Thursday, December 10, 2009

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Intro)

What did I bring?
I brought 1850 points of my “Slann”-themed Tau Empire army again – lots of little Tau models and suits, with lizard heads and other modest conversions here and there.
  • 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 and Bonding
  • 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
For this tournament, I had pretty much finished painting the army list I had been putting together for some years now. I’ve a few ideas (and models) to further expand my list, but what is here works pretty well in most games – enough firepower to stop (and clean up against) most opponents. The Pathfinders not only make the heavier units more accurate, but provide transports to give some of the scoring Troops choices more mobility. That said, this is probably the last time I field the Slann in this particular configuration, as it’s clear that there are certain inefficiencies in the force above that can’t be fixed without a rather significant redesign of the army list.

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.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Game 1)

Opponent: Jim B. (Mechanized Witch-hunters). Fielding a mounted Sisters of Battle force with a solid core of troops choices, and a number of specialized support units, Jim’s army was fairly mobile, and also came with a fairly nasty (if somewhat fragile) punch in the form of the Penitent Engines. As a side-note, Jim had converted his Inquisitor’s ride into a beautiful Sisters-of-Battle Land Raider, complete with custom side-turrets in place of sponsons, etc. Combined with his fantastic paint-job, and it was the centerpiece to an amazing-looking 40K army.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Canoness with Sword, Cloak, Book, and Mantle, with 5 Celestians in a Rhino
  • 1x Priest (tagging along)
  • 1x Canoness with Book
  • 1x Junior Inquisitor with Tarot, 2 Mystics and a Multimelta Gun-servitor, in a Land Raider
  • 3x Sisters squads with Veteran + Book, H-Flamer, Melta, and Rhino
  • 2x Exorcists
  • 3x Penitent Engines (in squadron)

Mission: “The Citadel” Tournament Scenario: defender sets up first in middle of table (in 5 pieces of AV-12 cover), attacker chooses two adjacent board edges (long + short) of their choice to deploy 6” in on. Defender goes first and must defend their 5 pieces of cover. Attacker must destroy as many of those objectives as possible – the “secondary objective” was basically just the fifth of the five objectives.

Terrain: Five pieces of AV-12 cover in the center of the table, and some (very very sparse) bits of trees and low walls around the table edge.

What happened?
Jim won the roll-off to determine attacker, and chose to attack – the sensible choice, given the mission objectives, and his load of melta and other firepowery goodness. I castled-up nearly all my units in/around the largest piece of cover, on one corner of the “Citadel”, in layers. Jim chose to set up on the long table-edge nearest to my set-up (no dummy, he!), with Penitent Engines in the center, two Rhinos on each side, the Land Raider behind some cover in one corner, and Exorcists and Inquisitor (and spare Canoness) behind some cover in the other.

I moved up all five units of the Brave (Fire Warriors), blocking up all easy access to my heavier guns, and opened fire – destroying all three Penitent Engines, killing three Rhinos, stunning the fourth (no extra armor on these Rhinos!), and killing a handful of Sisters as well. Jim was aghast at the damage I had done, but moved up with his units of (now foot-slogging) Sisters, killing 2 of my five units of Troops (and my ‘sacrificial’ HQ suit) between his Heavy Flamers and assaults, and destroying two objectives with long-range fire.

In turn two, my guns burped again, and I wiped out three of the four units of Sisters (including the uber-Canoness), leaving just one unit of Sisters on the table, and killed one of the two Exorcists (stunning the second). Jim’s shooting from his Land Raider was ineffectual, and I followed up in the next turn by wiping out the last of the Sisters (as well as the Inquisitor and his retinue in the far corner). But with an Exorcist and Land Raider still operational, Jim managed to kill a third objective, meaning that my only chance of winning the game was to table him.

I figured I would need the fourth and fifth turn to manage that, but I had lost only three units (two Troops choices and my HQ suit), and after one-shot-killing his Land Raider with my first Railgun shot in Turn 4, that left plenty of firepower for the Exorcist and last Rhino. I had a four-turn table, and still head nearly all my forces on the table.

Turning the Tables
This particular scenario was very favorable to the attacker, and only two defenders managed to win it in this tournament – myself, and an assault-happy Chaos player (John, who I played in game #2). In both cases, we did so by tabling our opponents, and not worrying about trying to protect the very fragile objectives.

