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Another run-in with the Lizardmen this week, but only at 1000 points; a different opponent, too. It’s still early days in terms of my getting a sense of what the most common armies in my area are, but Skaven and Lizardmen certainly seem to be a regular sight on the local tables.

chaos

I rejigged my standard 1K list, partly because I wanted to try out a small unit of Forsaken, and partly because a close re-reading of the rules revealed my general’s magic item selection was a tiny bit illegal. In came the Forsaken and a Nurgle Spawn, out went a unit of Warhounds and a couple of arcane items, and my main Warrior unit got the Mark of Nurgle.

As usual I was left somewhat envious by the sheer amount of toy soldiers virtually every other army seems to get at 1K compared to mine: on this occasion the Lizards turned up with a big block of Saurus Warriors, a small regiment of Temple Guard, five Saurus Cavalry, three Ripperdactyls, and a swarm of Skinks, led by a Skink priest and a Scar-Veteran on a Cold One.

Three Warhound deployments gave me a decent sense of how the Lizardmen would be advancing – Sauri and Cold Ones in the centre, Temple Guard and Ripperdactyls on my right flank, while the Skinks would be lurking in some woods on my left. Bearing this in mind I put the Chaos Warriors down centrally, supported by the Spawn and the Forsaken, while the Chariot and the Marauders went down on the right.

The three spells I had wound up with were Doom and Darkness, Fate of Bjuna, and Purple Sun of Xereus (I’ll come back to the wisdom of this and its impact on the battle later), and my mood was distinctly lifted when, with practically the first dice roll of the game, I fired off Purple Sun and destroyed half of the main Saurus Warrior block, whose very low initiative made them horribly vulnerable to the spell.

Things went on in this vaguely positive vein as the Saurus Cavalry charged the Chaos Warriors, clipping some woods in the process and losing two of their number, allowing the Warriors to deal with them fairly easily. The Temple Guard were lured by Warhounds into a position where they could be frontally charged by the Gorebeast Chariot and the Marauders. The Temple Guard put up stiff opposition, especially when the halberdiers in the back of the Chariot fluffed their dice rolls, but were eventually hacked down (the cold blood rule effectively made the Lizardmen combat troops almost impossible to break).

However, our old friend New Model Syndrome made an unwelcome appearance as the Forsaken first failed the easiest of charges into the Scar-Veteran and then, when they finally got into combat with him, ended up with Strikes Last as their mutation that turn. This allowed the Veteran to hack them all down, not least because the Skink Priest had been casting Wyssan’s Wildform and/or Beast of Horros on him every turn. The following turn he sorted out the Spawn as well, leaving him in a position to take on the Chaos Warriors (who had just wiped out the Ripperdactyls).

At this point a nasty wrinkle in the Chaos Warrior rules became apparent: the requirement to issue a challenge whenever possible. Neither of the characters in the Warrior unit realistically had a chance against the Scar-Veteran, and the small unit lacked the static resolution to make up for the sizeable overkill the Lizardman hero would be scoring every turn. The fact that some poor choices when it came to dispelling the Skink’s magic had left the augmented Saurus with somewhere in the region of seven attacks at strength nine didn’t help much either. The unit champion and then my general were chopped to bits on successive turns and the unit broke (confessions of a dummy gamer: I forgot about the Banner of Discipline, which would have kept them in the fight and given me a chance to beat up the Saurus with the rest of the unit in the following turn).

The Scar-Veteran duly chased down the Warriors , but on a more positive note the Chariot got into the flank of the Saurus Warriors (who hadn’t really been doing much following their first-turn magical mauling) and broke them, cold blood for once proving ineffective. This resulted in one of those uneventful endgames, with the surviving units scattered across the table and no prospect of further combat – the Skinks loosed a few darts at the Chariot, which took a couple of wounds before withdrawing out of range.

So we counted up the scores and it turned out that the final tally was 805 to the Chaos Warriors and 750 to the Lizardmen – a draw, which I suppose was a fair result. My chances of a clean win were scuppered by the reign of terror from the Scar-Veteran – small Chaos Warrior units are quite capable of being monstered by single top-tier combat characters like this one, largely because of the Eye of the Gods rule. Bearing this in mind, the failure of the Forsaken to perform could have made a big difference – on any other result they would have been striking first, potentially delivering 12 attacks with re-rolled hits.

I think my sorcerer underperformed, as well, probably due to my spell selection. The casting of Purple Sun was my only real success all game – okay, a significant success – partly due to bad dice but also because I had three high casting value spells in the first place. In retrospect I should have swapped Doom and Darkness for Spirit Leech – the only viable target for the spell was really the Scar-Veteran, while Spirit Leech could potentially have zapped the Skink Priest from across the table and got rid of those annoying augment spells.

Not sure how useful this is in terms of general strategy, though. This game has left me really wishing I could sneak a proper combat character into the list – wreaking havoc with a Chaos Champion is very appealing, but it would mean going on the defensive magically and I’m not sure of the wisdom of that given how destructive many spells can be. Something to consider in the couple of weeks before my next game.

 

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With my usual immaculate timing I have invested in a new set of knives just at the start of gunfight season: the unexpected onset of 7th Edition 40K does not exactly make it easy to secure pick-up games for WFB. At present I have no plans to invest in the new edition (this doesn’t mean I may not indulge in some paranoid speculation about what’s going on with the rush-release of a major rules-set at some point in the near future, naturally) but, as luck would have it, managed to secure a match-up with a pretty experienced and very agreeable Lizardmen player with a somewhat-retro (and extremely garish, even by Lustrian standards) army.

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This was my first game at 2000 points so to (theoretically) take the competitive edge off the game we played a scenario: the Lizardmen would be defending a watchtower and if I could shift them out of it by the end of the game I would win.

A big block of Sauri went down in the tower, while marching across the table to relieve them were six Kroxigor, two Salamanders, another twenty Saurus Warriors, a Stegadon, three Terradons, and two units of Skinks, all led by a Slann and a Skink Priest.

I still feel I am pushing it a bit at 2000, with a lack of solidity on the table. I had brought six Ogres of Nurgle (first use!), a Hellcannon (first use!), twelve Warriors of Nurgle, twenty Marauders, a Gorebeast Chariot of Slaanesh, a Mutalith (first use!), and four units of Warhounds, led by a Sorcerer Lord of Death and a battle standard bearer (first use!).

Well, as you may or may not know, like every other pastime WFB has a specialist vocabulary of sorts – we players happily talk about things which might baffle normal people, using expressions like cocked dice, static combat resolution, flank charge, tactical deployment drop, and so on. We also use the dreaded words ‘New Model syndrome’ and I found myself a martyr to this in this game, possibly more than ever before.

Well, things got off to a reasonable start as the BSB passed his Stupid test (Ld 9 with a re-roll) and the Hellcannon behaved itself. However, it was clearly just lulling me into a false sense of security. Came the first shooting phase, the blast template was popped down on the advancing Sauri, expectations were high as the dice rolled… And the damn thing blew itself up on the first shot. (A 1 in 36 chance on paper, should you be wondering, but a virtual certainty under battlefield conditions.)

This put a bit of a dent in my mood, but once I had collected myself I found the battle mostly going pretty well: the Warhounds all got blowpiped to death, but thatwas hardly a surprise, but the Ogres battered the Kroxigor and chased them off the board, the Chaos Warriors engaged the advancing Saurus Warriors and after a grinding combat broke and ran them down, and – after another tough fight – the Gorebeast Chariot charged and killed the Stegadon.

