Friday, January 1, 2010

Retrospective: 1 August 2009 Counteroffensive VI (Intro)

After having missed the previous two of the Millenium Gate forum’s Counteroffensive events at Dream Wizards in Maryland, I was really looking forward to making it to the 2009 event. Unlike previous years, I brought only one army list, but in an astounding change-of-pace, that army was (mostly!) painted – my “Slann” themed Tau Empire list.

In this retrospective, I look at some of the opponents I faced, and some of the lessons I learned, playing with the Tau Empire rules in 5th edition.

What did I bring?
I played several 1500 point games, and one 2000-point game. My 2000-point army list can be found here, but for 1500 points I simply removed one Hammerhead, one unit of Fire Warriors, and one unit of Broadsides. I also made room for Flechette Dischargers on the Devilfish for my first game against Kenton, by removing several Leadership upgrades to my Troops choices.

  • 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

  • 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

Retrospective: 1 Aug ’09 Counteroffensive VI (Game 1)

Opponent: Kenton “Tigger” Kilgore with his Dvergar Steeljacks “Space Dwarf” army (an Ork codex proxy). Kenton is of course the author and proprietor of the Jungle , one of the longest-running 40K fansites on the internet, and a friend of many years. He had been putting together his “Space Dwarf” army for a while now, and was testing out the list that weekend.

Army: 1500 points
  • 1x 30 Sluggas
  • 1x 30 Shootas
  • 1x 24 Grots, plus Herders
  • 1x 9 Nobs, led by Painboy
  • 1x 15 Burnas
  • 1x 5 Meganobs, led by Warlord
  • 1x Battlewagon
Mission: “Seize Ground” (objectives) and Pitched Battle (12” deployment)

Terrain: A circle of low hills around three edges of the board, with one long trenchline along my long board edge. Several smaller hills and rocky features offering scant cover in the middle of the table, which was otherwise a wide-open killing field. The four objectives were: on either end of the trenchline in my set-up area, on a hill on Kenton’s far right flank (my far left), and on a small hillock in the center-left area of the tabletop.

What happened?
Also read Kenton’s take on the game at the Jungle.

I set up first, placing my single unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides) on a rocky hill on my far left flank, supported by Scouts (Pathfinders), Ranger (Crisis) Suits, and one unit of the Brave (Fire Warriors). I had a similar setup, only without Hornsuits (B-sides), on the far right flank, and two units of the Brave (FW) and the HQ suit in the trenches in the center – thus starting the game with 2 objectives. Kenton responded by setting up most everything BEHIND the hill on his far right (my far left) with one objective marker, with Sluggas screened by Grots in the open, ready to rush across the open field.

I retained initiative, and with very little visible to my firepower, shot up a few Grots and Sluggas, and moved the Scout transports (Devilfish), now filled with Brave (Fire Warriors) up each flank. Kenton rammed his Battlewagon across the table, and I failed to kill it on the top of the second turn – but his MegaNobs fell short on their assault on my Hornsuits (B-sides) because they shot up their target unit…and I removed the models within their assault range.

I rewarded Kenton by blowing up his Battlewagon at point-blank range with the Hornsuits (accepting the inevitable beat-down from Meganobs that was sure to follow), and then spent the rest of Turn 3 doing a driveby of his other units, wiping out his Shootas and Sluggas. The fact that his Shootas had lost 1/3 of their number by assaulting a Flechette-enabled transport in the previous turn helped a lot. The following turn saw the Nobz and Painboy eat a mouthful of pulse-rifles rapid-firing from close range, while my Ranger (Crisis) suits chased after Grots with flamers.

The Meganobs screamed in frustration, but by Turn 5 were whittled down to just a badly wounded Warboss, who assaulted into the trenchline in my center, only to be beat down by my Mighty Slann-Fu. Fear me, for my Slann-Fu is mighty! The game ended there, with the surviving Painboyz, and the completely untouched (and totally out of position the whole game) Burnaboyz slinking off to lick their wounds. I had lost a grand total of one unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides), and one unit of the Brave (Fire Warriors).

Turning the Tables.
This was a pretty clear example of why everyone in 5e has mechanized their army lists. Foot-slogging armies, particularly assault foot-sloggers, get shredded and/or outmaneuvered. Kenton would have done a good deal better with more Battlewagons, and/or more shootas. At least then, he would have been able to throw a mass of firepower downfield as he advanced…and with a second Battlewagon, either the Painboy’s Nobs, or the Burnaz, would have been able to make it into my lines. Once he gets to me, of course, my units evaporate – but until then, I was able to isolate individual units and wipe them out one at a time.

Retrospective: 1 Aug ’09 Counteroffensive VI (Game 2)

Opponent: Mike “St. Omerville” (Wraith-heavy “Iyanden” Eldar) My long-time whipping boy, Mike had managed to convince himself over many years that I was unbeatable. Just because he’d never yet managed to beat me was no reason to think such a silly thing, but you know how some people are. I figure at least part of the reason is that Mike has a fondness for using wildly wacky lists, and so far as I can remember, will test the latest iteration against me to see how effective they are. So far the answer has been: not so much. At any rate, he had been trying for a while to make his foot-slogging, Wraith-heavy Iyanden list work, and so we gave it a go at Counteroffensive.

Army: (1500 points)
  • 1x Farseer with Fortune and some other fiddly bits
  • 1x Yriel (special character)
  • 1x 10 Wraithguard, led by Warlock with Conceal
  • 2x Wraithlords with Missile Launcher and Scatter Laser (each)
  • 2x 10 Dire Avengers in Wave Serpents

Mission: “Seize Ground” (objectives) and Pitched Battle (12” deployment). Two objectives were on Mike’s side of the table, near the center, and two objectives were on my side of the table, one on either flank.

