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Posts Tagged ‘Dispatches from the Front’

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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Playing in my last few games, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly aware of what I’d call the ‘dead wood’ factor: the fact that quite significant chunks of my army just aren’t pulling their weight. Last time, for instance, virtually all the productive killing (i.e., when not under Eldar psychic control) was done by the Assault Squad (with an honourable mention for the Sanguinor). Thinking further back, I do recall commenting that most of my early victories were largely the result of Mephiston and the Death Company slaughtering large parts of the enemy force virtually unsupported.

This week, however, I found myself in a game where virtually everything pulled its weight. I had arranged to play our local Blood Ravens merchant and had even gone so far as to buy some new kit to counter the build I know he favours, but for silly little reasons the game never happened and now we have a fortnight’s wait before another opportunity arises. (Shocking levels of attempted intimidation and headology are now taking place, with us casually wandering past each other at games nights muttering things like ‘Thunderfire cannon’ and ‘Baal Predator with flamestorm cannon’ just loud enough to be heard.)

So I ended up playing a Chaos Marine army at 1K. I was mildly appalled by how few Blood Angels you get at this point size (and this was before I realised I was actually well over the agreed points – subtraction isn’t my forte and I was cutting down a 1500 point list). I ended up with Captain Zedrenael of the 8th Company, accompanied by a Chaplain and a Sanguinary Priest, leading into battle a demi-Assault Squad and a mechanised Tactical Squad (both 3rd Company, not that it really matters). Backing them up were a Furioso and a regular Dreadnought carrying twin autocannon (a slightly exotic load-out, but… well, that’s an explanation for another time).

The Chaos army was equally compact and consisted of a pack of Noise Marines, a mob of Cultists led by a Dark Apostle, a pack of Chaos Terminators (these had me rather worried) and a Slaughterbrute (ditto, until I realised it was just a Chaos Dreadnought after a rebranding exercise). In command was Lucius the Eternal.

The game boiled down to a tussle over two objectives, both in ruins in the table centre. I kept to one corner and put the Tactical Squad’s rhino on the flank, with the Assault Squad and characters taking cover behind the two Dreadnoughts. Facing me from left to right were the Slaughterbrute, Lucius, the Cultists and Apostle, and the Noise Marines (the Terminators opted to Deep Strike).

I got the first turn and everything trundled forward, the Furioso and rhino both popping smoke. The autocannon dreadnought scored four wounds on the Noise Marines but they passed all their saves: they call the autocannon an anti-vehicle weapon for a reason, I suppose.

The Chaos forces on the left pushed forward towards the ruins, the Slaughterbrute circling round to get sight of the rhino. The Noise Marine shooting brought the first nasty shock of the game as I learned their heavy weapons ignored cover as well as Feel No Pain: two Assault Marines went down hard. The rhino blew up, killing a single Tactical Marine but allowing the multi-melta in the squad to shoot at the Slaughterbrute at full effect next turn.

I continued to push forward on turn 2 with everything but the Tactical Squad, who opened up at the Slaughterbrute with multi- and combi-meltas. Both missed, of course, leaving the squad looking very exposed. The autocannon dreadnought mowed down a few Cultists.

On Chaos turn 2 the Terminators arrived, and – in a probably decisive move – teleported down where they were flanking my Dreadnoughts, rather than close to my infantry. Not that there was very much of that left: blastmasters and doom sirens opened up and wiped out the remaining Assault Marines, leaving just the three officers standing – at least they were now in assault range of the Cultists in the central ruins. In another key decision the Terminators opened fire on the autocannon dreadnought and destroyed it. Equally tellingly, luck was against the Chaos army on the left as both the Slaughterbrute and Lucius attempted to assault the Tactical Squad, but rolled 3s for their charge range and were left dangling,  Lucius having taken a wound to overwatch fire. The only bright spot was that the Chaos machine had killed the multi-melta earlier in the term.

Blood Angel turn 3 and it was happy time, in theory, as I got to assault – but some of these looked much too close for comfort. Captain Z, the Chaplain and the Priest got stuck into the Cultists, which was obviously going to go my way given I was rerolling 3s to hit and needed 2s to kill, while the Furioso steeled itself to engage the Chaos Terminators up close (at times like this I’m glad I gave it Blood Fists and not Talons). Over on the left the Tactical Squad did some serious manning-up as they took on the Slaughterbrute in close-combat.

Well, Captain Z challenged the Dark Apostle and took him apart with the greatest of ease, while the other characters killed six more Cultists for no wounds in return. Luck really was smiling on me as the Chaos general rolled snake-eyes, keeping the fight going into his next turn and shielding my characters from the attentions of the Noise Marines. The Slaughterbrute squished one marine but was immobilised by the Sergeant’s powerfist, bringing the rest of the squad into the fight as their krak grenades now only needed a 4 to glance the thing’s armour. The Furioso zapped one Terminator on the way in and flattened another in the fight, while the Terminator’s powerfists were defeated by its reassuringly high front armour.

