[40K] Battle Report: Dr. Shiny and the Cheeseburger of Shame

The learned Dr. Shiny is among my longest-serving opponents. Our respective armies – Skaven and Vampire Counts, Eldar and Chaos Space Marines, or Khador and Cryx – have been battering each other with startling ineptitude for something like fifteen years now. In all that time I’ve heard nothing but complaining out of him; his troops are inept, his dice hate him, his rules are outdated and his tactics are largely based on the certainty that everyone’s going to die.

He hasn’t played any sixth edition 40K yet, having been distracted by Bretonnians, and since I was at his end of the country for the New Year festivities I thought it might be high time to rectify the situation. We settled on 1200 points – this would give us a game which even we could finish in a few hours, despite the inevitable banter, confusion, rule-checking and general shenanigans. This would also give us a game in which every model was fully painted, and you can’t say fairer than that of a Sunday afternoon. It helps, of course, that we were throwing down in the cavernous and well-equipped gaming paradise of The Giant’s Lair in Plymouth, a superlative venue with a decent shop, quality boards, lots of space and a neat line in fried foodstuffs courtesy of host and legend Swabs.

Only one photo of this battle survives. It is, of course, the one where we both have rulebooks. And tums.

Von’s Crons

HQ – Tekeshi the Decapitator – Destroyer Lord – sempiternal weave, resurrection orb, tachyon arrow

Troops – 10 Necron Warriors

Troops – 10 Necron Warriors

Troops – 10 Necron Warriors

Elites – 5 Flayed Ones

Fast Attack – 5 Necron Destroyers

Fast Attack – 3 Canoptek Wraiths – particle casters

Fast Attack – 5 Canoptek Scarab Swarms

Heavy Support – Canoptek Spyder – twin-linked particle beamer

Heavy Support – Canoptek Spyder – twin-linked particle beamer

In a game of this size I find it difficult to justify spending the usual 400+ points on an Overlord and Royal Court, and so Tekeshi’s fly-around-hitting-things body comes out to play. The upgrades on the Destroyer chassis were mostly there for the sake of trying things out, and sneaking at least one decent-Strength shot into the list somewhere; the same logic applies to giving all my Wraiths and Spyders the gun upgrades to weaken my dependence on Gauss shots and free the infantry up for destroying other infantry. There’s a lot of melee chaff in there – too much if I’m honest, and the Flayed Ones were only there because they were painted and I didn’t have anything else on me to fill the points – but I’ve tried to make it chaff that does something interesting.

Shiny’s Tau

HQ – Shas’el Aloh’ka – missile pod, plasma rifle, 4+ Invulnerable Save

Bodyguard – 2 Crisis suits with missile pods and plasma rifles, Drone with markerlight

Troops – 6 Fire Warriors – pulse carbines

Devilfish – stabilising fires-like-a- Fast-vehicle thingie

Troops – 6 Fire Warriors – pulse rifles, markerlight

Troops – 10 Kroot Warriors and 10 Kroot Hounds

Elites – 3 Stealth Suits

Fast Attack – 5 Gun Drones

Fast Attack – Piranha with fusion blaster

Fast Attack – Piranha with fusion blaster

Heavy Support – Hammerhead – railgun, stabilising fires-like-a-Fast-vehicle thingie

Herr Doktor has in many respects resurrected his old Eldar tactics with this one – much of the army moves around at a credible 12” per turn, zapping away from a safe distance, and where possible things duck back out of threat range in a fashion that second-edition old hands like what we are insist on calling ‘pop-up attacks’. I counselled that he consider Kroot as bubblewrap for the more fragile Tau troops, but his general use for them seems to be a little more aggressive than that – I think it’s partly because he hasn’t been able to source any Broadside suits to constitute a static firebase, and he’s reluctant to not move his vehicles around.

Mission – Purge the Alien

Deployment – Vanguard Strike

Warlords – Tekeshi the Decapitator (Legendary Fighter… again); Shas’el Aloh’ka (Conqueror of Cities)

Preamble – Shiny picked the deployment zone that had the tower in it, which left me with a distinct lack of hard cover on my side of the board. This, in turn, encouraged me to let him be the First Player – once I’d seen where his scary guns were, it shouldn’t be too hard to face them down with stuff that either had a save against them or was capable of matching their firepower, or both in the case of the Destroyers.