Terrain: Loads of low-level jungle terrain everywhere on the table. Essentially, there’s no terrain that completely blocks LOS anywhere, but pretty much everything getting shot at, or assaulting, will be faced with doing so through cover.

What happened?
I set up first, and split my army into two halves: 2 units of the Brave (Fire Warriors), one of Scouts (Pathfinders) and unit of suits on each flank, and my third unit of suits (in this case, Ranger/Crisis Suits, with the HQ) in the center. Mike set up his Wraithguard as far forward as possible, in the middle of his deployment zone, with Farseer and Yriel joined to the unit, and two Wraithlords standing behind. Both units of Dire Avengers began off the table, in reserve.

My firepower was decent in the first turn, and with the markerlights taking away cover saves, I was able to kill 3 Wraithguard and wound a Wraithlord. Mike did no damage, and simply moved up. In turn two, I killed the wounded Wraithlord, but with Fortune now up, only took out one Wraithguard. Mike promptly tanked his Fortune psychic test, leaving his Wraithguard unit without Fortune in turn 3, and reserved in one Dire Avenger unit.

I unloaded both transports of the Brave (FW) at rapid-fire range, and between them and the support fire from further back, wiped out all the Wraithguard, and left both HQs badly wounded – doing the Happy Dance all the while. Mike gritted his teeth, brought his second unit of Dire Avengers in, and promptly wiped out three of my four units of the Brave (Dire Avengers) – Yriel and the Seer shredded one, one unit of Dire Avengers blew away a second, and the last Wraithlord waded in with flamers and close combat and shattered the third. I was down to one scoring unit!

I spent the fourth turn trying to drop Yriel and the Seer with firepower, but Yriel managed to survive the torrent of remaining firepower, wiping my last scoring unit in close combat, then diving into cover to avoid being shot by my suits. In the last two turns (5 and 6) I managed to kill both Wave Serpents, and kill 16 of 20 Dire Avengers with my suits, even as the surviving Wraithlord hung back and took pot-shots at my Scouts (Pathfinders), but I simply could not wipe out the gone-to-ground Dire Avengers – I simply didn’t have the firepower, and as they were gone-to-ground near an objective, they didn’t need to move, and wouldn’t flee. Mike was left with Yriel, four Dire Avengers, and a Wraithlord – but also the victory.

Turning the Tables.
I thoroughly underestimated the combat prowess of Yriel, and what I should have been doing from the start was very simple: concentrating fire on Wraithguard until they dropped. My army is designed to suck up return fire and essentially ignore it, and ignoring the Wraithlords is something I should have been doing from the start. In all, the one surviving Wraithlord killed a grand total of 12 models over 6 turns, an average of 2 per turn. Yriel was wiping out 12 models per assault phase, and needed to be put down – and I didn’t realize until much too late that the Wraithguard were simply a Yriel-delivery-system.

Too, I completely ignored the mission objectives, to my detriment, and sacrificed too many of my scoring units in order to get rid of enemy units. I should have been using the transports to block counter-assaults, keeping other scoring units further back (keeping in mind that Eldar can fleet-of-foot!), etc.

Third, I thoroughly flubbed the order in which I was firing weapons at the ablative-wounds-Wraithguard unit. I should have been whittling them away with Pulse Rifle fire FIRST, and then following up with insta-kill weapons that would have to be allocated to HQ models LATER. The fact that I was doing things in reverse simply meant that Mike was taking all the nasty shots on expendable Wraithguard, and taking armor saves on the less destructive S5 hits.

In the end, with a Tau army list, it’s all about Target Priority. Kudos to Mike for reminding me of that.

Retrospective: 1 Aug ’09 Counteroffensive VI (Game 3)

Opponent: Bryan “Justiciar”, a.k.a. “Lawman” (Infantry Imperial Guard). Another long-time Millenium Gate resident, Bryan was testing out his new Imperial Guard army, and it was substantially large. Although fielding three Heavy Support choices as support vehicles, the majority was dudes with guns, and a ton of heavy weapon support, too. As a long-time Guard player myself (dating back to 2nd edition), I knew what kind of hurt such a list could put out, and wasn’t sure my Slann could handle it. But heck, it’s just a game – why not give it the old one-two and see how it turns out?

Army: (1500 points)
  • 1x HQ Command with Meltas, including Kell and a Fleet Officer (-1 to reserve rolls)
  • 2x Lt Junior Command squads with Grenade Launchers and Power weapons
  • 3x IG squads with meltas
  • 1x IG squad with plasma
  • 1x Specialist squad with demo charges
  • 2x IG squads with Autocannon & Plasma
  • 2x IG squads with Missile & Grenade Launcher
  • 2x Heavy weapons squads with 3 Lascannons
  • 2x Leman Russ tanks
  • 1x Griffon
Mission: “Annihilation” (Kill points) and Dawn of War (18” apart and Nightfight rules in the first turn)

Terrain: High wall with ramparts near a large hill on the far left side, an intact building on the far right flank, scattered ruins in an arc around the other edges of the table, with two small copses of trees in the very center of the table.

