Here is the report of a short campaign a Wrath & Glory, a new RPG manual set in the universe of Warhammer 40.000.
This article is not a review, as much as a short report of my campaign a Wrath & Glory. I don't think it will be enough to judge the game but it can help someone compare their experience with mine and see if anything fits.
If you would like to know more about Wrath & Glory, we also wrote this introductory article.
The manual of Wrath & Glory
Let's start by talking about how I found myself with paper manual di Wrath & Glory.
This is the Italian edition distributed by Need Games, purchased at day 1 because of the hype. The manual looks good physically (I don't have the graphic and typography skills to assess whether it was printed well or in a good format). It is a massive manual, in color, with the effects in relief on the cover that I like so much. Copy to PDF immediately available. Other things (like cards) weren't immediately available on the Need Games website, but now they are.
I could unfortunately find they are different misprints, which Need Games asked fans to report. A couple were a nuisance, one proved downright problematic. But we will talk more about it in the next paragraphs.
I really liked the illustrations of the manual: many originals, different from old games or codexes and other GW material. In general, I find that the illustrations convey the atmosphere of the game world well.
Il text it is broken down in a fairly classic order for the manual: how to create a character; archetypes, skills and talents; combat system; equipment, master chapter and bestiary. The central mechanics of the game (a pool of dice whose successes are counted) is quite simple to learn and manage, but it is not explained until page 158 of the manual, which makes it a little unnecessary to read what talents, abilities and special abilities if you have no idea of the basic mechanics. Other considerations on the game we will do later.
The players of this short campaign
For this campaign, I have assembled a group of five players (plus me): all people who could not wait to try the game. Without infringing on their privacy, I will say that they are all people with some experience in RPGs: not only have they all been playing for several years, but they have tried many different titles and mechanics. I had never played with a couple of them before, with others I have played or play regularly. A couple of people have played Warhammer 40.000: Dark Heresy or to the other games of the franchise published by Fantasy Flight.
Two people had a deep understanding of Warhammer 40.000: they have collected miniatures, read codex and played different editions of the game, they have also read books and all the ancillary things. Three people knew essentially nothing of the world of Warhammer 40.000, but they were curious to visit this era grim and dark.
I am a bit in the middle of the spectrum: I have never taken a miniature in hand or played a game, but I have played several video games, I have played the previous one Dark Heresy, watched the hideous animated movie with the Space Marines, and read a lot of lore on the Warhammer 40.000.
Preparation of the short campaign a Wrath & Glory: dice and characters
With the players described above, we decided to test Wrath & Glory on a short campaign, consisting of a zero session and five game sessions real. Being the six of us people scattered all over Italy, we played online and used only Discord as a platform.
We didn't use Roll20 because we didn't have maps to play: in fact, the programs at my disposal, like inkarnate, they are only for making fantasy maps. We therefore basically played with the rules of "theater of the mind". This is not a neutral choice, since Wrath & Glory makes slight changes to the rules if you play on a squared board instead of in the theater of the mind. For example, the area of effect of grenades changes between the theater of the mind and the squared dashboard.
Rolling the dice in Wrath & Glory
The part that worried me the most was the roll of the dice. In fact, the basic mechanic involves forming one ball of nuts six-sided based on the sum of the following scores: Characteristic, Ability and any other bonuses. Of this pool, some dice should be marked as Ira dice (they recommend a different color, maybe a nice red). The dice are rolled and the 4, 5 and 6 are counted. 4s and 5s count as one success icon, 6s are Glorious Icons and count as two successes.
On the Rage die (but there may be more than one) it is particularly relevant whether the result is a 6 or a 1: whether it is a success (6) or a failure (1), the Rage die has extra effects at the level of game.
Differences between physical roll and online roll
Now, the operation of rolling the dice, if done physically, is quite easy: I design my die of Rage, I roll and I also see by eye how many icons I have obtained, perhaps keeping them in front of me in case I have to make an exchange. Perhaps specialized dice would have been useful in this case. But, playing digital, I had some concerns about how to deal with the normal dice-rolling bots we use.
Fortunately, a player quickly found a bot for Discord who rolls the dice, divides the wrath dice, counts the successes, the glorious icons and any complications. This has greatly simplified the operations, speeding up and also a lot the operations of throwing the dice.
Anyway in this preparatory phase I got the idea that the game has been designed to be played in person, where everything is more practical and immediate. Also spend tokens Ira e Gloria is easier and more enjoyable if you have the classic glass gems to pass or stack.
The characters of the campaign a Wrath & Glory
During the zero session we illustrated the setting and the basic mechanics.
