|So much prettier than my models... <sob>|
Week one of our Warhammer campaign saw three games take place of which I was involved in two. I missed the opener – a two vs one game in which my partner-in-darkness Jamie had to muster his demons to resist an assault by 40K Dave’s Sisters of Battle and Charles’ White Scars.
A bitter struggle in which daemon princes and Contemptor Dreadnoughts marched into war, the first victory went to the Imperials but only just. The final score was 10 kill points to 9 and with it the White Scars claimed the command base on Acanthus from Chaos. (Though the forests and hills are now laced with small bands looking to fight guerilla battles.)
|We at least gave Dave's HQ Saint Celestine a thorough killerating.|
A defeat, even a close one, was not a great omen and so I had to head into battle and regain some honour. 40K Dave invited me to his house for a small “Kill Team” style skirmish versus his Sisters, and a few days after that I would fight Doug and his Dark Angles for the first time in a battle hosted at my house. I have hardly played 40K recently so two games on the trot would be challenging, especially when Chaos Space Marines are not exactly considered top of the power curve.
The nature of the board meant they could only claim one hex from me on the planet we all shared – Germanotta, an icy world of petrochemical drilling and blinding snowstorms – but we came to a way of making it work. Inspired by rules form the Horus Heresy rulebooks which propose fighting small skirmishes before a main battle, and then letting the skirmish determine a boost for the victor when it comes time to set up the larger game, the skirmish would be a sort of set-up fight for the Imperials.
Victory would let them be the attacker in the next game as they sneak through defensive lines; failure would instead see my army having advance notice of their arrival and letting me choose a different scenario that might play to my strengths.
|My warband of six Chaos Space Marines and twelve walking cover saves|
The skirmish was a 300 point affair on a small board filled with icy hills to create an almost Al Qaeda cave base-like feel. The objective was for the Imperials to bump off a senior Chaos officer who, without his presence, would be unable to help in resisting the big Imperial push. New pink dice in hand, I arrived at his flat and talked him through the scenario I'd found.
A system of “Klaxon counters” was used to allow for Metal Gear Solid-style sentries on patrol who could not immediately open fire – I could only see enemy units that were (Initiative Score + Number of Klaxon Counters Earned) inches away from any model. If one of my guys could see an enemy model, then that guy became Active and could move and shoot as normal. He also gave up the alarm cry and I gained a Klaxon counter, so it became easier for others to see enemy troops. If not… then they just sorta milled about in the table with randomized movement.
|My security guards prove as effective as the ones in Metal Gear Solid on Easy mode.|
The role-player in my bled through into my army list and deployment, which was chosen less for effectiveness and more to allow for the story of the game to make sense. A band of twelve Chaos Cultists provided me with cheap but hopeless sentries whose initiative score was low so they were unlikely to see people until they were right on top of them. Six Chaos Marine Chosen were the elites who could be relied on to be more useful, with a further detection range. A Plasma Gun and Heavy Bolter was amongst their gear for ranged support, while a Power Axe and a Power Sword meant two of them were kitted out for melee destruction
|Over the crest of the snowy hills, the Sisters of Battle move out.|
40K Dave, meanwhile, took some a firebrand Priest as well as two squads of five sisters of battle in elite Celestian and fast Dominion forms. None of them had much in the way of unusual weaponry, just a single Melta Gun… but from my own miniatures collection came the Ace up Dave’s sleeve, an Eversor Assassin I loaned him. This close combat monstrosity cost him almost half his points but it meant that if he could get up close to the target Chaos Marine, he could tear him apart. This was particularly useful because the target had a very good save to resist ranged attacks, plus we were ruling that the snowstorm was reducing ranged weapon effectiveness. Guaranteed kills required getting up close and personal, and if ever there was a mission for the Officio Assassinorium to send someone along it was this one!.