However, the Mutalith was, frankly, behaving entirely unreasonably. Surrounded by a swarm of increasingly baffled Skinks whose blowpipes seemed unable to penetrate its hide, I tried for six successive turns to cast the bound spell which is the main reason you put it on the table. Four times I tried to roll a total of 5 or higher on two dice and failed. Once I managed it and the Slann dispelled it with dice; once I rolled a 21 (I was getting slightly fixated by this point and chucked all my dice at it) and the Skink fished a dispel scroll out from somewhere (my opponent was genuinely apologetic about this). So I still have no real sense of how this thing performs other than as a fire magnet.

And killing the Lizardmen army wasn’t winning me the game: I needed to take the tower, but didn’t have the right unit in place to do it. Baseline Marauders are not going to shift Saurus Warriors from a building without magical assistance of some kind – two or three assaults from them just resulted in the unit being thinned down. The remains of the Chaos Warriors had a go, doing some damage and taking none in return, but in range of the Slann the Sauri were not going to budge.

In the closing stages of the game the Slann magic really started to bite, as the Mutalith and Ogres were successively banished into the Pit of Shades, and things got to the point where I just didn’t have the models left to mount a serious assault and opted to concede the game.

Well, this was a clear loss for the Warriors of Chaos, mainly due to my inability to challenge the garrison in the tower. Possibly my Warriors or Ogres could have done this, but they were both in the wrong place – and I’m not sure the Marauders could have dealt with either the Kroxigor or the advancing Saurus Warriors. As it was, the two armies pretty much wiped each other out, with the exception of the garrison unit which was still in reasonable shape. This suggests that in a standard pitched battle the Lizardmen would have had the edge – but then again virtually a quarter of my army (the Hellcannon and Mutalith) had no offensive effect on the game whatsoever. Had either of them actually showed up things might have gone very differently.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the wallop packed by the Ogres, who were mainly there to bulk out the army (it was them or some Hellstriders and perhaps another character). Possibly they were lucky in their combats with the Kroxigor and Salamanders in this game, but they have earned their place for the time being. The Chaos Warriors got their first proper test as well, and despite my concerns over the size of the unit they managed to deal with a larger Saurus Warrior unit fairly comfortably: I still think an extra half-dozen models would make the regiment considerably more effective.

The Lizardmen army has not changed much since the last time I played them, which must have been in 2005: a cloud of poisoned darts obscuring a few competently-wielded maquahuitls. The Saurus Warriors are nasty, but manageable (says the guy who just lost the game largely due to the hardness of Saurus Warriors); it’s the Skinks who are the real pain in the neck. Killing them in close combat is easy; getting into close combat with them is very difficult, and if you ignore them then you are surely going to regret it. I must confess that it seems to me that the Lizardmen have much to commend them as an army, and when the stars are right I may paint a few myself.

In the meantime, I may drop the Mutalith and use the points to bulk up the Warriors a bit. The Marauders have proved distinctly underwhelming against anything other than frightened Skaven, but I’m not sure what to replace them with, and they do provide bodies and ranks for what’s otherwise a very elite army. Part of me just wants big blocks on the table, but that’s not something I’m likely to be able to satisfy playing Chaos.

 

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Well, with a long staff meeting-free afternoon in prospect, I had two games of WFB lined up this week – against High Elves at 1500 amd Skaven at 1000 points (a rematch from last week). When I arrived I found both my opponents waiting and it was suggested that the two of them team up against me at 2000 points – but I didn’t really have enough toys with me, plus my imagination recoiled from the idea of a Skaven-Elf alliance. So I counter-offered a three-way Triumph & Treachery game at 1000 points, which meant we would all get to play at once (although it did mean I wouldn’t get to use my Giant or the Mutalith I spent last Saturday painting, nor indeed my bodged-together battle standard). Everyone turned out to be up for it, so off we went.

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I had the same army as last time, the only slight tweak being a switch from the Lore of Death to that of Nurgle: Warriors, Marauders, a Gorebeast Chariot, many Warhounds, and a couple of Spawn, commanded by a Sorcerer. The Skaven had reorganised themselves and now comprised a big Clanrat regiment, a smaller Slave unit, twentyish Plague Monks, and the Doomwheel, led by a Warlord and a couple of wizards. The High Elves hailed from the realm of startersetdom and featured a noble on a Griffon, sixteen Seaguard, and about a dozen Swordmasters, led by an Archmage (‘fairly appalling at 1000 points’ was the majority opinion on this).

Once we’d figured out the three-player rules the game got under way, and initially it looked like the Skaven and Chaos Warriors were intent on taking each other out first: there were scores to settle and the High Elf force looked tiny anyway. Through a combination of bad play and, er, worse play, I ended up with a pack of Hounds contesting the central objective, but my general’s unit being charged by the Doomwheel and flanked by the Skaven Clanrats. Sneakiness could only fend off the inevitable for so long and the unit broke, ending up in front of the Griffon which had executed a long flanking move. Having had the guts blown out of the Marauder unit by a surprisingly accurate Skaven firework on the same turn I was feeling very much on the back foot at this point.

I got some respite as the High Elves went on the offensive, although this did result in the Griffon running down and killing my Warriors and general and earning a huge stack of points. Elsewhere the Archmage devastated the Slaves using Fiery Convocation and the Swordmasters annihilated them on the charge, which caused the Skaven general to shift his attention fairly smartly. The Doomwheel and Clanrats duly charged and easily killed the Griffon and its rider, but this left them a long way from the centre of the board, while the gas mortar blew itself up as well.

The easiest targets for the remains of my force were the Seaguard, while the Swordmasters had charged the Gorebeast Chariot in the flank, thinking it an easy target. But both this combat and the one between the Hounds and Marauders and the Seaguard ground on for a number of turns, until the Chariot managed to break the Swordmasters and run them down, taking out the Archmage as well (much to the relief of the Skaven, whose units had grown accustomed to spending most of their time on fire).

This left me with a tough choice on my next turn – carry on fighting the Elves, which looked a marginal prospect at best and meant the Chariot would be charged by the Plague Monks, or suspend hostilities with the pointy-headed ones and stick the Chariot into the Monks? I opted for the latter and the Chariot ploughed into them, killed half a dozen for no wounds in return (just as well as it only had one left) and left them testing on a 7 for their Steadfast leadership. They blew it and the Chariot ran them down as well.

The downside was that the Elves were now able to break the truce and charge down the Marauders on their own turn. The Marauders caved in and were run down. We’d agreed this was to be the last turn anyway and the Skaven player conceded his final turn: despite killing the Griffon, and easily having the strongest force left on the table, he was a distant third on points. The Chariot’s trail of slaughter had actually put me back into the game, but even my control of the objective didn’t give me quite enough points to sneak past the High Elves, who had done serious damage to both other armies and were close on the 1500 VP mark.

Still, a fun game: not quite sure how useful it is in terms of learning my army, though. My general feeling I need more infantry has not changed, and neither has my impression that the Gorebeast Chariot is an incredibly resilient and nasty piece of kit, quite capable of taking on ranked infantry unsupported. We enjoyed the three-player dynamic a lot, though the game did last about four hours, and I think I will be trying to stick to regular two-player or team games in general. Still, every chance of another one of those next week, and my Hellcannon arrived, which means I may even get to shoot something. New experiences are very important.

