Today I played my first apocalypse game of the year. Curiously enough, it was the first Apoc game that I’ve played that I didn’t enjoy. Rather than doing a break-down of what happened turn by turn, I thought I’d go into the special rules we used, and where I thought the game went right and where it went wrong.
Though I started things off on this post rather negatively, let’s try to focus on the positive.
Things that went well:
My intent was to skip over the things that always seem to go well, but they’re worth mentioning anyway, so I’ll consolidate them into a single bullet point. We had a great place to play and a good host. Terrain looked great, and people really pooled their resources together with multiple guys bringing their terrain out to use it for such a game. We’ve also a good bunch of players, and relatively balanced armies. Props to all involved for these. As for things that were unusual this game that I enjoyed:
- Split-Deployment: Firstly, this included a split deployment, with Imperials sandwiched in between two forces (Chaos & Nidz). In the post-game debrief it seemed that everyone liked this idea, and it was executed fairly well. The imperials got walled fortifications to hide behind, and were able to consolidate all of their forces in one spot, but they also had to fight on two flanks, which made for balance. This sort of deployment also ensured that (for the most part) players were focused on certain sections of the board. Granted, there were exceptions, but at least for Team Evil (Chaos & Nidz), we didn’t half to run around the board constantly to find out units.
- Board Shape: Typically the board will be in a straight line or a L shape, but this time it had a jog in it to make it Z-shaped. This, coupled with the split deployment (above), extended the line of no-man’s land to increase the point of attack (or at least it made it feel like this).
- Team Balance: Oddly enough we didn’t get overloaded with Imperial players, but we quickly came to a consensus about how to resolve the problem. The two Necron players joined the Imperials—there was some discussion about whether that was the right solution or not (see below).
- No Flank March/Careful Planning: Not a single person chose either of these assets. They’re insanely powerful and super annoying, and I was happy to see that nobody took them. It did, however, mean that very little fighting happened at the back end of either of Team Evil’s deployment areas.
- Scoring Each Turn: We took a play out of the playbook of another Apoc game I’d hosted in my garage and decided that objectives would be scored each turn—not just at the end of the game. While it did inject a little slowness into the game, scoring each turn prevented that last minute grab for objectives. This encouraged people to hold the objectives the entire game, and seems to be more indicative of who really controlled the game.
- Head-Hunting: Scott suggested that each player needed to nominate a single HQ (or other model if no HQ was available) to be the leader. When those leaders died, the opposing team would score some victory points (I think we finally settled on 3 per leader). I’m not sure that anyone really made this a goal, but it did happen several times, and people seemed to like it. There was a problem with this though (Again, see below)
- Flyers (or lack thereof): In previous games, flyers have dominated the board. Since they can basically go anywhere, and are super hard to even hit, they tend to go untouched most of the game. Though there were a few flyers, they didn’t seem to be rough in this one. I’m not sure if that’s because these were thunderbolts & storm ravens (instead of vendettas), or they weren’t as coordinated, or what, but they didn’t seem to be so annoying this game.
- Theme: Unlike most games, this one seemed to have more theme. The intent was to try to get Nidz vs. Imperials, but despite the rally cry, only three Nid players showed up (well, technically I showed up as well, but I’m tired of my bugs for now—at least in Apoc). The fact that we got basically three chaos, three nidz, four imperial and 2 necrons worked out rather well though. I’m not sure it could’ve been planned better—It would seem that we just lucked into this.
- Main Objective: One “main objective” was added to the center Imperial team’s deployment zone. It was decided that this would be worth 5VP at the very end, and wouldn’t’ be scored each turn. I really liked the idea of having some objectives be more valuable. Though it proved to be contested at the end (a la’ every other Apoc game), it was an interesting twist on things.
Things that I didn’t enjoy:
(Keep in mind that these aren’t necessarily things that went wrong, per se, but rather things I didn’t enjoy so much. The “solution” to many of these issues certainly has something to do with adjusting my attitude/list building—and I’ll work on that—but others might actually need some tweaking).
- Hierophants are nuts. Yes, they were on my team. Yes, I supplied two of them. Yes, they need to be nerfed. In this gaming club, they play with Hierophants RAW. In the book, it says they have a “warp field.” At the time of it’s writing, that gave them a 2+/6++, but now that same rule gives a 3++. At T9 with 10 wounds and regeneration, that makes those things ricockulous. This is something I’ve been saying time and time again… though it goes largely unheard.
- Arguments: I play to have fun, but for whatever reason, I managed to get myself into a couple of arguments. This quickly makes a fun day into a chore—and I think this was the single greatest reason I look back at this day and say I didn’t have any fun. My key argument opponent was a guy that goes by Mangles. It’s important to note that I think he’s an intelligent guy with a firm grasp of the rules. I also feel he’s honest, and respectful in his dealings. The only fundamental “problem,” with him is that he is truly a competitive RAW player and I’m more of a funsy RAI player (and frankly, that isn’t a “problem,” with him, as it’s really just an issue between us). Normally, we can just agree to see things differently, but we did bump heads a couple of times during this game. I even went so far as to call him well an obscenity which is altogether far too common. He didn’t deserve it, and though I apologized, I’m not sure he accepted.In almost all of the cases, the problems came from the RAW vs. RAI, though in at least one it was from my ignorance, which didn’t make out well since I was already pissy. Putting aside the issue of my ignorance (which, if you must know considering pre-measuring movement), the other issues were:
- Can a gargantuan creature ram? I was of the opinion that a garg can tank shock, and is given an armor value. His argument was that ramming is a specific kind of tank shock not explicitly conferred to Gargs—despite having a listed armor value.
