Sunday, September 30, 2012

Drop Pods WIP, Part I

Has anyone ever built a Space Marine drop pod model because they actually wanted to? Within the past year I bought three drop pod models, two of which I primed this past May (the third one won't be started until I have a Sternguard to put in it). I tried to work on them simultaneously with a Razorback and a Predator and finished painting much of the metallic areas, but became overwhelmed and decided to focus on the tanks.

So many repetitive parts...

With the two tanks done, I resumed working on the two drop pods, but have had a hard time making progress. As cool as an assembled model looks, and as useful as drop pods are in the game, the darn things make for an extremely tedious build. For nearly every major part or section you complete there are four more of them. Since I made the mistake of working on two models at the same time, I have ten hatches to finish, ten vertical supports to paint, etc. The only break I get is that I've modified one pod to carry a Dreadnought, meaning that its interior is a lot simpler.

Why does the worst model to paint have to be so darn useful?

The worst part is that drop pods need to be deployed en masse to be used effectively. I've played several games using unassembled bases to represent drop pods. I've found that a single pod leaves your unit without support and is often a suicidal gimmick that fails as often as it works (e.g., trying to pop a tank by dropping a multi-melta Dreadnought within 12 inches of it). Two pods are better, but since the second one can't land any earlier than your second turn and could be delayed even longer because of poor reserve rolls, your opponent often has enough time to dismantle your squad or Dreadnought before the next pod lands. Although I've yet to use three drop pods, an obvious advantage is that two of them can be dropped simultaneously so that the units deployed in them can provide some mutual support and give the enemy more than one target to worry about.

During moments of insanity, I've even thought of the potential of five drop pods. You could drop a small, self-supporting army on your opponent's doorstep in your first turn and then follow it up with a significant amount of support. Imagine the effect of dropping a Tactical Squad, an Ironclad Dreadnought, and a Sternguard Squad in your first turn, then dropping two more Tactical Squads or a second Tactical Squad and another Dreadnought over the next few turns.

The biggest problem with this plan would be that you'd have to build five drop pods. I can't seem to finish even two of them.

I had originally planned to go all out on the pods and was even going to paint the hazard stripes on the doors like you see on GW's promotional model:

Games Workshop Promotional Model

When I started having a hard time even bringing myself to work on the models, let alone paining dozens of black and yellow stripes, I wondered how many modelers even bother to paint the markings. Lo and behold, it turns out that even the GW modelers don't bother with the stripes most of the time. Of the several pods seen in the 6th Edition rulebook, only the model that is obviously the promotional one has stripes. The same is the case for the the various drop pods seen in Games Day dioramas; except for the promotional one, they use either blue or metallic colors in place of the hazard stripes. Heck, photos show that the five vertical supports on many of the models are entirely blue since the builder(s) skipped painting the large metallic regions. Even the professionals seem to have a hard time painting drop pods.

The second pod from the front has a simplified paint scheme

Note the simplified paint scheme on these drop pods
(I can't say I blame them)

At this point I've painted all the vertical supports and the hatches are mostly painted. The pods are my first vehicles to use Altdorf Guard Blue instead of the old Ultramarines Blue. The interior of the pod intended to carry Tactical Marines is mostly done while the simplified interior of the Dreadnought drop pod shouldn't take me too long. I've promised myself that I won't use the pods until they're finished, but at the rate I'm going I certainly won't be deploying them in this weekend's game.

Why do drop pods have to be so effective? And why would I even consider using five of them?

Friday, September 21, 2012

On Space Marine Combat/Storm Shields

Sixth Edition has opened up a whole new tactical field: model positioning. As we all know, under 5th it didn't matter where you put the Terminators with the storm shields and thunder hammers and where you put the Terminators with the lightning claws. If you took five AP2 wounds then each Terminator was going to have to try to make his own save, whether it was a 5+ invulnerable for the armor or a 3+ invulnerable for the shield. With 6th's "cinematic" feel, you can now put the Terminators with storm shields between the armor penetrating weapons and the rest of the squad. Until that (super)human wall is taken down, the lightning claw Terminators get to benefit from their battle brothers' wargear. (One wonders if the 6th Edition Space Marine Codex will take that into account in determining the points cost of Terminators' wargear.)