What happened?
For some odd reason, I chose to go second – I think my thinking was that I wanted to respond to Bryan’s deployment. I also chose to split up my 6 Ranger (Crisis) suits into three teams of two, instead of the two teams of three models I usually use. Bryan chose to set-up nearly all of his infantry-heavy army on the wall with ramparts, and on the hill nearby, in a castle set-up, as follows:
  • Rear: Command Squad (out of LOS behind the big wall)

  • Center Left (hill on left): IG+Plasma & Lt Squad in rear, IG+AC, IG+ML in front
  • Center Right (wall/rampart): 2x3 Lascannon, IG+AC

  • Front of both: 3xIG+Melta, IG+ML, Demo Charges, Lt Squad
I deployed two units of the Brave (Fire Warriors) in heavy cover on my right flank, with the HQ suit out of LOS behind them. I used their Scout move to put both units of Scouts (Pathfinders) into the empty building on Bryan’s left flank (my right), instantly giving them a great LOS and amazing protection in the process! (note that I’ve since realized that the “scouts” rule does not allow units to set-up, irregardless, in a Dawn of War mission)

Bryan’s opening round was non-existent due to the Nightfight rules, and in response I markerlit and wiped out a Lascannon heavy weapons team, and shredded his AC squad on the wall, who went to ground so as not to risk fleeing.

None of Bryan’s tanks came onto the table from Reserve, but my Hornsuits (B-sides) clambered in to help. His firepower continued to be ineffectual (much of it was aimed at the building my Scouts (Pathfinders) were hiding in, to no effect), but I wiped out his second Lascannon heavy weapons team, and hurt the Missile/Grenade squad at the front of his castle set-up.

Bryan had been moving several of his foot-infantry units (the five in the front of his castle setup) forward toward my deployment zone this whole time, and in turn three, all three of my two-man Ranger (Crisis) suit teams dropped in, bracketing three clusters of his infantry units and flaming them to kingdom come. Two units of the Brave (Fire Warriors) also walked on from reserve, within rapid-fire range of two other IG squads, and backed up by other units already in position, Bryan lost seven units in a single turn. They had been delayed by the Fleet Officer, but arrived at just the perfect time! At the top of the fourth turn, Bryan had just four infantry units remaining, two of them badly hurt.

At just this time, all three of his Heavy Supports rumbled onto the table, and between them blew away three Ranger (Crisis) Suits. I responded by blowing up two vehicles (the Griffon and one Leman Russ), and turning the other into an immobilized, weaponless hulk. I also wiped out or forced to fall back every last infantry model on the table, save the (mostly hidden) Command Squad. One fleeing plasma-gunner killed a fourth Ranger (Crisis) suits as he fled, but with only a Colonel (and squad) and a Leman Russ hulk, Bryan conceded in Turn 5. In all, I had racked up 17 kill points, and Bryan had racked up 2 – the two pairs of Ranger (Crisis) suits.

Turning the Tables.
As a pointed out to Bryan, one of the first things he could have done in a Kill Point mission was to merge his 8 infantry squads into two big squads of 40 models. That would have increased the resilience of the squads as a whole, while reducing the kill points they gave up (to 2 total).

There was also the inexplicable decision to leave a perfectly good building in his own deployment zone…unoccupied! All this did was to allow my shooty units to occupy it and close the doors – turning the building into an immobile transport with far too many fire points for his comfort.

Finally, there was the very strange decision to keep all his infantry units bunched up when he KNEW that I had flamers on all my deep-strike capable suits. It’s not like this is an army list that Bryan is unfamiliar with, because he has a Tau army.

Then again, this was one of the very first games (if not the very first) that Bryan was playing with Imperial Guard. I’m given to understand that he did much better in the next few games he played.

Retrospective: 1-2 Aug ’09 Counteroffensive VI (Special Scenario)

Set-up: Pat “Sho-T Bighed” Eibel and Mike “Ryjak” (Tyranid Bug Swarm). Bringing back an oldie-but-goodie, Pat had organized a “Bug Hunt” scenario for a number of Millenium Gaters. We were invited to his fancy digs, and after much munching and schmoozing and telling of tall tales, we moved down to his spacious Gaming Room where a massive city-fight table had been laid out, chock-full of terrain…and slimy bug entry points. Each of the four allies-by-circumstance fielded 900 points of models (troops and HQ only, max 2 HQ choices and 6 Troops), and tried to kill as many bugs as possible before being overwhelmed.

What happened?
For Pat’s writeup, and the scenario rules, check out his write-up at the Jungle:

I ended up fielding:
  • 1x Shas’el with Flamer and Airburst, Multi and Target-lock
  • 2x Bodyguard with Flamer, Missile, and Multi
  • 5x 12 Fire Warriors
I took great pleasure in not placing dead last – basically, I found spots near (and behind) Kenton’s Space Dwarf models, held my finger down on the trigger, and sprayed until the Bugs ate me. I ended up with just over 100 “points”, but Kenton’s Ork-proxy army was the clear winner: he simply set up his models in cover and tore apart the Bugs as they assaulted (because as he was in cover, he got to throw loads of dice FIRST).

By the time we knocked off at some ungodly hour in the morning, Mel “Cambyses” and his DIY marine chapter “Emperor’s Wolfhounds” had gotten swarmed and munched, and the Plaguemarines fielded by Bryan “Justiciar” were being slowly ground down. My clever plan of keeping near to the Orks meant that I had one last unit of Fire Warriors still alive, but the Space Dwarves were still going strong, having still about 1/3 of their original number, and racking up more points than the rest of us combined.

With a ton of models still on the table, however, an Apocalypse-scale model still to come on, and the hour getting late, it was decided that the Space Dwarves had given one heck of an accounting before being turned into recyclable biomass.

Retrospective: 2 Aug ’09 Counteroffensive VI (Game 4)

Opponent: Eric (Necrons). A Dream Wizards store local, Eric and his buddy were there to pick up a few weekend games during the Counteroffensive event. Eric was a brand-new 40K player, and had with him a very sizable Necron army that he was still working on. He was interested in fielding almost everything he had, so we threw down 2000 points of models, with me adding a few extra units to my 1500 point list to bump it up to points. A very upbeat and sporting fellow, we played a happily slow-paced Sunday morning game so that we could talk out his options, and I could introduce him to the Tau rules and special equipment.

