College is a weird time in your life. You’re considered an adult by society but you still have a great deal of free time and some money in your pockets. Free time and money that you may spend studying, taking extracurriculars, chasing after the opposite sex, drinking, or, in my case, playing Warhammer 40,000. At one point I had two very large armies, one Ultramarine the other Necron, both were completely painted and I was pretty good at playing at least once a week. WH40k though is an intensive hobby, it requires a lot of time and money if you want to get a lot out of the game. Not to mention the model and rulebook treadmill that the makers, Games Workshop, depend on in order to make money.
College only lasts about four years though, and then you find yourself with a lot less free time, even if you have a lot more money. After graduating and finding a job in my chosen profession my 40k armies spent most, actually all, of the time laying in cases in my closet. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t find blocks of three or four hours to play a game, the mere idea of trying to find or schedule such a block of time was anxiety provoking all on its own! So, the models sat in my closet for years and I got further and further behind on models, rules, etc. It was at the point where if I DID find the time to get back into the hobby I’d have to invest hundreds and hundreds of dollars again to get myself up to speed with the current rules, models, etc. I didn’t want to get back into the hobby. Even though I have great memories of assembling and painting models and playing some fantastic games with friends. I sold my armies off and quietly gave up on Warhammer 40,000.
The problem being I still enjoyed the universe that Games Workshop has spent the last thirty odd years creating. “Grimdark” is a cliché today but it wasn’t always and the universe of Warhmmaer 40,000 is a perfect example of the genre and the game the prefect sandbox for exploring it. I wanted a way to enjoy that universe without having to sacrifice more time and money than I had. THQ’s Dawn of War made that possible when it came out in 2004 finally made that possible! Dawn of War is a real-time strategy game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe where the player takes on the role of a commander in the Blood Raven company of Space Marines. The game puts a greater emphasis on the combat and tactical aspects of real-time strategy games instead of on resource gathering and management. The game had a clunky interface but I was too busy desolating the Enemies of Man to notice. The game scratched the very itch I had!
The sequel, this game, came out in 2009. I think I picked it up back then but never got around to playing it until this month. Yes, my backlog is vast enough that games I purchased more than five years ago remain unplayed to this day. Dawn of War 2 follows the path that its predecessor laid down, but eschews resource management all together. You are in charge of squads, usually just four, lead by specific characters and these are the only squads you’ll have at your disposal throughout the game. There are no bases to build or protect, no factories or barracks to churn out units, no resources to gather. You begin each mission with full squads and then must fight your way across the map, using strategy and tactics to defeat the enemies in your way. Maps will have various checkpoints scattered about them, if captured, your squads ranks are refilled at these checkpoints, but you never get more than you started with. In a very real sense the only resource you’re tasked with managing is your squads. How will they deploy? Do you they have cover or the high ground? If you are using close combat units do they have back-up providing suppressing fire? If you lose a unit will it be able to safely retreat to a checkpoint and recharge? This focus on combat helps to avoid the problem of rush, turtle, boom that RTS games have. The player must keep moving in order to progress.
Dawn of War 2, does what I wanted it to do, it lets me play in a setting I enjoy. I get to move toy soldiers around a board and have them destroy other toy soldiers. I get to do this in fifteen and thirty minute chunks, and when I’m done there is no take down or putting of models away. I don’t have to glue or paint or put anything together. All of this and I only had to spend $50 once. If I want to play against friends I can do that too, on-line. Dawn of War 2 is the perfect game for me. I don’t know if others would enjoy it though. It’s been so long since I played another RTS I don’t know if it stands up to competition in that area.
All I know is that if you’ve wanted to get into Warhammer 40,000 but have always been turned off by the commitment or you’re a recovering member of the hobby. This is a pretty great alternative. The best we’re likely to ever get…