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Posts Tagged ‘losses’

With my usual immaculate timing I have invested in a new set of knives just at the start of gunfight season: the unexpected onset of 7th Edition 40K does not exactly make it easy to secure pick-up games for WFB. At present I have no plans to invest in the new edition (this doesn’t mean I may not indulge in some paranoid speculation about what’s going on with the rush-release of a major rules-set at some point in the near future, naturally) but, as luck would have it, managed to secure a match-up with a pretty experienced and very agreeable Lizardmen player with a somewhat-retro (and extremely garish, even by Lustrian standards) army.

chaos

This was my first game at 2000 points so to (theoretically) take the competitive edge off the game we played a scenario: the Lizardmen would be defending a watchtower and if I could shift them out of it by the end of the game I would win.

A big block of Sauri went down in the tower, while marching across the table to relieve them were six Kroxigor, two Salamanders, another twenty Saurus Warriors, a Stegadon, three Terradons, and two units of Skinks, all led by a Slann and a Skink Priest.

I still feel I am pushing it a bit at 2000, with a lack of solidity on the table. I had brought six Ogres of Nurgle (first use!), a Hellcannon (first use!), twelve Warriors of Nurgle, twenty Marauders, a Gorebeast Chariot of Slaanesh, a Mutalith (first use!), and four units of Warhounds, led by a Sorcerer Lord of Death and a battle standard bearer (first use!).

Well, as you may or may not know, like every other pastime WFB has a specialist vocabulary of sorts – we players happily talk about things which might baffle normal people, using expressions like cocked dice, static combat resolution, flank charge, tactical deployment drop, and so on. We also use the dreaded words ‘New Model syndrome’ and I found myself a martyr to this in this game, possibly more than ever before.

Well, things got off to a reasonable start as the BSB passed his Stupid test (Ld 9 with a re-roll) and the Hellcannon behaved itself. However, it was clearly just lulling me into a false sense of security. Came the first shooting phase, the blast template was popped down on the advancing Sauri, expectations were high as the dice rolled… And the damn thing blew itself up on the first shot. (A 1 in 36 chance on paper, should you be wondering, but a virtual certainty under battlefield conditions.)

This put a bit of a dent in my mood, but once I had collected myself I found the battle mostly going pretty well: the Warhounds all got blowpiped to death, but thatwas hardly a surprise, but the Ogres battered the Kroxigor and chased them off the board, the Chaos Warriors engaged the advancing Saurus Warriors and after a grinding combat broke and ran them down, and – after another tough fight – the Gorebeast Chariot charged and killed the Stegadon.

However, the Mutalith was, frankly, behaving entirely unreasonably. Surrounded by a swarm of increasingly baffled Skinks whose blowpipes seemed unable to penetrate its hide, I tried for six successive turns to cast the bound spell which is the main reason you put it on the table. Four times I tried to roll a total of 5 or higher on two dice and failed. Once I managed it and the Slann dispelled it with dice; once I rolled a 21 (I was getting slightly fixated by this point and chucked all my dice at it) and the Skink fished a dispel scroll out from somewhere (my opponent was genuinely apologetic about this). So I still have no real sense of how this thing performs other than as a fire magnet.

And killing the Lizardmen army wasn’t winning me the game: I needed to take the tower, but didn’t have the right unit in place to do it. Baseline Marauders are not going to shift Saurus Warriors from a building without magical assistance of some kind – two or three assaults from them just resulted in the unit being thinned down. The remains of the Chaos Warriors had a go, doing some damage and taking none in return, but in range of the Slann the Sauri were not going to budge.

In the closing stages of the game the Slann magic really started to bite, as the Mutalith and Ogres were successively banished into the Pit of Shades, and things got to the point where I just didn’t have the models left to mount a serious assault and opted to concede the game.

Well, this was a clear loss for the Warriors of Chaos, mainly due to my inability to challenge the garrison in the tower. Possibly my Warriors or Ogres could have done this, but they were both in the wrong place – and I’m not sure the Marauders could have dealt with either the Kroxigor or the advancing Saurus Warriors. As it was, the two armies pretty much wiped each other out, with the exception of the garrison unit which was still in reasonable shape. This suggests that in a standard pitched battle the Lizardmen would have had the edge – but then again virtually a quarter of my army (the Hellcannon and Mutalith) had no offensive effect on the game whatsoever. Had either of them actually showed up things might have gone very differently.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the wallop packed by the Ogres, who were mainly there to bulk out the army (it was them or some Hellstriders and perhaps another character). Possibly they were lucky in their combats with the Kroxigor and Salamanders in this game, but they have earned their place for the time being. The Chaos Warriors got their first proper test as well, and despite my concerns over the size of the unit they managed to deal with a larger Saurus Warrior unit fairly comfortably: I still think an extra half-dozen models would make the regiment considerably more effective.

