Posts Tagged ‘Blood Angels’

Dear friends, I am seriously considering knocking this wargaming commentary segment of NCJG on the head. I’m completely indifferent to this news, I hear you cry (well, mutter), and that’s putting it charitably. But go ahead and explain further anyway.

Well, you know, I’ve just kicked off a Diploma course, which friends and colleagues assure me will soon come to devour my life to the very uttermost degree (much shaking of heads and clucking generally ensue as they consider the prospect, rather as if I’d announced I was planning to unicycle across the Kalahari). So it may be that I simply won’t have time to play any games.

Nevertheless I am hoping to carry on gaming, not least because the night of the Life Devouring Diploma (henceforth the LDD) falls conveniently with regard to Thursday down at GW Oxford. Whether I’m able to do any painting the rest of the time is another matter – and to be perfectly honest I have finally, seriously, and irrevocably (ha, ha) decided to concentrate on getting a WFB army into table shape.

So it looks like I’m stuck with the 40K armies I’ve got until further notice, which raises the dismal prospect of an endless succession of bulletins along the lines of ‘Went to GW Oxford this week, got eaten by a horde army again’. (My most recent list has included 31 infantry models at 1750: so unless I meet some other eternal optimist who turns up packing Deathwing, pretty much every other army I meet is going to feel like a horde.)

That’s how it went this week anyway: ended up playing Bugs, our local Tyranid specialist (see what I’ve done there?), who’d turned up with a small fraction of his 13,000 point collection. We ended up fighting over objectives and with a slightly eccentric mission where my jump infantry and vehicles (so most of the army) started in reserve, with my footsloggers and walkers dominating the centre of the table. The entire Nid swarm hugged their table edge.

Well, I managed to kill a Zoanthrope on my first turn, which was nice, but then some sort of unreasonable shoot-round-corners Tyranid weapon immobilised my Death Company Dreadnought (parked out of sight as an anger management measure), while a lance shot from the other Zoanthrope immobilised my Furioso Dreadnought in front of all the Nid monsters. Massed shooting from tooled-up Termagants killed a big chunk of my footsloggers… and so on.

I suppose I made a bit of a gaffe quite early on in opting to shoot at an encroaching Hormagaunt swarm with everything I had – quite sensibly Bugs removed the models in assault range of my Dreadnought. Had I managed to lock the unit in place with the Dread I could potentially have followed up with additional charges from the Death Company the following turn and wreaked utter havoc amongst them. As it was the Tyranids had their choice of targets the following turn and took full advantage.

The Dreadnought eventually splattered two Tyranid Primes and a unit of Warriors but by that point I had nothing else left on that side of the table but the (late-arriving) Whirlwind, which actually managed to get its points back (possibly a first) despite only firing two shots.

There was some cause for cheeriness on the other flank due to the startling carnage caused by Astorath and the Sanguinary Guard, who effectively wiped out a 30-strong Termagant brood on the charge, took out another ten when they counter-assaulted, and then gutted a Tervigon on their next turn (sadly the other Termagants on the table were just too far away to get their little brains fried by feedback). Then the Zoanthrope zapped one of the Guard, a Carnifex puked over three others, and suddenly the wind was no longer beneath their wings.

Astorath clearly sensed the game was up and made a proper hash of killing the Zoanthrope even with his special advantages against invulnerable opponents. As Astorath vanished beneath the Carnifex, the Zoanthrope, and twenty Termagants, and the Dreadnought was toasted by the shoot-round-corners guns, I decided to call it a night. All I had left was the Whirlwind and an Attack Bike which I had cunningly preserved by deploying in the midst of my sizable Dead Pile and then never doing anything with or referring to it.

Oh well. Looking back I suppose I had an outside chance in this game but blew it simply due to not sticking to my plan. I will (toy) soldier on for the time being and see if there are any glimmers of improvement in weeks to come.

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When deciding to make my wargaming comeback at GW Oxford, I suppose I did my best to stack the odds in my favour – I sorted out a game with my regular opponent Twiggy, never having played his Orks with my Blood Angels, and never having beaten him outright with any of my armies. Knowing his army quite well I wrote a list which (I thought) gave me the best chance I could contrive.

So in went the usual Death Company, Tactical Marines, and Assault Marines, along with three dreadnoughts (one Furioso, one from the Death Company, and one of the regular variety) to deal with Twiggy’s numerous Killa Kans, an Attack Bike with a multi-melta for the same reason, and leading the charge the Sanguinary Guard in support of Astorath the Grim. I had hopes that my Whirlwind might finally perform well against the big Ork mobs Twiggy relies upon for the bulk of his force.

We wound up playing a mission in which the Blood Angels attacked from a direction (or directions) of choice, against an enemy forced to spread out across the table. Twiggy took an enormously long time setting up as this was a serious tactical challenge – he knew I was guaranteed first turn with every chance of launching some charges before he got to react.

Looking back I made an enormous blunder right at the start of the game, in that I decided to engage as many of the Orks as possible at the first opportunity. Things went quite well inasmuch as I managed to destroy two-thirds of a Kan squadron on my first turn and bring down a Dethkopta as well. However, it very rapidly became obvious that I had overestimated the ability of the Blood Angels to destroy Ork units in combat. Astorath and the Guard thumped home into one of the main Ork footmobs and killed 20 on the charge – but the Nob’s powerclaw killed three of the Guard and the Ork rules and wargear kept them solidly in the fight.

