Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Anachronista 40,000: Campaign Turn 2

When the metal is hot, and the engine is hungry...

Turn two of six of our Warhammer campaign is over.  This was a turn that only saw two games played, both of which I was involved in, but it also saw two firsts for me.

Well, three if you count "meeting Charles' new dog Rogue" as a first.  In which case it's three

Or four if you count "getting my shoelaces eaten by an animal" as a first.

In the case of my first game, it was with Charles and marked the first time I'd ever played with the Forge World Horus Heresy rules for playing in the grim darkness of the 31st millennium.  I'd built my Chaos Space Marines army to be capable of multi-tasking as a Horus Heresy army but I'd never actually given it a go - however, Charles had similarly built his White Scars to be dual-use.  Why not play out our battle with the Legion rules instead?

My army prepares for an unlikely assault.

Still looking after a weeks-old puppy, Charles was unable to leave his house so we played at his.  We considered the current plot in our campaign and drummed up an appropriate scenario - a sort of lightning raid attack, in which both sides wanted to end the game with units in the defender's deployment zone.  This would encourage the attacker to head forward and the defender to hold position.

We had assumed that the White Scars, being both dominant on the planet and traditionally a hit and run force, would be the attacker but the dice suggested that instead Charles would be defending.  Therefore my somewhat slow, stand-and-shoot army would instead need to be repurposed into a blitzkreig on enemy turf while Charles' bikes would have to pull sentry duty.

The White Scars protect a very nice pasta dish made by Charles and his good lady.

Charles set up terrain, using some of his fantasy bits and bobs as well as sci-fi specific pieces.  The white bits of paper marked the weird and wonderful results of our dice rolls for mysterious terrain with certain forests and ruins dangerous, slower moving etc.

On my side was Fulgrim the Primarch leading two infantry units, a standard issue Bolter squad and a "Kakophoni" sonic weapon unit - yes, even in Horus Heresy I take the Noise Marine option.  Supporting them was a Contemptor Dreadnought, three bikers, a heavy weapon team, two Rhinos, a Vindicator and a Land Raider.

The forces opposite were twenty Bolter marines in one huge squad, two squads of bikes of which one was lead by the army leader, a Land raider carrying a terminator squad bristling with lightning claws, some air support and a very pretty Sicarin Venator tank. Charles kept about half of it in reserve: only the two bikes squads and the Sicarin started on the table, everything else was going to have to come on later.

So how did that go?  And what was the other first for me?  Lots of picture follow!

Driving into cover.

Charles may be on the defensive but he's still the fastest moving army, so he moved all his guys behind cover as quick as possible and forced me to slog it across the battlefield since I could hardly hit anyone in ranged combat.

Appearing right when needed.
Then he got to roll for his turn 2 reserves and everything appeared straight away, which rather put paid to any plans I had of taking the initiative.  No sooner had my Bolter marines disembarked from their Rhino, preparing to unleash a salvo of hell, did a Land Raider pop right up behind them and tear them apart.

Also appearing right when needed.  What I wouldn't give to make reserves rolls like this...
It was even worse on the other flank where the Land Raider was wrecked by aerial fire, and the Vindicator siege tank was laid low by sheer volume of small arms fire to its rear.  Couple that with the Sicarin taking out the Contemptor Dreadnought in one hit and basically all my heavy support had evaporated.

Fulgrim redeems himself in melee.

Out of his transport and with little other option, Fulgrim and his bodyguard charged said twenty Bolter marines.  This at least went to plan, because Fulgrim is a close combat monster.  The Tactical Marines were decimated, removing one of his scoring units.

The Kakophoni are barely a whimper.

However I was done to functionally no scoring units when the Kakophoni, only able to get a few glancing shots in, suddenly had the Bikers up in their face.  It was quick, bloody and brutal - this was now just a question of how long it would take Charles to win, not whether or not I could salvage it.

A desperate gamble with grenades and bombs

I used my own bikes to launch a raid on his Sicarin and try and do some damage, throwing grenades in the vents and planting bombs on the hull.  This dealt some minor damage, but unfortunately he was able to repair it and get it operational again.

