Friday, 29 August 2014

Death comes to Cardiff, Game I: Dark Angels versus Tyranids

For our first game of the weekend Jim from the Whispers of Chaos blog and I agreed that we should play a thousand point mission, his gorgeously painted Tyranid army against the Emperor's Dark Angels. It was a chance to use my newly painted Zone Mortalis force from the 2014 Hobby Progress Challenge. We rolled on the first table, which are the simpler missions that don't use tactical objectives, and got "The Emperor's Will". And then rolled Dawn of War deployment.

Primary objective: Seize and control the objectives on the table, there were two, which were worth three victory points each. Since we were both using bound armies all our units could score. 

Secondary objectives: Line Breaker, Slay the Warlord and First Blood. These were all worth one victory point.

We used the table as we found it since the terrain seemed fairly laid out. Firestorm Games really is great venue with loads of room and the tables look really good. Jim and I agreed that the lava rivers would count as dangerous terrain as there were rock flows floating in the lava, and we could imagine his 'Nids skittering and leaping from piece to piece. We placed the objective markers in places that seemed logical. A fortified position on Jim's side of the table, and a ruined building on mine. 

At this point we rolled for our Warlord Traits. Interrogator-Chaplain Seraphicus rolled on the Command table and got "Master of Vanguard" which meant I got an extra inch on charges and run moves. Librarian Turmiel chose Pyromancy for his warp powers. I haven't had any experience with the powers, so I picked a set that sounded interesting. With hindsight a bit more research might be smarter in the future, but I am keen to give all the "lores" a chance. In any event, Turmiel had Molten Beam, Fiery Form, and Flame Breath. I don't know what trait or powers the Tyranids had at their disposal, except that one of his Zoanthropes could give his Tyrant "Feel No Pain", and that they had a Warp Blast power. 

We rolled off for deployment and The Dark Angels had the initiative. One of the things I like about this new edition is the ability to premeasure everything. Frankly, I never understood how your troops wouldn't use scanners, or even judgement, to build a real sense of the battlescape. We deployed and then I placed my scouts in a forward position to try and shadow the Tyranid right flank. I also forgot that they get to make a move before the game starts, which is to be expected when you first use units you aren't familiar with. Blunder number one of many. 

My battle plan was to anchor Tactical Squad Raphael with their Heavy Bolter and Plasma Gun, on the ruined building to use their superior firepower to smash anything that came at them. Tactical Squad Gabriel would advance with the Turmiel and Seraphicus from a defensive position behind some rocky outcrops to try and seize the objective held by the Tyranid Warriors. Meanwhile my scouts would try and shadow the Carnifex and threaten the Tyranid right flank, using the cover on available. 

Just before the game began we rolled for night fighting, since the Tyranids were hoping to use the darkness to cover their advance. It was duly passed, after which the Tyranids tried to seize the initiative and failed, and then the game began. I was surprised how much time was spent actually setting up the game. Again, our inexperience with the rules and just playing in general, probably exaggerates the length of set up, but the upside was that the stage was set for a narratively rich showdown between a compact force of Dark Angels and a ravening horde of monsters from the depths of space.

TURN I - Dark Angels

Squad Gabriel shuffled forward to take up a defensive position behind some barricades hoping to establish a field of fire over the no man's land between the rock outcrop and the lava river. Meanwhile Scout Squad Nehemiel moved and ran into the ruins on the Tyranid right flank hoping to shadow the Carnifex as it swung around the rocks. The idea was to act as a quick reaction force once the Carnifex committed to a path of attack.

Sadly my librarian was also out of range to use any of his powers, so the psychic phase was a nonevent. Meanwhile, Dark Angels shooting was ineffective having no impact on the game. 

TURN I - Tyranids

The Carnifex had clearly caught the scent of the scout squad to its right and began lumbering towards the ruins to eliminate the threat. The scouts thought they were safe, only to see the Carnifex lurch in their direction at a fair clip. A Zoanthrope then gave the Hive Tyrant "feel no pain", as it stalked its way towards the ruined factory held by squad Raphael, the hordes of its smaller kin skittering forward too.