Not quite as bad but still worrying, the Death Company Dreadnought assaulted three Ork meganobs – but average rolling and an unsuspected 5+ invulnerable save (Cybork bodies, apparently) meant I caused only a single wound and the massed powerclaws in response ripped the Dreadnought to pieces.

It very quickly became apparent that I’d stirred up a (green) hornet’s nest. Everywhere I looked Orks were assaulting or redeploying out of harm’s way and my units were slowly but surely being overwhelmed in combat (and not even that slowly in a few cases). After my first turn successes (and even then I only finished 2-1 up) we were deep into the game before I was able to finish off the first Kan squadron, though my surviving Dreadnoughts were able to dispose of the others eventually. When we called it a night (food and bus timetable considerations) at the end of turn 5 I was 16-6 down in points with no prospect of a win unless my Furioso single-handedly destroyed virtually the entire Ork army.

So that’ll teach me. Short of not playing like a muffin and instead concentrating my attack against high-value Ork units like his Warboss, I can’t think of much I could have done to alter this result. I suppose this is really a tribute to the strength of Twiggy’s army build, which is considerable. As well as being a steamroller in an assault, the resilience of the thing is uncanny: the ability of the Kan squadrons to shrug off a lot of damage is annoying, but the real killers are the 30-strong Ork mobs. Potentially 100+ S4 attacks on the charge are bad enough, but against elite armies like the Blood Angels, it’s the claw on the Nob that really does the damage. You can’t allocate against the Nob as he’s not an independent character and it’s quite easy to give him wargear that essentially makes the unit unbreakable in combat.

In fact, the only realistic way I can think of getting rid of this guy (short of a massed charge by my entire assault elite to slaughter the unit before he gets to attack, which I can’t see Twiggy letting me organise) is to take a couple of Librarians and try to Blood Boil the Nobs before they reach me.

Then again I suppose only taking 30-ish infantry models at 1750 points is really asking for trouble. A second Tactical Squad would help with this but it’s what I drop to fit it in. Decisions, decisions…

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For the first time in a while I managed to carve out some space in my schedule to actually play some 40K, and for the first time ever it was against someone who actually reads this blog. I was a bit worried that this would put me at an automatic disadvantage (surely all those wails of ‘I don’t have enough anti-tank’ and declarations that ‘the army relies too heavily on Mephiston killing everything in sight’ couldn’t have gone unnoticed) but then circumstances dictated my taking an all-infantry force anyway and it was nice to have an excuse before we even started playing.

The prospect of playing mechanised Eldar was not an appealing one but my opponent put that back to our second game and started off by rolling out his Necrons. A fairly standard army, it seemed to me: lots of destroyers and a monolith. The mission turned out to be the Necrons ambushing the Blood Angels. As the prospect of getting into assaults with Necrons was something I was very happy about, I wasn’t too worried, but my opponent clearly was and deployed extremely cautiously, obviously hoping to gun and run me while shielding his warriors.

I got the first turn and not much happened apart from the Devastators obliterating an entire Scarab swarm and nearly everything else swooping towards the enemy. On his first turn my opponent showed he’d been doing his homework by targeting Mephiston with his Heavy Destroyers and sticking three wounds on him. Hmmm! Elsewhere the Tactical Squad took a battering but that was all in terms of shooting, and this was largely due to the Necron Lord and an Immortal squad teleporting across the table to outflank me.

This proved to be a bad move as the Immortals were now in view of the plasma cannons of the Devastator squad, and also in assault range of the Captain and his retinue. Needless to say they did not survive the turn. Elsewhere the Death Company ran up to the monolith, bashed it with their thunder hammer and immobilised it (they were now effectively immobilised themselves due to the Rage rule, unless they could destroy it), while Mephiston engaged the Heavy Destroyers. My plan was to try and avoid killing all of them on the charge (not necessarily easy with the Lord of Death!) which would hopefully keep Mephiston safely locked in combat for the next Necron shooting phase. The good news was that one did indeed survive, but the bad news was that he actually stuck a wound on Mephiston leaving him with only one left.

Not much happened on the second Necron turn beyond the Destroyers shooting fairly ineffectually at the Captain’s squad and Mephiston finishing off the Heavy Destroyers (the Necron Warrior reserves refused to show up). On the third Blood Angel turn the Death Company managed to smash the monolith and Mephiston charged and wiped out the regular Destroyers, and at this point (6-0 down on kill points and with only two Necron Warrior squads and a Tomb Spider left to work with) the Necrons conceded the game. I think more aggressive deployment and play might have given them a better chance, but then again I think getting the first turn makes a big difference in this mission.

Anyway – no more Mr Nice Guy and out came a mechanised Eldar army, with three Wave Serpents, three War Walkers, a Falcon, a Night Spinner, lots of Dire Avengers, Fire Dragons, Scorpions, and Eldrad in it. Oh dear. We ended up playing a objective-based mission with most of our armies starting off the board. Eldrad’s Stones of Warding really promised to peg Mephiston’s psychic powers back and limit his abilities.

And for the first couple of turns the Blood Angels took a real pounding, the Death Company staggering forward towards Eldrad’s Wave Serpent, one of the combat squads being all but obliterated. My counterfire and mobility were both extremely limited. The game was going as I’d feared it might.

Then, we had a remarkable twist of fortunes. My reserves turned up. I decided my only chance was to deep strike the Sanguinary Guard deep into the Eldar deployment zone so they could shoot at the rear of their vehicles – but they scattered off the board, causing a mishap which let my opponent deploy them. Apologising for doing so (which touched me, rather), my opponent popped them down in front of the Fire Dragons, where they were sitting ducks. I deep struck the Captain’s squad down in roughly the same place safely (my opponent declared this was ‘ballsy’ until I reminded him of the Descent of Angels rule).

