The game was a little more haphazardly thrown together than previous events in the Vacillite Campaign; which is not to say it was equivalent to a pick-up Apoc game. True to form, it had some new twists we hadn’t experienced before, and some of the classic elements that have come to be staples in our in-house format.
"Infantry win firefights. Tanks win battles. Artillery wins wars."
The new additions to the format this time were the inclusion of a chess clock for timed turns (more about that in a future post), and the inclusion of an off-site space-hulk themed board called “The Okassisarian Cruiser.” Essentially this was supposed to represent a ship parked in space that could be boarded by either side and had several secret objectives. Basic rules were pulled directly out of the Imperial Armor IV: Anphelion Project rules for the Anphelion base, with some really minor modifications, such as:
- Units with Infiltration or other means of alternate deployment (such as Ymgarl genestealers) may deploy into the ship with these abilities.
- Models deploying via deep strike are allowed to enter the interior of the ship, provided their means of access makes sense in an enclosed environment in the sky. Units that teleport, or materialize out of thin air would be fine; though units that burrow through the ground, or access via a vehicle (including drop pods) may not deploy.
- Infantry units arriving from reserve may deploy into the ship via any of it’s entry points; they are assumed to be flown to the ship via means of a flying transport.
Additionally, each “room” of the ship had a secret (if not unique) purpose indicated by cards, which would be revealed upon entering the room. Those rooms were:
- Ammo Depot: While in this room, all models may reroll failed “to-hit” rolls while shooting.
- Infirmary: While in this room, all models receive a 5+ feel no pain save. Additionally, if you control this room (uncontested) at the end of the game, you may bring a single organism back to life.
- Escape Pod: This room is equipped with an escape pod (treat as space marine drop pod w/ homing beacon) that can be used during the movement phase (including the turn it is discovered) to transport to the surface. It can carry 12 models worth of units. When deployed, it will not deviate, does not have weapons, and will not capture/contest objectives. Remove the card after the pod has been deployed.
- Library: The secret of vacillite is revealed to you and your team. Immediately earn 3 victory points. For the next game, you are now a team leader, and your team will be the defender. Remove this card upon discovery.
- Storage Chamber: Packed with vacillite, this room counts as a scoring objective. When revealed, place an objective counter in it as a reminder.
- Weapons Battery:This room serves as a gun emplacement. If you control this room uncontested, one character model or squad leader may forgo it’s normal shooting to operate the building. If done, he may operate the weapons battery to fire on the battlefield below using the following profile:STR 6, AP4, Apocalyptic Barrage 3
Luckily we had 10.5 armies show up, so it divided into two teams rather evenly (for those wondering, the .5 army was Sam’s son, Luke, who brought his models, but not an army per se; ironically though, that’s the force they ended up playing with instead of Sam’s models). Without previously planning, teams were chosen “logically” instead of randomly, and we quickly bid on deployment.
Our Xenos team left the room to strategize and really we all just stated how quickly we could deploy and let our team leader (Jeff) make the final decision (which I believe was 10min). Left to their own scheming, the Imperials seemed to have much more involved plans, and opted to bid 30 minutes for deployment, stating that they’d like to react to where we placed our bio-titans. This was the first rub of the day, since we were following the same rules from the previous game which involved “simultaneous deployment” (as described here). The maximum allotted time was to be 20 minutes, but they’d forgotten how the deployment worked, and that they wouldn’t really get to react to our deployment anyway.
There’s some debate to be had here, and rather than get into it, I think I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, not all sides were 100% pleased but, since we surround ourselves with good players, nobody seemed terribly miffed.
After standard deployment, special time was allowed for each team to deploy infiltrators, ours seemed to be fairly heavy in that department with multiple squads of kroot, genestealers, and even a strategy card that allowed another unit to infiltrate, so we loaded up the ship. Seeing our overwhelming numbers, the Imperials decided to forsake the ship altogether instead, choosing to fight over the guaranteed objectives.
Broodlord: "Yesss, thiss button will do nisssely."
In hindsight, everyone agreed that the ship was a great idea, but one that just didn’t pan out. Over the course of the game, team Xenos deployed several additional units to the ship, but the Imperials never made contact. So, what could’ve been a great new twist on conflict sat off neglected to the side. Oh well, I got to drop Apocalyptic templates from my Broodlords onto unsuspecting victims. Apparently, they’re smart enough to learn out to press big red buttons…
After deployment, the Imperials tried twice to seize the initiative (aided by Mr. Coteaz), but failed each time, and we were on our way. Not without some devilish trickery, they delayed one of our Bio-Titans into reserves and played another strategy card which restricted my units from charging on the first turn of the game. Cole had done this to repay me for doing the same thing to me last game, causing my Trygon formation to sit idly by while the battle raged around them.
