A system for running massively huge games of Warhammer 40,000 in 28mm scale, an alternative to Epic. Some of the primary changes include the lack of a Force Organization Chart, Apocalypse Datasheets with extra rules to represent formations, special Apocalypse-only super-heavy units (like much of what Forge World puts out), and "strategic assets," which are various factors used to balance out the two sides (including one that, hilariously, prevents team-members from communicating while setting up their forces if they have a numerical advantage).
How Did This Happen?
One day, the Games Workshop CEO cast his eyes downward from his golden throne in Lenton, noticing with dismay that people still had money to buy things other than tiny plastic figures. An emergency staff meeting was called to rectify the situation.
"How did this happen?" shrieked one board member.
"When did they slip through our fingers?" gnashed another.
"SILENCE!" bellowed the hallowed CEO. "JUST MAKE IT BIGGER."
The designers looked at one another uncomfortably. Finally, the lead designer hesitantly stepped forward and asked, "Sir, we should make what, exactly, bigger?"
"EVERYTHING! RESIN MODELS! SIX BY EIGHT TABLE! FIVE THOUSAND POINTS STANDARD!" boomed the CEO.
"But won't that be impossible to balance? The game was never designed to accommodate such large forces..." said the designer, with a look of utter horror.
"We'll just release new books that add special rules if you own enough models!" the first board member tittered, as the full extent of the CEO's glorious plan dawned on him. "And then we'll add expensive units from the fluff that are even more overpowered!" cackled the second, as he too realized the genius of Games Workshop's fearless leader.
"A Reaver Titan will cost eight hundred pounds!" howled a third triumphantly.
"I don't think that's even remotely close to the actual value..." began a Forge World modeler, before the frenzied CEO tore his throat out.
No but really...
Alright alright. Apocalypse is basically the result of people already owning a metric fuck ton of models and who started thinking that maybe there was more in life than that. You can only play with one army at a time really, so what's the point? Well NO MORE. Now you can play with as many minis as you can fit on the table and the other three tables you set up next to it. Winning largely revolves around spending the most on bullshit broken stuff. Your opponents have too many vehicles? Go buy yourself shit with destroyer weapons on it. They bring a titan? You go buy a Manta. So yeah. This is what happens when you have too much money and have nothing in your life except 40k. Fuck, at least Magic players go meet new people.
GW realized that no one plays Apocalypse scale battles due to their size and time (and thus don't buy their models). To fix this, they came up with a new supplement for 40k proper called Escalation that allows you to use a Lord of War (Super-Heavies and Gargantuan Creatures) in your Force Organization chart, complete with Strength D weaponry. So now you can have a Baneblade in your 1500 points game, like an asshole. So far its just one or two models per race (unless you play Imperial, in which case you get all the Baneblade variants and can take units from Imperial Armour), but you'd be extremely unlikely to be fielding more than one Lord of War anyway.
The initial reaction to Escalation was broadly negative from the player base, as accusations flew around about it making things wildly imbalanced when one player's army doesn't have access to a Lord of War or counters to Strength-D weapons for whatever reason.
Though forums and 40k blog websites gradually debunked this attitude by showing that tournament goers were not immediately swamped by players arriving with waves upon waves of unbeatable superheavy deathstars, nor were the new Lords of War absolutely essential in winning or losing games, and in many cases were seen as point sinks and giant "shoot-me" targets in reasonably sized games vs well designed and balanced armies.
7th Edition 40k
With the arrival of the latest ruleset for Warhammer 40,000, Escalation was very much just rolled into the general toolbox of rules. So Superheavies and Destroyer weapons can find their way into any game without using a supplement, though the Escalation/Apocalypse book would still be required to actually have rules for fielding the superheavy / "Lord of War" models.
They also nerfed the rules for Destroyer weapons too, while still causing multiple wounds as before, they do allow saves as determined by the AP of the weapon (usually AP1 or AP2 anyway) unless you roll a 6 while determining results, in which case your models are screwed.
Apocalypse is still very much a thing, despite the incorporation of many of its rules into the core rulebook. The latest edition of Apocalypse introduced several new features which makes Apocalypse something more than just another game at very high points levels:
- "Finest Hours" where your warlord gets a 3+ invulnerable save and a one-use super-warlord trait for a turn. Either rolled for on a table at random, or is fixed by your primarch if you are a Space Marine (both Loyalist/Traitor)
- Differentiating between formation types, which is something not done at lower level games.
- High Command Formations are single units usually containing several independent characters, granting you additional strategic assets as the game continues in addition to whatever rules they grant you.
- Psychic Choirs - something that GW needs to develop further; whole squads of psykers that may combine their warp charges into single, larger psychic powers. Though 7th Edition 40k creates a pool of warp charges anyway, this grants you access to some really big spells.
- We've always had Strategic Asset Cards, which are like army-wide buffs/special rules or pieces of wargear, the 2nd Edition of Apocalypse restricted some to have resource costs, where if you used them your end-of-game score is reduced accordingly.
GW is still promoting Apocalyse through its own supplements, focusing on specific battles between races, granting new Finest Hour abilities, Formations and Strategic Assets for each participant.
- Warzone Armageddon - Part of the Apocalypse book. Orks vs Guard, Templars & Blood Angels
- Warzone Damnos - Ultramarines vs Necrons
- Warzone Pandorax - Chaos vs Guard, Dark Angels & Grey Knights
- Warzone Damocles - Tau vs pretty much anything Imperium can throw into a meat-grinder. Except Sisters of Battle, because GW hates them.