Anyway, that turn the Captain and his squad managed to wreck one of the Wave Serpents and the Death Company assaulted and destroyed another, really limiting the Eldar mobility on that side of the table. On the next Eldar turn my opponent took solace from his losses (and the non-appearance of his large squad of Striking Scorpions from reserve) by opening up on the Guard with the Fire Dragons’ melta-guns. Five shots, three hits… but no wounds! Somehow it was all starting to go right for the Blood Angels.

On my next turn Mephiston risked Wings of Sanguinius, got away with it and wiped out the Fire Dragons on the charge. The Death Company assaulted the War Walkers and destroyed them all. The Captain and his squad moved up behind the Night Spinner and destroyed that in the shooting phase as well.

The Eldar were taking massive casualties but still in the game, and the arrival of the Striking Scorpions only made that more obvious. Luckily they were fractionally out of assault range of the Captain’s squad. Elsewhere Eldrad assaulted and wiped out the surviving Death Company and the Falcon containing a squad of Dire Avengers positioned itself to claim an objective in my table half.

We were both running out of Troops choices and time. On my next turn the Guard shot at and then assaulted and wiped out Eldrad and his squad, while the Captain’s squad and the Attack Bike did the same to another Dire Avenger unit. Mephiston began a long and infuriating cat-and-mouse pursuit of a damaged Wave Serpent threatening to contest an objective held by my combat squad.

At the end of turn five, despite everything, the Eldar were ahead, holding one objective while contesting another. Luckily the dice went my way and we played on into turn six. On that turn I was able to wipe out the Dire Avengers doing the holding and move an Assault Squad up to contest with the Falcon, making the game a draw (Mephiston proved unable to get rid of the annoying Wave Serpent on the other side of the table). But the dice favoured me again and we were into a final turn…

The Guard assaulted and wiped out the Striking Scorpions (a fitting conclusion to a spectacularly good performance from them, easily their most impressive for me), while the last surviving Assault Squad member finally managed to stick his power fist through the back of the Falcon and bring it down, giving me an objective outright. With only one unit left in his army and two objectives under Blood Angel control, my opponent accepted defeat. But it had been an incredibly close and unpredictable game and I fully appreciate how very lucky I was to win. A lot of fun, as well, of course.

Not for the first time, though, I find no lessons in victory. The first game did see a couple of units doing absolutely nothing to impact on the game, and yet I scored a fairly easy win. In the second game, I think pretty much everything played its part in helping me scrape a very lucky win – changing anything in the army would have changed the course of the game. And I’m quite happy with the result I got!

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Is a mid-life crisis upon me? Has the balance of my mind become somehow disturbed? Or, to put it more succinctly, why have I become so insanely and pointlessly competitive? Readers of long standing may recall the shameless episode wherein I became inexcusably surly and quit a game the moment it became technically impossible for me to win. A very poor show indeed, and while what happened in the last game wasn’t as bad… well, here’s the story.

An old opponent and I had been trying to schedule a game for ages and finally managed it: 1250 points, albeit on a 4×4 table. He had a new Grey Knight army in need of a field test and I was happy to oblige. Having finally painted something new for the army I gave my list a bit of a rejig – same leader (a Captain) and troop choices (full tactical squad, assault combat squad, and ten relatively tooled up Death Company), some Sanguinary Guard, an attack bike with multi-melta (finally got some more anti-tank in the list) and a Whirlwind. Looking back I haven’t really got a clue why the Whirlwind was in there against an elite power-armoured army. 90 points short I suppose.

We basically ended up playing a Kill Point game, and the Grey Knights deployed (left to right from my perspective) a venerable Dreadnought, a 5-man Strike Squad, a Land Raider Crusader filled with an Inquisitor and her retinue, a Terminator Squad, and (in deep cover) a Vindicare Assassin.

Facing the other way were the Attack Bike, the Guard, the Tactical Squad, the Death Company, and then the Assault Squad with the Captain. I got the first turn and advanced relatively cautiously (as cautiously as one can manage with Death Company on the table anyway). In the shooting phase the Whirlwind unleashed a salvo of devastating ordnance and killed nothing and the Attack Bike fired at the Dreadnought from within what we call nasty-range but only managed to glance it. Ending up with a weapon destroyed result I had a tough choice – combat weapon or assault cannon? I opted to take the power fist out, a decision which may well have been crucial.

Oh well. The Grey Knights stormed forward, except for the Vindicare. This put them nicely into assault range of all my jump packs and fleet infantry. On the downside, the Vindicare wounded the Captain and knocked out his iron halo and the dreadnought blew up the Attack Bike with the assault cannon I had pointedly not just destroyed. New model syndrome I suppose.

The next turn the Blood Angel charges slammed home with the Guard assaulting the Strike Squad, and the Death Company attacking the Land Raider. The Strike Squad were wiped out with ease (quite the best performance from the Guard in their history, not that this is saying much) and the Death Company stunned the Land Raider.

However, these were Grey Knights and the Land Raider magically recovered, backed up and spat out the Inquisitor and her chums, intent on assaulting the Death Company. I thought this a little optimistic. In the shooting phase the Dreadnought mowed down two Guard with its not-actually-destroyed assault cannon, which at least put it out of assault range on them.

