Thoughts on 8th edition

GW has put a lot into hyping up 8th edition and inevitably there is a lot of chat about it. I feel that I may as well post a few of my thoughts on what we have heard so far.

teasers: The first obvious difference is that way the rules are being slowly revealed. With 6th edition the store owners only knew a release was coming just before it happened and had almost no idea of content. 7th was really just a much needed patch job on 6th edition. This time it is different. It is the biggest rules change in a very long time and they want people to be ready. Instead of a surprise reveal, they are letting people understand the core mechanics a little at a time, which is a great idea.

All new codexes: This is necessary for a big rules shake-up, but frustrating for people who have just bought a new codex. However, it is definitely good for game balance. Some of my friends play Sisters of Battle and are still using a 4th edition codex, while I use my 7th ed Tau codex, with lots of juicy formations. When 7th ed came out, the first few formations were very balanced, but then the demons got a very powerful codex and then Necrons got all their cool, special decurion formations and things got worse from there. there is a tendency for new codexes to be overpowered, to encouraging buying the models. A fresh start means we get a balanced playing field. It also means nobody is left behind. When 6th ed brought in flyers, they were a game changer. Unless you had a new codex your army probably had nothing that could hurt them. People needed new codexes, with their own anti-aircraft weaponry and upgrades in order to fight them. They forced a rush to buy new models, but they destroyed game balance for years, while people waited for new codexes. With a clean sweep and a fresh start every army should, in theory, be on an even footing.

New armour rules: The combat rules all seem to follow quite closely to Age of Sigmar.  Clearly this was used for testing what worked well and what didn’t. The things people objected to, like no toughness, are being changed. The things that worked well are remaining. The armour save modifier for weapons is a good idea. You no longer have the all or nothing armour save. Your AP 6 does nothing, your AP 5 does nothing, your AP 4 does nothing, your AP 3 ignores the armour. Hardly. Much better to have an improved chance of punching through, but still allowing some save.

Cover saves: In the old game having marines in cover was utterly useless, except against heavy weapons. Standing a few feet away or hidden in a building. It made no difference. You had the same chance to hit or wound. A tank blows up the building, suddenly the armour is useless, but it’s ok. I’m hiding… really?

Under the new rules the shots are as likely to hit, but the walls might get in the way, so the cover save is a bonus to armour. I was expecting cover to give a penalty to accuracy, but when you see how it works with heavy weapons, it makes sense why it was added to armour. The tank blows up the building, blasting the walls apart, rocks fall, suddenly your armour is not as much help. A las cannon hits, melting through the wall in front of you, along with the armour. It makes sense and seems like a good mechanic to use. It also encourages everyone to use cover more.

No initiative: This rule was probably more for balance than any attempt at realism. In reality a charging person has no real advantage. The defenders have a tighter formation, can shoot the attackers. In an ancient army they can lock shield and set spears. Charging downhill can be good, charging uphill is stupid. Charging on the flat gives no real advantage.

Orcs are a melee army, but are soft and squishy. In the past if Orcs charged Tyranids or demons they would be ripped to pieces before landing a blow. Now whoever managed to line themselves up, ready to charge goes first. I guess this means the countercharge rule is gone. Is this realistic? No. Is it balanced? I don’t know.

In AoS the players alternate attacks, starting with the player whose turn it was to assault. In 8th edition all charging units act first. The difference is that 40K has overwatch. AoS does not. This rule is meant to balance out the combat, but it could skew it in favor of melee armies. It will certainly be good news for the Orcs and Necrons. Since most melee armies already have good initiative, it will probably not change that much for anyone else.

No templates: I liked templates. They gave a great element of luck, but I can see why.  They led to arguments about how many people were under the template. They slowed gameplay and sometimes the rule holes made them absurdly powerful. What do you mean, the template hits every level of the building? But those guys on the top are more than 12″ up. Your template is only 8″ long. Really? Ok. So, your one flamer has just taken out my four squads. Damn you GW! (In 5th ed it was the opposite. The blast hits the building, covering where the whole unit is, but as the unit is split between levels it can only hit a fraction of the unit). The lack of templates will speed up the game and reduce arguments.

No Formations: Really? Ok. Some formations are pretty broken. They give a lot of power to the units in them, as long as you fit the formation. They encouraged themed armies, but they broke the game balance. Scrapping all the existing formations means you still have the same themed armies, but without extra special benefits. However, Age of Sigmar has formations, so I expect that there will be new formations coming back to 40K. The only difference is that we will need to spend points for the special benefits being offered.

Vehicles and monstrous creatures: The line between these was always a bit blurred. A dreadnought is a vehicle but a riptide is a monstrous creature.  Ratling snipers can easily gun down a riptide, but are useless against the dreadnought. Why? Is there really such a difference? Now they are both being merged into having the same rules, like the AoS behemoth. They will have lots of wounds and may have lots of attacks. Getting rid of the distinction is definitely a good thing for game balance and should speed up gameplay. However, the AoS leagues showed that big behemoths and behemoth HQ armies dominated the game. I hope the 8th ed designers have managed to bring a bit more balance to the rules.

