8th Ed debut game

As the Manta drew close to the drop zone Shas’O Kho’Lyn prepared himself for battle. The Guer’la colonies were being torn apart by civil war, since the emergence of the cultists. This meant both an opportunity and a new threat for the forces of the T’au. It left the planetary defences disorganized, allowing an easier attack, but it also meant that the planet was at risk of being overrun by tyrranids; something which the T’au could not risk.

An alarm klaxon sounded, signalling the drop and Kho’Lyn plunged into the abyss below, followed by his strike team. Relayed information from the fire warriors below showed that the Guer’la had a tank batallion moving through the drop area. A stealth team was located nearby. 

“Shas’O Kholin to Shas’Vre Aum’ka, I need a beacon close to that armour. We are inbound.”

“Roger that.” replied the Shas’vre. 

As the battlefield drew closer, Kho’Lyn’s suit registered a marker beacon and he fired his guidance thrusters, to manouver towards it. They were coming in fast, but kicked in the landing thrusters, just in time, to bring them to a stop within a few dozen meters of the tank column. Immediately, he and the supporting crisis squad opened fire with their fusion blasters, turning the first tank into molten slag before the guer’la knew what had hit them. The tanks tried to retaliate, but the gun drones supporting the squad jetted forward, to screen the suits from weapon fire. Several of them were incinerated by bolter and plasma fire, but neither Kho’Lyn or his Crisis squad took any damage.

Hitting their thrusters, they jetted forward, closing with the other tanks and causing the closest to explode in a gout of plasma and flame.

This battle would not take long.  

I have been very excited by everything I had read about 8th Edition and so, although I was bust preparing to move country, I desperately wanted to have a game of 8th Ed before I left. My opponent was the same GSC player who I had overwhelmingly defeated a few weeks earlier. We were playing a quick power levels game, with 50 points each.

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My force was led by a commander and a Cadre Fireblade. The fireblade started in a Devilfish, with a breacher team. I had a stealth suit squad infiltrating and a pathfinder team with rail guns. My commander had four fusion blasters. Each crisis suit had two fusion blasters. One had adrone controller and the other had a flamer each. I had a squad of 12 gun drones and both the commander and the crisis suits had marker drones. The commander, the crisis suits and the drones were held for a manta strike.

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My opponent had 3 Leman Russ tanks armed with lots of plasma. One of them had a tank commander. He also had a very large conscript force led by an officer, a commissar and a lord commissar. His force was rounded off by a squad of armoured sentinels armed with plasma. Although themed as part of his GSC force, they were using the regular Astra Militarum rules.

Turn 1: This was a learning game for both of us. I think it was Leon’s third game and my first. I’m really not sure if we did the set up properly, but I managed to finish deployment first. I think that we should have set up each squad, one at a time, rather than allowing my Devilfish and passengers to be set up as 1 unit. All Leon’s force was placed on the board and my army had 3 units in reserve and just over half on the board. We did have a scenario with objectives, but we both quickly forgot all about them, being more interested in seeing how the armies can fight under the new rules.

I got to go first and moved my stealth suits forwards, staying in a building, to set up their beacon. My devilfish also raced forward. Then my crisis suits and commander dropped down, close to the stealth suits, but within 9″ of the closest tank. My drones also came down close to the tanks, and the sentinels.

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My marker drones got 1 hit on a tank and then my crisis suits opened fire. They scored 3 hits on the tank and rolling twice for damage, destroyed it outright. The commander fired at another tank, damaging it, but not badly. The drones targeted the sentinels, but only inflicted 1 wound, despite a huge number of shots. The rail rifle pathfinders killed 1 of the conscripts.

My opponent retaliated, overcharging his plasma weapons and blasting my crisis suits. He rolled badly and only scored a few hits, but 2 drones got in the way, taking the damage. His sentinels advanced on my drones, firing their plasma weapons and then assaulted, destroying 3 drones and routing 2 more. His conscripts advanced an fired at the Devilfish, but only inflicted 1 wound.

