Posts Tagged ‘Space Marines’

It occurs to me that writing in detail about my successes and (mostly) failures on the wargames table is neither especially useful or interesting. I play equally tactically sophisticated and challenging board and card games, not to mention computer games, after all, and don’t inflict a turn-by-turn account every time I play Qin or Battle Line or Total War. But I do think 40K is different – you invest a lot more time and money preparing for a game, after all, to say nothing of the whole interface between the creative, narrative, strategic and tactical elements of the game is not really comparable to anything else.

On the other hand, it’s that same unique interface which has been causing me so much grief with respect to 40K – as far as the current edition is concerned, I just feel as if I’m being very unsubtly pushed towards buying certain big and expensive models simply in order for my armies to remain competitive. Bearing this in mind, I was only mildly hopeful of victory when turning up to play the other day because I was playing a relative newcomer to the game, who would not be packing the giant monsters and attack fliers that everyone seems to be building their armies around currently.

I had my Consecrators army, built under the 4th ed rules and never previously used in 6th. At 1500 I could fit in the Master of the 1st Company, three units of Terminators, a Land Raider Crusader, a firestorm Dreadnought and a unit of Scouts. I expect I could have mustered 1750 but, to be honest, I was half-thinking about pick-up games and didn’t think I’d face too many fliers and whatnot at the smaller game size.


Heh and indeed heh. While waiting for my intended opponent I did indeed get mixed up in a pick-up at 1500, with an Eagle Warriors army… containing two Storm Talon attack fliers and a Thunderfire Cannon. Yaroo. Those really grabbed my attention, but also in the list were two mechanised Tactical Squads, an Assault Squad led by an uber-tooled-up combat character, a Stalker, and three Centurions.

Well, the game fell into three stages. I won the initiative and teleported the Master and his squad in, and rather jammily panicked the Eagles’ commander and his squad off the board on turn one. Then I found out, quite painfully, what the grav-cannons on the Centurions could do as my Terminators were slaughtered. More good luck ensued as the Master took refuge in combat by assaulting the closest Tactical marines, supported by Terminators from the Crusader, and miraculously avoided killing them all, thus keeping me safe from the Centurions in the next Eagle Warrior turn.

By this point the Dreadnought had killed the Thunderfire Cannon but was itself destroyed when both Storm Talons arrived and targeted it. The second Terminator squad assaulted the Centurions and crushed them fairly rapidly, though not before they had inflicted heavy damage on my third and final Terminator squad and killed the Master with overwatch.

The climax of the game came as the surviving Terminators beat up the last Eagle Warrior infantry and rhinos – this may have been a mistake as the exploding vehicles took a tally on my very limited forces. The Crusader managed to wreck a Storm Talon that had switched to hover mode, but the other one shot down my last Terminator in the final moments of the game. I had an unscathed Land Raider and a lone Scout left on the table; the Eagle Warriors had their Stalker and the Storm Talon. Neither of us held the main objective, and with both warlords dead, my having killed a unit on the first turn and his having a Storm Talon on my board edge it was a 2-2 draw. Frankly, I was lucky, and in killing the Storm Talon and Thunderfire Cannon I felt I’d exorcised a few demons too.

Following a quick break and a heartfelt plea from the owners of the venue for the assembled gamers to deodorise more thoroughly in future (always a sign of a classy, mainstream spot if you ask me), it was time for my game against the Ultramarines. This game was to be settled solely in terms of units wiped out and this rather dictated my strategy. The Ultramarines were led by Marneus Calgar in a Crusader, and I was pretty sure I would be in for an exceptionally tough fight if I went up against him directly. So I didn’t and just concentrated on wiping out the smaller, weaker units making up most of the Ultramarine army: five-man squads of various types.

This worked rather well, with my Terminators assaulting the Ultramarine flanks under covering fire from the Scouts, Dreadnought and my own Crusader (the Scouts went to ground whenever anyone looked in their direction to get the 2+ save for being in cover). I managed to rack up plenty of early points and it did seem that Calgar didn’t know which way to jump – it wasn’t until turn five that he finally disembarked, by which point the Master had wiped out two squads and was making a tactical retreat to avoid giving up two VPs should Calgar manage to kill him. All my other Terminators got wiped out again, but by this point the army had accounted for two Tactical Squads, a Sternguard Squad, some Terminators, some Devastators, three Centurions, and Chief Librarian Tigurius (who spent the game locked in an interminable ding-dong battle between the Centurions and a mostly-lightning claw armed Terminator unit, and never cast a single power). With first blood taken into account it all added up to an 8-3 win for the Consecrators, but I was fully aware that the inexperience of my opponent was one of my biggest assets.

