Last weekend I wound up playing against Brandon and what turned out to be one of the worst beatings I’ve ever taken in my entire life. Don’t believe me? See it for yourself at this blog post.
So, when El Sambro (name changed to protect the innocent) challenged me to a game against his Knights, I was naturally a bit skeptical; however, I figured it couldn’t be worse than last week, so dutifully obliged.
He had replied to the group and then email prior to the game that he could potentially take four nights. I thought he was joking. Even if he wasn’t, it was unlikely that I was the one that was going to be facing him. Whatever the case, I built an army to take on all comers. So, it wasn’t designed to fight against nights, but when he said that he was serious, I looked at my list and thought “I think I could probably do this.”
So, it wasn’t designed to fight against nights, but when he said that he was serious, I looked at my list and thought “I think I could probably do this.”
And so the game began…
El Sambro’s Imperial Knights (Household Detachment):
- Knight Warden as his Lord Baron (WS 5 BS 5) with the Mark of Omissiah (It will not die) meltagun upgrade and twin autocannon upgrade.
- Knight Errant w/ meltagun upgrade.
- Knight Paladin w/ twin autocannon upgrade.
- Knight Crusader w/ rapid fire battle cannon upgrade, ironstorm missile pod upgrade
When I pointed out that I sprung a Hierophant on him in a friendly game, that was all he needed and the battle lines were drawn…
- Chief Librarian Tigurius (Force, Subvert Machine, Reforge, Fury of Mars, Machine Flense)
- Ironclad Dreadnaught w/ Heavy Flamer
- Venerable Dreadnaught w/ Twin-linked Lascannon & H.Flamer
- Dreadnaught w/Multimelta & H.Flamer in Drop Pod w/ Deathwind Launcher
- 10x Tactical Marines w/ Lascannon, Plasmagun & vet Sarge w/ powerfist
- 10x Tactical Marines w/ Multi-melta & Meltagun in Razorback w/ Las/Plas
- 5x Space Marine Scouts w/ Bolters & Camo Cloaks inc. Heavy Bolter
- Fast Attack:
- 1x Stormtalon w/ Assault Cannons & Skyhammer Missiles
- 1x Attack Bike w/ Multi-melta
- Heavy Support:
- 1x Stormraven w/ Lascannons & Multi-Meltas
- 3x Centurion Devestators w/ Grav Cannons & Hurricane Bolters inc. Omniscope
The point of this army was that I had recently painted up my storm Raven and I wanted to see how it fared on the table. I included that and wanted to include a squad inside it and a dreadnought. Nothing seemed more epic than to include the ironclad. Then, for the squad inside I wanted to go with something that could shoot, wasn’t terribly expensive, and could hold an objective. Scout seemed ideal since I could use the “grav shoot insertion” rule and drop them on objective.
Since I was tying up a lot of points in reserves, I wanted to use Tigurius to help and sure if they would come on in a timely fashion. I added the dreadnoughts because I wanted some more reserves and some long-range firepower. The tactical Marines were to fill my troops lots. The devastator’s were to accompany the librarian.
One interesting thing about this game is that, since we were originally going to play on Friday, this gave me some time to think of strategy. Having never faced a Knight before, I turned to Twitter for some advice. I got replies from a couple of people including Thor from Creative Twilight, and Greggles from Feed Your Nerd. Some of them were helpful: telling me to shoot down knights close to others in the hope of hurting them in the explosions, or engaging them at range (something my list was clearly going to have to do anyway). Others were less so, telling me how terrifying knight lists were in general (which I already knew). Still, it was great to get some feedback.
One thing that was clear to me was that the game was going to come down to luck. I felt like he had a slight upper hand, but with so few models on his side of the board, it felt like it was going to come down to whether he could make his field saves or not. A string of lucky 4+ saves could essentially make his army invulnerable to me. Conversely, a few bad saves in a row could spell his downfall…
Mission & Deployment:
For the mission, we rolled up “Tactical escalation” from the maelstrom of war section. This is the mission where you get one Objective for each turn plus one objective for each previous term. Frankly it wasn’t my ideal option. I figured that I had a lot of units at the beginning so I had more options to claim objectives before all of my units were blown to smithereens.
