Friday, March 5, 2010

20 February 2010 Inner Circle High Stakes Jamboree and Pancake Breakfast (Game 3)

Opponent: Brett A (Eldar).  An extremely pleasant and earnest fellow with a bit of wry wit about him, Brett was fielding a beautifully painted Eldar army, which he apologized for as it was not (quite) fully painted.  See, as a long-time Eldar player and fanatic, Brett was still in the process of repainting one of his Dire Avenger squads, and thus the color scheme didn’t match the rest of his forces.  Unlike my army, of course, which was a more-or-less uniform shade of grey spray primer…

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 2 Farseers (Fortune only) and 10 Warlocks, all with Witchblades, in a Shuricannon Waveserpent with Spiritstones
  • 2x10 Dire Avengers including Exarch with Bladestorm in Brightlance Waveserpent with Spiritstones
  • 3x6 Fire Dragons in Scatterlaser Waveserpent with Spiritstones
  • 2x5 units of Rangers
Mission: Spearhead, Secure and Control (3 objectives).  4th-edition style Victory Points were also to be recorded, to help determine the overall tournament victor.

Terrain: After terrain placement, one corner (my deployment zone) had a mess of tall terrain: a large fortified bunker on the left, and a very high hill on the right.  Otherwise, a largely open ruin was in the corner to my right, a spindly tower and low hill in the corner to my left, and a low hill in the far corner (Brett’s deployment zone).  In all, an open killing-zone – and we placed all three objectives in a tight triangle right in the middle of that killing field.

What happened? 
Both Brett and I knew that this game was going to be a mess – and it would pretty much come down to the efforts of the Seer council.  Accordingly, we each made our Clever Plans.

I knew that the Eldar would want to go second (it’s an objective-based mission, after all), and that I really wanted to control where on the table most of the smackity happened.  If it happened in an area clogged with difficult and impassable terrain, that would really favor the fast skimmer army.  If it happened in the middle of an open field, then I’d have a better shot at really hurting him.

Brett, on the other hand, fixated on killing the one unit that could really throw a wrench into his plans: the Brother-Captain with the Incinerator.  His plan was simple: start everything on the table as far back as possible (as I had very limited long-range firepower), and not rely on having his units enter the table piecemeal from Reserve.  He placed his Rangers into the tower in one of the ‘neutral’ corners, in position to snipe at my units all game (they ended up doing nothing of interest, as we each expected).

In my first turn, I rumbled forward with a mobile castle of AV11 transports, popping smoke in the front and flanks.  Brett responded by moving forward 24” with most of his transports, creating a solid wall of skimmers in front of my mobile castle, and neatly blocking up my ability to get around the wall (and block up his exit hatches).  In doing so, however, the Eldar had ended up only inches from my lines – meaning that none of my units really had to disembark in order to get off shots.  I cheerfully shifted my units around 6 inches, making room for as many as possible, and opened fire on everything EXCEPT the already Fortune'd Seer Council – no point in forcing them to disembark if there was a possibility that they might choose not to next turn.

My shooting phase was spectacular, about twice as effective as I could have expected.  Two Fire Dragon Wave Serpents were destroyed, and a third lost its weaponry.  One unit of disembarking Fire Dragons was pinned, and I simply immolated the other with nearby immolators.  Brett was appalled.

He responded by isolating the Chimera holding my Brother Captain, which I had foolishly (stupidly!) placed in the front line, and on the far left-hand side of my transport wall.  Foolish, foolish me.  The Seer Council and a unit of Dire Avengers disembarked and three Wave Serpents proved just enough to crack open the Chimera my Incinerator-wielding Trump Card was hiding in.  One Bladestorm later, and the Incinerator was gone, and with it any hope I might have of an easy game.

The Seer Council then rushed to assault as many transports as they could – which meant two, at this point.

The next two turns saw me kill two more Wave Serpents and wipe out the last two Fire Dragon units, flaming them both into oblivion.  The Seer Council took a half-dozen flamer templates to the face two turns in a row, but four of them still survived, and the Dire Avengers sought safety in close combat with my Sisters.  I had one model survive the initial assault in turn 3, and ended up having to turn the assault into a giant swirling mess in the middle of the table, simply to prevent the Dire Avengers from re-embarking on a Wave Serpent and flying off to capture objectives later in the game.

Had the game gone longer, there’s no telling what might have happened.  I had killed a significant portion of Brett’s forces, crippled his mobility (he had just two mobile transports left, and only one Eldar unit still above half-strength), and was busy turning his Seer Council into flamb√© – but was also running out of units and transports myself.  The Seer Council was no joke, taking down an average of two transports a turn, and without the mobility and flamer templates, my odds of dropping the Council were diminishing every turn.

However, all the maneuvering and careful strategery meant that we ran out of time, hitting the two-hour mark toward the middle of the fourth turn.  With the knowledge that he controlled the last turn, Brett did the smart thing – he ran Wave Serpents onto two objectives (one with Dire Avengers inside) and with the Dire Avengers in melee combat near the third objective, it was a victory for him: two contested (the giant melee, and the empty Serpent next to some Stormtroopers of mine), and one controlled (the Serpent with Avengers, and the only unit of mine close enough to contest having been tank-shocked off the objective).

It had been one of the most entertaining and fun games I’d played in a long time, and Brett was a top-caliber opponent, both in terms of game-mechanics and sportsmanship.  True to form, Brett was genuinely apologetic about how he had won the game, but honestly: it’s mechanized Eldar.  That’s how you’re supposed to play it, no?

Turning the Tables
This was a good game against a really good opponent, and he won by taking advantage of a few small mistakes that I made.

First, I put my Incinerator – my “trump card” against the Seer Council – in an extremely exposed location.  I should have put the Chimera transporting him in a much more secure location – in my back line, for example, or at least toward the center of my transport wall.  Even if this meant that the Seer Council chose not to assault immediately in turn 2, but chose to wait for an additional turn to guarantee not getting Incinerated, this would have played in my favor by giving me an additional turn to really put the hurt on the rest of his forces.

Second, I chose to use the benefits of cover AND to use Faith Points when one of my Celestian units was shot and assaulted by the Dire Avengers – without even thinking.  I had drawn shooting casualties from models out of cover (a wrecked vehicle), and again without thinking I chose to burn Faith Points to potentially cause more damage.  That was a double brain-fart.  There’s no way at all that I should have risked winning the combat – I absolutely wanted to lose the melee and get run down by the Dire Avengers, so that they would be Immolator-bait the following turn.  That, more than anything, lost me the game right there.  Instead, I miraculously pulled off a Hammerhand, and between the extra wounds as a result of wounding on 2+, and striking first because of being in cover, I ended up in a drawn combat instead of losing comfortably by two (or more).

As a result, I now had seven or eight Dire Avengers sitting on top of an objective, a giant melee blocking movement in the middle of the field, a still-mobile Wave Serpent nearby that could pick them up if they wanted to (or the option to Bladestorm or assault again if they wanted to) after they inevitably beat down the sole surviving Celestian, and a series of bad choices to make about what to assault and how to get around the damn melee to flame the Seer Council.  Ick.  Given my druthers, I would have just assaulted the Seer Council and tar-pitted them the rest of the game, and let the Dire Avengers try to do what they could against vehicles with armor value and Immolator templates.  Brett, being a good player, made sure I never had that option.

Finally, I failed to keep track of the time.  Better time-management might have resulted in more objectives contested, and a tie game instead of a loss.  After all, while Wave Serpents are great for tank-shocking units on foot off of objectives, they can only contest if another vehicle is already on the objective.

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