Chainsword of Command: The 40k-ening

Pretty much ever since Chain of Command was released Virago and I were throwing around ideas for how to apply these rules to Warhammer 40,000.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

A while ago we took the plunge and decided to just throw around some dice and make up some rules for using the brilliant Chain of Command rules to represent the wacky kind of warfare the grim  farness of the futuristic dark is so well known for.

I think pretty much everybody reading this site either has or at some point owned a collection of 40k figures. So do I. I own several armies, more than I could ever use, more than I could ever paint. Mainly a large Imperial Guard army (including some Squats, beastmen, Ogryns and lots of Ratlings and all the other good stuff), but also Sisters of Battle and Space Orks.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

I have a great deal of affection for all of my armies, but for some reason my Orks seem to get out to play the most. I did the army between 2006 and about 2009, but I’ve started collecting it way before that. It’s this labour of love army of mine. The army I couldn’t have when I was a wee lad because things were bloody expensive. All metal (unless you wanted an army of those single-pose guys from the 40k 2nd edition box). Funnily enough Orks probably are about as expensive now again, but that’s beside the point.

My Orks are all Rogue Trader or 2nd edition edition models, the style I very much prefer. My opponent virago is a dyed-in-the-wool Blood Angels player of long, right down to owning rather unsettling Blood Angels paraphernalia. He even owns the latest BA codex and 40k rulebook. (shock horror)

As for the rules, we had a few basic ideas and decided to make up stuff as we played. The main problem of course is the insane superiority of Space Marines. Or rather the extreme differences between warriors in 40k (as it often is the character of fantasy settings). We decided to have each Blood Angel model to count for two in terms of morale effects of Shock.

The second big problem is armour saves. In the real world armour hasn’t played a role for a long time and to this day in most cases it is of limited use in terms of immunising the wearer to military ammunition at close range (not to mention large-calibre missiles). We went for a simple solution by just using the armour saves as they are in Warhammer 40k.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000
I hear the Mark 7 is even more complicated!

So after working out Kills as per the regular Chain of Command rules the wearer of power armour gets a 3+ armour save. If he passes no models are removed but the unit gets an additional Shock marker. If the roll is not passed, a model is removed.

The Forces and Special Rules:

Blood Angels

Now for the actual forces we used. The Blood Angels Force consisted of two Tactical Squads (Remigio and Alinardo) and were to be led by Veteran Sergeant Adelmo.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

Space Marines tactical squads are comprised of 10 Marines (including a Sergeant [junior leader], a Corporal, a heavy weapon gunner and a special weapon gunner) who are trained to fight in two seperate fire teams/combat squads of five each. The Veteran Sergeant counts as a Senior Leader. All Space Marines are classed as Elites and get to roll six activation dice instead of five.

Space Marines are armed with Boltguns for which we used the Stg44 rules. Plasma Guns add another fire power die to the squad, Melta Guns work as Panzerfausts, Flamers work as flamers. Missile launchers’ frag missiles roll 4 dice, we didn’t get to use the krak missiles. Lascannons roll 9 dice against vehicles, 2 against infantry.

Space Orks

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

Looking as how the Space Marines as per the rules we made up would be tough as nails the Orks would have to make up for that in numbers. The Ork force consisted of Goff Boss Wazgrim acting as Senior Leader, three mobs of 10 Goff Orks each, a Goff Warbuggy (we used the rules for a Russian BA64 armoured car, no Junior Leader) and 10 Snakebites Boarboyz. The Boarboyz were not expected and to make it short we agreed to treat them as infantry who add two inches of movement to each D6 rolled for movement.

Ork mobs consist of 10 Orks (including a Nob and a heavy weapon gunner). Ork Boyz are armed with Boltguns (see above), their Heavy Bolters use the same rules as magazine-fed light MGs.  Nobs are armed with  some sort of close combat weapon and a Bolt Pistol (count as regular pistols).

All Orks are  aggressive troops. Ork mobs are not trained to fight in separate fire teams, like the Soviets list from the Chain of Command rulebook. All Orks are classed as Regulars.

To Battle!

Our armies of course make for a classic pairing of beligerents, so the background of our battle was pretty easy to make up: 2nd War for Armageddon, Blood Angels raid Ork supply lines to hamper Ghazkulll’s  war effort and throw some sand into the engines of the mean, green war machine. The local Ork warboss dispatches a rapid response force of who ever is available and fast.

Scenario and Patrol Phase

The table was set up, scenario #1 from the Chain of Command rulebook was chosen and we went about the Patrol Phase. This time it felt more tactical than usual even. We ended up with the jump-off points being set up as such:

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

Force Morale on either side was 10, the objective of the game was to reduce enemy Force Morale to 3 or less, effectively forcing them to retreat.

First Activations

The Blood Angels got to go first, deploying tactical squad Alinardo to the far left flank. They brought a plasma gun and a missile launcher to the table. The combat squad with the plasma gun, led by Sergeant Alinardo himself, deployed in cover behind a slight slope. The combat squad with the missile launcher deployed a bit behind them for supporting fire.

My Activation rolls early on in the game were rather promising to say the least. A double 6 followed by a triple 6. If there was any moment to strike hard and fast it was now. Maybe I could do some serious damage to the first squad of Marines before the second one could even deploy. I revealed the first mob’s position to be right in front of squad Alinardo.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000
Contact! The first mob reveal their position.

