“KEEP YER BEADY eyeballz skinned!” Big Boss Nadzdrag bellowed. His boyz trudged along the cold desert plain, heads down, not because they were tired, but because their leader was looking for something. Many somethings, in fact.
It had been several years since the Stripey Tygga Wars, as the Greenskins—the Orks or Orcs or Orruks—of Auros IX called them. A time when the Fighting Tigers of Veda had invaded this red, dusty planet, intent on seizing it for the Imperium of Man, only to be fought to a standstill and finally driven away by the combined might of several clans and tribes, led by the fearsome WarBoss Sho-T BigHed.
When the Tigers returned less than ten years later, it was again Sho-T who fought them off, while simultaneously dealing with the treacherous Speedo, a Big Mek who had gotten too big for his oily britches and had thought to usurp Sho-T’s position as Top Boss on Auros IX.
But for Orcs, supremacy can lead to boredom, so Sho-T and his horde had left this dusty red planet in search of new opponents. Now, dozens of Bosses were vying to become the next overlord. One way to do that would be to recover some precious Space Marine tech, leftover from the great conflict, that might tip the balance of power in favor of its possessor.
Which is why Nadzdrag and his ladz had come here, to the site of a fierce but now-forgotten battle. The sand vermin had long ago picked clean the corpses of Marine and Ork alike. The sun had bleached and the dust had covered the broken bones and shattered armor. But here and there, some remnants. A striped helmet or shoulder pad. The corroded barrel of a bolt gun. A tattered flag, too faded to tell if it was Imperial, or Xenos. The smashed underframe of a war wagon.
Up ahead, the air shimmered, as if with a heat mirage, but it was winter in this part of Auros IX. Suddenly, dozens of gleaming metal shapes—manlike shapes—appeared, and for a moment, Nadzdrag felt a surge of joy. Perhaps it was the famed Stripey Tyggas, come to wage war for a third time, and if so, he might have the first chance at defeating them. He fired his blaster into the thin air, his boyz looking out excitedly and expectantly.
Then Nadzdrag scowled. No, these were not Space Marines that had come to challenge him and his warriors. Even at this distance, he could see the greenish-blue glow of their electronic eyes, could hear the harsh rasp of their mechanical vox speakers as the minions raised their weapons and answered their leader’s silent order.
“By your command!”
Recently, I’ve kicked exhausting, overly-complicated 9e 40K to the curb in favor of new, easy-to-play Grimdark Future, the streamlined game of mass combat from upstart company OnePageRules. Eager to try it out on the tabletop, I asked my brother-in-law Drew if we could get our feet wet with a small bout of 1000 points per side.
Drew began playing Orks back in the wild, woolly days of Rogue Trader, then took a break for over two decades before coming back to gaming, mostly by playing Kill Team. He agreed with me that the current 40K rules are sludgy, and he enthusiastically embraced the new GDF approach.
For the game, which we played at Drew’s new home, I brought some boards and terrain that I put together back in 2000 as part of this site’s first campaign. The premise of “The Blood Deserts of Auros IX” was that the Imperium wanted to seize a resource-rich desert world similar to pre-colonized Mars. To that end, they sent the Fighting Tigers of Veda (my Space Marines) to eradicate the indigenous Orks (played by Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel).
After 17 hard-fought, back-and-forth games that went on for over a year and half, the Orks prevailed, holding on to their home. In 2010, the Tigers returned to Auros IX in another bid to take the planet, and again, the Orks won.
After both campaigns, Pat—on my insistence—kept the boards and terrain at his house: it was only fitting, seeing as how his Orks controlled the planet. Recently, though, he gave them back to me so that I could pass them on. Seeing as how Drew plays Greenskins and didn’t have a gaming table or much scenery, it made perfect sense that he should be the new Top Boss of Auros IX. “Proppa!”
The Armies of Auros IX
To avoid intellectual property infringement, GDF uses generic names for army units. I’ll list the units using the GDF names first, with the GW names in parentheses. Drew’s forces consisted of:
- Big Boss w/ ultra claw & twin carbine (counts as Warboss w/ power klaw & big shoota);
- Shaman w/ ultra claw & Psychic Vomit (counts as Weirdboy);
- Five units of 20 Orc Marauders (Ork Boyz) each, w/ pistols and close combat weapons;
- Goblin Artillery w/ custom cannon (counts as Big Gunz).