Turn 2:

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My drones fell back from melee and my crisis suits and stealth suits advanced. The remaining marker light drones got 1 hit on the closest tank and the crisis suits blasted it, causing it to explode. The Cadre Fireblade, from the right flank, was able to score a marker light hit on the sentinels. The remaining drones fired at the sentinels, destroying One. My commander blasted another sentinel, causing it to explode, damaging another and killing a drone. The stealth suits shot the last sentinel, but didn’t quite destroy it..

Across the battlefield the breacher team and fireblade deployed in front of the conscripts and moved forward. The pathfinders scored 1 hit on the conscripts. I only then realised that the cadre fireblade could not give extra shots to the breacher time. His ability only worked for pulse rifles and carbines, such as the drones had. Despite this, they opened fire, killing many of the 30 conscripts. The rail rifles killed a few more and the devilfish, with it’s drones boosted by the fireblade, killed many more. The Lord Commisar shot a single man, preventing the last few conscripts from running.

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My opponent shot at my breacher team, killing 2 of them. The sentinel killed 1 more drone and the tank commander’s shots were soaked by another 2 drones.

Turn 3:

By this point it was hardly worth continuing. My forces advanced again. The breacher team finished off the last few conscripts. The fireblade lit up the sentinel, allowing the commander to easily kill it. Before the rest of my units had fired at the remaining officers and tank my opponent surrendered.

Result: Overwhelming T’au victory

Analysis: There are probably some things that we were doing wrong. For example, I definitely forgot to add the +1 to hit to my marker drones a few times and forgot about Montka etc. My opponent decided to give his tanks more infantry support in later games and found them far more effective that way. Despite any mistakes, the battle was clearly one sided. If we were playing a points game, I probably had about 40% more than my opponent, which shows that the power levels are not an accurate way to balance games for units with lots of upgrade options.

The army I used was very similar to the sort of force I would generally use and it worked extremely well. Previously my commander would usually have acted as a shield for the drones and boosted them a lot. Now it was the drones serving as a shield. Fusion blasters are still the best weapon for tank hunters and having such effective drone bodyguards keeps the crisis suits alive a lot more. I love the way drones work in the new rules. 4 shots each. 6 is close to a fireblade.

Despite them doing badly, there was a lot I liked about my opponent’s army. The armoured sentinels were very hard to kill. I think they would have done really well if they were armed with flamers instead of plasma. The lord commissar’s ability to stop a route by only killing 1 person was very cool and worked very well with his cheap troop option. 

I had heard a lot of speculation that T’au would be nerfed in the new edition. The crazy overpowered deathballs are gone, crisis suits are more expensive and more tactical play is needed, but it seems that T’au work very well fighting exactly the way T’au should. Shooting, falling back and shooting some more.

 

 

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.

Roadblock: Tau vs Orks

“Where the hell was the targeting beacon? Where the hell were those damned scouts?”

The battlefield was getting close enough for the Shas’vre to make out the conflict below. It looked like a wrecked Devilfish was blocking the pass. A cluster of ramshackled vehicles and smoking hulks were strewn across the valley. A cloud of smoke was spewing out of the Ork bikes racing towards the wreck and there, in the middle was the commander’s signal, surrounded by the greenskin warriors, with more bearing down on them. That had to be their target.

He adjusted his thrusters, trying to come down just to the east of the conflict. His squad were equipped for anti-tank combat, but the greenskins only had light transports, most of which were already wrecked. There was no way that they could cut down enough of the approaching horde to stem their advance, but they could at least buy time. Maybe it would be long enough for reinforcements to arrive. 

“For the greater good!” he cried out as he triggered the thrusters to slow his fall, bringing him down dangerously close to a vast horde of huge, heavily armoured hulking brutes.

The match up for the tournament was based on the results of the first game. I had assumed that this meant winners against winners and losers against losers, but with 5 games it also meant that someone who lost their first game would be playing someone who had won (a draw was possible but I didn’t hear of anybody having one). I was surprised to discover that my second opponent, Chris, came second overall in the tournament, so that person was clearly me. Not that I mind, as it was a great game.