- Warzone Valedor - Craftworlds Iyanden, Biel-Tan, & Dark Eldar vs Tyranids
- Warzone Vraks - Chaos vs Imperium Published in Imperial Armour Apocalypse, essentially an condensed update for the three older Vraks books
Interestingly the Warzone books have this running theme of "Advancing the Storyline except not really". Warzone Damnos, for example, takes place nearly a hundred years after Agrippan's big sacrifice and all that, and Warzone Damocles is the second Damocles Gulf Crusade (and is thankfully devoid of Matt Ward's accursed Highlander references). Pandorax is even got an entire Horus Heresy novel to be its prequel! (tl;dr the Damnation Cache opened up and a lot of Iron Hands died)
8th Edition 40k
From 8th edition Lords of War became normal play units with most common models except for titans appearing in the standard faction codices and the ability to field a detachment in matchplay solely containing a Lord of War without HQ or other unit requirements with no penalty to command points and even bonus command points for fielding a detachment consisting of 3 or more LoW. They do remain expensive unit, however, with most in the 25-30 power 400 base cost with 200 additional wargear point range though there are a small handful of cheaper LoW (albeit ones that wouldn't be classified as superheavies themselves, such as Roboute Guilliman or Mortarion). Forgeworld have updated their Imperial Armour codices for 8th edition and they remain officially sanctioned supplements by Games Workshop.
Apocalypse (Specialist Game)
Apocalypse has been announced as its own Specialist Game once more, available in July 2019. Using standard 28mm scale models and movement trays, the system also seems to use d12s, markers, and cards. The announcement video for the new system can be found here.
Here's what we know so far:
- Like 40k proper, an Apocalypse army is made up of Detachments that are set up like their 40k counterparts, but now every unit in a given Detachment is activated at once. Whoever has the highest Ld in a Detachment is the Commander of the Detachment, and units too far away from the Commander risk being routed.
- If the Commander is also a Character, they become a Warlord and generate more Command Assets.
- The turn structure is made up of Phases. Each player participates in each Phase before moving to the next.
- Armies use Alternating Activation by Detachment.
- The phases are set up like so:
- Initiative Phase: Players determine who has initiative for the turn.
- Orders Phase: Set up reinforcements, issue orders to Detachments, and get Command Assets.
- Action Phase: Moving, shooting, and assault all happens here.
- Damage Phase: Resolve damage and morale for units. Note that since this comes after the Action phase, a unit that's taken enough damage to kill them off can still do something before they go down!
- All models within a unit must end their turn within half an inch of another model in the unit, hence the movement trays.
- Stats are heavily altered. Strength and Toughness are no longer inherent to the model, and damage (along with saves) is calculated differently as described further below. The Attacks stat now seems to govern the number of times a unit can shoot as well as the number of times it can make melee attacks (as opposed to 40k where the number of times a unit can shoot is based on their weapon). Weapons now have two Strength scores, one for use against infantry and another for use against vehicles and other larger units; wounding is determined by rolling against a d12, with the target score equal to the corresponding Strength equivalent. For example, a bolt rifle would need to roll a 5+ to wound an infantry unit and an 8+ to wound a tank. This speeds up the process of figuring out whether or not a hit unit has been wounded, and also makes AP obsolete as a stat.
- As it's generally harder for most weapons to wound vehicles than it is for them to wound infantry, this means that even normally squishy vehicles will get a boost to their survivability. However, it also appears that many anti-vehicle weapons will have an equally bad chance at wounding infantry, so armies will need to find a balance between anti-infantry and anti-vehicle firepower.
- Blast markers track units that have been wounded; if a unit that has received a small blast marker is wounded again in the same action phase, it becomes a large blast marker (every odd-numbered wound after that applies a new small blast marker in the same manner, and every even-numbered wound upgrades the marker). Saves (which are just one roll since AP doesn't exist in Apocalypse) vary depending on the type of marker assigned and are performed for each blast marker present; with a small marker the roll is made with a d12, while a large marker makes it a d6 instead. Units that fail a save take damage markers, and a unit is destroyed if its damage markers are at least equal to their wound count.
- Consequently, save numbers for most units have been adjusted for the new system (E.G. MEQs now save on a 6+ instead of a 3+ and TEQs save on a 4+ instead of a 2+).
- Units which have a number of damage markers greater than or equal to half their wounds count are considered "critically damaged" and have their Attacks stat cut in half.
- Command Assets return, and act as a combination of Stratagems and psychic powers. You set up a deck of 30 before the game begins and draw one card per Order Phase plus an extra card for each Warlord present in your army (up to a maximum of 10). These can be universal or specific to certain factions and sub-factions.
How Can I Run an Apocalypse Game?
- Sell your belongings, body, spare organs, and any siblings or children you may have on the street in order to acquire the Imperial Armor books and Forge World models (unless you play Orks and can model, and have a powerful internet connection and know how to pirate the Imperial Armor series).
- Find a place big enough to play. Abandoned warehouses work well however can be a bit of a squeeze.
- Find some people to play with, preferably people you're OK not being friends with anymore.
- Deploy forces and experience the undiluted bullshit that is Apocalypse "balance".
- Come back for at least 3 days to finish a small apocalypse game.
- GW Profits
|Ways to Play Warhammer 40,000|
| Apocalypse - Cities of Death - Combat Patrol - Eternal War |
Kill Team - Maelstrom of War - Planetstrike - Zone Mortalis