Friday, October 30, 2009

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Intro)

Mike (aka St. Omerville) of the Frederick Area Gamers had invited a bunch of the denizens of the Millenium Gate forums down to Maryland for the weekend, for a 4-game, 2000 point 40K tournament at the Glen Burnie Battle Bunker. What follows is a short series of entries about the games that I played.

What did I bring?
I brought my “Slann”-themed Tau Empire army – lots of little Tau models and suits, with lizard heads and other modest conversions here and there. The fluff itself comes from the original Rogue Trader (40K v1.0) book, way back in the day, and the army was inspired by a conversation I had years ago with Wandering1 (aka The Tactical Parrot) from the forums.

  • HQ: “Fourth Servant” Shas’el with Missile, Airburst, Flamer, Target Lock, Multi

  • Elite: 3x “Ranger” Crisis Suits with Twin-Missile and Flamer
  • Elite: same

  • Troop: 12x “Brave” Fire Warriors with Shas’ui (Ld8) upgrade
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same

  • Fast: 8x “Scout” Pathfinders with Shas’ui (Ld8) and Bonding upgrades
    In Devilfish transport with D-Pods
  • Fast: same

  • Heavy: 2x “Hornsuit” Broadsides with Target Arrays, 1x T-lock, and 2 Shield Drones
  • Heavy: same
  • Heavy: “Stoneship” Hammerhead with Railgun, D-Pod, Multitracker, and Target lock
This is essentially the finished version of my list, at 2000 points (the addition of the Hammerhead is the main difference between this and the 1850 point list). There will undoubtedly be some more tweaking and refitting of units, but the overall dimensions of the army are pretty much established, as are the core models and corresponding conversions. I’ve enough models (and points) to field an Apocalypse list of 3000 points if necessary, but some of the units (Stealthsuits, for example) are currently “in storage”, as the 5th edition rules are not very kind to them.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 1)

Opponent: Chris M (Witch-hunter Arbites) I’m a big fan of the Adeptus Arbites fluff, and love the “Judge Dredd” color scheme, even if the original source material is a bit too gratuitously violent for my taste. I’ve a number of Arbites models from way back in the day, and have always wondered how well they would work as a 40K army. Facing Chris was an opportunity to see just such an army in action!

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 3x Arbites squads (double meltaguns) in Chimeras
  • 2x Guard squads (grenade launchers) in Chimeras
  • 1x Inquisitor squad (Lord with Crusaders and Acolytes) in Chimera
  • 2x Command Squads with Sniper Rifles (on foot)
  • 2x Guard Squads with Missile Launchers (on foot)
  • 2x Units of 3 Scout Sentinels (with Multilasers)
  • 1x Leman Russ (+3 heavy bolters)

Mission: “Bloodbath” Tournament Scenario: 4th edition alternating set-up in 12” deployment zone, combined with 4th edition Victory Points. Secondary objective: kill the most expensive enemy unit.

Terrain: Hills in all four corners, a line of woods on Chris’ side of the table, and a giant LOS-blocking skull in the middle of my table edge.

What happened?
I set up my army in three ‘commands’ – a unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides) and Brave (Fire Warriors) on each corner hill on my side, and all my Ranger (Crisis) Suits hid behind the giant skull in the middle of the table. I backed up my right wing with the Stoneship (H-Head), and backed up my left wing with a second unit of Brave and both units of Pathfinders, including their vehicles. My last two units of Brave started off the field.

Chris spread his Chimera through the treeline, with Infantry hiding behind the wall of AV12, anchored his right flank (my left) with his Inquisitor and Leman Russ, and backed them up with one unit of Scout Sentinels. The second unit of Scout Sentinels started in reserve, ready to outflank me.

My plan was to deploy both units of Pathfinders with their Scout move, then mount up Fire Warriors and cause some problems, but Chris stole initiative, and shredded my Pathfinder units, greatly reducing their effectiveness for the rest of the game. I compounded things by foolishly wasting firepower on his Leman Russ in the first turn, instead of more wisely blowing away Chimeras when I had the chance.

Fortunately for me, Chris was relatively cautious with his advance, and after two more turns, I had killed all his Chimeras, save for the Inquisitor’s (which was still hull-down in the treeline next to his Leman Russ). I also shredded virtually all his infantry, although a lone Stormtrooper sergeant survived to make it to my right flank, and hacked apart a unit of my Brave (Fire Warriors) before being pummeled by the nearby Hornsuits (B-sides). The last few turns of the game were fairly fast, as I tried to maneuver units into position to hurt his last few remaining units – in the end, all that was left were the Inquisitor and his ride, and two of the foot-slogging Guard units that had spent the entirety of the game lobbing (and often missing with) rockets at me from long range.