Shiny kept a lot of stuff off the board – the Kroot outflanked, the Stealth Team infiltrated, and the Drones deep struck – but everything I was actually worried about went down. After considering my side of the board, I decided to leave the majority of my Troops in reserve; their Scoring duties wouldn’t be required for this mission and if I set them up at the start they’d probably be too far back to achieve anything and just get blown away by the longer-ranged Tau guns without contributing squit. If they were in reserve, they’d have to endure fewer turns of being shot at, and maybe the action would come sufficiently close to my board edge for them to actually do something when they turned up. I always leave the Flayed Ones in reserve too – again, the idea was to target something that would benefit from their tender ministrations rather than set them up and walk forward trying not to get killed. The Destroyers and Wraiths represented my best shot at dealing with that Hammerhead and Command Squad, so they were set up to plough forward and do just that, while the Scarabs and Spyders were placed fairly centrally so they could either close the trap or chase any Tau that tried anything clever. Good job most of the squashier Necrons were off the board, too, as I failed to Seize the Initiative…

Round One – Tau 0, Necrons 0

Tau

Without Jet Packs, this army will cease to function.

Fortunately, Jet Infantry are actually better than Herr Doktor remembered them being, and consequently the Tau were able to fan out in quite a dramatic fashion, with the Piranhas moving up to block me in and the Devilish drifting out to join up with the Stealth teams and enfilade me. I was somewhat confused at the choice of moving both Devilfish and Hammerhead the full 12”, and looked up the effect this would have upon their accuracy, and when I’d finished, Herr Doktor pointed out that it didn’t matter – they counted as Fast for shooting purposes anyway.

Not that it mattered much; the Stealth team killed a couple of Warriors, the Hammerhead missed a clear shot at a Canoptek Spyder, and the Command team managed to take down a Destroyer with their missile pods. This was not the spectacular punishment I’d been expecting from the prophets of the Greater Good.

Necrons

Let’s see if I can poop out any Scarabs.

I did, although it cost me a Wound in the doing, and I began to move the Necrons forward with the mandatory “wwwooooooom” noises. The Warriors who’d been shot at last turn couldn’t see their assailants to return the favour – stupid Stealth suits and their stupid non-universal special rules – and the Wraiths only managed to strip a Hull Point and a fusion blaster off the nearest Piranha. Tekeshi lined up her tachyon arrow on the Hammerhead and, of course, rolled a 1 to hit… and it’s just occurred to me that she has Preferred Enemy, so I should have re-rolled that. Probably would have missed anyway, but still. It might have stopped Shiny drawing little fireworks around the 1 in his notes for this report, anyway.

Anyway, the Wraiths charged the Piranha and did what they do best to it and when the smoke cleared I was two Victory Points up – one for First Blood, and one for eliminating the one-model squadron.

Round Two – Tau 0, Necrons 2

Tau

“THAT is where the Kroot will go!”

Shiny’s Kroot put in an appearance, Outflanking from the table edge nearest the Wraiths and clacking their beaks with ominous glee. I did point out that they wouldn’t be charging, but apparently he had no intention of charging with them. The Command team joined them, lining up for shots on the Wraiths, while the Hammerhead advanced more cautiously and the Devilfish dropped off its cargo before flying away from the Scarabs a bit. Meanwhile, the surviving Piranha flew into a very narrow gap between a big rock and the Spyder – I wasn’t entirely sure why until the shooting phase, when it transpired that Shiny thought the Spyder was a vehicle.

Needless to say, it didn’t die from the single wound the Piranha managed, although several Scarabs did; the Fire Warriors and Devilfish scraped several wounds off them. Then there was the matter of the Hammerhead…

I’ve never used the large pie. Let’s use the large pie.

We had a quick chat about suitable targets for the Hammerhead, in the absence of any vehicles in my army or line of sight to the Scarabs, and concluded that a gun which gibs Necron Warriors on twos might be worth firing at Necron Warriors. In retrospect this may be considered slightly dubious advice, as it’s only in the report-writing calm that I’ve remembered how much Scarabs dislike blast weapons… mind you, it did earn Shiny a Victory Point as the Hammerhead did indeed gib the five Warriors it hit, while the Stealth suits capped the last two.

“Let’s have the HMS Murderfuck Buffet fire now.”

