- Blood in the Badlands
- Written by Simon Grant, Andy Hall, Tom Hutchings, Matthew Hutson, Andrew Kenrick, Jim Shardlow and Kris Shield
- Additional material by Kevin Chin, Pete Foley, Jervis Johnson, Chris Peach and Markus Trenkner
- 96 pages, hardcover
- 26 € (GW Germany)
Note: this review was written based on the german edition of the book. Though I don’t think that’s too bad…
“Blood in the Badlands” reminds me a bit of a meringue: it looks shiny, big and seductive, but ultimately it is “only” made from sugar, thus sweet, but not necessarily too nutritious (unless one is truly on sugar – believe me I know some who are…). This volume describes a studio campaign of eight Games Workshop people (mainly members of the White Dwarf team) set in the Badlands, a wild, swampy stretch of land south of the Empire.
Structure and Content
The volume begins with the obligatory preface, though this time it is actually interesting for the understanding of the entire work, as White Dwarf editor Andrew Kenrick points out that his “Blood in the Badlands” campaign was inspired by other studio campaigns, some of whose were previously covered in the White Dwarf. So it is a separate campaign book, but not like all those similar works published in book form such as the campaign books for “Storm of Chaos“, or “Lustria” or the old sets like the “The Grudge of Drong”.
Next come a few pages (p. 4-11), on the background of the campaign. There’s the MacGuffin of the campaign, the legendary Floating Fortress of Fozzrik the magician, which orbits the Badlands out of reach of common (and uncommon) people. But every 1.000 years it has to land for a short time. Whoever attacks it at this stage of weakness, can take control of the fortress, and thus attain immense power – a nice price.
There’s also a short lexicon of important places in the Badlands – and of course there’s the campaign map. The latter is based on two lovingly (also time-consumingly and – if you don’t have the resources of the White Dwarf team – quite expensively) converted sets of Mighty Empires.
Now one can appreciate, even love Games Workshop’s two sister sets for campaigns – Mighty Empires and Planetary Empires – and surely I do; but still they have a serious disadvantage compared to the ancestor of tosee campaign sets, the original Mighty Empires: they include only a very brief set of rules. Here’s one of the strong points of “Blood in the Badlands” as it includes rather extensive additional campaign rules.
In the campaign, players first had to develop the background for three military leaders aka characters (each with at least three attributes) – a pretty good idea, considering that usually players only bring along Kaldor Draigo and other “Special Characters” that have become all too common nowadays…. The players also had to choose allies and enemies among their fellows.
A the center of the additional campaign rules are some special rules and a table of random events that each player must roll on at the start of each turn. The events on the table are consistently interesting, but not always balanced.
Three additional tables (one to roll on for the winner of a battle, one for the loser and one for character models wounded in battle) help to determine the effects of the various battles on the further course of campaign. Most of the possible results on those don’t give the players a distinctive advantage in the campaign (unlike conquered terrain, mines and towns), but they are all written fairly consistent. Especially nice is the idea that some regiments and regimental heros can become “legendary” – they are given a name (unless they already have one) and a small special rule like getting “Terror” or “Always Strikes First”.
Finally, there are short but colourful terrain and race-specific special rules – the latter covering all official armies of the Warhammer world with the regrettable exception of the Chaos Dwarfs, but we all know those have only been resurrected as a playable army by Forge World so far.
The next part of the book (pp. 22-31) presents the eight players and armies that took part in the campaign. The spectrum of the players is quite spread out, we have Vampire Counts (Matt Hutson), Chaos Warriors (Tom Hutchings), Skaven (Andy Hall and Pete Foley), the Empire (Chris Peach with the best painted miniatures), High Elves (Simon Grant), Tomb Kings (Andrew Kenrick) and Dwarfs (Kevin Chin). Since every player in the campaign commanded at least three armies (read: army lists) and their compositions changed from battle to battle, there are no army lists here, instead the three leaders of each player are presented and they write about their general philosophy in the selection and painting of their troops.