 

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So, the long road back to marginal Warhammer competence, stage two. A slight change of approach this week – I had a game lined up in advance, against a relatively new player hailing from Copenhagen (I should have entitled this ‘Playing the Dane (Or ‘Warhamlet’)’). We each knew the army the other was bringing, not that I had many options when it came to list-tailoring, and that wasn’t exactly the point of the exercise.

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Having done some research and tapped the brains of better players of my acquaintance, the 1K army I turned up with was rather different from the previous week’s – the cavalry and Daemon Prince were gone, along with one of the heroes. Promoted to the generalship was a Chaos Sorcerer of Death tooled up to channel on a 4+ and with three spells at level 2. Having blown my Hero allowance on this guy I was obliged to move on to the Core section where the same 12 Chaos Warriors and 20 Marauders as last time were now accompanied by four units of five Warhounds. A new addition to the circus was a Gorebeast Chariot, while using up my last 120 points were a couple of Spawn with various Marks.

The Skaven army I was facing had lots of infantry but not much else: 40+ Clanrats with spears, 40+ Slaves, 20 Clanrats with hand weapons, accompanied by a Doomwheel and two gas mortar weapon teams. Leading the ratty horde was a Warlord and a Warlock Engineer.

Part of the thinking behind taking all the Warhounds was to give me some flexibility in deploying, and I was indeed able to react to the Skaven. The two enemy units which gave me pause were the big Clanrat regiment and the Doomwheel, and they went down on the extreme flanks, leaving the Skaven army with an invitingly soft centre. In response, behind the Warhound skirmish line the two Spawn went down opposite the Warlord’s unit, with the Warriors and Marauders in the centre, and the Chariot on the right opposite the Doomwheel.

I got the first turn and advanced across the board, positioning the Warhounds to interfere with the Skaven advance as much as possible. Just how effective the Chaos magic phase was going to be became apparent when I was able to kill the Warlock outright with Caress of Laniph and then use Doom and Darkness to knock down the small Clanrats’ leadership.

Obviously a bit intimidated by the advancing forces, the Skaven stayed put, apart from the Doomwheel which smashed into a Warhound unit, wiping it out before overrunning to a point in front of the Chariot. The Poison Mortars killed a couple of infantry, but not enough to concern me (yet).

On my turn the Chariot counter-charged the Doomwheel and one of the Warhound packs charged an unwisely-positioned Poison Mortar. Everything else ground forward. The Sorcerer hit the Doomwheel with Soul Blight, meaning the Chariot was able to smash it apart for only a single wound in return.

With this done the Skaven right flank was pretty much open and it was relatively straightforward to roll it up, while using the two Chaos Spawn and the surviving Warhounds to keep the Warlord and his Clanrats tied down, using Doom and Darkness to negate the Skaven’s Strength in Numbers rule. Even so, I was a little surprised by how hard some of the Chaos units hit: the Gorebeast Chariot comfortably beat the small Clanrat unit unassisted and drove it off the board, while one of the Spawn was able to beat the Skavenslaves in combat – they popped, doing ten automatic hits on it (but only one wound).

In the end Caress of Laniph saw off the Skaven Warlord and I was able to charge the Clanrats with the Marauders and the Chariot simultaneously (they already had a Spawn of Slaanesh lodged in their flank). Failing their fear test, and debilitated by Soul Blight, the Clanrats were in no state to put up any resistance: the Marauder Chieftain hacked down his opposite number in a challenge and earned himself a 6+ ward save, while between them the Marauders, Chariot, and Spawn killed getting on for half the unit. In the end the Clanrats lost the combat by 12 points, broke, and were run down. The field belonged to Chaos.

Well, my two star performers were obviously the Gorebeast Chariot, which reduced everything it touched to a bloody smear, and the Chaos Sorcerer (let’s not mention the miscast where he blew up a third of his own unit). The Lore of Death was devastating against the Skaven, and losing their only wizard on turn one really put them on the back foot. Beyond this, I am fairly happy that I still have some idea about how to use Warhounds as tactical nuisance units, but I am also aware that this was a game against a relatively new player with a non-optimal list.

In fact, we spent most of the post-game chat talking about how he could strengthen his army. I would suggest he needs more shooting of some description, ideally something which could take out my Warhound units, and also some kind of magical defence – a dispel scroll might have preserved his Warlock Engineer past the first Chaos turn. Though I didn’t say it at the time, splitting the 40+ Skavenslave unit into two units of 20 might be a better use of his resources. He also felt he was lacking in a proper combat unit, and I suggested either Stormvermin or Plague Monks (based, it must be said, solely on their statlines).

I am looking forward to taking this army to a larger size, though I haven’t written a particular list yet. For 1500 I think more Chaos Warriors and a battle standard are going to be essential (not that the Chaos Warriors actually got into combat this game). I must confess that I am currently having a whale of a time painting a Mutalith and am contemplating disregarding most tactical advice and actually taking it to the table. We shall see: there are fewer lessons in victory, but it has other compensations.

 

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(Yes, he’s going to write about wargaming again. Sorry.)

Someone check the Book of Revelation for signs of the looming apocalypse – yup, I’ve finally had a proper game of 8th Edition WFB. Ironically, after protracted flirtation with Vampires, Ogres, Empire, and Orcs and Goblins, I ended up going into battle with a force mainly composed of a Chaos Warrior army I first bought while recovering from suspected malaria in 2009 (ah, happy days).

It was a bit of a shock when I recently realised that I’ve been out of the game for over eight years, especially given I was only really in it for seven prior to that. And my involvement as a ‘serious’ player – someone who thought about winning in a systematic way and went to tournaments and so on – only really started in my last year or so. Still, I have found myself increasingly missing the challenge of actual wargaming, probably partly due to the unique tactile and immersive nature of the hobby (compared to computer and board games, anyway), and finding myself very disenchanted with 40K these days, I finally had the motivation to cobble a decent WFB force together.

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I understood that 1500 was a reasonable sized game for fantasy day at the local gaming venue, so this was what I brought along. To be fair, this was a stretch and definitely involved scraping together (almost) everything I could get my hands on. Marshalling the very small horde was a winged Khornate Daemon Prince with various toys, supported by an Exalted Hero and a Sorcerer of Fire. A dozen Chaos Warriors and twenty Marauders bulked things out a tiny bit, with mobility provided by two minimal units of Warhounds and some spear-chucking Marauder Horsemen. Rounding things off was a minimal unit of Chaos Knights.

I procured an opponent prepared to put up with my endless checking of the rules (and tendency to still use 6th ed rules regardless), although – he eventually revealed – he was using an (it seemed to me) extremely competitive Orc and Goblin list: a huge block of about 100 Night Goblin archers, a much smaller mob of 15 or so Savage Orc Big ‘Uns, two Bolt Throwers and a Doom Diver, and a selection of characters. As a long-term Orc player in the wayback, this wasn’t a list I would ever have taken, mainly because he was cherry-picking characters to suit strategy rather than theme: a Black Orc Warboss but no Black Orc infantry, for example, and a Goblin Battle Standard in a Night Goblin unit (I found myself getting misty-eyed for 5th when this sort of thing wasn’t so easy). We’re back to the old question of winning ugly vs. losing pretty, and I will hold up my hand and admit that my insistence on playing to theme and aesthetics is probably one of the main reasons why I am at best only a very middling player of any of these games.