Turning the Tables.
The Arbites were far too cautious with their approach – instead of gunning their Chimeras and rushing at me full-speed, they chose to advance cautiously and use their firepower to whittle down some of my numbers first. Against most opponents, this is a solid move – but not against Tau. Even with my colossal blunder of not shooting at his Chimera transports as soon as I could (instead wasting fire on his Leman Russ), I still had sufficient firepower – and time – to wipe out the transports before really being threatened by anything. Had the Chimeras jumped me straight-away, things would have been more touch-and-go in the middle part of the game. Even a single Storm Trooper Sergeant was more than enough to Put Paid to a unit of my Fire Warriors – imagine if a more ‘fearsome’ opponent like an Inquisitor Lord had shown up!

However, Chris’s decision to devote much of his first-turn fire at my Pathfinders was the right move – it dramatically reduced the effectiveness of my shooting for the rest of the game, and was something he could have taken serious advantage of, combined with a more dedicated transport rush.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 2)

Opponent: Pete/Pierre (Mechanized Eldar) Mechanization is the way to go in 5th edition, and Eldar vehicles remain just as difficult to knock down as before. Pete’s mechanized Eldar list was designed to sit back and sting people to death, with occasional swooping disembarks (courtesy of Fire Dragons or Dire Avengers) to shred exposed units, and a late-game rush to grab objectives. This was going to be a serious challenge for me, and no mistake.

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 1x Farseer with Spear, 2x runes, and DOOM
  • 1x Autarch with fusion gun
  • 1x10, and 1x9 Fire Dragons, with Crackshot Exarch w/Flamer
    Both in Wave Serpents with twin Shuricannons and Spirit Stones
  • 2x10 Dire Avengers, with Bladestorm Exarchs with twin Shuricats
    Both in Wave Serpents with twin Shuricannons and Spirit Stones
  • 1x10 Eldar Pathfinders
  • 3x Fire Prisms with Holofields and Spirit Stones
Mission: “King of the Hill” Tournament Scenario: modified Dawn of War set-up (most of army automatically in reserve, and reserve rolls starting on Turn1), with a single objective in the middle of the table. Secondary objective: get at least one unit into the enemy deployment zone.

Terrain: Large elevated rocky ridge in the middle of my table edge, extending toward objective; and a half-dozen scattered ice crystal formations providing cover but virtually no LOS-blocking around the table. Otherwise a completely open killing field…gleep.

What happened?
Pete won the roll-off to set up, so I chose to start with two “sacrificial” Troops choices on the table, near the objective, and nothing else. After Pete infiltrated his Eldar Pathfinders into a nearby crystal formation, I stole the initiative (!) and the game began.

My first turn saw most of my army show up right away: both units of Hornsuits (B-Sides), two more units of Brave (Fire Warriors), and a unit of Ranger (Crisis) Suits. I had been hoping to Deep-strike them behind Eldar vehicles, but straight up the middle works fine, too, I suppose. This proved excellent for me, and less so for Pete – he had to come onto the board into the teeth of my formidable firepower.

I made the second turn even more exciting by flanking with two units of Scouts (Pathfinders), right into the rear arcs of two of his Fire Prisms. Pete did a lot of swearing, as this bit of good luck on my part rather badly crippled his firepower right from the very start. Deep-striking Ranger (Crisis) suits also blocked up the door to his Autarch’s ride very nicely, forcing the Autarch and his bodyguard of Dire Avengers to perform an Emergency Disembarkation when their Wave Serpent was downed, where they would sit quite uselessly for a turn or two.

My exuberant willingness to sacrifice my Troops choices, however, began to swing the tide toward the Eldar. By the end of the third turn, Pete had lost both his Fire Dragon squads, as well as nearly all of the unit of Autarch and Dire Avengers, but I had lost three of my Troops choices (with a fourth still off the table in Reserve), as well as a unit of Scouts (Pathfinders) and Rangers (Crisis Suits). I was badly hurting the Eldar, but having difficulty crippling his transports – and after a lucky Fire Prism shot forced a unit of my Hornsuits (Broadsides) to test Morale, and fail and run off the board, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to drop his vehicles fast enough.

In the end, despite the carnage inflicted, Pete simply had more mobility left – with five units clustered on the objective (not including three still entirely-alive transports), while I had just two near enough to contest, and not nearly enough firepower left to drop those darn Eldar tanks. Mechanized Eldar for the (very) decisive win!

