After resisting this for a couple of months, I’ve finally begun to look into the new way to play games of 40k as laid out in the Arks of Omen: Abaddon book – Boarding Actions. This is a bit of a hybrid between Kill Team and regular 40k, as we have small teams (up to 500 points) going up against one another on the sprawling space hulks, fighting room-to-room to achieve their objectives. Whereas the Psychic Awakening event that brought 8th edition to a close was a pretty comprehensive overhaul of all the armies in the game, Arks of Omen isn’t intended to add to the rules bloat but rather seems to be going the opposite way of paring back the rules, providing a new way of playing games that makes use of the Kill Team scenery from the current cycle of boxes, which started with Into the Dark.
Boarding Actions require a bigger board, so you need two sets of this terrain to fill out a game board. It’s actually the news of this coming last autumn that prompted me to pick up Into the Dark, as I thought I would get it and one other box, then I’d have enough terrain to see me through. However, both of the subsequent boxes have proven to be extremely popular and have sold out before I could pick either up. As such, I was a bit dejected about the whole thing until I started to put the terrain together last week, and found myself enjoying the configurations I was making at random.
So you need two sets of terrain – just the walls with the columns and hatchways, none of the extra gribblies. GW have rather helpfully put out a box of this, which will set you back £130 to pick up. Next, you need the rules, which are in Arks of Omen: Abaddon. If you can find it, that’ll set you back £35 – it’s currently out of stock everywhere I look, however. It’s worth remembering that this is an adaptation of 40k, and not its own game like Kill Team, so you’ll also need your army, codex and the 40k rulebook. All of this is to say that for a small-scale skirmish game, Boarding Actions is actually extremely expensive to get into, unless you’re already into both 40k and Kill Team.
Once you’re in, you get 500 points to build a list from the fairly restrictive FOC of 0-1 HQ, 0-3 Troops, and 0-3 Elites. No Monsters, no Vehicles, not Jump, Cavalry or Biker units, and nothing that can fly. You can also only take one Character. I love this idea, because it is pretty much based on how I view a lot of my army builds: troops, their leader, and maybe one fancy group. GW have released a free pdf that runs through how each army can tweak these rules, for example Tau can take a unit of Pathfinders even though they’re Fast Attack, and can take drones even though they can Fly. It’s a great way to bring balance to the game at a small scale, while also allowing for some very narrative-focused squads.
Interestingly, there are no stratagems. Well, there are the core three (command re-roll, etc), but that’s it. There are no warlord traits or relics, instead we get Boarding Enhancements for a warlord. There is a part of me that wonders whether this might be testing the waters a little for the anticipated 10th edition, although I don’t suppose the timing is right, given that this was probably in development for some time. Even so, it’s interesting to see how they have changed the game up to make quite a thematic experience for the cramped confines of a space hulk or orbital station.
Everything that I’ve read about Boarding Actions has been pretty positive so far, which is quite nice to see in this day and age! The one negative is, of course, the investment. For a 40k player, you need to stump up £165 for the terrain and book; for someone looking to get into the hobby, they’ll also need models and codex, so it isn’t a cheap way to play the game. I’d principally bought the Kill Team box for this, as I said, but have swung back to thinking of it as a Necromunda thing instead (not playing Kill Team), but now that I’ve read up a bit more, and having built up the stuff, I think I would like to try to realise my goals of getting the second set of terrain to try out some of these missions. Future Arks of Omen books look like they’re going to provide Boarding Actions-specific stuff so that the game mode is somewhat supported, although it will be interesting to see how it translates with 10th edition on the way. I highly suspect that this will be forgotten about in the wake of the new edition, but I do hope I’m wrong on that.
The fact that the rulebook for this is out of stock does bother me, though. With the Kill Team boxes being snapped up so damn quickly, I was initially miffed but it seemed that the second box was at least being bought up by people for the Kasrkin team, and very little thought was being given to the rest of it. The Arbites are also a great looking team, and I think people have potentially done the same with that. However, there are also the persistent and loud rumours that these boxes are not being made in any great quantities, which is very strange. I get that content we’re seeing released now was in development during the pandemic, and so there might be issues as a result of that, but it seems that there are supply chain problems and warehousing issues that mean we’ve got these ridiculously small releases. How true any of this is, I don’t know, but at least my wallet can breathe a sigh of relief while these things aren’t available to buy!!
As much as I’d like an Arbites kill team, I think I’m just going to have to wait for now, until everything settles down. I might pick up the box of extra terrain bits though, as that looks really nice. And it should still go in with my current batch of terrain!