My army was the same as before. My opponent’s army was completely different from my other games. He had five trukks filled with Boyz, as well as two trukks full of Meganobz (the loota wagon and battlewagon were proxying for trukks) and a large bike squad led by his warboss. It was a fast, mobile army, very capable of getting in close and overwhelming any enemy. Fortunately the board we were on had a lot of terrain.

The game we were playing was Relic, although there were also two objectives for the Maelstrom part of the game. One was in a bunker on my side, the other was in the open on my opponents end.

Turn 1:

I was able to choose sides and set up first, choosing the more open side, which made it harder for my opponent to bring in the reserves that he wanted. I deployed my transport and hammerhead as far forward as I could. My fire warriors were sitting in cover on one objective.

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My opponent deployed five trukks, holding the rest back, to avoid having his strongest units gunned down by heavy weapon fire. I then made the worst mistake of the game. I forgot to set up my infiltrators on the board.

I raced my transport forward towards the relic. I didn’t deploy troops, as I was sure that my opponent could reach me. My hammerhead destroyed one of the trukks, causing it to explode.

The Orks tried to advance. One trukk, on the far left, became immobilized on the rough terrain. Another trukk advanced and deployed his orcs, staying close to his objective. One raced towards the objective on my left flank. With little room to move the other trukk held back. The two squads of boyz ran forward and assaulted my devilfish, wrecking it and forcing the breacher team to disembark.

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Turn 2: I rolled badly on my reserve roll and only the bomber came on. No drones, no crisis suits and no stealth suits.

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My bomber targeted he trukk on my left, firing with the drones, missile pod and both seeker missiles in a determined effort to avoid allowing it to get close to my fire warriors. My breacher team advanced towards the Ork boyz and completely gunned down one squad. I was torn between trying to blast the other squad with a large template and risk scattering into the breachers or blast another trukk. I decided on the safer option but didn’t quite destroy it, only shaking and stunning the crew.

My opponent was a lot more lucky on his reserve rolls.

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The boyz from the wrecked trukk ran towards my fire warriors. The boyz from the immobilized trukk also disembarked and ran forward. Two trukks of meganobz appeared, as did the large bike squadron. I had expected the boys to slaughter my breacher team, but instead they ran forward to attack the hammerhead.

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The boyz reached my hammerhead and smashed it. Nearly everything else fired at the breacher team, killing all but one of them.

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Turn 3:

Again I was very unlucky with my reserve rolls. Only my commander with the drones appeared. The crisis suits and stealth suits were still nowhere to be seen.

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My bomber’s drones and the bomber blasted a transport, wrecking it. the commander’s drones shot at the warboss and his squad of bikes, scoring a lot of hits, but only killing a few of them. I then jumped back, to form a line in front of the relic. Across the battlefield my fire warriors shot at the approaching Orks, killing a few more.

Chris called a Waaargh! One of the surviving transports deployed a squad of meganobz near my drone squad. The boyz near the bomber blasted my two bomber drones, destroying them. The remaining 3 trukks all shot at my bomber, with no effect. The bikes raced forward and the boyz who had wrecked the hammerhead returned to attack my drones.  Three units of Orks were approaching my commander and even with augmented overwatch, I could not attack them all.

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The boyz attacked first and half the squad was wiped our, but then they and the Meganobz got into melee. My drones took out a couple of boys, but the Orks between them killed everyone except the commander. However, having lost combat by so much, he was routed and overrun by the Orks.

Across the battlefield the boys were racing towards my fire warriors, but even with rerolling one dice, the charge was 1″ short.

Turn 4:

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My crisis suits finally arrived, as did my stealth suits. Unfortunately my stealth suits scattered onto an enemy unit and the mishap scattered them to be placed by my opponent, far from any action. The crisis suits were more lucky. They were close enough to shoot the Orks, but to get to the relic I needed to target the boyz, rather than the Meganobz, who I really wanted to shoot. Had we not had a time limit, I would have shot the meganobs, but as the time limit was near and this was to be the last turn, I had to deny the boyz control of the objective and hope that I could survive 1 round when the meganob assault hit. My last breacher team member also came forward to secure the relic. I easily gunned down the boyz and had hoped to jump far enough to screen the breacher, but didn’t quite get far enough.

