Saturday, April 3, 2010

27 March 2010 FrAG (Frederick Area Gamers) Tournament (Game 3)

Opponent: Marc (Space Wolves).  The entirely deserving winner of the Best Sportsmanship award, Marc is a boisterous, gregarious, hilarious, and also deceptively canny and skilled wargamer.  With Marc fielding a Space Wolf army capable of getting almost anywhere on the table it needs to, complete with some beautiful (albeit non-GW) Thunderwolf models, I knew that the game would come down to the first one or two turns of the game – could I stop the Thunderwolves and tie up the Drop-podders long enough to gain the advantage?  Or would the Space Wolves instead tear through my massed infantry?

Army: (2000 pts)
  • Wolf Lord on Thunderwolf, plus another character on Thunderwolf, in a unit of 4 Thunderwolf cavalry, plus two “ablative” wolves
  • Runepriest in Terminator Armor with Force Lightning ability
  • 1x15 Wolves
  • 1x5 Scouts with meltagun, plus Wolfguard with combi-melta
  • 3x10 Grey Hunters with two Meltaguns in Drop-pods
  • 2x5 Longfangs (6 Missile Launchers, 2 Lascannons total), each with Wolfguard champ
Mission: “King of the Hill” – 12 inch deployment from long table edge, and each player gets to place one objective marker.  Primary objective: have the most units (of any type) within 6 inches of the center of the table.  Secondary/Tertiary bonuses: wipe out all enemy Troops choices, and capture at least one objective marker.
Terrain: My third Cityfight in a row!  Both Marc and I had already fought on this table, so we randomly re-arranged the terrain with the use of 3d6 and scatter dice, resulting in a circle of area terrain and ruined buildings surrounding a totally open kill zone in the very center of the table, easily 20 inches across, and almost 48 inches wide.  We each placed our objective on the leading edge of a large piece of area terrain, overlooking the Kill Zone in the center of the table.

What happened? 
Marc chose to set up and move second, giving me the initial deployment.  I set up the bulk of my vehicles in the center of my deployment zone, surrounded by screens of infantry (which also neatly blocked up any Wolf Scout moves from my rear with their meltaguns!), and with one platoon deployed in some area terrain on the right, with clear LOS down a line of buildings and ruins that would give Marc his best approach (through cover) across the table.

As I expected, Marc chose to set up his Thunderwolves and wolves on his far left flank (my right flank), planning to use the line of ruins down that side of the table to screen his advance.  Two units of Long Fangs set up in and around a rickety tower in the far corner, coincidentally putting their heavy weapons out of range of most of my vehicles (including both my Executioner tanks), and the Drop Pods and Scouts naturally started in reserve.

I started the game by killing the “ablative” wolves, and one T-wolf rider, and blowing away half the squad of wolves nearby.  I also charged my Hellhound, and two Chimeras, directly across the field at the Long Fangs, popping smoke along the way.

Marc then dropped two pods full of Grey Hunters directly in front of my Executioners, spilling out and… tanking his to-hit rolls.  One of my two tanks was stunned.  The Long Fangs, meanwhile, mistook the Chimeras for Hellhounds and after a brief panic attack, managed to blow away one Chimera (Marc had persisted in thinking the Chimeras were additional Hellhounds, until finally realizing they weren’t when infantry models spilled out).  That still left another Chimera, which very nicely kept the Long Fangs quite busy for another two turns – the Hellhound turned around and went after the Drop-pods.

I had a very poor turn of shooting in Turn 2, which left me convinced that all was lost – I could not kill either unit of Grey Hunters, I could not kill the wolves, and I could not kill the Thunderwolf Cavalry.  All four units were easily within assault range of my vehicles and infantry.  I began making plans to try and mitigate a very decisive Imperial Guard loss… and then Marc flubbed four rolls in a row: one unit of Grey Hunters fell back out of assault range, the wolves fell back (and as a half-strength squad, could not rally), and the Thunderwolves fell short on their fleet AND assault rolls, ending up just 1 inch away from the safety of close combat.

That meant that one unit of Grey Hunters found itself taking on an entire Imperial Guard army on their own.  With no infantry units nearby to assault, the Grey Hunters bravely shot the nearest Executioner (and missed), and assaulted with Krak grenades (and blew up the tank, killing three of themselves in the process).  Despite the loss of the Plasma Cannons, things were looking up for the Imperial Guard.

At the top of Turn 3, I basically shut down the Space Wolves.  Both units of Grey Hunters were wiped out, after I made sure to drop the last two Thunderwolves, of course.  With all my surviving guns available to shoot, it was quite a gruesome mess – and the last Grey Hunter was actually stomped to death by Sentinels assaulting the sole survivor of the close-range fusillade.  With my infantry “screen” along the table edge still fully active, Marc’s arriving scouts found themselves without any good shots on vehicles, and after assaulting and wiping out a Guard squad, were themselves Hellhounded in Turn 4.  The last drop-pod had yet to arrive, and the full fury of (half of) my army was unleashed on the Long Fangs that had survived the crazed Chimera assault (and Meltas inside) the previous two turns.

With that, we ran short of time, and the game ended in a … draw!  Marc had just two Long Fang models left on the table, and a Drop-Pod (with Grey Hunters) still to arrive.  I had lost just two Chimeras, with the Lieutenants inside, one Guard squad (to the scouts), and an Executioner, but **neither** of us had any units near the center of the table.  Ay, caramba.

Turning the Tables
Ultimately, this was a highly entertaining and wildly back-and-forth game, with both Marc and I managing to roll some awe-inspiringly bad dice rolls (particularly in the second turn of the game).  Had either of us rolled better that second turn, things probably would have gone very differently in the game.  That said, here’s what each of us could have done:

Winning with the Noble Guardsmen: Again, the foreshortened game really hurt my rather slow-moving Guard army.  I had been assuming 5+ turns, and a tight (but doable) victory, moving at least four vehicle units into the center of the table, moving infantry units up to get within range for potentially helping in turn 6 (they had already moved to help capture the objective in Turn 4, having been out of range of the Long Fangs), and shooting up the last of the Long Fangs at the top of the next turn.  Even had the last Grey Wolves drop-pod come on and contested, they would have been just two units, and capable of killing only one of mine on the turn they arrived – which would have left me with three units contesting to their two.

Winning with the Evil Space Puppies: Marc made two decisive placement errors: first, he placed his Long Fangs very far away from the rest of the battle, and unable to range in on either of the Big Nasty Tanks (Executioners) that did so much damage to his army.  In fact, the Long Fangs basically wasted three turns shooting at Chimeras and Guardsmen; in this mission, they were largely expendable, and should have been focusing on bigger threats: those Autocannon teams (all neatly packed together!), the real Hellhound, or even one or more of the Leman Russ tanks.

Second, Marc placed his Drop-Pods almost directly in front of my Executioners.  They should have been placed more to the flank, to almost completely block LOS to his Thunderwolf cavalry and wolves – instead, I still had excellent LOS with both Executioners, as well as most of my infantry, and did significant damage to both units, even though I was not able to entirely kill them both.  What’s more, placing both pods further to the flank would have given Marc an additional piece of cover to hide behind just in case he fell short on his Fleet/Assault rolls… as he ended up doing (he needed to move 11 inches total on those two rolls, which is statistically well below average for fleet cavalry).

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