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Posts Tagged ‘losses (crushing)’

(Yes, he’s going to write about wargaming again. Sorry.)

Someone check the Book of Revelation for signs of the looming apocalypse – yup, I’ve finally had a proper game of 8th Edition WFB. Ironically, after protracted flirtation with Vampires, Ogres, Empire, and Orcs and Goblins, I ended up going into battle with a force mainly composed of a Chaos Warrior army I first bought while recovering from suspected malaria in 2009 (ah, happy days).

It was a bit of a shock when I recently realised that I’ve been out of the game for over eight years, especially given I was only really in it for seven prior to that. And my involvement as a ‘serious’ player – someone who thought about winning in a systematic way and went to tournaments and so on – only really started in my last year or so. Still, I have found myself increasingly missing the challenge of actual wargaming, probably partly due to the unique tactile and immersive nature of the hobby (compared to computer and board games, anyway), and finding myself very disenchanted with 40K these days, I finally had the motivation to cobble a decent WFB force together.

chaos

I understood that 1500 was a reasonable sized game for fantasy day at the local gaming venue, so this was what I brought along. To be fair, this was a stretch and definitely involved scraping together (almost) everything I could get my hands on. Marshalling the very small horde was a winged Khornate Daemon Prince with various toys, supported by an Exalted Hero and a Sorcerer of Fire. A dozen Chaos Warriors and twenty Marauders bulked things out a tiny bit, with mobility provided by two minimal units of Warhounds and some spear-chucking Marauder Horsemen. Rounding things off was a minimal unit of Chaos Knights.

I procured an opponent prepared to put up with my endless checking of the rules (and tendency to still use 6th ed rules regardless), although – he eventually revealed – he was using an (it seemed to me) extremely competitive Orc and Goblin list: a huge block of about 100 Night Goblin archers, a much smaller mob of 15 or so Savage Orc Big ‘Uns, two Bolt Throwers and a Doom Diver, and a selection of characters. As a long-term Orc player in the wayback, this wasn’t a list I would ever have taken, mainly because he was cherry-picking characters to suit strategy rather than theme: a Black Orc Warboss but no Black Orc infantry, for example, and a Goblin Battle Standard in a Night Goblin unit (I found myself getting misty-eyed for 5th when this sort of thing wasn’t so easy). We’re back to the old question of winning ugly vs. losing pretty, and I will hold up my hand and admit that my insistence on playing to theme and aesthetics is probably one of the main reasons why I am at best only a very middling player of any of these games.

And, fairly predictably all things considered, I got tabled in four or five turns. While his war machines were a reasonable target for my Warhounds, it quickly became apparent I had no realistic way of countering the magical bombardment coming out of my opponent’s Great Shaman, and short of a series of lucky flukes no chance of breaking either of his units in combat (the 50+ 5+ poisoned shortbow shots coming out of the Night Goblins every turn was a bit troubling too).

List aside, some of the rule changes in 8th did trip me up a bit. I was not completely clear on how the challenge rules operated, resulting in the Daemon Prince being beaten to death by Savage Orc rank’n’file while the champion hid at the back of the unit, and the ability of units to reform even in the middle of combat was a hell of a shock. Big units now seem incredibly resilient, especially when accompanied by a general and a standard bearer (again, the 5+ poison coming off the Night Goblins made this unit considerably nastier).

I managed to kill one bolt thrower, a handful of Savage Orcs, and about 30-40% of the Night Gobbos, this last mainly due to repeated castings of Piercing Bolts of Burning on this massive unit. My opponent assured me this was not a disastrous performance, but I found myself inclined to make The Face as the game went on and the sheer extent to which I was out of my depth became apparent. On the other hand, the challenge of mastering this new version of the game and coming up with a more competitive list is a rather engaging one.

Several things occur to me. First is the caveat from a strategy tactica on a major gaming site, stressing that if you play without a strategy against someone who has one, you will almost certainly lose. Fair enough. I need to play smaller-points games where I don’t need to put all my points into big fragile targets like Daemon Princes and actually think more strategically when making my unit selections. Quite what that strategy will be I will need to think about.

Second, the complete absence of cavalry or monsters from the Orc and Goblin army was notable. On one level this is a blow as I do love a good monster in my armies (doubly so given I’ve recently bought a big box of various monsters and monstrous cavalry), but I suspect I love winning more. The prevalence of big block infantry in the current meta(if this game was representative) will entail dropping stuff that can’t stand up to infantry in a protracted slugging match. I can’t currently foresee a time when maxing out my Lord allowance on a Daemon Prince will be a good investment, and the same really applies to spending 250+ points on a 5-strong heavy cavalry unit.

Thirdly. A rather good, if unfinished, guide to army design in 8th Ed, stipulates a number of must-take units for any army capable of employing them. These are a battle standard, a large cheap infantry block, a small fast (cheap) sacrificial unit, cheap core missile troops, a cannon or stone thrower, and a chariot. Knowledgable readers will already have noticed that not all of these things are present in the Chaos Warrior list, but even so this looks like a decent place to start thinking.

And lastly, of course, how did my existing army actually perform? ‘Terribly’ is of course the glib answer, but I did kill a bolt thrower outright and took a hefty chunk out the Night Goblin ubermob. The units responsible were the Chaos Sorcerer and the Warhounds. My Slaaneshi Beasts army in the wayback included, if memory serves, four units of six Warhounds and I think more will be joining the current army. And having seen the Night Goblin Great Shaman dominate this game, I think I shall try including a Chaos Sorcerer Lord in a couple of games and see how that goes.

Of course, given the lack of focus on massed infantry in the Chaos list, it has occurred to me to switch back to my old Vampires project, with plentiful (if cruddy) cheap skeletons and zombies available. That would mean either not playing for months while I paint massed undead, or getting games in with a weak Chaos army, not learning much useful about my own army, and probably becoming very depressed by repeated drubbings. I shall stick with the Chaos Warriors for now.

At 1000 points, I can include the Warhounds, the Warriors, the Marauders, and a Chaos Sorceror from the existing list. Unfortunately this exhausts my current supply of units from the ‘recommended’ list (can’t even afford a lvl 2 Sorcerer and another character at 1K). Glancing over my various options (Horsemen, Knights, Dragon Ogres, a Giant, and so on) I suspect the least bad option for such a small game is a small unit of Chaos Ogres and a couple of Spawn of Slaanesh.

But looking at that ‘recommended’ list again – a battle standard I can well see the value of. Cheap sacrificial Warhounds I need no persuasion about. I was thinking in terms of a chariot already. I suppose a larger Marauder infantry block, possibly with a Mark, is also a possibility – I will need the ranks. However, there aren’t really any core missile troops in the list, and is a Hellcannon going to fill the same role as a regular cannon? Back to the army book I fear. At least I have plenty to occupy me.

 

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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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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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