Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Orks and Imperial Guard vs. Ultramarines, Part II

[See Part I of this series]

Although things were looking bleak for the Ultramarines, a glimmer of hope came when my Terminator squad assaulted Jon's mob of 'Ard Boyz. The mob had been whittled down through bolter fire and was very close to losing Mob Rule. Although the Big Mek's power weapon was able to take out two Terminators, the other three were able to survive long enough to inflict the damage necessary to cause the mob to fall back and eventually run off the table. As much as I would have liked to back off and get a couple of turns to wear down a second mob that was only a short distance behind the first, the mob was too close to avoid further close combat. The Terminators fired into the second mob and assaulted to ensure that the Orks wouldn't get their furious charge. This fight saw the end of the Terminators but not before they severely weakened the second mob. When the mob headed towards the Tactical Squad, they were slaughtered by bolter fire and the survivors ran off the board. A quick count showed that the Terminators earned back their points, which is something that particular squad seems to struggle at.

Greenskins slaughtered or your money back

Near the end of the game the assault half of my Tactical Squad was finished off by Loota and Guard fire, although not before it wiped out a squad of Guardsmen that was perfectly positioned to be hit with a flamer template. I rarely have such success with a flamer. The heavy weapon half of the squad was wiped out in a single turn when one of Bryce's squads used the Bring It Down! rule to twin-link their plasma rifles. Fortunately, the missile launcher in my squad was able to destroy the lascannon on one of Bryce's two Sentinels before being killed. I was soon left with a wounded Captain, a weaponless but still mobile Land Raider, and a disarmed Venerable Dreadnought locked in endless combat with a Sentinel and a squad of Guardsmen. On the other side of the fight, Jon had lost two of his three mobs and his Lootas had taken several casualties. Although he still had two DeffKoptas available, they were doing only a small amount of damage. Bryce had an immobilized Basilisk that seemingly couldn't hit the broadside of a barn (thank the Emperor), two Sentinels with destroyed lascannons, a Chimera, and various Guardsmen spread across the table.

After briefly loading him into the Land Raider to protect him from Jon's Lootas, the Captain disembarked from the tank's ramp to launch a one man assault on a mob of Boyz and one Nob. For whatever reason, the Captain has a bizarre amount of luck and has rarely disappointed me. He once survived several rounds of combat with a Hive Tyrant and three Tyranid Warriors. He made four or five consecutive Iron Halo saves, an even greater number of armor saves, and managed to kill the Hive Tyrant and a Warrior before finally being lost. The Captain didn't disappoint me this time, either.

My shiny armor will drive off the Xenos scum!

I wish I had gotten a picture of the Captain standing on the assault ramp but I keep forgetting to bring a camera to our games. I couldn't help but to imagine an angry and vengeful Space Marine Captain emerging from a smoking Land Raider, igniting his power sword, and running directly into a horde of slavering Orks while screaming something about the Emperor. The Captain charged into the waiting Orks, dished out some punishment, made all but one armor save, and made an Iron Halo save against the Nob's power klaw. The unfortunate Orks, having lost combat and being below the minimum numbers required to benefit from Mob Rule, failed their morale check and fell back. Since they had also been reduced to less than half their original size, they were unable to regroup and ran off the table.

Looking for more Greenskin blood, the Captain made a headlong rush towards the two DeffKoptas. He assaulted one and managed to inflict a wound. While the two were locked in combat, the Basilisk made yet another attempt to destroy the Land Raider. The shot drifted significantly and managed to land directly on the Captain and the two Ork units. Both DeffKoptas were destroyed while the Captain again made an Iron Halo save. When the dust had settled the Captain found himself in the open and was gunned down by the Lootas. Win or lose, it's moments like the Captain's last stand that make 40K worth playing.

It was kind of like this... but he was alone

Eventually the Basilisk succeeded in destroying the Land Raider. The Venerable Dreadnought went round after round with the Sentinel and the Guardsmen before a melta bomb finally destroyed it. (I was so groggy by that point that I directed all my attacks against the Sentinel; I would have had a lot more luck killing the Guardsmen.) The final count showed that Jon and Bryce had approximately 300 points remaining of their 1500 point army. Although the Marines lost, it wasn't by too much. And I felt that the Ultramarines had performed pretty well against an alliance that combines the Orks' very good close combat ability with the Guard's powerful and versatile ranged weaponry.

Lessons Learned

Pay Attention!
I seemed particularly scatterbrained that night and didn't take a systematic approach to using my units. I made Telion and a Scout with a missile launcher worthless for two turns by putting my Venerable Dreadnought in front of them. The Dreadnought was quickly stunned and the Scouts couldn't shoot their heavy weapons the next turn because I had to move them. I kept forgetting to use my drop pod's storm bolter, which was perfectly located to kill the Lootas that plagued me all night. And early in the game I actually forgot to fire my still-intact Land Raider's weapons. Since Bryce is a great guy he let me fire a twin-linked lascannon at his Guard early in his and Jon's following turn. It ended up destroying a Sentinel's lascannon. Thanks Bryce!