We decided that the characters would use that of the flotilla of Varonius: a privateer merchant who recently arrived in the Gilead system to fix the situation and who employs agents of all kinds as long as they are effective and discreet. We then evaluated the various types of playable characters together, and the group ruled out the possibility of playing Xeno. Indeed, nor Eldar, nor Orks (however playable) they integrate well with the xenophobic environment and are only really usable in two scenarios:
- Survivors of related groups come together to face an apocalyptic threat (as in the plot of Dawn Of War III);
- We ignore some of the lore and atmosphere and accept that Orks and Eldar can leisurely roam the crowds of the Gilead system without triggering panic or orbital bombing.
That said, we decided to play the grade two of the game. In fact, the game's archetypes are divided into 4 ranks depending on the power, and rank 2 offered competent characters without being OPs. Plus, it spanned all factions a bit and had some of the most iconic characters. For example, the Psychic and the Corsair Merchant are only present at rank two and, with the necessary adjustments, can also be played at higher ranks. Grade two therefore allowed us to experience iconic things from the world of Warhammer 40.000, have party variety and play at a manageable level of power.
We chose to create the characters with the guided mode: You have a budget of XP and, after purchasing the archetype and the indicated skill and ability points, there are still enough left to customize the character. The group that came out was:
- Sabrina Cinis: Adepta Sororitas with powers of faith (great for nullifying the effects of Warp and psychic powers), armed with boltgun and power armor;
- Alaric Vilchis: Corsair merchant good at words, with his own ship and a nice plasma gun;
- Tyanna: Death Cult Assassin, with stealth, fanaticism, latex suit and power double swords;
- Iris Apfel: Psionics with pyrokinesis. Need to say more?
- Maximus Periculus: Space Marine Explorer, that is a pre-Space Marine armed "light" with chainsword and bolt pistol. Still vaguely human.
At first glance, the group leads strong, very strong. They know how to infiltrate, they know how to shoot, they know how to fight in melee. They know how to do psychic things and defend themselves, there are those who can speak and those who heal. The only lack is complete and total ignorance in the technological and scientific fields, but since "ignorance is a blessing " they were all quite calm. I wanted to clarify which weapons and armor they started with because it will be relevant when we take stock of this experience.
We also used the random tables to determine the characters' goals, origins and other details, as well as their trinkets. I love random tables and any game that has a good amount of them is definitely a superior game.
What happened in the short campaign a Wrath & Glory?
Having two or three characters linked to religion, I decided that the planet on which the campaign would take place would be Enoch. The manual of Wrath & Glory, in the chapter on the setting, offers a brief description of the planet and various ideas for possible crises, threats or mysteries.
I started from the food crisis of the planet or I have identified some agents who would have exploited it for their own gain and advance their plans. There is also a lot of anger around: pilgrims feel abandoned while the Ecclesarchia eats in their palaces. Thus, the Adepta Sororitas stationed on the planet must maintain order by resorting to brutal methods. I also added the theme of Corruption and Chaos which is central to the Warhammer world and we had a nice powder keg and several fronts with the fuse burning.
I have to say one thing: the manual offers many narrative ideas. The sections where the lore or the atmosphere is told are very convincing and effective, and the setting chapter takes care to insert several adventure hook. Unfortunately, however, the chapter of the master does not offer any inspiration or help on how to manage adventures: rests, clashes, interactions and rewards are things treated very hastily.
What was the outcome?
I hadn't predetermined a specific outcome or a precise lineup of events, but rather how the various fronts would react to the arrival of people with power and authority like the characters. I wanted to see where they would point their guns and their interest.
The characters quickly became interested in Xeno's possible involvement with hungry pilgrims and a suspected fight club that made the hungry fight in exchange for food. This then led them to come into contact with the Ecclesarchy in its golden palaces. At the end of the mini-campaign, they thwarted an attempt by a Chaos-corrupted Sister to perform a ritual that involved mass sacrifice of pilgrims. Taking advantage of the hustle and bustle, they then proceeded to weigh their political influence to remove the highest religious office on the planet (guilty of having treated them with arrogance).
Influence of characters on the world
From this point of view the game performed well, more or less as I expected. There were social interactions between characters, and between characters and NPCs. Usually it was enough to set a difficulty when the party members wanted to manage a crew or intimidate someone, and use the Exchanges to obtain extra information or effects in various social interactions. I'm not the master who makes a player roll to convince a player, so the differences of views between the various characters are solved in words between them.
