The Narrative Play Framework

Now let’s take a look at the Narrative Play style that is growing more popular starting with 9th edition Warhammer 40K. First lets look at the old Narrative concept from previous editions of 40K.

Old Narrative Concept

In previous editions of 40K there were some Narrative Play missions, depending on which books you were looking at and what release, there were more Narrative Play missions than Matched Play. Prior to 8th edition, the most Narrative Play missions were found in the Imperial Armor books put out by the Forgeworld division of GW.

GW had two concepts for non Matched Play prior to 9th edition: Open Play and Narrative Play. Open play was billed as just putting the models that you wanted to play with on the board and playing; you were encouraged to have fun and play with only the rules that you and your opponent decided on. Narrative Play was never really even attempted balance the missions, they acknowledged that the missions were not balanced and suggested that every mission be played twice and the player who was the attacker should be the defender in the second game. In Narrative Play, the Core Rules where always used, but the Matched Play rules could mixed in if the players agreed.

Power Level was a concept that was introduced in 8th edition to make it quicker and easier to set up casual games. In 8th edition GW stated that the Power Levels were set at the beginning of the release and there were no plans to update them once set. FAQ/Erratas rarely, if ever, were put out for Narrative Play; only changes to the core rules and Matched Play were released prior to 9th edition.

In 8th edition the Imperial Armor books grew into series of campaign settings such as Imperium Nihilus and Psychic Awakening. In these settings there were a number of Narrative Play missions that allowed for the recreation of “historic” battles of the campaign just like the old Imperial Armor books.

Lastly, in 8th edition GW introduced the Chapter Approved annual release where they would introduce new missions and new rules, many rules were for designed for Narrative Play specifically.

The New Narrative Concept

In 9th edition GW put out their new concept for Narrative Play: Crusade. Main emphasis of Crusade is to build a story (a narrative if you will) around your Order of Battle for your army. You would then take your army and play with them, keeping track of each units successes, failures, and heroic feats. You can take your Crusading army in a Campaign setting from GW or homebrewed; you can even just use them in pick up games!

Missions were more balanced than in previous releases, in fact, in small games the missions seem more balanced than Matched Play missions at similar sizes. Not all of the Narrative Missions have objective markers and none of them use the Secondary Objectives from Matched Play, they use Agendas (more on that later).

In 9th edition, GW has taken a new look at Power Level updates, they have put out Power Levels twice so far after initial release. I think that this bodes well for GW’s new found attention for us non-competitive players. Along with PL updates, GW is putting out campaign settings such as War Zone Charadon and Pariah Nexus (initial release setting). With each of these campaign setting GW has released a Narrative Play only mission pack (Beyond the Veil, Plague Purge) to accompany the settings.

GW has issued FAQ/Erratas for Narrative Play materials just as they have with the Matched Play and Competitive Play material. With the introduction of Mission Packs specifically for Matched/Competitive Play, the Chapter Approved releases now center around points changes and Grand Tournament Mission Packs where they make changes to such things as Secondary Objectives.