The Inquisitorial mob charged the Death Company, but this was a unit set up for firefights rather than close combat and casualties were light. The Inquisitor chopped down two Death Company with her vampire-daemon-sword, which boosted her up to 5 wounds. This was fine by me as it meant I won the combat by that much more when she was knocked into the ground like a tent-peg by the Death Company thunder hammer-bearer. ‘The lack of an invun is a bit of an achilles heel for her,’ my opponent admitted. I suggested that, following the hammer incident, her achilles heel was now located adjacent to her collarbone, and he agreed with that as well.

Anyway the Inquisition lost by a large margin, broke and were run down. I was 2-1 up on points now and feeling in a good position. On my next turn I moved everything to assault the Terminators who were hiding in a wood. I had a tough call to make as to whether to shoot the Guards’ inferno pistol at the Crusader or the Terminators, as doing the former would stop them charging into combat with the Terminators. I shot at the Terminators in the end; this may have been a mistake. Two Terminators fell from the shooting and two more from the massed Blood Angel charge – one was left standing, which was actually good news for me as it meant virtually my entire army was locked in combat or dug into cover and thus a lot less vulnerable to being shot at.

The Terminator was chopped down in the following turn but not before the last of the Assault Marines had died. I was still 3-2 up and while most of my units had been thinned out I had killed all the Grey Knight infantry, so this looked like an exercise in mopping up, with only two vehicles and the Vindicare to deal with…

And then it all went horribly, horribly wrong. The Captain attempted to rocket out of the woods to engage the Vindicare, brained himself on a low branch and passed away. 3-3. The Death Company’s Rage rule meant they could only assault the Crusader, which they couldn’t hurt. The Guard shot the Crusader this turn but only rolled a 3 for their penetration – dismal stuff, boys. The following turn the Crusader mowed down the last of the Guard (4-3 to the Grey Knights) and the Vindicare took out the Death Company thunder hammer, prior to the Dreadnought charging them.

I desperately needed to kill the Dreadnought to get the game back to parity and so moved up the tactical squad to support the Death Company in combat, as the sergeant was packing melta-bombs. Unfortunately this took them out of cover and en route to the combat they were hosed down by the Crusader and the sergeant was picked off by the Vindicare. Only one guy arrived and was promptly squished by the Dreadnought (5-3 to the Grey Knights).

The game finished at this point and I was left with the very faint consolation that it could have gone worse: the Crusader, bereft of other targets, was trundling towards the Whirlwind, Strength 7 assault cannon and multi-melta at the ready. At least I had something left at the end.

Once my opponent had finished calming me down we considered the game, agreeing that the Vindicare had probably swung it for the Grey Knights: an exceptionally nasty unit and seemingly harder to wound than God. We also discussed the issue of whether I’d made a mistake in not taking off the assault cannon on the Dreadnought. If I had, then either the Attack Bike would have survived the following turn, giving me at least one more chance to blow up the walker or the tank, or the Dreadnought would have been dragged well away from the centre of the combat in order to assault the bike. In retrospect, and seeing how the game went, if I had the game over again I would have killed the assault cannon.

Clearly one solitary multi-melta and a missile launcher are not enough as medium-to-long range AT. As the game went on I was forced to rely on the likes of plasma guns and inferno pistols to take enemy vehicles out at short range. These were effectively one-shot deals each time: if I missed, I wouldn’t get a second chance.

I admit my opinion may be influenced by my singular rotten penetration rolls throughout the game. I don’t think I managed to penetrate either vehicle more than once all game and due to the special rules of the venerable Dreadnought and the Grey Knights neither of these really stuck. Nevertheless it was lack of reliable AT (and, basically, 90 points wasted on a Whirlwind which did nothing) which lost me the game. What it was that lost me my usual genial composure remains, at the time of writing, uncertain.

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Being public-spirited, and always on the lookout for an easy win, last week I offered to play someone relatively new to 40K who lacked confidence in his grasp of the rules. He duly turned up this week and we got down to a 1250 point game. I had the Blood Angels with my, as usual, with what was basically my standard list but with Mephiston left on the bench (and clearly deserving a rest after his tireless efforts over the last few months).

My opponent had a slightly eccentric Marine army with two Captains, two plasma’d-up tactical squads, two dreadnoughts of different configurations, a floating rhino, some terminators and a whirlwind. I put him in to deploy first – the mission was to seize a single enemy objective in their deployment zone. He basically deployed as a firebase, although a lot of things were in the open and nothing was actually contesting his objective.

I deployed similarly, though I had the Death Company and Furioso lining up as a big left hook with the Captain and Assault squad in reserve. The Marines went first and launched a slightly stately advance, with everything on foot (the rhino was acting as a mobile sight-screen) and the terminators attempting to climb a building in a neutral table quarter (my opponent later confessed he didn’t deep strike them as he wasn’t sure of the rules…).

Footslogging Marines in the open make plasma cannon gunners happy and most of the squad in question was duly blown away. The Death Company motored up to give themselves various options for the following turn while the missile launcher combat squad guarding my objective took the first of many ineffectual shots at the Marine vehicles.

The key action of the battle occurred over the next few turns, with the Death Company rhino being blown up and the squad itself being punished by the rest of the enemy army. The vampire marines eventually assaulted the footslogging marines, supported by the Furioso, and wiped them out, but an attempt to press on towards the enemy objective ran out of steam as the Death Company were whittled down and the dreadnought was gradually deprived of all its weapons and mobility before being blown up. My fire-support dreadnought duelled it out with its Marine counterpart before getting toasted near the end of the game.