And, fairly predictably all things considered, I got tabled in four or five turns. While his war machines were a reasonable target for my Warhounds, it quickly became apparent I had no realistic way of countering the magical bombardment coming out of my opponent’s Great Shaman, and short of a series of lucky flukes no chance of breaking either of his units in combat (the 50+ 5+ poisoned shortbow shots coming out of the Night Goblins every turn was a bit troubling too).

List aside, some of the rule changes in 8th did trip me up a bit. I was not completely clear on how the challenge rules operated, resulting in the Daemon Prince being beaten to death by Savage Orc rank’n’file while the champion hid at the back of the unit, and the ability of units to reform even in the middle of combat was a hell of a shock. Big units now seem incredibly resilient, especially when accompanied by a general and a standard bearer (again, the 5+ poison coming off the Night Goblins made this unit considerably nastier).

I managed to kill one bolt thrower, a handful of Savage Orcs, and about 30-40% of the Night Gobbos, this last mainly due to repeated castings of Piercing Bolts of Burning on this massive unit. My opponent assured me this was not a disastrous performance, but I found myself inclined to make The Face as the game went on and the sheer extent to which I was out of my depth became apparent. On the other hand, the challenge of mastering this new version of the game and coming up with a more competitive list is a rather engaging one.

Several things occur to me. First is the caveat from a strategy tactica on a major gaming site, stressing that if you play without a strategy against someone who has one, you will almost certainly lose. Fair enough. I need to play smaller-points games where I don’t need to put all my points into big fragile targets like Daemon Princes and actually think more strategically when making my unit selections. Quite what that strategy will be I will need to think about.

Second, the complete absence of cavalry or monsters from the Orc and Goblin army was notable. On one level this is a blow as I do love a good monster in my armies (doubly so given I’ve recently bought a big box of various monsters and monstrous cavalry), but I suspect I love winning more. The prevalence of big block infantry in the current meta(if this game was representative) will entail dropping stuff that can’t stand up to infantry in a protracted slugging match. I can’t currently foresee a time when maxing out my Lord allowance on a Daemon Prince will be a good investment, and the same really applies to spending 250+ points on a 5-strong heavy cavalry unit.

Thirdly. A rather good, if unfinished, guide to army design in 8th Ed, stipulates a number of must-take units for any army capable of employing them. These are a battle standard, a large cheap infantry block, a small fast (cheap) sacrificial unit, cheap core missile troops, a cannon or stone thrower, and a chariot. Knowledgable readers will already have noticed that not all of these things are present in the Chaos Warrior list, but even so this looks like a decent place to start thinking.

And lastly, of course, how did my existing army actually perform? ‘Terribly’ is of course the glib answer, but I did kill a bolt thrower outright and took a hefty chunk out the Night Goblin ubermob. The units responsible were the Chaos Sorcerer and the Warhounds. My Slaaneshi Beasts army in the wayback included, if memory serves, four units of six Warhounds and I think more will be joining the current army. And having seen the Night Goblin Great Shaman dominate this game, I think I shall try including a Chaos Sorcerer Lord in a couple of games and see how that goes.

Of course, given the lack of focus on massed infantry in the Chaos list, it has occurred to me to switch back to my old Vampires project, with plentiful (if cruddy) cheap skeletons and zombies available. That would mean either not playing for months while I paint massed undead, or getting games in with a weak Chaos army, not learning much useful about my own army, and probably becoming very depressed by repeated drubbings. I shall stick with the Chaos Warriors for now.

At 1000 points, I can include the Warhounds, the Warriors, the Marauders, and a Chaos Sorceror from the existing list. Unfortunately this exhausts my current supply of units from the ‘recommended’ list (can’t even afford a lvl 2 Sorcerer and another character at 1K). Glancing over my various options (Horsemen, Knights, Dragon Ogres, a Giant, and so on) I suspect the least bad option for such a small game is a small unit of Chaos Ogres and a couple of Spawn of Slaanesh.

But looking at that ‘recommended’ list again – a battle standard I can well see the value of. Cheap sacrificial Warhounds I need no persuasion about. I was thinking in terms of a chariot already. I suppose a larger Marauder infantry block, possibly with a Mark, is also a possibility – I will need the ranks. However, there aren’t really any core missile troops in the list, and is a Hellcannon going to fill the same role as a regular cannon? Back to the army book I fear. At least I have plenty to occupy me.

 

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It occurs to me that writing in detail about my successes and (mostly) failures on the wargames table is neither especially useful or interesting. I play equally tactically sophisticated and challenging board and card games, not to mention computer games, after all, and don’t inflict a turn-by-turn account every time I play Qin or Battle Line or Total War. But I do think 40K is different – you invest a lot more time and money preparing for a game, after all, to say nothing of the whole interface between the creative, narrative, strategic and tactical elements of the game is not really comparable to anything else.

On the other hand, it’s that same unique interface which has been causing me so much grief with respect to 40K – as far as the current edition is concerned, I just feel as if I’m being very unsubtly pushed towards buying certain big and expensive models simply in order for my armies to remain competitive. Bearing this in mind, I was only mildly hopeful of victory when turning up to play the other day because I was playing a relative newcomer to the game, who would not be packing the giant monsters and attack fliers that everyone seems to be building their armies around currently.

I had my Consecrators army, built under the 4th ed rules and never previously used in 6th. At 1500 I could fit in the Master of the 1st Company, three units of Terminators, a Land Raider Crusader, a firestorm Dreadnought and a unit of Scouts. I expect I could have mustered 1750 but, to be honest, I was half-thinking about pick-up games and didn’t think I’d face too many fliers and whatnot at the smaller game size.

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Heh and indeed heh. While waiting for my intended opponent I did indeed get mixed up in a pick-up at 1500, with an Eagle Warriors army… containing two Storm Talon attack fliers and a Thunderfire Cannon. Yaroo. Those really grabbed my attention, but also in the list were two mechanised Tactical Squads, an Assault Squad led by an uber-tooled-up combat character, a Stalker, and three Centurions.

Well, the game fell into three stages. I won the initiative and teleported the Master and his squad in, and rather jammily panicked the Eagles’ commander and his squad off the board on turn one. Then I found out, quite painfully, what the grav-cannons on the Centurions could do as my Terminators were slaughtered. More good luck ensued as the Master took refuge in combat by assaulting the closest Tactical marines, supported by Terminators from the Crusader, and miraculously avoided killing them all, thus keeping me safe from the Centurions in the next Eagle Warrior turn.

By this point the Dreadnought had killed the Thunderfire Cannon but was itself destroyed when both Storm Talons arrived and targeted it. The second Terminator squad assaulted the Centurions and crushed them fairly rapidly, though not before they had inflicted heavy damage on my third and final Terminator squad and killed the Master with overwatch.

The climax of the game came as the surviving Terminators beat up the last Eagle Warrior infantry and rhinos – this may have been a mistake as the exploding vehicles took a tally on my very limited forces. The Crusader managed to wreck a Storm Talon that had switched to hover mode, but the other one shot down my last Terminator in the final moments of the game. I had an unscathed Land Raider and a lone Scout left on the table; the Eagle Warriors had their Stalker and the Storm Talon. Neither of us held the main objective, and with both warlords dead, my having killed a unit on the first turn and his having a Storm Talon on my board edge it was a 2-2 draw. Frankly, I was lucky, and in killing the Storm Talon and Thunderfire Cannon I felt I’d exorcised a few demons too.