The last stand
Fulgrim tried to go down fighting and charged the White Scar Praetor and his bike friends.  This was a bit of a stalemate, because as good as Fulgrim is Charles had a lot more people so could rely on sheer number of dice to hold out.

Fire support gets chewed up
Oh, and my Heavy Weapon team (who had basically hit nothing of value) got punked by the spiky Terminators who emerged from the Land Raider.  But to be honest, it was all much of a muchness by this point.
Charles victorious as the cyber-vulture circles.

 The White Scars Praetor pulled out of close combat using Hit & Run and the entire army opened fire on Fulgrim, who is far easier to take out at range than in close combat.  It was a total army wipe on turn four, and to be honest fairly disheartening.  Every other battle so far in the campaign had been a Chaos loss but had been a super close combat loss.  This, in contrast, had been a pumping.

Yes, I wiped out half the models of his army - it was a small force of about 45 models and I popped all 20 tactical marines and a few bikers.  However, all the big stuff was remaining and with all my heavy weapons either gone or useless by the end of turn 2 I pretty much just slowly shambled to the end, but still taking quite a while to reach that point.  Normally I can tell myself that army imbalance may be a factor - that my Chaos Space Marines are widely considered to be one of the weaker armies of the current rules-set - but here our armies were taken from a broadly similar list so I can't even use that excuse.

I am glad I finally played the Horus Heresy rules - and I'm interested in playing more, because SCIENCE! - but this kind of battle makes me even more interested to try other rules-sets like One Page 40K, Tomorrow's War or Warpath and see if I can find something that moves a bit faster.  I don't mind losing if it's close or if it's quick, but a long drawn-out murder can be a bit of a chore to finish off.

You might miss the signage, but you would never miss the mural.
The second game of the turn was a first for me because it was my first trip to a gaming shop in Scotland that my chums rave about.  A drive was required to go to it as it's in Stirling, about an hour from me in Glasgow, but it was worth it in my opinion.

Common Ground Games is a decent nerd shop selling wargames, card games, board games and RPGs.  It's only 10 minutes walk from Stirling City Centre, which means if I was going by train it wouldn't be a chore to get to.  It's got some stuff for sale I had only ever seen online before, like the TT Combat terrain kits.  The staff were quire friendly, in particular one member sharing with me her experiences learning to play RPGs.

The gaming area on the day we attended - a Star Wars: X-Wing tournament was taking place.  You may just be able to make out out 40K game: my team-mate Graeme is in the bright red t-shirt.
But the shop and staff, good as they may be, weren't the reason for our attendance.  No, what had drawn us was it's ample play space.  Several benches had been set up with marked out 6' x 4' areas, and lovely terrain was provided - far larger than anything in Glasgow could offer, I suspect because rents in Stirling are a lot more reasonable.  The space was large and airy, with windows making sure natural light got in. 

40K Dave had called in advance to book a table and for a reasonable fee we could reserve a play space for the game of our choice.  An in-built cafe meant snack and lunch options were available, from mundane things like Empire Biscuits to the more dangerous like haggis & cheese toasties or bacon, brie and cranberry paninis.  This kept us fuelled up for a two vs two battle!

Surprisingly good scran
This campaign battle represented an attempt by Dave's Sisters of Battle to land on the planet Marpullium, a hive world which on the campaign map I currently have total control.  Our scenario was a Planetstrike one which required that the whole board was my deployment zone, and all of the Imperial forces would arrive from reserve - many of them able to parachute in from the skies, meaning they could deploy anywhere.  Six golden objective counters were placed around the board, and on the last turn possession was worth Victory Points.

He was joined by Jamie who, due a lack of Imperial buddies for Dave, was switching sides for the day and taking some Dark Angels for a spin.  By my side was Graeme, originally intended to be a more permanent fixture in the campaign but forced to sit it out due to work and family commitments but keen to play at least one game with us if he had the chance.

The two of us paired up our Chaos armies - he took a close assault focused Khorne force for the ripping and the tearing, while  I had a ranged support themed Slaanesh army featuring two Sonic Dreadnoughts, two Havoc Squads, a Noise Marine unit and...
The forces of Darkness set up on the fields of Marpullium.... near Stirling.