Turning the Tables.
There were three things I did in this game that were problematic, and which done differently may have had an effect on how things turned out. First, I essentially sacrificed a unit of Crisis Suits (and their mobility AND vehicle-killing firepower!), in exchange for the chance of auto-pinning (via Emergency Disembarkation) several of Pete’s units in Wave Serpents. In previous editions, the auto-kill of a unit (or two) from blocking the hatch would have made the trade worth it, I think, but in this case, there was no point. I would have been better served Deep Striking my Crisis Suits into the rear arc of those Wave Serpents – but much further back.

Secondly, I chose to use my Pathfinders as flankers, instead of moving them on from my table edge from Reserve. True, they were able to hurt Pete’s Fire Prisms when they came on from the flank, but that was a combination of Pete forgetting that I was flanking them, and good luck on their part. They would have been better off being relatively safe on my table edge, making it easier for me to kill Pete’s tanks (by negating his vehicles’ cover saves), instead of being isolated on his lines and getting munched by his reserving units.

Finally, I simply did not pay attention to the mission objectives until very late in the game – playing instead as if it was a straightforward “sweep the table of enemy units” kind of mission. As a result, I sacrificed too many units, and particularly some of my mobile units, for what was undoubtedly insufficient return on investment.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 3)

Opponent: Mike (Thunderwolf Cavalry Space Wolves). Not the same Mike as my host “St. Omerville”, this was a fellow from another local Maryland gaming club “Inner Circle”. Mike’s army was a no-nonsense, run-up-the-middle-and-SMACK-you kind of army. Two chunky units of Thunderwolves each led by a hero, a swarm of ablative wolves, some distracting Lone Wolves, three units of Rhino Rush support, and four Lascannons with lots of protection. It’s not the nastiest of Thunderwolf bum-rush armies (he could have brought more ablative wolves for his cavalry, for example), but it was still going to hurt if it hit you.

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 2x Wolf Guard Battle Leader on Thunderwolf, with 2+ save, Storm Shield, and nasty killy bits, each leading 3 Thunderwolves with Storm Shields and nasty killy bits, plus 2 ablative doggies.
  • 1x8 Doggies by themselves
  • 3x5 Grey Hunters with meltas and powerfists, in Rhino
  • 2x Lone Wolf in Termie Armor, with Storm Shield and 2 ablative doggies
  • 2x3 Long Fangs with lascannons, in Rhino
Mission: “Annihilation/Pitched Battle” (Kill Points and 12” Deployment). Two secondary objective “beacon” markers near the center of the table.

Terrain: Hills in the both my corners, a row of trees on my side of the table. Mike’s side of the table had a heavily wooded ridge protruding toward the center of the battlefield, and a large, heavy bunker on his left flank (my right flank), but out of his deployment zone. He placed his objective in that bunker, and I placed mine in the trees on my left flank.

What happened?
Mike won the roll-off, and after choosing table edge, deployed his Long Fangs, still in their protective Rhino transports, on and within that heavily wooded ridge. He also deployed both units of Thunderwolves – one on his right flank, along one side of the wooded ridge, and the other on his left flank (my right), partially in cover behind the heavy bunker. For some reason, he left his six (!) other units in Reserve.

I responded by deploying everything in a castle formation on the hill on my left flank, packed in tight because Mike’s army had no area-effect weapons. Then I lucked out, and stole initiative, and the game was basically over.

In Turn 1, I destroyed one unit of Thunderwolf cavalry. In turn two, I killed all but one body (the uber-killy Wolf Guard Battle Leader) in the second unit of Thunderwolf cavalry. Mike then blew his reserve rolls at the bottom of the second AND third turns, and a total of just one Lone Wolf came wandering on (in Turn 2). I spent the start of Turn 3 blowing the Long Fang Rhinos away – and the Long Fangs, being no dummies, promptly hid behind the wreckage. That meant that given the lack of ANY other targets in range, Mike’s lucky Lone Wolf got to suck down 70 Tau weapon HITS (in other words, I hit that bad boy 70 times), but a combination of lousy to-wound rolls and amazing save rolls kept him alive for two turns of punishment before that resilient doggy bastard finally gave up the ghost in Turn 4.

By the time the three Grey Hunters units and the unit of Wolves finally reserved onto the table in turn 4, the Long Fangs had crept around to a well-hidden shooting position, the last Thunderwolf was prowling about in cover over 24” from my lines, and everything else was a corpse. Mike tried a late-game Rhino rush, but had his Rhinos blown out from under him in turn 5 just as the game ended. Ultimately, I lost one transport (Devilfish) and accompanying squad of Brave (Fire Warriors) when it moved a little too close to that uber-killy T-Wolf hero, and lost a unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides) to several more turns of sustained lascannon fire from 4 Long Fangs. Mike, on the other hand, had lost 8 or 9 units worth of stuff, and never really threatened my forces.

