Editorial | 10/2/2015 at 3:00 PM

Tabletop Co-Op: Assassinorum Execution Force

Stealthy co-op assassinations in the grimdark Warhammer 40,000 universe

The Warhammer 40,000 setting should be familiar to most gamers. From the popular tabletop miniatures game to all manner of video games, including Space Marine, Kill Team, and the Dawn of War series, the grimdark future is everywhere. Today, we will take a look at a rare cooperative board game offering from Games Workshop, set in the 40K universe: Assassinorum Execution Force.

Games Workshop is one of the most successful miniatures game companies in the world. Their best known properties are Warhammer Fantasy Battles (recently reborn as Age of Sigmar) and Warhammer 40,000. Both of these game systems feature head to head battles using dozens if not hundreds of detailed miniatures representing the forces of various factions. From time to time, Games Workshop releases self-contained games, where all you need to play is in one box. Recent examples are Dreadfleet and Space Hulk. Assassinorum Execution Force (AEF), released earlier this year, is the latest of these standalone offerings.

AEF puts players in the role of, unsurprisingly, one of four different Imperial Assassins. Their mission is to stop the Chaos Lord Drask from completing an unholy ritual and destroying all of civilization. To do this, the assassins must infiltrate a Chaos Marine base, evade or nullify the patrols, and find the teleporter that will take them to the Chaos Lord, where they can finish him and his plan once and for all. But they have to be quick, as if sixteen turns pass, the ritual is performed and humanity is doomed!

The four assassins are incredibly cool; they all have crazy weapons and ridiculous abilities. They are all adept at killing, which makes sense, given they are assassins from the future and all, but each have unique methods for getting the job done. You have the Vindicare Assassin, with a sniper rifle and a stealth suit, which functions far differently than the Callidus Assassin, who moves quickly and can even alter her appearance to avoid being detected. Differing player abilities is one of my favorite thematic mechanics, and AEF provides it in spades.

As the game begins, the primary goal for the assassin squad is to find two special rooms in the Chaos base: the teleportarium and the control panel. Once an assassin enters a new room, a room tile is drawn and resolved. If it’s one of the target rooms, great! But odds are it’s full of Chaos cultists or troopers who are not happy to see you. If you can manage to work together and find the teleportarium and control panel in time, all four assassins are warped to Chaos Lord Drask’s location for the final confrontation.

It seems simple upon first glance, but in practice, finding the rooms while staying alive is quite a challenge. Followers of Chaos are patrolling the area, and when they see the assassins, the threat level goes up, meaning bad things will happen to the players. Keeping the balance between being quiet and sneaky, taking down bad guys who get in the way, not taking too many hits yourself in the process, and doing it all within the deadline of sixteen turns provides a compelling and satisfying challenge.

Games Workshop is well known for high quality miniatures and components, and what’s inside the AEF box certainly lives up to that reputation. There are almost twenty miniatures representing the forces of Chaos, all of which come from previously used 40K molds, and four brand new Assassin miniatures. These minis are plastic and come on a sprue, so they have to be clipped off and assembled before you can play, and optionally can be painted. The detail on all the models is amazing, but the assassins in particularly look fantastic. They are also a challenge to put together, depending on your proficiency with a tube of superglue. If you are willing to put in the time, though, you end up with one of the finest looking games you’ll ever have on your tabletop.

I do have a few reservations about AEF. First of all, the cost of the game is exorbitant. Suggested retail is $125, though it is commonly available at a deep discount online. The components are certainly high quality, but there is less in this box than in other boxes that are less expensive (Imperial Assault from FFG, for instance). Replayability seems like it will be an issue as well; there is only one map and set of objectives. There are “achievements” included in the rulebook, which alleviate this concern somewhat, but a double sided board and some variant scenarios would go a long way towards providing something new each time you play. As a miniatures hobbyist, I didn’t mind assembling the minis, but others may find this a serious drawback.

Assassinorum Execution Force may not be for everyone, but the quality of the components, well-integrated theme, and easy to comprehend ruleset combine for a great gaming experience. 40K fans will be glad to know that all the miniatures in the box are legal in the 40K miniatures game, as well. If you ever wanted to sneak around and take out Chaos cultists before confronting a big bad evil guy determined to take out the entire Imperium, and do it all with two or three friends, Assassinorum Execution Force is just the game for you.