On his turn the Chaos general did consider moving his Noise Marines up closer to one of the fights (they had nothing to shoot at), but as this could just leave them more vulnerable to an assault in my next turn he left them where they were. All he did was stick Lucius into the fight between the Slaughterbrute and the Tactical Marines. Lucius carved up the Sergeant easily, but the ‘brute lost another hull point to a krak grenade. This fight was on a knife edge, which was more than one could say for the one between the Cultists and the Blood Angels command staff: the two surviving Cultists fled the combat, freeing up the Captain and his colleagues. In the Furioso-vs-Terminators combat, the hulking cyborg crushed another of the Traitors, who again failed to damage it – but this time they fled and the Furioso ran them down, his consolidation taking him invitingly close to the Noise Marines.

My turn 4 and I was getting that game-in-the-bag feeling, provided I could stop Lucius from killing all my troops. The Captain and his fellows moved to enter the Slaughterbrute and Lucius vs Tactical Marines combat while the Furioso stomped up to the Noise Marines, declining to fire to increase his chances of being in charge range. And he was! Being Fearless, and lacking a single close combat weapon that could affect AV13, the Noise Marines could do nothing but let the Furioso splatter them across the landscape.

The Blood Angels characters entered the fray and Lucius spat his customary challenge. Chaplain Aukon looked around for Captain Zedrenael expectantly but realised the old warrior was hiding round the back of the Slaughterbrute, making a meal of fiddling with a melta-bomb. ‘You can handle this one, Chaplain,’ the Captain shouted cheerily. Muttering under his breath the Chaplain went one-on-one with Lucius the Eternal, as the Slaughterbrute exploded in the background.

Well, thank the Emperor for Rosarius saves, as after two rounds of closely fought combat the Chaplain managed to ding Lucius sufficiently on the head with his crozius for the Chaos warlord to fall over. The Chaos presence on the table now consisted of the last remnants of the Noise Marines, which the Furioso was happily battering his way through, and the Chaos general conceded with good grace, as we agreed that this had been a great game – had even a single combat gone even slightly differently, the whole outcome could have been totally different.

In my last army review I considered the Furioso to be a marginal performer, but he did the business on this outing. Notably, Blood Talons just wouldn’t have worked in this situation – there is a place for Blood Fists in an army list after all. I think putting the Terminators down so close to the one thing in my army that could reliably kill them was the biggest mistake my opponent made.

Apart from that – I’m not sure, to be honest. I’d been inclining more and more to the idea that Tactical Marines are not an optimal choice for a Blood Angels army – or at least, you have to choose between going all-out with specialist Blood Angels assault units, or just sticking with a more traditional Marine-style build and using some Blood Angel stuff to flavour it. Given my fondness for Captain Zedrenael as a warlord, I expect I will work towards the former, but still…

This was also, by the way, my first entirely Death Company-free list in… er… well, possibly ever. Obviously, I can’t say I really missed them much on this occasion, so there may possibly be food for thought there, too. Oh well. On the table at the moment are an Honour Guard squad, another Assault combat squad, and the makings of some Assault Terminators. My game with the Blood Ravens is a fortnight off so I have a little more time to decide what I’m actually going to take for that one, anyway…

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Well, it is written in the Book of Hackneyed Old Prophecies that a meteorite shall strike the Earth, someone shall say something about someone else in a newspaper, and other stuff will happen – and all this will be taken as a sign that your correspondent may be about to finally get another game in. And you know what, it came to pass!

Having said that, I felt the pain of not having played at all since last September: rusty doesn’t begin to describe it, especially when you consider I’d only actually played four games in 6th Edition prior to this latest comeback. I know I was all set on doing a WFB army, but that just wasn’t happening so I broke out the Blood Angels again to see if my lengthy meditation on the army had had any effect on how I played with them.

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Well, I ended up in a pick-up game against Eldar at 2K. None of the new Blood Angel units I’ve been tinkering with were ready for the table (strictly speaking, half the existing army isn’t quite ready, not that it hasn’t stopped me playing them for nearly two years on-and-off) so I took a fairly standard list (for me, anyway) – built around two full-sized Tactical Squads, half an Assault Squad, a big chunk of Death Company with their Dreadnought, a firestorm Dreadnought, Devastators with plasma cannon and an attack bike with a melta.

It turns out I have been undervaluing my Sanguinary Priest as I’ve always forgotten he gives Furious Charge to whoever’s near him, so he got another run out. Just for the hell of it I decided to give the Sanguinor his debut, and to get us up to 2000 points quickly and easily I brought Astorath along. Yes, two special characters in the same list. No, I’m not proud.

The Eldar army was led by Karandras and a huge squad of Striking Scorpions in an infiltrating Wave Serpent (I didn’t know they could do this), another big squad of Wraithguard, a Wraithlord, some Dire Avengers, some Fire Dragons (both in Wave Serpents too), a war Walker, and some D-Cannon. Oh, and a Farseer.

The mission involved grabbing control of objectives with a random value. I ended up ignoring them; the main effect they had was due to the most valuable one ending up on the roof of a colossal building in No Man’s Land.

