Friday, 23 January 2015

The Walls Of St Eda's Shrine - A 3k 2 vs 2.5 Warhammer 40,000 Battle Report

A frentic Sunday afternoon in the West End of Glasgow
 When is a 2 vs 2 game of Warhammer not a 2 vs 2 game of Warhammer?  When one of your players is 6, playing for the first time and has his Dad handy to help out with the rules.

 Yes, Sunday saw me take part in a somewhat unusual game.  I went round to Dave's house and Stuart was there, along with his two kids - 10 year old Josh and 6 year old David.  I'd met Josh before and had played a little bit of 40K alongside him, but this was my first time meeting David - he's very yougn and can't really read the rulebooks yet, but of course his dad and big brother do 40K so naturally he wants to be involved.

Therefore it was decided that Dr Dave and Josh would pair off, while the 6 year old Dave (or "Manly Dave" as I took to calling him) and I would be a team, with Stuart acting half as GM and half as an assistant for David to try and explain the rules to him.  I had just given Stuart some figures for David not a week ago - the Space Marines from the old Black Reach boxed set, to be exact - so Stuart topped him up with some of his own Marine figures and we paired up as Marines of normal and Chaos varieties against the unlikely pairing of Sisters of Battle and Tau.
Still a better love story than Twilight. 

The two kids set up the objective markers first - each of them choosing to place three markers at the far end of the table - then Dr Dave and Josh won the roll to set up. On Dave's large table they took the icy side and set up amongst the snow-covered hills, ice crystal and the like.  (Hey, it's pretty cold here in Glasgow right now, it seemed thematically appropriate.)  Each player had 1,500 points to spend and Josh took lots of vehicles while Dr Dave seemed to focus more on Sisters infantry choices.  The table was split diagonally and they filled their section with models, leaving just an Imperial plane and a couple of Tau jetpacks off the table to come in later on.

The combined forces of purpleyness.  (With a few of Josh's blue Tau looking surprisingly well camouflaged.)
My teammate and I got the side of the table that was greener with church walls and columns.  Most of our army was placed behind the wall, the infantry mostly staying out of sight.  Our combined mass of Dreadnoughts took the front - four regular and a Contemptor Dreadnought.  Only a small advance force comprising of two Vindicator siege tanks and a meagre infantry support section went in plain view, and we kept our flyer and a few other tricks in reserve until later.

The view from the Marine side: my garish colours mixed with Stuart's sensible hues and David's bare plastic.

Our deck of random missions was shuffled and placed on hand for us to draw during the game - there were six objectives on the table but we wouldn't know who would be getting points for which one on any given turn or if they'd have other changes to score bonus points by destorying tanks, killing psykers, winning challenges etc.

Our adversaries had the first turn and, bar a short gap for fried chicken and hot cross buns, we played for several hours of bloodshed.  Pictures and comments follow.

That black mark is where one of our Vindicators used to be.

The TauSters have a good first turn in which our exposed foreward section comes under fire.   One of our two Vindicators is instantly popped into a smoking wreck, which rather scuppered our initial plan of "put down a suppressive fire of Demolisher shells when people approach."  Such is how the dice fall!Alas this meant our opponents got the first point in the game, which always demoralises.

Our own retaliatory fire is pretty minimal, with our army slowly moving up and heading towards their objectives and the gap in the wall.  The Dreadnoughts got side by side and unleashed some fire, but much of the enemy army was still fairly far back so we couldn't do a huge amount of damage.  Some models were picked off here and there, but we were mostly on our own. 

The Hellblade roars into battle: feel free to hum Highway To The Danger Zone

Turn two saw things go a bit more our way though.  The Tau and Sisters  got closers and both our respective reserves arrived.  In my case, this meant i got to fly my Hellblade fighter into the battle zone for the sole purpose of shooting down enemy fighters and controlling the skies.  Of course, my luck being what is, it actually spent most of the game dodging enemy fire and failing to hit a goddamn thing.  Still, Stuart said it looked cool to photograph it flying through the wall, and he was right.