Following a quick break and a heartfelt plea from the owners of the venue for the assembled gamers to deodorise more thoroughly in future (always a sign of a classy, mainstream spot if you ask me), it was time for my game against the Ultramarines. This game was to be settled solely in terms of units wiped out and this rather dictated my strategy. The Ultramarines were led by Marneus Calgar in a Crusader, and I was pretty sure I would be in for an exceptionally tough fight if I went up against him directly. So I didn’t and just concentrated on wiping out the smaller, weaker units making up most of the Ultramarine army: five-man squads of various types.

This worked rather well, with my Terminators assaulting the Ultramarine flanks under covering fire from the Scouts, Dreadnought and my own Crusader (the Scouts went to ground whenever anyone looked in their direction to get the 2+ save for being in cover). I managed to rack up plenty of early points and it did seem that Calgar didn’t know which way to jump – it wasn’t until turn five that he finally disembarked, by which point the Master had wiped out two squads and was making a tactical retreat to avoid giving up two VPs should Calgar manage to kill him. All my other Terminators got wiped out again, but by this point the army had accounted for two Tactical Squads, a Sternguard Squad, some Terminators, some Devastators, three Centurions, and Chief Librarian Tigurius (who spent the game locked in an interminable ding-dong battle between the Centurions and a mostly-lightning claw armed Terminator unit, and never cast a single power). With first blood taken into account it all added up to an 8-3 win for the Consecrators, but I was fully aware that the inexperience of my opponent was one of my biggest assets.

So a win and a draw, both lucky. I’m still not sold on the viability of a pure Deathwing army under the new rules, but then this wasn’t really a pure Deathwing list (and I’m not seriously considering tinkering with it). Time to work on something new and – hopefully – solidly competitive, while still being aesthetically satisfying.

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It has been over six months since I concluded my last report of wargames-related doings with a vague promise of a game against my semi-regular Blood Ravens opponent which I’d sort-of lined up for the following week. Obviously an explanation of some sort is in order, and the truth is…

Well, blame the new Eldar codex, or my old Eldar army – one of the two, anyway. The new book appeared and I decided to dust off the army and give it a test drive. Suffice to say the Blood Ravens turned up with two Thunderfire Cannons, two fliers, and nearly a dozen Terminators and I was blasted off the table in short order, only managing to take out a handful of Tactical Marines in return. Coupled to my growing misgivings about the emphasis of the sixth edition, it was enough to make me take a sabbatical from the game (another of my semi-regular bouts of under-employment didn’t help matters much).

Oh well. I have been feeling the odd pang of the desire to play and/or paint again recently, and I was in town today anyway for work, and rather than go all the way in and back solely for one lesson, I thought I might as well see how things lay on the wargaming front. Out came the Blood Angels again.

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And so I found myself squaring off against a neophyte Ultramarines commander – the signs are fairly easy to distinguish – in an exercise of the Emperor’s Will (one main objective each plus the usual minor ones). Not being familiar with the new Marine Codex I was wary, but at least I had an army I knew backwards.

Both objectives were placed in the centre of the table, which suited me, and deploying first I set up for a major push on both of them. My Terminators and Baal Predator went into reserve, while ready on the right flank for a lightning advance was a Rhino carrying a Tactical Squad, a full Assault Squad accompanied by Captain Zedrenael, Chaplain Aukon and a Priest, an Attack Bike and a Land Speeder. Posted on a hill in the centre was Honoured Brother Akakos, hastily retrofitted to a standard dreadnought configuration (CC/AC).

The Ultramarines put a lot of stuff into reserve – starting with Marneus Calgar and an Honour Guard. There was also a Librarian here, a Sternguard combat squad, and three Devastator Centurions. Actually on the table, a mechanised Tactical combat squad, an Assault combat squad, a foot Tactical combat squad and a Devastator combat squad occupied the centre, while over on the right flank a Land Raider Crusader carrying Assault Terminators set up facing the bulk of my own forces.

(Looking back at this game, I get the impression that the Ultramarine army was illegal – only one Troop choice – and that their commander was wont to get crucial game terms mixed up – not just things like Chapter Master and Warlord, which he thought were interchangeable, but also Reserve and Deep Strike. As will become apparent this did not profit him much.)

Anyway, I retained the initiative and began my assault by landing a Drop Pod as close to the Ultramarine-placed objective as I could manage. This was my first time using a pod and I was curious to see how it performed. A full Tactical Squad spilled out, while behind them the rest of the army moved up. On the first turn the Pod Squad mowed down the majority of the Devastator combat squad and left me well placed for a second-turn assault.

The Ultramarines responded by attempting to land a Dreadnought by Drop Pod on the board edge close to the bulk of my army – however, it scattered off the table and was destroyed. The Land Raider Crusader moved forward along the table edge anyway, disregarding the multi-meltas my army was toting. Apart from the surviving Devastator, who redeployed towards the right flank, the remaining Ultramarine contingent fired on and assaulted the Pod Squad, though without doing much damage.

On my second turn both my reserve units turned up: the flame tank outflanked and toasted the foot Tactical combat squad, while the reassuring presence of the locator beacon in the Drop Pod meant my Terminators were able to come on safely, close to the Devastator. The Attack Bike and Land Speeder fired on and destroyed the Land Raider, the Rhino-based Tactical Squad opened fire on and wiped out the Ultramarine Rhino unit, and the Blood Angels Assault Squad counter-charged the unit that had assaulted me the previous turn and wiped it out.

The Ultramarines centre had been smashed, but their Terminators were intact and they had many potentially powerful units still in reserve. Marneus Calgar teleported onto the table with his retinue, behind the bulk of the Blood Angel force, while not far away three Devastator Centurions appeared. The Sternguard appeared in the far right corner, not far from the Baal Predator and Blood Angel Terminators.

Marneus Calgar called in an orbital bombardment which vapourised Zedrenael and Aukon, while the Sternguard managed to kill two Terminators (a bit jammily, I thought – hey ho). However the Ultramarines were unable to assault and most of the Blood Angels were out of sight of the formidable anti-personnel firepower of the Centurions. Nevertheless the Ultramarine Terminators assaulted the Attack Bike and killed it, while the last Devastator shot down the Land Speeder.

It was time to redeploy, so the Tactical squad piled back into their Rhino, which motored away, while the Assault Squad pulled back away from Calgar as well. The Baal Predator motored up to the Sternguard and flamed three of them, while the Pod Squad occupied the Ultramarine objective. The Terminators squashed the last Devastator, while Brother Akakos waded into the Centurions and killed two of them (they did not prove as resilient as I had feared).

The Ultramarine Librarian finally showed up, but I was confident I had this game in the bag – I had two very mobile Troops units left, meaning I could either grab objectives or go for linebreaker points as the game closed, while the Ultramarines had only their elite units on the table.

