Friday, June 11, 2010

22 May 2010 “Planet Urr-Ass” Warmonger 40K Tournament (Game 3)

Opponent: George (Thousand Sons).  A cheerful fellow with a brightly painted army list, George told me that he had fond memories of having gotten beaten by me, many years previously.  I responded that it was more than a little likely that he would be returning the favor, and then we got to the grim/serious task of getting stomped like a rented red-headed bug into the ground by our Fearsome Foe.  To mix an idiom or three.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • Sorceror Lord with Lash, Force Weapon, Meltabombs, Mark of Slaanesh
  • 1x 9 Thousand Sons (including Sorcerer with Bolt of Change and Force Weapon)
  • 2x 10 Thousand Sons (including Sorceror with Wind of Chaos and Force Weapon)
  • 2x Rhinos with Extra Armor, Smoke, Searchlight
  • 1x 8 Thousand Son Terminators (all with different equipment)
  • 2x 2 Obliterators
  • Vindicator with Daemonic Possession
Mission: Spearhead/Capture & Control (corners deployment, and a pre-specified 4 objectives in this game)

Terrain: Cityfight – the same board I had faced Vinny in the previous game. An enormous low ruin dominated the center of the table, with two-story ruins on three of the four corners, and a huge (five-story) ruined building offset a ways from the fourth corner of that large center ruin.  The huge building happened to be in George’s corner in this game – he placed one objective on the top story, and one objective well off to the far side of the table.  I placed one objective on the bottom story, and the last one twelve inches away, in the middle of an open area between the huge building, the huge ruin, and some nearby ruins.

What happened?
The red dots indicate objective markers

George deployed his Obliterators and one unit of K-Sons on the upper stories of the large ruin in his corner, basically ensuring that he would retain one objective short of my Sisters crawling up several flights and beating up three separate (very resilient) units on the way up.  He deployed his vehicles in cover to their right (my left), hiding behind the mass of low ruins, with the Terminators in reserve, ready to Deep Strike onto the table.

With only one good line of advance around the ruins, and having already chosen to place my two objectives on that side and in the open, anyway, I piled all nine transports onto my right flank and hid them behind some convenient low ruins, ready to jump and scream forward at top speed.  My infantry support got ready to move and deploy in the first turn off to my left, gaining both high ground (to shoot over the huge low ruins in the center of the table) and the objective marker that George had placed well off to that far side of thet able.  Unless the Terminators deep-struck back there, or the K-Son Rhinos chose to cede the center (and two objective markers) to all my Immolators and Sisters, I was basically guaranteed one objective marker, as well.  The game would be a vicious brawl in the center of the table for the last two markers.

George got the first turn, but between the range and the cover, did basically nothing to me.  I set up my infantry Autocannon support as intended, and then punched my transports forward.  And here is where I lost the game.

In order to maximize the distance traveled toward George’s forces in his corner, I chose to send my four forward-most transports directly forward 12 inches.  This meant that three of them would be traveling through the side of the building they started the game hiding behind – in other words, they would be making difficult terrain checks.

All three vehicles failed the difficult terrain check.  I had basically lost 1/3 of my attack force in the very first turn – they wouldn’t get into range to do anything for another two turns, running all the way to try and keep up.  As a result, I was facing the entirety of George’s army with about 2/3 of mine.  It was a foolish risk, and one that I’ll be sure not to take in the future.  Simple rule of thumb with this kind of Rhino-(chassis)-rush army: take difficult terrain checks in second and SUBSEQUENT turns, after you’re already most of the way to your goal.  In the first turn, burn the one or two inches of forward distance you’ll lose, to guarantee the distance you’ll still be moving – and to maximize the number of targets your opponent still faces.

Foolish, foolish risk.

"I think we'll stay here and uh...guard the rear!"

George compounded my problems by rolling like a demon with his armor saves: about 50% better than average, for both Terminators and regular K-sons alike.  In the end, I hurt his army badly anyway, and it only highlighted just how much more damage I could have inflicted had ALL NINE of my transports still been mobile.

With only four Obliterators (and only one survived the game, the other three being whittled away by my Autocannons and chopped down by a solo Canoness with Eviscerator and Faith Points protecting her) to provide long-range fire, and without the close-range firepower that my Sisters could put out, the K-Sons took a real beating: the Vindicator did virtually no damage before being blown by a side-shot from Autocannons, and I was able to surround both K-Sons rhinos with my own transports, neatly blocking the K-sons within from disembarking on their own, and allowing me to deal with the two K-sons squads one at a time.

