Crusade of Fire is a campaign system for Warhammer 40,000 that enables you to join the campaign to control the Corvus Sub-sector. Whether you choose to join the Crusade of Fire itself, the foul Servants of Ruin or the bloodthirsty Prophets of War, the fate of the sub-sector lies in your hands.
This 96-page, full-colour hardcover book features fantastic artwork and a host of dynamic new rules. As well as the campaign system itself, the book contains rules that can be used in any Warhammer 40,000 game, from massive multi-player scenarios fought in low-gravity environments or in bunkers deep below the ground, to expanded rules for Flyers. It also features rules for playing games in the gladiatorial arenas of Commorragh as well as for fighting battles on the surface of a Daemon World.
Crusade of Fire also features the story of nine hobbyists as they play through the campaign, including detailed battle reports, fantastic army showcases and turn-by-turn accounts of their conquest.
I pre-ordered my copy of the Crusade of Fire Campaign the moment that I saw it become available. I am a huge fan of campaign play with Warhammer 40k, and the short blurb about the book stated that it contained a new campaign system for 40k. Well I picked up my copy when it released. How does it stack up to what was advertised? There are four big things advertised with this supplement; The Campaign System, Advanced Flyer rules, rules for fighting on Daemon Worlds, and rules for playing games in a gladiatorial arena. Let's take a look at each of them.
The Campaign System
As mentioned earlier, I am a huge fan of 40k Campaigns. We have seen some really great systems introduced recently (The Badab War and it's variant The Horus Heresy: Betrayal system), some average systems (Aeronautica Imperialis), and as well as some not-so great systems (The Planetary Empires system). To be fair there are good and bad things about each of these different systems, but some are just easier to convert to your group and work in such a way that ensures a fun time is had by all the players.
I was somewhat disappointed to find that Crusade of Fire is a variant of the Planetary Empires Campaign System. It is certainly an improvement over the basic Planetary Empires rules though. However the problem is that in order to use the system provided, it requires you to own at LEAST one set of the Planetary Empires tile sets. And if you want to play the campaign as provided in the book, you are going to need at least three of the sets! This was not what I was expecting when I bought the system. I was expecting a complete packaged campaign that worked without needing to purchase additional components. I do already own one of the Planetary Empires tile sets, but I would require to purchase and paint two more sets to use the campaign as described in the book.
The other problem with the campaign, is that the rules feel somewhat incomplete. They are written as a guideline for running your own campaign, but there are some very key pieces missing, especially in the set up of the campaign. While it is billed as pitting three sides against each other (The Crusade of Fire, The Servants of Ruin, and The Prophets of War), the real focus of the campaign is an Imperial vs. Chaos battle. The third faction feels really tacked on to the whole thing. This isn't a one size fits all type of storyline. (Tyranids are nowhere to be found I might add!)
Now, there are some really good and cool points to the campaign here. It is VERY inspirational! There are some great stories about how the studio staff played through their version of the campaign, and the book is scattered with tons of amazing pictures and art. The presentation of the book is extremely high quality, but I really don't feel like it is an all inclusive 40k expansion. I want to run out and start running this system, but I am not going to be able to without quite a bit of preliminary work.
Last but not least, it should be mentioned that the campaign system as written, seems to rely heavily on having one or more "Game Masters". So although it could be a free standing system where everyone is on equal footing, that is not what is really intended here, nor is that what was run in the studio, where they had two Game Masters.
Burning Skies: The Advanced Flyer Rules
This was actually the part of the book I was least interested in prior to owning it. However, after having read the section here I am extremely interested in introducing these rules into the next games of 40k I play!
At it's core it allows for a sort of "Dogfight sub-phase" of the game to take place when an attacking flyer engages another flyer in combat within 12". A simple explanation is that, the attacking player tries to engage the defending player into a dogfight. In the event it fails the attacking player loses the chance to shoot at anything in the next shooting phase, but if he succeeds they engage in a dogfight. This is done entirely in the shooting phase and takes place in three sub-phases: Pursuit, Lock On, and Destroy. Basically each player secretly chooses one of three options in each phase and they are compared to the other players choice of three options. Each results in a specific outcome from nothing to firing weapons at nearby units, to firing all weapons at the enemy target. There are obviously way more results than that, but you get the idea.
In addition to that you have a whole host of special maneuvers available for every army option and you can even upgrade your flyers with a "Fighter Ace" for additional points. Overall this is a very interesting and fun looking section of the book!
The third portion of the book contains rules for fighting on daemon worlds. If you read the rules in White Dwarf Magazine earlier this year for fighting on Death Worlds, this is very much along those lines. Various effects for fighting on those types of worlds based on random charts are included here. Also a special mission for Daemon Worlds is added as well as some nice background of a few infamous daemon worlds. All in all a solid section of the book, but one that could just as easily been a White Dwarf article.
The Arena of Death
Last is rules for playing a quick gladiatorial mini-game in which players fight each other with a single non-vehicle model in the arenas of the Dark Eldar. New things such as positional modifiers (facing), manuever cards, and a method of winning called "Roar of the Crowd" are introduced. Overall a nice way to kill a little time and have some fun. It's flavorful and a nice little sideline game. Once again though, this is something that really could have been a White Dwarf article. The rules appear to be written by Phil Kelly though, so that's worth it's weight in gold! I think this is something Geoff will enjoy playing a few times, but I don't see this holding his attention too long.
As a hardback book, the $41 USD that this book cost is a bit of a steep price to pay for what is inside of it. I am certainly intent on using some of these rules though and as mentioned before, the campaign description and system (though it requires some work to use) is incredibly inspirational.
As many of you know by listening to the show, I am a die-hard fan of 40k and a collector of 40k things. So I don't regret purchasing this book at all. But would I recommend it for every 40k player out there? No. However, if your group is into campaigns getting one amongst your group might be a good way to go. I don't feel like the book entirely met my expectations though on the campaign front. So while I have to admit some disappointment there, our group here will still get some use out of it!
3 out of 5 stars. 3/5