The Wraiths, leering ominously, shrugged off everything the Kroot had to throw at them but did manage to take three wounds from the hail of dakka that the Command Team threw their way before flying off like the cowards they are. The Stealth Suits, lacking anything better to do now that there were no Warriors to shoot, ducked behind some nearby trees and hoped the Spyder wouldn’t notice them.

Necrons

Both of my Warrior units turned up, waddling onto the bottom right corner and cracking their knuckles at the prospect of Kroot Fried Material in their immediate future. I ummed and ahhed a bit about what to do with the Destroyers this turn – whether it was worth peeling Tekeshi off and going for the Hammerhead, or keeping her in the Destroyer squad so she was safely insulated until it was time to go after Aloh’ka. In the end I decided that sending her out on her own would be tantamount to suicide while the Hammerhead and plasma rifles were still a factor, and had the Destroyers shoot up Aloh’ka’s Command team instead, killing one and wounding another. The Wraiths pulled the last wound off that one with their happy little particle guns, and the two Warrior squads killed seventeen Kroot – the last three were evidently out of range, and didn’t care much that their comrades in arms had been turned into unpleasant, garish strings of reformed meat product.

“I have, in fact, killed them so effectively that I cannot kill them all.
There’s a thing.”

Why not multi-charge? It’s sixth edition, after all!

One Spyder charged and splatted the Stealth team – how I love my Monstrous Creatures and their capacity to Move Through Cover – while the other charged and immobilised the Piranha. The Scarabs did less well, whiffing on both the Devilfish and all but one of the Fire Warriors, and actually losing the combat by two! At least they outclassed the surviving Wraith, which dismally failed to reach Aloh’ka and resigned itself to hot plasma death.

Round Three – Tau 1, Necrons 3

Tau

Shiny’s Gun Drones turned up and deep struck with clinical accuracy, landing between a Necron Warrior squad and the downed Piranha, while the Devilish, rejoicing in its lucky escape, dodged away from the Scarabs… but toward the Tomb Spyder, which I thought was rather odd. Shiny also neatly overlapped his Kroot and Hammerhead, with the one closing the distance on some Necron Warriors – I really don’t know why, unless he was wanting to fire burst cannons at them, since the tank’s main gun totally outranged them and could have blown whole squads off the board from the other side of the table with equal ease – and the other moving up to protect its squashy back armour from the marauding Wraith. Needless to say, Aloh’ka back-pedalled away from the Wraith and Destroyers, no doubt filling his waste chute in nervous terror.

Right, now, before you start shooting… look for the Victory Points!

The Piranha, being a vehicle, couldn’t be locked in combat even while immobilised; the Spyder, being in base contact with a vehicle, couldn’t be locked in combat and therefore could be shot at, even by the immobilised vehicle in base contact with it. WHOOSH went the fusion blaster and BANG went a Sypder and DING went Shiny’s second Victory Point. The Drones and Hammerhead concentrated all available fire on one Warrior squad and downed seven, although two passed their Reanimation Protocol rolls. The Devilfish, lacking the range to join in (I might have flown it over the Scarabs and into the middle of the board to go Warrior-hunting, now that I think about it) went for the remaining Spyder and took a wound off it.

Despite receiving Markerlight assistance, Aloh’ka couldn’t quite manage to finish off the Wraith – in fact he missed with all but one shot, and the Wraith shrugged that one off, as it did the assembled efforts of the Fire Warriors. The Kroot declined to open fire, going for the charge and drawing a combat instead while Aloh’ka snuck off around the back of the tower and the Drones just didn’t move very far.

Necrons

Moving the Hammerhead may have scored a few kills for Shiny, but it left the unfortunate tank within Rapid Fire range of ten Necron Warriors, which stripped its Hull Points off in a flurry of sixes; the five survivors from the other squad took down three Gun Drones. My Spyder did an ineffective job of shooting up the Devilfish, and the Destroyers gave chase to Aloh’ka as best they could, dealing a wound and taking out his Marker Drone.