Things turned out pretty much as I expected – Akakos killed off the Centurions and then chased down and flattened the enemy Librarian, while a ding-dong battle between the two squads of hammer-wielding Terminators eventually saw only a single Ultramarine survivor (who Akakos promptly shot). Calgar and his squad handily slaughtered the Pod Squad and moved on to assault and destroy the Baal Predator: this did not overly worry me, as it meant they were pulled even further away from the objectives.

The final few turns saw the Ultramarines frenziedly running around the table trying to kill anything they could get their hands on, regardless of the bigger strategic game. Their vastly depleted numbers meant they weren’t that destructive, however. In the end the last Sternguard was killed by the storm bolter on the Drop Pod, while Calgar’s retinue was wiped out when he assaulted the surviving Blood Angel Tactical Squad. It seemed somewhat fitting that the only surviving Ultramarine model on the table as the game ended was their Chapter Master, while I had a few Assault Marines and a Dreadnought left to hold objectives: probably not enough to actually kill Calgar, but I didn’t need to. One objective and First Blood gave me four points, compared to the solitary one the Ultramarines had earned for killing Zedranael.

So – first thoughts on the new Marine Codex. I haven’t looked at it in detail, but Thunderfire Cannons are still absurdly underpriced and I suspect Centurions are very capable of laying waste to anything in their path if used correctly. The Chapter Tactics rules look interesting too; I think my best fortune in this game was meeting a relatively green opponent. Splitting his army the way he did made it very easy for me to rapidly crush his initially-deployed forces and then deal more carefully with his elite second wave.

The army performed up to standard in this game, anyway, although losing the Captain and Chaplain to the same shot stung a bit. The big innovation this game was using the Drop Pod and I am rather impressed by the potential of this piece of kit, both as a way of getting Tactical Marines to the sharp end of the game and as an anchor point for my Terminators. I am aware all I am really doing now is tinkering with the same basic elements when I play Blood Angels, so what the future holds for me collecting-wise I’m not sure. As it is, I had a really nice time just playing a good, challenging game against a friendly and cheerful opponent. And of course I got to inflict a crushing defeat on him, which is always a bonus too.

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So, it’s been a little while since I chanced my luck in the wargames arena, but finally the mood was upon me again and I trundled into town for a pick-up game. Just from seeing the array of armies that people brought along for the afternoon/early evening games session, it seems like all those new 6th Ed innovations I was instantly dubious of, mainly because they seemed to have been included solely to encourage the sales of big and expensive flyer and/or scenery models, have caught on: I saw three armies each with multiple planes in them, and two which had brought their own scenic features.

Having said that, I also thought the ally rules were potentially iffy, and I was using those myself: just for a change of pace I’d spent the previous few days painting 500 points of Grey Knights, as they seemed to play to my strengths as a collector and painter, and the background was sort of appealing. Ending up playing another pure Grey Knight army was not really an ideal outcome, but that was what happened.

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It was very clear my opponent hailed from a very different gaming tradition: I’d call myself a narrative gamer (hence my obsession with getting things like themes and squad markings right) but the guy across the table clearly learned his stuff in a far more competitive atmosphere. Rolling up a mission which basically revolved around storming the enemy table corner, he plonked down a defence line which effectively fenced it off, which was garrisoned by Inquisitor Coteaz and a tooled up retinue, not to mention two rifleman Dreadnoughts. Two Grey Knight Strike Squads, a lone Paladin, and a Grand Master were all set to Deep Strike.

As regular readers will know, I am deeply suspicious of Deep Strike, but I knew my chances of footslogging my own Grey Knights across the table were fairly slim. So my Knight-Librarian and his escort of Terminators went into reserve, while everything else (Captain Zed, a Priest, an Assault Squad, a Mechanised Tactical Squad, an Attack Bike, a Land Speeder and Honoured Brother Akakos) hid behind the terrain near my objective.

I had very low expectations as the game started, fully expecting to get mown down and assaulted off the board by turn 3. However, my cagey deployment worked out and all the Grey Knights could see was the Land Speeder (which they promptly shot down). On my turn everything charged forward, using cover to screen an advance on the enemy lines. Only Akakos hung back, ready to engage in an autocannon duel with his opposite numbers  (I was not optimistic), while my Grey Knight Strike Squad stayed concealed near my objective (I had a cunning plan).

The shooting from the enemy firebase started to whittle down my advancing force on turn 2, but thankfully Feel No Pain limited my losses. The enemy Paladin and a squad with their Grand Master teleported in in my table quarter, intent on grabbing the objective there, which was clearly cause for concern. Looking on the bright side, my own Terminators teleported in virtually on top of the enemy lines.

However, things took a decided turn for the worse when the Librarian’s attempt to cast Doom Vortex backfired on him, frying half the unit including the Librarian himself: 250 points gone in one fell swoop. Hmmm.

The last enemy Grey Knights teleported into my zone on turn 3 and my opponent was looking good: if he could take and hold my objective he would rake in the points at the end of the game. Normally I take maintenance of aim pretty seriously, but I clearly had to at least have a go at defending my own zone properly, because Akakos alone would probably not be up to it. That said, the Paladin charged Akakos, zapped his own synapses miscasting Hammerhand to make his hammer a Dreadnought-busting S10, and while staggering about clutching his temples was donked neatly on the head by one of Akakos’ autocannon, taking him out of the game.

On my turn I pulled the Assault Squad and Captain Zed back to support my Strike Squad in assaulting the enemy Grey Knights (my plan to have the Librarian Summon the Strike Squad to assist on the other side of the table had obviously been scotched). The Terminators and Attack Bike commenced their attack on the enemy defence line (the last Tactical Marines had been obliterated on the previous turn). And both actions went pretty well: one enemy Dreadnought was smashed by the Terminators, while one enemy Strike Squad was wiped out by a combined attack from Captain Zed, the Assault Marines, and my own Strike Squad. Akakos’ hopeful assault on the Grand Master’s squad was less telling, but at least it kept them tied up on their own turn.

Both forces were now fully committed and it was just a question of seeing how the dice fell. Over in the enemy zone, the last three Terminators were wiped out, but not before they broke Coteaz and his retinue and came within an inch of running him off the table. The Attack Bike was still on the spot to contest the objective, though.

In my own zone, Akakos was wrecked by enemy krak grenades, but the same combination of Assault Marines, Captain and Strike Squad engaged the Grand Master and his unit. This turned into a bloodbath, and at the end only Captain Zed and his Priest were left standing.

So, come the game end, the Grey Knights had a Dreadnought and the remains of Coteaz’s unit left, while I had the Bike and two characters on the table. Neither of us could claim an objective, the Grey Knights had First Blood, but I had Linebreaker: barely credibly, I had managed to draw the game.

Well, as I said to my opponent afterwards, I pretty much know the Blood Angels army backwards by now, and they performed about as well as I’d expect: lethal in an assault, even against Grey Knights, but less effective in a shooting match. Hard to say much about the Grey Knights I took myself, not least because half the points never really got a chance to show what they could do. It’s hard to judge the Strike Squad’s performance as they were operating in close support of a large Blood Angels unit, and while the Terminators soaked up enormous firepower and still did the business, that’s pretty much what you take them to do. I think it is just a case of increasing the size of the Grey Knight contingent and seeing what happens. I have yet another game against my regular Blood Raven opponent organised for next week, at 2K no less, which will give them another opportunity to show what they can do.

