Three years ago this December, French company Rackham introduced a new science fiction game system to the world: AT-43. When first I heard rumors of a game that had Rackham models, pre-assembled and pre-painted, I was interested. As much as I do enjoy assembling and painting 40K models, for me the most important part of the game has always been fighting battles on a tabletop. The question became, then, would this upstart system be as good as 40K, or would I be using the models as IG and Necron proxies?
The game AT-43 is set 43 years after the great Trauma, which is a totally unhelpful frame of reference for those of us struggling to figure out what the game is about. One learns of the history of the Trauma and the universe around it only through the reading of the Army Books (the main rule book being pretty well devoid of fluff), as each group seems to have a different idea of what is going on. Considering that some of these races are at least borderline psychotic I am going to give a general overview from the ‘humans’ point of view.
The world is Ava, and the people of Ava know that their ancestors must have come from the stars. Why? Well there are these great big pyramids full of super-high technology in the arctic, and since nobody on their world could have built them, there is no fossil record of other species with high tech, and no evidence that the humans of Ava are related to the rest of the biosphere’s evolutionary path it seems pretty obvious. Reasoning this through, the scientists of Ava started a crash program to reverse engineer as much technology from these pyramids as they could to advance their civilization and reach for the stars, which they had determined were their birthright. The United Nations of Ava was born and it began to colonize neighboring stars quickly.
Their first colony, Hades, was a hellish world rich in minerals which the UNA used as a sort of Botany Bay colony. Unfortunately for them, the people of Hades revolted and formed the Revolutionary Collective of Hades and the Red Blok. Many of the UNA’s colonies, as well as half of the nations of the world of Ava, joined the Red Blok and UNA and their Red Blok enemies began fighting a war comprised of a bitter series of brush battles, sabotage, work stoppage actions, civil riots, propaganda, espionage, and unremitting psychological warfare. This all came to an abrupt halt with the Trauma on Ava.
While the ‘humans’ were progressing away, the Therians (humans from the planet Earth who had long ago experienced singularity and evolved into the trans-humanist state of purely mental beings living in machines) were merrily going about their business and waiting for technology and industry to reach a certain level on Ava before they enacted the next part of their devious plan. Did I say devious plan? Well, I guess ‘devious’ is as good a word as any (though in the case of the Therians, moronic, foolhardy, insane, nonsensical, or rabidly stupid would do as well for descriptions). You see, in the many millennia since their transcendence from fleshy beings to computer constructs that use nanotechnology, the Therians have become obsessed with their own mortality. Sure, they could conceivably live until the heat death of the universe, but how would they survive after the heat death of the universe (never mind that fact that this would not occur for trillions of years). Their brilliant plan to escape the icy fingers death, therefore, was to encase as many stars as possible in Dyson Spheres, where they could live through the end of time in comfort and style. By the way, did I mention that they decided to cheat and seed thousands of worlds around the universe with life and technological scraps so humans could evolve quickly and become high tech societies and damage their planet to the point where it can easily be converted into the beginnings of a Dyson Sphere? Yeah, they did that too. Great plan, huh? Thus it was that the Therians attacked Ava, setting off the Trauma, and opening up a can of worms that is the setup for the present day’s actions.
The Trauma, as the name implies, devastated Ava, but the UNA and Red Blok were able to beat back the Therians and their simian allies, the Kharmans (whose point of view I am leaving out because it is frankly not that important). How did the super-evolved, high tech Therians get beaten? Well, let’s just say that playing seven hundred billion hours of Star Craft 2 and Dawn of War 3 do not make insane technologists into generals. Although the Therians were forced to flee, a huge factory ship, the Damocles, was sighted, and the UNA began assembling troops to go forth and destroy it before it could get close to Ava. Red Blok, who received the brunt of the damage to Ava during the Trauma, turned back to lick its wounds and continue undermining the UNA, fighting the Kharmans, and picking off any stray Therians that happen by. The Kharmans are continuing to… seek the bushido of zen bananas or some such nonsense (they have a subservient philosophy which stresses knowing their place in the universe and serving the Therians because the Therians uplifted the Kharmans from basic apes). What of the Therians? Well, they are busily updating their Facebook status to “Annoyed: at war with UNA” and writing long pieces of tedious poetry on their Live Journal sites while they occasionally actually fighting the invaders on Damocles.
Yes, it is a very strange future, but then again, they are French.