The terrain had already been set up the night before and as luck would have it it was just an open field with some hills and small pods of forests. When we deployed objectives I tried to deploy them to the side with the most woods, figuring that would give me both the cover and the objectives that I would need. Of course, that means that I was kind of putting all of my eggs in one basket should I lose the role to see who goes first.
Of course, Murphy’s Law dictated that I lost that roll and that my opponent chose the side with better cover and more objectives. He didn’t need the cover, but then again he figured neither did I.
His deployment was all about protecting the firing platform knight in the center of his force with clear line of sight to the entire table. In doing so, he flanked it to either side with other knights, and then deploying his melta-knight entirely to one side with the intention of moving forward and then pivoting his entire force on the fire platform to clear the table of Ultramarines.
For those that don’t already know, I’m absolutely terrified of large blast templates. This army was ridiculous to set up against. Though, in a way, I think it allay my fears–at least for the one game. That’s because the rapid-firing battle cannons were actually about the least offensive of his weaponry. Sure, they’re nasty against infantry, but my force really didn’t have all that much of it, and several units were able to hide in vehicles. What did terrify me was the large-blast melta weapon.
Since he had deployed that on the far side, I tried to avoid placing anything within it’s firing arc. Sadly, I wound up with one squad that I felt I had to deploy on that side of the table. Of course, I could’ve deployed it with the other squad on my left flank, but that only made larger pockets of marines to die to battle cannons. So, at least there was some chance that they could scurry over and grab an objective at some point before dying, right?
Otherwise, I adjusted things from my list build subtly: there didn’t seem to be much value in keeping the scouts inside the stormraven, and the librarian would gain some durability by hanging out with the devastators, but it didn’t seem like he would live to be able to use his powers if I went that route.
I failed to seize the initiative and he took the first turn…
Turn 1: Knights
Did you know that knights move 12″? Really, there are very few weaknesses of these guys. Sure, they’re superheavies, so it makes sense that they get a 12″ move, but I had blocked that from my memory, and was shocked when they started scurrying around in front of me.
The melta-knight moved up and even ran a little bit instead of shooting. Sam (er… I mean, El Sambro), was worried about fire arcs and so wound up trying to run and rolled very poorly. After we ironed out how firing arcs went, he wanted to take back the run and nuke me, but I held him to it–which is rather unlike me, but his army just looked so devastating that I went against our usual friendly-game tactics and made him stick by the run.
When shooting came up, things weren’t quite as bad as I had expected. Sure, things were bloody, but he didn’t manage to kill of an entire squad of anything. Most of my models received some sort of cover save, so he only killed off five tactical marines and a centurion. In hindsight, that doesn’t sound so bad, but it really felt like he whittled down multiple squads down to their bare bones and would be killing them on the following turn. What I had going for me was that only one model that had died (Centurion) was carrying a heavy weapon…
He scored an objective for… well, I forget. I’m out of practice with battle reports, so I forgot to take pictures of all of the objectives that were scored during the game. I’ll try to do better in the future.
Score: Knights 1 vs. Ultramarines 0
Turn 1: Ultramarines
My Multi-melta dread arrived from reserves with the sole mission of crippling his shooty-knight. It just didn’t seem like he stood a chance of surviving if I placed him there though, so I opted instead to drop on his flank and kill that knight. I deviated slightly but managed to land in such a way that I could gain cover from the pod and still fire the melta-weapon at short range. He had opted to put his field in the front, so had no chance of defending, and I rolled a lucky penetrate and did three hull points of damage.
Everything else in my force followed suit, and by the end of the turn I was able to destroy 1/4 of his army. Granted, it took my entire army getting out of position and firing on him, but it felt like something I had to do. It had less to do with my rolling and more to do with the fact that Sam somehow failed all of his field saves to allow those last three shots through. When it exploded, it managed to fall on the drop pod and catch the dread in the fireball, but both emerged unscathed.