The Lizardmen army has not changed much since the last time I played them, which must have been in 2005: a cloud of poisoned darts obscuring a few competently-wielded maquahuitls. The Saurus Warriors are nasty, but manageable (says the guy who just lost the game largely due to the hardness of Saurus Warriors); it’s the Skinks who are the real pain in the neck. Killing them in close combat is easy; getting into close combat with them is very difficult, and if you ignore them then you are surely going to regret it. I must confess that it seems to me that the Lizardmen have much to commend them as an army, and when the stars are right I may paint a few myself.

In the meantime, I may drop the Mutalith and use the points to bulk up the Warriors a bit. The Marauders have proved distinctly underwhelming against anything other than frightened Skaven, but I’m not sure what to replace them with, and they do provide bodies and ranks for what’s otherwise a very elite army. Part of me just wants big blocks on the table, but that’s not something I’m likely to be able to satisfy playing Chaos.

 

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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.

bloodangels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The points system for the current GW Oxford WOTR mini-league gives you 3 points for a win, 2 for a draw and 1 for a loss. This strikes me as a little odd, but I can see how it at least means that less experienced players who turn up week after week and get repeatedly stuffed will at least get points on the scoreboard.

So how, you would rightly ask, is it possible that your correspondent finished last week on 6 points, turned up and played this week and is still on 6 at the moment? Reader, permit me to explain.

Finally BJ and I rejigged our schedules to get a game in. His Moria army seemed bloomin’ enormous, with three Goblin infantry blocks of various sizes, two Goblin archer blocks, and a formation of Wargs. Leading his army was Druzhag the sorcerer. My army was the same I’ve always taken – maybe in December some new stuff will appear, but don’t hold your breath, folks.

We played on a 4×4 (this was unusual, but I don’t think it affected the result) and the game would be resolved on points for killing companies and the army generals. BJ set up in basically a big block with Druzhag’s formation behind a skirmish line of archers, and the Wargs on the flank. I put the Knights on the opposite flank with the Orcs in the centre.

I don’t know whether I just went into this certain I was going to get stuffed and only hoping to give a good account of myself, but in hindsight it should have been blazingly obvious that the central archer line was just bait. Nevertheless I went ahead and stuck both Knight units into it, hoping to Heroic Combat into Druzhag’s unit behind him. That didn’t work out, but the archers all died and the Heroic Combat took out a titchy Goblin infantry unit as well (BJ fielded it as a single company, for no reason I could work out).

Meanwhile on my side of the table the Wargs had charged the Orcs in the front, bounced off (more shocking dice for BJ), and were stranded in front of the Orcs. I was 3-0 up in company kills and starting to entertains hopes of an upset.

However, this rapidly changed as the Wargs redeployed away from the Orcs to charge one Knight unit in the rear, the main and second Goblin block approached the same unit’s flank and front, and some giant spiders summoned by Druzhag took up position on the other flank. The other Knight unit lost two-thirds of its strength to Goblin archery and black magic. Enough of the Morians passed their Terror tests to pulp the Knight unit that was surrounded, but amazingly enough the two Knights who hit Druzhag’s unit in the flank caused enough kills to make the combat a (very Pyrrhic) victory for me. Druzhag himself Epically Ran Away from the Knight Commander’s attempt to pick him off, ending up hiding with the spiders.

With the cutting edge of the army shattered and the game less than half over it was clear that killing Druzhag was my only real hope of saving the match. So I sent the Orcs after him, with the Nazgul in charge. Druzhag ran away again at that point, leaving the spiders to get blattered by the boosted Orcs. The Orcs were looking a bit tattered by now with only 15 models left, so when they were charged by 35+ Goblins the next turn I thought it was probably all over. The only choice was whether to use the Dark Marshal’s Might to try and kill Druzhag, or to make the whole unit Fight 10 and hope that BJ wouldn’t wipe me out, in which case I’d probably win the combat. In the end BJ got the 11 kills he needed to wipe me out and end the game (Druzhag had permanently shattered the Orc shields a little earlier, making his task much easier) though the Orcs gave a good account of themselves and took out more than 20 Goblins.