Independent characters: This is one that no news has been released about yet, but it is likely to be the biggest game changer. In AoS the heroes can not join a unit. they are always separate. They may offer benefits to nearby units, but those benefits are not usually overpowering. (bonus on attack rolls, bonus on morale etc). In 7th ed an independent character bestows many abilities on a squad. Shadowsun can make any unit have stealth, shrouded and infiltrate. the leaders can be massive force multipliers. They are also great meat shields.

I like to use a Tau commander with viridium armour and a drone controller along with a squad of drones. Not only does this give a 150% upgrade to the drone shooting ability, but it also gives them a 2+ armour save, buy getting him to lead the way. If any AP2 weapons are fired, the drones give him a 2+ look out sir. It vastly improves the durability and firepower of the squad.

If the HQ cannot join a squad then it means no deathballs. No piling on cool upgrades. The opponent can simply shoot past the commander and gun down the drones instead. If the HQ is a squishy summoner they usually need a unit to act as meat shields. Now anybody can pick them off. If 8th ed follows AoS and keeps the hero or HQ out of the unit, then it will make a huge difference to how they are used in the game. I can see a lot more officers getting picked off, not only by snipers, but by massed infantry fire, in preference to shooting the infantry.

I look forward to seeing the final rules, but so far, from what I have read, it really does seem like the GW hype is telling the truth. This probably will be the best ever edition of 40K.

 

Since I wrote this, GW released an update on Independent Characters, showing that they will be treated in much the way I expected. Limiting only snipers and units for whom they are the closest enemy being able to shoot them was also a good decision.

This really looks like it will be the best 40K ever.

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The undying: Tau vs Necrons

“Repeat. Proceed to …. 76.5… secure the….is a priority.” The signal was heavily distorted with static.

“Say again command. Proceed where? You are breaking up.” Shas’Vre Sa’Tan replied. He didn’t have time for this. The strange robotic aliens had ripped through their flank and overwhelmed it completely. He needed to prioritize his targets and form a sound tactical response, but field command were trying to give him other orders.

“Proceed to coordin… p0int 5….relay signal…confirm. Over.” Again, the signal was too broken to get through. 

“Sod it!” At least local comms were still working. He switched signal to the inter squad communications. 

“This is it. We are targeting those transports and the heavy weapon units. Follow my lead, split fire and follow my targeting signals.”

The crisis suits burst from cover, landing between two enemy units. Sa’Tan had never faced these aliens and they had very little intelligence on their capabilities, but the metal flying beetle things had taken out a Hammerhead in a single shot and the strange transport vessel was putting out a very heavy concentration of fire and now those two cresecent flyers were teleporting troops to the surface. His C&C node was drawing on the combined sensor suites of his unit. Combined with his improved multi-spectral sensor suite he was able to relay extremely accurate targeting information to the slaved targeting systems of his squad.

Superheated energy lances streaked from the fusion blasters, with enough power to melt through a starships hull. The targeting was good enough to get four strikes on a flyer, melting through it like a knife through butter and blowing it out of the air. The other transport vessel exploded in similarly dramatic plume of iridescent flame. However, even before the flames died down his augmented sensors could see the metal shapes pulling themselves from the wreckage. He just had time to shout a warning as the first shots were fired at his squad.

These things just wouldn’t die.

On Sunday February 26th Fatmantis games in Shenzhen held a Warhammer 40K mini tournament. It was a one day event of 1250 points per person. There were ten local members taking part. Each game had a time limit and was using a modified version of the Maelstrom cards. For me, it was my first tournament and my first time using Maelstrom objectives. It meant that as well as our main objectives, we had extra objectives to achieve every turn. In this game each of us had two objectives to secure, as well as secondary objectives and Maelstrom objectives each turn; such as hold either objective 1, hold either objective 2, completely destroy an enemy unit, have a unit in the enemy deployment zone, etc.

The first turn draw placed me against Bern and his Necrons. We were both using exactly the same lists as for our practice game the weekend before. The only difference was that my models were now more fully painted.

Turn 1

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As this was my first game, it it the one I remember least clearly. I also had no idea at first of how the game was being scored. My main mistake was to prioritize kills over objectives. My second mistake was from ignorance of how Necrons operated. I thought that passengers in a flying transport would take str 10, AP 2 hits when the transport was destroyed, which is why I concentrated on taking them down. However, for Necrons this was not the case. The transport isn’t really carrying them at all. It is more like a teleport relay. No matter how fast it moves, they can deploy safely, being beamed to the ground. If the transport was destroyed, they are unharmed and just walk on the next turn. This meant that they came in on my exposed side, gunning down my unit. Ignorance can definitely get you killed.

Bern set up first, deploying his destroyers, his Ark and his tomb blades. He then infiltrated his flayed ones onto an objective. I deployed my transport, tank and small fire warrior squad. My crisis suits infiltrated on his right flank. The Necron tomb blades raced forward and effortlessly wiped out my fire warriors, taking their objective.  The destroyers blasted my hammerhead, blowing it up with a single hit. The Ark shot my devilfish, causing 1 hull point of damage.

In order to get a point from a round 1 kill objective, I raced my breacher team forward and deployed them right in front of the Ark, in order to gun down the flayed ones. I took out the whole squad, but it was obvious that my breachers would not last turn 2. (I did score a few other objectives, but this was the only victory point that I got for the game)

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Turn 2: The Necrons deployed from the ark, to gun down my breacher team mercilessly, taking out most of them. A night scythe came in from reserve and attacked my stealth suits. The destroyers also targeted the stealth suits and some very bad cover rolls resulted in the loss of that unit.

