Monday, February 29, 2016

Product Review: Warhammer 40K Roleplay--Only War

(WH40K RPG Only War Core Rulebook)

Despite my mixed-feelings and misgivings about Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K), I amassed a collection of 6th Edition Codexes (book supplements, each focusing on a specific faction), along with the core rule book. 

Two factors helped me accomplish this--

--First, WH40K is now in it's 7th Edition.
--And second, Half Price Books put earlier edition material on the Clearance Rack.

Shortly afterwards, I discovered many of the WH40K role playing game (RPG) material was being sold at a discount by some on-line stores.  (Fantasy Flight Games began publishing WH40K RPG material in early 2008).

With so much material to choose from, but with limited shelf space, I focused on the types of RPG adventures that interested me the most:  Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

In the extraordinarily grim setting of the 41st Millennium, you don't get any more ordinary than being a soldier in the Imperial Guard.  Just about everything in the galaxy is stronger, tougher, faster and even smarter than mere human beings.

The WH40K RPG system, uses one, or two ten-sided dice (1d10, or 2d10--rolled as a percentile) to resolve actions from shooting enemies of the Emperor, to conducting repairs.  Some of the Player Characters' (PCs') nine characteristics are similar to the stats used in the WH40K wargame.

The game mechanics are similar to other RPG systems, but using percentile dice helps heroes "nickel & dime" as many advantages as possible when attempting to resolve an action. Every 10% above the minimum necessary dice roll constitutes a "level of success," resulting in extra benefits.  Likewise, every 10% below the minimum results in a "level of failure," which will most likely have dire consequences.

Two unique features of Only War are that players don't just "roll-up" their characters. 

First, it is decided, either by the Gamemaster (GM), or by the GM and players, on what type of regiment they're serving in.  That is, before PCs are created, the regiment and its commanding officer are rolled-up. 

Second, the players form a squad within this regiment.  In order to fill out the ranks--and to absorb casualties--players roll-up a comrade.  This companion is an non-player character (NPC) who'll follow reasonable orders from the PC, and can assist with resolving actions.

The acquisition of weapons and equipment is also different from other RPGs.  Since PCs are members of a military unit, they don't have to buy equipment.  Instead weapons and equipment are issued.

But herein lies the problem:  PCs are subject to byzantine whims of the Adeptes Munitorum.  Players may have to make "Logistics Tests" in order to acquire additional weapons (or ones of better quality), and even replacement comrades.  So it pays to devote some points to non-combat skills and talents.

Aesthetically, the Only War core rulebook is filled with artwork that evokes the grim setting of the 41st Millennium.  My only issue with this product is there are a considerable number of syntax errors and the book could have benefited from additional editing.  I also found the arcane looking map of the Calixis Sector, found inside the front and back covers, hard to understand.  Easier to follow maps are available on-line by doing a Google-Search.

Only War garnered an average 4.7 out of 5 stars by reviewers on

For further reading:

If you're interested in an entertaining and snarky review of Only War, check out 1d4chan.

For the writers among you, Only War earned an extensive and humorous entry on TV Tropes.

Some Supplement Books:

In addition to the Gamemaster's Kit, I also purchased the following "splatbooks," as the folks at 1d4chan call them.

1. Hammer of the Emperor:

(Hammer of the Emperor Supplement)
This supplement provides additional material for soldiers.

2. Shield of Humanity:

(Shield of Humanity Supplement)

A supplement for support personnel, ranging from technicians to priests.  This book had the most syntax errors of any of the Only War material I purchased.  It seemed like every handful of pages I'd run across one or more grammatical errors.  Not misspellings, just words that didn't fit the sentence they were placed in.

3. Enemies of the Imperium:

(Enemies of the Imperium Supplement)

An extensive look at the bad guys an Imperial Guard squad may have to contend with in the Calixis Sector; along with a chapter on running mass-battles, acquiring veteran skills and medals.

The most-likely enemies PCs may face are: The  Severan Dominate, Orks of WAAAGH! Grimtoof, the Children of the Thorns Kabal, and a warband of Chaos Space Marines

I haven't purchased any of the adventure "splatbooks."  Many other WH40K and Warhammer Fantasy "splatbooks" are available for a discount, even clearance, at The Miniature Market.

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