The appearance of my teleporting Obliterator heavy-weapon monstrosity at the back was also a bit of a damp squib - it failed to burn through the tank it shot with it's Multi-Melta and then took fire off a whole bunch of Tau on the next turn.  The TauSter's reserves were also a bit unremarkable, flying onto the table but getting lose in their general mass of troops.

However, better can be said of Manly Dave's reserves when he teleported a unit of Legion of the Damned onto the table.  Black-armoured, skull-decorated, flaming-bodied, burning-weapon Space Marines are a win in anyone's book and these ones did a particularly impressive job, teleporting down onto a hilltop near an objective, wiping out the Tau sniper unit that had been holding said objective and then moving to claim it for not one but two points to us.  At this point things were fairly close but suddenly we seemed a lot more in the game.
The Legion of the Damned, justifying their points cost and generally look badass
Even the appearance of Saint Celestine jump-packing over the giant wall and getting into a melee with a squad of Space Marines couldn't depress us too much.  Yes, she had just killed seven Space Marines in one go..... but she was now cut off from reinforcements and surrounded by our men.  We'd also already killed her once before at the start, my Noise Marines picking her off, so we had done half the job

(For the 40K uninitiated, I'm not going mental in the above statement - Saint Celestine is a special character for Sisters of Battle who is astoundingly hard to kill and keep dead.  The first time she is killed she essentially goes off the table and joins your reserves, reappearing at the spot she died later in the game.  It says something about how difficult she is to put down that killing Celestine the first time wasn't worthy of comment earlier in this blog post.)
St Celestine proves she's the queen of close combat
 However, as this battle reached the mid-point one could feel the tide was turning squarely to Marines.  We may have only had a point or two over our foes and we may have been outnumbered 2 or 3 to one, but their swarm wasn't having much effect.  The terrain was negating the advantage of all their guns - by giving us the wall to set up behind, they'd allows us to keep many of our targets out of reach.  Instead a wall of armoured Dreadnoughts stood at the front, goading our foes into shooting and charging them but proving difficult to dislodge.
The thin steel line.
 So, we were greatly outnumbered but our foe let us pick the place we fight, so we ended up with one where their numbers counted for nothing.  What does that remind you of?

Complete with Central Belt Scottish accents.
 Which is not to say that our TauSter friends weren't giving us a scare - Saint Celestine running around swinging her power sword in our back line isn't a fun event, especially not when a Voss Lightning flyer swoops into your back line and starts giving her fire support.  Now she's not cut-off but has a friend, and that squad of Noise Marines going to chop her up are now in the kill zone.

This is not good news for the Slaanesh-worshipping World Eaters down there.

Back out in the thick of the ice, the Legion of the Damned may have scored us two points but they're surrounded by Tau forces who haven't moved far from deployment.  They do manage to score us one other point - forcing a morale test on a unit they charge, completing one of our mission cards - but they end up dying, their ghostly invulnerable save eventually giving out to the weight of enemy forces

Neither side moves a titanic amount all game, to be honest, with both sides keeping troops near the three objectives within their original deployment zones and relying on cards coming up that use at least one of those. 

The Legion of the Damned give their lives for a noble purpose

Anyway, there's some fun happening elsewhere on the table - assaulting women trying to budge the Vindicator and its bodyguard from their firing position...

It doesn't really work out for the non-pink people
The girls mostly die, but they manage to act as a carrier wave to get their leader into one-on-one combat with my Noise Champion.  He proves much sturdier than his lady bodyguards and gives me a decent run for my money, though eventually I prosper.

 Now, the Chaos army has a special random table you roll on when you win a one-on-one challenge with a leader type to see if the gods reward or curse him.  Usually it's slightly good; very occasionally it's amazing and very very occasionally it's terrible.  I decided my companion Manly Dave should roll, and roll he did..... getting an unusual result

The very occasional one.

Unfortunately I had left my figure of this guy at home,
So we had to use a Dreadnought instead.
My evil man became an evil Chaos Daemon Prince and suddenly a lot harder to budge in close combat.  I got down on my knees and hugged my 6 year old buddy close to my chest.