My own reserve roll was pretty poor. The bomber came on and the crisis suits nearly did. I had tried to bring them in behind the night scythes, but they scattered to the edge of the board. I had just enough space to deploy them in a semi-circle, in base contact with the squad leader, but the marshal insisted that “start deploying in a concentric circle” means that they must be spread out to be in as much of a circle as possible. I don’t agree with that interpretation, but as it is their house rule I accepted the judgement. The result of the mishap was delayed arrival.  The bomber fired everything it had at the night scythe and scored two hull points. The surviving breachers boarded the Devilfish and along with the drones, I tried to blast the destroyers, to no effect. Away in the corner, away from the action the Tomb Blades were easily winning Maelstrom points, being on an objective and behind enemy lines.

Turn 3:

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The second night scythe came on and attacked my bomber. The destroyers and the Ark blasted my devilfish, wrecking it. One of the night scythes deployed a squad in cover, near an objective marker. Bern now had squads sitting on every objective.

Things were looking bad, but now my reserves came on. I really should have tried to take out the tomb blades, but I was convinced that taking out the flying transports would wipe out his reserve squad and his commander. I dropped both my commander’s drone squad and my crisis suit squad on the back of the table. My bomber flew into rolling reserve, but deployed the drones, to shoot one of the night scythes in the rear. The drones took out the damaged night scythe. My crisis suits split fire between the other night scythe and the Ark, causing them both to explode dramatically. My commander and his drones gunned down one of the destroyer squads from the rear. Suddenly things looked very different, but the Necrons still held all the objectives.

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Turn 4:

The trouble with blowing up the enemy transports was that the squad inside simply returned to rolling reserve and walked onto the board this turn. They blasted the drone squad, killing many of them. The other Necron squad blasted my drones, while the destroyers shot at my crisis suits, taking out 1 of them.

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I then did something both strange and probably stupid. I ran my breacher team to get to objective 2 and moved everyone else to attack the Necron squad. I blasted them with lots of melta fire and assaulted them. Unfortunately they rolled very well on their regeneration rolls and I was not able to take out the squad and my commander failed the charge.

Turn 5:

The Necrons gunned down what was left of my drone squad, killing all but my commander.  The destroyers blasted what was left of my breacher team and the struggle with my crisis suits continued. I was getting more hits, but they were making their saves or regenerating.

My commander fired off a few shots, but there was not really anything left for me to do. Incidentally, I completely forgot to bring my bomber back from rolling reserve.

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Final score: Necrons 10, Tau 1

Bern definitely deserved the victory. He kept his eye on the prize and secured every objective. He had his elite or heavy units sitting on objectives, cleared one flank and steered the combat over to the other flank, where his troops could be deployed to secure the objectives, so that my elite and fast attack units couldn’t contest them, unless we were to first wipe them out. My turn 3 may have hurt his firepower, but it did little to stop his strategy.

Whilst I suffered an overwhelming defeat, losing 10 points to 1, it was against the man who ultimately won the tournament and it was my only defeat of the tournament. It was an ignoble defeat, but I must have learnt something from it.

Mainly, I think I learnt to focus on objectives, rather than threats. Big, scary models and units can be avoided. Objectives can’t be ignored.

Thieving Necrons

It probably shows that I am not an experienced player, when I say that I had never played against Necrons before last Sunday. the experience was an ignoble one but still a good learning experience.

The game was intended as a practice for an upcoming mini tournament. I am not taking the tournament too seriously and was just using it as motivation to finish building and painting a few models and to try out some models that I had never fielded before (as well my favorite units). It was a 1250 point list. I had a small fire warrior squad, a breacher team in a transport, my commander had a drone controller and was leading a large squad of drones. I had crisis suits with fusion blasters and a buffmander squad leader. I also had stealth suits with a homing beacon, a hammerhead gunship and a bomber, that had all never seen action.

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My opponent had a Necron force with two night scythes full of troops, an Ark with upgraded armour (13 all around), flayed ones, a large squad of tomb blades with an improved jink and the ability to ignore cover along with two squads of destroyers with a lot of anti tank firepower.

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The game we rolled was relic.

Turn 1:

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I only had deployed first and infiltrated first. He had infiltrated his flayed ones close to the relic, forcing my stealth suits to come in further away. His forces shot at my transport, but due to night fighting and other upgrades, I was able to jink away from all the attacks. His command ability allowed him to cause my units to take pinning tests on turn 1 and they all failed. My tank shot at his heavy troops, but missed. The transport fired ineffectively too.

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Turn 2:

The two flyers came on. One zoomed forward and sat over the infiltrators, blocking my access to the relic. The other Ark moved up to also block my access. Both of them blasted my transport with everything they could. It was good tactics by him and showed that he had his eye on the prize. His infiltrators could relatively safely claim the relic. The other scythe hung back and shot at my tank, as did the tomb blades, who had moved into cover. He scored 1 glancing hit on the transport and the tank.

