Following on from last week’s game of 40k, I thought I’d start a bit of an occasional mini-series, looking at the different ways that we can all enjoy the tabletop war game of massed battles in the 41st millennium. I’m only going to write these sorts of blogs when I have actually tried those sorts of games, so there’s no guarantee of when I’ll be pumping them out, though I am fairly experienced with a few by now, so I’m going to start it today and see where I get to! So today’s blog will be looking at the Open War cards, as I’ve used these quite a bit since they came out, and see what they’re all about!
So the Open War cards were made available not long after the main Dark Imperium boxed set arrived at the start of 8th edition, with the intent that they will allow players to get games in where there is an element of playing a mission, but without having to go along with one of the more monumental missions that are included in the main rulebook. Nice!
These cards were really popular with pretty much everyone at my local store when they first came out, and I think everybody I know who plays 40k has their own, slightly battered deck of cards – the only reason mine are fairly pristine is that I seem to end up facing somebody who has already brought their own set!
While the name might suggest that these are only for Open Play, they are entirely suitable for Matched Play also, as they only really generate more dynamic missions to play rather than the Eternal War or Maelstrom of War missions that are included within the Matched Play section of the rulebook. Although I pretty much exclusively play within a casual environment, I do always play Matched Play, using lists that are built on points. Which is where using these cards can get quite interesting – more on that in a bit.
So, there are five separate decks of cards within the box, and perhaps the most important two are the Objectives and the Deployment cards. The Deployment cards are twelve different battle-maps that show how each player can set up their army, and vary considerably.
The twelve Objectives give you a reason for your fight – while it’s entirely legitimate sometimes to just play to kill your opponent, games can be much more interesting if you’re trying to do something else. Many of these Objectives make use of objective markers (I love objective markers, but that’s a subject for another blog), but also include weird ones like Kill the Courier and such. They are a good way to give the battle a point without spending hours beforehand working out a scenario for the game.
Twist cards – again, there’s twelve of them – represent weird stuff going on around the armies as they fight. There are effects that can randomly kill off units, there are Night Fighting-style effects, one that interacts with Psykers, etc. If the Objectives give a narrative feel to the battle you’re fighting, the Twists give it even more depth by providing further tactical elements to take advantage of. I know some people don’t like using them, because playing four or five games with Acid Rain in effect can be a bit dull, and so the variant grew up whereby players draw three cards from each of the Objective, Deployment and Twist decks, then each player getting to decide which one they really don’t want to use. I’m not a huge fan of this, as I’d rather just go ahead and stick with what I’ve drawn.
There is one Twist card in particular that I want to mention, Meeting Battle, which divides your army into contingents that come on separately. I had my first game with my Tau army using this Twist, and it was incredibly useful as it allowed me to get used to small numbers of units on a round-by-round basis. Very handy to use when trying something new out.
Finally, there are the Ruse and Sudden Death cards, totalling six cards in each deck. These cards are used specifically when you’re building an army using Power Level rather than Points, although there’s no reason at all why you can’t use them if you’re using Points to work out your army level, as you should be able to fairly quickly work out the Power Level anyway. (I tend to always do that for my armies, just in case it’s needed – you can usually see this when I write blogs like this one, that talk about my army lists).
Ruse cards are drawn if your army’s total Power Level is less than your opponent’s, as a means of giving you a bit of an edge if you need it. Sudden Death cards are drawn if your army’s total Power Level is half or less than your opponent’s, as an additional help towards victory in the face of such odds. So you might get the Ruse card ‘Inspiring Speech’, which allows your army to automatically pass Morale checks, which will be handy because you can’t afford for your smaller army to be running off due to Morale. But you may also get the Sudden Death card ‘Kill Order’, which you can play if you kill an enemy Character, Vehicle or Monster with the highest Wounds characteristic of any enemy model on the battlefield – when you do, you automatically win the game!
I can’t think that you would ever actually want to take an army knowingly so under-powered, but it does lend itself to some incredibly thematic and narrative games!
And I think that’s where these cards belong really. It would be remiss to assume that these cards are only to be used in Open Play, because they do have a lot of value if you’re playing Matched Play games as well – you can totally spend days fine-tooling a list that is worked out to the granular level that the Points system allows, but then do something funky with these cards anyway. The way they allow you to create a mission on the fly, even if you’re using just the Deployment and Objective cards, is really very useful, especially if you’re having just pick-up games at the local shop.
Of course, they are somewhat dependent on having an army with its Power Level worked out, as even Objectives like ‘Glory Seeker’ need the players to know how many Points of models they’ve killed (I remember winning a game with Necrons due to this, even though I had actually been wiped out). I think this factor has led to a lot of people potentially discounting the cards, and it was heavily pushed at the beginning of 8th edition as a new way to build armies, but I can definitely recommend any fan of 40k picking up these cards if they haven’t done so already!