Army: (2000 points)
  • 1x Lord with Resurrection Orb, and 19 Necron Warriors
  • 1x Destroyer Lord with Resurrection Orb, and 4 Destroyers
  • 2x 14 Necron Warriors
  • 2x 5 Scarabs
  • 1x 4 Heavy Destroyers
  • 1x Monolith

Mission: “Seize Ground” (objectives) and Pitched Battle (12” deployment)

Terrain: Two large terrain pieces on each of our deployment flanks, providing both elevation and blocking LOS – I had a stone tower (on my left flank) and a two-building multi-story complex (on my right flank), whereas Eric had a tall hills on his right flank (my left), and a chunky bunker on his left flank (my right). My side of the table was otherwise empty, save for a (very) small, (very) low wall in my middle. Eric had a mess of craters and small groves of trees providing cover all along his table edge.

With five objectives rolled for, we placed the four objectives on each of the large LOS-blocking terrain pieces in the table corners, and one right in the middle.

What happened?
Eric deployed one of the x14 Necron Warrior units behind the hill on his right, placed the x19 Necron Warrior (with Lord) unit in/around the terrain in his middle, and put both his units of Destroyers on his right flank, hidden behind the chunky bunker (it was quite substantial and very LOS-blocking). His other unit of Warriors were in reserve with the Monolith, and his two Scarab units were also held in reserve.

I spread my forces across the entire open middle of my deployment zone, with Scouts (Pathfinders) hunkering down in the terrain pieces on either flank, the Stoneship (Hammerhead) deployed on the roof (!!) of the building complex on my right with one of the Scouts units, and mixing Suit unit, Brave (FW), Suit unit, Brave (FW), etc in between.

To start the game, Eric stole the initiative, moved up his units, and I responded by doing basically nothing. Things got more interesting in Turn 2, when his Monolith and one unit of Scarabs deep-struck into the game; his Monolith landed right in front of the middle of my lines, shredded one unit of the Brave (FW), and took down a transport (Devilfish). A unit of Scarabs also dropped behind my lines, and looked menacing.

I responded by dropping all 14 Warriors (who promptly vanished, as no other Warrior units were nearby), and blew away the Monolith with massed Railgun fire. However, I had only enough firepower remaining to kill three of the five Scarabs, who promptly assaulted one of my units of Hornsuits (B-sides), taking them out of the game for a few turns.

In turn 3, I wiped out the Heavy Destroyers and pinned the large 20-man Necron Warrior (plus Lord) unit. Yes, every so often Ld10 critters DO fail a pin check. Freed of having to worry about that large unit, I then moved up the following turn and rapid-fired that large unit into oblivion, Tank-shocking his Destroyers out of the way with my last transport (Devilfish) in order to get a unit of the Brave (Fire Warriors) into position. To my great surprise, the Destroyers failed their Leadership test and promptly fled right off the table. To add insult to injury, my Hornsuits finally beat down the last of the Scarabs that had assaulted them, and were now ready and available to continue shooting.

By this point, Eric had only one x14 Necron unit, and a unit of Scarabs still in Reserve. The Warriors were in hiding (and he was one Necron model away from phase-out, anyway), and because I was going second, the Scarabs weren’t likely to contest anything. After talking this out, he conceded the game. I had lost a grand total of: one transport (Devilfish), and had scoring units on 4 objectives. Eric had one.

Turning the Tables.
Although Necrons are a hard list to play in the 5th edition, anyway, there were a few things that could have improved Eric’s odds a little. First, his decision to deep-strike his Monolith in the MIDDLE of my lines simply meant that all my army could see and shoot back the following turn. He might have wanted instead to deepstrike on a flank, using the bulk of the Monolith to block off LOS, and isolate one or two of my units in the process. Also, he chose to deepstrike with just a x14 unit, instead of the x19+Lord unit, which would have been more resilient.

Further, given that I had setup first, Eric would have been better off concentrating on moving everything up one side of the table, and flanking me, instead of trying to move up the middle (as he did with his walking unit of x19+Lord), and getting shot, once again, by my whole army.

Second, fielding two small units of DIFFERENT unit types simply meant that, once the unit had all dropped, they weren’t making We’ll Be Back rolls. Eric would have been better off using all Destroyers (or conversely, all Heavy Destroyers) instead of fielding a small unit of each, and just keeping the models all near each other (which he did).

Finally, splitting his units of Necrons Warriors and placing them in three very different places on the board simply meant that it was easy for me to isolate and destroy each unit piecemeal. His strategy of keeping his phase-out number of models “safe” just meant that I wasn’t worrying about them for the whole game; and the strategy would have worked better if he had a Tomb Spider back there with them, so that isolated and fully wiped-out Necron units could STILL get WBB rolls due to the Tomb Spider’s rules.

The pinning and tank-shock leadership failure were just bad luck, but that happens sometimes.