This had ‘draw’ written all over it from very early on with neither of us being capable of mounting an assault in force on the other’s objective. I played it pointlessly safe when deep striking the Assault squad, coming in nowhere near enough the objective. In the end I was compelled to attack the terminators and wiped them out, but by that point a Marine dreadnought had got stuck in and despite my Captain passing four iron halo saves and sticking two meltabombs on the damn thing I just couldn’t get an effective damage result against it. The game ran out in a stalemate, just as we’d predicted (the second Marine squad hustled into position to hold their objective in the final turns).

Still, it was played in a great spirit and was thoroughly enjoyable. My opponent was already planning to rewrite his list, and it’s just adding to my certainty as to what I need to do to mine: more troops, more mechanisation and more anti-tank power. Regular readers will know as much already, but with my summer break looming it’s just a question of what, if anything, actually gets done.

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I’ve kind of been trying to avoid playing 40K for the last few weeks, mainly because I’m not sure my fragile ego could endure another spanking. Nevertheless with my enforced summer break looming I really have to gather my rosebuds while the sun shines, or something, and so I duly manned up and trotted along to GW Oxford.

Shortly after entering the establishment I was challenged to a game by someone I had better not name. I should have known what to expect when he said he had ‘1000… hang on, 1250… actually I can probably do a full 1500 points.’ Hmmm.

We wound up playing War of Attrition with my Blood Angels in the role of the Imperial Guard. This is a mission which looks a little dodgy to me, balance-wise: the deployment conditions appear to give the Guard a big incentive to deploy with a deep firebase. A more balanced army like the Angels isn’t so limited. Anyway, the Chaos Marines of my opponent were plonked down in the table centre, deep in his own half (he didn’t really consider the value of deploying further forward, or perhaps given I was likely to get first turn he was being cautious) – a squad with a Tzeentch mark, a Daemon Prince, two Obliterators, and a squad of Thousand Sons. On my left I stuck down the Devastators, supported by a combat squad. The Death Company, the Captain and his assault squad, another combat squad and Mephiston all deployed in cover on my right. Victory would be a matter of points destroyed (not kill-points), with infantry Troops recycling as reserves.

I got the first turn and trundled the Death Company up to his army, advancing with the Furioso more slowly. The Devastators started the steady rain of fire on the Chaos forces they would maintain for most of the game, generally being quite accurate (just as well given everything in the Chaos army had some kind of invulnerable save). On the first Chaos turn the Obliterators blew up the Death Company rhino, which was sort of predictable, and a bolt of change destroyed the Furioso, which was a bit unlucky I thought.

Anyway, on the second turn the Death Company negotiated their way around the Rage rule to assault the Obliterators while Mephiston swooped forward and engaged the Thousand Sons single-handed. The Obliterators barely had time to gurgle before they were dead, while Mephiston found himself in a bit of a slugfest: the 4+ invulnerable the Thousand Sons enjoyed kept them in the fight, and I had a nasty shock when I found their champion was packing a force staff: Mephiston was one 6 away from being instantly killed.

There was nothing to be done about that, so I crossed my fingers and concentrated elsewhere. The Tzeentch squad, the Daemon Prince and the Sorcerer all counter-charged the Death Company, but the combat was a close one and the vampire-marines only lost by a single wound. The following turn they were finished off but not before wiping out the last of the Tzeentch squad, while Mephiston polished off the last of the Thousand Sons.

All that was left in the Chaos army by now was the Prince and the Sorcerer and they advanced on my lines waiting for their troops to recycle. Mephiston snuck up on the Sorcerer and showed him the proper use of a force weapon, shortly after which the Thousand Sons reappeared just behind him. Their inferno shots pattered off the Lord of Death’s 2+ save and not wishing to push my luck (and being well ahead on points) I pulled Mephiston back, quite happy to sit out the remaining couple of turns in a defensive posture.

The Daemon Prince had other ideas and pursued Mephiston, taking a wound off him with a Bolt of Change before assaulting. Clearly getting peevish Mephiston demonstrated again how a force sword is properly used and consolidated into cover.

The Tzeentch squad had now recycled alongside the Thousand Sons but as neither had any effective long-range weapons and both were in the fire arc of my plasma cannons as they advanced my opponent conceded even though there was a turn left to play. He was right: the final score was 1095 to the Blood Angels, 490 to the Chaos Marines.

Hmm. Yet another Death-and-Meph outing, with the Company and the Chief Librarian killing the entire enemy army between them (with some supporting fire from the Devastators). Everything else barely moved or shot throughout the entire game. I know those two units are capable of that level of destruction, but at the same time I can’t rely on it. This game was mainly useful as a bit of an insight into some of the odder parts of the Chaos list.

And I feel I must say that my opponent did not seem very confident in his grasp of the rules, consistently forgetting to roll for his daemonic support, not to mention his psychic powers. Maybe I should have been a little more lenient about this and reminded him before the game actually finished, but hey. It’s a tough school. He needs to learn to remember without help, not everyone’s as compassionate as me (and he called me ‘dude’ a couple of times during the game, which I didn’t appreciate).

Oh well, a win’s a win, as they say, and there’s nothing like a crushing one-sided victory to make you remember why you started playing the army in the first place. I’ll settle for that, for now.

