In the depths of Sacrament, far below the glittering hive towers and their resplendent terraces, below the incense-filled halls of statuary and throngs of offworld pilgrims, below the vast administratum strata, filled with warrens of offices and functionaries dedicated to the daily operation of the sector’s most popular shrine world, below even the turgid reclamation levels where basic utility functions are carried out by low-wage menials — deep in the depths of the underhive, something stirred. A psychic signal, pulsing and building in strength. An indifferent malevolence seeded decades ago that is just now beginning to pupate.
What will its emergence mean for the hive world of Sacrament, the world of Gamma Euphorion Prime and its attendant moon Drusichtor, and the greater Juventius Sub-Sector? Not much is known, but we can be certain that the outcome will be both grim and dark.
Welcome, gentle reader, to the official kick-off game for our 2023 narrative sci-fi campaign: The Cauldron. We’re starting small, with a series of skirmish games using Grimdark Future: Firefight to build our warbands and probe the edges of the Gamma Euphorion Prime setting.
The campaign name is a reference to the pressure-cooker environment in the beleaguered shrine world planetary system, where a dormant genestealer threat may be awakening, just as techno-cults rise to pursue their own nefarious aims, and plague disciples arrive from offworld bearing gifts for the shrine world’s pilgrims. Can the light of the Emperor pierce such absolute darkness?
The primary setting is the hive city of Sacrament, on the planet Gamma Euphorion Prime. A secondary setting that has already been explored in a recent game is Drusichtor, a moon of Gamma Euphorion Prime that boasts a massive industrial mining operation.
For the kickoff game, we assembled eight total players — possibly a record for John’s game room! We divided up into two smaller games of Grimdark Future: Firefight. Both were structured as 2-on-2 team games. As is typical, I got rather a lot of photos of the game I was involved in, and fewer photos of the other game. Read on for luscious photos and a gameplay report!
We pooled our collective grimdark terrain to create these two battlefields, representing an upper level in the underhive (on the right) and a fetid lower sump (on the upper left), replete with stagnant pools of water and rusty walkways.
The combination of textured terrain tiles, playmats, elevated risers, and scatter terrain really created a satisfying hive environment, with lots of cover and claustrophobic areas. Plus, all of our disparate terrain seems to more or less match!
We imagined these games as taking place roughly atop each other, on different levels of the underhive. The sump level, with its drains and waterways, played host to an incursion from well-intentioned warband of space dwarves working alongside the questionably loyal servants of the Imperium. This oddly matched pair of factions went up against the faith-drenched forces of the Adeptus Sororitas and their allies, the Astartes of the Salamanders chapter. Unshakeable loyalty versus … well, slightly more porous loyalty! But loyalty nonetheless!
And, a horse!
The game that I was playing in took place in the upper portion of the underhive, a few levels above the clash in the sumps. My game featured a tenuous alliance between two warbands of tech-obsessed Mechanicus scavengers (are they good guys or bad guys? who can say?), battling against a team-up straight out of Codex Astartes: Space Wolves and Dark Angels!
Did I mention this game had a horse as well?
Two horses in the underhive?! How do they even eat? It doesn’t make any sense…
Anyway, given that we were playing Grimdark Future: Firefight, it should come as no surprise that the games were fast and furious, with lots of careful maneuvering and explosive combat.
The sump level game began with the orange-armored space dwarves advancing alongside the servants of the Imperium, led by the sweatiest cavalry officer on the entire planet of Sacrament.
Creeping through the damp, fungus-ridden corridors in their bid to waylay the interlopers were the Sister of Battle, running a herd of chainsword-wielding repenters ahead of the battle-armored Sororitas.
The grubby agents of the Imperium, perhaps misled into thinking the Salamanders were their true foe, crashed headlong into the Sons of Vulkan and were probably massacred, if this photo gives any indication of their fate.
Over in the upper levels of the underhive, two teams of Mechanicus-minded tech cultists began filtering through the dim hallways, intent on finding and destroying their foe.
The Space Wolves and Dark Angels were few in number, but they were frightfully tough. Jim had just three Astartes models in his warband, and I think Parker had a few more, something like five or six. They looked very imposing as they strutted across the battlefield in their beautiful Astartes power armor.
Thankfully, the cramped terrain setup provided plenty of cover for our scrappy cultists as they fought to close in on the objectives that were scattered around the battlefield. This is definitely the ideal setup for grimdark skirmish gaming: lots of cover and elevation, with several routes for advancement so that nobody was funneled into a bottleneck.
Owing primarily to Daniel’s hot dice, the Mechanicus warbands secured an early advantage when they defeated a couple of the Astartes warriors in the early turns. Because they were so few in number, the Space Marine players really couldn’t afford to lose many models. We were playing a game with five (5) objective markers, and so we needed a lot of warm bodies to cover the objectives.
Having the Astartes on their back feet early in the game provided an opportunity for the Mechanicus cultists to surge forward, putting on a brave face as they charged into combat with a power-armored superhuman. They took casualties, but managed to stun the Space Wolf warrior who was guarding the flank.
Eventually the techno-cultists swarmed over the objectives, overwhelming the Space Marines by sheer weight of numbers. Ain’t that how it always plays out though? A few gallant Astartes, defending the barricades until the very last, until they are dragged down and dismembered by the howling hordes?? Yeah, it played out pretty much like that.
So it was a mixed outcome for our two side-by-side games of Grimdark Future: Firefight. The forces of the Imperium prevailed in the sordid depths of the sump level, but the techno-cultists of the Mechanicum succeeded in driving off the Space Marines and claiming the objectives in the upper portion of the underhive. Who can say what arcane secrets they unlocked for their own nefarious purposes?
Let us end with another glorious photo of the cavalry officer with nerves of steel and ice in his veins, as he urges his reluctant mount forward to seize these, er, run-down corridors in the name of the Emperor!
Once again Grimdark Future: Firefight provided a couple of nice, fast-playing skirmish games. Each player brought 250 points to this game, and our intent is to increase the point value for subsequent games, with a requirement that each game must feature a newly painted model. That’ll light a fire under us! Stay tuned for more grimdark narrative gaming in the depths of The Cauldron!
Brilliant stuff. The terrain reminds me of a tabletop version of the original “Doom” PC game. An escalation league with a requirement for newly painted characters is sure to get the creative juices flowing.
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Thanks dude! Maybe you’ll get to see this setup in person when you visit…
Very nice looking game and minis (and horses)! 🙂 Plenty of action as well!
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Really beautiful figures and terrain — looks like an absolute to play on that!
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“absolute BLAST” … I was gonna say…. 🙂
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Thanks a lot – your sentiment came across loud & clear! 😎
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