BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

40K Editorial: What Would Dino De Laurentis Do?

10 Minute Read
Jun 25 2010
What Would Dino De Laurentis Do?


A Look at Cinematic Rules in Warhammer 40,000 by Todd V. Ehrenfels

Ever look at a rule and wonder, “What the heck were they thinking when they wrote this?!” I know that I did… until I developed a philosophy for reading the rules that makes everything a heck of alot more fun. That philosophy: What Would Dino De Laurentis Do?

Wait… what?! That’s it?! How is that supposed to be helpful?

Well, it is a well known fact that Games Workshops’ designers and writers have often said that they go to great lengths to make their games ‘cinematic’. When writing the rules, the designers look to movies to inspire their games, and that gets parsed into the rules. What movies do they lean on the most? Dune, Conan, Flash Gordon and the like are often in the list of movies that inspire the writers on the team, so why should we not look at these films to get an idea of how to interpret the vague and malleable rules of Warhammer 40K.

So who is Dino De Laurentis and why do his films inspire these game writers to craft wonky rules like they were Sauron on a week-long Tequila bender making the One Ring out of bubblegum wrappers? Dino De Laurentis is the original European cinema success story. With a career spanning 6 decades, Dino De Laurentis is arguably one of the most successful producers in Hollywood history, with over 166 feature-length productions in English, German, and Italian under his belt. In fact, the De Laurentis name is so successful in moviemaking that every member of his family is involved in the industry in one form or another.

What makes his movies so successful? Well, to be blunt, it is an ability to make memorable scenes out of what would otherwise be fairly unremarkable scripts. Who doesn’t think of the scene in Dune where Gurney Halleck leads the Atriedes troops against impossible odds during the Harkonnen assault on Arrakeen? How can anyone not yell “DIIIIIIVE” when a squad of Swooping Hawks, or any other Jump Pack troopers, come onto the board? Honestly, I can’t, which is why I read the rules as though I were trying to make a movie in the style of these great films.

Now that we have that dreadfully boring background out of the way, let’s have a look at how to apply the whole WWDDLD philosophy to your games based on some of Dino’s most beloved movies and characters…


Barbarella: What’s that screaming? A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming…

So, about that Doom of Malantai… Seriously, though, I can think of a few rules wherein this quote was obviously applied. Start with And They Shall Know No Fear and work your way to Routing units, and you get the idea. Applying WWDLD to something like the Doom of Malantai, one would surmise that panicking troops would abandon a vehicle; after all, they do it in the movies. It is dramatic, and is likely what was intended to seem ‘cinematic.

The Great Tyrant: Yes, Pygar. He has escaped the labyrinth. Crime! He has destroyed twelve of my black guards. Crime! And he dares to deprive me of a pleasure unique in Sogo, an Earthling. Crime! Crime! You want your fine-feathered friend? Look, there he is.


OK, I’ve really got nothing; I just really thought this was a funny quote. Alright, if I must apply a 40K rule to this it would be the Close Combat Morale test. Solitary model charges a larger group and causes them to flee? Crime!

Barbarella: [as she is attacked by a flock of small birds] This is a much too poetic way to die.

Show me a squad of Grots taking down Sanguinius, and I will show you the awesome poetry of this De Laurentis moment. Come on, if you are going for the ridiculous there is no further to go than some weak tar pit unit killing off some über-elite character (or unit).

Dildano: A life without cause is a life without effect.

All rules apply the relation of cause and effect, and this is very obvious to anyone. If you shoot and wound, then you will kill enemies. Kind of a no-brainer there, however there are a number of units in the games with strange rules that cause more effects than one would think at the first blush. Take the Nightspinner, for example. It serves its purpose in a multitude of different ways: killing enemy, slowing advances, and even objective denial, but is that all it can do? Think about it…


Captain Nolan: You revengeful sonofabitch! You win! You want revenge? Well, you’ll have it! I’ll come out and fight you! You revengeful sonofabitch!


While we generally are not out hunting killer whales, we do have to deal with rules inspired by this one. Ever look at the Rage USR? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Keep in mind what units are stuck with this silly rule and you can help guide and control your opponents’ movements on the battlefield. Also, given how many times the Orca gets ‘killed’ in this dreadful flick, one could almost wonder if it inspired Eternal Warrior.

The Emperor Ming: Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would’ve hidden from it in terror.

Granted, there is no way to take cover from Hot Hail or the Moon crashing into the Earth, but the designers at GW thought long and hard about it to give us the Take Cover rule for 40K. It seems strange that it took until 5th edition for us to be able to hit the dirt, but, like Munson fleeing from a crashing plane, we can now go to ground with the best of them. Good luck taking cover from Ming, though, that guy is just nuts.

The Emperor Ming: I like to play with things a while before annihilation.

And now we learn where variable game length came from. Feel free to play with your prey, but keep in mind that somebody might crash the War Rocket Ajax through the window at your FLGS at any moment.

Flash Gordon: Prince Barin! I’m not your enemy, Ming is! Let’s all team up and fight him.

What discussion of wonky rules is complete without a mention of the Allies rule? Granted there is not much in the way of cinematic excitement to be gleaned from the Allies rule, but it can be loads of fun. If Dino De Laurentis were building an Inquisitorial Allies list, you can be sure that these would be the flashiest, most visually awesome units he could find! Next time you play, bring your showiest stuff to the table for a game you wont soon forget.