I brought the Robot Legions (Necrons) of Yblis’ Centurions:
- Lucifer 1.1.0 w/ staff (counts as Necron Lord w/staff of light);
- Squad of 9 Eternals (count as Immortals)
- Squad of 10 Eternals (count as Immortals)
- Squad of 10 Warriors w/ gauss rifles (count as Necron Warriors)
- Two Forge Spiders (count as Canoptek Spyders), each w/ twin atom-beamer and bot fabricator (can release 2 Bot Swarms per turn);
- Three Bot Swarms (count as Canoptek Scarab Swarms)
We played on a 4′ by 8′ board that Drew and I took turns placing terrain on. Per the GDF rules, we placed four objectives (more or less along the horizontal center line of the table), and we took turns deploying units. I won the roll to go first.
As has become our custom here at the Jungle, the battle report is done in narrative style. If I need to mention a rule or clarify something in game terms, I’ll put it in [brackets].
One thing you’ll notice is that in GDF games, players alternate moving and shooting/fighting with their units within the same turn. First, one player moves a unit and does something with it, then the other player moves and does something with one of their units, then the first players goes again with a different unit, and so on, until all units on the board have done something. Thus, there are no phases for Movement, Shooting, Psychics, Assault, etc.
This is in stark contrast to 40K games, where one player moves and uses all of their units in distinct phases while the other player takes no action except to make saving throws or fight back in close combat.
Another thing you may notice is that GDF games only last four turns, and that there are no victory conditions like Slay the Warlord, or Linebreaker. Other than that, GDF plays pretty much like 40K, where armies want to kill opposing units and claim objectives.
Other, organic commanders might have questioned why their master would want worthless pieces of wreckage and bric-a-brac strewn across dozens of square miles of inhospitable desert, but Lucifer 1.1.0 was not one of them. When the great golden god Yblis had recently appeared to Lucifer and told him to go to Auros IX for just that purpose, the lord of this robot legion had merely given the customary reply, “By your command.”
Other, organic commanders might have quailed at the sight of an Orc Marauder horde stamping toward their lines, Lucifer 1.1.0 felt nothing—how could he? Instead, he directed the rest of Yblis’ Centurions, to engage, with Forge Spiders spawning swarms of beetle-like Bots that skittered ahead to intercept the oncoming Greenskins.
Cackling with evil glee, the Goblins accompanying the Orcs opened fire on Lucifer’s bodyguard, but did not manage to down a single one of the nine Eternals about him. Fire from Lucifer’s squad and the other unit of Eternals slew an entire mob of Marauders, but the Orcs kept streaming forward, seizing two objectives.
As the armies closed, chittering Bot Swarms hurtled into an Orc mob, mechanical jaws nipping and biting, killing two Marauders. The Greenies fought back, smashing two Swarms to shards, and moving to claim a third objective: a battered but highly-prized orange “beakie” helmet adorned with black stripes.
Still spewing out Bots, the Spiders continued their advance, one of them firing on another mob, killing two. The Goblin Artillery missed Lucifer’s guards, as more Bot Swarms attacked Orcs. Big Boss Nadzdrag and his boyz fired into the other squad of Eternals, to no avail, before a Spider charged his forces, its pincers snipping and slicing five Orcs.
“Dat’s ‘bout ‘nuff dat mookie-fookie,” grumbled Nadzdrag, punching two large holes in the robot spider. “Da lad dat busts dis ‘ere Fydor ta bitz getz da top off me breffest egg tomorrer!” he bellowed, and his Orcs enthusiastically got stuck in, smashing the metal monster to scrap with numerous blows from swords, axes, clubs, and hammers.
ZARK! ZARK! ZARK! “Nertz!” yelped Nadzdrag, as first one, then the other squad of nearby Eternals opened fire, killing his ladz and blasting off three of his four limbs. Garr, but dat stingz, he thought. Zappy l’il kakkolaters, ain’t dey? What a right riggy skrap dis iz! Then all went dark as he slipped into unconsciousness, crumpling to the gritty red sand.
Though their leader had been taken out, the Marauders were far from beaten, with the mob led by the psychic Shaman rushing toward the robots’ lines. The squad of Warriors opened fire on them, slaying nine, but the Orcs kept coming.
The oncoming Orcs charged the Warriors, smashing four of them, and the survivors managed to rifle-club three Marauders. As the Orcs formed up, the Warriors fired on them, killing three more, and the rest dove for cover, pinned down. [In GDF, after a unit charges and fights in hand-to-hand combat, it must move 1″ away from the unit it attacked, which may then act normally if it was not wiped out or failed Morale. Unlike in 40K, units don’t get tied up in close combat]
“Hurrr! Huuuuurrrrrggg!” The Orc warpboy tried to cough up his Psychic Vomit, but other than a slight trickle of green ectoplasm from his flat nose, nothing came of it. Ignoring him, the ten-strong squad of Eternals fired on another approaching Orc mob, killing 12 and forcing the survivors to take shelter [Pinned].
