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“Armies with Character” Battle Summaries
Before I went, I had tried a new approach for creating army lists. Instead of writing lists geared to fight specific opponents (for example, a “stand back and shoot” force with lots of big guns to fight Orks; a fast, hand-to-hand force to fight Imperial Guard), I wrote up four army lists whose fighting styles reflect the HQ character that led them. I would then use them against any enemy army in that point range. For example, if my opponent wanted to play a battle with 1000 points per side, I would use my list for Strikeforce Jirbu (a mechanized detachment) to take on any 1000 point army, from Orks to Tyranids to Eldar to other Space Marines.
A novel approach for me, but I had some trepidation. In creating these lists, I had used a “top-down” approach, picking HQ units first, then adding appropriate Elite, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support units, finally filling them out with Troop units. As a result, some of the armies had much fewer Troops than I am accustomed to using, and I worried about how well they would take casualties.
Secondly, I worried about how each army would do against specific opponents. I am no tactical genius: my rapid assault army (Strikeforce Shamshir) would do fine against most opponents, but what on earth would I do if I had to use them against Nids? Zooming in close to the Bugs didn’t sound very healthy….
Be that as it may, I was looking forward to the fresh approach and the tactical challenge. So how did the four “Armies with Character” do?
Weathering the Storm
Like me, John (known as xPashax on the Millenium Gate Forum) is an animal freak with a love for tigers. Despite the fact that Eldar scare me right out of my stripey pants, I was looking forward to a game against his pointy-heads, mostly because they have such a cool paint scheme.
We rolled randomly for mission and came up with “Blitz”: by chance, I wound up being the defender. Here’s the short version of what I had:
Depending on what John brought, this battle could be over pretty quick: a few bright lances would swiftly ruin my army’s day. Fortunately for me, John brought a “balanced” Eldar army not specifically designed to slaughter Marines. Here’s what he had:
Above: This could be a bad day for the Tigers...
What happened? At the beginning of the game, I remembered some advice from my friend Paul and I separated my Land Speeders each into their own squadron. The benefit of using squadrons in large games is that you can take more vehicles using a single unit choice, but in small games you’re better off taking vehicles in separate squadrons. Why?
For openers, an enemy unit can only fire on a single unit at a time, so an enemy squad with multiple heavy weapons (for example, Devastators) will waste a lot of its firepower when trying to down Speeders in different squadrons. Or, more simply put: if you have three Speeders in one squadron, a Devastator Squad can potentially wipe them out in one round; if you have three Speeders in three squadrons, it will take the Devastators at least three rounds to get rid of them all.
The downside to this is what happened to me: “Blitz” uses the Reserves rule, and my Speeders (being different units) came on at different times. That wasn’t good, but it wasn’t as bad as what happened with my Dreadnought, who arrived from Reserves on Turn 6. Yes, you read that right: Turn 6. That’s 133 points of Dreadnought that sat out most of the game.
Not having the typical hyper-zoomy Eldar army, John had a real challenge on his hands to move his guys 66" across the board. He made good use of cover and the Eldar Fleet of Foot ability, and the Avatar provided a nice distraction. After I took out his War Walkers, I kept blasting the Avatar with the Vedic Siege Gun because you can’t afford to let the Flaming Eldar Death God get too close. Despite my best efforts, the Avatar did not go down, losing 3 out of 4 wounds but fortunately, for me, never making it into close combat.
Outcome: Tigers win (675 Victory Points to 275 Victory Points)
Thomas flew in from California and brought along his awesome Do-It-Yourself Space Marine army, the Sons of Sekhmet, based on Egyptian mythology. We ran a “Cleanse” mission and considered it a “training session,” with the Tigers and Sons shooting blanks at each other while the desert-dwelling Sons received some on-the-job lessons on how to fight at the edge of a jungle. Here’s the short version of what I brought:
Above: Thomas & Sons begin to unload on Our Stripey Heroes
What happened? The Tigers met some even shootier Marines. In just a few rounds he had shot up my Vindicator and seriously laid into my Tactical Marines and Devastators. Fortunately, I was able to throw a big left hook at his Sons: my Chaplain, my Terminators, and my Dreadnought claimed the table quarter next to my deployment zone (wiping out his Assault Squad, his Chaplain, and one of his Scout Squads along the way). They also penetrated into his quarter, which provided a nice distraction. In the end, the Tigers had three table quarters, the Sons had one.
Outcome: Tigers win.
Another “training session,” this time against Scott Mallinson and his Space Wolves. Scott is the webmaster of Wanderer’s End and writes some of the best 40K fiction you will ever read. He came all the way from Houston, Texas and I threw my bike detachment against his army. Here’s the short version of what I brought:
As this was a bigger battle that would eat up my Fast Attack slots, I took the three Speeders in one squadron. I was determined to be careful with my bikes (not like how I used them in a recent tournament), to keep my distance from enemy units that could tie them up in hand-to-hand combat and hack them apart. And there are few armies better at doing that than Space Wolves. Here’s what Scott brought:
Then Scott’s Scouts arrived behind my lines and started ruining my evening, blowing up my Whirlie and my Razorback, and forcing my Bikes to ignore the incoming Gray Hunters to gun them down. I stupidly let Raja Shamshir get vaped by a meltagun. And worst of all, my previous good luck with the dice was gone, gone, gone. I was missing shots and failing saves left and right. A crowd gathered around the table to watch—nothing like having everyone in the shop watch your army get its butt kicked, eh?—and I became visibly frustrated with my rotten luck.
The whoop-ass continued. Scott’s bike guys (and their dogs) zoomed into my table quarter, and I knew that if they started driving around unchecked then the game would be all over for Our Stripey Heroes. My Veterans—all tooled-up for close combat—rushed to intercept them. How bad could those two guys be? I thought to myself.
