Warpath Sourcebook

Welcome to the Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere

gaming settings scifi wargame

At the time of this writing, Mantic Games is finishing up a Kickstarter campaign for a 10mm or 12mm mass warfare game called Epic Warpath. I'm a backer for several reasons. I can use the assets for the intended Warpath game, but also as auxiliary troops for some Mech games. I could, obviously, do the same with Games Workshop's Legions Imperialis but I like a bit of variety. The game is also co-designed by Alessio Cavatore, of Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game, which is a very strong game system. I'm confident in the game, but I don't know near as much about Mantic's gaming universe as I do about Warhammer 30k or even 40k, but fortunately Mantic provides a $0 download of the Warpath Sourcebook, and I've read it from cover to cover.

The Warpath Sourcebook contains pretty much everything you need to know about the setting for Mantic's Deadzone skirmish game, Firefight wargame, and upcoming Epic Warpath mass warfare game. It's very much a universe that serves its game. It's not a launchpad for a publishing arm of fiction novels, like Dragonlance's Krynn or Warhammer or the Horus Heresy.

This is likely refreshing if you feel overwhelmed by vast amounts of lore. Where to start? How can you ever catch up? With Warpath, read 186 pages and you're pretty much all caught up.

Or, if you can't be bothered, read the first 20 pages or so. The story isn't actually that complex. Here's my summary:

  • The GCPS (Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere) is an interstellar governing body run by the Council of Seven, a group of greedy CEOs who represent the interests of a bunch of mega-corporations. It expanded into space from Earth, developed a faster-than-light drive (the McKinley Drive), and then expanded some more. The GCPS maintains a military force, which is the GCPS faction in game.
  • As an excuse to seize control of the GCPS, the Council of Seven engineered an Orc rebellion. It got out of hand, and so the Council of Seven developed the Enforcers, humans modified with nanite technology to become super-soldiers. This is the Enforcers faction in game, and Orcs are the Maurader faction.
  • Space dwarves exist, and they go around mining asteroids and planets. This is the Forge Fathers faction.
  • Space elves exist, and they're an ancient race guided by the collected knowledge of their ancestors. They're largely opposed to war, but they engage because they must. This is the Asterian faction.
  • Space rats are the Veer-Myn faction. Nobody knows where they came from or why they exist, but they ravage planets of resources, or leech off of corporate installations, and slaughter humans, Forge Fathers, and Asterians alike.
  • The greatest threat to everyone, though, is the Plague. It turns living beings into semi-sentient zombies driven to kill. This is the Plague faction.

That's it, or mostly. I mean, it's not the complete picture. For instance, in Deadzone, you get to know specific corporations, like Mazon Labs. And there's a nameless alien horror out there that the sourcebook doesn't cover (the Nameless faction, appropriately). But the framework is set in the book, and it gives you a good understanding of the setting.

War what?

I'll admit, there are a few awkwardly familiar elements to the Warpath setting that a even a modestly skeptical reader is sure to notice. Human super-soldiers in power armour, space dwarves, an ancient elf-like alien race, ratfolk villains, space orcs. Am I describing Warpath or am I describing Warhammer? Well, the answer is yes.

The Warhammer 40,000 universe is sort of Warhammer Fantasy in space, using a lot of familiar fantasy tropes. Long story short, the Warpath setting takes fantasy and puts it into space, rendering very similar results to when Games Workshop did the same.

Still, there are some elements that seem to mirror Warhammer more than "fantasy in space" demands. The design of the Asterians (space elves) takes inspiration from anime, much as the T'au in Warhammer do. Super-soldiers isn't really a fantasy trope, that's something Warhammer 40,000 did and Mantic has clearly borrowed. But let's face it. It's no secret that a sci fi wargame is up against Warhammer whether it wants to be or not. That's the reality of the market. If you're trying to sell an alternative to Warhammer 40k, then you have to provide something familiar, and super-soldiers, space elves, and orcs hits all the same notes.

The good thing about the Land of Imagination is that there's lots of room there, so we can have both super-soldiers and space orcs in both Warhammer 40,000 and Warpath.

Things I like about the Warpath setting

Whether the Warpath setting is comfortingly familiar to you, or uncomfortably similar to Warhammer 40,000, it has a lot going for it. The history of the Warpath galaxy is a pleasure to read, with lots of fun and quirky stories. The manufactured orc rebellion is a great variation on the orc trope. The mindless horror that are the Veer-Myn makes them easy baddies, and because they're basically ratfolk you can imagine them lurking around every corner.

I love the variety of the factions, but also that they're manageable. I wouldn't give up my 9 loyalist and 9 traitorous 40k Space Marine legions for anything, but you have to wonder whether Games Workshop ever regrets eighteen iconic factions, plus the xenos. Warpath has just the 6 or 7 or whatever (it depends on what you're counting). You can remember them all, they each have exactly one theme to design game mechanics around.

They're also each visually unique and appealing. The Plague is a proper biohazard that everybody has to fight against, and the army is horror-movie disgusting. The Forge Fathers have big, chunky armies, while the Asterians are lithe and hyper-futuristic. Even the plain old GCPS marine force, comprised of regular non-modified human soldiers, is appealing, with its traditional "World War II in space" military look.

Hard science fiction

Best of all, Warpath is pretty hard sci fi. Warhammer 40k is pure "science fantasy", which is fine because I grew up loving space wizards and ancient space religion. But I also grew up loving humanist science fiction, the universes where there are no gods or daemonic forces, only laws of nature and heretofore alien phenomena. It's nice to dip into a universe that consists only (mostly) of what you see.

There are psychics in Warpath, at least in Firefight, so the setting does allow for the existence of advanced minds with abilities beyond human understanding. It's not so common, however, that it gets any mention in the sourcebook, and it doesn't define the setting the way psykers do in Warhammer 40,000 or the Jedi do in Star Wars.

Read the source

Whether you're interested in playing Epic Warpath or not, the Warpath Sourcebook is a good worldbuilding read. There are some real gems in the little stories behind each faction and, best of all, there's a lot of discussion about very specific weapons and vehicles. This is a true RPG-style sourcebook, with lore for flavour plus lore that actually influences mechanics. It's a great example of a setting overview.

Photo by Zunnoon Ahmed on Unsplash

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