During the Insult Phase, the Spyder ripped two Hull Points out of the Devilfish and Shook the crew to boot, the Wraith messily eviscerated the last two Kroot, and Tekeshi decided that bringing her warscythe to the enemy’s face was not actually what she wanted to do and what she actually wanted to do was just hover there and enjoy the sound-and-light show from her fellow Destroyers. It’s not her most effective incarnation, that’s for sure…

Round Four – Necrons 5, Tau 2

Tau

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. I also hate Wraiths, and wish them nothing but pain. Your Destroyers can have their stupid ‘lives’ and their stupid ‘victory’ and their stupid ‘flying around unmolested while the Tau flee in their path’. I want that Wraith dead!

Although neither the Fire Warriors nor the Drones could put a dent in it, Aloh’ka’s plasma rifle finally did what it had been built to do, and evaporated the offending Wraith. The rest of the Tau turn was uneventful, with the Fire Warriors yet again outmatching the Scarabs and the Scarabs yet again failing to be bothered by this, but I don’t think Shiny cared all that much.

Go back to your pyramid-shaped broom cupboard and languish there in misery!
– attributed to Shas’el Aloh’ka, this Tau insult has probably lost something in the translation.

Necrons

My Flayed Ones have arrived!

Your Flayed Ones are irrelevant.

When pressed, Shiny explained this hurtful remark by explaining that I’d already won by a comfortable margin – I did point out to him that Tekeshi was worth two Victory Points if he could get to her, and that there was another up for grabs from Linebreaker as well. Mathematically, he could totally still get this.

Not, admittedly, after the half-strength Warrior squad had finished off the second Piranha, the full-strength Warrior squad had shot up the last three Drones, and the Destroyers had killed all but one Fire Warrior with shooting, but it’s the thought that counts. I’d also decided to be sporting (and lunge greedily for three Victory Points) by splitting Tekeshi off from the Destroyers so she could charge and challenge Aloh’ka, but her chassis engines were obviously having a spot of bother, and she stalled in mid-air yet again. Incidentally, the word FAIL is written in large, shaky capitals in Shiny’s notes. He was obviously bitter about the Tomb Spyder immobilising and then destroying his Devilfish.

Round 5 – Tau 3, Necrons 7

Tau

Aloh’ka was not accustomed to feeling alone. He was accustomed to being accompanied by his brothers of the Fire Caste, accustomed to the comforting presence of the Ethereals, and accustomed above all to hearing more than two other voices through his in-line communicator. The absence of these things did not please him, and did not appear to serve the Greater Good.

Still! Team Leader Kai’vess was still alive, and that was something. The hovering necron brandishing the horrible, heavy blade seemed to be having some mobility issues, and that was something else. Aloh’ka’s rifle was charged and ready, and that was most definitely something.

“Kai’vess! Mark target!”

A bright spot of light descended from the tower roof, pinpointing the necron leader, and Aloh’ka let his suit lock onto that brilliant point and focus its lenses and fire everything it had. Missiles corkscrewed through the air and cracked harmlessly off the thing’s grimy carcass, but the rifle, ah, the rifle – the rifle spat pure white light, and the necron hissed and shrieked and fumed as steam rose and components evaporated.

At least Aloh’ka would have sold his life dearly – or so he thought, until the steam parted, and the necron drifted forward. Its hull was scored, its right arm hung sparking at its side, but it was still very much operational, and its golden mask turned to face him in silent, mocking triumph.

Also, the Scarabs finally killed that ruddy Fire Warrior.

Necrons

The Destroyers shot down the last Fire Warrior, which wasn’t terribly interesting even if it did mean another Victory Point. All eyes, ultimately, were on the assault phase…

Hark’s allegedly ‘smart’ phone is not very good at close-ups.

Aloh’ka fired his jets again, determined to keep some distance, to live as long as possible in the face of this indefatigable terror – but as he lurched backward, his suit’s alarms flared and groaned. The ground was moving beneath him! Even as the jets flared and roared to compensate, he heard something scrape across the suit’s armoured legs, saw the flash of blue that indicated superficial damage.

They were beneath him. Little more than a mass of knives and skins still wet with cobalt blood. They were beneath him. He couldn’t see how many, but it didn’t matter. Aloh’ka levelled his rifle down as his suit bobbed him upwards, and despite his conditioning a snarl of rage escaped him.

“For the Greater Good!” he cried – and then the suit’s alarms flashed another warning and he raised his arm just in time to deflect the sweeping scythe of the necron leader, ascending with a whine of tortured systems to meet him in the air.

His communicator stuttered and crackled, and a voice spoke to Aloh’ka as he desperately kicked sideways to avoid the blast of his exploding missile pod.