I didn’t score any objectives, but I credited myself (somehow) with first blood.
Score: Knights 1 vs. Ultramarines 0+1
Turn 2: Imperial Knights
After taking a shot up the kiester with a melta weapon, he wasn’t prepared to allow my dreadnought to roam unabashed through his lines. He turned two knights towards him to make sure that the guy would die. That seemed a bit like overkill to me, and left him with some questionable firing arcs with the second knight, but he wanted to make sure that the dread was no longer a problem.
Though he did have rather bad firing arcs, he made the most of them and managed to also kill a scout and, more importantly, the rest of my centurions. I was certainly sad to see them go…
Sam scored another objective for destroying a unit in the shooting phase. Actually, he had destroyed three, earning a D3 worth of objectives, but rolled poorly.
Score: Knights 2 vs. Ultramarines 0+1
Turn 2: Ultramarines
Thanks to the strategic planning of Tigurius (who allows you to re-roll reserve rolls), I managed to get in both of my flyers on turn 2, and continued my tactic of focusing on one knight per turn. Though I wanted to take out his leader first, his gun-platform proved to be the better target based upon positioning. I was careful to bring my flyers on in such a way that they each had range to multiple knights and that they were in different firing arcs (in case he pulled anything fancy with his shields)–though I didn’t give much thought to what they were going to do in future turns.
Still, I managed to put the Stormraven and my venerable dread in his side arc, Stormtalon in his rear, and left and still had a couple of lascannons from tactical marines & transports, plus a multi-melta attack bike in his front arc. That way I could ensure that he didn’t get saves against everything. Sure, it pulled me out of ideal positioning, but it had worked last turn, so it was worth another shot.
As luck would have it, I managed to do enough damage to blow up another knight–only just–but to do so, he had to fail every save.
Sadly for him, he did just that. By this point he was 0 for 5 on his saves. Actually, it was worse than that. I had enough leftover shooting that I was also able to plink off a hull point on his commander, who also failed a save making him 0 for 6.
Tiggy also managed to heal my Stormraven (Who had taken some interceptor fire upon entering the board) with his “reforge” power.
I managed to score one point for sneaking my scouts forward into his deployment zone and another for holding “at least two objectives and twice as many as my opponent.” For those keeping track, it meant that I held two objectives (he had moved off several during his turn), but I only scored 1 on my D3.
Score: Knights 2 vs. Ultramarines 2+1
Turn 3: Imperial Knights
Sam drew cards where he would achieve points for killing models in shooting and for killing them in assault. The shooting card he would not achieve in this turn, through some miracle of bad dice rolls on his part and good armor saves on mine. Since he only had two units on the table, he just didn’t have enough shooting to achieve it once the first knight whiffed.
The melta-knight did have guns on him, but he could only see one tactical marine (as my multi-melta had spent the entire game hiding behind a tree–completely obscuring him from the enemy lines). So that meant that he could fire his melta-cannon at my venerable dread, but that would mean that he’d also have to fire his melta-gun at my tactical marine–and somehow not kill the only marine that he could see. Sure, he could’ve missed, or possibly not wounded, or I could’ve even made a cover save, but those weren’t chances he wanted to take. He wanted to ensure that he got the charge (which I think was reasonable, since firing at the dread wasn’t a sure thing to destroy it, or even cripple it).
I had dreams of him failing the charge, but given his size, that just wasn’t in the cards. Alas, the multi-melta didn’t even have line of sight, so he couldn’t overwatch (not that it would’ve mattered, mind you).
An interesting thing to note was that at this point, neither one of us had drawn an asset card where we had to hold a named objective.