In Jim’s case, however, there were several things he could have done to make his forces a bit more durable, and rack up a few more points for his own tournament score. First, he chose to start with all of his Rhinos, and all of his Penitent Engines, out in the open. He could have instead chosen to start with his entire army in Reserve, thus denying me the opportunity to get ANY shots off before jumping on me from anywhere along the two table-edges he chose.

Even if he wanted to start with his models on the table (bad idea as it was), he could still have arranged them a bit differently. For example, even though there wasn’t a whole lot of cover on the table, 6 inches deployment is still enough to create a Rhino screen for, say, a squadron of Penitent Engines. Or for another Rhino.

Second, Jim spent an entire turn (basically, his ONLY turn) shredding two of my infantry units with four of his. Though probably quite satisfying, this was (shall we say) an inefficient use of resources. With three meltas in his units, and four powerful long-range support units, he should have been doing everything possible to go after mission objectives. Even after the first turn, it was pretty clear that he simply didn’t have the firepower to match what I could put out – that in a straight up fight between 27 Sisters and 90 Slann/Tau, with his mobility gone, odds were against him. Going for mission objectives was the far better bet – there was a good chance that, had he done so, he could have racked up all five objectives and the maximum mission points by the end of the second turn, regardless of what I did to him then or later.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Game 2)

Opponent: John (Mechanized Chaos Marines). John and I had been the only two players to be in the “defensive” role in the first scenario, and win the game by tabling the attacker. As a reward for such outside-the-box thinking, we ended up facing each other in the next round. With a very nasty 5e Chaos army that didn’t include very much extra fat or fluff at all, John’s force was going to be a real challenge to face.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Nurgle Demon Prince with Wings and Warptime
  • 1x Greater Daemon
  • 1x Chaos Lord with Daemon Weapon, + 9 Chaos Marines (including Fist and Melta), in Daemonically Possessed Land Raider
  • 1x 10 Plague Marines, including Fist, Melta, and Plasma, in Rhino with Extra Armor
  • 1x 10 Khorne Berzerkers, including Fist, in Rhino with Extra Armor and Dozer Blade
  • 1x 3 Obliterators
  • 1x Daemonically Possessed Vindicator

Mission: “The Fortress” Tournament Scenario: “Dawn of War” setup, with defender setting up first with up to 1 HQ, 2 troops, and all Heavies. The Attacker must start with all units on the table, and the defender has the first turn. The side that controls the objective (= “the Fortress”) at the end of the game wins. The “fortress” (a reinforced gate, with towers on each side, and a crenellated 6” wall on each side beyond that) is a terrain piece that is all within 9” of the defender’s board edge. As a secondary objective, if you slaughtered any one of your opponent’s HQ choices (including full retinue if it had one), you received bonus mission points.

Terrain: Apart from the monstrous Fortress on my table edge, there were a few small copses of trees on the far edge, and two low hills that really didn’t block much LOS at all in the middle of the table.

What happened?
John won the roll-off, and chose to be the Attacker, setting up under the cover of night. Being the idiot that I am (see “Turning the Tables, below), I set up my HQ and Heavies (all of them suits) in the Fortress, then used two units of Troops to “push back” John’s deployment as far as possible. The Troops essentially set up as sacrificial units midway across the table, giving John only 6” to deploy on his table edge. He “hid” his two units on foot (Demon Prince, Obliterators) behind vehicles to start the game, but had everything ready to drive full-speed across the table from the get-go.

That said, I immediately flubbed one of the biggest Dawn of War mission rules – although, in my defense, this mission was so badly written that nearly everyone in the tournament messed it up one way or another. I left the rest of my army in Reserves, instead of immediately bringing them onto the table on Turn 1. That could have made a big, big difference, but instead, I faced John’s entire (very assaulty) army with far less than half of mine.

I couldn’t see anything in the first turn, while John’s searchlights lit up one unit of Hornsuits (Broadsides) and lascannon fire from Obliterators killed some shield drones. At daybreak on Turn 2, I killed a Rhino (the Plaguemarines’ ride), and he ran down my two units of sacrificial Troops, who died ignominiously. My Reserves didn’t start to arrive until Turn 3, and only in drips and drabs – outflanking Scouts (Pathfinders) managed to immobilize the Chaos Vindicator, but it wasn’t going to shoot anyway, and risk killing his units busy chopping away at mine.

By the bottom of Turn 3, it was clear that I was playing for a draw, at best. All of John’s assault units were on or near the Fortress, all my firepower was dead, and what I had left were the units still in reserve, as well as a unit of Scouts (Pathfinders) well out of position that he’d been ignoring thus far. By careful use of reserves, and a few lucky breaks, I managed to slaughter one of his three Troops choices (the Berserkers), send one of them fleeing toward his table edge (the Chaos Marines and Lord), carefully herded by some drones, and tie up the Plaguemarines much too far away from the Fortress for them to claim it by the end of the game.

