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Thread: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

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    Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Continuing my series on 1990's GW gaming, I've been taking a closer look at the short lived Epic: 40,000 (1997). The spiritual predecessor to Battlefleet Gothic, Epic 40k brought the mass battles game Space Marine into a more streamlined and customizable form. Nevertheless, like almost every game GW put out in the 1990's, Epic 40k has been almost entirely forgotten by later generations.

    Background
    To be honest, it wasn't exactly well received in its own time either. Many players of Space Marine 2nd Edition (1991) found that Epic 40k took game abstractions too far and cut out the details that they had found enjoyable. Fans of Titan Legions (1994) complained that Epic 40k did not have interesting or nuanced rules for Titans. Both of these complaints are accurate (and I will be the first to argue that SM2e and Titan Legions are great games, even to this day). The truth is, Epic 40k was very much a different game, albeit at the same scale and scope. It introduced entirely new rules for resolving shooting, including the firepower table and blast markers that would later be used in Battlefleet Gothic (1999).

    In fact, GW pretty much had to make Epic 40k a separate game. You see, the earlier Space Marine 2nd Edition had come at a weird time: just as big battles of Rogue Trader (1987) were becoming the norm, but years before Warhammer: 40,000 2nd Edition (1993) was released. Space Marine 2nd Edition was essentially a faster and better way to play larger 40k battles than Rogue Trader. (For those who don't know, Space Marine 2e plays extremely similarly to 40k, with rolls to hit, saving throw modifiers and so on.) By the time Warhammer 40k was published, many gamers had adopted SM2e as their go-to system for battles. These players simply turned their noses up at 40k 2e when it came out (which, for the record, is crazy—Warhammer 40k 2e is one of the best editions of that game published to date).

    Thus, Andy Chambers and Jervis Johnson were put in a funny position when it came time to design Epic 40k (the 3rd edition of Space Marine). The GW design staff knew, even if we did not, that Warhammer 40k 3rd Edition was right around the corner (to be published the next year, in 1998). They could not repeat the mistakes of Space Marine 2nd Edition and steal the thunder from the new edition of 40k just months before it was published. The new Epic game had to be both mechanically distinct (which incidentally allowed it to be cannibalised later for a space battle game) and also not as rich and engrossing as Warhammer 40k 3rd Edition. For the same reason that I can buy a Milky Way in the U.S. but not a Mars bar, GW did not want to compete with itself (again).

    This initial handicap produced a game that many naysayers would easily write off. GW itself barely supported the game, with no army books, box sets or supplements ever released after the initial starter set. There were a couple abortive magazines; the Epic 40,000 Magazine lasted for 10 issues, while Firepower stuck around for a whole 4 issues. Most of these publications simply copied articles that were first published in White Dwarf, which itself only had a measly nine issues with Epic articles in 1997 and the final pathetic four issues in 1998 with scant references to Epic (only one of which was published after the release of Warhammer 40k 3rd Edition—go figure). Epic 40,000 was little loved by fans or even its creators at GW and would quickly fade into obscurity. This would remain the case until a new edition, Epic: Armageddon, was released in 2003 (largely to reprise the Summer 2000 GW 40k campaign, much like the 2003 Battlefleet Gothic Armada supplement).
    Last edited by Galadrin; 25-09-2015 at 23:27.

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    What Makes Epic: 40,000 Great
    Given its relatively poor reception, why is Epic 40k worth another look today? Certainly the last edition, Epic: Armageddon, should be seen as the ultimate and definitive version in perpetuity, based on it's wide acceptance, if not on it's mere chronological position. Beyond EA, there are robust community editions of both 2nd and 4th editions of the game (NetEpic streamlines Space Marine 2nd Edition and NetEA collects and builds upon Epic: Armageddon). Thus the two most popular historical editions still have strong support, community development and living rulebooks.

    Each of those games have their strengths and advantages and will continue to have strong followings. But Epic 40k also does some things really well and it is fun to discuss and even play that old, largely forgotten (but somehow iconic) game. At the end of the day, I think it remains my personal favorite edition and the one I will continue to play; maybe there are others that feel this way and who would share their stories.