Famous last words. Those two guys pulverized my Veterans—no slouches themselves—and proceeded to kick the crap out of my Bike Squads. Both Bike squads. It was ugly. The Wolf Lord and the Wolf Priest each had Toughness 5 (from the bikes) and frost blades. They also had five attacks (six when charging), at Weapon Skill 5, Strength 5, Initiative 5. And, of course, frost blades are power weapons. Lesson learned: no matter how bad you think you are, never EVER charge Space Wolves.
In the end, I had two table quarters, one was contested, and one was totally empty: we had punched ourselves out trying to win it. A good game but a rough time for both of us.
Outcome: Tigers win.
Stan Reed is the owner of Borderlands and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in your life. He’s a class act, an excellent painter, knows the right way to run a business and is, judging by the battle reports on the Millenium Gate, a killer 40K player. I was honored that he took time out of his very busy weekend to play against me.
Stan has his own Marine Chapter, the Borderlands Marines, named after his store. Like the Fighting Tigers, they have a distinctive paint scheme and use the rules straight out of Codex: Space Marines. The role of the Borderlands Marines is to train Scouts from other Space Marine Chapters before they become full-fledged members. Thus, Stan has many Scout Squads painted up to represent units from other Chapters: Blood Angels, Black Templars, Ultramarines, etc.
But Stan wasn’t bringing any Scouts to this fight. Instead, he brought the Shooty Army From Hell: lots of Tactical Squads, two Devastator Squads, two Land Speeders, three Dreadnoughts, all with enough big guns to pulverize the Fighting Tigers. Ordinarily, I would have been plenty worried…but hey, I had “the Redhead,” Raja Khandar Madu. Here’s the short version of what I brought:
What happened? My army was geared towards assaulting, so I gritted my teeth and went for it. I put the Assault Termies in White Tiger II and led the attack with them, the Land Raider Crusader shielding my army from all kinds of hostile fire. I followed the LRC with Raja Khandar and her Command Squad in the Razorback, then brought in the Assault Marines (the “Psycho Attack Grrrrrrls,” as I’ve nicknamed them) and my Librarian. The plan was for my Tactical Squads to hold my quarter while the White Tiger took the adjacent corner.
That was the plan. What happened was that I went first, managed to immobilize one of Stan’s Dreads, and then the Borderlands Marines opened fire. The Land Raider Crusader swiftly went down and despite my best efforts to shield them, I lost 4 out of 5 Termies. But Stan wasn’t done. He also started shooting up my Tactical guys—suddenly, I was making “Last Man Standing” checks for 3 out of my 4 squads.
Worse still, my attempts to disable his other two Dreads didn’t work: Stan moved his Dreads out of sight of my Land Raider, keeping them functional. So there I was, charging my girls into a mess of enemy backed up by two Dreads. Things looked bad.
Fortunately, “the Redhead” and a lot of luck were on my side. Raja Khandar and her Command Squad shredded Stan’s Chaplain in Terminator armor (thrown forward to slow them down) and then did a sweeping advance into the Borderlands’ lines. The Command Squad fell to all kinds of hostile fire: Raja Khandar did not. Matter of fact, she crashed into the Borderlands Marines having taken the full fury of a Tactical Squad and a Devastator Squad, and only lost 1 Wound from a Plasma Cannon. She then proceeded to dismember whole squads by herself. And she was not by herself for long. Zaghnal Maratha and the Tigers of Kali pounced, negating those big guns.
In lumbered Stan’s Dreadnoughts. Oh, no, I thought. This is where it really gets ugly. But Stan had atrocious luck rolling the dice. One Dread succeeded in tying up—but not killing—Raja Khandar before she could carve up another squad. The other Dread trapped one Assault Squad in hand-to-hand combat but spent the rest of the game trying vainly to hit.
Zaghnal Maratha—yes, the same Librarian who “killed” himself crashing into a tree during last year’s Battle of the Webmasters—stepped up and took command. He blunted the Borderlands Marines’ counterattack, mopping up a Tactical Squad, driving back Stan’s Assault Marines, even wiping out the other Devastator Squad. Truly, he redeemed himself this day!
The plan had been for the Assault Marines to leap into close combat, knock out the Borderlands’ big guns, then retreat to the adjacent table edge to hold that quarter. By failing to take out the Dreadnoughts, that plan went out the window and eventually the surviving Assault Marines (and Raja Khandar) were forced to retreat.
Stan’s fire whittled down the Tactical Marines—at one point, he fired eight krak missiles at one of my five-man Tactical Squads. OUCH! This forced me to return the White Tiger to my original board quarter just to claim it. However, I was able to sneak three Tactical Marines (out of a five-strong squad) to the adjacent corner to claim it. When it was all over, the Tigers had two table quarters and the Borderlands Marines had two as well. Not too shabby!
What this exercise has taught me is that I am using my Troops the wrong way. In comparing the “Armies with Character” lists with some of my recent lists (particularly with the Blood Deserts of Auros IX Campaign), I see that I had fallen into the habit of taking lots of Troops (and little else), which resulted in armies that could take a hit but not dish one out. In doing so, I had asked too much of my Troops, making them lead assaults or lay down lots of heavy weapons fire—tasks that they can do, but are not optimized for.
In each list from now on, I will include at least one or two of the specialized units that I have been ignoring lately—Terminators, Assault Marines, Devastators—to do the “heavy lifting.” Troops—even Space Marines—need some assistance. While I still firmly believe that Troops win you the game, in the future I will save some points for that “special unit” that will hopefully make life easier for my Troop units.
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© Copyright Kenton
Kilgore, April 2001
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