Sunday 26 February 2023

Second Time Around

I've been enjoying my somewhat unsuccessful forays into the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, although I've found 9th Edition 40k to be a bit inaccessible for the casual player, and of my regular opponents, only Pete has a Horus Heresy army.

However, not only does Matt have a couple of 40k armies, he (and Pete) are on a bit of a nostalgic trip into the past and so I took the opportunity to ask him to introduce me to 2nd Edition 40k and unleash his Tyranid horde onto my stalwart and long suffering Blood Angels.

Given the second hand and out of print nature of most of my Blood Angels, putting together a suitably second edition force was actually remarkably easy. In fact, about half of my Marines are actually metal second edition models.

Admittedly, everything is on the wrong-sized bases (no, I'm not changing them back) and the plastics are mainly from the 5th Edition starter set, but there's nothing too fancy that doesn't fit into the somewhat static nineties aesthetic (ignore what I'm using as a Techmarine). To help matters, I set the table up in a period appropriate style, with a traditional lurid green mat and a random assortment of disconnected (and in some cases homemade) terrain.

I never played 40k before 5th Edition, although I did avidly read battle reports and articles in White Dwarf all the way from Rogue Trader days, and so without any guidance I based my force on half of a 200 points army that featured in White Dwarf #166 from 1993.

  • Techmarine - Terminator Armour, Combi-Melta, Chainfist, Conversion Field, Auto-Launchers
  • Terminator Squad - Heavy Flamer
  • Tactical Squad - Flamer and Missile Launcher
  • Dreadnought - Power Fist and Multi-Melta

Matt's swarm of gribblies was, as far as I remember, as follows:

  • Hive Tyrant
  • 10 Hormagaunts
  • 10 Termagents
  • 7 Genestealers
  • 7 Genestealers
  • Lictor
  • Screamer Killer

We didn't play any missions as I was learning the game and so the goal was imply to kill each other. To offset Matt's numerical advantage, and to give me some flexibility, I split the Tactical Squad into two combat squads.

One of these squads, the one with the flamer, was deployed on the right flank as I assumed that a swarm of gribblies was going to get into template range fairly soon. The Techmarine, Dreadnought and missile launcher squad were positioned in the centre as a fire base, whilst the Terminators held the left flank.

Due to a massive strategy rating difference, Matt actually deployed first, but he was fairly well spread out with Genestealers and Hormagaunts/Termagents on each flank and the Screamer Killer and Hive Tyrant in the centre. However, of particular note was the Lictor which was dangerously close to my left flank and posed a clear and present danger to my elite Terminators. 


In a totally unsurprising turn of events, my Blood Angels took a few steps forwards and opened fire with everything they could. Unfortunately, only a handful of Hormagaunts fell to bolter fire as I learned all about how tough a Screamer Killer is as it shrugged off hits from a multi-melta and missile launcher.

In retrospect, I should probably have stood still and gone onto overwatch, but Matt didn't explain this rule until turn 2, so I didn't.

In an equally predictable turn of events, the Tyranids ran forwards as fast as they could, which for reference is very, very fast. The Termagents went a little slower and took some pot shots but failed to cause any damage.


In a scene somewhat reminiscent of Zulu, my thin red line opened fire again, this time with the benefit of rapid fire (or whatever it's called in this edition). Concentrated fire on the left finished off the Horagaunts and some of the Genestealers. The Dreadnought and missile launcher managed to inflict a single wound on the Screamer Killer, and a few Termegants were felled on the right.

The first wave had been stopped, but the second, and much more dangerous wave was still bearing down on my lines.

The Tyranid turn saw more chittering beasties running forwards. Predictably, the Lictor jumped onto and ripped apart the Terminator with the heavy flamer which had hung back and failed to kill it with fire, disproving numerous memes in the process.

The Screamer Killer, the Ronseal Wood Stain of the Tyranid army, screamed and charged the Dreadnought in an attempt to kill it. Due to a slight misunderstanding of the rules for vehicles on Matt's part, what followed was probably to most boring fight in all of 40k history.

On my rights, the chittering hordes surged forwards.

Whilst on the left, the Terminators found themselves caught between a rock and a sharp place, as Genestealers and the Lictor bore down on them. However, a good round of storm bolter fire should clear out the Genestealers right?



The Terminators opened up and scored, with the benefit of sustained fire dice, nine hits which then converted wound! Not only leaving them about to get cracked open like piƱatas but also, significantly leaving the Genestealers just above half strength. 