    So what does Epic: 40,000 do well?

    • The force composition rules were incredibly flexible, allowing you to fill each detachment with a motley assortment of tanks, infantry, cavalry, transports, artillery and everything else imaginable. This was great for a few reasons:
    • Firstly, you could play with whatever models you had. Only have one stand of Terminators? That's fine; just throw them in a unit of Assault Marines and Predator tanks. You don't need X models to build a unit.
    • Secondly, you could play with models you liked. Love the idea of a bunch of Hellhounds disgorging fire while your Rough Riders brought the charge home? Want to mix in some Ogryns in the unit just because it looks cool? Build a detachment any way you please!
    • Thirdly, you could have the exact same army contents (10 Space Marine stands, 7 Attack Bikes, 6 Whirlwinds, 3 Land Speeders etc.) but bring a different army composition each game. Should you combine the Attack Bikes and Land Speeders and make one fast strike force, or should you parcel the bikes out amongst the infantry to give them a scouting and reaction element? Should the Whirlwinds be put together in a batter or combines with the Assault Marines as a combined arms strike force? Little tweaks or big strategy changes like this could be accomplished without buying or painting new models.
    • Lastly, the mixed detachments allowed Epic 40k to take one beautiful concept and run with it: a single turn of assault in Epic 40k represents an entire 4-6 turn game of regular 40k. Your detachments even looked like mini 40k armies, with a couple Lictors, a Carnifex, a few stands of Hormagaunts and Gargoyles and a single stand of Genestealers led by a Hive Tyrant.

    This just highlights one excellent feature of Epic 40k that was never found in another edition of the game. There are many others, from the clever firepower and suppression system (much praised in Battlefleet Gothic but virtually ignored in Epic 40k) to the fast and thematic system for assaults and close range firefights. The victory and morale system, for example, was basically lifted from historical war games and is simply genius. What are your experiences with Epic 40k? Would you give it another look?

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    I really enjoyed Epic 40k. I lost my ruins somewhere along the line in the past 20 years, but I've still got both starter armies in a box. Plus a ton of older stuff from the previous editions. I had never played those much, so I didn't have any emotional attachment to them. I found epic 40k to be a great game, easy to learn, easy to play, with plenty of depth. I really wish GW would bring it back.

    Lately I play DZC instead at 10mm, but its just not quite the same.
    So long Old World, you had a good run.

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    I enjoyed it, but the requirement to rebase to play int he nearest GW and the cost of the models killed it amoungst the Epic players I used to game with.

    Nice write up though...

    The variable formation idea enabled by the firepower table was I believe was done to allow people to link their 40k army to Epic and try to capture the idea of multiple 40k battles happening in front of you...

    People also liked the game in a box approach with all the rules required for the existing model range included.

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    Chapter Master Irisado's Avatar
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    I enjoyed reading your write-up, but I'm not convinced to give Epic 40K a chance. As one of those players who started Epic when second edition Space Marine was released, I could never understand how GW could make the third edition Epic 40K so abstract, and, to my mind, bland and lifeless. They removed all the distinctiveness from the units and basically turned them into generic models which were all much of a muchness.

    I remember reading all the content for the game in White Dwarf, including the battle reports. It was just so dull. As an Eldar, Chaos, and Ork player from second edition, I could see very little in changing to the new rules for me. In addition, having to re-base all my infantry, as Chris referred to above, was a major disincentive to my wanting to get involved with the game. In addition, the very points you highlight as being the game's strength were very demotivating to me. I liked the structure of formations, the company cards, the support cards, and the special cards. This made planning armies logical and interesting to me. The flexibility of Epic 40K's system just came across as a total free-for-all, and I didn't like that at all. It also ran contrary to the very core of unit composition which GW had used previously and went on to revert to when Epic Armageddon was released.

    I'm curious about your comments regarding second edition 40K. In my experience, lots more people played that than play 40K now, but this could just be my local area. I am thus curious as to how you reach your conclusion that its popularity was adversely affected by second edition Space Marine. Is that what happened where you played? Or do you have a source to suggest it was more widespread?

