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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.

consecrators

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.

bloodangels

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.

bloodangels

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.

bloodangels

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.

bloodangels

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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So, the day of the long-planned, much-contemplated battle between the Blood Angels and the Blood Ravens finally arrived. I had, if I’m honest, been pre-thinking this one rather too much, writing at least three lists before settling on the one I eventually took. This probably constitutes list-tailoring, which I usually abhor, but I didn’t fancy getting blown off the table by the Blood Ravens’ massed firepower, and I wanted to give my opponent a decent match.

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In the end I knew I would be staring down the barrels of a Vindicator gun, a Thunderfire cannon, three lascannons, and various sniper rifles and squad heavy weapons, to say nothing of the weaponry of the Storm Talon, so I decided to swamp the Ravens with multiple targets in the hope something would get through and do some damage up close. I left Captain Zed on the bench in order to give my Assault Marines some backbone through the presence of a Chaplain, took a mechanised Tactical Squad and a full Assault Squad, minimaxed Death Company and a Death Company Dreadnought, filled up my Fast Attack choices with a Baal Predator, an Attack Bike and a Land Speeder, and finished off with my regular picks of a Furioso, a Sanguinary Priest and a regular Dreadnought (with only the basic load-out for once).

The Ravens turned up with two full Tactical Squads on foot, sniper-rifle Scouts, a three-lascannon Predator, a Vindicator, a drop-podding Dreadnought and a Thunderfire Cannon. New to the build this week were six hammer-toting Terminators led by a Librarian in Terminator armour. These gave me serious pause, as I know just how hard to kill they can be (that’s the reason why I have some myself) – only my Dreadnoughts could reliably get through their 2+ saves and nothing could touch their 3+ shield saves.

And, well – well, the annoying thing is that GW Oxford has changed the hours of their games night so it concludes at 8pm. For those of us who work until 5pm this makes playing a full game, even at only 1500 points, a considerable challenge. Time limits (two hours a game) and/or fairly draconian points caps (1000 points on a 4×4 table does not seem unreasonable) are surely on the way. Either way, we only finished three turns of a potential seven.

I was lucky and got both the first turn and Night Fighting, and everything moved forward in a frontal assault on the Raven deployment zone. New Model Syndrome bared its teeth as the Baal Predator crashed into terrain hoping to eliminate the Scouts and immobilised itself on turn 1. Thankfully the Raven shooting was harsh, but not cripplingly so, and I was lucky with Jink saves on the Speeder and Bike: my main worry was their Dreadnought, which dropped into my deployment zone.

On turn 2 the central thrust continued from the Tactical and Assault Marines, with the Death Company Dreadnought also on the march and the Furioso preparing to engage the Raven Dreadnought. The Speeder and Attack Bike whipped around the Raven flank, destroying the Vindicator and threatening multiple units. The Furioso killed the enemy Dreadnought leaving me still confident.

Neither the Terminators nor the Storm Talon put in an appearance on turn 2, but the volume of fire the Ravens were able to generate was still worrying, and my inability to pass Feel No Pain tests was a bit irksome. The Assault Squad was heavily whittled down and the improved armour on the front of the Furioso also proved its value.

On turn 3 I finally got to assault, using the Attack Bike to draw off the Overwatch of the Tactical Squad and allow the surviving Assault Marines, Chaplain, and Priest to get in unmolested, while the regular Dreadnought assaulted the Drop Pod – the Death Company Dreadnought was out of range of the last surviving Scout. I think I made my biggest tactical mistake of the game in challenging the Raven Sergeant with my Sanguinary Priest; the two characters killed each other taking my Feel No Pain save with them – the Chaplain would have been tougher and faster in the challenge and allowed the Priest to hack down some regular guys. I’m not sure there’s any value to challenging a regular sergeant with a chainsword at all. (My biggest rules mistake was forgetting Hammer of Wrath for the Assault Marines and Attack Bike, but hey ho.) The Blood Ravens hung in there anyway, but their Drop Pod was trashed.

