“The men and women of the Imperial Guard sacrifice more and gain less than perhaps any other arm of the Imperial Armed Forces.”
–Commissar Ibram Gaunt
In April, Fantasy Flight Games announced Only War, a standalone Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of soldiers in the Imperial Guard, the galaxy-spanning armies of the God-Emperor. Compatible with FFG’s other Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay titles, this comprehensive game system explores a previously unseen side of life in the Imperium of Man.
With Only War’s beta at an end and its core rulebook coming to store shelves in a matter of weeks, we’re pleased to present the first in a series of previews. In Only War, each player takes the role of a Guardsman, a member of the Imperial Guard and one of the countless billions of hardened conscripts constantly fighting on myriad fronts at the whim of the Adeptus Terra. Today, lead designer Andrew Fischer presents his insights into this unique play experience.
From the Designer
Imagine an army so vast that at any one time there is no exact record of its size, an army of such scale that the resources of millions of worlds must constantly feed it with fresh recruits and new weapons. This is the Imperial Guard, the human armies of the God-Emperor, and defenders of an empire that spans the entire galaxy. In Only War, you play as one of these Imperial Guardsmen, a soldier tasked with the defense of all humanity.
Capturing the feeling of being a guardsman was a unique challenge. Each individual soldier is just one amongst faceless billions, and yet without the individual contribution of every one of those men and women, the Imperium would be lost. Every soldier has a harrowing and exciting story to tell, and in designing Only War, we set out to explore those stories.
To better explore the unique lives of individual guardsmen, Only War does not focus on commanding massive regiments of troops in battle (after all, that’s what the table-top game is for!). Instead, it focuses on the struggles of individual soldiers and their squad, mere mortals forced to contend with the greatest threats of the 41st millennium. Throughout the course of a campaign, players in Only War will embark on critical missions, face seemingly insurmountable odds, and suffer tragic losses, but will triumph through their force of will and the strength of their camaraderie.
Assembling the Squad
When a group first starts a campaign in Only War, they are doing more than simply filling out individual character sheets, they are creating a unique squad with which to tackle the challenges to come. A squad can come from one of millions of worlds across the Imperium, be made up of fresh recruits or hardened veterans, and contain guardsmen with many different specialities. No two squads are the same, and the make-up of a group’s squad can help define their entire campaign. There are three primary elements that comprise the squad in Only War, and help make it such an integral part of the play experience.
First, every squad has a shared history and background, determined by their Regiment. This decides their focus in combat and where they may be assigned across a warfront. To decide on their Regiment, all of the players in the group work together, crafting common history for their characters. This shared history helps tie all of the characters together, and give them common ground as they face the harsh battlefields of the galaxy.
Second, each character within the squad has a unique Specialities. These Specialities determine the character’s role in the squad. From a field medic working in the trenches, to a Tech-Priest Enginseer helping to repair the Imperium’s war machines, each player serves a special role within their squad.
Lastly, each squad has a cast of supporting characters known as Comrades. Each of these characters helps out one of the players on the battlefield. Aiding him in his specific tasks and watching his back. Each Comrade has a distinct personality, and their interactions amongst themselves and the players can help strengthen the camaraderie in the squad, or create tension.
Thanks, Andrew! Check back for more in the coming weeks, and look for Only War on store shelves later this quarter.