In recent games I've been playing with a 145 point Captain wearing artificer armor and carrying a relic blade. The Captain joins the Tactical Squad where he serves as a human shield for the rest of the squad. This selfless HQ usually takes a couple wounds before his concerned subordinates start making Look Out Sir! rolls.

Although the Captain's artificer armor has saved quite a few Marines since 6th Edition was released, he's still reluctant to take the occasional AP1 or AP2 shot since he's still limited to his standard 4+ Iron Halo save. Thus, I started to assemble the parts for a 160 point artificer armored Captain wielding both a storm shield and a relic blade (Bryce gave me a fancy two-handed Nemesis Force Sword bit that should make a pretty nifty relic blade).

Once I started thinking of the advantage of granting whole squads a limited resistance to AP1, AP2, and AP3 weaponry (which Bryce tends to field a lot of), I started going through the Codex looking for other non-Terminator units that can take a storm shield. Sadly, the shooty units like Tactical Squads and Sternguard can't take one, but Assault Squads and Vanguard Squads can. I was already planning on building at least one unit of each and resolved to equip the respective sergeants with the shields.

I soon realized I had a problem: where can I get a storm shield for a power armored Marine? I have two boxes of Assault Terminators to build, and I'm only going to use one large and four small shields, but the Terminator storm shields are Terminator-scale and their hands are oddly sized compared to those of power armored Marines. It would take a lot of conversion work to make the shields fit onto the smaller hands of at least three Marines. And as a fluff geek, I can't bring myself to use the four smaller Terminator shields since they have the distinct cruciform shape and are explicitly identified in the Codex as "Terminator issue". That leaves me with the Terminator sergeant's shield, which is only a slightly less obvious cruciform and is a bit too large to use with jump pack-wearing Marines.

I started to look around at what other people were doing and found a blog entry and a thread on Bolter and Chainsword in which people were discussing the use of the shield provided in the Assault Squad kit as a storm shield. Like many others, I had long assumed that that shield was specifically a combat shield rather than a storm shield and that the bit was nearly worthless to me. Commenters seemed to fall into three camps of thought: 1) it's too small to be a storm shield and probably shouldn't be used as one without significant conversion, 2) the actual size and shape of a non-Terminator issue storm shield isn't well defined (the one in the Assault Squad kit doesn't match the drawings of the Terminator issue shield or the combat shield found on page 101 of the Codex) and you probably shouldn't have too many problems declaring it to be one before the start of a friendly game (watch out for tournaments, though), or 3) it's meant to be a storm shield since it takes up the user's hand, unlike the shield found in the Command Squad box which allows the user to hold a bolt pistol.

I found that argument 1) appears frequently on other websites. This seems like the weakest of the three arguments since it's based on players' beliefs of what a power armor storm shield should look like rather than on an objective standard. Many base their impressions on the picture of the cruciform "Terminator issue" storm shield. The expectation that a power armor storm shield should look like the cruciform shield makes little sense to me given that the latter closely mimics the Crux Terminatus that is most commonly associated with Terminator armor (and hence its status as "Terminator issue"). I wouldn't expect a storm shield meant for use with power armor to appear so similar to the Terminator cross.

Argument 2), which is also fairly common, seems pretty defensible based on the fact that a lot of unusual or special wargear (e.g., relic blades, artificer armor, master-crafted weapons) can vary greatly in design and may therefore be difficult to represent as explicitly or clearly as a weapon such as a power fist or a lightning claw. Since there isn't a single official design, bits used to represent them may be very similar (or identical) to other pieces and what they actually are depends on what the model's owner declares them to be and on what his opponent is willing to accept as being adequately representative. Although this seems to be a good argument, I think most players would prefer to avoid getting into an argument with an opponent who may have a stricter definition of WYSIWYG and/or who is afraid that the model's owner could benefit from the weargear's lack of distinction (e.g., the opponent charges a model, forgetting that the ordinary-looking power sword is actually a relic blade and doesn't realize that he'll be facing S6 rather than S4). This is probably why so many supporters of argument 2) warned the original poster about using the bit as a storm shield in tournaments.

