Friday, May 7, 2010

24 April 2010 FrAG (Frederick Area Gamers) Tournament (Game 2)

Opponent: Vaden “Hobbybreaker” (Space Marines).  Winner of the last tournament, the intense and deliciously sarcastic Vaden had earned his “Hobbybreaker” nickname due to some unusual circumstances that led to one of his (very unbalanced) opponents from that last tournament stomping out of the store mid-game in a huff, and subsequently place his (fully painted and converted!) army up for bid on e-bay, along with the rant about how he would never be playing Warhammer again.  “Hobbybreaker” indeed!  I had never played against Vaden previously, but he came with quality recommendations for being a good sport, and also a very good gamer.  He was fielding a fast and highly mobile Ravenwing-proxy army, using the Marine codex, led by none other than Khan (or at least, a proxy on a bike), a very different kind of list from his usual mechanized Imperial Guard.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • Khan Special Character, on bike
  • 5-man Command Squad with Storm Shields, Apothecary, and misc close combat gear
  • 3x 5-man Troop Bikers with twin meltaguns, and attached (6th-man) multimelta Attack bikes
  • 3x Rifleman (two twin-linked Autocannon) dreadnoughts
  • 3x Typhoon Landspeeders with Heavy Bolters
Mission: “Rogue Trader” special mission.  Pitched Battle set-up (12” deployment), with five objectives placed before deployment.  Primary mission is to capture the most objectives.  Secondary objective is most victory points, and tertiary mission is to kill your opponent’s most expensive HQ choice.

Terrain: One sewage treatment pool (and attached building) created both cover and some LOS-blocking in Vaden’s far-right (my far left) corner.  Otherwise, a moderate amount of trees and craters, and one low hill, provided plenty of cover, but no real way to hide out of LOS, throughout the table.  My side of the table had a crater, the sole hill, and some trees; Vaden’s side had the sewage treatment plant, some craters, and some trees, with some more trees and craters in the middle.  The objectives were mostly on ‘my’ half of the table, with only one on Vaden’s half of the board.

What happened? 
I deployed a unit of Scout/Pathfinders in a large crater in the middle of my deployment zone, with both Hornsuit/Broadside units behind them.  I started with Ranger (Crisis) Suits in the open, as I didn’t much worry about Vaden’s ranged weapons, and expected to kill his Riflemen straight off, and infiltrated and scouted both a unit of Slann/Kroot forward into woods in the middle of the table, and my second unit of Pathfinders into a crater in the center/right of the table.  As usual, both units of Brave/Fire Warriors started in reserve, but only one of them would have a transport to carry them onto the table out of reserve.

Closeup of my two of my Hornsuits (Broadsides), the MVPs of this game.
(picture taken by Chris "TheEC")

Vaden started the game with only the Riflemen on the table, all at the far corners of his deployment zone, in cover – everything else was in reserve.  He attempted to steal initiative, but failed, and I rewarded him by blowing up all three Riflemen (two in the first turn, and the third in the second turn).

Only two Marine units came out of reserve; one Biker unit pounced on my Pathfinders in the center-right, who were just a little too close to the right-hand-side table edge.  That was my fault, as I had known what the margins were during deployment and not bothered to be careful about things.  To my dismay, the Pathfinders refused to run from combat.

The other unit that came on was the Command Squad, plus Khan, who was just out of assault range on the other (left) flank.  I turned all my guns to deal with them, then learned that Apothecaries in the new Marine codex give their squad “Feel No Pain”.  And with the varied equipment in the unit, this meant that I was dealing with a unit with 3+ invulnerable saves, T5, and Feel No Pain.  Ruh, roh, shaggy. 

My whole army opened fire, and killed a grand total of… three bikers.  Khan, one biker, and the apothecary remained.  Vaden deep-struck in two Speeders, killed most of a unit of Crisis Suits with Typhoons (the survivor fled), killed a transport full of Brave/Fire Warriors (trying to contest an objective) with more Typhoons, and split-assaulted two units with Khan (Kroot) and the Command Bikers (full-size Crisis Suit unit).  And then, more bad news – the suits fighting the Command Bikers refused to run away.