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Now my reserves came on, although unfortunately not the crisis suits.I should probably have concentrated on killing the flayed ones, but at the time I didn’t realise quite how important the race for the relic would be. Instead I brought the drones down near the destroyers. When they opened fire it pretty completely ineffective. I only inflicted 1 wound.

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My devilfish moved forward a bit, my stealth suits moved into the building for better cover and shot at the Arc, destroying 1 of the many weapons, and my fire-warriors fired ineffectively at the flayed ones. The bomber tried to bomb the flayed ones but missed. However the drones detached and shot one of the night scythes, scoring two hits. As the hammerhead had jinked I moved it at cruising speed and fired snap shots at the damaged night scythe, but it jinked out of the way.

Turn 3:

The damaged night scythe raced over to attack my drones and commander. He deployed his troops, who shot a lot of the drones. The destroyers lent their support, killing a few more and badly injuring the commander. The other night scythe took its place. The Arc and the troops inside shot at my devilfish and due to some poor jink rolls, managed to destroy it, scoring first blood.  The flayed ones ran for cover with the relic. I hadn’t realised that it could be moved and had nothing close enough to pursue them. The tomb blades shot ineffectively at the hammerhead, but did manage to force it to jink.

It was pretty clear that I was losing badly, despite the relatively low number of casualties. Fortunately the crisis suits came on, close enough to the stealth suits to use their teleport homer, and easily destroyed the Arc. The commander and his drones tried to finish off the damaged night scythe, but missed. My drones and hammerhead shot at the other night scythe, but it jinked out of the way. My bomber tried to bomb the destroyers, but did no damage. Most of the rest of the shooting was equally ineffective.

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Because we were practicing for a tournament we had given ourselves the same 1.5 hour time limit. We were virtually there and called the game. He had the relic and first blood. I only scored line breaker.

Necron victory: 4 : 1

There were a lot of things to learn from this. The main one was, go for the goal. I should have gone all out for the relic from the start. My commander could have done some damage there with his drones. When kill points don’t matter, I should not worry about conserving my troops. This is especially true in a timed game, where we will be stopped by the clock.

The drones from the bomber did quite well, but the bomber itself was not very effective. My hammerhead was jinking too often to shoot effectively. I need to think more about whether to bother jinking or not. I should also put more firepower against the night scythes as soon as they appear. Wrecking that and inflicting str 10, AP2 hits against all the troops inside would be the easiest way to take them out.

I also need to remember all my abilities. I didn’t remember the seeker missiles on my bomber or the upgrade to the commander, causing a unit’s weapons to get hot. There are too many things that I am forgetting.

It was a pretty strange game. Both armies proved very survivable. Only two transports were destroyed and a few drones smashed. My jinking and his armour combined with regeneration saved the rest.

Games Workshop are suddenly acting like a games company.

What has happened to Games Workshop?

What is the new CEO thinking?

After years of ignoring their customers, selling increasingly expensive models that hardly anyone can afford, making rules changes that compel customers to pay a fortune or abandon the hobby and selling huge boxed sets that offer no saving over buying the parts individually, they have suddenly started to get things right.

I first played GW games in the 80s and 90s, so I remembered things like Blood Bowl when it first came out. GW used to do a lot of nice, fun, stand alone games. They also did good spin off games, like Necromunda.

These games were fun and popular, but to the managers at GW these games were too limited. You only needed a few models. You bought your team, or your gang and that was it. You might occasionally buy a few new models to update your gang or team, but you didn’t need to keep buying more.

Warhammer 40K offered far better sales potential. Players could spend thousands of pounds or more on an army and then, when a new codex or a new edition came out, suddenly find their army obsolete if they didn’t spend hundreds or thousands more. This made money for GW, but it also cost them customers.

GW customers tend to fit into 3 groups. The teens who think the models look cool and get their parents to buy then an army. The geeky students for whom this is their main social activity (along with tabletop RPGs). The 30 or 40 something professionals who got hooked as teens or students.

The  trouble is that parents don’t want to fork out hundreds for something the child might quickly bore of. Students generally can’t afford to keep going when the editions change. This leaves the professionals who never grew up as the core customers. They could afford the big Knights, Titans and other giant war machines, but they were a limited market. GW needed more new players.

When they were criticized by customers, their response in the past has been “we are a first and foremost a model company, not a games company”. This is an utterly idiotic stance, because without the games, nobody would be buying the models. The models from the last few years may have looked great, but they did nothing to enhance the experience of playing the games.

What they seem to have forgotten is that it was the simple, easy, cheap games which attracted customers. Warhammer has often been called “plastic crack” and the stand alone games were the gateway drugs of the Warhammer worlds. They were the thing that got you hooked and made you want to keep playing more and more.

I played 40K as a teen in the Rogue Trader era and returned as a mature student in the 5th edition age.  Most of my friends abandoned 40K as soon as it changed to 6th ed. Their Orc and ‘nid armies became less effective and it would cost too much time and effort to try to build new armies.

As a teen I played the Warhammer fantasy RPG, but didn’t have money for the wargaming. I loved the flavour and the details of the Old World. I started collecting a Fantasy army around the time that fantasy was scrapped for copyright reasons. Instead we got the very vague and shapeless world of Age of Sigmar, which seemed a lot like 40K without the guns.The models are very detailed, but the introductory box was about £100 and there was no sense of who could play what models. Players needed to have gentleman’s agreements on what sort of game to play, or it could quickly prove absurd.