Argument 3) has shown up in several places and was the one I found most interesting. It boldly declares that using the Assault Squad shield as a combat shield (which is what I and many others had believed it to be) may be the deviation from the designers' intent. This latter argument claims to be based on what the Codex itself says.

If we look under the Codex's definition for "storm shield", we find that:
A storm shield is a solid shield that has an energy field generator built into it. The energy field is capable of deflecting almost any attack, even blows from lascannons and power weapons.
There's very little here that defines what the shield should look like or how big it should be. The entry for the combat shield gives a little more detail:
A combat shield is a lighter version of a storm shield that is fitted to the arm of the wearer. This leaves the user's hand free to wield a pistol or other weapon, substituting a measure of defense for increased versatility.
The combat shield entry says that the shield is "lighter" but it doesn't say whether or not it's smaller. Given that the storm shield's effectiveness lies in its field generator rather than on its physical dimensions, the shield's actual size may be irrelevant. Either way, a comparison of the Terminator issue storm shield and the Assault Squad shield shows that each is approximately the same size relative to the wearer:

Left: Terminator with storm shield
Right: Assault Marine with shield

For our purposes, the most useful piece of information in the Codex entry is that a combat shield "is fitted to the arm of the wearer" and "leaves the user's hand free to wield a pistol or other weapon." The only Marine model that has a combat shield as part of its basic wargear is a Company Champion. Sure enough, the shield arm found in the Command Squad box is clearly fitted to the wearer's arm (there's an obvious clamp on the forearm) and allows him to wield a pistol. The shield shape even matches the drawing in the Codex:

Company Champion combat shield
[Images by The Dark Workshop blog]

Now compare the combat shield above to the Assault Squad shield and a similar Dark Angels shield:

Assault Squad and Dark Angels shields
[Images by The Dark Workshop blog]

This shield is not fitted to the wearer's arm at all. In fact, the wearer is required to hold onto the shield, which prevents him from being able to carry a weapon in that hand. This fact directly contradicts the Codex's statement about combat shields (i.e., that they are fastened to the arm and allow the hand to remain free to hold a weapon) while demonstrating why carrying a storm shield always denies the +1 Attack bonus for having two close combat weapons. Therefore, by the definitions given in the Codex, the Assault Squad shield is almost certainly intended to be a storm shield. GW seems to think so too since the guide How To Paint Space Marines declares that very shield to be a storm shield:

Image from How To Paint Space Marines.
Note that the sergeant's shield is called a storm shield

Under 6th Edition's rules, a sergeant's or a captain's 15 point storm shield can do more than save a single model; with a little luck it could save several, making it a much more powerful piece of wargear. Fortunately, it looks like many of us may have had a power armor storm shield or two lying around without realizing it (I have four). I think it's clear that the Assault Squad shield was meant to be a storm shield and that even stricter WYSIWYG players could agree based on its design and the Codex's statements. If it clearly takes up a Marine's hand, it should be treated as a storm shield. If it's fitted to the Marine's arm and obviously allows him to hold a weapon, it should be treated as a combat shield. Although this is a small detail, an observant opponent should be able to see it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sternguard Weapons: Why I'll Be Making My Own

Not long ago the rumor started that GW was going to release a Sternguard weapons pack. Although GW already sells a pretty cool looking Finecast Sternguard set, many players like to make their own customizable plastic Sternguard squads. The biggest obstacle for these do it yourself Sternguard has been the difficulty in obtaining bolters with the large box magazines that have become characteristic of Sternguard weapons (though not essential, as seen by the fact that Tyrannic War Veterans still have sickle magazines) and the scarcity of combi-weapons.

There was a lot of speculation as to what a Sternguard weapons kit would contain. Many believed it would have bolters with box magazines while others thought that it might contain combi-weapons. Although you can already get a plastic combi-melta and combi-plasma in the Space Marine Commander box, the bits aren't well suited for models that hold the weapon in both hands. Combi-flamers (which don't have to roll to hit and therefore make a good one-shot weapon) were even harder to find. The only GW combi-flamer was attached to Chaplain Cassius while a resin one was available from Forge World. Although there are dozens of tutorials online for making box magazines or combi-weapons, many players would prefer to avoid conversions.