Draigo goes on a rampage...
Turn after turn, we would score more objectives than our opponents (aided by the two free uncontested objectives in the Okassissarian Cruiser above), but each turn I scratched my head and wondered just how we were managing to stay in the lead. Clever use of focusing fire on the Imperial side lead them to destroy unit after unit. Their obvious targets of opportunity were the Bio-Titans, and they did a reasonable job of eliminating them. After their first turn of shooting, two of them were down to half strength (and the other hadn’t yet shown up). By the end of the next turn, one had died off completely in assault (at the hands of Kaldor Draigo and his cronies), and mine was down to just two wounds. Simons, which had been delayed a turn lived to see one more round of shooting before he fell of the fate of letting me roll his dice.
Everyone has those miserably experiences where nothing goes right, and this was that phase. Charging in with his boatload of attacks, I’d only managed to hit with 2 of them (though, for the record, the entire game I’d forgotten that Titans get scything talons for free… DOH!). Anywho, of those two attacks, I’d managed to roll snake-eyes for wounds. In retaliation, the GK terminators managed to sneak in two thunderhammer attacks, for which I failed both saves. Then, as expected, I was forced to make two “fearless” armor saves due to “no retreat.” How hard would it be to roll 2+’s?
Pretend this is a picture of Yarrik
Impossible, it turns out, as the dice come up snake eyes again.
This only served to further raise the hopes of the Imperials, as they took the titan out the following turn. So, three titans down, one left.
Oh, I forgot to mention that Blaine played “reserves” on his Titan to bring it back into the battle at full strength. It only took another turn or two for the Imperials to blast that to smithereens (if I recall correctly, that too met it’s final resting place at the hands of Kaldor Draigo). For the record, I also watched him kill off the Swarmlord (and retinue) and several Tervigons. Knocking out 3000+ points in models—I’d say he was definitely a good investment for Cole.
The Fiercest Tyranid
Elsewhere, there was an epic struggle with a lone Tyranid Warrior and entire Ultramarine Assault Squad. You might remember the warriors as being the ones stranded in the cruiser above, but they managed to find an escape pod and teleport down to the middle of the battlefield. Once they arrived, seemingly a thousand guns trained on them and withered them down to a handful of models, at which point they were savagely assaulted by the marines. Quickly, all the bugs were annihilated, except the final warrior, who held out an absurd three full game turns against 8 assault marines (including a sarge with power weapon). He even managed to kill off a few marines in the process. Without a doubt, he was Simon’s MVP for the game.
Malfunction = Tau
As for the Tau, I think they played in the battle, but more as a speedbump for the assaulty armies than as any real means of damage. Poor Jeff, try as he might, he can never seem to do any real damage with rail guns. Though he had some clever tactics that he tried to pull, nothing seemed to work out for him. But we didn’t consider him a handicap, if anything, he was just our team’s offset to Kris, the man who can’t roll higher than a 3. One of these days, we’re going to have to buy that guy some new dice…
For my forces, the only unit that really pulled it’s weight was a single squad of Ymgarls. It snuck on the board behind some imperial artillery, and managed to destroy a basilisk, and stop the rest of the attachment from firing for a turn, while also thwarting a nearby chimera. They were then harassed by some tactical reinforcements (in the shape of Ultramarines), but hid in a massive multi-assault against three units of guardsmen. Despite being outnumbered more than 10:1, my Ymgarls killed the sergeants and ran down all the platoons, consolidating into some heavy weapons squads and saving a nearby Hierophant (for one more turn). Their luck couldn’t hold out though, and the little men with big lascannons eventually proved to be too tough for the small (but plucky) band of aliens. Luckily for me, I held the infirmary, and was able to bring them back to life at the end of the game to give them a veteran ability.
Aside from that, I’m at a loss to provide epic reports of specific incidents in the game, but I was just one of ten players involved. Perhaps someone else has something else to add? In the meantime, enjoy some pics that were taken of the game in progress below:
I think all parties would agree that the game was great fun, though if you’ll indulge me, I’m always looking for ways to improve my game. So, I thought I’d take a moment to dig into what went wrong for team Xenos, and what we could do better to improve our outcome for future games. So, my thoughts on the subject:
- So I don’t discredit the other team, the first problem we had is that our opponents were on point this game. They had a solid strategy, powerful lists, good time management, & great execution. They focused fire on our key targets, and continually kept sight of the objectives. More than any other single issue, this was the reason we lost.