“Y-y-your evil is-is-is my good,” it purred. It was a cold, alien and self-satisfied voice, a voice that brought with it an eldritch green glare from his suit’s systems. Strange characters danced across Aloh’ka’s visual field, flickering back and forth into the blues and oranges of Tau’va as his onboard software fought back against the intrusion. He brought up his rifle and fired point-blank – it would have been a killing shot had the necron not jerked its chassis and knocked him off-balance with the force of whatever field kept it aloft. The voice intruded on his consciousness again, and again his vision turned green, and this time it took all his strength to move the suit’s arms himself, and catch the necron’s weapon by the hilt. “Y-y-your only greater purpose is ex-tinction, your only hope oblivion,” and on that word its voice fell deeper than the deepest darkest oceans of the home-world, and then rose again as if offering an afterthought, with the cold slickness of spilled oil. “Oblivion… or servitude.”

“I serve the vision of my leaders, and the Greater Good!” Aloh’ka howled, swinging his rifle around in anger. Static filled his ears, and the scythe swung up to shear the barrel from his weapon, coating his visual field in blissful white heat.

“You think y-y-you have a choice,” the voice hissed. “How… endearing.”

Round Six – Necrons 9, Tau 3

Fortunately, unlike many of my games, the Random Game Length didn’t kick in, and the challenge went on long enough to be resolved. In both turns of fighting Aloh’ka managed to put a wound on Tekeshi and on both occasions it was only the sempiternal weave that saved her, but at the end of Tau turn six she managed to sneak a wound past the Shas’el’s Invulnerable save and that was that. Slay the Warlord, Legendary Fighter, Linebreaker and a Victory Point just for killing him.

Final Score – Necrons 13, Tau 3

Victory to the Necrons – or, as Shiny put it:

Congratulations, you’ve tabled me.

Naturally, the winner buys the cheeseburgers. It’s only fair.

Post Mortem

It’s quite difficult for me to analyse this one, since virtually everything I tried to do worked, and the things that didn’t work mostly made the Narrative more worthy of Forging. You can’t beat a climactic duel to the death between commanders, especially not when there’s a very real chance of the alleged victor actually going down and awarding a moral victory to the other chap.

I do think that holding the two Warrior squads in reserve was the right thing to do, certainly with this deployment type. “If you don’t know where to put it, put it in reserve” seems to be a decent approach, certainly better than putting things on the board and then shuffling them around in unwise fashions, blocking your own shots and getting your troops killed to no particular end. I also feel that Shiny made some rather unwise choices – closing in with the Hammerhead seemed spectacularly dim given that its main gun outranged everything in my army several times over, and that Devilfish could have spent its last turns in midfield, potentially finishing off another Warrior squad instead of running toward Canoptek Spyders that it didn’t really have the capacity to take down.

For his part, the good Doktor has been asking about list changes – what does his Tau army need? I was tempted – irresistibly so – to suggest ‘allies’, or rather a tougher primary detachment into which he can ally his Devilfish and Hammerhead and Crisis suits and Piranhas. Those Tau bits can address the targets to which their firepower is suited, and the ‘primary’ detachment, on which he’d probably be spending fewer actual points, can do the holding of ground and the torrenting of fire and the being resilient. The problem is he has this fixed aversion to Space Marines, but it’s that magical 3+ save that makes their Troops different from and arguably superior to his Troops. Maybe Guard would be worth a go – it’s less that they’re resilient and more that their sheer numbers and cheapness allow them to hold ground and soak up shots. It’s not like they couldn’t be justified as Gue’la auxiliaries or something.

What do you think, folks?

[Meta Gaming] Collecting and Playing

So the other day Hark and myself and our housemate E and her friend-guest-of-the-moment were at London’s Wellcome Collection, learning about death, because, well, why wouldn’t you? Anyway, E and I ended up in the exhibition library, as might be expected from a PhD candidate and a failed PhD candidate, and got to nosing at some of the works amassed therein, readers, for the edification of.