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Oh, boy. I try to be a responsible adult who keeps things around me in perspective, and any reasonable person would say that the opportunity for a little judicious career development should be higher on anybody’s priority list than the chance to go and play with toy soldiers somewhere. This is a call that I frequently have to make as all the development seminars in my area seem to be scheduled, without fail, for a Thursday night, which is the only realistic time I have for wargaming. More often than not I manage to squeeze them both in. I fear it says something unflattering about me on all sorts of levels that I am currently welcoming any symposia going, not out of a burning desire to improve my methodology and skills, but because right now I’ll take any decent excuse to avoid being kicked all over the shop by any other army going.

At least with the Consecrators I had some highly resilient Troops units and could, you know, grind out the occasional draw. For some reason the Blood Angels are going through a prolonged period of seeming fragile and non-threatening.

Onto specifics: this week I played a guy with whom I’m building up quite a history of close, fun games (haven’t quite beaten him yet, but). This week he was using his Chaos Marine force, which appeared to comprise a mixture of basic tactical squads, supported by three Obliterators, some tooled up Chaos Terminators, a Daemon Prince, a Greater Daemon and some of the Lesser kind too. The dice were quirky and we wound up playing Wave Assault with Chaos in the role of the Tyranids.

I held the board centre and the Chaos army gradually advanced from three directions. Two of the Obliterators came on in the first turn and proceeded to hammer the Blood Angel devastators who were covering one of the approaches. It quickly became clear I had the choice between sitting tight in the board centre and waiting for the Chaos assault or moving to intercept and counter-assault the enemy.

I went for the latter which was possibly a mistake. Acting unsupported, the Death Company managed to deal with the Terminators when they teleported in but were virtually wiped out as a result. The two survivors managed to tie up some Lesser Daemons for a turn but that was the limit of their contribution. The Chaos tactical units and Obliterators concentrated on hammering my tactical squad and dreadnoughts prior to assaults from the Greater Daemon and Daemon Prince. The squad and the Furioso dreadnought were dealt with extremely briskly and painlessly from the point of view of the Chaos army.

I had sent Mephiston over to one board edge ready to pounce on the Chaos elements that would be coming on from there, but this plan was confounded when the Chaos general deployed them as far as possible from the Lord of Death. By the time Mephiston was back in the thick of things my army had been reduced to a lone devastator sergeant ineffectually rapid firing down at the Obliterator advance, my Captain (whose support squad had just been eaten by a Daemon Prince), an immobilised heavy-weapon dreadnought and the Lord of Death himself. (I was technically out of the game by this point as I could no longer contest objectives and had no chance of routing the entire enemy army in the few turns remaining, but I played on out of common civility.)

Well, Mephiston killed the Daemon Prince on the charge, as you’d expect, and then carved his way through a big squad of Daemonettes with no real cause for concern (these were vanilla daemons, of course). The dreadnought took two wounds off the Greater Daemon, which was then charged by the Captain (I judged that what the situation demanded was a pointless, vainglorious gesture, but I only needed one 6 to potentially take the beast’s last wound).  The Captain muffed it and was gobbled up, Mephiston was left contemplating the prospects of fighting the entire remaining Chaos force virtually single-handed, and luckily further embarrassment was spared when the dice ended the game at the earliest possible moment. We didn’t actually check to see if the Chaos marines were close enough to claim any of the objectives, but in every real sense the game was obviously theirs.

My opponents seem to be wising up to the fact that it’s the Death-and-Meph combo that gives my army whatever potency it possesses, and taking any chance they can to neutralise the former early in the game while steadfastly trying to avoid the latter. The extreme fragility of the army’s ability to contest objectives is also becoming painfully obvious. I need to stick another full-size tactical squad in there, probably a mechanised one. This will probably mean dropping Mephiston, but master of carnage and reliable source of good cheer though he is he’s not helping me win games at the moment.

Other candidates for the chop are my perennially-underperforming plasma cannon devastators and the Captain. I suspect a Chaplain to sing the Death Company on their way will be a cheaper and more effective choice of HQ. The jury is still sitting on the performance of the Furioso dreadnought: possibly switching the (as-yet-unfired) frag cannon for another blood fist may help this guy to shine.

In any case we’re looking at significant changes to the design of the list, and I note I still need to address my anti-tank shortfall. Hum. Keep those professional development seminars coming, guys.

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I can’t seem to stop buying books at the moment. There’s no reason why I should keep buying them – I still have Jailbird, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, and Volume I of the Complete Short Stories of Philip K Dick to look at from when I moved into the garret, not to mention Collected Stories of W. Somerset Maugham and The Painted Veil which I’ve picked up since. And you would have thought that, upon (finally) finishing The Complete Father Brown Stories, I would have got stuck into one or other of these.

And thus was the plan: I packed the Collected Somerset Maugham into my knapsack ahead of my recent trip away (all right, World War Hulk was in there too, just in case I fancied a change of pace). But I popped into Waterstones to use the loo on the way to the bus station and while I was in there (Waterstones, not the toilet) I found a rather lovely imported edition of The Tale of Genji. So I bought that, even though it is a bulky beast, and not to be undertaken lightly.

Then on Tuesday I found myself in Market Harborough and passed up the various fleshy indulgences of Cafe Nero and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in order to do a quick sweep of the charity shops. There were the usual large numbers of discarded copies of Life of Pi (one day I will go into an Oxfam or Age Concern and find the bookshelves stocked entirely with 500 copies of Life of Pi). In my defence I will point out I resisted the urge to buy Brave New World and the collected scripts of Round the Horne. Nevertheless I emerged with Canal Dreams by Banksy and Fabulous Harbours, a fascinating collection of mid-to-late-period Michael Moorcock which may yet prove vital in my quest to assimilate the works of the bearded titan. So I ended with three new books over the weekend, and it’s not even as if I’m reading that fast these days (the last book I finished in one sitting was – er – World War Hulk, and I know what that says about me).