Venerable Dreadnoughts
A lot of Space Marine players balk at the cost of a Venerable Dreadnought, believing that it's not worth the improved ballistic and weapons skills and questioning the worth of the Venerable rule (i.e., the ability to require your opponent to re-roll on the vehicle damage table after he glances or penetrates the Dreadnought's armor). However, during the Grey Knights/Ultramarines game a couple weeks ago and during this past game, the Venerable rule saved my Dreadnought several times. Paying an extra 60 points to give your Dreadnought a very good chance of surviving vehicle destroyed or vehicle explodes results has proven to be worth it more than once. It's certainly cheaper than the cost of an additional Dreadnought. Carl can vouch for the staying power of his Venerables.

Indirect Value of a Unit
Sometimes a unit doesn't have to kill its own value to be worth the cost. My Venerable Dreadnought killed very few points since it spent the vast majority of the game stunned or shaken. (I seem to remember that at least one of those times was thanks to a vehicle destroyed result that was re-rolled as a stunned result.) However, by being a perpetual threat it was a constant target for Jon's Lootas. Each turn that the Lootas poured their shots into the Dreadnought was another turn in which they weren't shooting at more vulnerable units. I wouldn't be surprised if the Venerable Dreadnought effectively earned its points in the form of Jon's opportunity costs. Bryce often uses his Eldar Wraithlord for this very purpose. He never builds his strategy around it. Instead, because it's a big, scary monstrous creature that's hard to ignore, he uses it as a fire magnet to protect more vulnerable but more strategically important units.

Bringing a Gun to a Knife Fight
I've said it before; a Devastator Squad with four missile launchers is of little value against a horde army. For the exact same cost the squad could carry heavy bolters that would put out three times the shots. Although the heavy bolters would wound most Orks on threes instead of twos, their increased volume of fire would easily compensate for the lower weapon strength while their AP value would still deny armor saves to Nobz and 'Ard Boyz. Given that I was facing both Orks as well as mechanized Guard, a mix of heavy bolters and missile launchers may have been appropriate. Unfortunately, I prefer to play with models I have rather than to proxy a different unit. Thus, I stuck with four missile launchers despite knowing them to be less effective against the armies I was fighting.

The Land Raider had staying power... and was also completely inadequate for fighting so many models. It was able to take out a Sentinel's lascannon and a few Lootas (darn those cover saves), but I really needed to whittle down the mobs more. With the shear volume of shots that a twin-linked assault cannon and two hurricane bolters can produce, a Land Raider Crusader would have slaughtered the Ork mobs and sent them running. The moderately armored Sentinels might have been taken care of with the Crusader's twin-linked assault cannon or its multi-melta.

Standard Terminators are tank killers or a highly survivable but extremely expensive source of bolter fire, not a close combat squad. An initiative of 1 and a mere 5+ invulnerable save makes them expensive sitting ducks if the opponent has his own power weapons (e.g., an Ork Big Mek). The Terminators earned their points this game only because they had a lot of luck making armor saves against a huge number of attacks, because the Big Mek only killed two of them before the squad could make the mob run, and because they were able to do enough damage to the second mob before dying that a Tactical Squad could force the Orks to fall back with bolter fire. A close combat Terminator Squad would have been significantly more effective. Pairs of lightning claws would have given each Terminator four attacks on the charge while allowing re-rolls for fails to wound (this is vital when your opponent's toughness equals your strength). Thunder hammer and storm shield-carrying Terminators would have low initiative but high survivability against an enemy with power weapons. In this game, three or four Terminators with lightning claws would have been able to reduce the number of opponents while one or two Terminators with thunder hammers and storm shields could have borne the brunt of the power attacks.

Appropriately Using a Unit
I wasted the Tactical Squad by not being aggressive enough. In a game where I was vastly outnumbered, three Marines with bolt guns, one Marine with a flamer, a sergeant with a chain sword and plasma pistol, and a Marine Captain spent much of their time crammed into a corner of the table staying out of the Lootas' line of sight. I should have rushed the ruins in which the Lootas were hiding after the nearby mobs were running or were tied up with the Terminators. Also, I'm starting to wonder whether using the Combat Squad rule is all it's cracked up to be. Typically I break a Tactical squad into an assault half (three bolters, a special assault or rapid fire weapon, the sergeant, and my HQ) and a heavy weapon half (four bolters and a heavy weapon). Too many times I've let four Marines stand idly by so that I can fire a lone missile launcher. In the meantime, the assault half rushes in and finds that it just doesn't have the volume of shots needed to do the job or enough bodies to tolerate the incoming fire. A heavy bolter in this game, or a lascannon in a game with more vehicles, might make it worth it to break into Combat Squads. However, in a game in which so many opposing units are denied armor saves by AP 5 weapons, it would probably be more effective to keep the squad together and to take on the enemy with simple bolt guns. Given the threat the Lootas posed, this would have been a good game in which to have a Rhino.

More Effective Use of a Force Organization Slot?
Although the Venerable Dreadnought occupied the Lootas' attention for most of the game, I have to wonder if drop podding in a Sternguard Squad and directly attacking the Lootas wouldn't have been a more effective use of an elite slot. Tying up the Orks wasn't quite the same as eliminating them since they did a lot of damage to other squads when they weren't shooting at the Dreadnought. Given the Orks' high toughness but poor armor saves, the Sternguard's AP 5, 2+ poisoned hellfire rounds could have been very useful. It would also be interesting to compare the effectiveness of my Terminators to that of a Sternguard.

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