The Hive Tyrant and Tyranid Warriors then shot their vile bio weapons at the Astartes who held the barricades, but their ceramite armour protected them from these attacks whilst Interrogator-Chaplain Seraphicus bellowed curses at the vile xenos. 

On the right flank the Carnifex suddenly lurched into the attack against the scouts in the ruins, who unloaded their weapons at the monstrosity. As the bulk of the beast smashed into the ruins it crushed a shotgun wielding brother beneath its vast bulk as it lashed out at the remaining marines. Veteran Sergeant Nehemiel darted forward slapping a melta bomb onto the beast belly, wounding it and only enraging it further. The Carnifex swiped at the nimble marines, eliminating three brothers in one fell swoop. Despite sustaining horrendous losses, Nehemiel held his squad together and defiantly held. (I rolled snake eyes, although I only needed a six to pass, I liked to think that Nehemiel bellowed "For the Emperor" before redoubling his efforts.)

TURN II - Dark Angels

Deathwing Squad Barachiel was meant to land to the rear of the Tyranid Warriors, but due to a calibration error (read mishap), they were delayed until the following turn. Tactical Squad Gabriel then pivoted around the Plasma Cannon to try and close with the right edge of the horde of Hormagaunts. They unloaded their weapons at long range, and had limited effect, although the plasma cannon vaporised three of the small creatures, they were carried onwards by the hive mind and sheer instinct.

With Sergeant Raphael bellowing "bring it down!", his squad pummeled the Hive Tyrant with all their firepower and inflicted a wound. The hulk brute stumbling but still continuing forward on its rampage. Meanwhile, another scout was slain by the Carnifex as Sergeant Nehemiel tried to strap another Melta bomb to its soft underbelly, sadly the attempt failed, and Nehemiel was now all alone against the vile beast. 

TURN II - Tyranids

A chittering arose on the right flank of the small Dark Angels force as a swarm of Genestealers, led by a Broodlord, emerged from the shadows. Making their way towards the objective in the ruined factory and Squad Raphael. At the same time the tide of skittering 'Gaunts were still relentlessly advancing across no-mans-land towards the selfsame factory. A Zoanthrope unleashed its warp blast at Squad Gabriel, but it scattered harmlessly away, the air crackling with spent energies. Bioweapons flung at the Dark Angels brought down a brother from both Squads Gabriel and Raphael, shortly before the tide of hormagaunts smashed into squad Raphael, who leapt from the upper levels of the ruin to meet the threat head on, whilst pumping bolter rounds into the foul aliens, bringing only one of the little beasts down.

The hormagaunts tore at the marines with 27 attacks, but only one of these penetrated ceramite, and a lone brother fell beneath the sea of chitin. In answer the marines tore apart one of the scythed terrors. With the combat inconclusive both sides piled in yet more bodies. On the Dark Angels left flank Sergeant Nehemiel met his end at the hands of the Carnifex, still hurling insults as he was torn limb from limb. 

TURN III - Dark Angels

The general action was going against the Dark Angels when Deathwing Squad Barachiel teleported onto the battlefield. Encouraged by the arrival of their elite brothers, Seraphicus and his bodyguard surged forward to confront the Hive Tyrant. 

Focusing his psychic energies, Turmiel evaporated a Tyranid Warrior with a molten beam. While the squad Gabriel pummeled them with fire to slay yet another . The Deathwing unleashed the fury of their weapons upon the same group of Warriors to kill one and wound another. 

At the ruined factory squad Raphael was faring poorly, losing three brothers and only dispatching two Hormogaunts in return, but still they held stubbornly. 

TURN III - Tyranids

The Hive Tyrant swung around and lurched towards the Deathwing, and sensing this the Tyranid warriors also made their way towards the heavily armoured marines. By the will of the Hive Mind, the termagants also swung right towards Squad Gabriel, while the Broodlord and his Genestealers stalked ever closer to the beleaguered Squad Raphael. 

The Tyranid Warriors spat biochemical death at the Deathwing bringing down two brothers, before throwing themselves at them reeling terminators, who fired wildly and failed to make any impact on the charging Warriors, who were joined by the Hive Tyrant. 