Across the board thing were better. My fire warriors moved to the edge of the bunker  gunned down the last of the boyz below, leaving 4 of them safely securing an objective. As my other Maelstrom objective was to wipe out a squad this served very well.

The Orks attacked. The trukks shot ineffectively at my bomber. Both the meganobz and the bikes got into the assault, easily wiping out my Tau with minimal casualties.  The time limit for the game had arrived and there was nothing else he could do that turn.

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The game ended. I was ahead on points for the Maelstrom objectives, but I thought that the Orks had won the main objective. They certainly had all 3 of the minor objectives, however the marshal pointed out that the wording of the Relic mission was that a unit ending it’s movement phase next to the relic could claim it. They couldn’t claim it at the end of the assault phase. Therefore in a surprising turn around, neither of us was able to claim the main objective and the game was awarded to me.

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Final score: Tau 4, Orks 3

This was a strange and crazy, but very fun game. My mistake of not setting up my infiltrators could have easily cost me the game. As it was, the battle was extremely close. Had my opponent started with more of his Orks on the board, I doubt it would have been so close. Having that squad in relative safety at the back and rolling 1s so often for the Maelstrom objectives was probably the only thing that won me the game. Had we gone to turn 5, Chris would have definitely won.

The Orks were a fun list to play against. They were fast and mobile and had a lot of relatively cheap and expendable units, but had enough heavy hitters to take down just about anything, if they could get close. It was just the restrictive terrain preventing them all from swarming over the relic that limited their power here. It didn’t stop them rampaging their way to victory in their other matches.

The key thing I needed to learn from this game was not to forget about any units. In this game I forgot to set up a unit. In the one before I had forgotten to bring one back from reserve. In most games I forget to shoot, move or jet pack move somebody.

The lesson seemed to have been learnt in my third and final battle of the tournament.

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.

Summoning the summoners

This was another practice game for me, using the same army as I did against the Necrons.

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My opponent was using a gene-stealer cult force. It was an interesting force to play against. He had two progenitors, leading his tyranids. One was in a formation, leading a very large swarm. The other was only leading a small force of gene stealers. There were 3 tanks with the exterminator configuration, las cannons and heavy bolter sponsons (although one was nor wysiwyg). He also had two sorcerors leading squads of cultists. The force was made from 2 CADs. In total he had 4 psykers and two of them were summoners.

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We were playing a total war, purge the alien game with straight kill points.

Turn 1:

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Fortunately my opponent rolled a 1 on his cult ambush for his big formation and set up by his board edge. I raced my transport forward and blasted at the tyranid horde with my hammerhead, missing. The horde raced forward and the tanks shot at my transport from all directions, but it jinked out of the way.

Turn 2:

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My reserves started to arrive. The drones came down, close enough to the stealth suits to avoid scattering, ready to blast the tyranid horde. I underestimated how hard they would be to kill and held the breachers in the transport, fearing an ambush from his reserves, rather than deploying them too. This proved to be a mistake. I did deploy the other drones,  from the devilfish, to lend their support. My bomber came in and, net being able to overshoot and bomb the horde, lent it’s firepower to the same target. Between them they killed most of the tyranids, but their 5+invulnerable save got a lot of lucky roll.

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My opponent brought in a squad of cultists and his other progenitor, with the gene stealers. However, the two units with the sorcerors both failed their reserve rolls. Progenitor 1 rushed forward to attack the drones. Progenitor 2 came in close to my hammerhead.

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The tank on my left flank blasted the drones, destroying many of them. The cultists also shot them with their pistols. The progenitor and tyranids then charged in, losing a couple of gene stealers and reducing the warlord to 2 wounds from overwatch. They then ripped my drones to pieces, taking a kill point and first blood. Amazingly my warlord made his morale roll with a -5.

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The other tanks blasted my transport, but only succeeded in inflicting one wound and destroying the gun.

