For almost 20 years, my family and I have been good friends with our neighbors across the street, the Becker’s, who have two sons: Nathan (19) and Dylan (18). The “Becker Boys” are ardent video gamers, and recently got into 40K, with Nate choosing Space Marines, and Dylan picking up Space Wolves.
I’ve been teaching them to play, with demo games against Necrons, a “for-real” match against Tyranids, an Open Play vs. my Dvergar Steeljacks (proxied Adeptus Mechanicus), and a pair of Christmas-themed battles against my Dark Eldar.
Back home early from college (thanks, Corona-Chan!), Dylan wanted to get in a game a few weeks ago, so I proposed that we mask- and glove up, keep our social distance, and pit his Wolves against my proxied Chaos Daemons of Khorne.
As has become a standard feature here at the Equatorial Rainforest, I’m presenting this report in narrative style, but so everyone understands what’s going on, I will, when necessary, note or explain something in game terms by putting it in [brackets] as an aside to the actual tale.
As described here, this army was founded by Shamshir Talatra, former commander of half of the Fighting Tigers of Veda Space Marines. Stripped of his position and exiled after a disastrous engagement with the Tau, Shamshir remained dedicated to defending mankind.
Assisted by Inquisitor Varman Kumar, Shamshir eventually gathered together a force of ghost tygers and rakshasas—respectively, good and evil spirits from his homeworld—as well as enormous war-robots the Tigers had developed centuries before but had never deployed.
The Fearful Symmetry (named after William Blake’s poem “The Tyger”) uses the rules from Codex: Chaos Daemons. The army currently stands at 1,999 points, with a Power Rating of 126.
- Shamshir Talatra and Panja the Great Tyger. Counts as Daemon Prince w/ two malefic talons, and Armour of Scorn. Warlord Trait: Oblivious to Pain
- Two Great Ghost Tygers. Each count as a Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage
- Lesser Rakshasas, Pack 1. Counts as Bloodreaper and 9 Bloodletters
- Lesser Rakshasas, Pack 2. Counts as Bloodreaper and 9 Bloodletters
- Lesser Rakshasas, Pack 3. Counts as Bloodreaper and 19 Bloodletters
- Greater Rakshasas, Pack 1. Counts as Bloodhunter and 6 Bloodcrushers
- Varman Kumar and Greater Rakshasas, Pack 2. Count as Bloodhunter (Kumar) and 7 Bloodcrushers
- Ghost Tygers, Pack 1. Count as 5 Flesh Hounds
- Ghost Tygers, Pack 2. Count as 5 Flesh Hounds
- Two Bronze Tygers. Each count as a Soul Grinder w/ harvester cannon, phlegm bombardment, iron claw and warpclaw
The Fearful Symmetry is so easy to use that even a Baltimore Ravens fan could do it: simply point at the enemy and charge.
As it was a nice spring day (and to help stay safe in case either of us was asymptomatically carrying the ‘rona), Dylan and I played in my backyard. I set up a 4′ by 6′ table, and decided ahead of time that we would play down the long end to maximize social distancing (“Hammer & Anvil” deployment).
I set up a copious amount of jungle scenery (including a river and a waterfall, both generously made and given to me years ago by #1 Jungle Fanboy Luis Nunez) to represent Qellzrym IV, the Fearful Symmetry’s current base of operations, and let Dylan decide which end of the table he wanted.
Being no dummy, he chose the high ground. We rolled randomly for mission, and came up with “Retrieval Mission” (from page 218 of the main rulebook), which has four objective markers. We agreed that they would be represented by terrain already on the board, namely, the bridge and “the hatch” (with accompanying polar bear) in no-man’s land, an ammo crate in his deployment zone, and a small shrine in mine.
