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.
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.