Then it all changed:

First it was the start collecting boxes for £50. A nice, small army at a bargain price. HQ, troops and something else at a discounted price. In the past GW had done some nice, bargain battleforces and it was a welcome return to the good old days. Instead of having to advise parents on several boxes to choose, the child just needed to pick an army and they had a perfect starter set, ready to assemble.

Next they brought in points values for AoS models. something which the community had desperately been screaming for. The rest of the General’s Handbook was a disappointment, but it was another step in the right direction. The objectives for battles did change the game considerably. Players with lots of weak squads having more versatility than those with a small number of unstoppable elite heroes and troops.

Then, tied in with the release and promotion of Deathwatch kill teams, 40K got the Kill Team game. A version of the 40K game which only used 200 points of models, with a few extra rules. A single squad of brave veterans against another small, elite force. It was a perfect entry game for Warhammer 40K.

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The Battle for Vedros boxes, which news leaked out about last year, are finally out, allowing children to have a cheap, easy to learn, introductory way into 40K. By using the old Black Reach snap fit models it kept costs down and made assembly easy for kids.

Then Blood Bowl returned. A fast and dynamic fun game, that did not need players to keep buying more models. The rules are relatively simple and it is more tactical than simply beating the opponent into submission. The turnover rule also means you need to think about what order to make moves, as a failed throw or a tripped player will end your turn.

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Now GW have brought out a series of boxes with a squad and a transport for little fore than the cost of a transport. £35 for a squad of marines in a drop pod, or Pathfinders in a Devilfish. Bargain. It is things like this that make people want to buy more.

My friend often complains that his wife can’t stop spending money. She goes out for some milk ans spends hundreds on things that were reduced, because she couldn’t resist a bargain. GW have suddenly noticed that bargains means sales.

It even looks like Sisters of Battle are finally getting plastic models and a new codex, after a decade and more of people crying out for both.

For Age of Simar they have done two great things.

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The first was Storm of Sigmar. A smaller introductory box for AoS, with just a few of the Stormcast Eternals and Bloodbound, along with dice and rules. Importantly it is only £20! That means that new players are getting to try the game for £20 ($33) instead of £95. They have also got starter paint boxes for both bloodbound and Stormcast for £10. Parents will happily put that under the Christmas tree and even better is that the best way to expand either force is with the pre-existing starter box. They have also got easy build boxes for the models in Storm of Sigmar, although buying the Storm of Sigmar box would get you the same models at half the cost.

In short, they are making it easy for kids to get into Age of Sigmar.

They have also brought back Island of Blood, albeit under a new name. Two full armies, with 74 models for just £50 (or $80). That is less than it cost when they discontinued the old boxed set, but this time you get twice as many bases, giving you a choice of what shaped bases to use. Spire of Dawn is a much better introduction into Age of Sigmar than the Age of Sigmar starter set.

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By bringing back some classic fantasy races this also makes AoS more accessible to people conceptually, than with the eternal, and pretty pointless, celestial struggle between the immortal warriors of Order and Chaos.

Well done Games Workshop. Well done Kevin Rountree.

 

A very quick battle

After my GSC game there was a guy at the club who I had not played against, who wanted a game. I needed to leave within the hour, but we decided to have a quick game and see how it went. To keep it quick we decided to play for kill points, with the same terrain. His orcs had completely obliterated the same GSC list earlier that afternoon, with the greatest of ease, so I was expecting a tough fight.379Turn 1: We had 4 matching dice rolls before I won initiative. I only kept the commander and drones in reserve. The rest was on the table. My opponent had 3 trucks full of boys, a shoota boyz squad behind a building and a commander with a bunch of bikers. He stole initiative from me and raced 24″ across the battlefield, firing off a few ineffective shots. His shootaz moved forward, into cover and fired shap shot. In total he took 1 wound from the broadside and killed 1 fire warrior.378My turn to retaliate. My pathfinders shot a truck, causing it to explode, killing most of the boyz inside. They were so shaken by the blast that they routed. My broadside shot at the bikers, killing a few of them. My other squad shot at another truck, but did not completely destroy it. My devilfish moved forward, to prevent the orcs from surrounding all the entry points.377Victory points: Orcs 0, Tau 2.

Turn 2:372 The orcs disembarked, swarming around to attack the pathfinders and the devilfish. Their shooting only killed 1 pathfinder, but they assaulted and overwhelmed the others and took up position in the ruin. The shootaz damaged my transport and the other boyz assaulted and destroyed the devilfish, forcing my tau to disembark.375The orcs attacking my broadside were unlucky. He got lucky on his overwatch and killed another orc and reduced the boss to 1 wound. The boss only had 2 orcs left. They managed to assault him and destroy him in melee.374It was now my turn to counterattack. My drones came down, ready to kill some orcs. My breacher team gunned down the nearby boys squad. My drones completely wiped out the second boyz squad, despite their cover and my fire warriors shot up the empty truck, causing a huge explosion, which engulfed my drones, killing 2.

Victory points: Orcs 2, Tau 5.