GW plastic combi-melta and combi-plasma (top)
FW resin combi-flamer and Cassius' combi-flamer (bottom)

Finally a few low-resolution scans from White Dwarf were leaked which showed the weapons that would be included in the kit. (It also finally answered my question of whether or not a Sternguard sergeant wears a red helmet, but that's a separate issue.) First, it was obvious that there were no bolters with box magazines. The three types of combi-weapon were included, which made a lot of people happy, but all of them had sickle magazines (the combi-melta on the Finecast Sternguard model, on the other hand, has a box magazine). Also included was a heavy bolter, a heavy flamer, and a pair of lightning claws for power armor. These latter three seemed out of place in a kit specifically meant for a Sternguard Squad.

Leaked White Dwarf Sternguard Veteran Weapons preview

The heavy bolter that is similar to the one included in the Scouts box left quite a few people scratching their heads. Many Astartes players simply don't put heavy weapons on their Sternguard. Those that do take heavy weapons do so mostly because 5 point missile launchers and 15 point lascannons are very tempting and the resulting squad can serve as a poor man's Devastator Squad. But even if all Marine players included a heavy bolter in their squad, there is already a perfectly serviceable plastic model in the Devastator set. And the Devastator version has the awesome ammunition backpack with the belt feed.

The addition of a heavy flamer has some logic; the one that was previously available was for Terminators rather than power armored Marines. However, a Sternguard Squad isn't intended to get too close to the enemy (this is even easier to do thanks to 6th Edition rapid fire rules). If your opponent is close enough for a heavy flamer to be effective, you're too close. If other power armored Marines could take heavy flamers, maybe this would be a more useful part.

And then there's the pair of lightning claws that can be put on the Sternguard sergeant. Huh? Sternguard are meant to be used for ranged combat; why would you equip the sergeant solely for close combat? For zero additional points the sergeant can fire Kraken, Hellfire, Dragonfire, or Vengeance rounds from his standard bolter. If you want the insurance policy of giving the sergeant a power weapon, just replace his bolt pistol with a single lightning claw for the same cost as a power sword (i.e., 15 points). He won't get the extra attack that comes with a pair of lightning claws, but he wouldn't get the extra attack with the power sword, either, since there's no rational reason to keep the bolt pistol and give up the bolter and its special ammunition. A left-handed plastic lightning claw is already available in the Commander box.

It's likely that GW included the pair of lightning claws so that Astartes players could put them on other power armored Marines. Right now the only power armored Marines that can have lightning claws are chapter masters, captains, Assault Squad sergeants, Vanguard sergeants, and Sternguard sergeants. With the possible exception of a Vanguard sergeant, who can trade his power sword for one free lightning claw, I would argue that paired claws on a power armored Marine are a waste of points. Those who can't get one free lightning claw will pay 30 points just to have an additional strength 4 AP3 attack with re-rolls for fails to wound. (I can't help but to notice that the cost of these weapons alone is only slightly cheaper than the total cost of a more survivable 40 point Assault Terminator with the exact same armament.) A 15 point power sword and a free pistol will give you the same number of attacks at an identical strength and AP value. Although you don't get the re-rolls, you pay less points and you retain the ranged attack. Personally, since our Cabal includes toughness 4 Grey Knights and Orks, I prefer to take a 30 point relic blade for its strength 6.

Okay, so the Sternguard set has three very useful weapons, one that is used only by a few Sternguard players who can simply use the cooler plastic model that's already available, one that is of dubious value to Sternguard and can't be used by any other power armored Marines, and a set of close combat weapons that makes no sense to include in a Sternguard Squad and are of limited use on any other power armored model. Well, at $13.50 the kit might be worth it, and GW finally released the set for advanced order, complete with a higher resolution image, so let's take a look:

Huh. So, these are the actual product images? The ones they're using to try to sell the set? Why does the heavy flamer look like it's sagging? The barrel of the heavy bolter looks a bit distorted, too. The combi-flamer and combi-plasma are just sad. Compare the new combi-flamer to Cassius' weapon or the Forge World one; the flamer portion on the latter two is a lot more substantial and better integrated into the bolter. This new one looks downright fragile. The plastic combi-plasma actually looks like a merging of a bolter and a plasma gun; the Finecast combi-plasma looks like half a plasma pistol was glued onto a bolter with an oddly positioned barrel. Well, at least the combi-melta, which is essentially a copy of the plastic one, looks pretty good. And then there's the pair of lightning claws...