Prince Vultan: Eh, well, who wants to live forever? Hawkmen… DIIIIIIVVE!

Swooping Hawks, er, Hawkmen, can make for some grand, though inefficient gestures. Field them, and I guarantee that they will not, in fact, live forever. In fact if you are lucky enough to live through Skyleap you are ahead of the game.


Paul Kersey: Nothing to do but cut and run, huh? What else? What about the old American social custom of self-defense? If the police don’t defense us, maybe we ought to do it ourselves.

Sure, there is no such thing as self defense in Warhammer 40K, but cut and run? Ha! Regroup and strike back hard is more like it! And They Shall Know No Fear is a perfect weapon in the hands of the De Laurentis Acolyte, when wielded with the deadly precision of Combat Tactics. Similarly, any orderly regrouping is cause for celebration.

Conan’s Father: For no one – no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. This you can trust.

As anyone who has seen this film knows, ‘this’ is obviously the BRB… wait, no it was a sword, but one can wield the BRB like a sword. Seriously, though, trust the book: it usually has a few well written answers to your rules questions. If it doesn’t, then rely on the roll-off (or fight to the death in a gladiatorial pit-fight, your choice).

Conan: Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Crom… so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!

Sure, your game is not deciding the fate of the universe… oh, wait, actually, it might be deciding the fate of the universe… Well, regardless of that, I really think that the game designers developed the Golden Rule from this. Ever have to determine something by roll-off and lose? Yeah, I cursed Crom on that day too.

King Osric: What daring! What outrageousness! What insolence! What arrogance! I salute you.

Any time I look at an Ork army arrayed against me, I hear these words in the back of my mind. Why? Well, it seems to me that the whole Waaaaaaagh! special rule came right out of a Dino De Laurentis movie. Come on, Red Goes Faster!

Akiro ‘The Wizard’: Death to the world.

I keep looking at this quote and seeing a Deathstrike Missile launcher… It seems like a bit of overkill to bring a Tactical Nuke to pistol and knife fight, but it works. While I do not use the Deathstrike Missile myself, it calls to mind every movie where there is an enormous explosion, but people survive by the expedient of jumping behind flimsy things. This makes for the perfect De Laurentis image for the silliest tank in the 41st Millennium.


Zula: Grab him! And take him!

Loathe though I am to take dating advice from Grace Jones, this is not too bad. As for the objective rules, this works too.


Gurney Halleck: The slow blade penetrates the shield.

Slow and purposeful wins the race! This De Laurentis sequence was just made to showcase the awesomeness that is Obliterators. Deck out a Broadside with Advanced Stabilization for the slow & purposeful grandness.

Piter De Vries: It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

I see plans within plans, and Farseers drinking Sapho juice and consuming Spice to better see the future. I do find it amazing that with all the Psykers predicting the future things are still so messed up in the 41st Millennium. Dino De Laurentis would look to the madness of Farseers joining and leaving squads through the following lens: what makes it more awesome visually?

Paul: He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing.

Don’t you just love it when your opponent hunkers down in a building or bunker? What do you mean ‘No’? Me, I shoot the building and take the unit out of the fight. Never forget that destroying the real estate will not only improve property values, but will also kill troops inside!

Feyd-Rautha: Why are you going to prolong the inevitable? I will kill you!

Speaking of the Slayer of Champions rule of the Emperor’s Champion… I can think of no better example of this Dino De Laurentis Moment than the Black Templars and the Preferred Enemy rule. Preferred Enemy has gone through evolutions of ‘specifically useful’ to ‘universally applicable’, and is always an awesome visual.

Duke Leto Atreides: If you made a mistake, it was in over-estimating the Harkonnens. Their simple minds came up with a simple trick!

While most things can be, and are, addressed in the BRB, sometimes we can over think a situation or rule. Keep it simple, keep your explanations to a minimum and you won’t go far wrong. What makes a De Laurentis film good is that he does not waste a whole lot of time explaining the details, it is more a question of “Is it awesome enough?”

Gurney Halleck: Not in the mood? Mood’s a thing for cattle and loveplay, not fighting!

I just wanted to throw this one in there because it has to be said: Fearless will keep you moving and fighting no matter the odds. It is impossible to really stall or maneuver a Fearless unit, except on its own terms, so you’d best get used to it or get it off the board quickly.

Arthur: How will we stop an army of the dead at our castle walls? How will you fight that? With more words? Most of our people have already fled. We are but sixty men.

Is it me, or is the fluff in 40K replete with iterations of this scenario? Every time you turn around, there are more Necrons coming at you with We’ll Be Back, and the Without Numbers types of squads form a great background for this De Laurentis concept.

Ash: Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun.

Guys with guns beat guys without guns, unless they are wielding chainsaws. This is the gospel according to Ash, and the folks at GW embrace it… Except for Lasguns, which only Dan Abnett embraces.

Ash: Oh you little bastards! All right, I’ll crush each and every last one of ya! I’ll squash you so hard you’ll have to look down to look up!

Swarms! Is there any more irritating tar pit in the 40K rule set? OK, yes, there is, but as USRs go, Swarms are among the most capriciously useful or useless.

Next time you have a rules question, or are uncertain of how to proceed on the tabletop just ask yourself, ‘What Would Dino De Laurentis Do?’ then go for the over the top cinematic win!  If you lose, there is always the sequel.

  • 40K Adept Interview - Wyatt Traina