Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Retrospective: 6 August 2010 Counteroffensive VII (Game 1)

The Eibel Offensive
The desert planet of Auros IX has seen numerous conflicts, and much blood spilled upon its red sands.  The Imperial Guard regiment in the sector was sent to the ninth planet to investigate the possibility of survivors of a new enemy of the Imperium to the region, a splinter Hive Fleet that was engaged and (largely) defeated by the naval fleet that was making a routine sweep through the Auros sector.

Under the command of Commander Eibel, and accompanied by the infamous xenos specialist Inquisitor Vader, the small force scouted Auros IX and immediately upon finding signs of xenos drop-spores, began a standard search-and-destroy pattern around the landing site.  As they approached a long-abandoned Imperial mining camp, the sands suddenly erupted upward, and what appeared to be the core of the surviving xenos elements, led by a “Hive Tyrant” designee, rushed toward the Imperial units. 
Ally: Bryan (Tyranids).  As this was a huge mega-battle event, Bryan and I combined our Tyranid forces, minus a few points each, to face the combined might of Pat’s Imperial Guard.  I took Deathleaper and one Prime out of my list.  For this event, Bryan was fielding:
  • Hive Tyrant with dual twin-Devourers, and two Tyrant Guard
  • 2 standard Trygons
  • Carnifex with dual twin-Devourers in a Spore Pod
  • 2 Zoanthropes in a Spore Pod
  • 2 Hive Guard
  • 2 units of 8 Genestealers
  • 1 unit of 20 Hormagaunts
  • 1 unit of 4 Warriors
Opponent: Pat (Imperial Guard) had been rubbing his hands with glee at the opportunity to field as many of his tanks and heavy guns and other sexy Imperial vehicles as possible, and put down a truly massive 3000-point horde, heavy on armor and other nastiness:
  • Commander with Medic/Meltagun/Standard/Lascannon in unit (including Master of the Fleet)
  • Inquisitor Vader (junior Inquisitor) with Power Armor, Psychic Hood, and Storm Shield
  • 2x Platoon Command (AC/Plasma/Standard, Missile/Grenade/Standard)
  • 5x IG squads (2x Missile/Grenade, 2x HBolter/Plasma, 1x HBolter/Melta)
  • 2x Heavy Weapons Teams (Heavy Bolter, Lascannon)
  • 1x Ogryn team in Chimera
  • 1x Stormtroopers with upgrades in Chimera
  • 1x IG Veteran squad with upgrades and Priest in Vendetta
  • 1x Hellhound
  • 2x Lascannon Sentinels
  • 6x Leman Russ tanks (2 standard, 2 demolisher, 1 executioner, 1 exterminator), with sponsons
Mission: War of Attrition.  Taken from the Battle Missions book, this is an IG-themed mission, and the attacker (the Tyranids) would get to recycle any wiped-out Troops units.  The table was divided into two 4x4 squares, with Tyranids getting to set up anywhere in the one square (and recycle from any table edge therein), and Imperial Guard setting up in the other. 

Terrain: Auros IX, the desert planet.  Terrain was standard 1/4 of table, and what was present largely blocked line-of-sight without actually being obviously area terrain.  There were two large hills, two enclosed bunker complexes, and three open-framed (Necromunda-style) ruined buildings, along with some scattered low walls and tank traps.  Because most of the terrain was at the edges of the board (within 12” of a table edge), the center of the board was basically a giant kill-zone with hardly anything to hide behind.

What Happened?  
The Imperial Guard right flank.  Imagine this mirrored 
on the left flank, and fill in the rear with IG squads.

Pat set up his units in and around cover in a U-shaped arc in his deployment zone, trying to maximize his firepower in the open kill-zone.  The Tyranids all lined up on the edge of their deployment zone and tried to bum-rush the Guardsmen, who all got to shoot first.

The Tyranid left flank (directly facing the IG right).  Notice 
the Trygons off to the side, out of LOS of much of the IG 
because of the hills in their deployment zone.  All other units  
are screened by Hormagaunts or low terrain.