So a win and a draw, both lucky. I’m still not sold on the viability of a pure Deathwing army under the new rules, but then this wasn’t really a pure Deathwing list (and I’m not seriously considering tinkering with it). Time to work on something new and – hopefully – solidly competitive, while still being aesthetically satisfying.

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It has been over six months since I concluded my last report of wargames-related doings with a vague promise of a game against my semi-regular Blood Ravens opponent which I’d sort-of lined up for the following week. Obviously an explanation of some sort is in order, and the truth is…

Well, blame the new Eldar codex, or my old Eldar army – one of the two, anyway. The new book appeared and I decided to dust off the army and give it a test drive. Suffice to say the Blood Ravens turned up with two Thunderfire Cannons, two fliers, and nearly a dozen Terminators and I was blasted off the table in short order, only managing to take out a handful of Tactical Marines in return. Coupled to my growing misgivings about the emphasis of the sixth edition, it was enough to make me take a sabbatical from the game (another of my semi-regular bouts of under-employment didn’t help matters much).

Oh well. I have been feeling the odd pang of the desire to play and/or paint again recently, and I was in town today anyway for work, and rather than go all the way in and back solely for one lesson, I thought I might as well see how things lay on the wargaming front. Out came the Blood Angels again.


And so I found myself squaring off against a neophyte Ultramarines commander – the signs are fairly easy to distinguish – in an exercise of the Emperor’s Will (one main objective each plus the usual minor ones). Not being familiar with the new Marine Codex I was wary, but at least I had an army I knew backwards.

Both objectives were placed in the centre of the table, which suited me, and deploying first I set up for a major push on both of them. My Terminators and Baal Predator went into reserve, while ready on the right flank for a lightning advance was a Rhino carrying a Tactical Squad, a full Assault Squad accompanied by Captain Zedrenael, Chaplain Aukon and a Priest, an Attack Bike and a Land Speeder. Posted on a hill in the centre was Honoured Brother Akakos, hastily retrofitted to a standard dreadnought configuration (CC/AC).

The Ultramarines put a lot of stuff into reserve – starting with Marneus Calgar and an Honour Guard. There was also a Librarian here, a Sternguard combat squad, and three Devastator Centurions. Actually on the table, a mechanised Tactical combat squad, an Assault combat squad, a foot Tactical combat squad and a Devastator combat squad occupied the centre, while over on the right flank a Land Raider Crusader carrying Assault Terminators set up facing the bulk of my own forces.

(Looking back at this game, I get the impression that the Ultramarine army was illegal – only one Troop choice – and that their commander was wont to get crucial game terms mixed up – not just things like Chapter Master and Warlord, which he thought were interchangeable, but also Reserve and Deep Strike. As will become apparent this did not profit him much.)

Anyway, I retained the initiative and began my assault by landing a Drop Pod as close to the Ultramarine-placed objective as I could manage. This was my first time using a pod and I was curious to see how it performed. A full Tactical Squad spilled out, while behind them the rest of the army moved up. On the first turn the Pod Squad mowed down the majority of the Devastator combat squad and left me well placed for a second-turn assault.

The Ultramarines responded by attempting to land a Dreadnought by Drop Pod on the board edge close to the bulk of my army – however, it scattered off the table and was destroyed. The Land Raider Crusader moved forward along the table edge anyway, disregarding the multi-meltas my army was toting. Apart from the surviving Devastator, who redeployed towards the right flank, the remaining Ultramarine contingent fired on and assaulted the Pod Squad, though without doing much damage.

On my second turn both my reserve units turned up: the flame tank outflanked and toasted the foot Tactical combat squad, while the reassuring presence of the locator beacon in the Drop Pod meant my Terminators were able to come on safely, close to the Devastator. The Attack Bike and Land Speeder fired on and destroyed the Land Raider, the Rhino-based Tactical Squad opened fire on and wiped out the Ultramarine Rhino unit, and the Blood Angels Assault Squad counter-charged the unit that had assaulted me the previous turn and wiped it out.

