No matter what happens, always play to the end

Written by Ron Saikowski, November 11th, 2017

I've been working on a series of missions for Space Hulk over the past few months. And by working on them I mean my friend designs them completely and then I'm the guinea pig that tries to win them. We play them over and over making ever so slight changes as needed until we have something that can be won by either side on any given day depending on who capitalizes on the other player's first mistake.

I've had to fight most missions (99.999 percent) over and over again until I figured out the subtle nuances and flow of the mission in order to pull out the last turn win. I've said it before, but my friend has a unique ability to make incredibly challenging and balanced missions. I suspect he has a formula... he has hinted at it, but I don't ask. I kinda like the mystery that shrouds the whole process. My job is simple... accomplish the objective and kill any bugs that get in the way of that. My biggest decision is Heavy Flamer or Assault Cannon this time?

Besides it's a bit of a challenge to have the mission laid out in front of you and you've got a minute or two to formulate a plan for something you've never seen before.

Which brings us to the lesson
Always play the game to the end no matter what.
I learned this lesson again the other day in a knock down, drag out Space Hulk mission against my friend. We were playing the final mission in the series. We'd already played it a couple times and made a few minor tweaks to address some balance issues.
This time though we'd introduced a Librarian into the Marine squad and a Broodlord into the Genestealer force. I'd done what I thought was a good job politicking for certain mission restrictions now that the Broodlord would be running around.

As fate would have it, my Librarian ended up meeting face to face with the Broodlord at the worst possible choke point on the board. I don't think it was an accident, but my friend insisted otherwise.

In a brilliant tactical maneuver, I decided the best approach would be to engage the Broodlord in close combat, make short work of him and clear the remaining portion of the corridor towards the exit point. I say brilliant, but that was before we rolled our close combat dice. If nothing else, I was completely confident in the face of my immediate death.

A side note here, we don't use the standard rules for our Space Marine Librarians. They don't have the regular number of PSI points. Short version: we roll 1D6 each turn for them to see what they have available for the turn similar to what is done for Command Points. You can find the full rules we use for our Librarians here.

Like I said, I was confident I could take the Broodlord handily as I had what I felt were enough PSI points remaining and my rolling is often better than not. That and I had no real choice in the matter, the damn thing was standing in the middle of the way of the mission objective.

And then we rolled.
I came up one point short of killing it. One point.
That meant my Librarian was dead on the spot.

Well I certainly wasn't going to let that happen. Out came the rulebook as I started looking for something... anything that I could use to keep my hero alive. Nothing. Dead. A crushing blow to the squad of now four Marines and even more so to my morale.

To my friend's credit. He said nothing as I worked through the stages of grief. He even humored me and flipped through the rulebook himself offering his condolences.

Resigning myself to my fate and the loss of the mission
I was in a state of shock. The one model I needed to win the mission had just been wiped from the board in one swift round of combat by a Broodlord who didn't even struggle to do so.
But I kept playing.
More importantly, I kept playing like I was still going to win the game.

Then it happened
The first few turns after the loss were difficult. Trying to figure out how I was going to win now without the one model I needed. Without the one model my whole plan of attack revolved around. Well, the one model my plan used to revolve around.

This time I decided I'd try shooting with the next Marine even though I knew my odds were even worse going this route. I had nothing to lose in my mind. I'd already lost a key player and the Broodlord simply stood there like an iron blockade between me and the objective.
A brilliant stroke of dice rolling allowed the Marine to step forward and blast the Broodlord to bits. He earned himself a commendation for that little bit of shooting, but I wasn't out of the woods as they say just yet.

Each turn I played making the most of what I had and got closer and closer to the objective. My Heavy Flamer guy used all of his ammo locking down a key Genestealer entry point. Other Marines selflessly gave their lives for the Emperor.

And then we came to that point where I was going to win or I was going to die. Simple as that. The last turn of the game. I'd held for as long as I could and fought off Genestealers by the double digits. They'd closed in to a point where I could no longer escape. I was going to make it to the objective or I was going to die trying.

I rolled for Command Points. I needed to roll a four to make a successful run for it. If I rolled any less, I'd be forced to make a stand within a matter of a square or two of the final objective and face a certain death.

I rolled a four. I'd managed to pull off the win the smallest margin possible.
I'd just won the game I thought was impossible to win a few turns earlier.

What I learned
The best laid plans go to hell the moment the enemy gets involved. Their goal is often to make sure you don't accomplish yours.
I could have easily crawled into a ball in the corner and cried the moment my Librarian died. I would have liked to call his death heroic and inspirational... a death suitable for a main character model, but I suspect it wasn't anything near to that. It was most likely pitch black in that damp corridor and by the time he realized what was going to happen and he raised his force axe to defend himself, it was far too late.

But I kept playing like I was going to win.
I honestly had no idea how I was going to pull it off and in the back of my mind I was pretty sure I wasn't going to, but I kept going. I kept playing.
Not fast, not reckless... but with a determination to make the most of what I had left.

Really this applies to all games. Especially when it looks like there's no way you're gonna win. When it looks like there's no possible way in the world you're gonna come out ahead on this one... keep going. You never know, you just might pull it off as I did.

And those make the best stories of all.

You can see all of my Space Hulk related posts here.
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IMAGE: My Deathwatch Librarian facing what would be his imminent death.
KEYWORDS: Space Hulk, gaming, Librarian, Broodlord