These are just my thoughts/ideas on perhaps how a Warhammer 40k game can work. Please feel free to pick holes, seek out flaws, potential shortfalls, or outline expectations from what you would expect from a Warhammer 40k game if such a thing ever came to pass.
I will try to keep it relatively short as not to overburden the readers with too much text.
To see if it gains any traction and could possibly lead to a wider game, i thought a smaller focused area of the Imperium (Perhaps a single planet) would be a good start to nail down all the essential mechanics, game-play & balance etc, before expanding it into a more Grander Campaign encompassing a wider section of the Galaxy.
The Small Campaign Map (Planet Size):
I think this could be an opportunity to attempt something perhaps slightly more refreshing in the Total War series. Instead of the traditional campaign map & single army movement, that a pivot to the use of "Frontlines" be adopted to better convey the scale of warfare similar to that expected from modern warfare.
Unlike current Total War Campaigns, the battle would wage over a frontline using a grid/sector system, the UI could be given a digitized layout to give a feeling of a Commander viewing the status of the frontline through a digital screen with all available asset to them.
Below i use a poor example for a map, but just to get the idea across
To explain how this works: time in battles
1. Armies would project an aura of map control around them that would emit into adjacent grids. Thus giving a sense of a frontline.
2. The control emitted into adjacent grids would dictate the available deployment zone to those forces. Thus being able to emit more control on an adjacent grid could allow your forces to start in advantageous terrain & vice versa if you lack this projection.
3. Ideally it would be neater if it was similar to Close Combat in that you could be spending multiple turns attacking into 1 Grid attempting to clear the sector before being able to move on.
4. Armies are not destroyed when they lose, but merely fall back a grid in order to maintain a sense of a frontline. Since this is more about attritional warfare.
5. Manpower & Equipment are drawn from a force pool (In later expansions this could allow for Home/Forge Worlds to make up a grander campaign map but for this it will be abstract in that every turn you are being sent supplies to fund the war effort)
6. The Frontline System will always ensure that battles are huge & epic
7. Armies can move one grid at a time & not into the same grid as another friendly army, but can reinforce adjacent armies in another grid but only a certain amount of reinforcements can be sent while still being able to maintain their own frontage with the enemy.
E.g: an army directly adjacent to a friendly army will send 50% of its forces to aid, while an army 2 grids away will only send 25% of its forces to aid. If any army is more then 3 grids away, it will have a gap in their frontline thus cannot reinforce
8. Well established & connected Frontlines will give the advantage of being able to call upon more reinforcements from a nearby grid. If those reinforcements are called upon it can for a turn leave the sector reinforcing 50% or 25% under strength in its own sector.
9. In order to prevent stacking on the frontline (e.g keeping all your armies directly adjacent to each other in order to punch through & roll the enemy) controlled grids will reduce supply line cost & increase combat width.
10. Supply Line cost will increase dramatically when you control less regions thus making it more beneficial to picket your armies along the front. Since the more of this territory you control allows for better uninterrupted supplies between armies while a heavily concentrated force in a single area will affect supply throughput thus making it more costly to stack armies too close to each other. Thus making it quite situational and more calculated when the player or ai wishes to try & combine its might for a push
11. Combat Width, more frontage means that more units can deploy during the deployment phase that can give a sizable lead advantage. That means stacking armies one grid behind your advancing army would not be as beneficial to having an army adjacent to its side. They would merely come onto the battlefield later at a random time as reinforcements. While adjacent armies to the flank will offer either 50% or 25% of their forces depending on their distance. This will help to keep battles quite epic in its scale.
12. Reinforcements & Equipment are said to be shipped in from other Systems, events can be added that can see these disrupted (E.g Cadia as been overrun by the forces of Chaos at the Eye Of Terror, affecting your supply of fresh bodies to the front) Could also perhaps have edicts/decree that forces conscription on abstract planets at a cost of perhaps production of equipment that needs to be replaced. Landing pad facilities can be setup near front-lines to allow better replenishment. Perhaps attached to the army, that can also be targeted by enemy air power. Thus needing to be repaired if damaged.