Turning the Tables
Granted I won initiative and shot the Space Puppies up before they could move, but even then it made very little sense for Mike not to begin the game with all of his mobile assault units on the table, itching to jump all over me. Facing just two units of Thunderwolves, one of which was a turn further away from my lines than the other (remember, I got to set up second), my target priority was very easy. Had I been facing SIX fast-moving assault units – because even a unit of 5 Grey Hunters would have totally pwned everything in my army – I would have had a much bigger headache. Particularly if the Space Wolves had gone first, as they were very likely to do.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 4)

Opponent: Terry (Nurgle Marines) Fielding a very characterful and resilient army, Terry’s Nurgle forces featuered a single large unit of lesser demons – a monster unit of 20 models (!!) in all. However, it was the four units of Plaguemarines that I was worried about most, as the combination of T5, 3+ save, and Feel No Pain means that they take forever to drop when I’m shooting at them with Tau. Terry, on the other hand, had only played Tau once before – against another Tau army list in the same tournament – and was still unsure as to what they could do.

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 2x Nurgle Demon Princes with Wings and Warptime psychic power
  • 3x7 Plaguemarines with Powerfist Champion, Icon, and 2 Plasmas
  • 1x7 Plaguemarines with Powerfist Champ, Icon, and 3 Meltas (including Combi)
  • 4x Rhinos, one with Havoc launcher
  • 2x Demonically Possessed Vindicators

Mission: “Cleanse” Tournament Scenario with Spearhead (Table Quarters) deployment. Each of the four corners of the table were an ‘objective’, with only Troops choices able to control but all units able to contest. Secondary objective: kill the highest ranking (ie: player picks before the game if there is more than one) HQ.

Terrain: A large trenchline along the long table edge, in my corner, as well as a heavily fortified building on my left flank. The far table corner had another trenchline, and the terrain between was a combination of large craters and trees. I got to choose corners, and promptly chose the one that offered the most open ground – and most crater-like obstacles to my mechanized opponent – for my firepower-heavy army.

What happened?
Although I had a very nice trenchline to set up in, I actually only deployed two units within the trenches (one unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides), and one of Scouts (Pathfinders)). The remainder of my forces I deployed in an arc in the open ground between the trenches and the fortified building on my left flank, with three units of Brave (Fire Warriors) starting the game in reserve – they would be out of range at the start of the game anyway, and starting in reserve would give them a chance to grab table corners..

Terry chose to lead his vehicle rush with two Vindicators, screened by a Rhino, with his other three Rhinos further back and clustered with his two Demon Princes. I was perfectly happy to let him come at me in two different assault waves, and after keeping the initiative, spent the first turn blowing up his first assault wave: both Vindicators AND the Rhino screening them, as well as most of the Plaguemarine squad within them.

Terry was stunned. I later learned that this was the first time my opponent had ever seen Markerlights in action.

With his options limited, Terry threw his second assault wave forward, but this second wave was a good two turns distant, and with that much time (and no suppressing fire to speak of to keep me ‘honest’), things were going to be messy for them.

Turn two, I killed two more Rhinos, and immobilized the last one. Turn three, I wiped out the huge 20-man unit of demons that had been summoned onto the table, killed the last Rhino, and picked off some Plaguemarines. Turn four, I killed both Demon Princes in a torrent of pulse-rifle fire (jumping out of transports at close range and blazing away with Markerlight support) – and then got too cautious with my Suits, and left them out of position to support some nearby units of Brave (Fire Warriors), who got eaten by vengeful Plaguemarines for their trouble. But by this point, it was clear that the game was all coming down to mission objectives; there was no realistic way the Plaguemarines were going to dig my firepower out of my corner of the table.

Realizing this, Terry threw his four Plaguemarine units into cover, but of course the Markerlights made that harder for him. The game ultimately went six turns, with just one badly battered squad of Plaguemarines surviving; I had lost a total of two Brave (Fire Warrior) units, and claimed or contested all four table quarters.

Turning the Tables.