My opponent’s variable luck continued on his turn 3 as he failed both his 3+ reserve rolls again. The second Tactical Squad and the cannon fired at my Tactical Squad but only killed a single marine, while the Predator’s attempt to kill the Death Company Dreadnought was hampered by the improved cover save the Techpriest on the cannon had bestowed on the terrain it was moving through. The combat between the Assault Marines and the Raven Tactical Squad turned into a bit of a slugging match, but the Angels won and the Ravens fled. The game was finely poised; I was in a position to assault either or both of his Tactical Squads on the following turn, the Attack Bike was positioned to threaten the Predator, the Death Company Dreadnought would almost certainly have wiped out the Scouts, the surviving Death Company were slowly trotting into assault range… On the other hand the Terminators and Librarian presented a massive threat and I had nothing which could reliably damage the Storm Talon, and all of these things were on their way to the table.

But we had no time.  Pointswise it was 3-3, so we called it a draw – which we both agreed was a fair result. It had been a terrific game so far, and it was bitterly disappointing to have to abandon it halfway through.

My strategy seemed to work pretty well, dubious decisions with the Baal Predator notwithstanding (I was unlucky with the dice, obviously – is it worth putting a dozer blade on this thing? It would mean covering up some paintwork I’m very happy with). The only thing I might change would be to drop the Death Company units in favour of my own Terminators, now that I know the Blood Ravens are taking them too (we are already discussing a rematch in a more congenial venue).

I was rather impressed with how well the flank move by the Land Speeder and Attack Bike went. Bikes seem to have the potential to be seriously good in 6th Ed, but no-one seems to have noticed this yet – I’m almost tempted to dust off my plans for a White Scars army; basic T5 and an innate 5+ cover save when moving make for a very resilient force, while Hammer of Wrath is a nice perk too (when you remember it). The Land Speeder also seemed rather tasty: in larger games I can imagine a contingent of two Speeders and three Attack Bikes making the same kind of flanking move and causing a serious headache for most armies.

In the end though this was more about where and when we played the game than the rules and tactics themselves. This was a shame, so perhaps the biggest lesson was to start to think about other possibilities in this area. As usual we shall see.

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Well, nothing specific lined up for this week’s games night, so I turned up prepared to take on all comers – a busy week at the painting desk meant I was able to field one brand new unit and one at an expanded size (I also finished a melta-flamer Land Speeder, but couldn’t squeeze it into the list).

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I found myself taking on a Daemon army at 1500 points – with the Daemon book being essentially new, this was the first time for my opponent as well as myself. We rolled up a mission where the outcome of the game was solely determined by the number of enemy units wiped out, which played to the Blood Angels’ strengths at least. It was also a refreshingly simple scenario which somehow suited the bleak polar board we were playing over.

The first thing that strikes me about the new Daemon codex is the sheer volume of dice-rolling and book-keeping required at the start of a game, with the huge numbers of random psychic powers and Daemonic rewards that needed generating even at only 1500 points. Daemons are an army I’ve toyed with collecting in the past, mainly because of the painting possibilities, but all this was a bit offputting, properly chaotic though it was: my opponent had a lot to remember every turn.

I deployed first and opted for a straightforward phalanx of Blood Angels: in the centre went Captain Zed, a Priest, and three full-sized squads (two Tactical, one of them mechanised, and an Assault Squad). On my left wing were a rifleman Dreadnought, a Furioso, and a melta-armed attack bike. Screening the right flank were five Terminators with hammers and shields. In front of me were two packs of Daemons, Bloodletters and Daemonettes, while a Slaanesh chariot was lurking out of sight in the far left corner.

I kept the initiative and everything advanced steadily across the board – there wasn’t much capable of shooting but the rifleman and rhino thinned the Bloodletters down a bit. On the first Daemonic turn the chariot rattled into view, heading for the left wing, while the Bloodletters and Daemonetters advanced on the centre. The Daemon shooting was minimal. In their assault phase the Bloodletters initially charged the Furioso until we realised this was illegal – not that I would have objected, obviously. They went for the Rhino instead and chopped it to pieces, III/5 safely piling out.

