[40K] Your Pleas Have Been Witnessed

When a world dies, in the grim darkness of the forty-second millennium, it frequently dies screaming.

St. Valentine’s World screams. A hundred schooled sacred voices howl words they do not understand; in their dying moments, they are befouled with an alien tongue.

The aliens answer. Blood rises. Death wakes. War calls. The Imperium counts the cost. High-handed lords and great captains of the Astartes plot their reprisals, but other hands turn over the bodies, pick the bones, plunge their blades into throats not quite emptied, not quite stilled; voices with a last breath left in them.

Beneath the sight of their lords and masters, the oppressed and the forgotten and the inheritors of a dead world’s legacy speak.

“Vau, vey-shey-na, Nostrama.

St. Valentine’s World whispers, and the whisper spreads through the silence between the stars, falling like frost on grass.

The whisper comes to a dead-eyed sister, in the murmuring halls of a relay station none but the Ordo Dialogus know exists, and none within the Ordo care enough to remember. She smiles, and blinks her black eyes, and she herself whispers.

Vau, vey-shey-na, Nostrama.

And in the ultimate darkness, the night beyond sight, the howling everything-and-nothing of the Warp, black eyes snap open behind crimson lenses, and Hexandra stirs on his stolen seat. His all-encompassing armour, his world, stirs with him; it murmurs to the cloud of secrets that hang invisible in the air,

“I have a signal. A shrine world, crumbling as our world crumbled. I estimate planetkill in point seven rotations. The resonance is clear, lord.”

His master nods once, twice. “Then we’d better save our lost children, hadn’t we, Hexandra?” Szandor’s red hands lock around the controls, and he looks down at them for a moment. Stained for all the decades, all the centuries of the Long War; sinner’s hands. That, he reflects, is what you get for trying to save the genetic legacy of a lost world. That is what you get for defying a primarch’s will. “Alert all hands. Charting course for St. Valentine’s World.”

A spark lights in the gloom. Rust and hatred stir in the dark. The Faithless Song nudges itself between realities.

Even in space, someone can hear you scream.

Yes, I couldn’t resist having a pop myself. My collection is much (much) smaller than Paul’s or Ben’s (weighing in at 800 points painted under second edition rules, assuming I’m allowed to cheat a bit and take a multi-melta on my Dreadnought), and much (much) more Newhammer in its composition.

I must pray you indulge me here. I grab mine heart and swear a mighty swear that I did have a Night Lords army back in the late Nineties, but it was in that first generation of Hobby Stuff that was sold off en masse when I entered my GCSE year. These bigger, newer, all-round more excessive Night Lords represent an abortive attempt to get into New 40K, and also to paint some models semi-properly. That’s one reason why it’s such a small force…

Anyway. Ever one to turn a problem into an opportunity, or at least to take an excuse to rifle through many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, I went looking for some White Dwarfs from the glorious mid-Nineties. These were my early years in the hobby, and I remembered well some sage advice and high wisdom from their pages.

WD205 brought us one Mr. Thorpe and his notions on Strategy Cards – both interpreting them in a way that added nuance and meaning and implicit backstory to your games, and on limiting the deck in some way which either manages their impact on the generic Mission Cards, or links to events in a campaign structure.

WD206 featured one Mr. Wood with some thoughts on Small and Beautiful games: specifically, playing narrative campaigns with 500-1000 points a side, small tense battles which allow the nuances of the rules to be shine out without quite so much bloomin’ STUFF in the way.

WD207 introduced the Great Unclean One. I mention this purely because I’ve always liked that model and, after the Zombie Dragon, it’s one of those for which I am always keeping out a weather eye. (The things I write to avoid stopping on a preposition…) But the big lug also makes a game-changing difference to any scenario in which it appears, and the summoning system allows for all sorts of cool possession or ritual moments in game. It also makes a prime target for at least one of the standard Mission Cards: a Witch Hunt takes on new and tense meaning when the highest level psyker in the target’s army won’t appear until you’ve taken at least ten casualties. That’s a fascinating dynamic, if you’re the sort of person who is fascinated by game encounters which force a bit of give and take.

Now. Let’s talk about army backstory for a minute. Premise: not everyone from Nostramo was on the planet when it was destroyed – it was trading with the rest of the Imperium, its society had short range space travel even before the Great Crusade, and so on. Now, that means some Nostramans survived the first Exterminatus. And THAT means elements of the Eighth Legion could still be working to either finish the job by wiping out the Nostraman diaspora or round up some OG space goth gangsters so they can recruit “true” Night Lords again. Given that it’s been ten thousand years in a galaxy-sized melting pot since anyone was actually from Nostramo, either plan is barking mad – but nobody said Chaos Space Marines were good project planners. I’m not sure if my lot are on the “kill ’em all” or “save what we can” side yet. Maybe both.

I have a couple of ideas. The first is hard to integrate into Ben and Paul’s campaign framework, because it involves non-standard forces without easy “percentage of points” calculations – the lads are avoiding edition warfare by saying come what may, the percentage of enemy points killed goes into the total for either Imperial or Xenos sides, and the details of systems and such are down to you.

Instead, let’s try something a bit more compatible with what other people are already doing. Here’s my rough and ready mini-campaign concept, each game mirroring a stage in the Night Lords’ plan for St. Valentine’s World. In campaign terms, my points will simply load onto the Xenos side, but I want to use the regular Mission Cards to give a shape and agenda to my army’s participation, as a discrete thing in their own right. So I can win or lose my games, achieve my own objectives, and still feed into what the boys are up to.

  1. Capture a base of operations: this orbital battle station will do nicely. Chaos: Take and Hold vs. Imperials (Paul) Engage and Destroy… on Space Hulk tiles?
  2. Recruit/kill identifiable members of the Nostraman diaspora: gotta get close and see the blacks of their eyes. Chaos: Guerilla War vs. Imperials (Paul) Dawn Raid… since the Guardsmen are just trying to run the hell away. (This approximates the Purge scenario and eases it into compatibility with the broader campaign.)
  3. Capture or at least destroy a key Imperial shrine, housing a relic from the Heresy. Meanwhile, the Space Wolves are on the hunt, having picked up the psychic scent of a powerful Chaos Sorcerer or even, maybe, a Greater Daemon… Chaos: Bunker Assault vs. Space Wolves (Ben) Witch Hunt.
  4. Turn the battle station’s guns on the planet below and… what? Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances… Chaos: Hold The Line vs. Space Wolves: (Ben) Bunker Assault… in SPAAAACE!

Four 1000 point battles which should be doable in a day or two, and leave one person free to take photos, check rules, and spam the Middlehammer community with updates. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?