The Bug World

Exploring the mysterious disappearance of a colony


Imperial Guardsmen make a last stand upon the ramparts of an abandoned outpost of the Adeptus Mechanicus.

The first really ambitious terrain table of the club, our bug table was our feature attraction at Fall In! 2009 and Historicon 2010. This 4-foot-by-6-foot table represented a small outpost on a desert planet in the Warhammer 40K universe.

In the main game, players watched a video of their arrival on the planet (iMovie is amazingly easy to use) then “arrived” as a Valkyrie was placed on the landing pad. Then each player—commanding two or three Guardsmen—had to act as they saw fit. They only knew that communications with the outpost had failed, and they were guarding a mysterious Tech Priest whose task was to download the cogitators if no survivors were found.

The players cautiously searched the specially built outpost buildings before approaching the outpost’s armored keep, which guarded the vast underground Mechanicus Adeptus research lab.

Naturally, at some point, a slew of bugs would burst out of the ground, offering a simple clue as to what happened to the colonists. As you can see from the photos, we didn’t use proper 40K bugs—but bugs from Starship Troopers.

The players also had the opportunity to try to tap into the colonists electronic records, which allowed me to provide a few “files” that they could read from my laptop.

A squad of Imperial Guardsmen fail to reach cover before they're swarmed by Arachnids.

A squad of Imperial Guardsmen fail to reach cover before they’re swarmed by Arachnids.

In the end, the Tech Priest betrayed the players. Going underground, they discovered a bug next, complete with Brain Bug. When that fight was over (and not all survived), they found the Tech Priest gone—and a small nuclear device on the ground with a timer counting down.

Watching the reaction of players to that discovery was priceless, but all was not lost. They hustled their way up to the Valkyrie—to discover that the Tech Priest was surrounded by bugs attacking him. His very brightly lit force field—which allowed him to fight his way through the bugs—made clear that the Guardsmen were lucky that the Priest had simply abandoned him. Frankly, he was slowly advancing through the bugs, so the Guardsmen wouldn’t have done well in a fight.

We had different ends in our various games at this point. In one game, the players realized they could call the Valkyrie to them—and they climbed up on a building and held it while the gunship hovered nearby to spirit them off the planet.

Alas, in another game, the players got so wrapped up shooting bugs that they forgot about the nuclear device. So I had the Tech Priest call the gunship over. Again, the players seemed to have forgotten their mission, and just ignored what the Tech Priest and Valkyrie were doing, except for one clever young lady who decided to follow the Tech Priest and made it aboard the gunship (another player waited to long and was an inch shy when the ship rose, so I let him roll a dice to grab hold–too bad, he managed to grab the lip of the loading ramp but fell off into a pile of bugs). Everyone else died when the nuclear bomb went off—and the young lady was thrown off the gunship in mid-air as she could have reported the Priest’s betrayal.

A Valkyrie has made an emergency landing in an attempt to rescue the Guardsmen before they're overwhelmed.

A Valkyrie has made an emergency landing in an attempt to rescue the Guardsmen before they’re overwhelmed.

At the end of the adventure, everyone would gather around my laptop to see if they got away. I had a “radar screen” that showed the planet, the position of the Valkyrie, and the expanding fireball of the nuclear bomb. So players could actually watch the fireball expand toward the Valkyrie, while a panicked pilot reported on their progress. There were two versions of this video: In one, they escaped the fireball and saw the stars appear in the ship’s forward windows. In the other, they heard a panicked pilot trying to save the ship after being hit by the fireball, and the video then showed the ship crashing into the planet.


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