Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Orks and Imperial Guard vs. Ultramarines, Part I

This weekend's gaming saw a rematch between Carl's Grey Knights and Kevin's Dark Eldar as well as a vicious 1500 point face-off between the Ultramarines and Bryce's and Jon's unlikely Guard/Ork alliance (500 points of Guard and 1000 points of Orks). I've written about this kind of alliance before; it's hard to beat since each army reinforces the weaknesses of the other. These two games were marked by a major change: larger gaming tables. In the past, when most of us couldn't muster much more than 1000 points, we were playing on 4'x4' tables. This time both games were played with 4'x6' of space (one of the tables can be extended to 4'x8'). Given how cramped our games had gotten, this was a good change. It also showed Jon and me that our armies are severely lacking in one thing: transports. The time it takes to footslog across a 4'x6' table while under fire can ruin plans and decimate units.

The Guard/Orks/Marines game ran from about 7:30 PM to 12:30 PM and kept me pretty occupied, so I wasn't able to see much of the Grey Knights/Dark Eldar game. During their previous 1000 point match a few weeks ago, a lack of long range heavy firepower prevented Carl from taking out Kevin's flyers. Kevin was therefore able to dictate the conditions of close combat, avoided nearly all small arms fire, and greatly benefited from his Wyches' dodge saves (which neutralize the effectiveness of force and power weapons). The Grey Knights were wiped out while taking only 200 to 300 points of Dark Eldar with them. After the utter annihilation of the Warriors of Titan at the hands of the Pointy-Eared Perverts, Carl swore vengeance (well, as much as Carl would ever swear vengeance; he's the most mellow of us by far and a great sport).

This time Carl's prior weakness was compensated for by two shiny new Venerable Dreadnoughts with twin-linked lascannons. The Venerables blasted the flyers out of the air, spilling the Wyches out and exposing them to a fusillade from storm bolters and the Dreadknight's Gatling Psilencer. Also, inspired by my past success with Telion and his ability to individually target units of high importance, Carl proxied a Vindicare assassin who did some serious damage. From what I overheard, one of the game's highlights saw a group of Wyches attack a Venerable Dreadnought with haywire grenades. A lucky hit caused the Dreadnought to explode with the resulting explosion killing most of the Wyches (Jon loses a lot of Orks this way, too). By about 10 PM the Grey Knights had won day.

Things didn't go quite as well with the Ultramarines, although I was reasonably pleased with the night's game. Unfortunately, it's been a long time since I wasn't embarrassed. Last time Carl had the majority of his army left when he wiped me out. Going further backward in time we have the game where the Tau got completely clobbered by the Orks, the slaughter of the Tau and the Grey Knights at the hands of the Orks and the Imperial Guard, and back in December we had the massacre of the Tyranids by the guns of the Imperial Guard. In fact, the last time my army put in a good showing was in late December when the Ultramarines defeated the Orks by an extremely narrow margin.

Xenos scum *spit*

I was worried early on when I found myself facing the Guard/Ork alliance again. Fortunately, Bryce took pity on me and brought his Basilisk rather than the Manticore. I've already faced the combination of huge mobs of Orks with furious charge, a large number of attacks, and Marine-level toughness and weapons skill with the multiple strength 10 large blast templates of the Manticore. I would have been tempted to sit out the game if I had to face it again.

The Guard and Orks won the initial roll off. As usual, Jon's army filled their entire deployment zone. In the past I've typically distributed my Marines along the boundary of my own deployment zone. I've since realized that this merely serves to overstretch my forces. It ensures that I can't concentrate my firepower while allowing the Orks to charge me along a broad front over the shortest distance possible. When outnumbered, Bryce tends to sweep the majority of his army in a arc around one side of the table. This allows him to take on the enemy in smaller, more manageable pieces. I decided to attempt something similar while taking advantage of the larger board. Except for my reserve units, I set up the majority of my army in the left half of my deployment zone, which was dominated by area terrain and obstacles that blocked line of site. This had the advantage of distancing me from Bryce's lascannons and his Chimera, protected most of my forces from Jon's Lootas, and forced one of the Ork mobs to march a significant distance across the table while under fire.

I failed to seize the initiative and the Guard and Orks went first as expected. Fortunately the Emperor briefly smiled on me and their first round wasn't nearly as effective as it was last time. Although I was left with most of my army intact, my sniper Scouts were a prime target and I managed to fail four 3+ cover saves. Telion and the remaining Scout did next to nothing during the subsequent rounds, in part because I parked my Venerable Dreadnought immediately in front of them. (I felt particularly stupid about it since it wasn't the first time I've done this.) My missile launcher-carrying Devastator Squad was also a popular target and was killed off pretty quickly thanks to the Guard's "Fire On My Target" rule, which required me to re-roll successful cover saves. Like the Scouts, the Devastators did not earn back their points.

I never did trust these guys

At the beginning of my first turn, I landed a glass bottom stein... uh, my "drop pod", immediately behind enemy lines and within melta range of the Basilisk that had been hidden behind the ruins where Jon's Lootas were stationed. My multi-melta Dreadnought marched out, made the shot, and penetrated the Basilisk's armor. I rolled a two on the vehicle damage table and, thanks to the AP 1 and open-topped modifiers, I managed to... immobilize the Basilisk. That's right, the whole gambit worked perfectly so that I could immobilize a vehicle that Bryce never moves. It wasn't even denied another round of shooting. In the very next turn the Dreadnought was stunned, which ensured that one of Bryce's squads could march right up to it and destroy it with melta bombs. Never has a ploy simultaneously worked so right and yet gone so wrong. However, the tactic very nearly paid off and, had the Guard squad not destroyed the Dreadnought, I could have had a second chance to destroy the Basilisk with a close combat weapon. It's definitely a technique that's worth trying again.

By the second turn I brought the Vindicator in from reserves. Putting the tank in reserves in the first place is what I call a Maginot Line Mistake; i.e., I did with the Vindicator what I should have done during my last game against the Grey Knights. I had been worried about losing it to artillery or anti-tank weapons and kept it off the table until the second turn, which ensured that Jon's Boyz could progress far enough across the board to assault the tank after it got off a single shot. The Boyz were in cover when the Vindicator fired and Jon was able to save most of his mob. During Jon's assault on the tank, a single Boy was able to land one lucky glance that kept the tank from firing the next turn, which would have caught the Boyz in the open. Another assault caused the tank to explode, which actually killed more Boyz than the Demolisher cannon did. If Jon had not rolled that six, the Vindicator might have gone on to do a lot more.

These guys look good even when they're losing

At the halfway point I thought it was going to be a rout. I had lost a Dreadnought, my Devastator Squad had been decimated, and my Vindicator was gone. None of those units had even remotely earned back their points, although the Dreadnought failed to do so only because of the oddities of the vehicle damage table. Jon's Lootas kept my Venerable Dreadnought stunned through most of the game and eventually took both its assault cannon and its close combat weapon (I don't think I ever got the chance to fire the assault cannon). My troops weren't doing great on their armor saves or cover saves and, despite the fact that my forces inflicted a remarkable number of wounds on the Orks, Jon was making an amazing number of 4+ cover saves. It wasn't until the last third of my army was left that the statistics evened out and I started rolling fours instead of twos, Jon stopped making quite as many cover saves, and his leadership rolls started failing. The biggest break I got was that the Basilisk's shots drifted all over creation. Even when the Basilisk managed to hit the Land Raider, Bryce kept rolling "weapon destroyed" on the damage table and the Land Raider kept moving.

Next Time: Will the Greenskins and their traitorous Guard allies defeat the Emperor's Angels of Death?

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