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I’ve started talking a fair bit about Standard Tactical Dogma when I write about 40K, but I’m increasingly aware that my perception of STD is mainly based on the internet, and specifically the writings of a particular subset of 40K players – mainly ultra-competitive tournament gamers. And the STD I see must surely be out-of-date now the Sixth Edition is established.

Take, for example, the STD insistence that meltaguns are the only sensible special weapon option for Assault Marines. I would disagree vehemently with this – partly because vehicles in general feel a lot more fragile than they have been in the past, but also because the humble flamethrower has also surely made a Sinatra-like comeback under the new ruleset, if not as a genuine assault weapon then certainly as a counter-assault weapon.

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This certainly crossed my mind following my latest game, which was – as is standard these days – at 1500 points, played against – and this has certainly not been standard of late – Orks. My default list these days is the one I put together to handle the sit-back-and-shoot style of the Blood Ravens I’ve played twice recently so going up against another all-out assault force promised to be illuminating. We rolled up a very straightforward scenario, and – with one eye on the burgeoning horde of Greenskins emerging from my opponent’s figure cases – I decided it would be best to a) refuse a flank and b) Outflank with the Baal Predator.

My main squads – Tactical Squad, Assault Squad (Librarian and Priest attached), and Terminators – deployed centre-right, while the Attack Bike and Furioso Dreadnought hugged the right-hand table edge. The rifleman Dreadnought was a little further back, but as the Ork force was all infantry it seemed unlikely he would make a major impact.

Possibly intimidatingly, and certainly impressively, the Orks practically filled their 12″ x 4 foot deployment zone; I almost wished I’d brought my Whirlwind as this was certainly a target-rich environment. Two artillery pieces occupied some central ruins, while on either side I could see waves of troops in formation – on the left, Grots screened Shoota Boys, who in turn screened Lootas, while on the right, Grots screened Slugga Boys, who screened Flash Gits, Tankbusters and the Warboss and his henchmen. This was clearly going to be resolved by boots in faces.

Well, I got the first turn and moved forward cautiously with everything but the Furioso, which I obviously wanted in combat as soon as possible. I could possibly have assaulted the right-wing Grots on the first turn, but this would almost certainly have exposed me to a devastating counter-assault from the Orks behind them so let them be. My only notable shooting was from Brother Akakos, who picked off the Ork Shock Attack Gun in the centre and scored me First Blood (a rarity), though I forgot about this later when it might have made a difference.

The Orks advanced on both wings, except for the Lootas – and thus an interesting gap in the Ork lines on their left wing was created. Their shooting was predictably ineffectual, although the Tankbusters blew one of the Furioso’s arms off (the one with the heavy flamer, annoyingly).

On turn 2, the Baal Predator arrived from reserve, passed the Outflank roll and slotted neatly into the gap on the left Ork flank. The Tactical Squad piled out of their rhino preparatory to shooting up the right-wing Grots – my plan was to do enough damage to make them run, and thus allow the Furioso to assault one of the nastier Ork units they were currently screening.

Well, that didn’t quite work out, and so the Furioso Dreadnought had to assault the Grots anyway, wiping them out. Much more gratifyingly, I finally got to shoot all three weapons on the Baal Predator at the Ork Lootas. Ah, the delights of three flame templates at point-blank range! Twelve dead Lootas later that quarter of the table looked rather different.

The left wing of the Ork army was now somewhat disarrayed, as the boys on that side frantically scrambled to do something about the Baal, which was quite capable of torching a dozen models a turn. On the right they kept coming – the Warboss and his henchmen assaulted the Furioso, but didn’t manage to damage it, while the main Slugga mob attempted to charge the Tactical Marines – but effective overwatch fire, partly due to the squad flamer, stalled the assault. Having thrown all their heavy shooting at the Baal Predator, the Orks on that side of the table were finally forced to assault it to put it out of action – but it had done its job.

I was now able to launch some assaults of my own, the Tactical Marines softening the Sluggas up before the Assault Squad – buffed by the Librarian’s Unleash Rage power – charged in. Hammer of Wrath, Unleash Rage, and Furious Charge combined to give this a devastating impact and the Orks were wiped out for no casualties in return. The Terminators plunged into the fight between the Furioso and the Warboss, turning the tables in the combat and slaying the Ork leader.  The right wing of the Ork army was now effectively broken.

The next Ork turn mainly consisted of them trying to reorganise, which allowed me to press my advantage – the Assault Marines wiped out the Flash Gits, the Furioso Dreadnought destroyed the Tankbusters, and the Tactical Marines swung about to mow down the left-wing Grots, which were attempting to circle round behind them and get to the objectives in my deployment zone.

My instinct now was to consolidate my position as we looked to be heading into the end game – I thought I was probably ahead on points – and so I pulled everything back from the surviving Orks, planning to hunker down and ride it out. However, the surviving Ork Shoota Boys, Lootas, and artillery had quite enough collective muscle to squat on an objective while blasting me off another, as they proved almost at once by shooting enough Tactical Marines to briefly break the squad.

Possibly unwisely, and almost certainly feeling overconfident following my earlier crushing successes, I threw the Assault Marines at the largest surviving Ork mob unsupported – the Ork overwatch was punishing and the Orks absorbed the charge fairly easily. Even with the Librarian and Priest, this combat rapidly turned into a gruelling slugging match which I was lucky to survive, and in the end I had to bring in the Terminators to support the Assault Marines. This finally gave me the edge and the Orks broke – but at the very last minute of the game.

While all this had been going on, the Ork Zap Gun had destroyed the Furioso – who, to be fair, had been pushing his luck all game – and then engaged in a long-range duel with Brother Akakos. Akakos was a much better shot, but digging the Ork artillery out of its emplacement made this a tough nut to crack. In the end, though, after seven hard-fought turns the Orks were left with half a dozen fleeing boys, two cowering Lootas, and a Zap Gun, while I had the wounded Librarian, the Priest, two Terminators, half a Tactical Squad and the rifleman Dreadnought on the table. Another slaughterhouse, but I had scored First Blood, a Slain Warlord, and at least one Linebreaker, along with a solitary objective, while the Orks had nothing.

So, 4-0 to the Blood Angels, as it turned out, and something of an epochal moment in the ongoing saga of the army, as my win/draw/lose ratio now stands at 10/2/9 – back in the black, for the first time in ages. Recently I have felt much more like I know what I’m doing with the Angels, and the current Death Company-free iteration of the list is generally doing the business.

Obviously, 1750 or 2000 points is the next place to take the army, and I have ideas about how to do this – and, for that matter, some wildly different 1500 point lists (a Drop Pod list, a fully mechanised list, an Astorath-led Death Company-centric list and so on). The list of units-in-progress at the moment is quite lengthy.

But I’m contemplating taking a break from painting and modelling Angels and doing something completely different for a bit – there’s a Daemonic incursion brewing up in one of my drawers which I may give some attention to for a while, just for a change of pace. In terms of playing, though, I will be sticking with the Blood Angels for the foreseeable future.