13. In order to reduce the amount of battles being fought within a single turn, the frontline system will instead allow for fewer tedious battles and more grander battles, especially if you are only allowed to make one offensive move per turn with your forces. That will instead drag in all adjacent armies into the battle.
14. What i mean by one offensive move per turn, is something akin to Chess. So the player must plan an offensive over multiple turns instead of being able to attack with multiple armies on a single turn. This perhaps can be explained that there is only enough command & control, supplies etc to support one focused attack per turn. Hence why it leans on frontline forces assisting each other in these grander battles.
15. Special exception rules can be made for certain forces, perhaps with the Space Marines, but there deep strike ability may serve a better function as a reaction force or firemen for putting out fires when assisting the main Imperial Guard forces. In this, Space Marines would be more of an attachment force to certain Imperial Guard armies given their limited numbers, thus almost making them a Guard unit of sort if comparing it to historical Total War.
16. Artillery & Air support: This can be offered by adjacent armies within a battle as offmap support or certain region geography may lend itself better to the establishment of a temporary airfield. Artillery & Air Support similar to Fall of the Samurai can have effects on the battlefield and campaign related infrastructure, but would need to be somewhat automated similar to Hearts Of Iron. This could also allow for some neat sprite animations of aerial conflict raging above the frontlines on the campaign map & also during battle.
17. Since there wouldn't be much in the way of "economy building" but instead attempting to best allocate the resources provided, equipment like fighters/bombers would be a running cost in order to maintain air superiority & target enemy infrastructure relevant to what makes up an Armies Forward Operating Base (FOB) It could also perhaps be used to emit control within an area of grids to give an advantage to army deployment zones.
18. There should perhaps be an army cap, or see replenishment rate severely affected if exceeding the optimal infrastructure to support said armies.
19. Options to turn of the (1 attack per turn) so players could play against the intended design, or allow modders to experiment. Since curiosity if left unchecked could have the player feeling too constrained yet if allowed to see how it could affect gameplay if not toggle on will allow them to potentially like the initial design or thought process.
So in the below Example you can see The Cadian 180th Stalking Tigers are attacking into an adjacent grid. The Ultramarine 1st Company have been attached to them to help them punch through and secure the grid. The dotted line is the potential reinforcements that can assist in the assault from the Praetorian Guard & Salamander attached to them, but will only offer up to a max of 25% of their forces to the battle. This because the Praetorian Guard do still need to picket their frontline. During the turn phase, if the Orks were to counter attack against the Praetorians, they would have 25% less of their forces to hold back the green tide.
Obviously i have not added such stuff like air support to the map, since idk if it should be assigned to an army, much like Hordes work in WH2, or if it should be an asset on the campaign map. E.g abandoned airfield. That can be utilized.
This is where i perhaps get a bit controversial & break from the tabletop. Since i don't see how you can have both grand battles while still retaining control over squad size units similar to table top. Since ideally i would like to see Titans raging across the battlefield too, and for the Titans to seem significant, there would need to be thousands of troops participating in a battle, to the point a company of space marines looks underwhelming in its sheer size.https://secondworldwar.co.uk/index.php/army-sizes-a-ranks/86-army-units-a-sizes
For this to work, Imperial Guard regiments if attempting to fulfill a 20 unit cap would mean each unit would need to be the size of a company. So a single Regiment would consist of 8 units made up of 200 men each with each company. Unlike other Total War games, each unit consisting of a company would need to have multiple weapon platforms within a single unit.