This part is quite well written and you have to acknowledge the fact that hardly any of the armies corresponds to the official color schemes and most of them include quite a number of conversions. Unlike what you see in the White Dwarf or other publications, those are armies and paintjobs one could imagine to do even as a “normal” player.
The next four chapters make up the lion’s share of the book (p. 32 -87) and are devoted to description of the actual campaign. Each of the chapters (which correspond to the four seasons of the campaign year) starts with the campaign map with marked events and territories of each player. Unfortunately the book lacks a breakdown of the colors that identify the individual players on the map – inconvenient for a first-time reader. Then follow two pages with short “spotlights” on individual games of the season, then the detailed scenarios for each season’s final climactic battle, and finally some more detailed reports of the same game
The four scenarios for those final battles are each devoted to different varieties of Warhammer games and are usually divided – to provide a place for each of the eight players – into one main and one or two secondary areas. The Spring scenario (“The Siege of the Grimfang”) is a siege scenario under the new rules in the book. In the summer a “classic” Warhammer battle was played “In the Marshes of Despair”. The autumn was was concluded with a huge “Storm of Magic” battle called “Mystery Night”. The Winter Battle “The storming of the Floating Fortress” is a “Storm of Magic” battle as well (though this is not mentioned in the book). In it five players battle on the main battle space, either trying to storm the Fortress or to defend it, while three further players game on another table with flying rocks (those with nice rules), trying to get from there to the main battle.
Interspersed (on p. 68-73) are the rules and description of a mini-campaign for underground battles, written by Simon Grant according to a video. It consists of a few additional rules and five scenarios that are consecutively following each other to simulate a Skaven attack on the Dwarf kingdom of Barak Varr (whether this worked out in the actual campaign I won’t tell, though, there should always be some minor secret not revealed…). Both the rules (that include, for example, such beautiful gimmicks as wildly running Trolls and Cave Squigs) and the scenarios are appealing, but are so specific that they only make sense for players that have an Dwarf army, setting it up against folks like the Skaven or Night Goblins – a subterranean battle High Elf vs. Dark Elf, while not impossible, would need their own scenarios.
All in all those scenarios show that there’s more to Simon Grant than meets the eye… I am wondering when he will leave the White Dwarf to join the Design Studio?
I like some of the little quirks in this part, like the fact that the Gameboards for this mini-campaign are not rectangular or square, but cross-shaped, H-shaped or Z-shaped, to name just three of the five forms. All those fields can probably still work correctly with the Citadel Realm of Battle Gameboard – you wouldn’t expect an official game supplement to present anything not based on their own products, wouldn’t you? It should be noted that some of the battles in the campaign were played on gameboards using eight or nine segments of the Realm of Battle set which regularly comes with only six segments. Replaying this campaign as described would be quite an expensive endeavour…
Finally, the book concludes with the new siege rules written by Jervis Johnson. There had been plenty of rumors (and loads of wishlisting) about those prior to the release of the book. After all the last siege rules were published 1998, quite some time ago…
To cut things short, Mr. Johnson borrows little of those older books, keeping his refreshingly short. Re-enacted on the battlefield is only the final storm on a fortress. The defender uses a portion of his army to man the buildings and keeps the rest in reserve as a relief force, while the attacker’s army is stationed around the fort, ready to take three key sections. Those are determined by the players alternately setting three target markers on sections of the fortress – those must be conquered by the attacker to win the siege. Before the start of the battle, both parties will also receive bonus points equal to its army size in order to purchase additional siege machines and other amenities. The prospect of a 2.000-point army having another 2.000 points at his disposal is initially attractive, but as a siege tower already costs 1.000 points and a cauldron of boiling oil 250 points, those points won’t buy you as much as you might think. By the way, the attackers are “standardly” equipped with ladders.
At the beginning of the battle the defender rolls dice for “starvation” to determine which of the troops have already died from malnutrition, followed by some artillery exchange (if the two armies have something like this) before the real storm begins. After five rounds of gaming, the attacker wins if he has taken all three target marker (or he has taken two markers and commands more victory points). The defender wins if he prevents it, or if one unit of his relief force manages to enter the attacked fortress by its gate.