Anyway we squeezed our armies into our deployment zones (playing 2K on a 4×4′ table has its moments) and I managed to seize the initiative. Everything trotted forward with the Attack Bike immobilising Karandras’ transport and the Dreadnought killing a D-Cannon crewman; nothing else had a shot.

Not surprisingly the Eldar had me outgunned at all ranges, and their various lances and missile launchers were able to concentrate against my own, minimal heavy weapon units: the Attack Bike died almost at once and the Dreadnought was immobilised.

Obviously I had to close with the Eldar, but this brought me into a killing ground in front of the D-cannon, Wraithcannon, Avenger catapults and Fusion guns of the Eldar elite. I think I could have made some chances here had I not been rusty on the rules; as it turned out the mechanised Tactical Squad and the Death Company both ended up hung out to dry after leaving their vehicles but being unable to assault on the same turn (even though the vehicles hadn’t moved). The D-Cannon were devastating against my troops, still somewhat bunched as they were after leaving the transports, and the Eldar’s psychic presence – Puppet Master and Psychic Shriek – took a savage toll as well.

When the Death Company are wiped out in a single turn’s shooting without ever executing a charge, you know the Blood Angels are in for a torrid game, and yet it wasn’t all bad. The mid-to-late game put a smile back on my face as one Assault Marine and the Priest assaulted and slaughtered all of the gun crews, while the Sanguinor single-handedly wiped out the Fire Dragons on the charge.

At this point we had to halt the game, but I was prepared to concede – I had left the Sanguinor, on his own in the open, the two Assault models, a Tactical Squad bogged down in a frustrating sniping match with a Wave Serpent, and the Devastators (who were in a prime position to get Puppet Mastered every turn by the Farseer). After hiding from the Sanguinor in his immobilised transport for the entire game, Karandras and his retinue had finally emerged while the main objective was occupied by Wraithguard (one advantage of this was that they could barely shoot at anything, the ground was practically out of range of their guns). In theory I had two more turns to play but I doubt I could have shifted the Wraithguard.

Hey ho, we shall never know. What do I take away from this game? A burning sense of familiarity with the disembarkation rules, for one thing, but also some food for thought about army composition, as I’m not sure how I could have improved my chances in this game.

Well, a Librarian might have given me some psychic protection against the Farseer’s trick powers, I suppose: this guy really was a pain, but partly down to sheer luck – using Puppet Master, he killed two Death Company with a hand flamer (!) and immobilised the DC Dreadnought using a plasma cannon. Psychic shriek was also very nasty. But the main problems I felt I faced were dealing with the Eldar artillery and AT guns at a distance. It occurs to me that the hit-anywhere (on a good day) charge of a Vanguard Squad would have been massively useful against the D-Cannons, which – as it turned out – badly damaged the Death Company and utterly obliterated a full Tactical Squad. Would a Devastator Squad with four missile launchers have been more effective? I can’t help but think so; but then they would have been a priority target and required ablative squad members, so we’d be looking at a 200+ point unit rather than the 100+ points the existing one was.

Oh well: the ability of the Blood Angels to cause carnage at close quarters got a bit of a demonstration, although the Priest needn’t really have brought his chalice – the Assault Squad had the Red Thirst anyway. And the Sanguinor didn’t exactly distinguish himself, firstly by giving his blessing to the Devastator Sergeant (gee, thanks), and then by charging a Wave Serpent and missing with all six of his 3+ attacks. He didn’t get a chance to engage Karandras, which is where he really would have shone, I suspect, but he wasn’t embarrassing either. Astaroth was really very average, as usual: I’m starting to agree with everyone that he should only come to the table if you want to unlock multiple Death Company squads for your army.

Hey ho, not a brilliant comeback, but it could have gone worse. Sort-of in the works at the moment are the other half of Assault squad III/8, a Land Speeder, a Stormraven gunship, and an Honour Guard retinue for Captain Zedrenael, but the call of a Vanguard Squad – or at least Assault Terminators – is hard to ignore. The game I have provisionally lined up for next week is against a Blood Raven army at 1500 points, and I’m not quite sure which way to go in it. My main point of concern is the fact that I’m 95% certain the Blood Raven general is taking a Stormtalon, which I currently have no way of engaging at all (I can’t finish my own gunship by next week and even if I did I’ve no way of transporting it to the game venue).

I’m not really looking for advice on list design in general, but I do wonder how – short of a Stormraven – other Blood Angel armies get their AA complement? Especially given that the AA unit of choice for most Space Marine lists (the Contemptor Dreadnought with helical targeting array) is specifically not available for our army. Personally I’ve mainly contemplated a throw-enough-mud-and-something’ll-stick approach – a 9th Company Dreadnought with twin autocannon mounts, for example – but I know this is neither an elegant nor a realistic solution given the nastiness of some of the fliers out there. What do other people do? I would be interested to hear, even if it’s mainly of academic interest ahead of next week’s engagement. I suspect I will just have to try and hide from the plane by getting everything into combat as fast as possible; at least that will play to the army’s strengths.

