like, the cardboard parts sheets usually included a long rectangular strip showing the game's name.  It was years before I realised that these were designed to slip into the spine of a ring binder to help identify its contents!

Some of my epic Chaos forced were lurking within the box, a Bloodthirster and some Bloodletters, plus theres a few Chaos Marines and some Squats in there too.

I also have some papercraft scenery and a load of counters from different versions of the game.  That white and yellow counter peeping from underneath is a felt-tip coloured photcopy of a traitor Imperial Guard infantry stand from the White Dwarf infantry rules for Adeptus Titanicus.

Last of all is my Bendicks Victoria Orange chocolates box containing the unit datacards from Space Marine.  Each unit had its own card, for the original game this included Tactical, Assault, Devastator and Support infantry stands plus Land Raiders, Rhinos and Whirlwinds.  There was a full set of each for both the Loyalist and Traitor players.  White Dwarf soon added extra that you could cut out and stick to a cereal packet: Predator, Bike, Rapier, Tarantula, Mole mortar, Thudd gun, Landspeeder. The next release of vehicles changed to a different style and introduced some additional heavy vehicles such as the Falchion and Glaive superheavy tanks (later renamed Shadowsword and Baneblade and then the names were ret-conned back into 30K/40K history as different vehicles), Basilisk (carrying a macro-cannon in this early version) and Manticore (2 x multi-launchers) self-propelled artillery and more.  A third design of datacard followed, revising some of those already created and adding in extra vehicles (Leman Russ, Eldar Tempest heavy grav tank, Ork battle fortress).  They soon realised that having a datacard for every vehicle would make it very difficult to run the game and wisely switched to tables of vehicles instead!

Some of my future posts will look at the other big box games Space Hulk and Mighty Empires. There is also the question of all the vehicles and infantry from those Epic games...

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