Sergeant with Finecast lightning claws
Why are the blades touching each other? Were these parts really the best examples they could find to use in their own advertising? If this is what they chose to put on their own website, can we safely assume that most examples of these bits are going to be even worse? These parts are resin, not pewter. You can't simply bend the blades back into position without using special techniques.

What confuses me is the fact that GW already had much better pictures of the lightning claws. The image of the Sternguard sergeant from White Dwarf shows some distortion in the upper blade of the right-handed claw (which is also the case with the product image), but it's not nearly as noticeable. The left-handed claw actually looks pretty good on the sergeant but absolutely horrible in the product image. It makes one wonder; were the claws used on the sergeant better casts or did the modeler have to do some significant repair work?

I've been able to avoid Finecast items by preemptively purchasing every named Ultramarine character in pewter. I also decided to make my own Sternguard out of plastic bits rather than buy the resin set. I knew that I'd eventually have to buy something in resin, and figured that it might be worth it to buy this set rather than do my own weapon conversions. However, this simply does not look like a good product based on GW's own promotional imagery. It looks like I'll be using the Commander set's combi-weapons and will continue making my own bolters with box magazines.

Unlike some, I'm not a habitual GW critic. Overall I like the quality of their products and I understand both their profit motive as well as the cost involved in making new injection molds. At the same time, it looks like GW's insistence in using resin and these particular molds to produce something that had long been anticipated is going to cost them money and a lot of goodwill from their customers.

What I'd really like to see, and what I think could actually pay for itself over time, would be a Space Marine Veteran upgrade kit; i.e., one or two plastic sprues with all the goodies that only Astartes veterans can wield or wear. It could have combi-weapons, fancy bolters, relic blades, power mauls, paired lightning claws, power armor-sized storm shields, specialized helmets, snazzy shoulder pads, older models of armor, etc. GW could easily sell it as a standalone kit and/or they could bundle it with the figure sprues they include in the Tactical Squad box to make a generic Veterans box that could be used for Sternguard, Command Squads, sergeants, etc. I'd be willing to pay well over $13.50 for that.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

40K Cabal Battle Report: First Allies Game

Although we have multiple tables, it's not unusual for our 40K group to play in teams of two. Typically each player brings an identical number of points to the table and we pair off, rarely considering whether the pairs make any sense or not. However, this past week Jon, Bryce, Carl, and I decided to try out 6th Edition's allies rules. Each of us brought a 1000 point primary detachment list and a 750 point allied detachment list. To make things interesting, we decided to randomly determine which armies would play as the primary detachments and which would be their allies. The alliances themselves were also randomly decided through dice rolls. The same was the case for the mission type and the deployment map.

In the end, Jon's Orks formed one primary detachment with Bryce's Tau army serving as allies of convenience. (Bryce had been neglecting his Tau army until he concluded that 6th Edition belongs to the shooty armies and added several Battlesuits to his existing force.) Carl's Grey Knights were the other primary detachment while my Ultramarines were his allies of convenience. The mission turned out to be the The Scouring while the deployment map was the Hammer and Anvil. One primary objective marker worth two victory points ended up on the Astartes side of the board while another marker was immediately between both armies.

My 750 point force included a Captain, a vanilla 10 man Tactical squad, a five man Sniper Squad with a missile launcher, five Terminators with an assault cannon, and a Vindicator. Carl brought a Brotherhood Champion, a Land Raider, two Terminator Squads, a heavy bolter Razorback, and a Purgation Squad. By luck, the Purgation Squad started out on top of one of the two objectives.

Jon brought his usual mob whose size boggles the mind of an Astartes player. He had a Big Mek with a Shokk Attack Gun, a three man Warbiker Mob (with one Nob), a Killa Kan, two squads of Lootas, a DeffKopta, and two 20 man mobs of Boyz. Bryce's force consisted of a Commander in a Battlesuit with a fusion blaster, his three man Crisis Battlesuit Bodyguard, a 12 man Fire Warrior Squad, a three man Stealth Team, a Piranha Skimmer with a fusion blaster, and a three man Broadside Battlesuit Team. The maddening amount of firepower and Battlesuit-granted durability that a "small" Tau army can bring makes me wonder if the 6th Edition Tau Codex will have more than a few points adjustments.