The remnants of a mob of Orcs charged those Eternals, hacking down two, but the immortal centurions bayoneted the rest of them. Lucifer directed his guard to fire on a pinned mob, wiping them out, too.
Excellent, Lucifer told himself. My lord Yblis will be pleased. Then a shell from the Goblins’ cannon exploded in the midst of the other Eternals, blasting three of them to bits. As the survivors staggered to their feet, Lucifer reviewed their programming, and found it was intact [The Immortals made their Morale test].
Lucifer next sent a cyber-order to the remaining Forge Spider, and it charged a nearby Orc unit, snapping off the heads of four of them. Their comrades struck back, hacking and smashing, damaging the Spider [-2 Wounds out of 6]. Not far away, Orcs and Bot Swarms fought in vicious close combat, the Greenies slowly wearing down the more numerous—and very pesty—metal mites in addition to seizing more Fighting Tiger loot [an objective].
The Orcs continued to assail the Bot Swarms, claiming another objective, but their numbers were waning, a situation not helped by the Forge Spider gunning down four more of them, while spewing out more Bots to harry the Greenskins.
Zoggin’ ‘eck, thought the Shaman. Dis iz enuff ta honk off da Great Ghazz. His boyz had been shot to pieces around him, but as he weren’t no weedy Panzee, he charged the Warrior squad and tussled with them.
Neither side got the upper hand until the Shaman paused for a moment to catch his breath in the chill air [mandatory move out of close combat] and the Warriors fired at point blank range, killing him.
Goblin Artillery struck again, this time amongst Lucifer’s guard, killing two. The other Eternals fired at the Orcs atop a nearby hill, killing all of them. At that point, the handful of Greenskins left began running as fast as their bowed legs could carry them, leaving the desert’s treasures to the robot legions.
Yblis’ Centurions: Two objectives held at end of game
Orcs: Zero objectives held at end of game
Winner: Yblis’ Centurions
As Warboss Nadzdrag noted, this was indeed a “right riggy skrap.” Drew had numbers on his side (100+ Marauders to my 30 ‘bots + Spiders and Swarms) and quickly grabbed most of the objectives, but his green wave couldn’t wash away my Centurions. I used the Forge Spiders and Bot scarabs to slow and wear down his left flank while my Warriors and Eternals [Immortals] concentrated their fire and took out the closest mobs.
After the game, I suggested to Drew that he needed to be more aggressive with his Greenskins. Instead of standing around on objectives, they should have taken them and come running to engage my robots. You can’t do that in 40K—typically, units have to be within 3″ of an objective to claim it—but that’s not the case in GDF.
In GDF, if a unit claims an objective, it’s theirs: they can go off and do something else, and still count as having the objective. It’s like in baseball, where the runner on base can tag the base they’re on, and then go run and steal another. The only way they lose it is if that unit is destroyed, or an enemy unit takes it from them by reaching the objective while the owning unit’s away from it.
I also told him that the Goblin Artillery was, IMHO, a very expensive waste of points. It cost him 145 points, and only killed three Eternals of one squad and two of another. I suggested to him that when it comes to big gunz, he should bring lots, or none at all. I base that on what Jungle Guide and Long-Time Warboss Patrick Eibel always says that when it comes to Orks (or Orcs): it’s all about quantity. One kannon isn’t anything to sweat: nine definitely are!
Lastly, I suggested to Drew that instead of “choppa boyz” kitted out with close combat weapons, that he bring more “shoota boyz,” Orcs with rifles that can toss some fire downfield. I’ve run Ork armies several times, and found that giving them guns is invaluable.
We both enjoyed how the game mechanics worked, and the back-and-forth of a unit from one side doing something, then a unit from the other side responding, then another unit from the first side going, etc. It was definitely much more interesting (and challenging!) then standing around waiting for your opponent to finish all his moves.
As expected, the second and third turns did take a while to go through, but it was never boring. The whole game took only an hour and a half to play, from first putting down scenery to the handshake at the end.
Drew lost but had a great time, and we’re getting together soon for our next game. It will most likely be a rematch, but perhaps at 3,000 points per side. Keep coming back, Gentle Visitor! The latest war for Auros IX is only beginning.
Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults and adults who are still young. The Fighting Tigers of Veda appear in his latest novel, Stray Cats, which you can find here.
Check him out on kentonkilgore.com, and follow Kenton on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. You can also catch him on Instagram, and find his books in softcover and for Kindle on Amazon.