October 17, 2017
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Warhammer 40,000 – Lost Patrol
Updated 18th Jan, ’22.
In the 80’s, video games (as you may know) were things you went down to the local arcade and poured coins into, usually much to the chagrin of your parents. Console games were at best basic and if you were not lucky enough to have a Commodore 64, which had ALL the cool games, you were stuck with an Atari system; while fun, the Atari and its counterparts had a very DIY feel when compared to what the arcades were dishing up – oh how times have changed!
So for those that liked to do ‘more’ when they could not get to the arcade, table top games and RPGs (Role Playing Games) were the go. I can hear you now, Role Playing… isn’t that Dungeons & Dragons? Well, yes, for those that liked D&D it was, but unbeknownst to many is that there was a whole range of RPG games people played, D&D being just one of them.
Digging these images up was trip down memory lane!
I started out with ‘Traveller’, the science fiction counterpart to D&D. I had a lot of fun playing it with friends, where, like a lot of guys I went to school with, the other option was to roam around and get into trouble or sit and watch TV all day. The biggest problem with any RPG game though was that you generally needed at least 4 people to have a good time of it, and of course a lot of prep to get going. So it was around this time that I started playing tabletop strategy games, easily accessible through pocket games published by the likes of Micro Games or Steve Jackson Games. Simple, affordable, with basic printing and packaged in a ziplock bag, all for around $7 or so. Not a bad spend considering the hours of entertainment they provided.
I went on the play a variety of games that have ended up becoming classics – Steve Jacksons Games’ Ogre, GEV and Car Wars (which are now republished), the classic Starfire and later , ‘Micro Armour’ and eventually Battletech, both of which were (are??) miniatures based. I simply loved these games and filled many hours playing then, when I was around 16 or so, I started painting miniatures ‘professionally’ for one of Sydney’s premiere shops, The Tin Soldier. It was through doing this that I started seeing the miniatures for Warhammer 40,000 and while I loved the miniatures, I never played the game, instead using the figures I bought to play a system I was designing with a friend at the time.
Fast forward to now and I finally bought my first ever Warhammer game, ‘Lost Patrol’ (that only took, what, 30 years?!). I bought it to play with the 10 year old because 1. the game received some great reviews, 2. I thought he may enjoy playing a game like this and 3. gaming is a great way to enjoy a common interest that easily spans age brackets, something I think there is not enough of these days between parents and their kids.
The gist of the game is pretty simple – a team of Space Marines (player 1) has to find its way to a drop ship before the endless hordes of Soul Stealers (player 2) kills them off. And that’s it. Don’t let that fool you though, this is an incredibly difficult game to win (where the Space Marines are the ones that win or loose), and very quickly the Space Marines player will start experimenting with ways to actually survive more than 10 minutes!
Game play is a straight forward turn/action based flow and the well illustrated rule book is simple and to the point; but be warned, some of the rules can be a bit ambiguous in the way they are written, so can lead to some confusion up front. What’s perhaps most interesting about Dawn Patrol is that rather than playing on a map/board, where everything is served up in one go, action takes place on hex tiles that only come into play when the Space Marines have a clear line of sight. This highly effective system ensures every game and the game play itself, is totally random, hence unique; sometimes the environment works to the Marines’ advantage, sometimes totally against, it all comes down to the luck of the draw. Overall game play is fast and fun – you can knock over a few games within an hour, making it a perfect way to fill some gaps in the day.
In the box, a squad of Space Marines and a horde of Soul Reapers await assembly, adding a nice dimension to the game. The 10 y/o was as enthusiastic to assemble and paint the miniatures (after I showed him how) as he was to play the game itself, which I think gives the game an extra dimension out of the box (as opposed to many miniature based games where you have to buy the miniatures separately).
The rule book is light on but nicely done.
Overall, I can highly recommend Lost Patrol as a way to introduce your kids to the gaming experience in a way that’s simple and fast, important for keeping their attention while they learn the idea that games can take time to play. What’s more, it’s an ideal game to teach kids about loosing gracefully as there is plenty of loosing to be had while working out tactics, if they are playing the Space Marines; despite much of what modern parenting likes to tell kids, there is only one winner…
Lost Patrol, while a fun and well thought out game, I am sure is intended as a gateway product for the Warhammer universe. We went to a Games Workshop store to buy our game and I have to admit, GW has the whole immersion thing down pat. While there, the 10 y/o was offered a free lesson on how to paint a ‘free’ figure by the very friendly and well versed store manager (who was not a all what I expected – beware stereotypes!). It was an unexpected upside in going to the store and the manager’s knowledge and openness was, I have to admit, quite refreshing and not at all annoying.
Hope you’re not in a rush to play?
But be warned. Back when I was painting miniatures and Warhammer was breaking into the market, a pack of three white metal Space Marines cost around $15. Now granted, this was some time back but today, a ‘box’ of 5 or so of the same costs in the vicinity of $40-50. The catch (as if that’s not enough of a catch) is that they are now plastic, pretty much like model kits. Somehow, over the years, Games Workshop has (to their credit I have to say) gone from an expensive base material – white metal, to a cheap as chips plastic, yet has convinced people to pay 4-5 times as much! Honestly, I don’t think that’s cool and looking at my collection of metal Marines, replacing them with the plastic some 30 years down the track will now cost me 4 times what I paid!! What’s more, I remember when GW started releasing plastic figures, it was charging half the price of the metal versions.
In the Games Workshop world it seems, time and quantities of scale means more expensive, not cheaper, as it does in the rest of the world. That makes diving further into the very in depth, detailed and well provided for Warhammer universe a very expensive proposition, well out of reach of what anyone might earn doing a paper run!
All images: Game Workshop
Many games of Space Patrol have been played since writing the above, with pretty much the Marine’s player loosing. Every. Single. Time. Close calls have been had but simply the mechanics of the game are such that the weighting is on the Marines loosing. And of course this means that, after a while, the game gets tiresome as replays are exactly that, replaying the game and pretty much the Marines loosing… again.
Luckily, rather than giving up on it, some thinking, reading and experimenting has delivered a range of ‘house rules, that help make the game a lot more balanced, which means that the Marines have a reasonable chance of winning, which in turn makes playing the game more challenging for the Gene Stealer player and more hopeful for the Marine’s player.