E asked “do you identify as a collector of anything?” and gave the example of books accumulated for work – they’re not a ‘collection’, they weren’t assembled for the purpose of assembling, possessing and displaying them, they’re just there because we need them so often that it’s more useful to have our own copies than not – but we do think of them as distinct from the other books in the house, those belonging to other people or read for pleasure or whatever. She went on to explain that the book she had her nose in was posing a definition of ‘collection’ that was somewhat broader, and just referred to a group of artefacts amassed by a person. This is the sort of question which young academics ask of each other and is to be expected. Naturally, my thoughts flew to gaming, which is also to be expected, and I explained that – to me – there is a distinction between just owning stuff and collecting it.

Allow me to elucidate (well, I’m going to whether you do or not, it’s my blog after all). What it all reminds me of is what the staffers used to say to new customers, which I heard time and again whenever I went into GW of a Saturday, or a Sunday, or indeed of a Wednesday afternoon when I should have been doing double Games (in a way, I was… right?).  In any GW branch, near or far, the hail-and-well-met salutation would always be “So, what do you collect?”

Continue reading “[Meta Gaming] Collecting and Playing”

[40K] Battle Report: Wulfruna Burns

High above the Black Planet, so far out that it’s barely in orbit at all, there spins an industry-blighted little rock which the human colonists below have dubbed ‘Wulfruna’. Centuries of overzeal, embezzlement, mismanagement and general neglect by Imperial executives have left the moon classified as ‘Dubious Extremis’ for tithing purposes and largely ignored until the defence lasers on the Black Planet’s surface need testing, but that doesn’t mean nobody cares. Long before the Imperium ever got its claws on the place, Wulfruna was a battlefield on which the War in Heaven raged; webway gates and dolmen portals dot the land between the abandoned and decrepit Imperial bastions, and every so often, the dwellers in Commoragh or the inheritors of the Kadavah dynasty find reason to open their dread portals and raid. The objective is always the same; valueless in itself, Wulfruna is a place where many pathways meet, and the moon affords access not just into the webway or the parasitic parallel structures of the Necrons, but onto the Black Planet itself…

In another bout of the swift, on-the-button, up-to-the-minute, cutting-edge-style reporting you’ve doubtless come to expect from me, I’ve sat down to play some sixth edition 40K a mere month or two after release. I’m on the ball, me, not to mention the wire and the button. In my defence, this lassitude has largely been down to the matter of dragging large cases around my workplace all day if I’m to get a game in of an evening. I’m quite reluctant to do this (the dragging, that is, not the gaming) and so not many large-scale 28mm games get played these days. However, since I was going up to Wolverhampton to see friends, colleagues and Vampire players Ben and Jess, and since Ben had secured a second-hand Necron motor pool for me, it seemed like the Right Time to pack the rest of the metal mickies (and one metal Michaela) and play a rematch of our last game, in which Tekeshi v1.0 ended up on the wrong end of a huskblade. Ben’s played a few more games of sixth edition than yr. faithful reporter (all of three) and so could tell me what dice to roll to decide on things like deployment and mission and suchlike.

Given that I’d come up to collect my shiny new toys, it would be rather churlish of me not to put them in the army list, and so I ended up running the sort of thing which would disgrace a Tourneyhammer blog and which I wouldn’t necessarily have taken under ordinary circumstances. I did want to try out a few concepts, particularly the idea of a Royal Court that sticks together as a token melee presence (commandeering the Ghost Ark so they have a means to deliver themselves forward) and a version of Tekeshi (v2.0, as it were) geared out to have fun in challenges. Still no invulnerable save, as I recall reading somewhere that characters with 2+ saves and personal transport vehicles might not need them…

HQ

Overlord Tekeshi – warscythe, mindshackle scarabs, sempiternal weave, phylactery
Catacomb Command Barge – tesla cannon
Royal Court – 4 Necron Lords – warscythe, sempiternal weave

Troops

4 x 10 Necron Warriors
1 Ghost Ark (attached to the unpainted squad, who deploy outside it so the Court can mount up)

Elites

Triarch Stalker

Fast Attack

4 Tomb Blades – twin-linked Gauss blaster

5 Tomb Blades – twin-linked Tesla carbine

Heavy Support

Annihilation Barge – Tesla cannon

Ben was paring back his usual 2000 point list (he basically dropped all his Fast Attack, which isn’t properly built or painted anyway), which was built for fifth edition and relies heavily on the now-abolished capacity to charge out of a Webway portal, do lots of damage in melee, and either lock itself into combat so you can’t shoot anything much on your turn, or present you with so many targets that focused fire goes out of the window. Now that he can’t do that, he’s relying more on devastating short-ranged shooting from his elite infantry and a couple of nasty combat presences to distract reprisals. He claims not to be convinced that the list is capable of doing this, and that it might need a bit of a re-tooling for the brave new universe of sixth edition.