Score: Knights 3 vs. Ultramarines 2+1
Turn 3: Ultramarines
We did have an audience though, and Brandon convinced me to focus down that Knight instead. I’m not sure if he was telling me to fight that knight because it was the better move, or because he thought it gave El Sambro a better fighting chance after losing half his army in the first two turns. My instincts were to play it safe and keep the flyers in the sky–but his argument was enough to swing me.
The Stormraven dropped from the clouds and unloaded it’s cargo in such a way to surround the melta-knight. Tigurius and the tactical squad (with melta-gun) in it’s rear arc, the Stormraven in it’s side, and the Ironclad (and a Venerable) in it’s front arc. Tigurius landed Machine Flense in the rear arc and ripped off three hull points, while the rest of the models managed to do the remaining three wounds thanks to two more failed saves. So now he was 0 for 8 on saves and down to a single knight…
I also managed to pickup (and score) two objectives allowing me to pull ahead in points for the first time during the game as well.
Score: Knights 3 vs. Ultramarines 4+1
Turn 4: Imperial Knights
At this point I offered to call it, because things were pretty clearly leaning in my direction, but El Sambro offered to let me try to table an army of knights, which was really enticing to me, so we continued on. For objectives, he had to kill a flyer and a vehicle, plus he drew a Titan-specific objective where I could nominate a unit that he had to kill to earn a third.
The most advantageous choice would’ve been my scouts as he couldn’t see them, but that seemed hardly sporting, so I instead named my Stormtalon, which made it a particularly tempting target. Unlike my Stormraven, he had stayed in the air, and had even passed an agility test in the previous turn to take some pot shots at side armor.
Sam started firing at me and I immediately jinked. When the weapon failed to hit or even glance my flyer, I declared him to be “unjinking,” only to immediately “rejink” when the next gun was fired. When that too whiffed, I “unjinked again,” only to “re-re-jink” from his Avenger Gatling Cannon–which too managed to whiff.
At least he managed to heal off a hull point from “It Will Not Die” (something he managed to do in the previous turn as well, but I forgot to mention).
Score: Knights 3 vs. Ultramarines 4+1
Turn 4: Ultramarines
Tiggy and company loaded back into the flyer and I pushed forward surrounding his warlord for the final epic slaughter. Well, at least that’s the way it felt. In actuality, it was just one giant whiff-fest. I’m not sure that I managed to any damage to him this turn–or if I did, it was nominal at best.
I did mange to score five more victory points, largely for holding a bunch of objectives–so that pretty well secured my victory for the game.
Score: Knights 3 vs. Ultramarines 9+1
Turn 5: Imperial Knights
With my Stormtalon easy pickings, I opted instead to make my Ironclad worth the extra points for this turn–hoping that he would charge me with his knight and I could let the Ironclad have a shot to destroy him in assault. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be, as he split his fire between the two flyers, ripping a gun off the Stormraven and taking it to a single hull point–at least it gave Tiggy something to do next turn…
He didn’t kill either in shooting, so wound up charging the escort flyer and vaporizing it, earning himself a couple of victory points–but pulling himself off the objective as well.
Score: Knights 5 vs. Ultramarines 9+1
Turn 5: Ultramarines
I was going to try to end it right there, but I had drawn the objective “Domination” and the peanut gallery goaded me into completing it. If you’re not familiar with it, Domination is the ultimate “win more” objective that allows you to score D3+3 points if you’re holding all of the objectives at the end of your turn. It’s easily the silliest of the lot because if you’re already on every objective, you’ve likely practically tabled your opponent and have essentially won the game.
Still, it’s something I’d never seen done before, so I figured I’d nab it. It came down to a couple of run rolls and one razorback not immobilizing itself, but I did manage to score it.
I also managed to another five hull points of damage to his knight, but couldn’t eek the last one through. By some miracle, he also managed to make his first save of the game!
Score: Knights 5 vs. Ultramarines 16+1
Turn 6: Imperial Knights
Random game length showed no mercy and we pushed on for a sixth (and final) turn. In order to try to hold all of the objectives and also get enough damage through to end the game last turn, I wound up disembarking everything from the Stormraven in the previous turn. Tiggy wound up all on his own throwing Machine Flense (which did another hull point of damage) and then had Fury of Mars denied.