12 December 2009 Inner Circle Holiday Beatdown (Intro)

What did I bring?
I’ve had a large number of Sisters of Battle models (and vehicles) for some years now; back during the 4th edition days, I used them as a primarily foot-slogging force chock-full of Faith Points (see that old-school list at The Jungle). With the advent of 5e, the foot-slogging armies are no longer as viable, and after spending most of a year focusing primarily on my Slann-themed Tau army, I was ready for a change of pace. And boy, is this list below ever a change of pace!
  • HQ: Inquisitor Lord with Psychic Hood, Hammer of Witches, Liber Heresius, BP/CCW; retinue of Veteran + Melta (x2) and Chirurgeon
  • HQ: Palatine with Book of St. Lucius, BP/CCW; retinue of 5 Celestians with 2 Meltas; Immolator with Smoke

  • Elite: 5 Celestians with 2 Meltas in an Immolator with Smoke
  • Elite: same
  • Elite: same

  • Troop: 10 Battles with Veteran with Book of St. Lucius, Heavy Flamer, Melta, in Rhino with Smoke
  • Troop: same

  • Fast: 5 Dominions with 2 Flamers in an Immolator with Smoke
  • Fast: same
  • Fast: same

  • Heavy: Immolator with Smoke
  • Heavy: same
  • Heavy: same
This 1850 point list concept comes courtesy of YTTH, and is based primarily around the concept of spamming as many Immolators as possible: 10 in this list, with two Rhinos as well. It has literally no long-range firepower (the longest-range weapon in the army is a bolter), and requires that you get really up-close and personal in order to function, as I discovered over the course of the tournament. However, what it does have, it has in spades – a ton of really cheap units and transports that are effectively interchangeable (and to some extent, disposable), a ton of S5 flamer templates, a lot of speed, and now with 5e, units that can “hop-scotch” from vehicle to vehicle as needed.

And, because I really got to despise psychic powers whilst playing with Tau army lists, this list is about as anti-psychic-power as you can make: a Psychic Hood on a Ld10 Inquisitor that can cover the whole table (as opposed to the new 24” Marine version), plus Hammer of the Witches psychic power, plus the inherent 5+ Sororitas save against psychic powers. That and the heavy mechanization pretty much shuts down most psychic silliness before it can even start.

But this was all theory-hammer, because I’d never played with this list, or this configuration, before. With enough models and miniatures to pull it off, however, I put together conversions in my spare time, primed the vehicles (and some of the models that needed it) the night before, and me and my grey-primer-colored army was ready to roll.

12 December 2009 Inner Circle Holiday Beatdown (Game 1)

Opponent: Thomas Jackson (Mechanized Space Marines). Tom and I had played a game years ago, back during my Rebel Grot-themed IG army days (that’s back in the days of 3e, to give people an idea of how long it’s been). An enthusiastic fellow with a distinctive DIY Chapter (the Void Marines), Tom called me out on a challenge to start the tournament, and so I ended up facing a Space Marine army list that had been designed by very Stelek-like principles (YTTH) – lots of small units, lots of spam and firepower, and lots of mechanization.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Tigerius Special Character
  • 5x 5-man Tactical Squads (no upgrades)
  • 5x Razorbacks for Tac Squads (2x Las-Plas, 2x Twin-Las, 1x Twin-AssCan)

  • 3x Dreadnoughts with Twin-Lascannon and Missile Launcher
  • 3x Vindicators

Mission: 5-objective mission with 12” deployment zones. Based off the YTTH tourney concept (the tournament organizer, and many of the Inner Circle club members, are avid readers of the blog), the 5 objectives are placed in an “X” pattern in the center of each of the four corners, and in the very middle of the table. As ‘secondary’ points, each person could designate any five units in the opponent’s army that counted as “Kill Points” if destroyed at the end of the game. Finally, each player received a random selection of five (usually quite silly, and sometimes unattainable) ‘tertiary’ missions that each also earned a point. Thus, a player could receive up to 15 points per game (5 objectives, 5 “Kill Points”, and 5 tertiary objectives), although this was very unlikely.

Terrain: Nearly empty table, with some high LOS-blocking hills in three corners, some sparse woods and ruins providing cover along the perimeter, and a flat, open table in-between. A total killing zone.

What happened?
With no point in my using the Liber Heresius wargear item, we just went for a roll-off, which I won. I set up my units in two lines, right in the center of my deployment zone, while Tom responded by spreading his units across his entire frontage – Dreads holding the center (in cover, in the woods), with Vindicators to their left (his right), two Razorbacks hull-down behind a hill to the far left (his far right), and the other three in cover around the ruins to the right (his left). Tigerius jumped into the twin-AC Razorback, which was one of the three on the right (Tom’s left).

With not many other options, I moved up all 12 vehicles, popping smoke on the front six, and taking cover behind them with the other six. Per Tom’s suggestion, I also made sure to spread out the vehicles, to prevent his Vindicators from trying to target two at once under the “hole” of the large template. Tom adjusted the LOS of several of his vehicles on the flanks, and immobilized or killed four of my vehicles, forcing me to detour around them.

I chose to detour to the right, toward the bulk of his Troops (as opposed to trying to go after Vindicators). Several units scrambled between transports, with as many Melta-units as possible getting into mobile transports, and my remaining eight transports again moved up, blowing smoke and creating more cover. Tom’s second round of fire killed or immobilized four more, leaving me with just one Rhino and three Immolators still active!

At this point, I was deep in despair, but hey – it was a tournament, so I kept playing. Four units of Sisters made it to his lines (with several others dashing about between immobilized “bunker” hulks, and giant craters in the ground), and I suddenly saw just how nasty this army design of mine could be: I popped two of his Razorbacks, and the walls of the transports prevented Tom from easily reaching the units that had disembarked to blow up his vehicles. His third turn was wildly ineffective.