 "Please keep arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times!"
(Sisters and Arbites block all hatches and exits of the K-son Rhinos)

But between the amazing armor saves, and the early loss of 1/3 of my close-in firepower (to my own stupidity), I wasn’t able to fully eliminate any of the K-Sons units.  The game ended in a bloody draw, with each of us holding only one objective, contesting the two in the middle, and George finally able to gun down the rampaging Canoness in his multi-story building before she was able to climb up high enough to contest his “safe” objective.

I had killed all of the K-son vehicles, and the Sorceror Lord, although 25-odd K-sons still survived (all four squads were still technically operational, sadly).  In exchange, I had taken moderate losses: five squads of infantry and three transports, as well as my Canoness – and most of those losses were a result of disembarked infantry trying to keep K-Sons in their vehicles.  In terms of victory points, it was about as close to a draw as you can get – but in terms of Kill Points (the secondary/tie-breaker objective), it was a 5-9 minor loss for the Sisters of battle.  For want of three transports and the squads inside…!

Turning the Tables

Obviously, taking the risk I did in the very first turn was foolish – even with normal odds, a 50% chance of immobilizing one of my transports, as opposed to having all of them still operational (and nearly 12” further forward) is still a bad risk.  Essentially losing three at the start of the game, and losing the squads in side (effectively) for several turns as well, was just painful.  Given how the rest of the game went, I stood a very good chance of rolling the Thousand Sons had I had just a little more close-in fire support in the middle few turns of the game.  Instead, it was a bloody draw, with the tie-breaker going to my opponent.

So I’ll also take a quick look at what the K-sons could have done differently, had I not been an idiot and started the game in the hole. 

Objective Placement: Obviously, putting the objective marker on the top floor of a multi-story building was a genius idea for the K-sons, albeit potentially risky had the Sisters of Battle gotten to deploy (and move) first.  The risk was exacerbated by where I placed my two objective, basically forcing most of the game to play out in the largest open area on the table – which played to my strengths of mobility and close-range firepower.  That said, George’s decision to place his second objective marker WAY the way away from the rest of the potential action was also a good choice: it meant that he was basically guaranteed to grab and hold one of the two regardless of how deployment ended up.

Unit Placement: George placed his more static forces well: one unit of K-sons back far enough to hold the objective on top of the tall building, with Obliterators protecting the approach upward, and the K-sons still had range to harass any infantry units that came close enough to go for the two objectives in front of the building.  However, George didn’t seem to have any clear idea of what to do with the two Rhinos and Vindicator: they started the game off to one side, and chose to move FORWARD into the “kill zone” in the second turn, rather than back up further.  As a result, I was able to surround both of his Rhinos and basically block up the units inside for the rest of the game, leaving them at my mercy and crippling their tactical options.

The K-sons would have done better starting further back, forcing my transports to spend three (rather than just two!) turns moving forward into range of his everything, and then going after isolated and/or disembarked units of Sisters (and Arbites) as they saw fit.  Particularly once the Terminators came in, this would have meant that I would have been trying to deal with three units of K-sons (one of them Terminators!) stomping around and harassing my relatively far-more-fragile infantry, as Obliterators and Inferno Bolts blasted at me from On High.  Instead, I almost literally was able to deal with one unit of K-sons at a time, and one unit didn’t even make it out of their Rhino over the full five turns of the game.

Finally, George didn’t seem to have any good plan for his Vindicator – the thing took one potshot at my transports (doing no real damage to speak of) before getting hit in the side armor at long range by Autocannons and blown to bits.  Particularly once the middle of the field became a giant, swirling melee, with my infantry and transports at point-blank-range from his own forces, shooting into the middle of the fray was going to be potentially very dangerous for his own K-Sons.  However, the 13 front armor of a Vindicator (especially one with Daemonic Possession) is a real pain-in-the-patoot for Autocannons to deal with.  With no other real good options, the Vindicator would have been far more usefully employed “tying up” and harassing my inducted Imperial Guard, and very potentially contesting that fourth objective – the one far away from the other three, and held only by several (very soft T3) Imperial Guardsmen units.

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