We then took turns putting down units from our armies. Dylan has a sizeable force of Space Wolves that he purchased from my buddy and fellow Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel, consisting of:
- Logan Grimnar in Terminator armor
- Iron Priest
- Five Wolf Guard Terminators
- Three packs of Gray Hunters; 2 w/ Rhino transports, 1 w/ Drop Pod
- One pack of 5 Wolf Scouts
- Two packs of 3 Swiftclaws each
- Two Predators
- Land Raider Crusader
- Bjorn the Fell-Handed
- Stormfang Gunship
It was not immediately apparent to me, but Dylan eventually revealed that he had brought well north of 2100 points to our agreed-upon 2000-point battle. He wasn’t trying to cheat, it’s just that point limits are…nebulous in his college gaming circle. While some gamers are okay with exceeding the limit by 2, 3, 5, or even 10 points, Dylan’s pals are good with going 100+ over.
No biggie: by the time I found out, we were well into the game, and I was amused, not annoyed, chalking it up to a newbie mistake, and a newbie advantage that he would need. Besides, I’m certain that I had a similar or even greater point advantage during our “bring-what-you-got” game a few months before, where my Dvergar pounded his Wolves and Nate’s Marines.
We had rolled to see who would start deploying first, and because I had, I also went first in the game, as Dylan was unable to Seize the Initiative. With that settled, we were off!
“Well, you were right,” Shamshir Talatra sighed.
“I told you so,” Varman Kumar replied. “Once the Space Wolves begin to hunt, they do not relent until they have their quarry.”
“And this time, they’ve sent the Old Wolf himself,” Shamshir added, “instead of Ragnar.” He rubbed his chin. “We’ll only engage them to hold them off until the servitors power up the transports. Then we’ll pull back and escape.”
“If we can,” Kumar said.
“If we can.” He hefted the Scepter of Shiva, the ancient curved sword that allowed him to summon and command the hordes of rakshasas about him. Most of them were of the lesser sort, no taller than a man, but some, the bodyguards to Shamshir and Kumar, were as large as Space Marines. And even deadlier.
“Once again,” Shamshir said to his daemonic allies, “the Space Wolves have come for us. Once again, we will repel them—without killing.” He ignored their angry growls and snarls. “You will not take any lives, you will not feast on flesh. Not today.”
“Once again, you deny us our rightful spoils,” grumbled one of the Greater Rakshasas. The monsters looked similar and had no names—at least none they would tell him—but Shamshir recognized this one as having spoken against him before the previous battle against the Wolves, when he had forbidden the rakshasas from killing. “Once again, we will obey, because we must. But one day, you will no longer hold the Scepter, and then, we will feed on your flesh—and your soul.”
“One day,” Shamshir agreed. “Now, advance!”
The rakshasas, Greater and Lesser, loped forward, shields up, swords drawn. The Great Ghost Tygers, titanic but benevolent spirits, bounded along the force’s flanks, moving swiftly through the jungle, followed by smaller Ghost Tygers.
The two robotic Bronze Tygers remained behind, priming their rockets and cannons, then firing at the Whirlwind and the Swiftclaws, but all of their shots came to naught. On the left, a Great Ghost Tyger broke into a run, but was unable to reach the nearby Wolf Scouts [needed to roll 6+ on 2d6 for charging, rolled a 4 and failed the charge] before their heavy bolter riddled it [-1 Wound].
On the right, the other Great Ghost Tyger fared little better, failing to engage Bjorn the Fell-Handed as it shrugged off fire from Bjorn’s assault cannon [failed charge; Overwatch hit twice, no wounds].
The Space Wolves flowed to counter the Fearful Symmetry, the Whirlwind seeking the higher ground at the top of the waterfall, the bikes and gunship flowing forward. Ten of the Gray Hunters left their barrier, advancing on Shamshir and his guard of Greater Rakshasas.
The Whirlwind fired a salvo at the Great Ghost Tyger who menaced the Scouts, but despite hitting it several times, inflicted no harm. Nor was the nearby Predator any more successful, missing all four of its lascannon shots.
Much more effective was the Stormwolf, whose skyhammer missiles and lascannons injured the Great Ghost Tyger [-3 more Wounds]. The Wolf Scouts split their fire, the heavy bolter targeting the Great Ghost Tyger, to no avail, the others firing at Shamshir Talatra, whose armor saved him from their sniper rifles.