- When using an Apoc barrage, do you count hits on models beneath the template as you would normally, or do you resolve each hit individually? (This technically wasn’t an argument with Mangles, or an argument at all really, but a point of contestation, definitely).
- Can an immobile vehicle repair it’s immobilized result? Specifically, I guess the Necron Pylons say that they suffer an immobilized result as they land, so they didn’t start as an immobilized vehicle. Since spyders can repair now, is it possible to repair the pylon and let it move around the table?
- Are fortress walls considered superheavies (and so, you would be automatically pushed back at the end of any turn of combat—thereby denying you the ability to also swing in your opponent’s assault phase)?
- Necron combo/shenanigans that force all units to move as in difficult terrain and force difficult terrain to be dangerous. This isn’t a problem with rules, but one I didn’t like. This isn’t because it was used on me per-se, but since each team seems to always take Recon, it did very little the entire game, other than slow things down. In this gaming group, phases are strictly timed to 15 minutes each, and having to roll, re-roll, take saves, etc. any time any of your models wants to move is painful, doing it twice is horrendous. The end result was relatively minimal too. I wound up taking about a dozen wounds across my force, and I presume the other players were relatively similar. In effect, this really seems like the JAMMERS asset. While it does provide a minimal amount of damage, it really sets the game off on the wrong foot. To be fair, Mangles didn’t have the combo in his original list, and only added this stuff to add in an additional 4k points in order to make up for late-comers.Again, I don’t mean to berate him (or anyone else in this). The lessons to learn here, more than anywhere else, are probably my own. Whether I agree or disagree with someone doesn’t matter, it’s how I handle myself, and I did so poorly here. Again, Mangles, I was out of line and I’m sorry.
- Time Consuming Assets: It seems both teams took the “Surgical Raids” asset. I’ve used this before in
another apoc game, and despite getting five times the damage output, it’s really just a method of slowing down the game. It seems like it would be fun (and more effective than it is), but it just isn’t. For example, when Cole did this, I think he managed to wound a single model, and shake a tank for a turn. The other team did better, as we had more zoanthropes and the like, but I still doubt it was worth the 250 points (or 15 minutes per side) it took to play the asset. I’d like to see these ineffectual assets that seem to only slow down the game banned.
- Army list issues: Tony and I had played entirely demon forces (well, I added a Plague Tower of Nurgle to protect Epidemius, but otherwise, I was all models straight out of the Daemon book. Tony played with a formation that forced us to deploy on the table. This, coupled with the split in armies, made for a rather dour looking objective to us. We needed to get through the wall, but were severely lacking in shooting. Between the three chaos players, we had a couple of melta-guns, some Tzeentch bolts, and my super-heavy (which, by the way, was all blast templates, so it couldn’t fire at the walls). No other ranged weapons we had could damage the walls. This forced us to rely on monstrous creatures to take them down. The rules for the wall was that a penetrating hit of a 5 or 6 caused the wall to loose a structure point, and walls, gates, & bunkers had 4, 3, and 6 structure points respectively. They were immobile vehicles, so we hit automatically, but it meant that to score a penetrating hit, with a s5 prince, I had to roll at least a 10 (or a 1/12 chance), and then I had to roll another 5 or 6. So, the majority of our hope fell upon 8 princes each with a 3% chance per attack to cause (at least) one structure point). Even with 4 attacks each, that doesn’t make for a very appealing chance. There were a couple of other units (like Tony’s fiends), and help from a late-showing Tau player that gave us more hope, but it was pretty rough.I’m not super strong at probabilities, but by my calculation, even with all 8 princes charging a wall section (so 5 attacks each), there’s a 32% chance that we do ZERO DAMAGE to the entire wall in a turn. Since damage is applied in 1’ sections, it seemed like it was going to be turn 3-4 before we broke through.
You’ll note that I included all of this under the heading “army list issues,” and not “walls are overpowered.” Practically speaking, they had a good six feet of walls on their side, and they really should’ve wound up paying 250 points per foot, plus additional points for the bastions, but I’m going to overlook that. The problem here was most likely caused by our army lists. Really, there wasn’t much we could do against vehicles, and this being an AV14 vehicle, made it super hard for us to hurt it. I recognized that my list would be weak against vehicles, but I figured someone else on my team would take care of that for me—unfortunately, the rest of my teammates seemed to have the same idea.