The Ultramarines centre had been smashed, but their Terminators were intact and they had many potentially powerful units still in reserve. Marneus Calgar teleported onto the table with his retinue, behind the bulk of the Blood Angel force, while not far away three Devastator Centurions appeared. The Sternguard appeared in the far right corner, not far from the Baal Predator and Blood Angel Terminators.

Marneus Calgar called in an orbital bombardment which vapourised Zedrenael and Aukon, while the Sternguard managed to kill two Terminators (a bit jammily, I thought – hey ho). However the Ultramarines were unable to assault and most of the Blood Angels were out of sight of the formidable anti-personnel firepower of the Centurions. Nevertheless the Ultramarine Terminators assaulted the Attack Bike and killed it, while the last Devastator shot down the Land Speeder.

It was time to redeploy, so the Tactical squad piled back into their Rhino, which motored away, while the Assault Squad pulled back away from Calgar as well. The Baal Predator motored up to the Sternguard and flamed three of them, while the Pod Squad occupied the Ultramarine objective. The Terminators squashed the last Devastator, while Brother Akakos waded into the Centurions and killed two of them (they did not prove as resilient as I had feared).

The Ultramarine Librarian finally showed up, but I was confident I had this game in the bag – I had two very mobile Troops units left, meaning I could either grab objectives or go for linebreaker points as the game closed, while the Ultramarines had only their elite units on the table.

Things turned out pretty much as I expected – Akakos killed off the Centurions and then chased down and flattened the enemy Librarian, while a ding-dong battle between the two squads of hammer-wielding Terminators eventually saw only a single Ultramarine survivor (who Akakos promptly shot). Calgar and his squad handily slaughtered the Pod Squad and moved on to assault and destroy the Baal Predator: this did not overly worry me, as it meant they were pulled even further away from the objectives.

The final few turns saw the Ultramarines frenziedly running around the table trying to kill anything they could get their hands on, regardless of the bigger strategic game. Their vastly depleted numbers meant they weren’t that destructive, however. In the end the last Sternguard was killed by the storm bolter on the Drop Pod, while Calgar’s retinue was wiped out when he assaulted the surviving Blood Angel Tactical Squad. It seemed somewhat fitting that the only surviving Ultramarine model on the table as the game ended was their Chapter Master, while I had a few Assault Marines and a Dreadnought left to hold objectives: probably not enough to actually kill Calgar, but I didn’t need to. One objective and First Blood gave me four points, compared to the solitary one the Ultramarines had earned for killing Zedranael.

So – first thoughts on the new Marine Codex. I haven’t looked at it in detail, but Thunderfire Cannons are still absurdly underpriced and I suspect Centurions are very capable of laying waste to anything in their path if used correctly. The Chapter Tactics rules look interesting too; I think my best fortune in this game was meeting a relatively green opponent. Splitting his army the way he did made it very easy for me to rapidly crush his initially-deployed forces and then deal more carefully with his elite second wave.

The army performed up to standard in this game, anyway, although losing the Captain and Chaplain to the same shot stung a bit. The big innovation this game was using the Drop Pod and I am rather impressed by the potential of this piece of kit, both as a way of getting Tactical Marines to the sharp end of the game and as an anchor point for my Terminators. I am aware all I am really doing now is tinkering with the same basic elements when I play Blood Angels, so what the future holds for me collecting-wise I’m not sure. As it is, I had a really nice time just playing a good, challenging game against a friendly and cheerful opponent. And of course I got to inflict a crushing defeat on him, which is always a bonus too.

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What’s on my mind with regard to the Blood Angels right now:

  • What should my first choice of Warlord be? To be honest I’ve always got my best results using Captain Zedrenael, contrary to Standard Tactical Dogma. The named Special Characters are really too expensive for a 1500 point game. The Reclusiarch works okay as a force multiplier but he isn’t fantastic in a duel, which is where he’s likely to end up. STD says a Librarian is virtually obligatory but I am not convinced following tonight’s display. Hmmm.
  • Should I think about putting my Furioso Dreadnought in a Drop Pod? One of the things I feel the army is currently lacking in is a serious Alpha Strike capability – short of Brother Akakos’ autocannon all my big guns are short-ranged. I have been contemplating a missile-launcher or lascannon Devastator Squad, but putting the Furioso in the Pod would be another option. Using the option to outflank with a Baal Predator would be another possibility – but with the Baal starting on my battleline I at least know where my enemy will be shooting on the first turn!
  • I am giving away First Blood points in virtually every game, possibly due to my lack of long-range anti-tank power and fondness for going vehicle-heavy. Not sure what to do about this except put my Attack Bike and Land Speeder into squadrons.