    I'm still very much a second edition Epic player these days. I tried to get into Epic Armageddon, but I went off it very quickly. There's too much book keeping involved through the blast marker system, which I admit is a sound rule, but I just really dislike it, and the way in which the community is both divided and divisive when it comes to which set of rules is meant to be played killed my interest in the game completely. I really liked NetEpic's updated version of second edition Space Marine until proposals to continue to update that (unnecessarily in my view) were voted through, at which point I decided to stick with second edition.

    The goals of Epic 40K may have laudable in some respects, and it's true that second edition got out of hand in terms of balance once Titan Legions came along, but they didn't have to change the game so drastically. It was too much too fast and too soon. A more progressive change to the rules would have been better in my opinion.
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    I totally agree with Irisado here. I am also a 2nd edition Epic Space Marine player and I have given the two newer systems a chance but like Irisado said, they killed the enjoyment of the game for me when they took out all of the detail. The detail was the charm of the game. Jervis Johnson even commented on it quite a bit in the firepower magazines that came out right after the game was relased. He didn't realize that it really was all of that detail that made the game so cool in the first place. And it is evident in the way he talks about what people wrote him and wanted. So he grudgingly tried to add some more detail back into the game until he realized it was a mistake to make the game so abstract and tried to remake the game again with Epic Armageddon. Again, failing to hit the mark.

    2nd edition Epic is simply put, the best version of that game ever made. It is a shame they didn't keep it going and add in the newer armies like Tau, Necrons, Dark Eldar. I gave Net Epic a try too but what killed it for me was that someone had made a smurf army....seriously?...a smurf army?...just wow. And of course because of what they have recently done. I agree with Irisado on that too. I don't like change for changes sake. There has to be a reason and it has to make sense.
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    Chapter Master toonboy78's Avatar
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Quote Originally Posted by Bergen Beerbelly View Post

    2nd edition Epic is simply put, the best game ever made.
    i corrected that for you
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Note if you want detail, check out Space Marine 1st edition...

    My younger self enjoyed 2nd ed. Playing it now though as I did a while back showed my tastes had changed and something like E:A appeals a lot more.

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    Chapter Master Angelwing's Avatar
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Real_Chris View Post
    I enjoyed it, but the requirement to rebase to play int he nearest GW and the cost of the models killed it amoungst the Epic players I used to game with.
    Quote Originally Posted by Irisado View Post
    In addition, having to re-base all my infantry, as Chris referred to above, was a major disincentive to my wanting to get involved with the game.
    However, it was in the rulebook, in clear black and white that you did not have to rebase anything.
    I was a redshirt at the time, and established epic players seemed to have a blind spot on this issue.
    The three problems with epic 40k were: The established players hated the abstraction and didn't want to buy into it; secondly, it was a markedly different game system that established GW gamers didn't really understand. My manager came back from the national meeting, having been taught the system, not knowing how to play the game, and he was supposed to teach us how to play in order to run intro games! Thirdly the intro game set up itself was bloody awful, complete rubbish. It literally came down to a single die roll to decide the inevitable scrum in the middle of the table. The kicker was we weren't allowed by management to change the set up to something interesting.
    There was a good game there, but it wasn't what the players wanted, and it was promoted badly. Pity.