They would also need stances for each unit. E.g
1. Dig In ( All Tanks & Infantry will entrench themselves
2. Shoot & Scoot ( All models within a unit will attempt to assault an objective while utilizing cover)
3. Overwatch (All models bearing long ranged weaponry will be brought to the forefront of the unit & will attempt to use their ranged advantage, similar to tabletop that if you don't move you get to fire twice)
4. Reckless Charge (All close quarter combat models will be brought to the forefront of the unit. E.g Jump Packs etc with additional speed boost that allow them to close the range quicker
5. Mount/Dismount (basically for motorized infantry, so you can move around a flank & deploy units form Rhinos etc)
In regards to Space Marine units. Well only a single Company of 100 men can consist of a single unit, That would of course include all the relevant equipment to that company within a single unit. That means a player could only have 10 Ultramarine units if attempting to deploy the whole chapter. But then these guys are meant to be the special forces, so although looking relatively small in size, should have a significant impact compared to their Imperial Guard forces. I'm not sure how i feel about players deploying "Space Marine Armies" seems like that would drag the scale of the conflict down to company sized conflicts & under values the worth of Space Marines. I'm off the notion that displaying their rarity improves their worth & makes them feel more valued.
Will try to add some pictures to better communicate what i mean at a later date.
1. It would need to be out of this world. Hence why i think attempting to do a grander campaign that encompassing many different planets with different environments could stretch CA resources too thin & could result in a knock off effect to gameplay. So keeping it focused to a single planet allows for assets to be reused and also better hand crafted, instead of cookie cutter settlements, and more a ToB real battle map to campaign map relation.
2. The destruction to terrain would need to be biblical & further more if possible stay there permanently, to really show case that the battlefield is almost undergoing a form of terraforming through utter destruction, almost like seeing the green fields of France turned into mud & craters as you fight back & forth over this frontline.
3. Similar to Company of Heroes, units will need to automatically take advantage of cover provided, but would need to be more advanced, since a unit (company) will consist of multiple squads/platoons acting as a single unit.
4. Battle system would need to altered to take into consideration rear hits to armour, scout snipers pinning down infantry within a "unit" but yet the tanks/armour within that unit will be unaffected. I understand that quite complicated & unlikely to happen, but you know, worth trying :P
5. Needs a gritty feel to it
6. Sound effects of troops talking like zealot, with blood curdling screams. any humour needs to be dark & grim lol
7. Laz fire & bolt rounds light up the battlefield, dark & grim.
Similar to Hearts Of Iron, perhaps give the player ability to play around with the composition of their company sized units So you can mix the ratio of the unit composition to either better suit long ranged engagements, melee engagements, armour engagements.
So for example if i wanted to turn one company (one unit) into a more motorized unit with support tanks, or a melee orientated unit. So if the default unit was always 1/3rd or all these these type, and most you could specialize a single unit too was to go 2/3rd. E.g 2/3rd Motorized & 1/3rd Tanks as fast moving flanking unit. So pretty much how most company sized unit ratio today are different from company to company in their make up off weapon platforms and troop types. esepcailly if it was done similar to the Tabletop point spending on "armies" although they seem to be more company sized in the amount of models present if Imperial Guard.
To give a better example of this, imagine being able to mix swords, spears and archers into a single unit and then further modifier their ratios.
Legendary Characters along with their command squad and their abilities can be assigned to a unit (company) that impact the composition ratio of that unit while transferring all those abilities to that unit. The Special character would not be a single entity but assigned to a unit, and present on the battlefield, but would not have individual control, they would fight with that unit for the duration of that battle.
To give an example of this, imagine in Warhammer 2 if you had to instead assign Grimgor to a unit of Black Orcs
Note: I'm not against other ideas for how battles should be conducted, if it should be at a similar scale of DoW etc, but this is my own personal take. Some may just want a re-skinned Warhammer 2. I'm very opened minded to how all of this can be tackled, for the greater good.
Also i'd quite like to see naval battles too for this, its completely primed for Total War to do it and do it well, but i think nailing down the basics with limited scope and building out from that with expansions could help to keep quality high.
This is the sort of scale i'm after below in this picture