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Well, to be perfectly honest, while the game against the Deathwing on Monday wasn’t a complete thumping, it did leave me rather pondering where to take the army next. It occurs to me that my usual operating procedure in this kind of situation would be to promise myself I’d go back to the army and fix it at a later date, and promptly switch to working in earnest on Daemons or Chaos Marines or one of the other armies on my to-do list. Lack of space in the garret sort of precludes that, and in any case I think actually going to the trouble of figuring out what’s wrong with the Blood Angels and fixing the list will do me all sorts of good as a gamer and a person.

So, ahead of a proper review and appraisal of the army and its record, I thought I’d get one more game in, with a slightly altered list. The main change was dropping Astorath and using a Captain as my HQ: now he’s basically I1, I think Astorath is a questionable warlord choice. It occurs to me that the change to Crozius Arcani to make them I1 is partly to make Captains a more attractive choice of leader. Mine is enjoying a newly blinged-up paint-job which I rather like; so much so I’m considering adding an Honour Guard squad to accompany him (the gun and run possibilities of a jump pack squad carrying plasma guns are also attractive).

Apart from the Captain, the new list includes two tactical squads, III/3 and III/5 (III/5 is mechanised), ten mechanised Death Company and a DC Dreadnought, plasma-cannon toting devastator demi-squad III/10/a, assault demi-squad III/8/a, an attack bike, a Furioso Dreadnought, a firestorm Dreadnought, and some Sanguinary Guard – I really wasn’t keen on still keeping the Guard in the army, but to get to 2000 points it was them or Mephiston.

Arriving in the shop I was interested to see, following my close encounter with the Contemptor Dreadnought last game, that these damn things have become all the rage – the AA possibilities if nothing else make them very attractive. Also, apparently a ruling has been handed down from on high: 30K units and armies are verboten in GW shops, so no danger of Scimitar jetbikes or Primarchs turning up (apparently a 20-man Space Marine Legion squad is only 80 points so this is just as well).

All of this was a bit academic as I found myself once again playing Bugs and his endless swarm of Tyranids. The match score between Bugs and myself currently stands at one apiece plus a draw (these games have included a spectacular reign of terror from Mephiston and the Nids eating my entire force). Bugs looked at the Furioso, the firestorm Dreadnought, and the Death Company walker and frowned. ‘I’m a bit worried I never have enough anti-Dreadnought weapons,’ he said.

I looked at the five monstrous creatures in his list and thought he probably wouldn’t have to worry too much, but as it turned out he may have been having a psychic flash. Nevertheless, as we unpacked, I looked at the three Tervigons, two Carnifexes, Venomthrope, Zoanthrope, and 140 gaunts in the Tyranid set-up zone and couldn’t help feeling that my 46 infantry, one bike, two APCs and three walkers appeared a bit wanting.

But on we went anyway, playing Big Guns Never Tire down the length of the table, with one objective in each end zone and two in no man’s land. I got the initiative and decided to play more aggressively than I have done recently, setting up III/5 and the Death Company for a mechanised push along the left flank, backed up by the DC Dreadnought. The jump pack units held back as a mobile reserve, along with the heavy firepower. III/3 was positioned to run forward and grab the right flank objective with the Furioso prepared to hold the centre.

And it went according to plan, initially, III/5’s rhino positioning to block line of fire to the Death Company rhino and the DC Dreadnought, and III/3 running forward to grab the other objective. The firestorm Dreadnought and Attack Bike both fired at the closest Tervigon and took three wounds off it. This was a good-ish start but there were still vast numbers of gaunts very close at hand, to say nothing of all the big monsters.

The Tyranids duly commenced their charge, moving forward as a wall of flesh. Their shooting was completely ineffectual, the wounded Tervigon losing another wound to a failed psychic test. In the assault phase thirty gaunts swarmed III/5’s rhino and destroyed it, the squad bailing out safely, while another thirty were out of range of the Death Company Dreadnought (possibly the game’s first really decisive moment).

Turn Two set up the way the game would go, though this wasn’t immediately apparent. The Death Company squad engaged the gaunts on the left who’d just destroyed the rhino, while the Death Company Dreadnought charged one of the other big swarms. On the right things were a bit more tentative, but the Furioso’s frag cannon ripped into yet another gaunt swarm and the firestorm Dreadnought continued to knock wounds off the wounded Tervigon. In the assault phase the Death Company Dreadnought killed 13 gaunts on the charge, and Bugs turned a bit pale.

The Tyranid turn really was decisive in hindsight: a mycetic spore plopped down near the devastators, and unleashed yet another twenty gaunts whose massed firepower wiped out the squad. The Tervigons all squeezed out reinforcements too, two of them exhausting themselves in the process. But the important stuff was elsewhere: the DC Dreadnought was charged by a Carnifex, but the Hive Mind had clearly underestimated how psychotic the walker was and the Tyranid beast was eviscerated before it could strike a blow. Bugs was now practically pallid, and things weren’t helped when Hormagaunts on the far right flank failed their charge on III/3  by a miniscule amount.