The battle seems to be really focusing on just inside the wall, though, where our tank tries and fails to shoot down the Voss Lightning which is covering Celestine's travel.  In the end our dedicated heavy and anti-tank weaponize can't take it down, but a lucky shot from a single Space Marine with his trusty Bolt Rifle somehow hits the right spot and causes the hing to explode in a fireball and crash a gnat's wing away from aforementioned tank,

The Voss Lightning crashes and burns
 The TauSters send several squads in to charge the Dreadnought bodyguards - chainsaws, jetpacks and all sorts - while directing every long range weapon they can at them.  Eventually they pick their way through the front rank and only two Dreadnoughts remain, but so much of the army is still on the back end of the table and out of sight due to terrain that no-one seems to be able to take much advantage from this turn of events.
The Dreadnought wall crumbles
 At this stage the score was still about tied: we had 8 points each going into turn 5.  To try and turn their fortunes around they sought to shoot down my flyer which was worth a Victory Point due to having a "shoot down a flying thing" mission card.  This shouldn't be too hard: my flyer is very flimsy with low armour, and while it can dodge very well vaolume of fire should fix that.

Unfortunately no, however, as I passed 3+ Agile Jink saves than I ever have in my puff.  Entire units still in the back third of the table faced the sky and unloaded twenty dice of fire into me.... nothing seemed to happen.  A single hull point chipped off, with one left the unit flew around the table.  To make matters worse, it dropped out of the sky in our Turn 5 and landed next to an objective, scoring us a point  and putting us just ahead.
More 3+ saves made than I have any right to
 But the real killer blow game when poor ol' Celestine's luck finally ran out.  She could no longer count on support and instead found herself surrounded by enemy units that shot at her at length.  Slaying  her was still work, mind - you don't get made a Saint without having a good saving throw and some nice armour - but killing her saw us netting a mighty three points and with that the clear victory.  Turn 5 was the end of the game and we'd won 12-8.

Celestine falls and the game is squarely over.

 All in all, the dice were with us on a few places and in others it was just we made the best of our opponents bad calls rather than making any great ones of our own.  My colleague Manly Dave proved surprisingly attentive, his attention only really giving out a bit by turn 4 or 5... and even then he still paid attention on our turns, just not really caring to watch the opponents.

My decision to downplay the Noise Marines meant I got more on the table - I took two 10 man Chaos Marine squads, a 10 man Noise Marine squad, an Obliterator, a Hell Blade, a Vindicatror and a Warpsmith who hardly got to do anything because he spent the whole battle behind that goddamn wall.  The Wall was perhaps a touch too large though of course Dave didn't know how we'd deploy when he'd set it up - if we'd played from long sides rather than short sides, it would have proven a very different sort of setup.

 The setup was something our 10 year old companion Josh found very frustrating.  It was clear by turn 3 or 4 that he realised there was a miscalculation and that victory was difficult.  By the end of the game he was a bit miffed to discover he was on the losing side and, in the grand tradition of all generals, was keen to find every possible reason to blame everyone and everything else for ruining their marvelous plan.  Such is the nature of hindsight, alas.

But our opponents shouldn't feel too bad.  Yes, they spent the back half of the game feeling on the back foot, but at the end of the day the twist from 8-8 to 12-8 was purely a last turn thing.  If they'd managed to shoot down that fighter plane it would h ave been 9-8 to them; if Celestine had been able to get out of dodge or survive her shooting after that (perfectly possible with her speed and saves) then they could have scraped a win. 

Going further back than that, though, I do wonder why my TauSter opponents spent so long being so stationery rather than advancing forward.  Yes, we stayed stationery too, but we had a humongous wall and lesser numbers.  A more frontal assault seems like it would have seen them take more casualties but make more gains in the long run, and when the hole was finally breached in our defenses more people could have made use of it.  Even using their reserves better - dropping more people behind enemy lines - would have given us more of a fright  (Though I refer to my previous comments about hindsight, which apply to me as much as they do to Josh)

And going further back still, letting us pick the walls as our setup gave us a huge boost.  The TauSters wouldn't have been so good in that set-up admittedly but forcing our smaller force to charge towards their defended position would still have been better for them.  Hell, more evenly spread objectives would have forced us more from our starting positions rather than let us camp down.

Overall?  I can smile at my first win of the year, put Manly Dave on my list of people to have on my side in a fight and consider making up some defensive walls for my home table.

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