Anyway, I picked a fairly generic list for this week’s game, not having an opponent lined up, and – of course – found myself in a rematch with the Blood Ravens following last week’s inconclusive clash. Could this return engagement live up to the promise of the first game? Crikey, could it ever.


We ended up playing Big Guns Never Tire, which suited me (the Raven army was heavy in heavy support), with the Ravens getting first turn. Their Predator and Vindicator ended up dominating the centre and left side of the table, with a Tactical Squad holding down each flank and the Thunderfire Cannon and Scouts occupying a cluster of ruins on the right side of their deployment zone.

My list was similar to last week’s, except I had dropped the Reclusiarch, Land Speeder, and Death Company units  in exchange for a jump-packed Librarian, Assault Terminators, and Brother Akakos’ autocannon loadout. I opted to push up the right flank as that seemed to offer most cover for my Assault Marines and vehicles – only Brother Akakos occupied the left hand side of the table. The Terminators were footslogging due to my deep distrust of Deep Striking as a tactic. The Baal pushed forward with its Scout move in the hopes of toasting some Ravens on turn 1.

However, it was not to be: the Raven Drop Pod landed in my deployment zone and their Dreadnought emerged, promptly slagging the Baal Predator with its multi-melta – drawing this kind of fire is the Baal’s job, but I was still peeved. Heavy fire from the rest of the Ravens had relatively little effect, however.

On my turn Brother Akakos shifted into cover and got the rear of the Raven Dreadnought in his sights. The Attack Bike and Terminators also moved to give me options for dealing with the Dreadnought; everything else continued its push across the table. Akakos blew the enemy cyborg apart, leaving the Terminators free to assault the Drop Pod: at the time I thought this was perhaps a mistake, as it left them in the open in front of the lascannon-armed Predator, but this was arguably the most decisive move of the game. Needless to say they smashed the Pod to bits.

On Raven turn 2 the Storm Talon did not appear, but their Librarian and his Terminator escort did. With the locator beacon on the Drop Pod destroyed, my opponent carefully measured and popped them down a foot away from my nearest model – only for the dice to scatter them a full twelve inches in precisely that direction, the resulting roll on the mishap table revealing they had not survived the teleport, earning me a Slain Warlord point and wiping out a 350-point unit instantly.

It was not going all my way, however, as the Vindicator blew half the Assault Marines to pieces and the Predator gunned down a Terminator. On my own turn it proved tricky to get any of my own charges to connect: the wily Ravens of their second Tactical Squad chose to fail a morale test for casualties incurred by shooting to dodge a charge by the Furioso, the two survivors falling back to the table edge. I had some results in the centre as the Terminators were able to assault the Vindicator and destroy it, even if the mutli-melta on the Bike missed the Predator at close range.

The Blood Raven shooting continued to take its toll as the Scouts killed the Attack Bike and the Predator destroyed my Furioso Dreadnought. Most significantly, the Storm Talon finally arrived and promptly targeted Brother Akakos, thus proving I was right in thinking he could be considered a threat to the gunship – he was stunned, but this would not affect his AA potential.

On my turn 3 Akakos got on with his sacred destiny and opened up on the gunship, hitting but failing to damage it. The last remnants of the Assault Marines, having just shrugged off the barrage from the Thunderfire Cannon thanks to the Priest’s Feel No Pain blessing, jumped into assault range of the Predator, while the Terminators advanced on the first Raven Tactical Squad. An assault on the Scouts in the ruins failed to connect, but the Terminators broke the Tactical Marines and the Sergeant of the Assault Squad punched through the side of the Predator with his power fist, wrecking it.

Appropriately, given the participation of the Blood Angels and the Blood Ravens, the game was turning into a complete bloodbath, and this continued as the Talon went into hover mode and wiped out the last of the Assault Marines and Librarian, whose performance had been very underwhelming: at least he was only 125 points. The reformed first Raven squad fired at the Terminators with little effect (my tactic of keeping them line abreast at maximum coherency severely limited the effectiveness of the Raven plasma cannon) and, amusingly, the Thunderfire Cannon proved totally incapable of hitting the Tactical Squad at point-blank range.