The mid-game was characterised by a real meatgrinder developing  on my left between the Death Company and three Termagant broods, the vampire-marines’ better skill, armour, and general unbalancedness allowing them to take on dozens of the little bugs on a fairly even basis. In the centre the Death Company Dreadnought continued to rip through Termagants, while the surviving Carnifex charged the Furioso and destroyed it, being heavily wounded in the process: enough for it to be put down by a rapid-firing III/5 the following turn. III/3 ended up fighting yet more gaunts, and the firestorm Dreadnought finished off the wounded Tervigon, frying the brains of numerous nearby gaunts.

At this point we paused and considered how it was going. To my surprise I was quietly confident about the left flank melee and not very worried by the presence of gaunts and a mycetic spore in my deployment zone, still having plenty of solid units to commit. The right flank was looking a bit iffy, though.

As it turned out, it worked out okay: the Death Company Dreadnought finished off the last gaunt and charged into another Tervigon, killing it on the charge. The Captain and his unit assaulted the Termagants in my zone and broke them on the charge, instant-killing the spore with an infernus pistol the following turn. The Guard charged the Zoanthrope and killed it before hopping over the central terrain to join the last Death Company survivor in the meat grinder combat. III/3 were wiped out by Hormagaunts, but the firestorm Dreadnought was in range to tie them up – and with synapse suddenly thin on the ground they were looking fragile, especially as they couldn’t hurt the walker.

And suddenly it was just a case of mopping up – the last few gaunts were duly polished off, the Death Company Dreadnought killed the Venomthrope on the charge, and the last surviving Tervigon was hosed down with fire by the firestorm Dreadnought and Attack Bike while III/5 trotted across the table to claim the right-side objective. The Tyranids were tabled on Turn Six, with the Blood Angel army still in respectable condition – three squads and a character in decent shape, the bike and two walkers both essentially operational.

Man of the Match surely goes to the Death Company Dreadnought, which directly accounted for thirty Termagants, a Carnifex, a Tervigon and a Venomthrope. That said, the firestorm Dreadnought also made a major contribution, doing the lion’s share of work in killing the two other Tervigons. But on the other hand, everything in the army pulled its weight, for once, with the exception of the Devastators who once again just acted as bait for a Deep Striking unit. I was honestly expecting both tactical squads to get munched after deploying them so far forward, but the aggressive style of play paid off. It also occurs me that every game I’ve won with the Blood Angels has featured a Captain somewhere in the list. Hmmm.

That said, this was a game decided by tiny chances – if the Carnifex had survived to attack the Death Company Dreadnought, if the Hormagants had made their initial charge against III/3 – and I’m aware this was a lucky win. But it’s nice to see how spectacularly well the Blood Angels can perform when the dice and conditions favour them, and it’s good to go into the review of the army with some positives to consider.

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How much can the change of a single rules mechanic potentially impact on a game? Read on and find out. Having assembled my army in conditions of the utmost secrecy, I turned up for my game with Big J to find he was basically reusing the same army from two weeks previous: possibly Couldn’t Be Bothered To Repack syndrome, to which I am often a martyr myself.

Big J had 2000 points of Deathwing: ’30 Terminators and a Dreadnought’ he cheerfully informed me, placing great emphasis on his habit of rolling 1s. Well, we would see. As a sometime Deathwing player myself, I noted his army was heavy on all the things mine isn’t: primarily Cyclone missile launchers and thunder hammers.

I’d brought Blood Angels, my latest attempt at combining a decent number of models with acceptable anti-tank capability. This particular list got tweaked after bad weather stopped me from preparing a few models for the table (or to put it another way – you’ll like this one – rain stopped spray). So there were two full Tactical Squads, one mechanised, a mechanised Death Company detachment accompanied by a DC dreadnought, a demi-Assault Squad with a Sanguinary Priest, a demi-Devastator Squad with two plasma cannons, some Sanguinary Guard accompanied by Astorath, a Dreadnought with a lascannon and a missile launcher and an Attack Bike.

The mission was Big Guns Never Tire with a straightforward deplyment option. The Deathwing deployed two squads in their righthand corner – I did much the same, but sticking the Devastators, fire-support Dreadnought and Bike down more to the left in the hope of getting some early shots. Knowing the Deathwing Dreadnought would be coming in on turn one by Drop Pod, I kept the jump pack units in reserve in order to avoid them being ambushed.

Well, the Deathwing kept the initiative and two more Terminator Squads teleported in close to their zone. The Drop Pod crashed down much closer to the Devastators in their redoubt and a Contemptor Dreadnought clambered out. This was novel. Still more novel was it opening up on the squad with two suped-up assault cannon, 12 shots at BS5: possibly I  was a bit unlucky with my saves, but all five Marines were mown down. I started to get that feeling yet again.

However, on my first turn the Bike and Dreadnought were both in a position to shoot back. The multi-melta on the Bike predictably missed, but the missile launcher got through the ancient monster’s armour and spectacularly blew it to pieces. Elsewhere, the two rhinos rumbled forward, followed at a trot by the DC Dreadnought.