Squad Raphael turned the tide on their objective, reducing the Hormagaunts to a handful who ran due to being beyond the reach of the Hive Mind. Sergeant Raphael redeployed his squad to face down the Genestealer threat. 

Having dispatched the Hormagaunts, Squad Raphael turn to face the Broodlord and his 'Stealers.
Across the river the Hive Tyrant clove two terminators in half, whilst the Warriors tore apart two more brothers. Sergeant Barachiel dealt a wound to a Warrior, but they were now a spent force. 

TURN IV - Dark Angels

Squad Gabriel under the direction of Interrogator-Chaplain Seraphicus sprinted towards the rapidly ending combat, firing as they went. But their assault stalled as they failed to make the distance to save Barachiel and his Deathwing, who were finally overwhelmed.

Barachiel and his men go down swinging.

Back at the factory, Squad Raphael slew two Genestealers and almost fatally wounded the Broodlord dealing him two wounds. 

TURN IV - Tyranids

Sensing that the end was near, the remaining Tyranid forces surrounded Squad Gabriel, the Zoanthropes threw their Warp Blasts at the knot of Dark Angels, while biochemical weapons spat at them. 

The last image of Interrogator-Chaplain Seraphicus, Librarian Turmiel, and Squad Gabriel, shortly before contact was lost with survey drone DRV-185.

+ Survey Drone Data Ends +

At this point I gracefully surrendered the field, as it was clear that the Tyranids had won the field. Time was ticking by and at this point I was happy to concede to Jim.


Obviously nobody likes losing, but I was satisfied that the game had been entertaining and very cinematic. I hope that my efforts above have imparted an element of the excitement I experienced playing. Jim was a sporting opponent who was very patient with me as I muddled my way through the rules. Although, there are some parts that still baffle me, for instance how blast wounds, once the number of hits are determined, are allocated. The game seems to emphasise the shape of formations and placement of individual figures within it which is different from how I remember the game. But I like the overwatch rules and the ability to run and so forth. 

My plan for the battle was silly from the start. I think that I honestly have the Horus Heresy idea of a Space Marine, striding across the battlefield dealing death, in "reality" they are far more dainty than that. I should have focussed more on keeping my small force together and using units to support each other. That said, I am still getting a feel for the game, and only playing more will make me more comfortable with what my troops can and can't achieve.

Of course I have several more games to chronicle, and although I would love to get them on the blog, I am unfortunately away for a fortnight with the Reserves starting tomorrow. However, I shall certainly be working on the drafts as much as time allows, and thinking of what I want to say. All in all though, seventh edition gets a big thumbs up from me. 


Monday, 25 August 2014

HPC 2014: July Challenge Finally Complete

As August draws to a close, I stumble across the finish line and declare my commitment for July complete. Rather than consider it an abject failure, I am going to focus on the positives. I finished another squad, and this means I can keep the project moving forward. My painting mojo has been a little lacklustre of late, and the weekend of gaming in Cardiff has rekindled it somewhat.

One of the reasons is that, having used the miniatures in an actual game, I have a better sense of what I want to do next, and what those elements I have can achieve in game. As such I feel a lot more positive going forward as I got some great feedback from the guys on the weekend as we figured what works and what doesn't.

One of the most apparent shortcoming of my army was the lack of a close combat unit to embed my Interrogator-Chaplain in. He is a decent close combat machine, but sadly I only had Tactical Squads to field him in, which meant his talents were being underused. My commitment for August is therefore going to be a Command squad, which I had planned to do anyway as a centrepiece for the Army. The commitment photo is below. 


Dark Pact Wargaming Weekend, August 2014

This weekend just passed I played my first games of Warhammer 40,000 in over a decade. Three games to be precise. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I travelled down to Cardiff on the August bank holiday to partake in a veritable feast of wargaming fun. The Dark Pact gathered at Firestorm Games for the Saturday and Sunday to ostensibly relearn how to play 40k after a long hiatus for most of us. Matt brought his Warboss Grimteef's mob, Craig his small Eldar force, Jim from the Whispers of Chaos blog his Tyranids, and I took my Dark Angels. 