Fortunately (for me), Khan had won his fight against the Kroot handily, and was now stuck in the open.  Similarly, the Bikers on the right had finally chewed through the Pathfinder unit they were eating (who had stuck around during my last turn before finally getting wiped in Vaden’s assault phase), and so I had targets.  Khan took a Railgun to the head, and the Bikers on the right… sucked up a ton of firepower and had an Attack Bike still survive.  Damn, but my heavy weapons fire was really sucking it up.  To make things worse, the Command Bikers ate my last two Crisis Suits and were now free to hurt me at the start of Vaden’s next turn.

Bottom of 4 found one more Mariner biker unit flanking onto the table, where they shot up one of my two unit of Brave/Fire Warriors; the Attack Bike assaulted and wiped out the other unit of Fire Warriors, who had just entered the table the turn before but failed to shoot the guy dead.  The two Command Bikers ate my second and last unit of Pathfinders.  I was down to Broadsides, Hammerhead, and one unit of Kroot led by my HQ.  Despite all that heavy firepower, I only barely killed the last of the Command squad, and the Attack Bike.

 There's a reason why I call my version of Fire Warriors, "The Brave".  
Note that I didn't call them "The Wise", or "The Good-With-Odds"....
(picture taken by Chris "TheEC")

Vaden made only one small error at this point – he shot up my Kroot with a unit of Bikers before trying to assault.  I happily managed to tank the leadership test and fall back out of assault range, then rallied (due to the HQ still in the unit) and shreded that biker unit with my superior firepower at the end of the game.  But it’s a small consolation, as Vaden’s fourth and final bike unit reserved onto the table, and busily hid (as best they could) in the far corner, claiming the one objective that was on Vaden’s side of the table.  His three (still operational!) Speeders shot my Kroot to bits, and with no Troops units left, I had no ability to claim any of the four (!) objectives on my side of the table.

The Marines won the game, 1 objective to none.  I had the edge on Victory Points, as my HQ, one transport, and all my expensive Heavy Support units were still alive, and Vaden just had some cheap Speeders and Bikes left.  I also managed to deny him (by sheer good fortune) his Tertiary objective by keeping my HQ alive with cover saves, whilst killing his HQ units quite decidedly dead.  A very tight game all around.

Turning the Tables.
In a game like this, and against an army list like Vaden’s, I had no business spreading units out across the table willy-nilly.  I should have deployed in a layered castle set-up, with Crisis Suits seeking as much cover as possible in the crater in my deployment zone (where they would have gotten cover saves against Typhoons), Pathfinders hiding between or behind my Broadsides, several inches separating every unit from each other, and a “bubblewrap” of Kroot and drones and vehicles protecting the whole shebang.  Even with average rolls, I was going to kill only about 4 of the 6 bikers in that command squad (including Khan in that total of six), so finding a way to mitigate the assault was my best bet.  However, I absolutely failed to do so, and lost more units to biker assaults than I really ought to have.

You have almost no template weapons, and lots of speed?  Okay, then, 
I’ll be sure to spread out instead of castling up.  D’oh! 
(picture taken by Chris "TheEC")

With better deployment-in-depth, I think I would have done similar damage to Vaden, and preserved more of my own units (putting me in position to win, or at least tie) throughout the game.

This particular game also highlighted for me the potential benefits of fielding Piranhas in a Tau list – with the addition of several chunky (and fast!) vehicles, as well as the associated (and deployable) drones, I would have in theory been able to provide even more of a screen to my castle, and better protect it (and maneuver around it as well).  This game definitely provides a little extra incentive to finish modeling and painting the proxy Piranha models I’ve been sitting on for many moons now.

That said, Vaden didn’t exactly play an error-free game.  He started his Dreadnoughts on the table – basically giving me the chance to blow them up before any of his Bikes or Speeders showed up.  He should have started them in reserve as well, as with their 48” range they would have been easily in range of everything they wanted to be, as soon as they walked onto the board.

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