Sunday, 21 June 2015

Rhino Keys In The Bowl: An Army-Swapping Warhammer 40,000 Army Report

Banshee and Bugbear snooze while the armies are set up
Last weekend I got a phonecall from Charles asking me to come round to his to play a game.  He was all for a game of Warhammer 40,000 and found himself stuck in the flat looking after a wife recovering from an operation and two new kittens - would I come and amuse him?

Truth be told, team, my heart wasn't in it.  I would have been all for playing one of the many other nerdy games out there but a game of Warhammer 40,000 was not setting my heather alight.  I trucked out with my figures, hoping my mood might change when I arrived, but I found myself still a bit despondent at the whole thing.

A Noise Marine-less chaos force lands on the table
However, Charles was not for saying no.  His suggestion to keep things more interesting was to do an army swap game - that is, we'd both build an army from our own figure collection for our opponent to use.  This meant that Charles found himself in charge of a Chaos Space Marine force, while I was in possession of his Orks.  We switched armies, codices.... we even switched dice.

If you're going to do it, do it properly
I found myself for the first time in charge of a swarm of green, violent football hooligans who were intent on running across the table and sticking da boot in.  Charles had some grasp of how my rules work - he's ran Chaos Space Marine many moons before and is also more into 40K than I am - but I was flying a bit blind when it came to the wargear, stat blocks and special rules for this force.

Nonetheless, I girded my loins and went into the fray with the most middle class "WAAAAAAAAAAAARGH" I could muster

Set-up across the diagonal of the table - two objectives in the middle, one in my deployment.
Charles was given a mixed bag of Chaos Space Marines, including a unit Raptors; two regular CSM units in a Rhino; one squad of Khorne Berserkers in a Rhino; two Obliterators (in reserve); a Forgefiend (being played today by a white Helbrute) and a Tzeentch Chaos Sorcerer to command.

For my part I had a spread of stuff from across the codex: regular issue Shoota Boyz and Slugga Boyz on Trukks as well as some odder things like erratic heavy weapon Lootas, an erratic Shokk Attack Gun, a slightly less erratic Stormboy jump unit (in reserve) and a not very erratic at all Nobz unit in Mega-Armour.

Charles took the initiative and drove his rhinos down the table, but the first turn of the Orks saw things go my way.  Not used to Trukks, I didn't realise how good they are at transporting troops - I threw my Mega-Nobz down the table, who stampeded out and got into charge range with the Forge Fiend very quickly.  I've never seen a Forge Fiend in play.... and I didn't really get to this time, as it's amazing guns got distracted dealing with a melee it could not win.

The Nobz say hello to the stunt-Forgefiend
In turn two the Burna Boyz, a lovely unit armed with flamethrowers, tried to outflank Charles and lay down flamey death on the Marines who were struggling to get out of the Rhinos - they didn't want to be sitting ducks to Orky charges, but inside they couldn't really get much done.  Thankfully for him the Raptors managed to use their weapons to take out the Trukk and force the Burnas to their feet. 
Oh well!
Charles knew the Lootas would be nasty if they fired their flamethrowers but blowing up the Trukk meant they were unable to fire properly in defence, so the Raptors could swoop in and destroy them with minimal danger.

In a very un-Orky move, I kept the Battlewagon that had the Warboss and his unit of Slugga Boyz hanging back in reserve.  While numbers were still not too much against him, Charles finally decamped his force out of their Rhinos and decided to make a dash for it.  The Khorne Berserkers and their chain axes are a nasty melee unit I wanted nothing to do with. 

Thankfully my Slugga Boyz managed to keep it together just long enough for the Mega Nobz to come to their defence, and as good as those crazy BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD types were they couldn't hold out against an attack on two sides.

A pincer movement succeeds in wiping the target out

The back line, unfortunately, was not going my way.  I had the Shokk Attack Gun and some other lovely artillery set back here but Charles managed to drop his two Obliterators back here.  Flamey, melty, assault cannony, plasmay death rained out on me from those two bastards who made the entire back line dissolve like a papier-mâché umbrella.

The back line collapses

With the Lootas picked off by enemy fire, I had little in the way of heavy firepower - but neither did Charles.  This battle would be settled in melee, and his Raptors decided to try and pick of the final Mega-Nob in a fight that went several turns.

Battle of the titans

In the center of the table, it was finally the end of the Warbosses patient and as the Black Legion Chaos Sapce Marine unit picked off the last of the Lootas they found themselves facing Da Big Boss Ork and his Shoota Boyz bodyguard.

This was the most dice I've ever rolled in a melee in my life.  How do Ork players cope with units of more than 10 people all the time?
Da Blue Boyz finally come out to play

In the end, Charles and I were taking off roughly the same amount of figures each turn.... but Charles had a smaller force so each unit wipe was a bigger problem to him.  I lost the Slugga Boyz, Lootas, artillery, Grotz and Burnaz but still had a mostly fresh unit of Stormboyz and Shoota Boyz for the finale as well as one Mega-Nob who wouldn't take hint.  He, meanwhile, was left in the endgame with eight men of a CSM unit and a single Obliterator.  He could make me suffer for it, but victory was basically inevitable, and we called it in my favour.

The final mass melee
Playing the army swap was an odd experience.  There's enough special rules in each codex that, if you haven't properly read it, trying to run the army can be a touch experience.  At the same time it does show you how much your tactics can be based on the one or two armies you usually use - I rarely have high numbers of troops on the table so I'm not used to being able to win battles of attritions, nor am I used to having so many cheap Assault Transports available for speedy melee.

It's hard to say how much of my win was because of my skilla nd how much was Charles built a better ork army than I built a Chaos Space Marine army.  I find some of my frustration with 40K can come from the imbalance in the meta which can make life much harder for some armies than others.  Everyone always thinks their army is hard done by, of course, but I do think that CSMs aren't in a great place and could

Truth be told, I'm still not mega in a Warhammer 40,000 playing place right now.  I wouldn't say no to smaller games like Kill Team or perhaps trying out the older editions again - Paul and I are still due a Rogue Trader game.  I would definitely be up for playing more of the scenario quasi-roleplaying stuff that Stuart, Rory and Dave have done with me in the past, games where the premise is tinkered with a bit to make it feel more unique.

A straight up, 1500 point bloodbath though does not get me terribly excited though.  When I have Dark Future, Man O War, 7TV, Horus Heresy, Dreadfleet, Blood Bowl, Dreadball, Dreadball Xtreme, Mighty Empires, Call To Arms, Space Hulk and all the rest sitting htere ready to be played.... I'd rather do something I'm excited by than go through the motions.

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