Vintage Warhammer 40k 2nd edition

As well as the Tomorrow's War game mentioned in the previous post, last week's club game night also featured a game of 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000 at Games Plus in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. Those who know our club's game tendencies may be asking themselves, "What were you doing playing Warhammer 40k, and why 2nd edition?"

I assure you that I had three very good reasons. First of all, it was a chance for me to indulge in a bit of nostalgia for the version of 40k that was one of the first wargames I ever played. Second, it was a chance to get my 40k armies on the table again. Lastly, I was interested to see how the older, more granular 2nd edition rules would work for small skirmish actions.

The following restrictions and guidelines were in effect.

  • 750 point armies
  • Max 25% characters (from your list or allies)
  • No vehicles
  • No wargear cards
  • No using the Dark Millenium supplement.
  • No special characters -WYSIWYG (except for grenades of course)
  • Half-squads were allowed for units where the required number of minis is 10+

I brought terrain and enough miniatures for 4 armies (two Space Marine and two Imperial Guard). Due to a few no-shows, only one game took place. See the pic below for the gorgeous setup that was on hand for the players who didn't show.

First-time-attendee Don (not to be confused with the other Don who has played with us for a while) and I played a Blood Angel Space Marine assault force consisting of three squads of five marines and a captain. All marines had jump packs and mostly close combat weapons and pistols. Across the table, Mike had a full platoon of 30 guardsmen, 10 ratling snipers and two five-man command squads.

The terrain was provided by Mike M., a Games Plus staff member who also took part in the Tomorrow's War game across the room. We used the mission cards from the 40k 2nd edition boxed set and hid the objectives from the other team. As it turned out, Mike's objective was get units across the entire board and ours was to hold a central objective.

Mike did a great job setting up fire lanes and using overwatch to decimate more than half the marines before they got into close combat. He had some great dice rolls also, but it was definitely a case of sound tactics taking the day.

By the time they reached the guardsmen, there weren't enough marines left to tear through Mike's lines, and the game ended with a massacre of every single marine despite their superior stats and armor.

I had a good time with the game. Here are some observations after this nostalgia-fueled exploration of Warhammer 40k 2nd edition.

  • 2nd edition 40k is more granular than the current edition and much, much moreso than any games our club regularly plays. 40k squad members have nine (9!) stats per miniature plus weapon stats, which seems like a lot after playing Song of Blades & Heroes or WarEngine, which have less than half as many.
  • It takes a while to play. We resolved the game in just over two hours. Two hours for 750 points isn't bad, but if we were using larger armies, psychics, vehicles or special characters I could easily see it stretching three or four hours. That's just too much.
  • 2nd edition is written like a skirmish game rather than a squad-based game, yet it requires players to organize their models into squads and enforces squad coherency. Many things such as scattered landing of jump troops and close combat are worked out on a time-consuming individual basis rather than by squad.
  • 2nd edition has the capacity to be a more tactical and "realistic" (if such a rule can be applied to any Warhammer editions). The inclusion of Overwatch and a movement stat adds a tactical element not seen in the current edition.

In conclusion, it might be fun to play again with forces that are more balanced (marines with fewer jump packs and more ranged weapons perhaps?) but it will probably be a while before we play this again. I had a hard time thinking of ways that 2nd edition 40k is better than my preferred sci-fantasy game of WarEngine, which would produce an equal-or-more-enjoyable exprience with a fraction of the rules and stats in 30-50 percent less time.

Still, it's fun to dip into the grimdark world of Warhammer 40K now and then, and for small size games I'd prefer 2nd edition 40K to the current 5th (soon to be 6th in 2012...) edition, which is superior for large games, but (IMHO) too streamlined for small engagements.

Most importantly, preparing for this game has got me excited about Citadel/GW miniatures again. Hopefully someday I'll find the time to properly flock and dip my large collection of block-painted Blood Angels. I've also been picking up a fair number of Rogue Trader-era miniatures so be looking for some of them to appear (possibly) by late 2012.

— Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

2 responses to “Vintage Warhammer 40k 2nd edition

  1. Thanks for the game, Karl

  2. It looks like a really cool game; it’s nice to see people using the older rule sets. I still have all of mine and play with my group once in awhile. – Cheers

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