It’s time for game day here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look at a boardgame from Games Workshop that I’ve had hanging about for roughly two years, but only recently have gotten round to the building of all the minis in there. It’s time to assassinate some Chaos renegades!
Assassinorum Execution Force came out in 2015, and was the first actual boardgame Games Workshop had put out in a number of years. The game comes with a number of repackaged miniatures from the Chaos Space Marines range of Warhammer 40k, and four of the Officio Assassinorum assassin models that, up until fairly recently, couldn’t be found anywhere outside of this box/ebay. The Chaos models are primarily cultists, but also include three push-fit marines, and a Sorcerer Lord. There are obviously some other bits and pieces necessary for the game, all of which can be seen in the video I made back when I first got my hands on this thing:
So the object of the game is for the four assassins to stop an evil ritual the Chaos Sorcerer Lord Drask is trying to complete, by discovering a teleportation room within the Astropathic Sanctum (the main board) to travel to the Temple of Shades and then fight him. There is a 15-turn clock on the execution force, and if this track ever reaches the 16th space, the ritual is completed and the assassins have lost.
Let’s take a look at the game pieces:
The models are pretty old for the Chaos forces, and have some pretty awful mouldlines on them. In the interests of speed, I only properly cleaned the Sorcerer and the three marines, with the cultists just clipped off the sprue and pushed together. The assassins, however, are quite beautiful models, and definitely deserve some attention. I’m thinking I might leave the majority of these minis unpainted, although the assassins do really cry out for a bit of attention, so I might get round to those soon enough…
The board is beautifully illustrated, and shows the dark corridors of the astropathic sanctum that feel quite claustrophobic when you start playing. The thick red lines across the terrain denote walls that really serve to limit line of sight and movement, and it didn’t take long to really get into the theme of the game as you cautiously position the assassins for maximum advantage!
All of the Chaos forces are referred to as Renegades throughout the game, and move along an AI system that is actually quite hilarious at times. All over the board, there are small red arrows that denote how a Renegade will move, several of which have options between 1-6 for which you throw a dice. I think the idea is that no two paths will ever be exactly the same, but it can lead to models almost pacing up and down like some kind of Beefeater sentry, or just meandering around in a circular path. There are some great rules that determine how and when the Renegades notice the assassins, however, and while they can seem a bit fiddly at first (there are three pages in the rulebook devoted to this, including illustrations and flowcharts), it actually becomes quite straightforward over the course of the game and, while I might not call it intuitive, it’s nevertheless easy enough to deal with.
So the mission is kinda split into two sections: find the teleportation chamber within the astropathic sanctum, then teleport to the Temple of Shades for the showdown with Lord Drask. There are a number of sections across the board that have a light shading to them: these denote empty rooms that are placed from a Room deck onto the board whenever an assassin has line of sight to the space. A Chaos star on the room (like that one above) instructs you to place a cultist on there, though that cultist cannot act this turn. To counteract the random element of placing rooms that may be the teleportation chamber within the first turn or two, you actually draw a number of tiles indicated on the board, and pick the lowest-numbered tile (such as tile 2 in the above photo). While the teleportarium itself is tile 5, you need to spend a turn to activate it, which is done through tile 11, the control bank. So out of 12 tiles in total, it’s going to be a while before you can actually move to the Temple of Shades. Nice!
While you move around the board, you’ll inevitably end up fighting the Renegades. The combat system is actually really straightforward, and I was surprised there wasn’t much more to it. If you have line of sight and are within 6 squares of a Renegade, then you can shoot using whatever weapon is listed on your assassin’s card – in the Eversor’s case, he has his Executioner Pistol, which rolls two dice (the red blobs). The highest result is chosen from the dice rolls, and compared with the target’s Resilience. If the hit equals or exceeds the Resilience value, then that target takes a wound. If he has wounds equal or in excess of his Stamina, then he is killed. So in the above example, the Eversor has rolled a 4, which equals the cultist’s Stamina, so the cultist is removed as a casualty.
Assassins have a range of five actions they can take, but can only perform two on each activation. However, each also has special rules on the reverse of their card that can allow them to take extra actions, or perform the same action twice.