...oh, yeah, and a half painted Imperial Knight Titan came out for it's first outing.  Not all the components are glued in place because it's still getting painted, but this was the first battle I had where it seemed appropriate to use it and I couldn't miss the opportunity.

As with the last battle, let's hit the key points with pictures

The Deathwing scatter away from the headless knight
Thanks to the use of teleport jammers, the Dark Angels big and scary Deathwing terminators teleported wildly off target and appeared not in the center of the table but in the wings, near Khorne Possessed and one of my Sonic Dreadnoughts.  The Dark Angels didn't getmany more units on the central table in turn one - they all ambled on the wings - so Dave was stuck with taking the core areas.

The central ruins are claimed by the Sisters.
His sisters of battle dropped into the middle ruins, having to dislodge troops by close assault when initial ranged combat proved useless.  His Penitent Engines moved up, ready to tear some demons to pieces.
The Raptors and Sonic Dreadnought round on the Helbrute.
The Deathwing were a big worry for us - 2+/5++ armour saves and power weapons on every man - so while we lost the possessed to them my Dreadnought and the Khorne Raptors made short work of them
Fire support is once again in danger
Dave clearly had taken a lesson from Charles and wanted to charge my fire support on their high vantage point, but this went poorly.  He had to charge up a high place and did not have spiky claws... while I had two Lascannons and two Missile Launchers to shoot him with as he approached.
Now, yeah, one thing I should explain about Planetstrike missions is that the defender gets to put as many fortifications as you want on the table, no points paid... but in exchange the attacker gets some free initial shots to represent his orbital bombardment.  The attackers orbital bombardment was a bit useless but the fortifications proved more useful.

Yes, I brought along my Vortex Missile Silo.  I actually initially talked about not using it with all those rules - it seems a bit powerful - but after talking about it we decided to stick with it.  After all, the table was full of my guys and we'd be constantly risking scattering onto our own troops with them.  It's as dangerous to us as it is to the foe, which meant it was funny.

The Imperials weren't laughing when a Seraphim Sister unit was wiped out in our first turn of shooting, though.
Dark Angels Fire Support is brought to bear.
The Imperials had terrible luck on reserves.  It took a couple of turns turns to get out their fire support, and they were stuck without either armies warlords while this was happening.  The Dark Angels in particular really wanted to get their Land Raider out which had both leaders and their only psyker.,

Some well-placed Meltagun and Inferno Pistol shots drop the knight to 1 hull point remaining
My knight didn't actually do terribly much, dropping a couple of nice chunky Melta blast markers but mostly just sitting in the center of the table soaking up fire.  Dave dropped as many Meltguns as he could next to it, hoping they would be able to chop through it's armour - otherwise nothing on the table really had the strength to do it.  In one turn of shooting Dave lopped off 4 hull points, with another 1 taken by some Dark Angels fire too.

The battle on the wing turns slightly for Chaos

Over on the flank, the Raptors and Bloodletters were doing their best where the Chaos Cultists had failed and giving the Ravenwing Black Knights a run for their money in melee. Those black knights were probably the men of the match for Jamie, consistently dishing out pain in melee and a few daemons fell to their swords before they finally snuffed it.

Graeme lost a lot of daemons in this game, actually, but thanks to evil summoning powers he was able to keep topping up his forces as the game went on.  Dave got all excited at least twice to have killed ever Flesh Hound, only for another unit to appear and disappoint him!

Speaking of Dave getting disappointed, he'd had major bad luck in rolling for reserves.   But don't worry guys!  I'm sure he won't roll three ones in a row and be unable to get the Land Raider with both his and Jamie's general in it on the table before the last possible moment!

Pro tip - never ask Dave to roll for anything.

Yeah.  I think the Adeptus Astartes have a lot of problem parallel parking or something.

It wasn't all going the Chaos way.  The Knight titan was popped by some enemy fire and exploded impressively.  That explosion scattered onto... nothing at all, which felt a bit underwhelming.  Still, the model had served a purpose - it had kept a lot of the enemy army busy for three turns, which meant that I had basically all my other models on the table untouched.

A massive blast template... a massive disappointment.
My guys were mostly ranged shooting, so I eschewed close combat.  Graeme, however, made up for it and got seriously stuck in on several occasions.  This included a rather impressive long battle in which Penitent engines who could not be hurt by Daemons still stayed stuck in combat for turn after turn after turn, unable to do much but kill a single daemon a turn and remain trapped in melee next to an obective.

