Friday, January 1, 2010

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.

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