On the second Deathwing turn the massed Cyclones on their right flank blew apart the fire-support Dreadnought and Bike, pretty much clearing me off that end of the table. On the other hand, the Deathwing had no real presence on their left flank, leaving me in control of that end. Possibly this was why they dropped in a Chaplain and another Deathwing squad quite close to my units.

I decided to try and consolidate by popping the Guard and the Assault Squad down in the same region, but the Deep Strike Gods are still looking wrathfully upon me: for the third game in a row where I’ve tried to Deep Strike, an elite squad scattered into another unit and suffered a mishap, ultimately winding up in front of three Deathwing squads near where the first-turn carnage had occurred. Sigh.

Nevertheless, by the end of the turn I’d managed to set up an assault on the Chaplain and his squad from the Death Company, supported by the mechanised Tactical Squad. Under the new rules the Death Company are monstrous on the charge, but a 2+ save is a 2+ save, and it was down to the power axe and the thunder hammer to do the real damage.

My cheeriness at fending off the Deathwing advance down my end of the table was shortlived as on the next turn the massed Deathwing swarmed, zombie-like, over the Guard and Astorath. (It’ll be interesting to get a rules clarification about Astorath’s axe: is it I1 like a standard power axe? If so, he’s a significantly less handy character.) In 5th Edition, even receiving a charge, I would have expected to do significant damage to the Terminators, but – as in the previous combat – the fact that power swords (and thus, presumably, glaives encarmine) are now only AP3 was hugely telling and I barely killed a single model before the entire 490-point unit was handily pulped.

With both sides now fully committed I was aware that I was badly down on points: we both held two objectives, but Big J had killed two heavy support units, drawn first blood and killed my warlord, putting him four points ahead. I needed to deny him at least one objective and start killing his heavy support. The only one he’d actually taken was the Drop Pod, which I’d totally ignored: but now my sole missile launcher started plinking away at it, hitting but never penetrating.

The rest of my cunning plan consisted of loading one of the Tactical Squads into its rhino and ramming it at one of the Deathwing’s objectives to contest, while using the Death Company units to run interference and bringing up the Assault Squad (my only non-Fearless unit, thanks to Astorath) to retain another objective.

Well, once again the AP3 nature of power weapons and blood talons was telling and the Dreadnought only inflicted two casualties, one of those when it exploded at the opposition (not a recommended manoever). Nevertheless, they did the job of holding the Deathwing up long enough for the rhino to tank-shock into position (running over two Terminators in the process), even if they did get the zombie-mob treatment from the Terminators. It was the end of turn 5 – it seemed like everything hinged on whether we would continue! The dice said we would.

(I initially thought that ending now would have meant a draw at 6 VPs each – but the 3 points from an objective, together with two for killing Heavy Support, one for First Blood and one for Slay the Warlord would just have meant me losing 7-6. Hey ho.)

So the game continued, and the rhino with the Tactical Squad inside got thumped by the Deathwing, killing everyone inside. Both armies declined to move on the final turn, realising the game was pretty much decided. Turn 6 was the final one, and the final score was 10-6 to the Deathwing.

Still, this was a fun game played in a great spirit, even if I was left scratching my head as to how to counter so many Terminators. My plasma cannons were Big J’s top priority, as he happily admitted, with my multi-meltas close behind. I couldn’t see a Vindicator lasting more than a turn or two against so many Cyclones, and the same goes for Furioso Dreadnoughts or Death Company Dreadnoughts with blood fists, the only assault units capable of cracking Terminator armour that don’t strike at I1 (well, I suppose there’s Tycho, but he’s just one man). I can see quite a few armies with the same problem; the simple shift to AP3 power swords makes massed Terminators an exceptionally tough prospect for armies without lots of low-AP shooting, massed Rending attacks, or cheap and numerous monstrous creatures.

The Contemptor Dreadnought was also potentially a nightmare and I suppose I was lucky to get it off the table on Turn 1. I don’t know how many points this bugger costs, but with armour like a Furioso, a 5+/6+ invulnerable save, 12 assault cannon shots at BS5, a built-in AA option and its parting gift of a 2d6″ explosion, I hope it is a significant amount. Tasty though one of these would be, I find myself suddenly dubious of including this 30K stuff in a standard army – are we going to see Space Marine jetbikes making an appearance in standard lists now? What about Angron in Chaos lists? I’m sure a semi-official ruling on this sort of thing can’t be far off.

Anyway, a very enjoyable game even if I suspect that to beat this army I would have to be very lucky or completely rejig my list to be a low-AP gunline. The latter is hardly practical at the moment, and the former would not be the most satisfying kind of victory. Still, I’ll take whatever I can get right now…

(PS If you’ve got this far, you may well be interested to know I’ve started contributing to a dedicated gaming blog entitled Plastic Crack – for the time being the battle reports are going up on both blogs, but there should be some PC-exclusive stuff from your correspondent as well as writing from some other folk on various topics too.)

