The backstory (why was the splodes done?)
There wasn't officially any backstory, but my subconscious provided one anyway: Inquisitor Drake has heard rumours of heretic astartes poking about in some pre-Imperial ruins on Samalut IX. Putting on his brownest trousers, Drake has come to put a stop to... whatever it is they're doing. Upon arrival, he requests assistance from the most mobile Guard units available and heads for the traitors' last known location. He normally likes to plan things meticulously, so this sort of tactical improvisation scares the hell out of him.
The armies (who done the splodes?)
Both forces weigh in at a power level of 70. The Imperial force consists of a mechanised battalion (+3CP) from the Ankran 107th, and a vanguard (+1CP) of Inquisitor Drake and his personal retinue aboard a valkyrie.
The Chaos force is a mixed infantry battalion (+3CP) led by a pair of HERETICS er I mean great and magnificent Thousand Sons sorcerers. Side note: I'm really enjoying playing against Maisey's army. Back in the day playing against Chaos meant playing against another army of 3+ heavy infantry dudes, but this army is much more varied, and that in turn makes the game more interesting for his opponent. And him, I think!
The set-up (where was the splodes done?)
We rolled Slay and Secure for the primary objectives. These were three structures on the map potentially containing pre-Imperial archeotech, and a hill with a commanding view, because nothing pleases my beloved Imperium like sticking a flag on a hill.
|The fourth objective is just out of shot, in a building off the bottom right.|
Maisey split the board diagonally, and grabbed two of the objectives straight away, whilst I concentrated my force on the right flank, claiming one of the buildings and training all my guns on a single squad of traitor astartes, since I know it takes a lot of guns to dig marines out of buildings.
|The Thousand Sons' deployment|
|The Imperial deployment|
The battle (how the splodes go?)
I had the first turn, and immediately poured fire into the ten Thousand Sons in the building opposite my deployment zone. The Leman Russ opened up first, and rolled a frankly impolite ten shots. This caused something of a dent, and I thought it'd be easy. More fool me. All three chimeras opened up, the infantry poured frag missiles in, and the valkyrie unloaded its rocket pods. Maisey was rolling 2+ saves against almost everything thanks to a combination of concrete and just being rubric marines. Fortunately, it was Maisey rolling the dice...
|Maisey rolls, Tzeentch weeps. He re-rolled three of these with command points and got two more 1s.|
By the end of said fusillade, there were still two marines left. The rest were, presumably, buried under a collapsing building. The survivors left in the morale phase, and I can't say I blame them. To be fair, they were probably buried under bits of building too.
The turn only got worse for Maisey when I used two command points to call in an aerial spotter for my wyvern, allowing me to re-roll to hit with my 4D6 shots. This ruined a bunch of his 20 tzaangor and cost him a few more in the morale phase, effectively neutering that unit as well.
My first turn had dealt a meaty blow, and Maisey was genuinely unsure how to proceed with the game. We sat down for a bit to try and figure out if it was even worth continuing, ultimately deciding that he had enough tricks up his sleeve that he might just be able to hold me to a draw.
Having decided to continue, Maisey set about retreating the sorcerer who'd been hanging out with the marines in the (now very sploded) building.
|Maisey had so many casualties to clean up that I took the time to dust my valkyrie. #bants #bantelope #bantichrist|
Our armies were now pretty much at opposite ends of the map. I advanced with my tanks while Maisey hunkered down, hiding the surviving tzaangor in what cover was available to protect against the wyvern's ongoing bombardment. Seriously, wyverns are outrageously good, to the extent that in our fluffy, laid-back group I think I'll avoid using more than one unless it's a bigger game. They're only S4 AP0, but having 4D6 shots and re-rolling to wound makes them much more reliable than other big guns.
|The surviving tzaangor singing in the lead rain. And hiding.|
|One of Maisey's sorcerers flees, chased by Imperial armour.|
It's more fun to describe the second half of the game in prose, since it was pretty cinematic.
Inquisitor Drake was feeling cautiously optimistic. Even though it took all the army's guns, they had eradicated the entire squad of traitor marines, and the only other enemy in sight was a fleeing sorcerer. Worried the traitor might inflict horrendous casualties on the guardsmen, Drake voxed, "leave this one to us, Major. By all means send your tanks to cover us, but keep your distance. The enemy is a psyker."
Major Kahurangi voxed his assent, and then told Chimera One to close with all speed anyway, reasoning that fancy hexes and other such nonsense were no match for heavy weapons.
As the valkyrie gunship flew up behind the sorcerer, Drake slid the cabin door open. Hot summer air blasted into the passenger cabin. Beneath them, the roof of the largest derelict building. It looked solid enough. Down on the ground just beyond it, the astartes sorcerer was running for the cover of the treeline. Drake thumped the cockpit door twice. The pilot understood his signal, and held position over the roof. "Everyone off!" Drake yelled, engaging his rappelling clamp and beginning his descent.