My fourth turn was a game-changer: flamers and meltas and a wildly lucky Hammer of Witches wiped out a unit of Tac Marines (and the Special Character Tigerius that accompanied them!), two Dreadnoughts were badly damaged, the third Razorback on the right flank was destroyed, and the remaining two units of Tactical Marines on that side were pinned, and forced to flee, respectively. Tom’s follow-up from Vindicators scattered wildly – he immobilized one of his own Dreadnoughts and blew up a number of his own marines, and the two remaining Dreadnoughts lacked the ability to chew up my 3+ armor save units in close combat. He had tied up two units of Celestians, but with the Palatine and her Book of St Lucius nearby, they weren’t likely to go anywhere – and they didn’t.

With my other units free to act, I spent the rest of the game maneuvering to protect my sudden change in fortunes. The Emperor continued to smile on the Sisters, as I was able to immobilize (and then destroy the weapons off of) two Vindicators with nothing more than flamers and bolters. The third was reduced to a smoking hulk, and that left Tom trying desperately to pick off just…one…more… Battle Sister at long range with his two remaining active units (the two Razorbacks on the far left flank), to prevent me from capturing three objectives to his two. We went a full seven turns, but with just two long-range weapons left, and unwilling to move his Razorbacks off the objectives he had captured, Tom simply wasn’t able to put enough firepower through the mangled wreckage of vehicles in the middle of the table to pick off enough of my models.

The game ended with a 3 objective to 2 victory for me – and had it ended on turn six, would have been a 3 to 1 objective victory (I had sent a few units to contest his objectives, which further diluted his firepower as he was forced to deal with them). I also had collected three “Kill Points” for several of those Voidmarine units and transports I had massacred on the right (his left) flank.

Turning the Tables.
Tom did have some abominably bad luck in this game, but one thing he did do that hurt him was cluster three of his Troops choices near the center of his deployment zone. Spreading out as he did really made it impossible for me to go after any large chunk of his army at once, but by clustering three Troops choices (and their Razorbacks) together as he did, he essentially presented me with just such a target. I think he would have been far better off spreading out his Vindicators AND his Dreadnoughts, and interspersing them with his softer, “crunchier” scoring units. Instead, Tom clustered his forces into four small batteries, and given that one (the two Razorbacks on the extreme left flank) was too far for me to get to, and that two more (the Vindicators, and the Dreadnoughts) really weren’t worth much, that meant….well, you see what I mean.

Second, Tom chose to stand his ground when it became clear in turn 2 which battery of units I was going after. Had his Razorbacks chosen to scoot back and away, while the rest of his guns continued to pound me, things probably would have gotten very messy for the Sisters. Instead, Tom chose to stay still and open fire with three more heavy weapons, which in the end managed to knock down only one more vehicle. The trade-off probably wasn’t worth it.

Finally, Tom also panicked rather badly in the fourth turn, and starting firing his Vindicators much too close to his own models, and paid the price when his Ordnance scattered onto his own units. He would have been far better off trusting to his other weapons to do the shooting at close quarters, and aim the Vindicators at safer targets not near his own. Much of what caused the swing of fortune in Turn 4 can be attributed to the damage that S10 friendly-fire Ordnance blasts did to the Voidmarines that were trying to slow the tide of Sisters.

12 December 2009 Inner Circle Holiday Beatdown (Game 2)

Opponent: Jason S. (“Gatling” Nidzilla) At first when I saw the mass of gaunts and big critters facing me, I was extremely pleased, and Jason conversely was very despondent when looking at the mass of Immolators facing him. I was even more pleased when I learned that his firepower maxed out at Strength 6 (off the Carnifexes), or S5 (off the Tyrants), and was really looking forward to a good old-fashioned bug burning.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 2x Hive Tyrants with +1 BS and two twin-Devourers each, and 3 Tyrant Guard each
  • 5x Carnifexes with +1 BS and two twin-Devourers each
  • 3x Zoanthropes with Synapse and Warp Blast
  • 3x 30-count Spinegaunts
  • 1x 25-count Spinegaunts

Mission: 5-objective mission with 12” deployment zones. Based off the YTTH tourney concept (the tournament organizer, and many of the Inner Circle club members, are avid readers of the blog), the 5 objectives are placed in an “X” pattern in the center of each of the four corners, and in the very middle of the table. As ‘secondary’ points, each person could designate any five units in the opponent’s army that counted as “Kill Points” if destroyed at the end of the game. Finally, each player received a random selection of five (usually quite silly, and sometimes unattainable) ‘tertiary’ missions that each also earned a point. Thus, a player could receive up to 15 points per game (5 objectives, 5 “Kill Points”, and 5 tertiary objectives), although this was very unlikely.

Terrain: A line of high hills and wooded glades lined Jason’s side of the table, with something similar, but sparser, on my side of the table. The center was completely bare save for a good-sized pond toward the left-center of the table (from my perspective).

What happened?
Winning the roll-off, I chose the side with less terrain, the easier to set up my forces, and not expecting Jason to win (or want to win) the Initiative, simply lined up my vehicles side-by-side in the center of my deployment zone, ready to rush him. Jason spread his bugs out fairly evenly, interspersing Carnifexes throughout, and making sure to have overlapping fields of Synapse from the Zoanthropes and Tyrants.

As expected, Jason declined to try stealing Initiative, and I was off to the races, shifting left with my entire force, trying to roll his flank. Jason responded by… backing up all his units on the left (his right flank), and advanced with everything else. Then he opened fire, and although the Zoanthropes all fizzled (Psychic Hood + Sororitas Save will do that), the SIXTY-FOUR twin-linked Devourer shots were truly terrifying. Through sheer dumb luck, only one transport was immobilized, and I continued on, pell-mell, a second turn. Synapse fields began to collapse as the Sisters got within range, and a Zoanthrope took a Perils of the Warp wound from Hammer of Witches, but then the Tyranids again retreated, and the devourers burped again…

This time I lost three transports. I unloaded in a massive Rhino wall and promptly failed every single Faith test I attempted; as a result, instead of annihiliating two Monstrous Critters, all I did was hill a double handful of Gaunts, some Tyrant Guard, and wounded a Carnifex – all far less damage than I had hoped. The continual retreat of the Tyranid flank meant that I simply wasn’t able to hit that many with all those Immolator templates, and although the Meltaguns took a toll, there were just too many wounds walking around for me to handle without a little Faith Point help.