On my turn the Terminators advanced on the Daemonettes, while III/5 and III/8 formed up around the Bloodletters, III/3 holding their position. The Dreadnoughts and the Attack Bike moved towards the Chariot. The twin autocannon opened up on the Chariot and blew it apart, the Slaaneshi Herald it carried landing in front of the Attack Bike, which promptly fried it with its multi-melta. Rapid-firing boltguns and massed flamers from III/5 and III/8 wiped out the Bloodletters in the shooting phase, but left III/8 without an assault target. They would be exposed to a charge from the Daemonettes unless I could tie the Slaanesh Daemons up with a charge from the Terminators – but their charge roll fell an inch short.

On the Daemon turn, a Daemon Prince materialised in front of the Dreadnoughts and Attack Bike while an enormous Keeper of Secrets shimmered into existence in the rear of my army. The Daemonic shooting and psychic powers were ineffectual – luckily Captain Zed’s warlord trait meant he could extend his Ld 10 to virtually the entire army, as most of the Slaaneshi powers require Ld tests – and the Daemonettes charged the Assault Marines. Again the flamers proved their worth, killing several Daemons before the combat proper began. Zedrenael took on the Herald leading the pack in a challenge, but neither managed to wound the other. The Assault Marines won the combat and another Daemon evaporated.

It was now my third turn and I found I had no reason to move anything but the Terminators, which advanced on the Keeper of Secrets. The Dreadnoughts and Attack Bike opened up on the Daemon Prince, to little effect, which was slightly worrying. Both full Tactical squads opened up at the Keeper with meltas, bolters, and a missile launcher, taking three wounds off it.

In my assault phase Zedrenael and the Herald continued their duel, neither again being able to score a serious hit, but the Assault Marines hacked down the rest of the Daemonettes and a wound from instability carried over to the Herald. In my half of the table there was a moment of genuine hammer horror as the Terminators engaged the Keeper of Secrets hand-to-hand. The arcane lore of the great beast clearly did not extend to an understanding of the rules for storm shields, however (the Daemon General was a bit surprised too), and the monster’s attacks were harmlessly absorbed. Even needing 5s to hit the WS9 Daemon, the massed attacks of the Terminator thunder hammers were enough to batter it to a pulp, which I considered a result.

We called the game at that point, mainly because I’d been offered £50 to be elsewhere ten minutes hence. But it was looking grim for the forces of Chaos, as they were down to a wounded Herald of Slaanesh and two Daemon Princes (one of which had yet to arrive) and my casualties consisted of III/5’s Rhino and four Assault Marines. I was 6-1 up on points and while I’ve no doubt the Daemon Princes could have wreaked considerable havoc, it would have been relatively easy to scatter my forces across the table and make it impossible for the Daemons to kill enough units to get a win.

So, what do I feel I’ve learned? Well, this particular list felt pretty well-balanced, although I’m not wild about fielding a lone Attack Bike. 37 infantry gave it plenty of heft and it performed well in both shooting and assaults. And the utility of the flamers has given me pause for thought: I know that standard tactical dogma is to give Assault Squads two melta-guns, but a flamer-hand flamer combo was very effective here. Hmmm. The Terminators performed as well as I could have hoped; this is a unit I’m very happy with on every level.

The fate of the Chaos force really makes me think that what and where to Deep Strike is the biggest decision you have to make in the course of a game – in both this and last week’s game, a major unit Deep Struck in entirely the wrong place, right next to unit with a good chance of killing it (which duly happened). I don’t feel I suffered at all by not Deep Striking with either the Assault Marines or the Terminators – my tactic in using the Terminators is to march an impossible-to-ignore unit down the enemy’s throat, hopefully drawing fire away from my softer infantry onto this incredibly resilient squad.

Another very positive game, then. My main priority ahead of next week, when the long-planned Blood Angel-vs-Blood Raven game is scheduled, is to get a Baal Predator finished, as I am curious to see its psychological effect on an opponent. Beyond this, I just need to do some detailing on the Death Company (who, I note, didn’t make it into this game either). An army is never finished, it seems.

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