Turn 3: The surviving truck raced back across the battlefield, to join up with the shoota boyz. they shot up my fire warriors, killing several. The orc warboss charged at my drone squad, shooting a few, but was gunned down in a hail of fire from overwatch. The fleeing squad were still unable to rally. At this point my opponent conceded.

Victory points: Orcs 2, Tau 9

Overwhelming victory.

Analysis: Those drones kick ass! Overwatch works really well with drones, as they rely on twin linking, rather than skill. I got lucky with my broadside, but the orcs could not destroy my devilfish until after disembarking and once out of their trucks, they were very vulnerable to the weight of my str 5 shots. My list may not have any tank killers, but I can easily destroy orc transports and AP5 is good enough to ignore orc armour.

The whole battle took around 30 minutes.

Ambushing the ambushers

Last week I had my first game against a gene-stealer cult. I was also experimenting with an army list that I had not tried before.

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My force included a small group of pathfinders with 3 rail rifles, my broadside, a small fire warrior squad with a support turret and my two main squads. The first was a breacher team in a devil fish, led by an ethereal, as this had proved so useful in the past. The other was a squad of gun turrets led by a commander with a drone control link and counterfire defence system. After a lot of reading on the internet and talk with people in store, it seems that this is one of the few combinations that works through a drone controller. Thus my drones all effectively have BS5 and fire overwatch at BS2, twin linked. I had considered getting something to let them ignore cover, but decided against it, as in bigger games I want my crisis suit deathball to have that. I want to see how they get on without it.

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My opponent had a genestealer cult with two Leman Russ tanks and a couple of psychic HQ choices.

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Turn 1: The game started with very little on the board. My opponent had his tanks and one squad behind a building. I had my breacher transport, the small fire warrior squad and the broadside. Everything else was in reserve.

My opponent stole the initiative and his tanks gunned down my broadside. First blood to the GSC. My transport raced forward and there was a bit of shooting at the hidden squad, killing 2 men.

Victory points: GSC: 2, Tau: 0.

Turn 2: Oh no! All my opponents reserves came on.

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Two squads, with the psykers, rolled 5s fhe third squad rolled a 6 and would have been able to assault, but the hail of las gun fire predictably killed everybody in the squad. The tanks shot at the devilfish, but only scored 1 hit, with little effect. Fortunately my other units were not on the board, or things would have been a lot worse.

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Now it was my turn to hit back. My ethereal had a homing beacon, so my commander and the drones could safely drop within 6″. I lined them up so that they could all shoot at two of his squads, including the one with his general. My ethereal gave the breachers an extra shot each and they deployed, ready to gun down another squad. They scored 11 wounds, killing everyone except the HQ, who was badly wounded. My commander got a good hit with his airburst fragmentation launcher, scoring 8 wounds. The drones scored a further 16, completely killing the whole squad and the general.

Across the board, my pathfinders came on and shot a tank in the rear, scoring a penetrating hit, but rolling 1 for the effect.

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Victory points: GSC 3, Tau 3.

Round 3:

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The GSC infantry tried to shoot my drones, killing a few. The lone psyker made the mistake of joining up with them. The tanks turned themselves back to back, to protect their rears. One turned to shoot my pathfinders, killing the three with rail guns and routing them. The other shot at my devilfish, scoring another hit and destroying the weapon.

My commander and drones moved to get a clear line of sight on the infantry squad, gunning them down with the greatest of ease. The breacher team boarded the devilfish and raced across the battlefield.

victory points: GSC 3, Tau 5

Round 4: The tanks concentrated fire on my devilfish, but failed to score a clean hit. The infantry in the building managed to shoot one more of my drones.

I had no weapons which could harm the tanks either from in front or the side. I detached the drones from my devilfish and left them to shoot at the infantry, scoring two lucky hits. The devilfish raced around the building, hoping to get behind the tanks. My drones tried to move across my side of the battlefield, running and jumping to get into more cover, trying to approach the tanks from the opposite side.

victory points: GSC 3, Tau 5 (far enough forward to get 6 at the end)

Round 5: One tank shot at my devilfish, but didn’t destroy it. The other shot at my drone squad, killing several of them. My drones had got around the building and shot at the troops inside, ineffectually. I made the mistake of assaulting with the drones. They were gunned down by very lucky opportunity fire.  I then moved my devilfish forward, hoping that it might survive being rammed, so that the infantry could disembark far enough forward to run around the tank. My pathfinders rallied, but were too far away to do anything useful.

victory points: GSC 3, Tau 5.

Round 6:  It all goes horribly wrong. The tank rammed my devilfish, destroying it. The troops inside made an emergency disembarkation. The tank then gunned down half of the squad.  Instead of gunning down the shattered squad, I made the mistake of trying to run the squad forward, to get past the tank. My commander and the drones moved forward as fast as possible.  The pathfinders just moved to line up with their marker lights.

Victory points: GSC 4, Tau 5.

Round 7: One tank gunned down my breachers and the commander. The three extra victory points meant that it looked like it was all over and we almost called the game. The other shot up my commander, reducing him to 1 wound and killing all but 2 of the drones.

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The commander and the drones shot the other tank in the rear, destroying it completely. He then jumped forward far enough to score line breaker.

Battle ends.

Victory points: GSC: 7, Tau: 7. A draw.