Terry might have had more luck rushing with all his units at once. Granted I had initiative and went first, but this meant that he had the ability to set up his deployment in response to mine. With his assault split into two different waves, it made the target priority very easy. Had all four Rhinos AND the two Princes AND the two Vindicators all been in a single wave, I would probably have ignored the Vindicators in the first turn in favor of killing Rhinos – giving them at least a few shots. Plus, the Demon Princes wouldn’t have been isolated on their lonesome this way. It probably still would have been a tough game for the forces of Nurgle, but as it was, they really were relying on the Tau to have truly horrible dice rolls in order to have a shot, and that’s not a good place for a 40K army to be in.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Summary)

In all, this tournament had a good mix of players and armies, and I was very happy with the good sportsmanship and game knowledge all my opponents had. In the end, I placed in second place by one point (with a +3=0-1 record), buoyed considerably by my excellent scores for conversion in painting. I was very pleased both by how well my army did, and by how I was able to do it.

The overall tournament winner was a Nidzilla (Tyranid Monstrous Creature) list, with the two very mean mechanized Eldar lists – my opponent Pete from game 2 and my host Mike – beating each other to a bloody draw in the final round and cleverly denying each other the tourney victory.

All in all, there were 14 players in the tournament, fielding the following lists:

2 Chaos:
Mechanized Khorne Marines
Mechanized Nurgle Marines (Game 4, Terry)

6 Imperials:
Drop-pod Blood Angels
Imperial Guard Armored Company
Kitchen-Sink Space Marines
Mechanized Adeptus Arbites (Game 1, Chris)
Mechanized Sisters of Battle
Thunderwolf Cavalry Space Wolves (Game 3, Mike)

6 Xenos:
Chrome-tastic (mech/drone/suit heavy) Tau
Gunline “Slann”-themed Tau (me)
2x Mechanized Eldar (including Game 2 opponent, Pete)
2x Nidzilla Tyranid Monstrous Critters

As noted, the overall winner was fielding a Nidzilla list. My game 2 opponent Pete won the Best General (most battle points) award. I believe the Best Army (appearance) award went to the IG Armored Company, with Best Sportsman going to the “kitchen-sink” Space Marines player. The last was one of the youngest players, and he had stayed commendably gung-ho and positive whilst playing with an army that was probably made up of every model he owned (to get up to 2000 points), and one that was struggling mightily to compete with the other armies in the tournament.

Interestingly, there were no Ork lists at all, nor any Salamander lists. Also missing were Dark Eldar, Necrons, and Grey Knights (all less surprising, but for different reasons, of course). As has been noted elsewhere and ad nauseum throughout the 40K world, there’s an increasing emphasis on mechanization in 5th edition, as demonstrated by virtually all of the army lists that showed up at the tournament – excepting the Nids (of course), my rather gunline-heavy Tau army, and the “kitchen-sink” Marines.

Philosophical Musings:
Having run the Mathhammer, as well as having experienced some frustration shooting at (for example) Nidzilla and Plaguemarine lists, it’s pretty clear that the Missile+Plasma combination is the way to go with my Ranger (Crisis) Suits. The twin-Missile and Flamer option is a good deal of fun, and I think it’s still a solid combination at smaller points-values because of its low cost and versatility (slightly more effective at killing light transports at long range), but it simply doesn’t scale up to put out the kind of firepower against really tough units that the suits COULD be putting out at 1750+ points.

However, first things first – I still have three units to finish painting (one unit of Suits, one of Fire Warriors, and one of Pathfinders), and several vehicles to finish detailing. Once I’ve done that, I can do weapon swaps – or more likely, weapon additions, because I **really** like the look of the twin Missile Pods on my suits. Probably a result of much too much Japanimation – that Japanese Mecha anime really does love its missile racks and crazy missile smoke trails.

Once I’ve finished with this army, I’ve two 40K army ideas that are keeping me excited. One is a mechanized Sisters of Battle list that promises to be truly, truly evil in a way that makes me cackle with truly, truly evil laughter. I love me my flamers. Now…how many can I fit into a 2000-point army list? Bwahahahaha…..

The other is a Chaos Demon proxy army made up entirely of nifty non-GW miniatures, solely for the opportunity to buy, paint, and use a bunch of nifty non-GW miniatures that wouldn’t easily fit into (say) my Imperial Guard list because they look just too weird and fantastic. A combination of War Machine, Urban Mammoth, and AT-43, plus one or two other pieces from other lines, should make for a very nice looking – and completely GW tournament non-legal (of course) – miniatures collection.

All of this was originally inspired by Urban Mammoths cyborg Sumo Wrestlers. I grew up a kid in Japan in the 80’s and early 90’s, so given the chance to field Chiyonofuji (if you’ve never heard of him, think of him as roughly equivalent to the “Joe Montana” of Sumo Wrestling) and Konishi (the heaviest sumo wrestler in modern history) and Terao (a perpetual journeyman throughout his long career, but a personal favorite of mine growing up) was irresistible.