Some special rules were handed out to each team as per the Kill-Team rules: in particular, Dave was able to give his Celestians Outflank and hang onto them as reserves while I gave my boss-man Zealot to make him a sort of Poundland Dark Apostle. Our story was set – the Chaos Curate was hosting a meeting between Cultists and Marines to plan their defensive moves, the leaders meeting in a cave while the rest of the squad patrolled outside. The Sisters of Battle Dominions crept across the snowy wastes in low-visibility armour patterns and wielding bolters with suppressors fitted, to act as cover for the Eversor Assassin. Round the sides, The Celestians were sneaking through the cave system to try and cut off enemy retreat.
|My deployment, the chaos bosses talking in the cave while everyone else freezes their ass of outside.|
The first turn or two were quite slow, since most of my troops had no idea anything was going wrong. The Chaos Marines were a bit more attentive and marched forward to investigate strange noises they were hearing, while the Chaos Cultists milled about oblivious. A few shots were popped off through the snow, but so far no-one had realized anything was wrong.
|Time to get all Zero Dark Thirty on Chaos' ass!|
This all changed, however, with the arrival of the Celestians. Just as the forward marchers were getting into visual range, the reserves outflanked their way onto the battlefield and closed up the sides. Two of them took the far end to keep the Chaos wings occupied, while the other three dropped right into the cave where the Chaos Curate and his buddies were having a meeting. Unable to charge into close combat on the turn they arrived, they opened up with a burst of rapid fire bolter shots…
|"Onward Slaanesh soldiers, marching unto war..."|
...but the Power Armour and Dark Auras of the senior Traitors held up, and on their turn they leapt into close combat with howls of rage that saw all three Celestians cut down. With a string of Klaxon markers earned at this point, everyone was now able to perceive their opponents and could act normally – but could they get over to the Curate in time to protect him?
|The man of the match, killing multiple power armoured and genetically modified opponents.|
On the other side of the battle, the Imperial Preist proved surprisingly effective. Armed with just a big chainsaw, rags and a lot of enthusiasm he took down several Chaos Space Marines all on his own. He was eventually felled, but it meant that the heavier weapons that could have come to the aid of the boss where either killed or tied up.
|I try to slow down the Eversor. Spoilers - it doesn't work.|
At this stage, it became a question of time. Dave only had a few turns to make contact with my HQ, attack him and kill him. It was perfectly acceptable for me to throw all my other guys out as a human shield to slow him down because, by the rules of the mission, only the HQs survival or death mattered. Could I hold out long enough for the Chaos Rhino to come and pick me up, essentially?
To that end I sent out the Power Axe Marine and the Shotgun Cultist Leader to stall the Eversor. This would be great if it wasn't for the fact that, as mentioned previously, Eversors are absolute close combat beasts and he chewed them up in seconds.
As all my forces bar a few stragglers were now dead or on the other side of the board, this left me having to make a very undignified decision.
|"Brave Sir Robin ran away..."|
I had to run and hide.
Now, I realise that the dark lords of Chaos will not reward for me for this behaviour... but they'll reward me even less if I get my head cut off by Skully McSkullface over there, so I had to improvise!
Dave wanted to deliver the killing blow with the Assassin but knew it would take a few turns to move him thanks to the big honking icy hills in the way. His Melta gun proving totally ineffective, he tried to use three of his sisters in close combat to at least bog me down and chip off a few hits. Unfortunately, Slaanesh was with me and I tore them to absolute pieces.
|Turns out they don't hand out Chosen Sergeant rank insignia in lucky bags.|
So, ladies and gentlemen, all I needed was four dice rolls of 3 or over.
|AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! ONE! JUST ONE!|
With the target of the mission being a Command Post, it seemed only fair to use a Fortification and one of the building specific missions from Stronghold Assault. Doug and I each made up a 1500 point army, with the proviso that he was allowed to take an extra Heavy Support and I had to take between 1 and 3 fortifications. All units slain were worth 1 victory point, but destroying or seizing my main fortification from me was worth 3 victory points instead. That main fortification however began in my deployment zone and had an extra "Artillery Strike" attack - so he was going to have to dislodge a well-entrenched foe.
And what will that main fortification be?...
Why it's my scratchbuilt Aquilla Strongpoint with Vortex Missiles, sitting a table filled with my custom-made urban ruins. True, it's nowhere near as pretty as the official version... but since the official version is seventy notes, I think I'm quite happy with my decision.
