Last week I had a real treat, as my friend Karl was in town for a brief visit, and we managed to carve out a few hours for some gaming. We decided to play WarEngine, a fast-playing ruleset originally developed for the game ShockForce and then released as a free, downloadable ruleset about 15 years ago. It hasn’t seen much development in recent years, but the game still exists as a highly playable, cost effective wargame ruleset.
Flavor-wise, WarEngine is a squad-based “big skirmish” game that hits the sweet spot between 2nd and 3rd edition Warhammer 40,000. You’ve got powerful squads of dudes armed with all sorts of futuristic weapons, plus options for tricking out individual characters as stealthy assassins, long range marksmen, bloodthirsty slaughter-monsters and everything in between. We played WarEngine a few times back when I lived in Chicago and it always gave a satisfying game.
We set up a game set on Krueger’s Folly, our homebrew 40k world. The setting is heavily influenced by Rogue Trader, so it’s a dusty frontier planet brimming with all sorts of zany aliens, foul cultists, space pirates, mercenaries and other assorted nasties.
This particular game took place at the Sarkir Chem Station, an isolated industrial facility far from any major urban centers. A warband of Chaos Space Marines had made landfall on Krueger’s Folly, and one of their first objectives was to seize Sarkir Chem Station and use its high-gain communications antenna to signal their orbital raiding fleet.
Of course, Sarkir Chem Station wasn’t defenseless! In a bit of fortuitous timing, the facility’s operators had recently retained the talents of Colonel Markham’s Thunderbolts, a mercenary company decamped on Krueger’s Folly. What began as a raid quickly turned into a pitched battle as the Chaos Space Marines clashed with the mercenaries deployed to defend the chem station…
In game terms, we picked three buildings on our tabletop battlefield to serve as objectives: the central control station, the two-story chem processing plant, and the main shantytown building in the foreground. At the end of six turns, we’d see who controlled the most objectives.
Our previous games of WarEngine showed that you really need at least 3 or 4 squads plus a few individual character models to have a satisfying game, so I assembled some pretty large armies for this game.
Karl commanded the Thunderbolt mercenaries, consisting of 30 or so infantry (from Pig Iron Productions‘ fantastic sci-fi ranges) plus a monstrous APC from Khurasan Miniatures. Seriously, this thing is huge. It’s a glorious love letter to the classic APC from “Aliens,” so I was excited to get it onto the table.
I was fielding my small-but-growing Chaos Space Marine warband, consisting of a squad of Night Lords and a few character models, backed up by 30 or so chaos cultists (from Pig Iron‘s stunning Kolony Ferals sci-fi range). I also had a couple of Kryomek two-legged walkers to serve as roving bipedal heavy weapons platforms. (You can see my wife’s wet bar in the background. It may have also become a casualty of war during our game.)
And so we were off! The first couple of turns involved Karl and I reminding ourselves how WarEngine played. But it all came back quickly, and soon enough we were gleefully slaughtering each other. Here are a bunch of pics showing the first few turns.
After some early success on my part, Karl quickly took the upper hand. In one particularly notable instance, my squad of feral cultists were caught out in the open by his squad of advancing mercenaries, and were cut down in a single turn of shooting. Damn!
Likewise, his APC proved to be an untouchable behemoth, zooming around the battlefield and massacring my squads with impunity. It even went wheel-to-toe with one of my two combat walkers and survived!
In the end, my Night Lords were able to seize the shanty compound, and they even had support from the surviving combat walker, but Karl had just finished wiping the floor with my remaining troopers, so victory was easily in his grasp.
Once again, WarEngine gave us a fun game. This was the largest WarEngine game for me to date, and I was pleased that it took place on such a fantastic battlefield full of beautiful models and terrific handmade terrain (virtually all of it built by Karl and me!).
I think I’ll post this battle report over on the local 40k club’s Facebook page and see if it gets anyone interested in WarEngine as an occasional throwback alternative to early-edition 40k.
Good looking game, guys! Got my fingers itching to push some lead and roll some bones.
Had a great time Pat. It was really cool to see how WarEngine/Shockforce still holds up quite well almost 20 years after it was first released.
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