In the valkyrie's cockpit, the pilot's eyes widened. There were more of the enemy waiting on the other side of the building. Much more. A fleshy parody of a dreadnought was bringing a twin lascannon and missile rack to bear on the valkyrie, and next to it, a multi-legged daemon-engine snarled as it raised two giant plasma guns. "Inquisitor! Beware!" he voxed, desperately lining up the gunship's weaponry on the dreadnought. The cabin's pict feed showed that fully half the team was currently on the rappelling cables or on the roof. If the valkyrie moved, it would be disastrous.
|The valkyrie finds the rest of the bad guys.|
The enemy started firing before the team had finished disembarking. Drake looked up in horror as the valkyrie was struck by multiple energy weapons. Half the nose melted off, killing the copilot and raining globs of molten ore onto the roof. Two dragoons - Holgersen and Gulbrandsen - were only halfway down the line when the port wing was carved off by an enemy las weapon. They cried out in panic as the valkyrie went into a spin. Drake and his team instinctively ducked as the burning valkyrie spun overhead and arced away into the trees, pulling both screaming dragoons into the fireball of its landing. Drake, appalled, knew he had no time to waste. Already he was up, sprinting to the edge of the roof to get a shot at the enemy psyker before it reached the safety of its allies.
|The survivors of the crash.|
In the periphery of his vision, Drake saw his team come up alongside him. They'd kept their wits despite the ambush and the crash, and unloaded their guns into the fleeing sorcerer.
|Puuuuuurge the heretic!|
The heretic's red cloak and turquoise armour was bathed in plasma, blessed promethium, and heavy caliber rounds. Incredibly, the battered astartes stayed on its feet and turned toward them. It was the first traitor astartes Drake had seen, and even though it was badly wounded, it was terrifying. A nimbus of blue light was forming at the tip of its force staff.
There was a loud crash to the right. Chimera One burst through a crumbling wall and engaged the Sorcerer. Heavy bolt rounds slammed into weakened armour. Multilaser fire flashed against gold-trimmed plate.
The blue light faded, and the giant fell.
"Sorry Inquisitor, you told us not to do that," Major Kahurangi voxed.
Drake didn't get the time to vox his gratitude. A shockwave passed over them from the other end of the roof; Drake and his warband turned to see five traitors in terminator plate appear out of thin air. Trooper Rolvsson jumped in front of Drake, and was shredded by bolter rounds. Agent Jentiva ran for cover, a trail of bolter rounds pulverising the low wall behind her. Techpriest Donat's power armour was struck my missiles and lost power, pinning him down under its own weight. In the terror of the moment, Drake forgot entirely about projecting authority and gravitas, and voxed a single word: "Help!"
Seeing the bulky silhouettes materialise on the roof from the cupola of his chimera, Major Kahurangi swore loudly, then ordered every man and woman under his command to open fire on the terminators. For the second time, the eastern end of the building was subjected to an intense barrage.
The terminators ignored it.
Clambering down through the ruins as bullets and laser beams struck their armour, the terminators began to dig where the rubric marines had fallen. The wyvern's quad mortar showered them in shrapnel, and still they dug, pulling away shattered slabs of precast concrete. Several terminators were injured by Drake's team as they fired their plasma weapons into them, but the traitors kept at it. Eventually a turquoise gauntlet, almost grey with concrete dust, pushed through the rubble clutching something in its hand. Drake's optics zoomed in and snapped off a succession of picts. Non-imperial tech. Purpose unclear. The sorcerer leading the terminators held the device in its massive gauntlet, and looked up at Drake one last time before vanishing.
Over on the other side of the building, Major Kahurangi watched as the enemy gathered around their hitherto-concealed leader. Kahurangi ordered his gunner, and the crew of Chimera One, to open fire. It was too late. A glimmering blue portal expanded and engulfed the rest of the enemy and suddenly they were gone, leaving no sound but the cries of the injured Inquisition agents on the roof.
Drake could look at the picts later; in this moment he was concerned only for his injured colleagues. Ashar Lear was sat up against the low wall, her face pinched. It took Drake a moment to realise her right arm was missing from the elbow down. The wound had instantly cauterised when her overcharged plasma pistol had ruptured.
To one side of the roof, trees burned in aviation fuel from the gunship crash. To the other side, pale-faced guardsmen approached the building, clearly nervous but keen to provide assistance.
With the injured being seen to by Kahurangi's medic, Drake oversaw the excavation of the ruins the Thousand Sons had sacrificed so much for. Slowly, they pulled eight giant suits of armour from the rubble.
They were empty.
He had no idea what the pre-Imperial device was or what happened to the traitor marines inside the suits of power armour, but he intended to find out.