To his everlasting shame, Honoured Brother Akakos proved completely incapable of shooting down the hovering Talon, only taking a hull point off it instead. The Terminators charged the first Tactical Squad again while my own Tactical Squad assaulted the Blood Raven Scouts. Both enemy units broke, the lone surviving Scout Sergeant fleeing the ruins, the Tactical Squad falling back to the table edge.

Blood Raven turn 5, and both armies were in tatters – the only fully intact unit was the Cannon. I got a nasty shock when the Techmarine detached himself from the gun and assaulted the Tactical Marine squad, after they had been shot up quite badly by the Talon – the Sergeant missed the chance to crush the boffin in a challenge and suddenly this looked like a fight I would be lucky to win.

On my turn, Akakos shot yet again at the Talon and would have destroyed it, but for it opting for evasive action (which at least meant it wouldn’t be doing much shooting on turn 6, if we got that far). The fight between my surviving Tactical Marines and the Tech ground on while – for the third turn in a row – the Terminators engaged the Raven Tacticals, finally managing to wipe them out this time. They consolidated towards the ruins where the fight was in progress, but it looked unlikely they’d get there before the game ended.

Which it did at that point anyway. The surviving Blood Ravens consisted of a lone Scout Sergeant, two Tactical Marines, the Thunderfire Cannon and its operator and the damaged Storm Talon. I had two Terminators, three Tactical Marines, a damaged Rhino transport and the damaged rifleman Dreadnought left on the table. No-one could claim an objective, both Warlords were dead, and the Blood Ravens had claimed First Blood for the Baal Predator – but I had killed two Heavy Support vehicles and had multiple units in the Raven deployment zone, while my opponent hadn’t managed to finish off Akakos and had nothing outside his own table half – which meant the game had finished 5-2 in my favour.

Well, I can’t honestly believe I won this one, given the pounding I took in the early turns. I think what lost it for the Blood Ravens, other than terrible bad luck with the Librarian and his escort (I’ll say it again: unmodified Deep Strike is a massive gamble and too easy to mess up), was the choice to move their vehicles up the centre of the table towards my AT units – killing these scored me relatively easy points. The relatively static nature of the Raven list also sort-of worked in my favour as I was always going to claim more Linebreaker points than them.

Of course, if my worthy opponent ever manages to get his Terminators and Librarian onto the table I suspect he will roll me over quite easily – then again, if I ever get my Baal Predator up close to his Tactical Marines that should have interesting results as well. But another excellent game against a strong army, played in the right spirit – 5-2 really doesn’t indicate what a close game this really was.

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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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Given that I’ve spent a moderate amount of time recently thinking about writing a piece on the myriad issues surrounding and general uselessness of Eldar Guardian Defenders, it was probably inevitable that this week a squad of Guardians would win me a game.


Turning up early at GW meant that at least I got a proper one-on-one, albeit at only 1500 points (I had to scratch-write a list and I suspect I didn’t make a very good job of it – but as it turned out this wasn’t an issue). My opponent was fielding Salamanders, commanded (as seems virtually obligatory) by Vulkan. I, as I’ve said, had my Eldar: many small squads, of Guardians, Pathfinders, Banshees, Scorpions, Wraithguard, and Reapers, supported by a Wraithlord, a Wave Serpent (attached to the Wraithguard), and two War Walkers fitted with Starcannon.

I set up first and put the majority of my stuff just left of centre: my Farseer, the Guardians (screening the Banshees), with the Reapers on a hill just behind and to their right. On the left side of the table went the vehicles and the Wraithlord.

Facing me, from my left to right, was a squad of Sternguard (in the open), a tactical squad (in cover), a Land Raider (carrying Vulkan and a Terminator assault squad), a second tactical squad and then a thunderfire cannon. Eldar scouts infiltrated onto the extreme left, with a good view of the Sternguard, while Striking Scorpions appeared close to the Space Marine artillery piece. (My opponent basically forewent the advantage of setting up second, in order to save time – he had a bus to catch.)