Rather quickly Carl and I realized that we were in trouble. For starters, the arrangement of the alliances reminded me a lot of a game we played earlier this year, In which Bryce's Imperial Guard and Jon's Orks faced off against my Ultramarines and Carl's (at the time) borrowed Grey Knights. In both games, a long range shooty army joined with a close combat army to fight against smaller, more elite Space Marine armies. And once again the Marines had to go second. Then there was the deployment map; we were playing on a 4'X8' board, so the Hammer and Anvil arrangement left us with a table just 4' wide and 8' long, which benefited both the Tau as well as the Orks.

Bryce was able to take advantage of the table's length to position his Broadsides with their long range railguns well outside of our range; he hammered our armies throughout the game with impunity. His other Battlesuits also started beyond our guns' range and used their mobility to close in quickly. In the meantime, the narrowness of the map gave the Orks a significant advantage. While a standard deployment on a 4'X6' or 4'X8' board forces Orks to spread out and gives their opponent room to maneuver and to more easily attack their flanks, a narrow map like the Hammer and Anvil allows them to stretch from table edge to table edge and sweep down onto their opponents like an enormous green bulldozer. Even if we wanted to rush the Tau forces, we would have to punch through a greenskin wall to do it.

Carl's list proved to be another unexpected liability. While 2+ armor saves excel against most armies, the cost of the Terminators meant that he had very wounds or shots on the table. With Orks bearing down on you and strength 10, AP1 railguns laughing at your fancy Terminator armor, the Terminators didn't have much of a chance.

Turn 1
Turn 1 ended up with night fighting rules, which denied the Broadsides their opening salvo. The Orks made their usual charge while the Tau troops stayed mostly behind the green wall. A squad of Lootas poured fire into the Grey Knight Terminators who failed way too many 2+ armor saves. My Snipers, who had to forgo camo cloaks due to point limitations, took advantage of the 3+ cover save granted by the nearby Imperial Statuary. Unfortunately, the neophytes still failed several cover saves.

The Piranha successfully hit the Vindicator's front armor but the result was merely a glance. It was during this game that I gained an appreciation for the new hull point rules. Under 5th, a glancing hit from an AP1 weapon would have a good chance of preventing the Vindicator from firing in its following turn. Under the new rules, my Vindicator got one step closer to being wrecked, but it still had a chance to hit back in the following turn.

The Marines suffered from a lack of long range fire, but they still did some damage in their turn. The Vindicator's Demolisher cannon missed the Piranha but hit the Killa Kan, which lost a hull point and was stunned, and killed several other models. The Tactical Squad once again took advantage of the new rapid fire rules and took a small toll on the oncoming mobs. The Grey Knight Terminators tried their best, but their storm bolters seemed to do little damage (Carl's rolling that night was atrocious). The Purgation Squad had a lot more luck and was able to inflict some damage. Jon's new Warbiker Mob was wiped out, which gave the Marines a victory point for destroying a Fast Attack unit. Realizing that marching into the face of railgun fire would be suicidal, I kept the Ultramarine Terminators in reserve in the hopes that I could teleport them in the next turn and tie up the Broadsides.

Unfortunately, the Astartes long range firepower lay in the Grey Knights' Land Raider, which was hampered by the night fighting rules. The tank was mostly wasted gunning down models of lower points value. Given how many enemy models were on the table, a Land Raider Crusader probably would have been more useful.

Turn 2
The Piranha's fusion blaster penetrated the Vindicator's armor on the second turn and achieved a weapon destroyed result (my disappointment was mitigated by the fact that we finally got to use my new vehicle damage dice). Another change to 6th is randomization of which weapon is destroyed; unfortunately for me it was the Demolisher cannon rather than the storm bolter. Although the Broadsides laid into the Land Raider, several missed shots and low penetration rolls ensured that the tank kept going. Carl's Terminators took even more shooting casualties before Jon declared a Waaagh! and hit one of the two squads with nearly 20 Boyz. The Grey Knights' fancy force weapons are wasted on Boyz so we all got to witness the effect of 45+ strength 4 attacks against three Terminators (the Terminators lost).