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Quote Originally Posted by Angelwing View Post
    However, it was in the rulebook, in clear black and white that you did not have to rebase anything.
    I was a redshirt at the time, and established epic players seemed to have a blind spot on this issue.
    The three problems with epic 40k were: The established players hated the abstraction and didn't want to buy into it; secondly, it was a markedly different game system that established GW gamers didn't really understand. My manager came back from the national meeting, having been taught the system, not knowing how to play the game, and he was supposed to teach us how to play in order to run intro games! Thirdly the intro game set up itself was bloody awful, complete rubbish. It literally came down to a single die roll to decide the inevitable scrum in the middle of the table. The kicker was we weren't allowed by management to change the set up to something interesting.
    There was a good game there, but it wasn't what the players wanted, and it was promoted badly. Pity.
    I have to agree with Angelwing, here (although I cannot comment on the intro mission as I've never played it). Epic 40k 3rd Edition failed because it was too different. It's as if GW promised a 2nd Edition of Necromunda and released Confrontation. Both are good games, but if the expectation is for an update of the old rules, then Epic players were bound for disappointment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irisado View Post
    I enjoyed reading your write-up, but I'm not convinced to give Epic 40K a chance. As one of those players who started Epic when second edition Space Marine was released, I could never understand how GW could make the third edition Epic 40K so abstract, and, to my mind, bland and lifeless. They removed all the distinctiveness from the units and basically turned them into generic models which were all much of a muchness.
    That's actually really interesting to hear. I found Space Marine 2nd Edition to be extremely bland... All infantry were essentially identical and the formations were fairly homogenous across factions. Whether you were Eldar or Imperial Guard or Chaos Space Marines or Space Orks, you basically needed the same core Company choice of around 20 stands of infantry or around 10 light vehicles. The Tyranids went the furthest to feeling more organic in their force composition, but the big generic units of Marines or Space Orks moving as one big, homogenous blob was somehow disatisfying.

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    Chapter Master Patriarch's Avatar
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    My issue with 2nd was that a bit like 3rd, there was very little distinction between a marine and guardsman. Neither got an armour save, and their guns were pretty much the same, the main difference was when they got into base to base contact.

    EA sorted that quite neatly - marines are braver, tougher, and better equipped. Guardsmen are overwhelming in numbers and have more artillery, just as they should by the fluff. Once I managed to sort out some proper blast counters, I found EA's blast marker system quite satisfactory.

    The thing I miss most about 2nd is the detailed titan damage rules and those aiming dice...

    Never bought into that rectangular base stuff. The units I've made in the years since have all been square based.

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Quote Originally Posted by Angelwing View Post
    However, it was in the rulebook, in clear black and white that you did not have to rebase anything.
    We knew that but tell that to both the GWs near me at the time. Whether to push up sales, or disinformation, or meanness we were told we couldn't use our old infantry on square bases. Since that is where we played then that was the end of that.

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    I actually quite enjoyed Epic: 40,000 which, despite it's percieved blandness and a more detailed titan damage system than Epic: Armageddon. I really liked the more flexible army creation, the morale clock and the idea of War Engines as these bastions of support, helping out in nearby assaults. I didn't rebase any of my infantry.

    But yep, I miss the grids and up/down/left/right dice and the more detailed titan weapons. Tridents! Corus Assaut Pods! Bolas shot from the Gutbuster! Hell, I miss the titan close combat action cards from 1st edition. What I don't miss (although I thought it was a great idea at the time) is 'army cards' - you needed 2 tables to play - one for the wargame and another for all those cards!

    Being part of the E:A delvopment was fun. Shame it all fizzled away in a few years.

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Real_Chris View Post
    We knew that but tell that to both the GWs near me at the time. Whether to push up sales, or disinformation, or meanness we were told we couldn't use our old infantry on square bases. Since that is where we played then that was the end of that.
    Thats a real pity. My store didn't have that stipulation. I guess it depended on individual managers. I think that feeds into the 'promoted badly' issue.

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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Real_Chris View Post
    We knew that but tell that to both the GWs near me at the time. Whether to push up sales, or disinformation, or meanness we were told we couldn't use our old infantry on square bases. Since that is where we played then that was the end of that.
    That's really bad. They have not even done this with AoS (to my knowlege).

    One problem was the battle reports were bad. The game does well showing an ebb and flow of battle, each side building up blast markers and then one side gets pushed back after a fire fight. I think the first proper battle report (i.e. not just using the content of the box) was an escalating engagement, the absolute worst for conveying that ebb and flow.
    Quote Originally Posted by GW 6 month financial report
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    Sounds a bit like the black ships gathering souls.