Review: Firstly, I love the drone death ball. Fast moving and extremely deadly. This was a very close game. When the GSC came in so close I was worried, but there was very little for them to kill. If the GSC had not stolen initiative they would have hurt me badly. My aggressive tactics were too focused on the tanks and not enough on victory points. I really should not have ignored those last 4 infantry guys and I definitely need to give the commander a ranged weapon which can hurt tanks.

Wraith lord rampage

From all directions a barrage of weapon fire converged on the elegant humanoid form of the Ar’Cea war machine. Pulse weapon fire lit up its surface in a cascade of lights, the burst of fire from the air-burst fragmentation weapons and smart missiles rippled around it, like fireworks during a victory parade, but the silhouette of the alien machine kept coming. Even the cascade of ion cannon fire glanced ineffectively from its armoured surface, doing little more than scarring the paintwork.

A gout of flame burst out of it’s weapons. It only took a fraction of a second for the settings in the shas’vre’s helmet to adjust to the flare of light, but before it had, the wraith lord was upon them. The giant blade in its mighty hand sliced through the crisis suit in front of him, severing it in two, pilot and all. Then it plunged the blade through his crisis suit. The weapon was so sharp and the blow so fast, that at first he thought the knight had missed, but then it twisted the blade and withdrew it, spilling the shas’vre’s innards into the crisis suit’s interior. 

Shas’la Ra’kas looked on in stunned disbelief. The wrath lord has passed his squad by, dismissing them as a nuisance, not even worth the effort needed to swat them aside, on its way to the Shas’vre’s more heavily armed squad, but now…

“Pull back, firing on the snipers as you go.” The ethereal’s voice came over the comms, conveying such a sense of assurance and authority that the fear Ra’kas felt was driven away. “The knight is not a priority target. Just keep your distance. There are other foes for you to hunt.”

I have not fought against Eldar since the old days of 5th edition, and even then only rarely, so when a new player joined are club and quickly started assembling an Eldar army, I was keen for a match. It was a learning experience for us both.

We were playing a 750 point game. My force had an Ethereal as warlord, with a breacher team in a devilfish, a small squad of fire warriors with pulse rifles and a support turret, a broadside, a small squad of pathfinders with rail guns and two squads of crisis suits. Two suits were geared for crowd clearance, with airburst fragmentation launchers and burst cannons. The other unit had two with cyclic ion blasters and a shas’vre buffmander, with a command and control node, multi-spectrum sensor suite and Puretide engram neurochip.

warhammer-010I had been thinking of giving plasma rifles to my crisis suits, but I thought that the eldar would not have very many people with 3+ armour saves. I thought that 3 str 7 shots from the cyclic ion blasters would therefore be better than 2 at str 6. This proved to be a foolish mistake.

warhammer-016My opponent, Max, had a squad of rangers, 6 windriders with scatter lasers, a wraith lord, a Fire prism and a Vyper, led by a Farseer on a jet bike. Max hadn’t yet got around to painting the models, as he had only started building them two weeks earlier, but they were all magnetized and were a very nice, elite force. Given how quickly and diligently he has been building these, they will probably be beautifully painted pretty soon.

The game was Purge the alien, with night fighting on turn 1. Max got the initiative, choosing sides and deciding to go first.

warhammer-017Max placed everything on the board, holding nothing back. This surprised me, and I had given early warning overrides to a lot of units, in order to get interceptor. I put my warlord and the breachers into their transport, gave the broadside a vantage point and hid my fire warriors in a ruin. He then infiltrated his rangers into a ruin near the board center, giving them a great place to shoot from.

Turn 1:

The eldar warlord used his psi powers and gave the jetbikes the ability to reroll hits. The wind riders opened fire on my broadside. 24 twin linked shots at strength 6 resulted in 14 wounds. His 2+ armour save wasn’t enough and he was obliterated in a hail of laser fire. The rangers shot at my fire warriors, but the night fighting cover meant they only scored 1 kill. Everything else shot at the devilfish, but between night fighting and countermeasures I avoided everything with a 2+ cover save.

My fire warriors fired back and the turret killed 1 ranger. The transport raced forward as fast as it could go. There was nothing else for me to do.

Victory points: Eldar 2, Tau 0.

Turn 2:warhammer-021At this stage things were looking bad and I was at risk of my whole force being wiped out before any reserves could arrive. The eldar psycher buffed his unit to get twin linked attacks and reroll saves. The windriders, vyper and wraith lord all shot at my transport. The front armour deflected most of the 24 shots and my 3+ jink avoided all 4 glancing hits. I also avoided a 1 shot missile and a las cannon shot. The fire prism fired a large template at my fire warriors and the rangers also shot at them. They went to ground, but still took 3 casualties. The last survivor somehow made his leadership save.

Now my reinforcements arrivedwarhammer-022The crisis suits dropped down into the open space beside my opponent’s forces. The first squad scattered a little towards the wraith lord. The second scattered very close to the rangers. My ethereal invoked the storm of fire and the transport moved forward an deployed the breacher team close to the windriders. They fired a huge volley of 30 str 6, AP 3 shots. Even being able to reroll their jink saves, the squad took 6 wounds.