Apparently that was enough to taunt the behemoth upon him, and after it blew up the Stormraven, it charged down and killed my warlord in a challenge.
Yes, apparently some knights can issue challenges as well. How ridiculous is that?
Needless to say, it didn’t end well for our hero.
Sam did score two more points for killing a unit in assault and killing one in shooting, plus slaying my warlord, so that turned out to be a little feather in his cap.
Score: Knights 7+1 vs. Ultramarines 16+1
Turn 6: Ultramarines
With six melta or las weapons on the table, it was a matter of how I killed him, not when I killed him. I tried to give the victory to the Ironclad, but he managed to be completely ineffective with his gun–and as much as I wanted to kill him in combat, I didn’t want to depend upon that, so a random lascannon from a tactical squad sealed his fate.
When he died, he exploded directly onto the Ironclad though, and rolled a six on the Apocalyptic damage table, vaporizing him in the process. Of course, he failed that save too, making him 1 for 13 for the day.
I earned three more victory points for holding various objectives, another for (finally) killing his warlord, and one more for linebreaker.
Score: Knights 7+1 vs. Ultramarines 18+3
Though I was initially figuring I’d be tabled, I actually had quite a few models left at the end, including:
- 1x Las/Plas Razorback
- 5x Tactical Marines w/ Plasmagun & Powerfist (I had forgotten they were in the Razorback)
- 3x Tactical Marines w/ Lascannon (the rest of the squad from above)
- 5x Tactical Marines w/ Meltagun (hid in the Stormraven most of the game)
- 4x Scouts
- 1x Venerable Dread
- 1x Attack Bike
I think that’s a pretty impressive loadout. Of course, this was largely due to his failed saves. During the game, we tried to keep track and said he was 1 for 17, but as I re-assess after the game, it looks more accurate to say 1 for 14. Either way, that’s fairly abysmal. Brandon had suggested that I would’ve still done well even if he made a more average amount of saves, but I don’t know that you can say that. If he made even one more save on the first or second turn, that essentially gives him another knight to fight me with–causing more carnage in my ranks.
This game really hinged heavily on him failing those saves…
What I Learned:
Having never played against knights before, I figure I’ll focus this on those models specifically.
- Weight of dice matter. It’s no surprise that having so few dice meant that he was subject to getting really hot or really cold. It wasn’t a given from the start, but that was my assumption going into the game and proved to be true at the end. Knights, like any army that has only a few models is going to be really spikey in how it rolls. Unfortunately for Sam, he was cold (at least on his saves–his other dice seemed about fair).
- Fields move in the shooting phase. Since he chooses the direction of fields at the beginning of my shooting phase that means that things htat fire outside of that phase (ie. Psychics & Overwatch) can theoretically be manipulated to bypass the shields. I could’ve potentially done a better job of factoring these in, but things worked out relatively well from this perspective.
- Knights have all sorts of special rules. 12″ move, can challenge, can fire every gun at a different target, move through cover, etc. It felt like they had everything at their disposal. Plus, with all of the big guns, I felt (at the onset) like the only way I was going to win was by hunkering down in cover and winning via objectives. Clearly that wasn’t meant to be…
- Knights explode when they die. In Apoc most titans have a small chance of exploding, but knights always do so. That’s why Greggles was telling me to beat up on knights that were close to other knights (and why Sam kept them spread out a bit). Sadly, it felt like I was better off working on them from the outside in, but that also meant that they seemed to take out my units when they exploded. Maybe I would’ve been better following the advice and just hammering on the center of his army?
- Knights can be defeated. Sure, it was based on luck, but they’re not an auto-win. They’re really intimidating though, and I can see why people don’t want to face them, but I would do so again. It really helps that the guy piloting them didn’t go complete cheese. I know they can get worse with 3++ field saves and the like, so I’m glad he didn’t go complete-insanity on me.