The Penitent Engines get bogged down
At this stage we were maybe feeling cocky over on the forces of darkness side of the table, but it was far from perfect.  The enemy still had models on the table including two Rhinos, a Tactical Squad and a shortly incoming Land Raider full of pain.  Dave had sent a small melee force in to take the missile silo and if he succeeded he'd have control of the Vortex Missiles which would almost certainly mark the game turning in their favour.

Jamie finds himself conflicted, giving tactical advice for an Imperial victory.
Finally, with Imperial Turn Four came on the Land Raider, and with it a huge chunk of pain dropped on the table for us.  Psykers!  Sisters Repentia!  Heavy Weapons!  And a poor unsuspecting Chaos Rhino (one of my models but loaned to Graeme for the day) had a very unpleasant surprise when it looked in its rear view mirror.
Land Raiders in the rear view mirror may be closer than they appear.
That was going to be a touch cookie to crack.  Hopefully a well placed Vortex Missile would tear it open, chew up the passengers and win the game in one button press.  My Chaos Lord fired...

How does one clip with a Vortex Missile?
 ...and managed to do no damage at all, barely skimming the vehicle.  Which meant that things were still very much to play for and I had to bring my A game.
Your erstwhile narrator, considering his options to cling onto victory.

At this point I finished my Empire Biscuit, threw my can of Diet Irn Bru in the recycling bin and took a few gambles.

The Penitent engines finally take some damage
My Sonic Dreadnoughts stopped providing fire support and started charging, with one of them able to break the deadlock in the Penitent Engine fight.  That meant at least one objective there, plus the one in the missile silo as the melee there went our way too.

Final Imperial moves
We had to accept the big building at the back going to the enemy, their Tactical Squad filled that up, but I harassed them with fire.  It was not where I fired the Vortex Missiles, though... they went to the other objectives as part of our house-clearing procedures.

The aftermath
These gambles paid off.  I nuked a Rhino holding the wings objective marker, while Graeme's Khorne Lord charged and bested the Librarian in a brutal close combat.  In the end we held four objective markers and the enemy could not tip things back in their balance.

Finally, a Chaos win!  And with that, the game and the turn came to a tiring end, with just enough time to pick up some stuff in the shop before heading home to demand that Sister Superior refer to me as Quail The Victorious for the night.  I can't lie: it wasn't all my strategy, it was at least partly that our opponents had some bad luck when it came to reserves and deep striking.  Still, as our first win of the campaign it lifted our spirits somewhat.

Here is the campaign map at the end of turn 2.
The map as of the end of turn 2.  Click to embiggen
So Dave has tried and failed to take Marpullium, and in doing so left a gap in the lines in Germanotta which my men have exploited.  Charles and Dave have Jamie and me cut off and surrounded on Acanthus, though.

Turn 3 promises to have a Daemon world scuffle with Dave and Jamie; a desert world battle with Doug and Jamie; a winter wonderland rematch for Doug and I; and then, at the end, a middle-of-the-campaign set piece battle with as many players as we can.

For the set piece campaign day, Dave has been making a beach battlefield and I think some sort of D-Day esque landing is likely, probably with troops wading in from the sea trying to storm a cliff-side fortification.  For my part, I am particularly keen on doing a Zone Mortalis game set aboard the corridors of Battlestation Akkadia and run a multi-player kill team effort in which we scuttle around corridors.

The problem with my idea, though, is terrain.  We can just use Space Crusade/Space Hulk/etc board pieces, which I've done before, but it's a little flat looking and the others may find it a bit underwhelming.  But a proper 3D Zone Mortalis battle board is... well, probably a bit outside our budget, since £100 only gets you a 2' x 2' area.
It is pretty though.
So I may need a third option.  Something a bit more chunky and pretty, but not expensive.  Oh, and something which I can do in the next couple of weeks, preferably with some help and time from my fellow players.

Thankfully, I am always a man with an option.  Now we just need to see if anyone likes it, or if they'd rather just stick to something more traditional...

Paper-crafted starship corridors and rooms.  Worth considering?

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