It’s difficult to judge those rules without actually trying them out… but just from reading I would say they are sufficient, they are fun… probably they are not balanced nor competitive, it seems they do favor the defending player more than the attacking one… but then, it’s still ok when you are playing among friends…
Layout and Presentation
The presentation of the book is excellent: a sturdy hardcover as we know it from the current army books for Warhammer Fantasy Battles, all in full colour and a professional layout. The latter is strongly reminiscent of the White Dwarf, but that’s a little surprise, since the same people are involved in both projects.
There is quite some artwork in the book, but none of that was made specifically for it. I don’t see this as a problem, though, as the selection is consistent and appropriate. More important are the numerous photographs of various armies and battle scenes that adorn most pages of “Blood in the Badlands”. Those are technically perfect as always. It is interesting to rediscover numerous scenery pieces in the book that also made an appearance in battle reports and the “Battle Scenes” installments of the White Dwarf. Really made one wonder for which of the two they were created…
In the first english reviews and postings on Warseer and other websites numerous typos, weak editing and some logical errors have been criticized – suggesting that the book was published together rather hurriedly. This would correspond to a rumor I read on Warseer stating that originally it had been planned to publish “Blood in the Badlands” in March 2012, together with some scenery kit which may – or may not – have been a new version of the quite outdated Warhammer Fortress.
In the German translation this is slightly different, you only stumble over a few “bumpy” sentences, typos are scarce. The level of translation is significantly higher than with other Games Workshop products such as the White Dwarf, but also some army books (such as the Orcs and Goblins), where I find the translation much worse.
All in all I would recommend the book only about as much as I could recommend a “good” White Dwarf. The battle reports are consistent and good. Since they apparently played the battles of the campaign spontaneously (i.e. without the usual practice in White Dwarf to do “training games” before doing the “proper” battle reports), they feel much more alive and therefore better than most battle reports in the WD , but their value for the reader nevertheless remains the same: they are entertainment that you read, enjoy and then quickly forget.
Thus, your decision if you should buy “Blood in the Badlands” should be based solely on the additional rules presented in the book.
As for these three rulesets, the extended campaign rules for “Mighty Empires” are both good and useful, but offer less details than the old rules for “Mighty Empires”, which you can download for free on the website of Games Workshop. Those would also need an adjustment for your own campaign, but the effort should not be greater than that with the ruleset in the present volume. The rules for underground battles (written for a specific conflict between Skaven and Dwarves) are also useful, but it raises the question how often you would use them – unless you have a lot of Dwarf, Skaven and Night Goblin players in your gaming group.
Possibly the most valuable ruleset in the book are the new Siege rules. They havenothing to do with the old, rather complex rules in the two editions of Warhammer Siege, but are short and consistent. Personally, I can well imagine, applying these rules in my games quite often… However, two big “buts” remain:
- The rules are extremely short (only 8 pages of 96), making it unreasonable to buy the book just for them.
- Unfortunately the options and equipment for the besiegers and the besieged include very little army-specific options, they only cover warmachines that were actually used in the campaign. If you want to include those rules in your game, you have to put in quite some effort to create some new options for your High Elves, Dark Elves or Orcs.
I guess for clubs or gaming groups the purchase of one (1) book would be certainly good; for individual players like me I can only recommend this for Dwarf or Skaven players or collectors.
At the end of the book, the hope is expressed that it might find successors (and the winner of the campaign, Tom Hutchings, writes he hopes for a campaign of Warhammer 40.000: “My Tyranids are hungry”). I can only agree, but I really hope they won’t publish that as a book in the future – some or many articles in the White Dwarf or the Games Workshop website would be the right place for such content.
And finally there’s the fact that even though it is a “limited” publication, it’s still available months after its release. So “Blood in the Badlands” is an interesting experiment, but it is surely a slow burner, much like “Dreadfleet”. It will be exciting to see if it will be the only publication of its kind.