A couple of weeks ago I bought 2 Eldar Revenant titans, and none of my opponents minded or even raised an eyebrow. They have no reason to object -their own armies feature Warhounds, Thunderhawks, scores of Leman Russes, countless Tyrannid monstrosities, Shadowswords and Reaver Titans, and yet the armies are balanced, the matches close right to the final moments, the game streamlined and the system tournament-ready.
It’s time to have another look at Epic Armageddon.
I’ll be completely upfront about this: The goal of this mini-series about Epic is to get you interested enough in Games Workshop’s other game set in the grim darkness of the 41st Century to actually give it a try. I started playing it fairly casually with some friends and it took a few games to realise that Epic is actually GW’s most strategic and tactically rewarding game. In fact, this weekend I’ll be flying 4,000km to CanCon for a major Epic Tournament, which is about as strong a personal endorsement as anyone can give a game.
As a reader of the tactic and tournament-orientated 3++ website, you already love strategy, planning and the warmachines and creatures of GW’s dark future. You are what the industry calls pre-sold, you just didn’t realise it. I’ll be posting information about the game, some photos and battle reports and a guide to army building.
What is Epic?
In 2003 Games Workshop published the fourth edition of their science fiction, mass combat system, Epic Armageddon. Unlike 40K, this game uses 6mm scale models, allowing far larger armies to be fielded, and an alternating activation system where each player performs an action with a formation and hands initiative over to the enemy or gambles on retaining to do a second move (when retaining, orders are followed with a -1 modifier), meaning that the delay between each players actions are never long. The game relied heavily on community feedback during its development and the living rulebook was made available for free via GW’s Fanatic Games Division website.
The rules are still available for free to this day (now on GW’s website), but don’t see active development from GW now that Fanatic has been closed. Instead, development flows from the fans in the form of Net Epic Armageddon and army lists are subject to a remarkably rigorous play-testing regime in international meta-games before moving from experimental to developmental to the coveted ‘approved’ status.
What makes Epic so, well, epic?
Warfare on a grand scale
Even the tournament-standard sized 3000pt game could feature up to 60 Leman Russes, 5 Thunderhawks filled with devastators and tactical marines, Hierophant Bio-Titans, 144 Skorchas, or infantry and artillery on a mass-scale. To quote GW, “If you want to fight in cataclysmic conflicts that involve millions of troops and armoured vehicles, aircraft, artillery pieces and war engines with planet shattering power; then this is the game for you.”
Believe it or not, there is only one standard mission in Epic, and it is played in virtually every standard game. The mission offers 5 ways to win, and deciding which objectives to pursue based on your own and your opponent’s armies is a key skill.
Epic Rewards Maneuvering
Above all else. Of the 5 possible points to be scored, 4 are contingent on the positioning of your models at the end of every turn after the 2nd. Positioning is everything in this game, and breaking through scout screens and out-maneuvering the opponent’s units is often more important than trying to kill them.
Let’s face it, unless the enemy is packing something unusually high powered like plasma or demolisher cannons, there is little reason for Marines and Terminators to use cover in 40K. In Epic, Cover has multiple effects. Firstly, as in 40K infantry can use the cover to attempt saves if it is better than their armour save; Stormtroopers with Armour 5+ would use the 4+ save from ruins and rubble, while Marines would just use their armour save.
However, there is a secondary bonus to cover in that the opponent’s shots at a unit in cover have a -1 modifier (eg a weapon that normally hits infantry on a 4+ would require a 5+). The effect is that while Marines almost always use their armour to stop shots, they are also harder to hit when obscured.
This is a simple rule that makes the effect of cover more equitable to all races and armies. In fact it’s tempting to email that to GW as a reminder they’ve written some great rules in the past.
Strategic differences between armies
Elite armies like Space Marines are more likely to choose the board edge and to go first than their opponents due to their higher Strategy Rating (5) than are slow ponderous enemies like the Imperial Guard (2). The Marines are also far more likely to carry out their orders and do as the player requests with an Initiative of 1 (by default, their orders succeed on a roll of 1+) than a Tau (by default 2+). Armies like Orks hate following orders (3+) unless it sounds fun, so pass double moving and shooting, or assaulting their opponents on a 1. Tyrannids start slow, rarely get to go first, but spawn and build up steam as the game goes on until the board becomes a carpet of horrific monstrosities and voracious creatures.
The effect is a genuine difference between armies, how they are played, and how they feel.
Epic has a simple mechanic that simulates the suppression formations suffer when they are fired upon or assaulted.
During a game the formations under your command will receive Blast markers when they come under fire, take casualties, fight in assaults, or fail initiative tests. Blast markers can be removed when a formation rallies or regroups
• A formation receives one Blast marker every time it is shot at by an enemy formation, even if no casualties are caused (placing BM is often more important than killing models)
• In addition, a formation receives one Blast marker every time a unit is destroyed, unless the rules specifically state otherwise (models like Grots die without any affect on the formation – poor guys).
• Each Blast marker suppresses one unit in the formation and stops it from shooting. Blast markers also affect a formation’s ability to carry out actions, win assaults, and rally. A formation is broken when the number of Blast markers equals the number of units in the formation, unless the rules specifically state otherwise. A broken formation has to withdraw, and is not allowed to take actions in the action phase (which basically means it can’t move or shoot).
In effect, a formation that has come under heavy fire will find it harder to carry out orders, fewer models in the unit will be able to fire weapons, and they will find it harder to win assaults. Placing blast markers, suppressing enemy formations and prepping them before assaults with other formations are absolutely key to victory in Epic.
Formations that take fire from the flank or rear are caught in a deadly crossfire, and will suffer additional casualties as troops struggle to find cover from attacks coming from an unexpected
direction. If your shooting unit can draw a line through their target up to 45cm long to another friendly formation the enemy’s armour or cover save is decreased by 1, and they suffer an extra Blast Marker for the first casualty they take.
This makes positioning, the angle of attack and use of coordinated formations extremely important, especially when dealing with units with Reinforced Armour – the mighty Leman Russ that has a 4+ Rerollable save only gets a 5+ Rerollable when the unit is being hit with crossfire. That’s the difference between requiring 4 hits to kill each tank and just 2.3, which in a tight game could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Send a spearhead too far past enemy lines and you may find them being cut off, surrounded and cross-fired into oblivion. Send formations together in a solid central front and protect their flanks and you’ll find them far more resilient.
Both sides can call in supporting fire from other formations within 15cm during assaults. This rewards players who can play several moves (or even turns) in advance and position their units to support one another, or attackers who plan their assaults to hit from angles that offer the opponent no supporting fire.
The result is a fast paced, fluid game of maneuver, positioning, suppression, assault, destruction and objective claiming. It’s fun.
The Rules are free!
You can download them right now, or wait to see a few battle reports to find out if this is the sort of thing you want to get into. Fortunately the Army lists are also free, and over the last few years the 6mm model industry has burgeoned to fill whatever gaps there were in GW’s range. My own armies are a mix of Forgeworld, GW and 3rd party manufacturers. As wargaming goes, it’s fairly inexpensive.
Army lists and discussion
Tactical Command is the biggest hub for Net Epic online, so a great place to start if you want to find not just the army lists (including previews of future developmental forces), but also join the discussion around them and get advice.
Epic Armageddon Army Lists http://www.tacticalwargames.net/taccmd/viewforum.php?f=109
Epic Armageddon Forum http://www.tacticalwargames.net/taccmd/viewforum.php?f=4
Or for a gentler entry to Epic discussion, come join the conversation in to the new 3++ Epic forum http://3plusplus.net/forum/viewforum.php?f=67