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What a complex, intricate and eternally surprising thing life is shown to be by the unexpected questions of correct behaviour thrown up even by a fairly routine wargame. This is of course another way of saying I was the recipient of yet another grand spanking in the traditional style.

Interestingly, though, it seems like my first mistake occurred days before the game even started. I arranged this via the club website, at which juncture I casually mentioned not just the points value of the game but also the army I’d be taking (the Deathwing, again).

I was a little crestfallen when I turned up for the game and found my opponent cheerfully unpacking squad after squad of Pathfinders and Fire Dragons, along with an Avatar and a Wraithlord – lots and lots of low AP guns and close-combat attacks: basically this was a list custom-built to pop Terminators. ‘Well, you told me you were bringing Deathwing,’ he explained cheerfully.

Hmmm. I must confess I haven’t been above doing vaguely similar things in the past – most notably, I suppose, buying a Whirlwind and some assault marines to take on an all-scout Marine army that had given me some trouble – but I still wonder about the sportsmanship of this kind of thing. Obviously you’re going to play to win and take advantage of every edge that you have, but it seems to me that custom-building to take on a specific opponent is only really justifiable if both sides have the chance to do it. Did I know I’d be facing Eldar? No. I had been promised ‘Eldar, or possibly Space Wolves, or possibly both’, which gave me considerably less to work with than my opponent had. Hum.

Anyway, we proceeded to the game, which involved an attempt to grab a portable objective and hang onto it until the game’s end (the objective is one of those mystical game-balancey items that can survive a battle cannon going off on it without a scratch but irretrievably shatters if you load it into a transport plane), played along the length of the table.

I can’t ever recall going into a game with such a conviction I was going to get crushed, but going second against such an imposing Eldar gunline, that was how I felt. Vague thoughts along the lines of ‘why are we even bothering?’ flitted through my brain. I was so rattled I forgot my usual ‘never Deep Strike the Deathwing’ mantra and put three squads into reserve, planning to drop the Master and the Librarian on the objective and try to cheekily zap the Eldar Avatar with Psychic Shriek and two assault cannons, hopefully allowing me to get stuck into the Eldar up close on the following turn.

(I expect this was a mistake and I should have deployed all five squads  at the front of my zone, waddled them all foward and tried to assault the nearest target no matter what. I suspect this may have meant the game lasted three turns rather than five, but I think I would have taken more of a chunk out of the Eldar. We shall never know.)

Anyway, the massed Eldar fire killed six of the ten Consecrators on the table, then I got my first turn. The Librarian’s squad teleported in on top of the objective, passed their terrain test for partly being in a crater and I breathed a sigh of relief. I popped the Master down a little way away and my relief dissipated rapidly as they scattered on top of the Librarian’s squad. They were not atomised, which I suppose is something to be grateful for, but they ended up back on my table edge facing a long slog up to the bloodbath which was shaping up in the centre.

The attempt to Psychic Shriek the Avatar backfired and took a wound off the Librarian, the sole assault cannon in range missed all its shots, and that was it from me. What followed was essentially a game of whack-a-mole for the Eldar, with Consecrator units either lumbering or teleporting into view only to be gunned down by snipers and melta-guns or flattened by monstrous creatures. At point I managed to smash a Wave Serpent in an assault, but then the surviving passengers clambered out and slagged the Terminators responsible. I was able to assault the other Fire Dragon squad, but only after they’d fried the Master, and it took three Terminators three turns to kill three Fire Dragons, which is hardly an optimal performance. I was wiped out in five turns, accounting for six Fire Dragons, one Guardian, and a Wave Serpent in the process.

So I knew I was onto a loser from very early on: this was basically just dice-rolling practice for my opponent, who still appeared to be enjoying it to a degree I found slightly baffling. I mean, I like the occasional big win as much as anyone, but this was in a very real sense not an actual contest. And so I found myself wondering at what point it would be acceptable to concede – if ‘the moment at which I realised I couldn’t win’ qualified, I would have conceded at the point I failed to seize the initiative, but this could be seen as unsporting, I suspect. I suppose there was a point at which it became mathematically impossible for me to win, which would have the logical time, but the nature of the scenario made this very fiddly to keep track of.

And long-term readers may recall my concern about poor behaviour when being handed a spanking: it’s just a game, after all, and there’s no call for being snide and grumpy (especially when losing is nearly always at least partly your own fault). So I abandoned the challenge of trying to win the game almost at once and reluctantly accepted the challenge of being wiped out with good grace. This was such a one-sided encounter it was difficult to summon up the enthusiasm to even attempt to play competitively, but I did my best in this department rather than start walking Terminators off the board or hiding them in corners. There wasn’t really a competitive option available, so I just concentrated on looking cheerful and not sounding too pissed off.