Now this is something of a point investment - in a 1500 point game, dropping 535 points on one thing is a pretty bonkers move. Still, it seemed more thematically appropriate than something cheaper like a Skyshield Landing Pad. The Imperial forces can't seize the command post without removing it's protective missile silo - if they can do that then they've got the sector sewn up, otherwise they'll have to fall back.
|From Stronghold Assault: the current stat block for this unit, as well a picture of it's official version.|
The Vortex Missile Aquilla Strongpoint has rules advantages going for it. It's going to be all but impossible for Doug to level it since it has insanely high armour and a negative to all dice rolls to structural damage. Splashing out an extra 25 points to buy a Void-Shield and he has no choice but to seize it in close combat, necessitating he trudge his people across the battlefield.
More than that, though, the Vortex Missiles are brutal. I've made my lovely Vortex templates but I've never used them before - now I'll finally get to rip big holes in time and space on top of my opponent's head.
|Deployment, playing not in the nerd roomk but in my far brighter living room.|
To defend my fortification I took an army built around two Noise Marine units – one ranged unit bristling with Sonic Weapons, one melee unit with all the pistols and axes I could equip them with. As well as a Chaos Lord to command them they also had a Contemptor Dreadnought outfitted for melee – two huge power fists, each with a built-in heavy flamer – and a Vindicator Siege Gun for some large blast pain. The final points were spent on a single Obliterator to keep in reserve, a sort of sweeper who could beam down on the board later on to provide whatever heavy weapon was necessary.
Doug, meanwhile, had to have a fairly mobile army to travel the board and get to the target – so he had two tactical squads in Rhino, a Company Captain and bodyguard in Jump Packs and two Deathwing Terminator units to teleport in later on - one of which brought a psyker with it. Some supporting fire would be provided by a five-man Devestator squad and a Razorback infantry fighting vehicle.
My army was built around the assumption I would have to force Doug to get in close so I needed to be ready for him – I eschewed long range weaponry and set the close combat Noise Marines and Chaos Lord on fortification protection duty, the Dreadnought at the very front while the wings are covered by the Vindicator and Sonic Blaster Noise Marines to shoot anyone who approaches. Wanting to avoid the walk through the killzone, Doug set up all his army on one half of the board which was a mixed blessing – yes, it kept him away from a bunch of my guns, but it also meant that all his army was nice and bunched together for template fire
|The first of many BOOMs.|
Things got off to a poor start for Doug when one of his two Rhinos got immobilized trying to cross a ruined building and they were forced to get off to foot slog. That unit was the first to be targeted by a Vortex missile, and though it missed it did scatter onto his heavy weapon unit and wipe them out in one rather brutal hit. First blood to the forces of darkness and pink!
|Up close and impersonal|
The second Rhino drove up the front, but found itself greeted by the Contemptor Dreeadnought who was very keen to show what happens when two Dreadnought close combat weapons and two heavy flamers tear into a lightly armoured APC. It got wrecked, but unfortunately for me my celebration was short-lived as the squad within was keen to emerge and express it’s displeasure. A lot of grenades later and that Dreadnought was a gonner.
|One of the two Deathwing Terminator squads teleports into the fray.|
At the start of Doug’s turn two, while his jump-pack unit was flying down the near flank, both his Deathwing units materialized on the table. One appeared right in front of the fortification, the other on the far flank. The one in front had the Psyker and it immediately opened up with a pyrokinetic assault, the fire control of the Librarian being perhaps the only thing with enough armour-punching power to damage the Aquilla Strongpoint. Though unsuccessful, it leads to a surge of warp power which makes the Librarian even more potent than usual – to quote my opponent, “he goes super-saiyan”.
