Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Legion Wars - The Magic of Small Games

Today I'm taking a moment to look at something I personally really enjoy, but is often stomped underfoot by larger more flashy things - small games. Some of the best games I've ever played had less than 20 models a side, and I can't count the number of Friday night 500 point games I've played.

I've even dug out some old photo's of "Legion Wars" an escalation campaign that I started with my brother when we began our respective Salamanders and Night Lords forces. As we were both starting out we decided to make a rule that we could only field painted models from our new armies and gradually worked up the cost to about 500 points in the end by making week by week additions to the forces. At first we even took away unit coherency and let every model operate by themselves as long as they were outside of 2" of each other, letting them freely form and dissolve units at will in the smallest 5 a side skirmishes.

In the increasingly big game obsessed world where you can't swing a lasgun without hitting a phalanx of allied Imperial Knights, I thought it might be time to look at the pros of small games. I've given a list below, and man, does it make me want to play a small game!

10 Reasons to Enjoy a Small Game for a Change

  1. You don't have to paint as many models. Meaning you can spend more time on the ones you have and actually stand a chance at getting them finished!
  2. Your infantry are more effective, as the battle will be far more focused on them and the part they play.
  3. There is less room for "broken lists". In 500 points you'll struggle to fit 2 troops choices and an HQ in, let alone all those Riptides and Wraithguard!
  4. Every man counts - you can't waste your units when there's no backup!
  5. You don't have to buy as many models - save money and add to the collection slowly, rather than aiming for 3000 points right off the bat!
  6. The narrative is better. It's just true, in a smaller game those small accomplishments are more memorable - when Captain Brellion sacrifices himself to lay a Melta-Bomb on your dreadnought and they die in a glorious blaze you'll be talking about it for weeks. Less so if the dreadnought was ruined by a pile of Centurions from half the table away, before the whole thing is incinerated by a Titan moments later with no real effort of dynamism.
  7. A faster game - one you can fit in on a weeknight and still have time to relax in front of the TV (and also enough time to avoid that marital dispute that's coming because you've been taking too much time on your hobby!!). Less set up time, and less time to pack away too.
  8. Easier rules - Having trouble keeping track of all those formations and blanket special rules from your opponents codex? Not such a problem when they only have 4 units on the field.
  9. Drama in small places - suddenly a Dreadnought or Carnifex is a behemoth of the battlefield - with the comparative resilience of a super-heavy. You'll enjoy seeing those sometimes forgotten units shine for a change.
  10. Power to the people - some of the less popular horde armies suddenly seem rather powerful, try fighting a swarm of hormagaunts at 500 points and see if you can make it past turn 3! 

Sir... something's wrong with this planet, the horizon ends 15 feet away - and did you see the size of that cat!

Unfortunately, this outflanking manoeuvre didn't really go as planned...

You'll also become a better player and learn a lot tactically when you don't have those ever-present "big guns" to back you up. When every shot counts and you've got no super heavies to do the hard work - try getting it done with an autocannon for a change, like a real man!

You have to admit - it looks dramatic already, but when was the last time you thought that when 2 scouts shot at a single marine in the open?

Without the issue of unit coherency, the squad were finally free to get some space between their noses and Sergeant Bathinko's flatulence.

I knight you Sir Decapitatallus, you may now rise.... oh wait...


  1. I couldn't agree more - but it doesn't have to end there - I regularly run kill team nights at my club, where up to seven of us take part in a mini event everyone playing everyone else. We even award the cheapest, most tacky trophy imaginable to the winner. Highlights include Dark Eldar Reavers giving Tau nightmares as they zipped across the table at 36" per turn doing flyover damage without fear of reprisal from the flamer bearing crisis suits (previous DE codex!) and a space marine sternguard/sniper force that went through 2 1/2 games before actually causing a wound.

    Small games are great fun, I agree with all the points above and I wouldn't be without them, they make you a better player!

    1. It's nice to hear you share my opinion - sometimes I think the drive to sell more miniatures pushes people too hard towards a bigger and bigger game whereas for a lot of us a small game can be just as fun. Not to mention the cost and time considerations.

      One of our particularly shining moments from the Legion Wars was when Night Lords Sergeant Bathinko threw a Krak grenade at point plank range and just decimated a scout. It was just one of those moments when the imagery was really strong and characterful (as well as hilarious!). In a big game it probably would've gone mostly unnoticed, but it was really memorable and we still talk about it now.

      There was also a time when a bout of hand to hand between 2 marines went for about 20 turns with no victors until my Salamander finally died - we can only assume from exhaustion!

  2. Small games are great, I run the Heralds of Ruin Kill Team rules, very fun!!

    1. More love for the small games? It's surprising because you usually only hear about the big ones - we all need to start writing about small games more!

  3. I haven't done this in 40K in a while, but I've got a 500 Point AoS Game this evening that I'm really looking forward to.

    1. I don't follow Age of Sigmar closely, but I'm really glad they've started doing a points system. It really was the glaring thing that was wrong with it.

  4. i like small games because orks become enormously powerful in them :).

    1. Like I said, the sometimes lesser thought of hordes do rather well. Guard and Tyranids also tend to be rather powerful thanks to having cheap infantry which opens up a variety of options - compared to a marine player who is often locked into 2 tactical squads and not much else.