HQ

Archon – huskblade, soul trap, shadowfield, webway portal, combat drugs

Haemonculus Ancient – Casket of Flensing, stinger pistol, flesh gauntlet

Troops

10 Kabalite Warriors – shredder
Raider – dark lance, splinter racks

10 Kabalite Warriors – shredder

Elites

5 Incubi – Klaivex with bloodstone, demiglaives and Onslaught
Venom – flickerfield, 2 splinter cannons

10 Kabalite Trueborn – 2 splinter cannons, 8 shard carbines, Dracon with agoniser

9 Hekatrix Bloodbrides – 3 Wych Weapons, haywire grenades, Syren with power weapon and phantasm grenade launcher
Raider – dark lance, splinter racks

Heavy Support

Ravager – 3 dark lances, nightshield

Talos – chainflails, additional close combat weapon, twin splinter cannons

We rolled up Purge the Alien for our mission – victory points would be scored for eliminating enemy units, being the first to eliminate an enemy unit, eliminating the enemy Warlord, and having anything that didn’t have an armour value in the enemy deployment zone at the end of the game. I’m sure all those conditions have suitably grimdark (TM) names, but I don’t know them. For deployment, we rolled Hammer and Anvil, which suited me fine ’cause I was sat by a short board edge already. For Warlord traits, Ben rolled Night Attacker for his anonymous Archon (“so you can choose to start the game in Night Fighting?” “damn right I’m going to start the game in Night Fighting!”) and I rolled Legendary Fighter for Tekshi (obviously this backup copy was really into her mindshackle scarabs). Oh, and Ben’s Combat Drugs started him off with a free Pain Point on everything that got them, which set him to curses as he’d left his Hellions and Reavers out for this one.

Deployment

I elected to keep the super-nippy Tomb Blades and the Warrior squad I couldn’t find a good deployment position for in reserve. I also elected to deploy quite far forward. I’d like to claim that I was thinking about the off-chance of seizing the initiative, or setting up a cunning “kill these on your turns and sit around in Rapid Fire range on my turn” plan, but the truth is I just can’t gauge threat ranges to save my life any more. Ben kept his Talos, Trueborn (with Haemonculus) and footslogging Warriors in reserve – not being able to assault through the Portal didn’t mean he couldn’t burp out an appalling amount of firepower from reserves that moved through it. Anyway, I failed to seize anything, let alone the initiative, and Ben opened hostilities.

The transports moved up 12″ and disported their cargo, with the Incubi moving into the Archeotech Artefact ruins (which turned out to be BOOBY TRAPPED, but nobody was harmed save the Klaivex’s dignity). The Ravager let rip into Tekeshi’s Chariot (or the Command Barge, as it’s more commonly known) and blew it to kingdom come. Adding insult to injury, I boxcarred Tekeshi’s Pinning check and left her in the open with no phase shifter. In the assault phase, Ben’s Incubi decided to hang around and take photos of the ruins (hurrah for the random charge distance!) while the Archon and Bloodbrides ripped the front Warrior squad to shreds and left themselves standing right in rapid fire range of the rest of the army.

Interesting Rules Intermission – the beginning of each Initiative step in combat with a pile-in move means that high-Initiative close combat troops, especially those with mixed Initiative stats, are much more likely to get more of their dudes into base contact and thus get to make many more attacks and thus wipe their opponents and leave themselves stranded and vulnerable rather than safely locked into combat during the enemy shooting phase. That’s worth remembering.

I opted for a cautious turn in which damn near everything shuffled up six inches, except the Lords, who crept across in preparation to assault some assault elements and pin them down for a turn once the shooting was over. The Annihilation Barge and Triarch Stalker flubbed badly, managing to Shake a Raider between them, and quoth Ben: “so where’s this terrifying Necron shooting phase I’ve heard so much about?” Meanwhile, two Warrior squads and the Ghost Ark opened up on the Bloodbrides, and when the sound and light show ended, all but the Syren and Archon were dead. Quoth I: “that’s where this terrifying Necron shooting phase is.”