Hey ho. Well, it was bad tactics that were mainly to blame, though BJ did say that Moria was probably the toughest army for my type of build to face. The elite cavalry force I’ve got relies on hitting hard and doing massive casualties – the problem with Moria is that the Goblins can take massive casualties and still muster enough troops to surround my Knights and drag them down. I suspect the trick would be to pick off one unit at a time, starting with the mobile Wargs, while trying to avoid getting swamped by the Goblin hordes. I can’t imagine BJ would make this remotely easy for me. In the end he gave an excellent display of how to play a horde army against an elite one and deserved his win.

And you’re probably still wondering about the score. Sigh. My previous opponent and I both thought the rules last week had seemed a bit weird and rechecking the book proved we’d been playing them wrong. I would probably still have won, obviously, but in the circumstances I thought it was only fair to have our game redeclared as a draw rather than a win to me. So that knocked my total score down from 6 after two games to 5, with the point from losing to BJ meaning i’d gone from 6 after two to 6 after three. As long as the score doesn’t actually start going down I will not get depressed, honest.

 

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I was in the pub the other night catching up with a friend, when he spied the figure case lurking under the table.

‘What’s that?’

‘I’ve been wargaming this evening.’

‘How do you do that, then?’

‘Well, I put my toy soldiers on the table, my opponent puts his on the table, we both roll lots of dice, and then I lose.’

Well, I was speaking somewhat tongue-in-cheek but I am getting a bit fixated on the fact that I haven’t won consistently since I was the Black Terror of GW Jimbocho (and hardly up against the toughest of opposition). Normal service was once again resumed last night as I took on the Duke at WOTR.

I wheeled out the Morgul Knights and the Orcs again while my opponent reconstituted three boxed sets of Easterlings and a couple of blisters into a mid-sized archer formation and a biggish (six companies) infantry phalanx with various upgrades and Khamul the Easterling.

We played on a small table, theoretically for control of the central building (which was actually too small for any of our troops to occupy it) but this was obviously just going to be another big scrap. With hindsight the tone was set by the first few turns where the Ringwraith magically boosted the Easterling infantry across the table at jaw-dropping speed, outmanoeuvering my attempts to get round his flanks.

A few turns later he was in a position to start opening up with his archers and rather than see my Knights get whittled down I was eventually forced into a frontal charge – I had the choice of going in with an already-slightly-whittled Knight unit led by a Commander or the Dark Marshal’s full-strength formation, and went for the latter option, supported by the remnants of the Orcs (who’d been shredded by magic in various ways). The Knights delivered a fairly big hit, considering, but the massed Easterling ranks – plus the fact they’d been boosted up to Str 6, again by Khamul’s magic – resulted in the Knights and Orcs getting wiped out.

A few turns of the Knights dancing around the archers trying to get a flank charge in resulted, but I was out of Might and had no real defence against Khamul’s sorcery with the Dark Marshal gone. In the end the Knights got transfixed in front of the Easterling infantry, had to receive the charge, and got pulped.

So, obviously, lots of stuff to consider as a result. The main ones are my general shortage of manpower (okay, Orcpower) and particular shortage of shooting. I was particularly struck by how well the Nazgul worked in a big infantry block – the Easterling phalanx outmoving and outcharging my cavalry thanks to Wings of Terror was a nasty shock, while the sheer size of the unit meant he could cast Strength from Corruption on it repeatedly without thinning them out too much (Khamul’s ability to transfer 33% of the damage the infantry took onto my units wasn’t as influential as I’d feared it might be). I had half the infantry, and in any case Orcs are a step or two down from Easterlings in terms of effectiveness – at the moment they’re just in the list to bulk it out a bit, but I can’t really afford an 115-point filler unit in a 500 point army.

The shooting issue is a tricky one. Not having any myself the Duke could use his to pressure me into attacking in force too early, which cost me the game. The question is how I get it – Orc archers are, again, a step down from Easterlings, and you only get one company per Orc box set – fine if I was looking to bulk out on Mordor Orcs generally, but I’m not sure I am! Orc Trackers are an option, I suppose, with some nice options, and not much more expensive than the plastics, but I’m also looking at some siege bows – do I want a few high strength hits with a massive range or more dice at a much lower range and strength? Decisions, decisions.

Anyway, the current project is just to finish highlighting and basing the existing army. Rather to my surprise the Duke asked if my Morgul Knights could go in one of the GW Oxford display cases (hurrah) as an example of a ‘work-in-progress army’ (oh – I didn’t tell him that I considered them pretty much done barring flock on the bases), so that was some sort of positive anyway. Next up: a Troll, to give the army a bit more wallop (and me a change from all the Morannon Orcs I’ve been fiddling about with).

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