But no matter, because the game ended up going six turns, not five, and in that last turn, John rather decisively slaughtered the last of my units; he couldn’t claim any objectives, but he’d tabled me and gotten the automatic victory. At game’s end, I had killed one unit (the Berserkers), three vehicles (the Vindicator, and both Rhinos), munched through most of the Plaguemarines…and not much else.

Turning the Tables
There were two glaring mistakes I made in this game, which ended up being far closer than it really ought to have been given how foolishly I had screwed up. My first big mistake was choosing to deploy my starting Heavies and HQ on the objective – the one place on the board that was *guaranteed* to attract John’s units. I’d have been far better off deploying my forces into one or two firebases to either flank, well away from the Fortress, but with clear LOS to nearly everything within. That at least would have forced John to make some decisions about what he was and was not going to do with his vehicle rush.

Second, I completely flubbed the Reserve rules for the scenario. Instead of having ALL my firepower set-up and available in Turn 2 (moving in on Turn 1 as per standard Dawn of War rules), with John’s army out in the open after his first turn movement and ready to be slaughtered well outside assault range, I misunderstood the scenario rules and kept units in traditional Reserve. As it was, only the fact that I rolled so badly on my Reserve rolls gave me any shot at a draw at all – it meant that I was able to keep moving units onto the table and frustrating John’s attempts to secure an objective right next to my entry-point.

Perhaps if I had a more aggressive, assaulty army, a traditional Reserve would have been in my favor. But with a shooting-dependent list like the Tau, I desperately needed to have as much firepower as possible from the earliest possible moment, and my inability to do basic eighth-grade level reading comprehension led to some Epic Fail on my part.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Game 3)

Opponent: Chris (Tyranid Horde). Although Chris knew that a Tyranid Horde list wasn’t terribly optimal under the 5e rules, he was a die-hard Buglover and wanted to field a ton of bugs. I admit that I was somewhat curious to see if I had the firepower to stop a Tyranid bug-wave, and this game gave us the chance to test things out.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • Hive Tyrant with 2+ armor, wings and Scything Talons
  • 1x 10 Genestealers with BROODLORD and Feeder Tendrils
  • 3x 10 Genestealers with Scuttlers and Feeder tendrils
  • 2x 20 spinegaunts
  • 1x 14 hormagaunts with toxin and adrenal glands
  • 1x 5 Tyranid Warriors with +WS+I, leaping and the kitchen sink
  • 1x 4 Tyranid Warriors with the same
  • 2x Zoanthropes with Warp Blast

Mission: “Onslaught” Tournament Scenario with Pitched Battle (12” in) deployment. Each ‘corner’ of the table had to have one objective in it, with no objective closer than 8” to any table edge or other corner (basically, each of four objectives was in the center of each corner of the 4’x6’ table). As a secondary objective, one Troops choice in your opponent’s army (nominated by him) was worth bonus mission points if killed.

Terrain: A pair of tall (12” high) towers with a reinforced gantry/cat-walk between them on my right flank was the perfect location for me to set-up some units – and one objective. The height would make it even harder for the Tyranids to assault me. Some industrial piping and low ruins completed the terrain on my table edge. Chris’ table edge had some large, LOS-blocking hills (each with an objective), and some industrial tanks. A few sparse bits of jungle terrain did nothing to block LOS in the middle of the table, but one such bit of jungle scrub on my left flank included the fourth and last objective.

What happened?
Chris won the roll-off to set-up and move first (the third time in a row in this tournament that I lost that roll-off). He dropped a unit of Spinegaunts behind each massive rocky hill, effectively capturing two objectives for the Tyranids unless I went over to his board-edge to dig them out. He also placed Warriors, Tyrant, Zoanthropes, and Hormagaunts, but kept all his Genestealers off the table, intending to outflank with them. I responded by putting a unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides) and Scouts (Pathfinders) on the 12”-high-off-the-table gantry/catwalk, and spreading out the rest of my forces in/around cover in the middle of my deployment zone, well away from either table-edge.

In the first turn, Chris moved up with everything he had deployed, save the Spinegaunts (who lurked on objectives), and I responded by Markerlighting and wiping out his brood of Hormagaunts and one of the Tyranid Warrior broods. I also created a “Transport Wall” on my right flank in case of possible Genestealer outflanking, and fired the rest of my heavy guns into a Zoanthrope…doing nothing, as it made every cover save. Oh, well.