The Salamanders failed to seize the initiative and were promptly somewhat hammered by the Eldar, the War Walkers and Scouts killing nearly half the exposed Sternguard (I was a bit wary of these guys), while the brightlances on the Wave Serpent and Wraithlord managed to shake the Land Raider. Essentially lacking a target, the Dark Reapers took a chunk out of the right-hand tactical squad. On their go the Salamanders began to advance, the Sternguard going into the cover of some craters, the damaged tactical squad heading for the same cover as the cannon, and the Land Raider grinding forward but not unloading its cargo. The machine-spirit of the tank gunned down three Guardians, while the cannon hammered at the Scorpions, killing two.

On turn two I had only one target: the Land Raider and its occupants! Careful manoeuvering was required in order to get everything in the right place. The Wave Serpent fired first and destroyed the tank, depositing the Terminators in front of my army. Two flamers fired by the Wraithlord consumed two of the squad, while the Wraithcannons of the Wraithguard killed a third. The War Walkers fired but the storm shields of the squad protected them from that as well as the shuriken and missile fire of the Guardians. The Pathfinders shot at the Sternguard and killed another, while the Scorpions continued to threaten the thunderfire cannon.

In the assault phase Vulkan and his two surviving escorts were mobbed by the Banshees, the Wraithlord, and the Wraithguard. Flashing power swords cut down the two troopers but Vulkan took only a single wound before attacking the Wraithguard, doing no damage. The smaller constructs battered another wound out of the Chapter Master but the Wraithlord fluffed its attacks rather badly and Hestan hung in there.

On the following turn the thunderfire cannon killed two more Scorpions, leaving only the Exarch standing. Rather to my surprise the Sternguard opted to shoot at the Pathfinders, whose camo cloaks protected them. The Banshees lost two of their number to Vulkan as they finished him off and everything consolidated towards the Sternguard and the first tactical squad, just breaking cover close by.

Back on my turn, the Farseer cast Doom on the first tactical squad, which went on to have a very bad turn, losing seven members to the twin flamers on the Wraithlord. Feeling the Banshees could comfortably finish them off, the War Walkers, Wraithguard and Pathfinders concentrated their fire and wiped out the Sternguard. The Banshees then assaulted the fleeing first tactical squad and slaughtered them, too. The Scorpion Exarch was finally in assault range of the thunderfire cannon operator, but was chopped down by his power axe before he could use his claw on him. Hey ho. While all this was happening the Guardians scampered forward and claimed an objective.

As time was a factor, and the Salamanders were down to five men and a cannon while my army was mostly intact, we called the game for me at that point. To be fair, even if the Space Marines managed to blast the Guardians off the objective (which the cannon could easily have done) I’m still confident I could still have wiped them out in the time left to us.

So, another clean win, and this time against someone a bit more competent that Valdemar the Vague. That said, and very nice bloke who he was, I was rather surprised by some of my opponent’s choices: the War Walkers and Wraithlord barely got shot at, even after they’d demonstrated major potential to mess up his army. Partly this was bad luck – he simply didn’t have viable targets in range – but the Sternguard could quite easily have messed up the War Walkers quite badly with the right ammo. Instead he shot at the Pathfinders, a much more marginal threat, and arguably lost the unit as a result. The Scorpions died, but in doing so kept the thunderfire cannon from influencing the main battle at all, which was my intention for them from the start.

And – well, the Salamander army build had issues with it – it seemed designed around the principle of Vulkan and his squad barrelling forward in the Crusader (quite probably nearly half his army in one big lump) while everything else jogged up behind. This made it rather easy to mob this strike unit with my entire army and then mop everything else up afterwards.

So, a satisfying win, and it felt nice to be delivering large amounts of damage rather than soaking it up turn after turn, as was always the case with the Consecrators. The only slight niggle was that the modifications I’d made to my standard Eldar list – different Farseer and Warlock powers, mainly – never came into play.

This game did remind me a lot of when I first played this army, against a lot of power-armoured armies commanded by relatively-inexperienced players. It’s definitely more effective against Marines and their equivalent (but a bit weak against Necrons, as I recall), but I’m really searching for a way forward for it – at the moment it’s trying to do a bit of everything (movement, firepower, close assault) and not really excelling at any of it. A big, fairly easy win, though very gratifying, isn’t really instructive when it comes to looking properly at the army build. Yes, there’s no pleasing some people, is there?

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