- By the same token, I think our strategy (or lack thereof) was a big downfall for us. We didn’t seem to have an overall focus on objectives, or focusing fire on targets to bring it down. Case in point: their Baneblade was peppered with fire every turn since the start of the game, and still was able to annoy us until the end.
- We put too much focus into the Ossidian Cruiser. Granted, we were able to hold two uncontested objectives per turn this way, but we really overcommitted our resources to this area. The two objectives could’ve been held by two smaller squads, while everything else could’ve added to the fray. Several squads of Kroot, an extra squad of ‘Stealers, a massive squad of Warriors, and two squads of Orks (including Ghazkull and his uber-unit) were all twiddling their thumbs in the hulk at one point or another. Granted, most were able to return to the battle via escape pods, but each was out of commission for several turns.
- We had put all of our eggs in three baskets. What I mean to say is that we didn’t diversify our units enough. Hierophants are good, but they’re not unstoppable. My list consisted of a Swarmlord, a Hierophant, the Trygon formation, and four squads of genestealers; leaving me with a horrendous model count. If something were to go wrong, it would go wrong quickly. Allowing diversified units in our forces would not only give us flexibility, but also increase our model count.
- Our enemies plan to kill Hierophants. Every Apoc game they have to face at least one, so I’ve noticed they seem to bring more and more lascannons each game. In effect, the Tyranid players have become too predictable.
- Lack of knowledge on our part. Nobody on our side (excepting Jeff) seemed to be at all familiar with the DH codex, which helped Cole and his insanely powerful special characters mop up an entire side of the board single handledly. Had we known more about our opponents, I think the Swarmlord could’ve/would’ve dispatched with the villain shortly. Instead he focused his attacks on the squad, and was summarily executed for his ignorance.
- Our team had some less experienced players on it. Sam & Simon both played the role of fathers with tweens, and wanted to allow the kids to make some of their decisions. In some cases, those weren’t ideal (but then again, some of the moves us veteran players were far from perfect as well). Though this might have meant a slight increase in mistakes, I believe that, if anything, it was more of a time consumer than anything else.
- I hate to be “that guy,” but when you look at the allotted armies: Tau, Orks, & Tyranids vs. Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Imperial Guard, Grey Knights, & Space Marines. Their force consisted of four of the most powerful codicies and one that I’d considered balanced. Ours consisted of older books, and the Tyranids, which I don’t feel is a bad ‘dex, but certainly not on par with the IG/Wolves/GK crew.
So, on to the regularly scheduled “What I learned section…”
What I Learned:
- Chess clocks are good. Turn times were slightly faster than they’d been in previous games, but not outlandishly so. It did help keep a sense of urgency to the game overall, and it was well received by all in attendance.
- The Grey Knights are as overpowered as I believed they were. This is the first game that I’ve seen them in since the codex was released, and they’re every bit as crazy as they seem. I’m not sure what the internet perspective on the ‘dex is, but I’d say it’s at least as ridiculous as any other codex out there. I know there’ll be some detractors though: case in point—Jeff seemed to argue that they weren’t that bad. The humorous part of that is to illustrate this point, Jeff would compare GK units to some of the best units in the game and explain how the GK version wasn’t that much more powerful. When you’re more powerful than overpowered units, you’re um… more than overpowered, but thanks for playing, Jeff. J
- More specifically: Lord Kaldor Draigo is pure insanity—especially against Tyranids (or demons). He’d wander into a squad a turn, turn on a Strength 10 demon-weapon and insta-kill everything in the unit. In future games, he’s definitely one to keep track of.
- Simultaneous deployment wasn’t as well received as I believed it to be. Though I don’t recall having issues with it last game, it was a hotbed of contention this time. I think this was due to some confusion on the Imperial team (caused, in no small part, by my lack of communication). I’m not certain if this was a problem with the actual rule, or just frustration at the communication gap though…
- Reinforcements on Titans is not well received. Future games will disallow using such strategy cards on any titan/super heavy.
- Balance is key. This is something that I’ve learned and re-learned again and again. Specific armies do well sometimes, but having tactical flexibility is huge. I, along with several other players on my team pigeon-holed ourselves into specific roles, and when things started to fall apart, we had no other option but to continue down the path we’d set forth.
Lastly, I wanted to throw a special shout-out to Simon, who was goodly enough to play the role of our resident photographer for this game. Without him, this would just be a wall of text. Thanks mang…