In the end I think I just about managed to pull off a draw in this social meta-game (the game that no-one ever wants to play, let’s face it), and quite possibly the moral victory when it came to being up-front with my opponent. To be fair to him the Eldar guy, noting we had rattled through five turns of 40K in not much more than an hour (my goes had been pretty short, obviously) offered me another game – but I had to get away, and couldn’t really forsee a different result between these two armies. Hey ho. There was another Deathwing army getting panelled on the next table by Orks (a less purist Deathwing army, too), which was some consolation, and the guy playing that one offered me a game in a fortnight’s time, which I happily accepted.

Naturally, I did not tell him what army I’ll be bringing.

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This may come as a shock to anyone who’s started reading recently, and there’s no easy way to put it, but: I play wargames. I haven’t played much recently due to other commitments, but these finally seem to have concluded and I’ve actually been able to get a game in. When I write about films or TV or most other things, it’s ultimately meant for public consumption. Writing about wargaming is much more of an aide memoire and way of organising my thoughts – though there’s always the possibility someone may find it interesting or engaging, which is why it’s here rather than confined to my hard drive. In other words, I quite understand if you find the following unintelligible/utterly boring. Sorry about that.

Anyway, first game in a new club and with the new edition of 40K, and wanting something speedy and straightforward I pitched up with 1500 points of 1st Company Consecrators, which I play using the Deathwing rules. I have not had the best of success with this army in the past, but was curious to see how the new rules would affect them. The army was basically 25 Terminators with the Company Master and a Librarian with Telepathic powers (which seemed fluffy).

I found myself up against an Ork army which at least appeared a bit less of an unstoppable bulldozer than my old opponent Twiggy’s regular build (which I’ve never come close to beating with any army): a big footmob with shooters, a smallish mob of looters, a slugger mob in a truck, the warboss and his bodyguards in another truck, and a battlewagon occupied solely by a big mek. Oh, and a rather wobbly scratch-built Ork jet fighter which I was duly wary of, not having any ack-ack in the army.

So we ended up playing a game over objectives where killing Heavy Support earned bonus VPs (which suited my all-Troops-and-HQ force quite nicely).  I deployed first and had the option of just camping the whole army on three objectives and forcing him to assault, but being so defensive didn’t appeal. In the end I opted to hold two with three Terminator squads and send the other two squads on a push across the table towards another two.

Well, it was an ominous start as one of the squads on my right flank got a proper pummelling from the looters and started falling over, while the mechanised Orks trundled forward towards what was intended to be the firebase units. The Terminators I’d intended to advance ended up hiding behind a hill waiting for the footmob to trot into assault range.

Then the shoddiness of Ork vehicles was exposed as the sluggers’ truck was immobilised by assault cannons and the boys disembarked, failed their charge range roll due to difficult terrain and were left in the open. The following turn a heavy flamer killed two, the Librarian’s Psychic Shriek killed five more, and the remaining three skedaddled and never regrouped.  This left the Librarian and his squad exposed to a charge from the warboss and his bodyguard, which one Terminator actually survived, drawing the combat.

This gave the last more-or-less intact squad on that side of the table the opportunity to assault the battlewagon, which had been cheerfully running over Terminators all evening. Powerfists and chainfists thumped home and the battlewagon went bang, earning me an extra VP to make up for the one I’d lost when my first squad was wiped out. The warboss’s truck had also been wrecked by assault cannon shooting.

The right flank was looking dodgy but the Orks appeared to be running out of Troops to contest objectives with.  The footmob were closing in and so I marched the Master and his squads up onto the hill, shot them a lot, and then assaulted. Both squad sergeants died, but so did twenty Orks in total and the unit broke and fled.

I was worried about the warboss and his unit finishing off the Librarian’s squad and then heading for the objective the Master and his men were holding, as I wasn’t sure I could take out that many power claws and big choppers in a fair fight – but in a possibly decisive move, the Orks headed for another objective instead (at this point I learned the warboss and his bodyguard counted as Troops and could contest).

So we were robbed of the Master taking on the warboss, and the closing turn of the game featured some inconclusive Ork shooting and the massed firepower of the remaining Consecrators mowing down the footmob survivors when they rallied. The game finished with the Terminators just able to contest two objectives to the Orks’ one; the Orks had first blood but I’d killed the battlewagon, making the final VP tally 3-2 to me.

Well, it was a fun game, though this wasn’t the toughest Ork list I’ve ever seen. The warboss and his guard were a horrible unit and I was glad the looters were off in one corner, too. The plane, when it turned up, did not really do very much and I was able to ignore it – though if my army hadn’t had a universal 2+ save this might have been a different story.

The new rules did not feel that different – I suppose vehicles are a bit easier to kill (not sure about that) and psychic powers are stronger (this I did like). It feels a bit odd that movement affects firing model-by-model, but terrain effects on movement are applied to the whole squad – something not quite connecting up there. On the whole, broadly positive about the whole thing.

As far as the Consecrators go – as I’ve said in the past, short of re-buying the whole army I’m a bit limited in terms of adding cyclones etc., and I do want to stay pure Deathwing as far as possible. To be honest, this is just a slightly dull army to play; all infantry, with most squads having virtually the same weapons. I suspect I will be dusting off and adding to the Blood Angels in the not too distant future.

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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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