At this stage we messed up a few rules. I started by forgetting my command ability would allow me to reroll any 1s to hit for 1 round, which would have helped here. Max then forgot to declare look out sir, before saves were made. This didn’t matter too much, and as he is new I let him take the saves anyway. His warlord only took 1 wound, but the squad lost 5 men. Despite his psy protection the breachers still served their purpose.warhammer-024My crisis suits opened fire on the wraith lord and again I stupidly forgot my special rules. I remembered the twin link, but forgot about the monster hunter and did not reroll failed wounds. due to the 3+ armour save The unit only scored a single wound. The other crisis suits tried to hit the rangers, but being so close their template weapons hit the edge of the squad and after scattering only caused 2 wounds. The 2+ cover save protected them from the burst cannons.

I then jumped my small crisis team back, as a screen for the stronger team and my fire warriors got back up. My turn 2 was ok, but if I had remembered the rules correctly, I would have done a lot more damage.

Victory points: Eldar 2, Tau 0.

Turn 3: 

It was now time for the eldar to hit back, but it was fortunately also time for my opponent to make a silly mistake.warhammer-025The jet bikes jetted away and the psyker buffed the wraith lord’s saves. The fire prism fired a small template at my breachers, trying a strong enough force to punch through their armour, but it scattered away harmlessly. The wraith lord fired a flamer, hitting both crisis squads, but doing no damage and then fired its las cannon at the rear squad, missing. The rangers also opened fire, wounding one of the crisis suits. Max then realised that he couldn’t assault the squad in front of him and had to try to run around and assault the further squad. He failed his assault roll. The vyper shot at my last fire warrior, but he made his cover save.

It was my turn to hit back. My breacher team boarded the transport, which went after the vyper. The fire warrior and turret also shot the vyper, damaging it. My pathfinders finally came on, shooting at the rear of fire prism, but it jinked and avoided the shots.warhammer-028My anti-infantry crisis team decided to try to take out the psyker. Their template weapons killed the last wind rider along with two rangers and they injured the warlord more, but didn’t kill him. Given how resilient the wraith lord had been, I decided that a rerolled 3+ would be almost unbeatable and gunned down the fire prism instead, wrecking it easily.

Victory points: Eldar 2, Tau 2.

Turn 4: warhammer-031Max decided to focus on the further crisis suits. His wraith lord gunned 1 down and slaughtered the other 2 in melee, with a successful 7″ assault. The psyker buffed his saves, but failed his attack power. He then assaulted my drones and was gunned down in overwatch. The rangers shot at my fire warrior, who went to ground again, avoiding the shots. The vyper shot across the board flat out, to hide in the corner.

My remaining crisis suits were almost useless against the wraith lord, so they moved back, dropped two air-burst fragmentation blasts perfectly on the rangers, taking them all out, and jumped further away from the wraith lord. My devilfish went after the vyper and the drones moved towards the transport. My pathfinders were trapped in the corner, with nowhere to run, so they came out to shoot the wraith lord, but none of the rail guns scored any wounds.

Victory points: Eldar 3: Tau 5

Turn 5:warhammer-034The vyper tried to shoot my fire warrior, but he made a cover save. The wraith lord hit my pathfinders with two flamers, killing the squad.

My fire warrior and his support turret gunned down the vyper, destroying it. (he needs a cool name). My crisis suits and drones fired a few ineffective shots at the wraith lord, before jumping back out of assault range.

Victory points: Eldar 4, Tau 6.

Turn 6:

The wraith knight shot at my transport, but I jinked out of the way.

I decided to play safe. My crisis team stayed back in the opponents deployment zone and I fired off a few more ineffective shots from range.

Game over:

Victory points: Eldar 4, Tau 7.

Analysis:

The game was a pretty close match until turn 4. With much more on the table, the early rounds went to my opponent, but when my reserves came in things balanced out quickly. We both made silly mistakes and it could have gone either way.

My main weakness is that I keep forgetting about some of the abilities of my units. I am too intent on things that I want to do, to recall everything that I can do.

The psyker was great as a force multiplier and with a large, fast, armoured unit, was very hard to kill. It was foolish of my opponent to let me get so close to them. The greatest threat to me in that fight was probably the wraith lord. Melee is obviously the bane of Tau and that thing was so tough, up close. Snipers and poison shots work well against monstrous creatures, but I had nothing in my list that was designed with creatures in mind and my strongest attacks were lacking in armour penetration.

The decision to use the cyclic ion blasters rather than plasma rifles was may have been a mistake. I would score fewer wounds, on the wraith lord with plasma but would not need to worry about armour saves. It would have also made them an effective weapon for attacking the jet bikes, who also had 3+ armour.

I quite like using the smaller crisis teams, as it allows me to avoid making such a big target, and risk losing the squad in one bad scatter roll, but a large squad with the ability to split fire might have been just as effective and I would not have needed to rely on low strength template weapons for dealing with cover saves.

After the battle was over, I realised that my best weapon against the wraith knight was my completely uninjured breacher team. If I had unleashed their full firepower, augmented by my ethereal and remembered to use his command ability, they should have scored an average of 3 wounds. At 50 points the ethereal makes a nice cheap force multiplier and I think he is a better HQ for small games than a commander. Breacher teams are definitely becoming the core of my army, but they definitely need transports. I think my next model purchase will probably be another transport.