We’re playing Dawn of War 3 and all getting duffed up individually. We decide to team up and take on other players in the intense 3v3 power core mode. You have to contest resource points across the map, then march into the enemy base and blow up the shiny enemy power core. Phil picks Space Marines, Samuel picks Eldar and Tom picks Orks. We’re up against two Ork armies and an Eldar one.
Phil Savage: has played a little bit of Dawn of War II, but that’s about it. Likes the big robot.
Samuel Roberts: is pretty well-versed in Dawn of War, but didn’t do spectacularly at the DoW3 closed beta.
Tom Senior: has played a lot of Dawn of War, a lot of Dawn of War 2, and a few games of DoW3. Likes Orks.
Samuel: I send my Bonesinger builder units to grab a couple of the nearby capture points in the centre and top lanes while I start churning out the Eldar’s basic Dire Avengers. We leave the point at the centre of the map for now. No need to start a fight while we’re still assembling an army. I send my Dire Avengers to a point north of our base, where Tom’s building up his Ork force.
Tom: The map is arranged into three loose ‘lanes’ and I’ve got the top one. Scouting ahead I discover I’m up against more Orks, so it’s going to be a glorious greenskin massacre up north. A couple of units of Sam’s Eldar arrive at a key moment as we push ahead to secure the mid-lane resource point and fend off a sizeable enemy force. We both throw down some forward base buildings and make the place our home. The crappy, wobbly Ork buildings look completely shambolic next to the Eldar’s sleek, glowing structures.
Phil: Samuel and Tom immediately set to work building units and capturing points. I’m still trying to work out where my things are, and how to make more men. Samuel asks me to capture the southern control point, and I reply in the affirmative. Secretly, though, I have no idea what the control point is, or what I’m going to capture it with. I knew I was going to be out of my depth here, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. I try to parse the minimap, and realise that it’s swarming with yellow and blue icons. The yellow is moving and growing, the blue isn’t. That means I’m blue. Thanks to this, I’m able to locate one of my buildings. I select it, and click on the picture of a Space Marine. A drop pod arrives from space, and men come out of it. This is progress. I send them to what I assume is the capture point.
Tom: I build loads of axe-wielding Boyz. I respect the audacity of warriors that are happy to bring axes to a giant robot laser fight, but I also know that they will not last long. Happily, though, I can press a button that makes them punch the air and get hyped up. I use their enthusiasm to push up and grab another resource point on my lane as Sam’s Eldar change position.
Samuel: Phil’s being pushed by Orks and Eldar on the lower side of the map, so I send my troops over there, as Tom seems to have a pretty good handle on his lane. I help Phil fight them off one of our resource points. They bring an Ork elite, so I use a mix of Dire Avengers, melee-happy Howling Banshees and cloaked sniper Rangers to fend them off. From here, I decide to keep my army on Phil’s lane, since together our skills probably add up to one decent RTS player. The centre lane isn’t particularly well-guarded, but so far they haven’t tried to push us there so it’ll probably be OK. I build a warp gate near Phil’s resource point, which buffs my nearby troops. I’ve also upgraded my buildings so they can now teleport around the map—which will help as me and Phil try our luck at pushing that lane. Time to start building our armies up.
Phil: I’m pretty happy that I managed to repel the enemy’s exploratory advance through nothing more than luck and Samuel’s invaluable help. I’m starting to get the hang of how to build things, too. I discover that my weird cyborg dude—one day, I will learn the Space Marine’s names—can build new buildings. I start plopping things down and randomly clicking on menus, and pretty soon I’ve built a nice little force of men with guns.
Samuel: Let me assure you, Phil, that I have no idea what I’m doing either. I’ve just built one or two of every unit in the vague hope that when we push, something will counter something else. I am not vying for Pro status. How’s your lane going, Tom?
Tom: Orks! Orks! Hundreds of Orks everywhere. My army repeatedly clashes with enemy Ork forces, and I’m getting the upper hand. My forward base is now a shabby little town that spits out big green delinquents, namely the Ork’s toughest warriors—Nobs. Orks need to gear up at scrap piles so I’ve built a copse of towers to create piles of junk. The Nobs rummage around, hack together some huge two-handed axes and then follow waypoints to the front line where they smash up my opponent’s ordinary Orks with ease. I push right up to the shield generator and manage to destroy it. The enemy Eldar force come across to push back, but that just gives Phil and Sam another huge opening.
