How do, Dan here again – getting the hang of this typing malarkey. Jim’s given me the keys to the blog as long as I promise no naked belly dancing pictures.
Since we started dipping our toe back into 40k and it’s boutique cousin, 30k (aka the Horus Heresy) a while back, we’ve been hearing the name “Betrayal at Calth” bandied about with much excitement about the variety and quality of the miniatures included in it. The consensus seems to be that it’s an excellent starter set for anyone planning a 30k Space Marine army, containing 30 Marines in Mk 4 power armour, a Chaplain, a Terminator Captain and 5 Cataphractii Terminators, plus a Contemptor Dreadnought – yours for just £95.
That kind of goes against our cheap ‘n’ cheerful, DIY ethos. But as it turns out, Betrayal At Calth is in fact a board game with miniatures – in intent, at least. To 99% of the internet, it’s miniatures with some dice and bits of cardboard cluttering the box up.
However, this can work to our advantage – a little bit of eBay reconnaissance shows that there seems to be a cottage industry in buying BaC boxes, stripping out the minis and selling them on.. but that leaves the game pieces for sale at absolutely knockdown prices.
And thus it was that we discovered a seller offering the complete BaC kit sans minis for £4.99. Yes, you read that right. Well, we’ve sold a couple of copies of Apocalypse: Earth over at Wargame Vault, so we cashed in and went for it. A few days later, and lookie lookie what turns up in the post:
Typical GW, even the box is laaaaaaarvely, loads of artwork and pics of beautifully painted minis adorning the side – a nice throw back to the days of the 90s classic Space Crusade.
The rulebook contains some in depth fluff on the battle of Calth and the Heresy (Spoiler alert – Word Bearers are BAD GUYS) which give plenty of atmosphere, as well as containing the rules and six scenarios to play through. My only criticism here is the rules are somewhat unclearly expressed – the Critical Hit rules weren’t clear until we watched a Warhammer TV playthrough of the game, and it was only then we realised about rubble hexes giving cover. This is in the rulebook, just not where you expect it to be. Props to GW for including a handy reference chart on the back page, though, good thinking!
The board itself is a hex board, four interlocking sections that are double sided and depict the ruined arcologies of the once verdant world of Calth. These can be rearranged to create all manner of different floorplans with red bordered hexes representing blocked terrain and dotted line bordered hexes representing rubble – slowing movement but conferring a cover bonus.
There are also a deck of cards giving reference stats for all the units
Gameplay wise, it’s pretty straightforward, every unit has a Bulk rating (how many can fit in a hex), Melee and Shoot ratings all allowing different numbers of dice to be rolled.
But straightforward doesn’t mean bad. In fact, this is a really fun game, fast paced and cinematic with the Command Cards adding an extra dimension (a special mention is the Word Bearers’ “Would You Fire On Your Brother?” – sneaky… very sneaky..). It seems to be pretty well balanced as well, we’re pretty much even on victories through the first three scenarios. Alternating activation and the tactical point system makes it much more flexible than 40k/ 30k and has produced some great moments.
In terms of replay value, although there are only six scenarios included in the book, there’s plenty of variation to be had in terms of weapon loadouts etc. There’s also a lot to be said for the “board game” nature of BaC – quick set up and pack down, missions play through in 30-45 minutes meaning there’s plenty of opportunities for replay, campaigns etc.
Now..the million dollar question – is it worth the money? £95 is a LOT of money.. but if you’re coming at it from the perspective of a 30k player looking to start an army (or armies) it probably is – certainly, by comparison to most GW starter sets, it’s a bargain. However, we’re not really arsed about that, we’re thinking about the £4.99 we paid for the game itself, and the answer is a resounding YES. BaC is fun, fast, and a great laugh. Not only that, but it’s given us some ideas…. Originally we were planning to play this with flats or tokens, but then we remembered these guys.
I’d thoroughly recommend this approach to anyone with an existing 40k or 30k collection, as GW have a few tidy looking games out at the moment which plenty of people seem to buy purely to asset strip the miniatures from – Burning Of Prospero and Deathwatch Overkill look particularly interesting, not to mention all the long out of print stuff floating around the net in PDF form. And not just GW – there’s a fantastic game I remember playing as a kid called FireFight which was tile/ boardgame style – I’ll get my Google Fu on the case!
So, in the meantime – Space Marines and greenskins are going to get a repaint, and not only that, but we can investigate a whole host of other classic GW (and others) boxed games – look forward to DIY Space Crusade, Space Hulk, Advanced Space Crusade and a whole bunch more!
Stay thrifty out there, we’ll see you soon!