Despite 6th Edition's more forgiving reserve rolls, the Ultramarine Terminators had to sit out another turn. Those Astartes on the table struck back and wrecked the Killa Kan while the Piranha exploded under a hail of Purgation Squad fire. The Ultramarines wreaked vengeance on the briefly victorious Boyz by hitting them with fire from both the Sniper and Tactical Squads. One of the most remarkable shots of the game occurred when the Tactical Squad's flamer hit nine Boyz and killed eight of them. The survivors were charged by the Ultramarines, who made short work of the Xenos scum.

Turn 3
With nearly all the Ork units except for the Lootas having taken heavy casualties, the Tau began their advance in earnest. Fire warriors, the Crisis Battlesuit Bodyguard, and the Stealth Team eliminated the last of the Grey Knight Terminators and the Purgation Squad. The Broadsides again failed to destroy the Land Raider, but succeeded in destroying a twin-linked lascannon. The remaining mob of Ork Boyz and a power klaw Nob assaulted the Land Raider, but the power klaw was unable to glance or penetrate its armor. Heavy fire and poor cover save rolls reduced the Sniper Squad to a single Marine. The Grey Knight Razorback was soon wrecked.

The Ultramarine Terminators finally arrived from reserves, but with so few friendly units on the board there was little reason to even try to take on the Broadsides, particularly since the Broadsides were being covered by two nearly intact Loota Squads. The Terminators therefore landed within range of the Fire Warriors. My Munitorum dice, which had been pretty lucky up until that point, failed me during the shooting phase while Bryce made most of his armor saves. That left my unit within rapid fire range of ten Fire Warriors with as many strength 5 weapons. My Tactical Squad charged the Ork mob that had previously assaulted the Land Raider but, again, the dice did not cooperate. The sergeant who was left standing found himself surrounded by Orks.

Turn 4
As Jon and Bryce began the turn, it occurred to me that the only scoring units the Marines had left was a lone Sniper Scout and a sergeant that was probably going to be killed in the next round of close combat. It was clear that the Emperor wasn't going to be saving the Astartes and so we called the game.

All in all it was an interesting game. Although the Marines ended up in the worst possible position (i.e., playing against a strong combination of allies on a table that most benefited the enemy forces), a comparison of victory points showed that it wasn't a total rout. The Marines earned three victory points for destroying all Ork and Tau Fast Attack units. (This might not be a fair comparison since the Marines didn't bring any Fast Attack units for the Tau and the Orks to score off of.) Although Bryce and Jon never actually held the two primary objects, we obviously attributed the six victory points to them when we called the game.

As for the bloodletting part of the game, I was surprised by how well my Ultramarines did. Although I effectively had 520 points of Marines (the Terminators showed up too late to influence the game), the allied force may have killed more points than Carl's primary detachment. A lot of the Grey Knights' 1000 points was invested in Terminators that drew a huge amount of fire and died without having earned their points. The Purgation Squad, which benefited from its ability to target units without having line of sight, seemed to do better, but its 24" range left the squad vulnerable to fast moving Tau units. With the Broadsides out of its range and only cheaper Ork units nearby, the Land Raider ended up being an enormous points sink. Under other circumstances I think the Grey Knight army would have been formidable, but it didn't have a prayer against the Ork/Tau alliance.

After the game I thought of ways that the Ultramarine Terminators' 230 points could have been better spent. It occurred to me that a ten man Sternguard has nearly the same cost (i.e., 250 points without upgrades), can put out almost as many shots when it's between 12" and 24" from the target, and can put out nearly twice as many shots when it's within 12" of the target. With Hellfire rounds the Sternguard would be killing Orks on a 2+ rather than a 4+, the AP4 Kraken rounds would match the Fire Warriors' weapons range while denying them their armor saves, and AP3 Vengeance rounds could deny armor saves to most Battlesuits. Each Sternguard Marine is slightly more likely to die than a Terminator, of course, but the Squad makes up for it by having twice as many troops. All the more reason for me to pick up the pace on that Sternguard Squad I've been sporadically working on for months.

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