White Dwarf number 219 is possibly the oldest issue of the magazine that I still have in my collection, and lately I’ve been fascinated by this battle report. Jim Butler and Andy Sharman fight out a 2,000 point battle between Eldar and Blood Angels. Partly it’s that the article features two beautifully painted studio armies on a gaming table with terrain that’s not hard to replicate at home. Partly it’s that it’s a 2nd edition battle report; at the time, Warhammer 40,000 seemed far more “skirmish game” oriented and far less “massive army”. Jim’s whole Blood Angels army is 33 infantry miniatures, plus three vehicles- a dreadnought, a Predator tank, and a Land Speeder.
Ambush at Volsci Gorge is a fairly cinematic and narrative battle report. The article brief describes an Eldar ambush on an Imperial Guard convoy, and the Blood Angels are sent to investigate the missing and presumed destroyed convoy. Both players selected armies that work well for the story. The Eldar army for example is highly mobile, with three grav tanks and several jetbikes. The table was set with terrain to fit the idea of a gorge, with scattered wood cover throughout and hills on either side. The center of the table had several terrain pieces made from destroyed Guard tanks. Helping to enhance the idea of an ambush, the report introduced the idea of using hidden markers for the Eldar deployment. Andy would deploy his army using these markers, meaning that Jim had no idea what he was facing and where each unit was until the beginning of the game(Eldar had first turn).
Like all battle reports at the time, the article is filled with pictures, alternating illustrated “top down” battlefield views with professional shots using a red sky backdrop, and photos of Andy and Jim playing the game in the GW offices. I really like that juxtaposition in particular, because the photos of the two players are almost Polaroid snapshots while a lot of effort has gone into making the “cinematic” images as professional and clean as possible to show off the scenery and the ‘eavy Metal studio armies.
Games in 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000 had a 4 turn game length. For this Ambush at Volsci Gorge battle report, Jim had the Take and Hold mission card while Andy would be attempting to Engage and Destroy the opposing space marine force. Eldar started off very strong in the first several turns, with the Blood Angels taking heavy losses. Several of Jim’s space marine squads took casualties and his Predator tank was destroyed for a second time, having previously been repaired by the Techmarine.
Turns 3 and 4 is when Andy’s luck began to change somewhat, as he failed to completely eliminate full squads of Blood Angels(leaving Jim with more victory points), and rough luck with the dice as a lot of his Sustained Fire dice rolled jams. Jim, still behind on victory points, managed to snag a few more by damaging and/or destroying some Eldar vehicles as well as holding on to his objective through the end of the game. The game ends with an Eldar victory, 21 victory points to the Blood Angels’ 16.
It’s clear that both players had a lot of fun creating this narrative battle report based off a short piece of fiction by Andy Chambers. The game had some dramatic moments and Jim managed to avoid complete annihilation and come back from behind to lose by a margin of only 5 victory points. Both studio armies featured in the game are beautifully painted by the ‘eavy Metal team, and the table setup adds even more to the narrative. Neither army is built to dominate the other, and both players chose a number of units to match the battle report brief.
I’ve been posting a lot of “Oldhammer” content on my Instagram lately(@greyedoutproductions) which means browsing through many old issues of White Dwarf. This one may be the oldest in my possession, and maybe that’s part of why this battle report fascinates me. That old nostalgia glow, combined with both players having a good game and neither trying to powergame or throw out a super beardy army list. This is Warhammer 40,000 played for the love of a good game, even if the Eldar army does feature the “new release of the month”.
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