Swiftclaws, the two Gray Hunter packs on the ground, a Rhino, the other Predator, Bjorn, and the Land Raider Crusader unleashed a torrent of fire on the second Great Ghost Tyger, with bolter rounds, heavy bolters, and plasma weapons managing only to hurt, but not slow it [-5 Wounds]. The twin assault cannons of the Crusader also dissipated two of the smaller Ghost Tygers than ran alongside the larger one.
The Fearful Symmetry continued to advance, and this time, there was no escape. The Bronze Tygers turned all their weapons on the Stormwolf, crippling it [-12 Wounds out of 14!].
The Great Ghost Tyger ignored the Scouts, leaving them to the smaller Tygers, while it bounded atop the lascannon Predator, smashing it again and again [using the Chaos Daemon Stratagem Frenetic Bloodlust to go twice in the Fight Phase] until it was scrap.
On the other side of the field, the other Great Ghost Tyger pounced on the Land Raider Crusader, crushing it as if it were made of cardboard [-27 Wounds].
On the left flank, the lesser Ghost Tygers at first failed to reach the retreating Scouts [rolled 2 on 2d6 for charge, -2 for attempting charge through terrain = 0″ charge], but they redoubled their efforts [able to reroll charge thanks to Locus of Rage from Great Ghost Tyger being within 6″). They dragged down four of the Scouts, but one of their own vanishing after being clubbed in the head by a rifle butt.
“Remember what I said,” Shamshir warned his bodyguards. He alone charged the closest pack of Swiftclaws, pulling them from their bikes, pummeling them into unconsciousness. At the same time, his Greater Rakshasas overwhelmed the Gray Hunters who had sallied forth to meet them, also knocking them senseless.
The Space Wolves were reeling under the onslaught, but were far from beaten. The Stormwolf swung low over the battlefield, hovering long enough for the Iron Priest to make some swift repairs [regained 5 Wounds]. Logan Grimnar and his Wolf Guard Terminators materialized near the small shrine that a pack of Lesser Rakshasas had been heading for.
Simultaneously, a Drop Pod touched down behind the Fearful Symmetry’s lines, a unit of Gray Hunters emerging, firing at the closest group of Lesser Rakshasas, sending 9 of them back to the Warp.
The Wolf Guard Terminators accompanying Logan Grimnar loosed their storm bolter and cyclone missile launcher at the nearest Bronze Tyger, slightly damaging it [-4 Wounds].
The Stormwolf’s skyhammer missiles did nothing against the injured Bronze Tyger, but its lascannons and twin helfrost cannons staggered the Great Ghost Tyger that had destroyed the Predator [-4 Wounds]. The Whirlwind fired all of its rockets at the same Tyger, to no avail, the spectral adversary too resilient [4 hits, no Wounds].
At the Wolves’ front lines, Gray Hunters and bikes fired on Shamshir Talatra’s bodyguards, wounding one before they charged. Not far away, the other Predator and Bjorn the Fell-Handed fired at the other Great Ghost Tyger, but only the latter’s assault cannon had any effect [-1 Wound].
“Enough!” growled Bjorn, charging. He rammed straight into the Great Ghost Tyger, crumpling it to the ground, and ripped and tore with this claw, hacking and slashing, until the monster disappeared.
The Gray Hunters and Swiftclaws fought well, seriously injuring Shamshir [-3 Wounds] and slaying one of the Greater Rakshasas, but they too, were struck down.
“You’re wounded!” Varman Kumar bellowed to Shamshir, as the two packs of Greater Rakshasas converged. “Turn back!”
“Keep going!” Shamshir replied, clutching his side where a chainsword had bitten deep into him. He waved them forward.
“What of Logan?” Kumar demanded.
“Don’t worry about him,” Shamshir said, as they moved toward Bjorn. The ancient Dreadnought turned to face them. “I think we have a bigger problem right now.”