And then the Tyranids responded, and now – they were firing with massed Devourers AND assaulting vehicles.

The Sororitas were still largely intact, but now increasingly bereft of mobility, and with fewer and fewer targets nearby – the Gaunts continued to retreat out of range, while the Monstrous Creatures continued to target vehicles that were isolated at the ends of my “Rhino Wall”, and relatively distant from the mass of my infantry units. After two turns of this (five game turns total), it was pretty clear that the Tyranids had won the day; I had killed a Hive Tyrant and its entire Guard, as well as a Carnifex and a Zoanthrope, and badly hurt three others (one Zoan, two Carnie), but the Spinegaunt units, even with Synapse fields collapsing left and right, just retreated to the one remaining Synapse field still active on the far side of the table, and despite my having killed well over half of the little buggers, three of the units were still technically active.

True, my infantry forces were also largely intact, but I had lost nearly all my transports (save two), and could only contest one objective – the surviving Gaunts claimed the other three. In all, a crushing defeat for the Sisters of Battle.

Turning the Tables.
Jason’s basic strategy of destroying my mobility and denying me objectives was perfectly executed, and his army list is designed pretty much specifically to beat Rhino-chassis and Chimera-chassis-heavy army lists. Try as I might, I can’t think of any real changes I could have made to stand a better chance against his list – at least, not in this kind of mission. True, some bad fortune (with Faith points) on my part, and some good fortune (with consistently above-average vehicle-damage rolls) on his part, also played a role, but on the other hand, a re-read of the current Tyranid rules makes it pretty clear that I shouldn’t have been able to “shut down” his Synapse creatures with my Sisters, as had been the case in the previous iteration of the Tyranid rules.

On the other hand, it’s not like my shutting down four of his five Synapse bubbles really had any effect at all on what happened in the game.

I absolutely went after the weaker of his two flanks (only two Carnifexes and one Zoanthrope), and the terrain in his deployment zone thoroughly hampered his retreats and ability to draw clear LOS even at mid-range with Devourers, so I think I did all right there. I threw down a textbook Rhino Wall, and controlled or contested three objectives for much of the game. I used all my Faith Points, and used them in the right situations (even if I ended up failing the roll for nearly all of them). But I was never at close enough range to try “herding” his gaunts into clusters and torching the heck out of them, as Jason simply kept retreating them all, and rushing into assault range with the Monstrous Creatures. Ignoring them and driving pell-mell after the little bugs would only have exposed me to Devourer fire and a counter-assault by a swarm of gaunts.

In the end, I think Jason’s rock simply beat my scissors, and without a rather dramatic retool of my list, or alternatively relying on him to make bad decisions, I’m not sure exactly how I could reliably stand a chance against his Tyranid list.

Of course, the "good" news is that the new Tyranid codex means that I probably won't face this particular list again. However, it's likely that I'll face something very similar. As a result, suggestions and opinions from readers are very much welcome.

12 December 2009 Inner Circle Holiday Beatdown (Game 3)

Opponent: Leigh B (Mechanized Chaos Marines) One of the FrAG (Frederick Area Gamers) club members, Leigh had been itching to play against me for a while, and this game gave us the opportunity to throw down. He was fielding a double-Lash Chaos army with serious Berzerker punch, and some very nice color schemes besides.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Slaneeshi Demon Prince with Wings and Lash
  • 1x Greater Daemon

  • 1x Chaos Sorceror with Lash, + 8 Berzerkers (including P-Fist), in a Land Raider
  • 2x 8 Khorne Berzerkers, including P-Fist, in Rhino
  • 1x 8 Raptors with 2 Meltas, including Slaneeshi Champion with P-Fist

  • 1x Defiler with additional Close-Combat Weapon (in place of flamer)
  • 1x Daemonically Possessed Vindicator

Mission: 5-objective mission with 12” deployment zones. Based off the YTTH tourney concept (the tournament organizer, and many of the Inner Circle club members, are avid readers of the blog), the 5 objectives are placed in an “X” pattern in the center of each of the four corners, and in the very middle of the table. As ‘secondary’ points, each person could designate any five units in the opponent’s army that counted as “Kill Points” if destroyed at the end of the game. Finally, each player received a random selection of five (usually quite silly, and sometimes unattainable) ‘tertiary’ missions that each also earned a point. Thus, a player could receive up to 15 points per game (5 objectives, 5 “Kill Points”, and 5 tertiary objectives), although this was very unlikely.

Terrain: There was a large multi-story LOS-blocking building on the left-most corner of my table edge, and a tall hill in the catacorner (Leigh’s far left corner) that wasn’t quite as high, but still enough to block LOS to Rhinos and Demon Princes. Otherwise, there were only a few sparse trees and low hills around the edges of the table that did nothing to block LOS.

What happened?
Leigh won the roll-off and chose to set up first, deploying all of his forces in and around the hill in his deployment zone, right up against the corner of the table. Although I was very tempted by the possibility of setting up out of LOS in the far left-hand corner of the table, and playing a ‘maneuver’ game in the middle, trying to grab objectives, I realized pretty quickly that Leigh had made a big mistake trapping himself in one corner of the table.

