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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