While the remaining Great Ghost Tyger readied to pounce, its smaller cousins ran back to take on the Wolf Guard, and the Bronze Tygers as well turned their attentions to the Terminators, firing and taking out one.
The Great Ghost Tyger sprang into the air [Bloodthirsters have the <FLY> Keyword], snagging the Stormwolf like a cat would a bird, dragging it down and smashing it bits.
The smaller Ghost Tygers and a pack of Lesser Rakshasas charged Logan and the Wolf Guard, defeating two of the latter, and severely wounding the Old Wolf [-5 Wounds], though Logan killed three Rakshasas.
Shamshir and his guards threw themselves against the hull of the surviving Predator, tearing at it with claws and the Scepter of Shiva until the tank erupted in a fireball that killed one of the Rakshasas and damaged Bjorn. Not pausing, Kumar and his Rakshasas attacked the Dreadnought, pulling him off his feet and taking him out of the fight.
The Whirlwind fired again at the Great Ghost Tyger, but its shots had no effect. The last squad of Gray Hunters charged the nearest Bronze Tyger, losing their flamer man to incoming [Overwatch] fire.
While the Hunters managed to damage the mechanical beast [-4 Wounds], it trampled 7 of them before the remaining two fell back.
Still enmeshed with the lesser Rakshasas and the Ghost Tygers, Logan called for a retreat, realizing that the situation for the Space Wolves was rapidly becoming untenable. The Fearful Symmetry let them go.
Winner: Fearful Symmetry (Space Wolves concede)
Before the game, I had told Dylan what each unit in my army was, and what they could do. I emphasized to him that my force was light on shooting (the Soul Grinders are the only ones with guns), but excel at close combat.
I made it clear to him that each Bloodthirster could take out a squad or a vehicle by itself in a single round; indeed, my exact words to him re. them were, “You don’t want your guys in the same time zone as these things.”
Despite those warnings, the Wolves having a substantial point advantage, and both ‘Thirsters failing their charge rolls on Turn 1, it was a massacre for Team Fenris. After the game, we went over where Dylan went wrong:
- He should have deployed farther back in his zone, leaving more table for my guys to cross. The Wolf Scouts had sniper rifles and a heavy bolter: there was no reason for them to be in no-man’s land. The Predator on his right (my left) was too far forward, allowing my Bloodthirster to jump on it in Turn 2.
- Similarly, the Gray Hunters and Swiftclaws in his deployment zone should not have sallied forth to engage my Daemon Prince (Shamshir) and the Bloodcrushers (Greater Rakshasas). They should have held back, even retreated as necessary, and whittled them down with bolter fire. Only when those enemy units were on their last legs should the Hunters have charged, to finish them off.
- The Whirlwind is great against infantry, less so against a bruiser like a Bloodthirster. It should have supported the Gray Hunters and Swiftclaws by dumping rockets into my Bloodcrushers. The Stormwolf should have used its superior speed to maintain distance, and riddle my ‘Thirsters, concentrating all fire on one until it dropped. I’m not familiar with the Stormwolf and its rules, but why wasn’t the Iron Priest aboard it?
- In addition to shooting the ‘Thirsters with the Preds and Stormwolf, Dylan should have charged them with the empty Rhinos, slowing them down much like I did when my Fighting Tigers recently fought Pat’s Red Corsairs and Orks.
Having Logan, the Wolf Guard Terminators, and the other Gray Squad (via Drop Pod) deep strike into my backfield wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but by the bottom of Turn 2, the battle was going so well for the Fearful Symmetry—and so poorly for the Space Wolves—that I wasn’t sweating this development.
Dylan accepted his defeat with good grace, and perhaps a rematch is in order as soon as Nurgle lifts the plague currently sweeping Terra. You can be sure that the Fearful Symmetry will be ready!
When he isn’t playing or blogging about 40K, Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults, and adults who are still young. This Wasted Land, his latest novel, isn’t your typical teenage love story. It’s more like: Boy meets Girl –> Evil Witch takes Boy –> Girl goes to get Boy back.
He is also the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. His first novel was Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.