Chris picked his jaw off the floor, and reserved one of his four units of Genestealers onto the table, right up against the Transport Wall I had created on my right flank. In my turn, I dropped the Hive Tyrant, cleaned off all the Genestealers on the right flank, and reduced the Tyranid Warriors to a mere two, thinking I still had another turn of shooting to deal with them. Foolish me for not having read my opponent’s army list more carefully, as the LEAPING Tyranid Warriors made it into the safety of close combat with one of my Troops units…and the silly beggars refused to run. Two more units of Genestealers also flanked onto the table, well out of assault range on my left flank.

I shredded the fire-support (Zoanthropes), and loaded up two units of the Brave (Fire Warriors) on Transports (Devilfish) to go evict some Spineguants from objectives on the far side of the table. With very little else to shoot at, I spent the next three turns (4-6) killing Genestealers (and Broodlord, when he finally appeared) at my leisure, dropping the last two Tyranid Warriors, and tank-shocking Ld5 Spinegaunts off their objectives. The final score after six turns was 3 objectives to none, with Chris having only two Genestealers left on the table; by contrast, I had lost just two Troops units and my (perhaps suicidally brave?) HQ in total.

Turning the Tables
With almost no cover on the table, and with his huge advantage in close combat Chris would have been far better off rushing me with everything, instead of the piece-meal approach he took. Had he set up and moved with three units of Scout-Moving Genestealers, plus infiltrating Genestealers, plus Hormagaunts, plus two units of Leaping Tyranid Warriors, plus a winged Hive Tyrant, PLUS two units of Spinegaunts, he would have very handily swamped me with targets in the first few turns and eaten me for lunch. Instead, four units were placed into Reserve, and two were given objective-holding-duty, thus nullifying them all as a real threat, and I dealt with them at my leisure after shredding the mobile threats in the first few turns.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Postscript)

The quality of armies and painting, and the caliber of game play at this tournament was very high – I admit being a bit surprised at how competitive the environment was for what I had thought was a relatively casual tournament and venue. However, given the clubs in the region, and the sponsors and organizers of this tournament, I’m not too surprised – there were representatives from a number of very hard-core Northeastern gaming clubs in attendance, including the Warmongers of NYC (of which I suppose I am now a reserve member, given how little time I can find to game anymore).

I admit to being a bit unhappy with how poorly I did in my second game, but I was very pleased with the gaming skill, maturity, and knowledgebility of the people who attended. I placed in the middle of the pack out of about fifteen or sixteen players in attendance, and was generally happy by how well my army could do. I also noted how heavily mechanized everyone was (Tyranids excepted), and even saw a few rather nasty “Alpha Strike” lists, including one IG list chock-full of Vendettas and Hydras that promised all kinds of pain to those that faced it.

My first opponent, Jim, ended up winning the Player’s Choice for his amazing Sisters-of-Battle army, and my second opponent John was the eventual tournament winner. Ah, well, I’m glad that my total annihilation was helpful, and John was certainly nice enough about it.

Philosophical Musings:
After another tournament with my Slann/Tau list, and having had a repeat of the frustration that comes from trying to shoot down Plaguemarines when they get armor saves and Feel-no-Pain saves, I immediately remodeled my Ranger (Crisis) Suits to have Missile+Plasma combinations. I also dug out and cleaned up the Kroot-equivalent conversions I put together years and years ago, and which were actually the original inspiration for my Slann army theme. In 4e, of course, Kroot were pretty lousy, and as a result, I never finished up my conversions, nor painted them. But now in 5e, they may have some more uses, and I think it’s worth experimenting a little in the coming months to see if I can ‘tweak’ the army list design of my Slann a little to make that happen.

In the meantime, however, I’m headed to another tournament, this time back down south of the Mason-Dixon, courtesy of the Inner Circle gaming club of Maryland. Having had three tournaments (and one gaming event) in a row with the Slann, I’m going to start fresh with something complete different – mechanized Sisters of Battle. I’ve had the miniatures, courtesy of my younger brother and some fine fellows at the Millenium Gate Messageboard, for many years now, but I haven’t played them since the days of 4e when I ran them with no transports and plenty of bodies on foot. This will be a change, and I’m looking forward to learning how to make the adjustment, in the steep-learning-curve environment of a tournament. Huzzah!

Until next time, then.