Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus succeeds by embracing the weird.
Afew years ago, Games Workshop loosened its grip on the Warhammer 40,000 setting, and the result has been a glut of small-budget games set in the grim darkness of the far future. The quality has been mixed, but every so often a game like comes along that uses the opportunity to explore a previously neglected corner of the Warhammer universe, and makes it all worthwhile.
The Adeptus Mechanicus are, in many ways, the perfect encapsulation of what Warhammer 40,000 is about, a bizarre Gothic fusion of tech and religion. They are the chief scientists of the Empire, but treat science like a religious cult. Mechanicus translates this unusual faction into a tactics game, and does so wonderfully, oozing character from every pore.
The story is framed by a group of highranking tech priests who are constantly debating each mission. They’re all wonderfully quirky characters: Scaevola has removed so much of their humanity they now speak in equations, the devout Videx believes ignorance is strength, meanwhile their leader, Faustinius, has quarantined their emotions. They’re Mechanicus’ great strength, and I came to truly treasure their bickering.
The Adeptus Mechanicus are pitted against another of 40K’s weirder factions, the Necrons:
slumbering Egyptian-themed terminators from the beginning of time. The tech priests’ mission is to investigate this tomb before the Necrons awaken. The missions themselves consist of a series of raids on tombs. You explore the dungeon’s rooms, with little choose-yourown-adventure vignettes popping up in each. The choices presented in these rooms are rarely interesting, and their outcomes seem largely arbitrary, and in the end they just become filler between each fight.
Things become more interesting in battle. There’s no such thing as cover, which makes combat fast and lethal, initially for the tech priests and then later, after a few upgrades, for the Necrons. Combat revolves around a currency called cognition, which can be earned by scanning obelisks and corpses, as well as lots of other methods, and can be spent on things like extra movement or more powerful actions. One of my tech priests was equipped with a bunch of melee boosting equipment. He mostly spent his cognition on extra movement, sometimes racing the length of the map to thwack a robot in the face. Another wielded powerful energy weapons that required cognition to fire, meaning he camped near obelisks to replenish the group’s supply.
Another thing cognition can be used for is to summon troops. These units can’t be levelled up and customised, they get dropped on the battlefield mid-combat, and can only perform simple actions like moving and attacking. At first the only troops available are weak servitors that exist mostly to take hits for the tech priests, but later on more powerful variants are unlocked. You can invest as heavily or as lightly into troops as you like, I gravitated towards ranged units like the Skitarii, which combined neatly with a support priest I’d built with the ability to let them fire a second time on his turn.
The tech priests themselves are incredibly customisable. Each one can attach various strange gizmos, and has six skill trees to mix and match. I went heavily into Explorator (melee), Dominus (ranged) and Enginseer (healing), but there were plenty of other options available.
If anything, this customisation can get to be a bit too much. By the time the Necron awakening timer had hit as little as 30% my tech priests had levelled up so much they were killing Necrons in one hit. I was still having fun while winning, I’d just substituted challenge for efficiency, as any true tech priest would. That, plus a love of bickering cyborgs, is what keeps me coming back.
There’s no such thing as cover, which makes combat fast and lethal