Once all four assassins have activated, it’s the Chaos phase. During this phase, the familiar miniature moves one space on the Temple board (that ritual track mentioned earlier), then a number of Event cards are drawn equal to 1 plus however many cultists are On Alert (more shortly), up to a maximum of four cards. These cards range across a variety of awful things, from global buffs to the Renegades, to deploying more Renegades such as the Chaos Space Marines!
The Renegades all then move along their pre-allotted paths determined by the board as mentioned earlier. All Renegades are generally said to be On Patrol, but if a model was just placed on the board as the result of a room being revealed in the previous assassins phase, he won’t activate until the next round. Any Renegades that have seen an assassin within their line of sight will go On Alert, as will any who were within 6 squares of an attack by an assassin in the previous phase. These Renegades will move towards the nearest assassin, and either shoot or fight it as necessary. All assassins only have two hit points before they’re out, though all can attempt to heal in the next turn (and the Eversor can ignore wounds on a 5+ anyway).
The game progresses back and forth like this while the assassins search for the control bank, then move to the teleportarium and swoop in to attack Lord Drask at his dastardly ritual. Lord Drask is a 3HP model, with some pretty horrible attacks. However, in my introductory game I managed to defeat him by the Culexus assassin getting a hit thanks to the animus speculum, then the Vindicare assassin using his deadshot ability to score two hits at +2 to the dice roll if he hasn’t moved this turn. Pretty decent, in the end! However, the Callidus assassin was offered up as a sacrifice in order to ensure the sorcerer lord didn’t target the Vindicare, beating the poor shapeshifting assassin with his force stave.
Operation Deathblow was a success!
This was a really enjoyable game, with a pretty straightforward AI for the Chaos Renegades, and a lot of tactical depth for how to deploy the assassins each turn. It didn’t take long to learn, so I wasn’t glued to the rulebook for the entire game, though some things did obviously require reference when they cropped up.
Each of the assassins also has a pair of Talents, which can be used by spending tokens throughout the game. I found myself hording these for the most part, and only expending them during the final battle, however they do seem to be quite useful, such as the Culexus’ psyk-out grenade that can stun the Renegades but actually wound the sorcerer, or the Eversor’s frenzon that allows him to perform an extra action as mentioned. I might try again soon with using these a bit more often to see how effective they can be throughout the game.
While replayability is often an issue with a variety of games, Assassinorum: Execution Force has a sort of built-in mechanism to entice players to once more go up against the sorcerer lord, through the Achievements on the last page. I mentioned Operation Deathblow above; this is the first in a group of ten achievements that rewards you for just completing the game. Other achievements include using only a single assassin all game, or only a single assassin for the final battle, or leaving no models alive on the astropathic sanctum board. GW has also published twelve more achievements, such as limiting your assassins to 1HP, or each assassin only being able to heal once for the whole game. (Without knowing it, then, I also managed to achieve the “Right Between the Eyes” achievement in my first playthrough, having the Vindicare use his deadshot ability to finally kill Lord Drask!).
Tired of playing against the sorcerer lord? How about trying out the game against Lord Drask once he has ascended as a Demon Prince?! These rules give Drask an extra HP, and allow him to shoot any assassin within the Temple of Shades with his Warp Gaze, regardless of walls!
Further, the new-look September 2016 White Dwarf also provided rules for all four of the Chaos Demons types to replace the cultists. These rules are actually really nice, and it’s a shame that, to date, they haven’t been made available online. Demons don’t have any ranged weapons, so only fight the assassins when they are adjacent to them, but they can be quite deadly in doing so! When it comes time to confront Lord Drask in the Temple of Shades, these demons are upgraded to one of either a Champion, Standard Bearer or Hornblower, which gives them area-affect powers or additional HP. As if that weren’t enough, this issue of White Dwarf also featured nine further achievements that work specifically with the demon rules.
Assassinorum: Execution Force is a real blast to play, and while it has now disappeared from the webstore, I still nurture some hope that we might get some rules for protagonists other than the assassins to go up against the denizens of Chaos. Though I guess that might be covered by Overkill…