The Guard shooting was wildly ineffectual, as Pat quickly discovered that many of his infantry units, at the base of the “U” shaped formation, were out of range (only 36” on his heavy bolters).  The Leman Russ tanks blasted merrily away, but mostly aimed at the center of the Tyranid line, and despite killing many Hormagaunts, did almost nothing to the bigger beasties behind.

The game itself went downhill from there for the Imperial Guard.  Over on the Tyranid right flank (primarily a ‘distraction force’ of several Warrior broods and some Hive Guard), the Tyranids took advantage of the large, open, unoccupied building and ran up to shoot at IG vehicles with near-impunity.  Pat threw a few more units into the fray to shore up the flank, led by Inquisitor Vader, but the Tyranid Warriors simply rushed out of the bunker and onto the over-extended Stormtroopers, rending them to bits. 

Despite being told the consequences, Pat didn’t really believe 
how the rules for empty buildings might seriously hurt his units.
Inquisitor Vader’s last stand, defiantly holding his ground 
next to the smoking hulk of his Chimera.  Several  
stormtroopers are fighting valiantly nearby.

Pat threw his Ogryn into the fray as well, but they too were summarily shredded by Tyranid Warrior broods, who then tore apart the nearby Chimeras and Hellhound.  In all, a mere four broods of Tyranids had managed to stymie and destroy five Guard units and an IG character, without taking serious losses in the process.

Pat’s other flank was experiencing even more difficulty, as two more turns of shooting proved largely ineffectual.  The Trygons and surviving Hormagaunts blew threw the two Sentinels on the hill, and slammed into the Leman Russ tanks (and Vendetta) at the base of the hill.  A combat turn later, more guard vehicles were going up in smoke, and with almost half of his army gone, the Tyranids having lost virtually nothing, and the odds decidedly against him, Pat conceded the game.

RAWR says the Trygon!  AUGH says the human!

Turning the Tables:
 Pat’s biggest mistake by far was during his deployment phase.  He got to deploy first, and he chose to do three things that immediately lost him the game.

(1) He deployed his forces far too close to the Tyranid deployment zone, literally within assault range.  What’s more, those units – even if they had survived!! – were also within assault range of any Tyranid troops choices that recycled in this scenario (like the Hormagaunts, or all the Warrior broods).  He should have deployed all his forces as far back as possible, forcing the Tyranids to spend many turns in the open getting into assault range, and forcing recycled units to travel as far as possible to join the fray.

(2) He deployed his units poorly, blocking off his Line-of-Sight on both flanks.  Cover serves you nothing if you’re a shooty army (IG) that can’t see your target.  As a result of this decision (for example), the Trygons were largely out of LOS of his units for the first two turns behind a large hill, giving Pat only a single shooting phase to try to deal with them.  Similarly, the empty bunker on the other flank not only blocked his LOS, but also gave the Tyranids a nice, safe, protected corridor up which to advance, and from where they could (and did) jump on any Guard units that wandered too near.

Pat probably would have been better off deploying on the opposite half of the table – there would have been far less cover on each flank behind which the Tyranids could have advanced, and the multi-level building frames would have given his infantry numerous places in which to deploy and still fire at full effect at the advancing hordes.

Not only are the Guardsmen too far away to help, 
but there’s all this LOS-blocking terrain in the way!

(3) Finally, the other major problem with the “U” shape was that the infantry squads with shorter-ranged weapons (like heavy bolters) could do absolutely nothing to support the units further forward until the Tyranids were already in melee.

The deployment errors were compounded by failing to target non-Troops units (like Trygons) first, as in the scenario, those units did not recycle.  Even on paper, Pat’s Imperial Guard force struggled with proper organization of forces – for example, he chose to squadron his Leman Russ tanks into three squadrons of two, for example, when at the Apocalypse/Megabattle level he was working it, he should simply have taken each tank separately and split fire more effectively.

Not that Bryan and I were mistake-free in our game: for example, Bryan deployed his Hive Guard so far back that they couldn’t do anything all game long, and I spent several turns futilely shooting at the front/side AV12 Hellhound until I realized I should simply assault the damn thing (Pat was moving it well under 6” each turn, and keeping it far too near to my Warriors) and kill it with rending claws against its far crunchier AV10 backside.

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