Bear in mind that other than a game between Matt and Jim a while ago, we aren't frequent players. I haven't played 40k since 2003, and Craig hasn't played since he was sixteen, which is far too long ago for any of us to bother counting. In real terms, the whole weekend was all about learning the rules, how our armies worked and learning to play faster. We decided to play two games on the Saturday, followed by a 2000 point combined game on Sunday. 

My first game was a 1000 point affair between my Dark Angels and Jim's beautifully painted Tyranids. I think that in order to really reap benefit, each game deserves a separate post, replete with photos and commentary. Suffice to say that winning wasn't the objective, which is of course to say that I lost all three games. Nevertheless, I learned a few things about seventh edition 40k, which I will say now.

  1. The rules are fun. There is a reason that Games Workshop remain the biggest played on the block, especially in the Sci-fi genre. The rule are enjoyable, not too complex, and both players feel engaged. There is perhaps an element of micromanagement, but actually the general simplicity of the game, coupled with these fiddly bits, as units have different armour saves or characteristics, makes for a good blend of detail and broader strategy.
  2. The psychic phase is a good thing. If I remember correctly, psychic powers used to be governed by leadership tests. I found that the almost Warhammer Fantasy style "magic" phase made it far more tactical and interesting. Equally, in none of our games did psykers seem to overly dominate the game. 
  3. The game were narratively pleasing. With warlord traits, a simple objectives system, and a great store of fluff, we found ourselves thoroughly amused for two days. The games had cinematic moments and were all enjoyable. Even when the dice were against us.
  4. The game is far more tactically subtle than I had thought. I must admit that from watching YouTube videos, I had the notion that big guns win, especially with Apocalypse sized things. This might be the case, since none of us used anything that large, but certainly the infantry clashes we played punished silly decisions, and encouraged us to play smart. I look back at certain blunders I made, and the military side of my brain can see exactly where I went wrong. The positive point is that I lost because of my mistakes and my opponents exploiting my mistakes or making better choices, not because of dice rolls. Good tactics should really be "luck proof", and Jim exemplified this. He stacked the odds in his favour, so that even if things went wrong, he was never dependent on good luck to pull him through.

I'll leave it there for now, and elaborate more in the battle reports I'll write. One final point though. The key to this enjoyable weekend was the people I played with. Sure there was lively discussion, some of the rules baffled me, and at times seemed "unfair", but in real terms, we were all adults and therefore had a good time. Warhammer 40,000 is, at the end of the day, just a game, so regardless of what I think of some points of the rules, I play by Games Workshop's rules, just like my opponent, and so I need to play to the ruleset, not what I think that ruleset should be. 

A huge thanks to Craig and Jim for putting me up, and introducing me to the Warmaster.

Horus cares little for plastic soldiers.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Death Comes to Cardiff, August 22nd 2014

It has certainly been a while since I last updated the blog. My Hobby Progress Challenge for 2014 lies in ruins. Well, actually I just failed my July target, and look set to fail August as well, largely because I have been spending my evenings enjoying the outdoors, and my weekends out and about. I love wargaming, but I appreciate a splendid British summer and will never let that go to waste.

That said, I haven't been entirely unproductive. The Dark Pact are getting together at Firestorm Games on the weekend of August the 22nd to play a bunch of 40k. I will be travelling with my Dark Angels who will bring the Emperor's Mercy to the vile Xenos hordes of Tyranids, Orks and perfidious Eldar. I haven't played since 3rd edition, so it promises to be a great learning experience as the Dark Pact gets to grips with 7th edition. In anticipation I have ordered the new rulebook from Dark Sphere, along with the tactical objectives cards. They should be here either tomorrow or Saturday, so I have a week to swot up and play a little solo before heading into the fray.

Realistically, the 40k weekend is going to be a learning exercise for us all, so the games will be played slowly and with a view to getting the rules right. Jim from the Whisper of Chaos blog is our Master of Ceremonies, given that he is perhaps the most current with the rules, and if I recall we shall be starting small and ramping up to a larger game as a finisher on Sunday. I hope to take many pictures, and accurately record the events, if I get anything good I might post it to the blog. However, there shall certainly be photos. 

Until then.

+ Loyalty & Honour +