My boys opened fire at da red gitz, but due to their massive armour, Elite status and cover results were limited to a point or two of Shock.

Immediately another mob was sent forth to help soften up the Marines in their position, again to minimal effect. Same with the Warbuggy which rolled on the table and opened fire at the Marines. Still believing in Gork (or Mork) having planned for this moment to have the Orks deal a decisive blow to those meddling beakies I sent in the cavalry.

Charge of the Pig Brigade

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

Quite literally so as I sent the Boarboyz to charge the enemy.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000
chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

We added up all the dice each side would accumulate for this clash. We didn’t add any dice for being specifically armed for close combat beyond the Aggressive bonusses for the Orks. The Blood Angels Sergeant got an extra dice. Due to their rapid firing weapons the Blood Angels took no damage to speak of whilst most of my brave cavalrymen were cut down on the charge.  The three survivors had to retreat with more Shock markers than brain cells in tow. We still need to work a bit on Close Combat I think. 

The situation after the failed charge:

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

Combat Squad #1 of squad Alinardo was still standing but at least they were pinned due to all the Shock they had accumulated. The remaining Boarboyz were still in disorder whilst the two Ork mobs around the hill pushed and shoved for firing positions in cover. Boss Wazgrim showed up at the front line to oversee things himself from now on.

My third activation roll was rather unfortunate and it was the Blood Angels’ turn. They immediately deployed Sergeant Remigio’s tactical squad to lay down some more fire on Orky Hill.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

What followed was a nasty and ever so slightly one-sided battle of attrition as my Boyz did their dearest to at least force Alinardo’s forward combat squad to either retreat or give their lives for their great Warboss on Terra. They were pinned most of the time, but Veteran Sergeant Adelmo showed up at their position and helped keeping things together.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000
Veteran Sergeant Adelmo

Things get sticky

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

The Orks on their hill were under severe pressure. One of the mobs got completely wiped out, so da Boss sent in the last mob he had kept as reserves so far. However, they did not do too much either. Elite Troops with a 3+ armour save are DEAD ‘ARD.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

When Remigio’s Lascannon also blew up the Warbuggy (which hadn’t gotten to do anything after the first phase it appeared. Maybe they wanted to get to the fight so fast they threw the ammunition over board) and Alinardo’s forward squad in a moment of not being pinned killed the last remaining Boarboyz the Orks’ Force Morale had decreased to 3. A clear victory for the Blood Angels.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000


This was the first time I actually played a game of Chain of Command with 28mm figures. A bit weird. I hope that we won’t run into too much trouble in terms of space when we play some proper Chain of Command with our 28mm figures.

One thing I also noticed is how radically the mindset changes depending on the figures. When I play with my 15mm British my main objective is to keep my lads alive really. Granted, I did not quite know what I was up against with those Blood Angels. Boy, did we make Space Marines tough.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000
I can’t for the life of me find who made this. If you do, please let me know in the comments, so I can put a picture credit here.

As I said before I’m not a huge fan of games with warriors of the two sides being all too different, especially in terms of how hard they are to kill. If you add to this  this old trope of one side being many models and having to get into close combat with an opponent who is an elite force you very, very quickly might end up in very one-sided situations.

Of course it would have been more clever to bring on some field gun and/or Lootaz, but after all that time I finally wanted to play my Boarboyz as what they are again, instead of slightly shifty Warbike-proxies.

chain of command skirmish warhammer 40,000

Anyway, there are a lot of people who have applied Chain of Command (mainly the Patrol Phase and the activation mechanic) to their Warhammer 40k games. We went a slightly different route. I think it’s workable. We would need to do a lot of fine-tuning now. However, we put Chain of Command on our list of “games to play 40k with which are more fun than 40k”.

I hope that you liked this article and maybe got inspired to do some rules retooling yourself. Let me know what you think of this conversion idea in the comments section and/or the facebook page! Maybe you also worked out some clever 40k modification for Chain of Command or other games?

5 thoughts on “Chainsword of Command: The 40k-ening

  1. The power armour is a real conundrum to solve. One thing I have thought about is to count figures with power armour as being in one level higher cover than they are, in effect as if they are always going tactical.

    Haven’t playtested it yet, so it might be too small of an effect to represent power armour properly. But it has the side effect of having the Space Marines not needing to go tactical ever which seems to be in character.

    1. Hi Laffe,

      That’s a very good idea actually. I’m OK with anything that doesn’t make power armour too much of a factor (mostly because big differences between troop types are just a bother, I find). Sounds like a reasonable way to solve that problem.

  2. Great stuff Sigur. Me and a pal were discussing 40k CoC possibilities on the way back from Steel Lard yesterday. I like Laffe’s idea ref the extra cover level for the well armoured troops. Similar to the ancients version that the Harrogate guys have been playing with Ancients. Perhaps in the great scheme of things, Marines are the Romans of the few future? Could go further and give the marines permanent hard cover which would leave a one cover level shift available for other armoured troops whether physical or psychic armour?

    Would be interesting to see what the CoCulator would make of it. We like the idea of the marines being dispatched to fight usually against superior numbers of inferior opponents. The potentially very high force rating would give an underdog a pile of support.

    Thanks for the inspiration Sigur!

    1. Hi Matt, thanks for the comment!
      Oh yes, there’s a lot of approaches to modelling superior body armour.
      The CoCulator is a very good point there; I don’t think it was around when we originally played that game. I read about the Harrogate SP ancients game. Are the rules they used online somewhere?

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