This is bound to happen when you decide to name your planet 'Armageddon'
Considering the roots of the tabletop game, it’s slightly odd that there are so few turn-based adaptations of Warhammer 40K’s Gothic science fantasy universe. Dawn of War was a lot of fun, but its action-based RTS didn’t offer a huge amount to fans who prefer to lead their armies from the back, sipping a nice white wine and making the key tactical decisions while those grubby hiver types do the actual dying a few hundred miles away on the front-line. Slitherine is hoping to capture this more measured, strategic style of play with its latest wargame, Warhammer 40K: Armageddon.
Warhammer 40K: Armageddon
This is bound to happen when you decide to name your planet 'Armageddon'.
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Warhammer’s merry band of orks, those fun-loving hooligans who like nothing more than a big scrap, have invaded the grimy industrial world of Armageddon, and it’s down to the humans of the Steel Legion and transhuman Space Marines to fend off the greenskin hordes. While there are characters and a plot of sorts in Armageddon, it’s best not to dwell on them too much – the narrative is entirely presented in simple text boxes, and voice-over work dials the cheese up to the highest possible value.
That’s fine. Though games like Space Marine prove you can tell a decent story in a 40K game, in Armageddon the focus is strictly on war, war and war. Only war, in fact. There are three campaigns, each split in roughly ten or so missions. Most objectives involve capturing various points on the map, though there’s a decent mix of terrain types and other battlefield variations to change things up a bit. Fighting through destroyed hive cities is a different proposition to meeting your enemy on the open plain, thanks to unique values and cover ratings for each kind of terrain. Essentially you’re fighting the same war of course, but little variations like these in unit distribution and terrain layout, and some steady progression until you unlock the mighty Space Marine armies, go a long way towards providing variety.
As will be familiar to 40K fans, Space Marines are typically more expensive than Guard or Orks but make up for that by being ultra killy
The basic framework of the game will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played Panzer Corps, Slitherine’s hex-based World War 2 wargame. If you’ve played that game, in fact, you’ll probably be a little disappointed at how little Armageddon adds to the experience. Each of your units can move and fire once, discharging every single weapon at its disposal in the firing round. There’s the familiar rock-paper-scissors rules to consider, dialled up to eleven by the ridiculous fire-power of some of 40K’s signature units; infantry are great for soaking up damage and screening your lines, tanks, artillery and lumbering dreadnoughts for dealing the major damage, and Warlord Titans for destroying pretty much everything in their path.
Different weapon loadouts and variations blur the lines in interesting ways. One dreadnought might pack a lascannon or missile launcher for dealing with armour, while another might eschew ranged weapons entirely in favour of melee domination. You have to think about each move you make, making sure the unit you’ve selected is right for the task you want it to do. Skilful use of combined arms is essential, as the enemy is generally pretty quick to spot weaknesses in your line and exploit them.
This is about as pretty as the planet of Armageddon actually gets
On a basic level the general play is smooth and not too difficult to grasp, but a lack of feedback and some presentation issues bog things down. The clunky UI creates unnecessary problems for itself; for example, you’re often dealing with a score or more units on the field, but the game does a poor job of making it clear which of your units have moved and which are still ready to go. Environmental factors, morale and other variables aren’t communicated well. Unit statistics aren’t displayed prominently enough in the field, forcing you to go into the purchase menu and gaze blankly at a huge spreadsheet of numbers. It’s also hard not to feel that Slitherine could have cut down on some of the units in the game to make ordering in new troops less of a brain-ache.
The requisition menu, which lets you call in additional units during a battle in return for command resources, is jam-packed with a bewildering array of vehicles taken from 40K lore. Nice for franchise enthusiasts, but annoying for commanders who just want to drop in a new tank, but instead have to sift through dozens of often only incrementally different units listed in a huge block in order to find what they need. Combined with the fact that most of these units look almost exactly the same in battle, you often end up accidentally charging a tank line with a Leman Russ equipped with anti-infantry weapons. This is something of a double-edged sword, because while it’s great that Slitherine has studied the lore in such depth, ultimately I’d rather they had cleaned up the unit list and got rid of some of the redundant options. It may have given them the chance to concentrate more on air units, which for some reason operate essentially as tanks – they can’t share tiles, and you can’t use them to scout ahead because their vision range is the same as any armoured unit. This renders them rather pointless.
These are all variations of the same tank. There's choice and then there's just confusion
Slitherine’s focus on the strategic combat also comes at the expense of visual panache. For some reason that’s more of an issue in 40K, which feels like it should feature more fireworks and flair than what’s on offer here. Unit models, aside from the always cool-looking Space Marines, are never more than functional. There are explosion effects when you blast an enemy with your mighty Titan unit, but they’re fairly underwhelming, and units simply blink out of existence after being destroyed. Ultimately all the insane weaponry of the orks and lumbering monstrosities of the Imperium boil down to mere skin changes of Panzer Corp’s tanks and soldiers. That’s a shame. I hope you like mud, too, because you’ll be fighting across a whole lot of mud. Armageddon doesn’t make for a particularly varied and interesting setting in terms of visuals.
WARHAMMER 40K: ARMAGEDDON VERDICT
Despite a general lack of flair and some frustrating issues with presentation, Armageddon does at least play out a compelling and competent brand of strategic warfare. There’s something about playing a turn-based game that hits right at the core of 40K’s signature mix of strategic planning and reckless aggression, and if you’ve ever played the tabletop game you’ll find Slitherine’s made a decent enough fist of recreating some of the same atmosphere. If you can find another armchair general with a fondness for grim darkness, you’ll probably get a decent amount of value out of the multiplayer in particular. For a full-price game, though, Wahammer 40K: Armageddon feels lacklustre and slightly cheap, more of a re-skin of Panzer Corps than its own beast, and lacking the sense of grandeur that the setting requires. There’s a great turn-based 40K out there somewhere, but this isn’t it.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Reinforcing a stalled counter-attack with a Warlord Titan’s ridiculous firepower is very, very satisfying