So there you have it; the game ended in a draw with Maisey's terminators teleporting onto the objective at the eleventh hour and weathering the storm, whilst his home objective was still covered in cultists and I held the other two points. Sure, the terminators only had the squad leader in play by the end of my shooting phase, but with the Thousand Sons rules for capturing objectives, one marine can still get the job done. Even if he only just passed his morale check. Seriously, if he'd rolled a 6 on his morale check or failed any one of the many invulnerable saves caused by plasma and melta weapons, I would have won. I'll get you next time, Maisey!
Sadly, there aren't any photos of the final showdown on the roof because we were way too engrossed, and then way too keen to tidy up. You would've thought six years of blogging might have instilled better habits in us, but noooooo. I did, however, take a photo of another of Maisey's dice rolls, this time for cultists enduring another bombardment from the wyvern.
|He needed 3s. Of course he needed 3s.|
Maisey seems to have done something appalling to Lady Luck's mum in a past life. Speaking of Maisey, I'll hand the baton to him for the post-game tactical assessment...
Maisey: With every game you play there is always an opportunity to learn something. This doesn’t mean you actually do, but there is a chance. Sitting down after a game and discussing what went well, what didn’t go well, and what was one’s favourite or funniest moment (It’s always hilarious when I roll more 1’s than is statistically plausible). Being that this is the first game using the new codex with a lot of new units (yay for shiny new model syndrome) and still with a relatively new rule set it’s important to learn as much as possible. So below I’ve listed out my thoughts on the game.
1) Deployment - I left Rubric Marines far too exposed out on one flank with no real support, or at least, I didn’t leave Charlie with a distraction unit to fire at first. I hadn’t really defined my area of control very well. I looked at the objectives and stuck a unit with each. This isn’t really enough, especially when facing that much armour. A much better idea would be to sit back and let Charlie feed me tanks.
2) I left Tzaangor far too exposed from the outset. They where poised for an (obvious) advance up my right flank to push towards an objective. They had very little cover and no real support. Tzaangor are fast, and are best used as a counter charge unit. I could have broken the big unit into smaller units and increased the number of targets Charlie had to pick from. I think I was seeing them as both disposable and indispensable at the same time. Which is stupid.
3) The Sorcerers are good support units, but in this case I hadn’t changed their psychic powers to fit the job they are doing. Admittedly this was the first time with the new codex and I went from having 3 powers available to having 18. So it was a case of learning what is going to be useful in which situation.
1) The cultists did their job well. They had good cover and there was so many of them that Charlie’s artillery couldn’t make a dent. Especially when the wyvern was merrily blow Tzaangor into Mutant McNuggets™. But They are a cheap unit used right, this time.
2) Timing of the Terminators was basically spot on. Charlie hadn’t yet got enough units around the objective to stop me from beaming straight on top of it. While it did leave them facing a lot of fire power, they are tough enough and Charlie’s Leman Russ was distracted by the demon engines, and the pesky Valkyrie had been shot down by that point (note from Charlie: I'm also particularly enjoying that we get to choose when reserves come down; it feels so much more tactical. I did the same thing with my storm troopers, dropping them onto the roof to help the Inquisition in the final gunfight with the terminators).
3) Placing the demon engines together in the centre managed to keep some good lines of sight. They had their shining moment when the Valkyrie appeared overhead and got promptly shot in the face. Which posed the question, what takes a Valkyrie to Valhalla when it dies?
1) Kill the wyvern, quickly. I don’t have much that can shoot further than 24”, the Thousand Sons are a very midrange firefight type of army. They are at their most dangerous at 12”. I need to remember this and draw my opponent in closer. Especially when my opponent can easily out range me. So need to work out a way of tying down the long range stuff. Or finding better ways of hiding from them (which is hard since the wyvern doesn’t need line of sight and being Cadian can re-roll hits of a 1).
2) Focusing your fire can take down units quickly. Even if that means firing your whole army at one unit. As turn one proved if you focus enough fire you can take down the hardest of units in one turn. This goes both ways.
3) The Thousand Sons, or at least my Thousand Sons, are a big foot slogger army. In fact, everything has at least 2 legs, sometimes 3 or 4. That doesn’t mean that moving quickly is off the table. The Tzaangor are fast, and with a boost to their advance rolls they can get places really quickly. Also keeping a Sorcerer to hand with Warp-time to give units a second movement phase can make even the slowest units zippy in the right situation. With the new codex there are a couple of sneaky tricks for moving units around. The stratagem Webway Infiltration lets you deploy a unit in the web way (suck it Eldar!). This allows you to deep strike units that normally couldn’t even dream of doing so (a deep striking forgefiend? Yes please!). There is also a relic, the dark matter crystal, which allows you to redeploy a unit anywhere on the board at the end of the movement phase. Let’s not forget the classic deep striking terminators on to the objective at the last moment gambit. So lots of options for being a sneaky bar steward.