I found the presence of the Influence score very nice, which reflects somewhat the political weight of the character. It has been used both for requisition tests (procuring equipment beyond the starting ones) and as a substitute for prolonged social tests such as influencing the inquisition's investigation of a specific target.
The game mechanics of Wrath & Glory
Now let's see in more detail some of the mechanics of Wrath & Glory.
Exploration and Investigation in Wrath & Glory
The most significant thing in this area is certainly the mechanics of the stealth.
The character who takes a stealth action generates his own pool of stealth which is reduced as he makes noisy actions or passes guards. I found it a very nice mechanism that reduces everything to a single roll (instead of rolling multiple times on the same skill) and allows you to "tell" the scene.
For the rest there are no major mechanics on perception, nor on movement. A serious shortcoming is the absence of information on vehicles. Indeed, the world of Warhammer 40.000 it is full of important vehicles: from armored vehicles to landing pods to walkers to spaceships; and the characters have skills and means to pilot them but in the manual they are essentially non-existent. And in a campaign where we had a Corsair Merchant with his ship, having no support other than the knowledge of the most experienced players took some of the charm out of the game. We remedied by asking the player what the strengths and weaknesses of his ship were, as if it were a PBTA extension.
Combat in Wrath & Glory
There is a lot to talk about here, bearing in mind that my experience is limited to the party I described above.
First of all, the characters faced the following types of enemies:
- Troops (fragile enemies to be presented in dozens): Cultists, Eldar Corsairs, Eldari Guardians, Scum;
- Elite (barrel resistant enemies): Ranger Eldar, Chrono Gladiator;
- opponents (enemies dangerous even alone and hard to swallow): Space Marine of Chaos (reskinnati as a Chaos-corrupted Adepta Sororitas), Tactical Space Marine (reskinnati as Adepte Sororitas).
Troop-type enemies were easily wiped out, and never got to hurt characters. The Elite enemies were just as easy to take down and had no way to bother the group. Only those of the Opponent type gave the characters a hard time.
Damage and equipment: reflections on some unbalanced choices
This did not depend so much on the skill points available but above all on weapons and armor. In fact, a good chunk of the characters had Resilience scores (the total amount of damage absorbed by their body and armor) so high that they couldn't be hurt by most of the opposing weapons. Likewise, their weapons did so much damage that all enemies, except the Space Marines, could not absorb them and were one-shot.
Certain weapons and armor are a source of imbalance in the game, and force the master to choose enemies based on the characters' equipment rather than their abilities. The point is that this type of equipment is accessible already at the creation of the character starting from the first degree. That's a big difference from Dark Heresy, where gaining access and the skills to use these weapons only came after many experience points spent.
Otherwise the fight works fine, but except for the last fight the characters have never really risked being put in trouble. Luckily they faced tough opponents in the end so we also got to see how injury and death work!
In the end I am satisfied: that in a handful of games we were able to see all the rules of the manual, even mutilation, bionics and corruption, use of Glory, Wrath and Ruin points.
The only rule I found stupid is that ofobiettivo: each session is rolled on a random table an action to do in order to recover anger points. Sometimes it's something as trivial as “think about your ship” sometimes something that doesn't depend on the player like “make your captain proud”. We never got around to using this thing well, and we eventually abandoned it.
A list of impressions on Wrath & Glory
That said, here are some of my concluding impressions:
- Wrath & Glory amused me and left a good impression: it was easy to step into the setting and feel like you were in that world. The system, however traditional, offers insights in which players can contribute to the story and make an important contribution.
- We had some big laughs since that of Warhammer 40.000 it is an ironic and ridiculous world (with all due respect to those who think that the Imperium is a truly achievable goal). But there was also tension, suspicion and fear. A good swing of emotions that give a good rhythm to the game.
- I think the players have heard very powerful as they advanced undisturbed over multitudes of enemies. It seemed to play Doom sometimes! And I think every now and then we need a little camp where we feel that way.
- It is not necessary to know Warhammer 40.000 to enjoy Wrath & Glory: by reading the manual you have all the information to do your job. Clearly, the more players know, the richer the world can be, but the game takes the trouble to tell you what you need to know.
- Unfortunately, the game is very lacking on the master side. Zero advice on how to prepare missions, zero guidance on how to create, balance and manage the clashes so that they are fun and interesting. Then would help vehicles e many, many more enemies. More variety in power levels and tough enemies. We have compensated for these things through experience and improvisation, but no RPG should be based on the master being able to do their job.
- I will definitely play again Wrath & Glory, perhaps with a Grade 1 party to see how combat changes with less powerful gear.
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