So instead, I deployed my entire force behind some trees on my right corner, directly opposite Leigh’s forces, and although I had to squeeze to fit all 12 Rhino chassis into the limited cover, I ended up stealing the Initiative anyway, so didn’t have to worry about being stuck behind wrecks or other such silliness.

Leigh had one turn to respond to my headlong charge before I was on him, and he fared poorly, choosing to move TOWARD me with all his forces, and managing to stop exactly one Immolator. On turn two, I was within melta and flamer range, and after neatly blocking up two hatches of the Land Raider, popped it and flamed the unit inside to below half-strength. I also killed the Defiler, trapped the two Chaos Rhinos full of Berzerkers between my own vehicles, and created a Rhino wall that (a) prevented any of his units from assaulting my soft, crunchy infantry, as well as (b) prevented any of my infantry from moving into assault range of his units if they happened to be hit with a psychic Lash.

I shouldn’t have worried. Leigh managed to do exactly nothing in the next turn, not with his Lash attacks (psychic hood + Sororitas save shut him down), not with his Vindicator (which scattered wildly), and not even after assaulting my Rhino wall with powerfists and Monstrous Creatures – because I had been moving at Cruising speed the previous turn, he simply couldn’t get in a good shot. I maneuvered more Sororitas units into range, and at the start of his third turn, he had only half a unit of Berzerkers, half a unit of Raptors, and his two Daemonic creatures left.

Now that the Rhino wall had slowed down, I began to lose a few vehicles, but the weight of numbers was entirely against Leigh’s favor. It took me two more turns, and there were some entertaining moments throughout (such as Leigh’s decision to forgo an invulnerable save on his Greater Demon, so that it would lose its last wound when a nearby vehicle exploded, thus allowing him to earn a tertiary objective point for having one of his own units get wiped out by exploding vehicles), but I eventually tabled his forces. In return, I had lost (or had immobilized) six of my transports, and lost just two infantry squads – both of them relatively expendable (against Marine Equivalent lists) Dominion squads.

Turning the Tables.
Leigh made two big mistakes in this game that really sealed his fate. His first was in choosing to ‘castle up’ in one corner of the table – it meant that he simply didn’t have a whole lot of room to maneuver, and with my initial charge, I was able to pin him quite neatly into his corner. Even had he gone first, as he had expected, it’s difficult to see what he could have done to change that set-up – he simply didn’t have very many units that could slow down my transports, and I had significantly more vehicles than he did.

Secondly, Leigh compounded his mistake by moving TOWARD me during his turn, instead of moving AWAY. By moving toward me, he not only made it easier for my transports to pick-and-choose where I wished to trap and destroy him, but he also closed the range against an army designed to kill things entirely at close range. Once he had done these two things, it was basically game over but for the fiddly details, and indeed, there was never any point during the rest of the game when Leigh’s forces really threatened to turn the tide of events. Even had he had a monstrously lucky turn (or two), it was too steep an uphill climb that he faced, tactically speaking.

12 December 2009 Inner Circle Holiday Beatdown (Postscript)

I enjoyed myself tremendously at this tournament, placing 6th out of a field about twenty. However, I did notice several things about the tournament that gave it a particularly interesting and unique flavor.

First, with the exception of the Chaos Demons and Tyranids, everyone was heavily, heavily mechanized. This is a club that has clearly recognized that 5e is a mech-friendly game, and the army lists reflected that.

Second, most of the players in attendance were proponents of the MSU (multiple small unit) style of play. The tournament mission rules, particularly as regards Kill Points, clearly favors this style of army design and play, but again, it was something that has been strikingly different from nearly every tournament and campaign I have participated in, in the current edition of 40K.

Thirdly, the mission itself was extremely repetitive. I think there were a number of changes that could be made to make the objectives less static and more fluid – allowing players to place two objectives each, for example, while the fifth remains static. As a result, I felt like I was literally playing the exact same game three times in a row. Because I played three dramatically different opponents and armies, I wasn’t bored, but I can easily envision having to play (for example) three Space Marine armies in a row, or three Mech Eldar armies in a row. Yeeagh.

Finally, the terrain was (shall we say) almost non-existent. These were tables that could have done double-duty as Fantasy tournament boards. Every one of the games I played basically had two or three very sparse terrain pieces in each deployment zone, and a big wide open middle of the table. If the missions aren’t going to be changing much, then at the very least the tables need to be wildly different to compensate. Ideally both.

That said, I very much enjoyed the gamers and games, and hope to make it down to Glen Burnie for some more of the Inner Circle’s (or the Frederick Area Gamers’) 40K events and tournaments.

Philosophical Musings:

I ended putting together a new Sisters of Battle army list because I was looking for something very different from my Slann-themed Tau list, and boy did I ever find it. The list I’m playing now is about as polar opposite from the Tau as I could find – instead of long-range pin-point heavy firepower, it has nothing but short-range fire, most of it of the template variety. Although they both rely on the MSU concept, the Sisters list takes that to the extreme, spamming Immolators and small five-man units of Sisters. And while the Tau basically have to take their lumps when it comes to Psychic powers, my Sisters list virtually shuts down the Psychic phase, and can deal out a little payback as well.

Of the two, I think the Sisters are far nastier, and will undoubtedly be far more exciting for many opponents to face. I’ll be giving out Kill Points like free candy in a standard KP mission, but whatever – I can realistically threaten to table most opponents in most games if they’re careless with deployment or gameplay. And they’re distinctive and different enough from most armies that they bring a very satisfying flavor to my own tournament (and gaming) experience.

In all, I’ll stick with the Sisters for a while. And if I find myself really missing the long-range firepower, that’s what allied Imperial Guard platoons are for, yes?

Until next time, then.