Tyranids 2, Tau 0

Turn 3:

This turn my crisis suit tank killers arrived. They dropped down close to the central tank, but scattered further than 9″ from it. They still scored two hits, one of which caused it to explode. My bomber raced forward, dropping a bomb on the cultists, killing several. The stealth suits shot a few more, leaving only 1 alive. The drones detached and moved behind the tank, to shoot it in the rear. My tank moved away from the gene stealers and tried to blast them with a large blast and its smaller missiles, killing three of them.

cofHowever, I was very stupid and forgot to fire any of the attacks at the left tank, from either my drones or my flyer. I jumped the crisis suits towards the right lank, but also forgot to do the assault phase for my commander.

My opponent rolled double 1s for his reserve roll. Neither summoner appeared. He pulled back his lone cultist and the second progenitor into rolling reserve, having them go back into hiding. One tank shot my flyer drones, destroying them. The other tank blasted my crisis suits, but only inflicted a single wound. The tyranids and progenitor attacked the warlord, but failed to kill him. He struck back, killing one of them.

At this point an hour and a half had passed. Had we been in the tournament, we would have ended the game. He had 3 victory points, I had line breaker, giving me 2; however my opponent also had 4 squads and 3 HQ in reserve, giving me an extra 7 victory points. It would have been 3:9 victory to me, due to the bad luck he had on reserve rolls, and most certainly not due to any good tactics on my part. However, we continued.

Turn 4:

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I had very little left to shoot at. My stealth suits moved a bit closer to the tank, shooting it with a fusion blaster, but doing nothing. I should probably have sent my flyer into rolling reserve, but did not know at the time that if he left the board, he would come on again the next turn. My crisis suits managed to get close enough to the tank on the right to destroy it, although it did not explode. I then foolishly forgot to jet pack them back towards the main battlefield.

This is when my opponents luck improved. All his reserves came in. He then rolled well on his psychic powers. The summoners summoned a 10 man squad of cultists, fully equipped with assorted heavy weapons, and a 20 man squad similarly equipped. With all his forces back on the board and hundreds of points extra, the battlefield was completely changed.

He fired h vast number of shots at my stealth suits, killing two of them. He then gunned down my two drones and shot up my transport, fortunately having little effect.

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The Tyranids then finished off my commander; something which was long overdue.

GSC 6, Tau 2.

Turn 5:

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My tank blasted at the newly arrived troops, targeting a squad with a summoner. His main weapon took out a couple of men and the smaller missiles took out the rest of the squad. The fire-warriors then gunned down the sorceror. My stealth suit killed the lone cultist. This scored me 3 more kill points. At the back of the board, behind the ruins, a newly summoned squad of ten were hiding in a crater, left by the first destroyed tank. My breacher team deployed and blasted them, gunning down most of the squad, but as they went to ground I only killed 7 of them. I then messed up the rules and assaulted them. We both forgot that after deploying they could not assault. I only realised my mistake when writing this battle report. They killed the remaining cultists and rallied in the crater. I also tried to blast the warlord with my flyer, but only took out another tyranid. Being far removed from the main action, I completely forgot to either move or jet pack my crisis suits.

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My opponent summoned another small unit of troops, over near my tank.Most of his troops advanced on my breacher team, gunning most of them down, but not wiping them out, as they had gone to ground in the crater. His warlord monster assaulted my last stealth suit, killing it.

Final score:

Gene Stealer Cult 7: Tau 7

It was a draw, but it didn’t deserve to be. I had made so many stupid mistakes. Some of these cost me badly, such as forgetting to shoot his third tank when it was most vulnerable and bringing my crisis suits back into the action. Some could have favored either of us, like nor assaulting with my warlord, which would have got him killed, but allowed me to gun down the enemy warlord when there was little else on the table. One definitely aided me; assaulting with my breacher team.

As well as they blatant errors there were lacks of understanding. I didn’t realise that detaching the drones would allow my opponent to get more kill points. I didn’t know about the rolling reserve of flyers (this battle was before I fought the Necrons and was my first ever use of a flyer).

In a tournament the clock and the unlucky reserve rolls would have given me victory, but I feel certain that my opponent deserved to win.

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.