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.
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.