|My Glasweigan inspired statue + a can of Irn Bru = accidentally the most Scottish Warhammer photo ever. Unless I, like, deep-fried the Vindicator or something.|
The other unit, appearing on the flank, is position to both attack the fortification but also to hassle the Vindicator. This slow moving vehicle has been out of the game for the first couple of turn, as have the Noise Marines, but Doug is clearly nervous about what a Strength 10 AP 1 Large Blast will do it I can place it anywhere near his forces. He’s already taking two templates every turn from the Aquilla Strongpoint, the last thing he needs is a third one!
|A snapshot from the middle of the game.|
That concern proves to be prophetic, because on turn three the Demolisher finally closes… and rips the terminator squad in half, obliterating the super-charged Librarian in a single shot. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Dark Angels troops!
|You may notice some people are missing. This is not an accident.|
Another Vortex missile strike also manages to hit home, taking out a chunk of a Tactical Squad and a Razorback while small arms fire cripples the remaining Rhino. In theory the vortex templates can linger for multiple turns, floating about the table and acting as impassible terrain that damages those it moves onto - but the vagaries of dice rolling and shooting attempts mean there’s only ever one template on the table per turn.
Finally, the Dark angels were able to close to melee. The Company Captain broke off from his bodyguard and leapt into melee with the Chaos Lord. I would have hidden inside the building, but fire forced me to Go to Ground which meant I was sitting duck for a jump-packing angry person.
Then I was a lying on the ground in pieces duck, before graduating to fois gras.
|I had to learn why you don't mess with Marines In Dresses the hard way|
But after several turns I finally had access to my reserve unit, the Obliterator. I decided to take a gamble and try and drop him on top of the bunker, in line of sight of the Company Captain. If this failed, he could scatter off the table and end up vanishing.... but if it worked, I'd have a Multi-Melta or Lascannon bearing down on the opponent's Warlord.
This was a gamble I figured worth taking since no-one left would be much of a challenge in melee to Doug's boss man. The scatter dice, however, had other ideas.
|Nice try, Quail, but no cigar.|
Now things at such close quarters, my various Vortex Missiles and Artillery Strikes were no use. There was just too big a chance I'd scatter and hit myself. Worse still, once I got into melee I wouldn't be able to shoot with the weapons because there needed to be a free person to operate the controls.
|The last attempt to use the Vortex Missiles floated around the perimeter of the building rather ominiously|
|Dark Angels chop into flesh.|
This meant I got to roll on the Chaos Rewards table. As explained before, usually it's slightly good; very occasionally it's amazing and very very occasionally it's terrible. The chances I'd get something game changing were slim at this point but I rolled it anyway.
I got a very occasional result.
|"HELLO BOYS! I'M BAAAAAAAAAACK!"|
As turn 5 ended, the game score was very slightly in my favour - 8 points to 6. A sixth turn was rolled for, but if I could just keep more or less stationary then the game would be mine.
|The Deathwing deliver their melee payload, but will it be enough?|
The Daemon Prince devoured the bodyguard and score an extra point, but at the end of turn six things came through for the Deathwing. They delivered the final blow to the Daemon prince, whittling him down from 6 wounds to 0 just as the game came to it's end. As well as a point for killing him they also got 3 points for holding the building and with that they left from 6 to 10 points.
|Pretty much a textbook Pyrrhic victory for the Imperium.|
Also, from a campaign narrative point of view, the Dark Angels had to expend a huge amount of men to take the building. Doug ended the game with two Deathwing Terminators and three Dark Angels Tactical Marines left - so that's about 85% of his models destroyed. That's going to leave his army in to state to fight another long drawn out battle, with Doug suggesting that in his next battle on this planet he'd probably say he couldn't take much if any tanks because all of his got totalled. The possibility of a Rourke's Drift-esque gamj suggests itself to me, where small hardcore of Dark Angels holding the silo against wave after wave of Chaos forces.
|The campaign map as turn 2 begins. Click to embiggen!|
Turn two is underway and as I write this I've taken part in one battle already, with a second to come at the weekend. I believe Jamie and Doug were going to battle over the ruins of Sindak while Jamie also had a Daemon World rumble with Dave brewing. For my sins, I've got Charles trying to wipe me off Acanthus while Dave intends to assault my Maripullium base to get a foothold there.
Expect more updates in the next week or so!