It’s a new year, so it’s time for a new narrative campaign for Warhammer 40,000.  Arks of Omen is a planned series of books, models, rules and associated merch that moves the broad story of Warhammer 40,000 forward. Arks of Omen: Abaddon is the first book in a planned series, filled with art, stories, setting material and rules for this year’s new story.

So far we’ve seen the Chaos champion Abaddon The Despoiler pull out some significant wins, with the fortress world of Cadia getting destroyed and great big portals to the hellish warp dimension opening up across the Galaxy, making it impossible for uncorrupted humanity to travel safely across the cosmos. Despite this, he still needs more power to defeat the Imperium of Man, the vast and superstitious galaxy spanning civilisation that represents the remains of a once glorious humanity.

In Arks of Omen: Abaddon we see him team up with  Vashtorr, the demonic demi-god of technology.  Vashtorr has promised Abaddon a legendary super-weapon, but requires various ancient articfacts from across the galaxy to achieve this. This will put Abaddon in a state of war versus pretty much everyone.

So Abaddon has pulled out a fleet of massive space-faring craft called space hulks; horrific amalgams of lost and cursed space ships, filled with monsters.  The book presents this narrative in a series of thrilling tales and general information, and we get reports of some incredible battles that include everything from Demon Princes to dark crusades.  We get plenty of examples of a painted models and the art is, as always, inspiring in a specific grim and dark sort of way.

The new rules cover boarding actions, close quarter combat for battles involving fights on space hulks and similarly claustrophobic settings. Fans of Kill Team Shadowvaults and Into The Dark  will already have the specific sort of terrain required for this mode of play, though you could also pick-up the Boarding Actions terrain separately.

Running off the core Warhammer 40,000 rules, Boarding Actions modifies the game into something grittier and tactical. You’re going to be able to squeeze a tank into the narrow corridors of a space hulk. Creating a force for this mode of play means you’re going to be relying on small teams of troops and the odd leader or elite type. Units are organised in small groups, which adds to the tight play style.

Think the fight scenes in the movie Aliens and you’ve got a good idea of what they’re going for here.

Line-of-Sight becomes the most important thing in this style of play; honestly we felt this is a great use of the gaming laser-pointer, if you have one.

Additional rules cover stuff like hiding behind airlock doors for cover, preparing to shoot anything that comes across your line of site and locking down strategic points. Stratagems are reduced to a small number, mostly stuff like command re-rolls, extra attacks for units and automatically passing morale checks.  The book comes with various missions you can run, and these rely on the official scenery.

They play swiftly and this makes small, 500 point games fun. It’s still a day-out in terms of gaming fun; the scenery set-up alone makes this less of a pick-up lunchtime game (which you can sort of do with Kill Team) and more an excuse to play a quick and dirty game of Warhammer 40,000 9th edition.

Story wise, this is the sort of thing we’ve always wanted to see Games Workshop do with 40K; tell epic stories with cool games attached to them. Though we’re still holding out hope for a stand-alone board game set on a Space Hulk.