You may be thinking that there’s not a lot of wargaming in this supposedly-wargame-related blog post. And you would be right, except that I am attempting to communicate something of the quality of my wargaming experience this week, which – likewise – did not contain a lot of wargaming.

I wound up playing a Tau army at 1000 points, which, as usual, necessitated some mental arithmetic which I cocked up. The dice suggested we play a mission entitled Vertical Envelopment. The scenario is that the two armies line up face to face no closer than 18″ apart, and the winner is the one who destroys the most units in the opposing army.

Now I don’t usually knock the Battle Missions book but this scenario just seems to invite the Tau to set up well back in their deployment zone and just go shooty-shoot-shoot: it plays entirely to their strengths (with the addition that they can bring their piranhas and hammerheads on behind the enemy army if they so choose), and they get the first turn (i.e. shooting phase) on a 2+.

And so it transpired, with the Blood Angels staggering forward through a hail of fire in a vain attempt to engage the Tau up close. When I got to initiate assaults, the Blood Angels effortlessly destroyed whatever they contacted, even though it was only two vampire-marines against a full Tau squad on both occasions. And the downside was that the assault units were left hung out to dry in the aftermath of the assault of both occasions and didn’t survive the Tau counterfire.

Well, anyway, I’m not going to attempt a full blow-by-blow partly because I can’t remember which Tau units shot up which ones of mine (I will say that the Tau do seem to get an awful lot of models at 1K though). And it wasn’t as if I was wiped out by the end of turn 6, when the game ended: I had a tactical marine with a missile launcher hanging in there. Nevertheless I had lost 5 units and only managed to kill some Kroot, some pathfinders, a piranha and some stealthsuits, so it was a 5-4 win for the Tau.

Not, you would think from looking at the score, a terrible drubbing, but still unsatisfactory. The game only lasted about thirty minutes, because the Tau were mainly just using their shooting phase and I was mostly moving and then running. And on the bus home I realised my army had actually only totalled 940 points and I could have given the Death Company their rhino transport. I can’t imagine how this game would have gone if they’d been mobile: as it was they lost 7 out of 10 troopers in the first Tau shooting phase (nearly a quarter of the points cost of the army).

Even before this game I had been thinking that my army relied too much on the Death-and-Meph combo to contest games and this performance only confirmed that (I didn’t take Mephiston; I wouldn’t at 1000 points, it’s just uncivilised). The usual issues: I need more bodies, more long-range anti-tank shooting, maybe some more transports… hrmmp.

So at least I got out of the shop early for once, anyway. After enjoying my chicken royale meal from a well-known fast food restaurant chain, I found I had a few minutes before the bus back to the garret. So I popped into Waterstone’s again for a casual look around and maybe a bit of a browse (no Moorcock on the shelves at all – and they call themselves a bookshop) and emerged, admittedly sheepish, with a crisp new copy of Yippi-Ki-Ay Moviegoer! by Vern. Vern does a good job of appearing to be a complete moron but his film reviews are subtle and extremely funny, and a definite incitement to me to raise my own game. And if I’d had a more satisfying game this week (or, alternately, checked my sums) I might never have bought it. So, you know, silver linings and all.

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I tend to find mono-build army lists quite tedious no matter how they play, and I think one of the strengths of most of the current 40K roster is that most of the lists do have multiple viable builds (I’m no great fan of either the standard current Necron or Tau Empire lists).

So I was a little surprised to find myself playing two very, very similar Space Marine armies in the space of only a month or so. Both featured a thunderfire cannon and a land raider stuffed with hammer-and-shield terminators, commanded by Vulkan Hestan. I think it was the choice of Vulkan that was largely responsible for shaping much of the rest of the force. I had a good result against this style of build with my Eldar, but two things were different: I was playing a Blood Angels army which I will happily admit is deficient against armour, and my opponent was the same guy whose Tau and my Eldar fought out an excruciatingly close draw.

We ended up playing a mission called Crusade with the Blood Angels as attackers. Everything non-vehicular recycled and it was all kill-point based. I was going first on a 2+ and deployed aggressively. The Salamanders set up to receive my charge… and then, of course, I rolled a 1 and the Salamanders got the initiative after all.

The Salamander artillery blasted the Blood Angel devastators and drove them back from the rooftop they’d deployed on. The Salamander firebase stayed put, while two Dreadnoughts clanked forward, one of them blowing the blood fist off the Blood Angel Furioso. The land raider advanced and released Vulkan and the terminators in front of the same target. They smashed it to bits and sidled forward towards the rest of my army.

Mephiston was in the area but I felt that even he might struggle against a squad with a 3+ invulnerable save, so he flew off to have a crack at the land raider. The Death Company zoomed up to the Salamander firebase and hopped out of their rhino. The firestorm Dreadnought blew the power fist off the Salamander’s venerable dreadnought and stopped it shooting the next turn.

For the next few turns, however, fortune did not favour the Blood Angels as Vulkan and his squad gradually rolled up my line, racking up a hefty kill-point tally. All the time the Death Company was bogged down fighting the Salamander venerable dread, their krak grenades and thunder hammer not quite able to kill it. The only ray of hope was, as usual, Mephiston, who scored five penetrating hits on the Salamander ironclad dreadnought before tearing into their firebase.

