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Only War(?)

Side note: I know I owe about three more supervillains, but I haven't had time to stat any new ones out.  In the meantime, I had some thoughts about another game...

I picked up the Free RPG Day mini-adventure for Only War, the latest RPG offering out of Fantasy Flight's licensed Warhammer 40K RPG's.  Only War focuses on the Imperial Guard, the lowly grunts who make up most of the Empire's military apparatus.  Now the main rulebook is out, and while I really liked the little mini-adventure, I've had mixed thoughts about picking up the game.

FFG's earlier Warhammer 40K games had players playing members of the Inquisition, the crack teams who root out sedition, corruption, and covert alien invaders.  The game was supplemented by rules for playing Rogue Traders (semi-independent freebooters), and the iconic Space Marines (superhuman defenders of humanity).

But in the 40K universe, the Imperial Guard are usually the faceless masses of humanity thrown into the meat grinder of battling the Imperium's enemies.  That doesn't sound like great roleplaying: "so you're all in a ditch when a bomb goes off near you.  Now you're dead."  So how does one actually run this, or for that matter any military-oriented game?

If you go with the Only War mini-game, then the answer is to play a diverse crack special-ops team.  It's like a little pack of Rambo's all ready to go.  Nor far off from this is Dan Abnett's "Tanith" series of Warhammer 40K novels featuring a small IG company composed of tragic figures from a destroyed world.

But what I wonder is, how does any game not degenerate into a combat-encounter slug-fest?  In Dark Heresy you at least had the stories featuring uncovering conspiracies, et al.  I would think that after a while the game could grind down fairly quickly.

One thing I did consider, however, which is how it might work as the framework for a post-apocalyptic game.  Cybernetics, big guns, weird mutants--all part of the Imperial Guard universe.  You could ditch the military command structure and just run them in a Borderlands-esque universe.


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