Thursday, December 10, 2009

5 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Preview Game)

Opponent: Steve Coyne (“Deadhead” Dark Angels). Steve has been a long-time member of the Warmonger Club in New York City, and his “Grateful Dead” motif has been a consistent theme in all the armies he has done. I had the day off from work, and so visited the Warmonger Club two days before the tournament to do a last-minute ‘fine-tune’ of my army, and Steve was also looking to try out a new Ravenwing/Deathwing mix. As he informed me, the trick was that he not only had flexible unit sizes (with the Ravenwing), but that the bikes AND the terminators were all scoring units. Wow.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Ravenwing Special Character
  • 1x Deathwing Special Character
  • 12x Ravenwing Bikes (fielded in 3 squads of: 3, 3, and 6)
  • 2x Attack Bikes, one with MMelta, one with HBolter
  • 2x 5-man Deathwing squads (one with HFlamer, one with AssCannon)
  • 4x Speeders (HB, 2xHB+AC, MM+HFlam)

Mission: Seize Ground (3 objectives) and Dawn of War (12” deployment and initial Nightfight)

Terrain: Ruined cityscape, with huge three-story LOS-blocking complex on the right side of the table between our deployment zones, and scattered smaller ruins (half of them also large enough to block LOS to vehicles) throughout the middle of the table. Both Steve and I also had two smaller ruins in our deployment zones. Two objectives were on the ground just outside a building in each of our deployment zones; the last was next to the massive LOS-blocking complex on the right side of the table.

What happened?
Steve won the roll-off for deployment, but chose to set up and move second. I set up two Troops choices – one on top of a tower next to the objective on my side of the table, and one on my side of the large complex on the right flank, a move away from claiming that second objective. I placed my HQ with the unit on the right. Steve placed his units second, and deployed his large (6-man) unit of Bikes on my left flank, making a Scout move forward toward the objective I had a unit of Troops sitting on -- and placed a unit of Deathwing (backed by the Deathwing HQ) in the center, near the third objective – the one nearest his deployment zone.

At the start of my first turn, I walked the rest of my army onto the table: both units of Rangers (Crisis Suits) on the left, backed by the three remaining Troops choices, and the two Transports (Devilfish). The Scouts (Pathfinders) and Hornsuits (B-Sides) rolled up the middle, taking a run move to get into position in a low two-story ruin near my table edge. Then I opened fire, and even with the Nightfighting rules in effect, I was able to see the unit of Bikes that had just made the Scout Move up to within 6” of the objective on the left. With so much firepower (48 Pulse rifles, 2 Burst Cannons, 6 Missile Pods, and 4 Pulse Carbines), the bikes simply evaporated.

Steve shook his head in disbelief, but gamely moved his five Landspeeders (including the Ravenwing HQ, of course) onto his board edge, keeping them behind the large behemoth of a terrain feature on the right-hand side. He also deep-struck his second unit of Terminators INTO the building, near the Troops+HQ that I had lurking in there. Although he lost three (!!!) Terminators to the dangerous terrain test, the surviving Heavy Flamer was more than sufficient to kill nine of my thirteen models. D’oh.

I responded by shooting down all four of his non-HQ Landspeeders as the sun rose on Turn 2. The combination of Markerlights and LOS was deadly, denying the vehicles any chance of a cover save for hiding in and around ruins. Realizing that the two remaining Bike units (and both Attack Bikes) were outflanking, I hurriedly moved units away from the flanks, and settled in to see what Steven’s response would be. Steve reserved his bikes in (all four units came in on Turn 2) from both flanks, but apart from killing one of my Transports, and sniping at my Scouts (Pathfinders), not much happened.

I cheerfully killed all but 3 of his bikes (leaving a unit of 2 on the right flank, with a Heavy Bolter Attack Bike behind them), and most of his Terminators, leaving just three (including the HQ) hiding in the ruins next to an objective by the bottom of Turn 3.

The next three turns were a bit of a dance. I still had nearly all of my army left -- I had lost three units by this point, and ultimately would lose just three more, finishing the game with 9 surviving units at nearly full strength! But Steve still had his very nasty Master of the Ravenwing zipping about, I only controlled one objective, and he could still win (or draw) the game unless I dug his final three Terminators off that objective on his side of the board!

So I carefully moved up units, got a little careless with some suits and lost three to the Bikes in turn 4, but finally pulled the surviving Deadhead Bikes and Terminators into assault, and surrounded them (but importantly, did not assault) with enough separate units (four) to make it impossible for the Deadheads to kill all of them in a single turn of combat. Although one Bike and one Terminator survived to the end of the game, they were very neatly bottled up contesting one objective with me, leaving me able to hold one, contest the third with the Master of the Ravenwing, and win the game 1-0.

Turning the Tables
Steve’s biggest mistake at the start of the game was probably that Scout move that basically threw away his largest unit of bikes. Going second was a good decision given his superior mobility, but leaving units exposed to my firepower was not. Similarly, he wasn’t careful enough with how he moved his Landspeeders onto the table, and left them visible. Even without Markerlights and with a cover save, a visible vehicle can be killed, and the best defense for them probably would have been to keep them entirely out of LOS in the first place.

Steve also spent several turns whittling away at a unit of my Pathfinders – by the end of the game, between his Master of the Ravenwing, and an Assault Cannon Terminator, he had wiped one of my two units out. But by that point in the game, the Markerlights weren’t having much of an effect, as I was basically only shooting at Terminators in cover – and I still had a second unit with LOS to nearly everything the first unit did! The Dark Angels would have been far better served using that firepower instead to (a) kill my limited mobility, and/or (b) kill my heavy hitters. Going after my Crisis Suits, for example, would have accomplished both.

Finally, I’m not certain what outflanking his bikes accomplished in this game. It simply meant that two of his units came onto the table almost fully exposed (on the left flank) to quite a few of my units that had excellent LOS (due to height above the table), excellent cover, and nothing else to shoot at. The Deadhead Marines would have been better off coming onto the table on Turn 1, and choosing which flank to overwhelm me on. After all, they had superior mobility, and given that I had unbalanced to the left during my first turn, Steve could easily have unbalanced to his left (my right) and hurt me badly while I was still scrambling to get my slower-moving models on the left flank into range to support the rest of my forces.

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