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What’s on my mind with regard to the Blood Angels right now:

  • What should my first choice of Warlord be? To be honest I’ve always got my best results using Captain Zedrenael, contrary to Standard Tactical Dogma. The named Special Characters are really too expensive for a 1500 point game. The Reclusiarch works okay as a force multiplier but he isn’t fantastic in a duel, which is where he’s likely to end up. STD says a Librarian is virtually obligatory but I am not convinced following tonight’s display. Hmmm.
  • Should I think about putting my Furioso Dreadnought in a Drop Pod? One of the things I feel the army is currently lacking in is a serious Alpha Strike capability – short of Brother Akakos’ autocannon all my big guns are short-ranged. I have been contemplating a missile-launcher or lascannon Devastator Squad, but putting the Furioso in the Pod would be another option. Using the option to outflank with a Baal Predator would be another possibility – but with the Baal starting on my battleline I at least know where my enemy will be shooting on the first turn!
  • I am giving away First Blood points in virtually every game, possibly due to my lack of long-range anti-tank power and fondness for going vehicle-heavy. Not sure what to do about this except put my Attack Bike and Land Speeder into squadrons.

Anyway, I picked a fairly generic list for this week’s game, not having an opponent lined up, and – of course – found myself in a rematch with the Blood Ravens following last week’s inconclusive clash. Could this return engagement live up to the promise of the first game? Crikey, could it ever.

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We ended up playing Big Guns Never Tire, which suited me (the Raven army was heavy in heavy support), with the Ravens getting first turn. Their Predator and Vindicator ended up dominating the centre and left side of the table, with a Tactical Squad holding down each flank and the Thunderfire Cannon and Scouts occupying a cluster of ruins on the right side of their deployment zone.

My list was similar to last week’s, except I had dropped the Reclusiarch, Land Speeder, and Death Company units  in exchange for a jump-packed Librarian, Assault Terminators, and Brother Akakos’ autocannon loadout. I opted to push up the right flank as that seemed to offer most cover for my Assault Marines and vehicles – only Brother Akakos occupied the left hand side of the table. The Terminators were footslogging due to my deep distrust of Deep Striking as a tactic. The Baal pushed forward with its Scout move in the hopes of toasting some Ravens on turn 1.

However, it was not to be: the Raven Drop Pod landed in my deployment zone and their Dreadnought emerged, promptly slagging the Baal Predator with its multi-melta – drawing this kind of fire is the Baal’s job, but I was still peeved. Heavy fire from the rest of the Ravens had relatively little effect, however.

On my turn Brother Akakos shifted into cover and got the rear of the Raven Dreadnought in his sights. The Attack Bike and Terminators also moved to give me options for dealing with the Dreadnought; everything else continued its push across the table. Akakos blew the enemy cyborg apart, leaving the Terminators free to assault the Drop Pod: at the time I thought this was perhaps a mistake, as it left them in the open in front of the lascannon-armed Predator, but this was arguably the most decisive move of the game. Needless to say they smashed the Pod to bits.

On Raven turn 2 the Storm Talon did not appear, but their Librarian and his Terminator escort did. With the locator beacon on the Drop Pod destroyed, my opponent carefully measured and popped them down a foot away from my nearest model – only for the dice to scatter them a full twelve inches in precisely that direction, the resulting roll on the mishap table revealing they had not survived the teleport, earning me a Slain Warlord point and wiping out a 350-point unit instantly.

It was not going all my way, however, as the Vindicator blew half the Assault Marines to pieces and the Predator gunned down a Terminator. On my own turn it proved tricky to get any of my own charges to connect: the wily Ravens of their second Tactical Squad chose to fail a morale test for casualties incurred by shooting to dodge a charge by the Furioso, the two survivors falling back to the table edge. I had some results in the centre as the Terminators were able to assault the Vindicator and destroy it, even if the mutli-melta on the Bike missed the Predator at close range.

The Blood Raven shooting continued to take its toll as the Scouts killed the Attack Bike and the Predator destroyed my Furioso Dreadnought. Most significantly, the Storm Talon finally arrived and promptly targeted Brother Akakos, thus proving I was right in thinking he could be considered a threat to the gunship – he was stunned, but this would not affect his AA potential.

On my turn 3 Akakos got on with his sacred destiny and opened up on the gunship, hitting but failing to damage it. The last remnants of the Assault Marines, having just shrugged off the barrage from the Thunderfire Cannon thanks to the Priest’s Feel No Pain blessing, jumped into assault range of the Predator, while the Terminators advanced on the first Raven Tactical Squad. An assault on the Scouts in the ruins failed to connect, but the Terminators broke the Tactical Marines and the Sergeant of the Assault Squad punched through the side of the Predator with his power fist, wrecking it.

Appropriately, given the participation of the Blood Angels and the Blood Ravens, the game was turning into a complete bloodbath, and this continued as the Talon went into hover mode and wiped out the last of the Assault Marines and Librarian, whose performance had been very underwhelming: at least he was only 125 points. The reformed first Raven squad fired at the Terminators with little effect (my tactic of keeping them line abreast at maximum coherency severely limited the effectiveness of the Raven plasma cannon) and, amusingly, the Thunderfire Cannon proved totally incapable of hitting the Tactical Squad at point-blank range.

To his everlasting shame, Honoured Brother Akakos proved completely incapable of shooting down the hovering Talon, only taking a hull point off it instead. The Terminators charged the first Tactical Squad again while my own Tactical Squad assaulted the Blood Raven Scouts. Both enemy units broke, the lone surviving Scout Sergeant fleeing the ruins, the Tactical Squad falling back to the table edge.

Blood Raven turn 5, and both armies were in tatters – the only fully intact unit was the Cannon. I got a nasty shock when the Techmarine detached himself from the gun and assaulted the Tactical Marine squad, after they had been shot up quite badly by the Talon – the Sergeant missed the chance to crush the boffin in a challenge and suddenly this looked like a fight I would be lucky to win.

On my turn, Akakos shot yet again at the Talon and would have destroyed it, but for it opting for evasive action (which at least meant it wouldn’t be doing much shooting on turn 6, if we got that far). The fight between my surviving Tactical Marines and the Tech ground on while – for the third turn in a row – the Terminators engaged the Raven Tacticals, finally managing to wipe them out this time. They consolidated towards the ruins where the fight was in progress, but it looked unlikely they’d get there before the game ended.

Which it did at that point anyway. The surviving Blood Ravens consisted of a lone Scout Sergeant, two Tactical Marines, the Thunderfire Cannon and its operator and the damaged Storm Talon. I had two Terminators, three Tactical Marines, a damaged Rhino transport and the damaged rifleman Dreadnought left on the table. No-one could claim an objective, both Warlords were dead, and the Blood Ravens had claimed First Blood for the Baal Predator – but I had killed two Heavy Support vehicles and had multiple units in the Raven deployment zone, while my opponent hadn’t managed to finish off Akakos and had nothing outside his own table half – which meant the game had finished 5-2 in my favour.

Well, I can’t honestly believe I won this one, given the pounding I took in the early turns. I think what lost it for the Blood Ravens, other than terrible bad luck with the Librarian and his escort (I’ll say it again: unmodified Deep Strike is a massive gamble and too easy to mess up), was the choice to move their vehicles up the centre of the table towards my AT units – killing these scored me relatively easy points. The relatively static nature of the Raven list also sort-of worked in my favour as I was always going to claim more Linebreaker points than them.

Of course, if my worthy opponent ever manages to get his Terminators and Librarian onto the table I suspect he will roll me over quite easily – then again, if I ever get my Baal Predator up close to his Tactical Marines that should have interesting results as well. But another excellent game against a strong army, played in the right spirit – 5-2 really doesn’t indicate what a close game this really was.

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