- Pessimism: I brought this notion up to Tony, as he and I are really pessimists (though his response was “I prefer to think of myself more as a realist.” I insisted that a good pessimist always says that… The point being that we’re both a bit negative. Oddly enough, we each tend to do well in sportsmanship scores (I won best sportsman in the only tourney I’ve ever attended, and Tony seems to win best sportsman at EVERY tourney he attends). I don’t think that has to do with our pessimism as much as our funsy approach to the game though.However, creating a negative attitude at the start of a game is never a good thing. Though we both saw our obstacles as almost insurmountable, I tried to stay positive (at least they won’t be shooting us!). I think this is something that both of us should probably work on…
- Starting Late. The designated schedule was to show up at 8:30 (though our host was a little late), then bid, and start the game by 10. As is typical when you get a bunch of people together, someone shows up late, and timelines slip. One player showed up late (albeit still during deployment) and was able to setup. He was put on the first team to setup, and received far more time than he should’ve had, but that wasn’t the part that really slowed things down. The downside was that the other team had to put together 4k points of stuff while deploying their own units. So, they had to coordinate who had what extra models, all while trying to coordinate who goes where & strategy.People showing up late to things is already a pet peeve of mine, but when you’re inconveniencing a dozen other people, there should be repercussions. I suppose we could’ve just had him wait to come on with reserves in turn 2—that probably would’ve been a fine solution…
- Problems with Head-Hunting: While listed as a positive, it was not without issue. The key problem here is that Apoc doesn’t have a FoC, so not everyone had an HQ model. One of our Tyranid players designated his Hierophant as his leader, and since those things are all but unkillable, it didn’t seem fair. If this rule was to be used again in the future, I think it would be best to change the rule to say “Players must designate one HQ model as their leader. If they do not have an HQ model, they may designate another non-Super Heavy /Gargantuan Creature as their leader instead.” Personally, this didn’t make the game less pleasurable for me, but it’s just something I’d recommend changing in the future.
- Defenders couldn’t setup in the bunkers: Sure, they didn’t pay anything for them, but it seemed problematic that they had these great bunkers and they weren’t allowed to deploy inside them. In one case, the door to the bunker was actually placed OUTSIDE of their city walls. Obviously, this was an oversight during construction, but painfully, it cost the Imperials dearly as they had placed one of their “no-man’s land” objectives in that bunker, and they never got to score on it.This is somewhat symptomatic of other issues. I don’t think the bunker should’ve been in no man’s land (it should’ve been part of the fortress). This would’ve allowed them to deploy in it, and also would’ve prevented them from putting an objective in a spot that we basically couldn’t get to (except with jump infantry, of which we had a total of six flamers in the army).
- I tried to let people enjoy themselves: I love the concept of being magnanimous, but I don’t think I do well at it in practice. Us demons were trying to pour through the wall as it came down in small sections, and there were very precious few holes for us. Though I was in the front, and my nurglings were already up to 17+ on Epidemius’ tally, I had them stand aside so that Tony and Andrew could charge into combat. The problem was basically those walls proved so hard for us to take down, and all of us effectively had combat armies. I had Ku’gath & my Plague Tower as my guns—though they weren’t able to fire half of the time because doing so would’ve caused damage to my allies (or otherwise covered them with templates, making it illegal to fire them). So, I managed to lob off a few rounds. With most of my army being assault oriented, I managed to get into combat with two of my demon princes (one against a squad of two scarabs, and the other against terminators), and at the very end, I managed to get a single squad of nurglings into combat with a Black Templar squad. The following units played absolutely no part in combat/shooting for the entire game:
So, two princes, a squad of nurglings, Ku’gath, and my tank, all managed to do something—albeit very little. Technically my Doomsday device killed a storm raven on the last turn of the game, but it was pointless at that point–I just wanted to do something with it….
My lack of involvement in the game was assuredly my biggest reason why I didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps I should’ve spoken up more at the beginning when I saw the problems, but I didn’t want to be seen as pessimistic… Instead, when we got through the walls, I knew Tony and Andrew were in similar positions the entire game, so I let them move ahead of me.
But I wasn’t good at that. At times I demanded from Andrew that he let me in (him being a good guy, naturally obliged), but eventually I caved and let him take the spot.
So those are my thoughts. While the good vs. bad is relatively even in number of bullet points (Though assuredly not in length of diatribe), I’m putting this down as the first Apoc game that I played but didn’t enjoy.
Ultimately, the number one factor in my decision has to be that I didn’t get to really play the game. I was locked down and felt fairly helpless the entire game. I’m sure it has something to do with my army list (being practically unable to help break down walls is more than a little problem), and something to do with the setup/terrain. Since I knew we were assaulting a fortified location though, I’m likely to shoulder most of that blame.
Oh well, live and learn, eh?
For those that are interested, the final score was 21:14 in favor of “Team Evil.” Though we ultimately won, I don’t take credit for that victory at all (nor do I think that anyone on my side really deserves it). The only thing we’d done was hold the objective in our deployment zone for the entire game uncontested. Sure, that turned out to be a total of 10 points, so one could argue that we did win the game–scoring half of our points for the entire game as the other forces actually contested objectives, but the real statement would be that the Imperials lost the game more than we’d won it.
They put that objective on the nearby bunker in no-man’s land and were never able to hold it (since the door was outside their gate). That alone cost them 10 points–and the fact that they never came into demon-land to contest the other objective probably cost them the game. Well, at least that’s my take on it.