Samuel: Phil and I decide to push, on Tom’s suggestion. We target the next capture point on the bottom lane and roll out. It’s not much of a fight, really—we’ve both got pretty big armies at this point and we take it almost straight away. But the enemy isn’t going to let it go without a fight. After we take the point and start building our resource points on top, the enemy realises what we’ve done and a pretty gigantic Ork army is suddenly on our doorstep.
Phil: Oh snap, the Orks are here! Despite the success of this point capture, my army is a little worse for wear, and I haven’t finished building reinforcements. Again: I click randomly on stuff. That’s how I realise that earlier I’d managed to accidentally queue up the drop pods I didn’t realise I had. They slam down from space, and yet more marines pour out. It looks really cool, and, best of all, intentional. Suddenly, my army’s back up to strength. I think I actually cackle.
Samuel: I deploy the Eldar’s leader power, the Eldritch Storm. It’s essentially a sci-fi whirlwind that fucks with everyone’s shit. It arrives at just the right time. Between us, we easily push back the Ork assault. I teleport my base forwards, and start adding some heavier troopers such as Wraithguards and deadly Shadow Spectres to my army. Farseer Macha is also among them—an elite who can throw and activate a radius spear attack. Our forces are swelling, and it feels like we’ve got the upper hand. I feel bad that we’ve abandoned Tom, but then he seems be doing OK in that top lane. He seems to have made his way to the enemy resource generator on that side—a bit ahead of where we are.
Tom: It’s an elegant two-fist approach. One fist is a big angry Ork army, and the other a multicultural alliance of bastards in giant robots. By taking it in turns to push we’ve kept the enemy in a state of imbalance, and now they’re resource-starved thanks to the fact that we own most of the map. All we have to do now is convert our resource advantage into a push that can bring down the power core and win the game. I’ve unlocked my giant Morkanaut robot, which can take insane amounts of damage and launch a rocket-powered fist at enemies. I also have enough elite points to call down a meteor. I’ve pushed over the enemy turret and my Ork opponent seems to have largely given up. I keep building until I hit the population cap. That’s a lot of Orks. This could be the time to finish it.
Phil: Are we winning? I think we might be sort of winning. This is a surprise to me, but we do have the advantage of being a group communicating over Skype. This, it seems, makes up for my incompetence. Once again, Samuel and I push the bottom flank. We’re heading to the Elite control point. For a while it looks like we’ll be able to roll through unchallenged, but finally, as we ascend the stairs to the point, we clash into a horde of Orks and Eldar. Time for my secret weapon: a big laser robot of death. I call in my elite unit, and the missiles start flying.
Samuel: Yeah, so I basically lost my entire army during that push for the Elite point. We’ve taken out the enemy’s turret and generator on this side, though. Luckily, the fight went on for so long that I’ve got plenty of resources to generate another in no time. It feels like we’re close to victory, with the enemy now running low on resource points. Phil and I knock over the defenceless point at the centre of the map, then prepare for a final push.
Tom: My PC has rarely been tested as much as it is during this final fight. All six players apparently have access to their faction super ability, because there are at least three meteors, a space laser and various electric whirlwinds in the fight. I lose track of my army in the carnage. I double-tap F1 to centre the view on my general. He’s wandered into the middle of everything, the idiot. All my Nobs have been incinerated too. I command my Morkanaut to punch the whirlwind. This helps no one.
Samuel: I’ve got no idea what is going on in this cataclysmic final encounter, but there is so much death. I unleash a last-minute Eldritch Storm, and the scale of the chaos is ridiculous—there are enemy Orks and Fire Prism tanks everywhere. At the end of the fight, I just have Bonesingers left, and Phil’s being shredded too. We won’t need to rebuild to push again, though. The power core is about to be destroyed by the remaining forces of Tom Senior.
Phil: I’ve been bemused through the majority of this match, but this final push really takes the exploding laser death cake. The world is naught but light and fury, and my armies are being melted by a ridiculous onslaught of stuff. They did well, though, and I’ve even got a few snipers left taking pot shots at the core. I think we’re about to win, so I’m just going to enjoy the show.
Tom: All my Orks are dead. Nothing in the universe of Warhammer 40K could survive what just happened to the enemy base. Luckily as the fight was starting I built five long-range artillery cannons, which now sit just outside the apocalypse, passively shelling the area until the core capitulates. Nothing else lives. It’s a very 40K outcome.
Samuel: I feel I was being strategic for the first two thirds of the game. In the final third, I merely appreciated the brawl. But what great fun. I’m certain this will be the only time I’m ever part of a winning team in Dawn of War III.