Meanwhile, the Tactical Marines had better luck, with the flamer benefitting from the massed ranks of the enemy and both combat squads combining fire to demolish the Termagents and kill several Genestealers. However, onc again this left them just above half strength.

The significance of this would only become apparent to me later.

The tide of carnage washed over my lines and the Terminators were assaulted from all sides. Contrary to more current editions of the game, Terminators seem to not be particularly great in close combat, especially when faced with Genestealers that seem to get about 20 attacks each.

I do remember many of the mechanics of 2nd Edition from Necromunda and high numbers of attacks combined with high weapon skill make for a very dangerous opponents, especially when they have claws that a re somewhat akin to tin openers.

A single Terminator survived the assault, which in the grand scheme of things was a fairly positive result.

On the right, the flamer squad met a similar, grisly fate, although there was less hope involved as they had the equivalent of no armour against the claws. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the sergeant somehow survived. He was less pleased as it was plainly obvious that this state of affairs wouldn't last long.


With Genestealers bearing down on both sides the Techmarine and remaining combat squad pulled back to the hill. Unfortunately there were limited targets available as most of the Genestealers were engaged in ripping apart Marines.

An added complication was that I then had another terrible round of shooting and failed to kill any of the few Genestealers that were viable targets.

However, the Techmarine and missile launcher did have a viable target in the Hive Tyrant and both fired, their combined fire tearing apart the leader of the swarm.

I should probably have shot at it sooner.

In the combat round, the last Terminator was inevitably ripped apart.

As was the Tactical Squad sergeant.

Leaving the last few Marines in a perilous, if somewhat cinematic position.

By the way, there had been several turns of nothing happing in the 'epic' confrontation between the Screamer Killer and the Dreadnought. I kept winning the fights but only got one or two wounds through in total.

The final turn for the Tyranids saw almost everything get charged...and killed. Marines really are no match for Genestealers in combat.

Neither are Dreadnoughts apparently. The combat bonus gained from ganging up saw each Genestealer that attacked the Dreadnought get more dangerous. Matt had clearly planned to build up to the Screamer Killer attacking last to get the biggest benefit.

However, this wasn't necessary as the second Genestealer tore off the Dreadnought's leg and brought it crashing to the ground.

This left only a single Marine standing, but fortunately he knew no fear and passed his morale test. Narratively, this wouldn't save his life, but mechanically it meant that he prevented Matt scoring a victory point.

Annoyingly, leaving both units of Genestealers with four left, also cost me the chance of scoring any points from them and so the final score was:

Blood Angels 3 - Tyranids 9

Despite what appears to be a crushing defeat, I actually thing the game was closer than it looked. If the Terminators hadn't fluffed shooting at the Genestealers in turn three, I think they might have beaten the Lictor on its own, this would also have meant that the final turn mauling wouldn't have been so bad.

More importantly, I really enjoyed this game. Although I was never a 40k player in the 90s, the game does hark back to a different age of gaming. A time where fun was the primary goal and everything being unbalanced and silly was sort of the point.

I don't think this will be my final foray into 2nd Edition, especially as Pete is in the process of building an old style Eldar army, Matt's making plans with a 3d printer and both of them have old armies to get out of storage. Whether I build a specific army for this remains to be seen, however, I am currently painting a number of things red to add to my options in the future.

Also, on the back of this game some purchases have been made. The piece of Mechanicum terrain in the pictures is Matt's and I happened across the same piece with a back issue of Imperium magazine and scooped it up. Additionally, I picked up a Tech-Priest who may end up serving as a Techmarine, and I bought the first issue of Stormbringer magazine because it was cheap.

To offset these purchases I've given Matt the last of my single pose Marines. I don't really want to do another Tactical Squad and Matt was talking about wanting to build up the few Ultramarines he still has up into a functioning force.

This leaves the current scores on the doors at:

Acquired: -7

Painted: 60

Lead Mountain: 520 (this number is a mystery to me, mainly because I think I counted my Marines incorrectly when in the first place - not sure I counted the ones without guns that I've given to Matt which I've provided 30k bolters for)


  1. Looks great dude. It gives me old school 40k Vibes.

    1. It's the green mat that does it. Especially in contrast with the red marines.

  2. It looks like a good battle. I always got the impression terminators were invincible in 2nd ed, because you rolled the save on 2 dice, but maybe not!

    1. I rolled a double 1 on my first save with them, so they might perhaps have been tougher. I'm not sure Genestealers in close combat are the best demonstration for them.