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    Chapter Master Irisado's Avatar
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Quote Originally Posted by Angelwing View Post
    However, it was in the rulebook, in clear black and white that you did not have to rebase anything.
    I was a redshirt at the time, and established epic players seemed to have a blind spot on this issue.
    My recollection is that it was stated in White Dwarf that infantry had to be mounted on the rectangular bases. If that's incorrect, I'll retract my previous remark. My impression from reading all the information on Epic 40K in White Dwarf was, however, that I would have to re-base all my infantry to play the game, which relates to your point about the game not being very well explained.

    Quote Originally Posted by Galadrin View Post
    That's actually really interesting to hear. I found Space Marine 2nd Edition to be extremely bland... All infantry were essentially identical and the formations were fairly homogenous across factions. Whether you were Eldar or Imperial Guard or Chaos Space Marines or Space Orks, you basically needed the same core Company choice of around 20 stands of infantry or around 10 light vehicles. The Tyranids went the furthest to feeling more organic in their force composition, but the big generic units of Marines or Space Orks moving as one big, homogenous blob was somehow disatisfying.
    The only armies which had homogeneity to that extent were Imperial Guard and Orks, both of which had a very similar, and rather restrictive, formation and command structure. Eldar and Chaos both felt very different compared to both of those armies and Space Marines. Yes, you still had to structure the armies with the same sort of card based system, but to me that was just logical, not bland.

    The blob issue is something I can only see being true for Orks and Imperial Guard. Remember, you might have had to purchase a Space Marine company, but the units didn't have to operate together. You had three separate formations within that company that could be at other ends of your deployment zone if you so wished. Indeed, Eldar and Marines were so few in number (relatively speaking) that it was almost impossible to generate a blob of infantry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Patriarch View Post
    My issue with 2nd was that a bit like 3rd, there was very little distinction between a marine and guardsman. Neither got an armour save, and their guns were pretty much the same, the main difference was when they got into base to base contact.
    Net Epic actually resolved this with the update of the second edition rules, so I'd argue that the radical shift in the rules from second edition to Epic 40K/EA was not needed to fix this problem .

    Never bought into that rectangular base stuff. The units I've made in the years since have all been square based.
    I wish I had never based any of the new infantry that I bought on rectangular bases. I had no square bases left, so I opted for the rectangular bases, only to find that EA was disappointing and Net Epic has gone in a direction that I disagree with. A bit of waste of my valuable infantry, as removing them from those bases without damaging them will be very difficult.
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  17. #17

    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    "Veteran Epic gamers are likely to have infantry on the old bases but there is no need to rebase them. We've found in playing with both types that they work perfectly together" - Battles Book, p.103.

    The Battles Book being one of the three books that came with the main box. No idea what White Dwarf said or did not say on the issue.
    Quote Originally Posted by GW 6 month financial report
    "This person will ensure we have a constant supply of retail store managers and trade recruiters and account developers"
    Sounds a bit like the black ships gathering souls.

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    Chapter Master Irisado's Avatar
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    The fact that it's in the battles book and is not written as a rule suggests that it could be challenged to me. Based on Angelwing's post earlier, I'm assuming that there must be an actual rule in the rulebook about it. Am I wrong?
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    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    No rule in the rulebook. Even model count per stand is given as a suggestion (and is described in slightly different ways in all three books AND the getting started pamphlet). Note, there are several rules in the Battle Book, including the entire Morale system and the rules for Fate cards. Poorly organized? Certainly.

    Note, if you are going to de-base your old minis, the most straightforward way is probably to just cut them out of the bases. Just be extremely careful where your fingers are when you do this!

  20. #20

    Re: Let Me Sell You On: Epic 40k

    Can't see anything in the armies book or rule book. There is information about how many models each base should have (5 for infantry, 3 for cavalry) but no clear statement about base size. Except in the Battles book which says the old 20mm square bases have been replaced with 40mm by 10mm, then followed by the above quote.
    Quote Originally Posted by GW 6 month financial report
    "This person will ensure we have a constant supply of retail store managers and trade recruiters and account developers"
    Sounds a bit like the black ships gathering souls.

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