With Vulkan and his squad eventually worn down to nothing, the Death Company finally flattening the venerable dreadnought and getting stuck in, and Mephiston killing roughly a squad a game turn, the Blood Angels were slaughtering their way back into the game, and from being 6-1 down midway through, I was back to 9-8 by the closing stages. On the final Salamander turn, the terminators recycled, came on and finished off the last two Death Company, making the score 10-8. Mephiston still had six opponents left in his current scrum but only managed to kill five of them. The mission made the Salamanders stubborn, and the fight ground on.

To draw the game I had to destroy two Salamander units on my turn. Most of my army was on its second or third recycle and deep in my own territory: Mephiston was fighting a lone Salamander sergeant, while my captain and his escort were assaulting the immobilised land raider. Hardly surprisingly, Mephiston killed the sergeant four times, and the score was 10-9. The assault squad sergeant couldn’t find the 6 he needed to damage the tank with his powerfist so it was down to the Captain… 6 or more on two dice to be in with a chance of a draw. I rolled a 5, and it was all over (again).

Well, I can’t complain too much, as even my opponent acknowledged the dice were rather unkind at a couple of key moments. I can’t even complain too much as I made some extremely bad decisions which resulted in the assault squad being killed twice pointlessly – if I’d held these boys back rather than throwing them in harm’s way I might well have won 9-8. And if the Death Company hadn’t got bogged down against the venerable dreadnought…

In any case, I managed to comport myself around the table as well as I would hope and it did make for a close game. Every game I play shows up the flaws and strengths of the army in a little more detail. I still need to find more anti-tank gear from somewhere and the devastators have yet to perform up to standard. All my success in the last three games has come from the Death Company and Mephiston murdering everything in sight in close combat – everything else has been marginal or just spectated. So some food for thought there, to go with the growing score I feel the need to settle (in the nicest possible way) with my opponent.

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As long-term readers may have surmised, I am not a particularly capable wargamer: I seem to lack the killer instinct when it comes to putting a list together – I always end up with something fun and varied and characterful rather than relentlessly effective on the table. What success I occasionally manage to grab is mainly a result of my one and only gaming virtue, which is the ability to step back and think in terms of mission objectives and tactics rather than simply going all out to cause carnage. This faculty hardly ever deserts me, and it keeps me in games I should probably otherwise lose.

Today I met somebody else who plays the same way. I’d watched this guy play before on a number of occasions and actually played him in a WOTR team game; I knew he would be a tough opponent, especially today. We were playing a 2000 point 40K game with his Dark Eldar against my Blood Angels.

I’d had to scramble to get 2K together, and the result was a moderately vehicle-heavy and antitank-light army, which was a concern seeing that the Dark Eldar army consisted of two Ravagers, three (or possibly four) Raider skiffs, a Venom, a large Scourge unit and some Reavers: very mobile and exceptionally shooty against vehicles and armoured troops.

Well, the Dark Eldar retained the initiative and began with a display of the cagey tactics they would employ throughout: staying out of sight, on their transports, and sniping from long range. This initially didn’t do much damage and I ploughed forward hopefully. However, it soon became apparent that the Dark Eldar vehicles were not as fragile as they looked. The wargear built into the skiffs neutralised the melta weapons the Blood Angels were toting and gave them additional cover saves from my (very limited) heavy weapons fire. Even after a direct hit from the Whirlwind, at the end of my first turn the Dark Eldar bodycount consisted of two dead Scourges and naught else.

Things ground on in similar style for turn after turn, with the Dark Eldar refusing to engage and the Blood Angels gradually being whittled down by splinter cannons and disintegrator fire, the vehicles being blown up one by one. The Blood Angels experienced a brief false dawn as Mephiston wiped out the Reavers on the charge and the Death Company destroyed the Venom and hacked down the elite troops on board, but the Captain and his escort only managed to draw against some Warriors and were counter-charged and slaughtered by Incubi.

Eventually the Blood Angel advance broke down as I simply ran out of troops. The Dark Eldar prepared for a massive assault on the Death Company (who had been pulled away from the table centre) but focussed their fire against the combat squad holding an objective. Sheer volume of fire wiped out the squad and completed the destruction of my objective-holding capability, at which point I offered my resignation, even though there were potentially more than two full game turns left to go. I couldn’t win and my opponent knew that very well; it would have been slightly fatuous to continue.

Well, no excuses: I knew the army wouldn’t have enough bodies to be effective at 2000 points and was too reliant on points-sink units. I’d been warned to take anti-tank gear, which was good advice: just wish I’d managed to get more painted. Not having a clue about the capabilities of the current Dark Eldar list I was always heading into dark territory for this game.

And looking back I suppose I was unlucky with quite a few dice rolls, but even so this was an alarmingly frustrating experience: the army felt like it had had its teeth pulled and was unable to land a telling blow, except on a single occasion when the Dark Eldar made a mistake and left the Reavers too close to Mephiston.

You can’t control the dice; it wouldn’t be much of a game if you could. You can fix and rebuild army lists at will and at leisure. What really depresses me about this game is the fact that I couldn’t keep my frustration from influencing my manner around the table, probably most notably in the way it concluded. I mean, losing is occasionally unavoidable, but doing so gracelessly is always unforgivable.

I don’t know. Long step back and good hard talking-to-self required, I think. Maybe there are away-from-table issues contributing to this lapse in behaviour. Must try harder in every department, I think. Still: sigh…

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