Monday, February 7, 2011

Rogue Trader battle report

Last week Dallas hosted a game of Rogue Trader, featuring my Imperial Guardsmen against his excellent "Red Star" Orks. The plot was fairly basic - the Orks were coming to capture an Imperial Governor (you never really know who owns those payday loan outfits), and his Imperial Guard escort was trying to get him to the Valkyrie landing platform in one piece.

The Imperial Guard force was a platoon of three tactical squads, a command section, two Thudd guns and two Sentinel walkers. The Ork force included "boyz", two "super-slaughterer" dreadnoughts, a war-track, two "skorchas", a crazy traktor cannon, and the debut of the Red Barun!

The last time the Imperial Guard and Orks tangled, the Imperials lit up the enemy. It did not work out so well for the Imperials this time. While our lascannon gunners had fun picking off individual Ork boyz, the Ork dreads put the boots to us. The Red Barun was shot down, but not before he mowed down a tactical squad. Our Rhino was knocked out. Both Sentinels were knocked out. We comforted ourselves by wrecking most of the Ork bikes, but by the end of the game, that Governor was destined to be captured!

Here are a few pictures from the game:

I absolutely love playing Rogue Trader. I'm sure a lot of that is just nostalgia - after all, Rogue Trader was the first tabletop game I started playing. The RT-era figures were the first ones I started collecting. So it's a hoot to get the stuff out on to the table.

For certain, the weaknesses of Rogue Trader are numerous - starting with the perplexing (to put it politely) vehicle rules. We simply ignored them as convenient -- "folding" into 5th edition 40k as needed to deal with the flyer, for example. The Rogue Trader army lists, such as they are, are often contradictory and incomplete. The deviation rules are terrible. In general, there are many small, special rules to know. Power fields are unkillable. These are just a few examples.

No question the evolution into the third edition of 40k transformed the game into something that was more playable, more quickly, for more players.

At the same time, Rogue Trader has a lot to recommend it beyond nostalgia. It actually captures that plot-driven, platoon-level skirmish feel which the current version of 40k has utterly lost. The game is not over on the first turn. Opponents do not cover the entire table in one move. Squads do not have to shoot at the same target. Your entire force does not unravel at the very first instant of close combat (close combat is actually quite the slog). And my ultimate bugaboo - you can shoot opponents that charge you! In short, it is a skirmish game, and a lot of fun.

Do the special rules slow the game? You bet. At the same time, I would conservatively estimate that 60-75% of units/vehicles in any 5th edition game are covered by a special rule of some kind. A 5th edition 40k game only proceeds quickly with an exhaustive understanding of the rules.

Rogue Trader is no-doubt ill-suited to unplanned pickup games, and not practical at all for any kind of tournament situation. But a fun, planned-out scenario with friends? One Rogue Trader game will capture the spirit and setting of 40k more than 100 5th edition games. We will play 5th edition 40k again I am sure - and that will be fun too - but I am looking forward to our next Rogue Trader game very much.

Thanks to Dallas for hosting, and to everyone who came out to play!


DaveV said...

That was a fun game.

I do like the roleplaying plot seeds provided in the Rogue Trader rulebook. IIRC, e.g. "There's a space vampire hiding out in the planetary governor's palace!" There are dozens, scores of these hooks to design a game around.

That being said, there's no reason not to have narrative games of 40K 5th edition.

Astronomi-con, though a tournament series, has lots of weird and story-driven scenarios. You might interrupt a human sacrifice, fight off monsters, or capture a downed pilot.

A good Apocalypse game is fundamentally story-driven, since there's no real balance required for the forces.

Hopefully, an entertaining plot/scenario idea is rules agnostic.

Dallas said...

Great report Greg, and thanks for bringing out your very lovely Guard army!

RT fever is definitely virulent... I spent last evening working on a looted Rhino for the Red Star boyz... Boss Orks can't be expected to walk you know ;-)

MIK said...

Great writeup and pics, lots of "Hey, I had one of those!" moments.

We've kicked around the idea of some RT action around these parts as well, I'm going to forward this excellent post to the group.

knobgobbler said...

I love Rogue Trader!
We still get a game in now and then... the flavor can't be beat and the miniatures were had more character back then.
It's definitely slower going but IMO it's more fun.