I recently read through the Warhammer: Wrath and Glory tabletop RPG rulebook, and now I'm reading through the published adventures available for it from Cubicle 7. The second adventure I read was Brass Tax, an introductory Tier 2 adventure about a Space Marine rescue mission.
In Brass Tax, players take on the roles of Space Marine Scouts to located and extract a fellow marine, whose final communication was as he investigated an illegal ammunition factory. It's a simple and direct adventure: Players go to the manufactorum, plan their raid, and rescue their battle brother. How much reconnaissance they do and how they execute the raid are the main variables, and they can drastically change how the adventure occurs. I suspect there's high replayability here, which is a little surprising for such a simple storyline. I'd definitely play it two or three times.
It's a good adventure, especially for fans of Space Marines. As a scout, you're not a full-fledged Astartes yet, but you're big enough to use some heavy weaponry and you've been indoctrinated into a chapter. I think this is a great adventure, and probably a reasonable introduction for existing Warhammer fans.
The rest of this review contains spoilers.
The plot really is simple, but as usual players are likely to make it more complex than it is on paper. The intriguing twist to the adventure is that the Space Marines are acting without the consent of the local Ecclesiarchy. The players have the opportunity to interview a clerk named Phylus, who had met with the missing Space Marine earlier in that week. He can at the very least point them to the marine's last known location, and potentially can help them with intelligence on their target.
Phylus is basically the only NPC in the adventure. There's a second, unnamed, clerk at an Administratum office that's briefly mentioned, and whose sole purpose is to direct the players to Phylus. It's an awkward setup that I think probably would have been edited out, had this adventure undergone any editing whatsoever (And it clearly didn't. As of the 2022 revision, there are more typos in this adventure than in any other published material I've ever seen. It's astounding, but doesn't actually detract from the adventure.)
As a Game Master, I immediately focused in on these two clerks as potential variables. I can easily see myself using one of the clerks as a secret cultist who, unless detected, alerts the others before the Space Marines arrive for the rescue mission. I wouldn't do that on the first play-through, but it's a great opportunity for variation on a second or third play.
The raid on the manufactorum has plenty of variables in it, and is basically a classic video game quest. Players can choose to go in stealthily, they can look for a back entrance, they can barge in with guns blazing, and so on. There's plenty of opportunity for plot variation and for different play styles.
Sergent Viridis, a superiour officer in the Space Marines, maintains a comm link with the players throughout the adventure. At least, I think he's speaking to them over comms. The adventure isn't clear as to whether he's physically there or not, but I hate maintaining NPCs during adventures, so I'd play him over a comm link. If you're playing this as an introductory adventure to the game system, I think that's a nice fallback for players to have available to them. Viridis can give them tips and experiential guidance either when asked or when they make a plan that'll surely end in their own failure.
The first adventure I read, Graveyard Shift, was laid out really clearly, making it clear what phase of the adventure specific events occur, what the objective of each section is, and so on. Brass Tax doesn't use this layout, and suffers a little for it.
From a "what do I tell the players?" perspective, the adventure doesn't start until page 8. Everything before that is background material. The booklet doesn't make that clear.
Another thing the booklet doesn't make clear is that the adventure actually starts off-world, probably on a ship. I read the entire adventure before realising that the marines had been dropped off on the planet (not just the target city) at the start, and that part of the adventure was figuring out how to get off-world as stealthily as they got there. In practise, the "problem" of getting off-world is solved deus ex machina (almost literally, as the Adepta Sororitas come to the rescue), but this is another point for possible variation in play.
When the players get to the city, they're meant to go looking for the illicit manufactorum. There's a paragraph mentioning that they may go to an Administratum building first, and that an unnamed clerk there could direct them to the clerk they're looking for. I imagine it's meant to make players feel like they've done some investigation, but it seems like a pretty annoying waste of time and effort to me. Why have your players go to one imaginary office building only to be directed to another imaginary office building? What's the point? I'd probably skip over that story beat, or else make it more interesting and relevant to the plot.
Luckily, the story is only about 14 pages, with half of that being background info for the Game Master, so this is easy to read over once or twice before running it. It's a simple adventure, and there's plenty of opportunity to add extra plot elements in as you deem necessary, based on how quickly your group is getting through the story.
This adventure is great Warhammer content, and really good scifi content. I think this is a good introductory adventure for existing Warhammer 40,000 fans, but I probably prefer Graveyard Shift as an intro for people new to Warhammer. This would work as an intro for anyone, but somehow starting at Tier 2 feels odd, and I feel like it's under-selling the world to let a player be a Space Marine before understanding what a Space Marine is.
Best thing is, there are four pre-generated characters in the back of the book, so this adventure is the best kind of adventure: You can sit down and play it with zero player preparation. With better layout, I think it could have been a no-prep adventure for the Game Master, too, but it's very verbose and doesn't give you a flowchart of the plot points, so you do have to read this once or twice before running it.
Either way, this is a really good adventure.
All images in this post copyright Games Workshop.