Just to put the lid on it, the Stalker did its little War of the Worlds act and atomised the Raider what was creeping around the Bastion, frying seven of the Warriors on board and pinning the rest, which pleased me. To cap it all off, Tekeshi’s Toyboys, as Ben will insist on calling them, assaulted the last Wych and the Archon, and butcherised them both after Ben whiffed his first shadowfield save. Warscythes are great. The Toyboys fanned out to contain the Incubi a bit, in a “if you want the guns you’ll have to come through us” kind of way. Who says I don’t unnerstan’ tic-tacks?

Rather helpfully, Ben started his second turn by whiffing two out of three Reserve rolls, pulling his transports back to pick up the footsloggers as they arrived, and downed a grand total of sod-all with his shooting, while his Incubi crept through the ruins, looking to take advantage of Fleet and take a long-shot charge at the unpainted Warriors cowering behind the Toyboys. After the run roll and the charge roll, they were about .25″ short, but since .25″ is not a real distance that’s ever likely to come up in the rules, and since the game would likely be quite dull if Ben was just taking off a combat unit every turn and running his reserves up the board, I let him make the assault. Naturally the Incubi pulped the Warriors and consolidated six inches towards Tekeshi. Much more interesting.

Interesting Rules Intermission: so, this edition, we’re mainly ripping mechanics off of… Warmachine! All this talk about charging in straight lines or running, and having a one-inch zone of control around models, is all very familiar territory to me. Not, I hasten to point out, that I think this is a bad thing. Indeed, I rather like 40K’s version, which strips out the whole ‘free strike’ thing and allows models to pile in during their Initiative step, which tends to result in more models being involved in a fight, which results in more dynamic fights given that 40K allows you to stand up for yourself no matter whose turn it is. All of this also means fights will be over more quickly, which is kind of an advantage in a game with this kind of model count. On the subject of charges and assaults, I’m very fond of Overwatch, despite it not doing me much good in this game – it’s a nice little touch which makes charging forward to hit people with honking great space guns quite a risky proposition, and that feels appropriately sci-fi-ish to me. I also like the pre-measuring, for the same reason – in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, you’d hope some bugger had invented a range finder…

Unlike Ben, I can roll 3+ to bring things on from reserve. The Tomb Blade squads turbo-boosted up each side, both to give Ben’s reserves a game to get into when they arrived, and to take a ‘pray for sixes’ approach to Tesla-ing the Raider and Gaussing the Ravager. The Warriors waddled on and lined up on the Incubi, the other Warriors embarked on the Ghost Ark (which edged forward out of Tekeshi’s way) and my assorted HQ pieces closed in on the Incubi. They’d had their fun, now it was time to dispose of them… and between the two Warrior squads and the Ghost Ark, four out of five Incubi were well and truly disposed of. The Annihilation Barge scored eightTesla destructor hits on the Raider, and managed to… stun it… but it did zap four Warriors with the arcing lightning, so that was all right. The Stalker reached out and touched the Venom, frying it in mid-air, and Tekeshi mopped up the last Incubus in combat, or rather made him mop himself up by playing “stop hitting yourself” via her mindshackle scarabs.

Interesting Rules Intermission –we spent some time trying to work out exactly how Tekeshi’s scarabs would interact with the challenge rules, after I explained that I’d taken them because the Internet suggested they made her kick arse in challenges. The basic principle seems to be ‘charge with Tekeshi, make sure there’s only one model in base contact, issue the challenge ‘before any blows are struck’ and then trigger the scarabs, which also happens ‘before any blows are struck’. Ben spent a few minutes working out how to get around it – charging on your turn and setting up the models in base to base so that you can control who she’s engaging and force her to randomise who she scarabises.

Ben’s Trueborn and Haemonculus ran out of excuses and wandered onto the far right flank, bunkering up beside the Ravager. The Warriors in the middle ducked and covered into the bastion, trying to hide their fragile, Victory-Point-constituting bodies behind some good honest walls rather than brittle tinfoil with an engine strapped to it (no, as it happens I don’t think much of Raiders). The Ravager immobilised my Triarch Stalker, and the surviving Raider finished it off (all right, maybe I do think something of Raiders), while the Trueborn and Warriors blasted two Gauss-Blades off the face of the battlefield. I think this was the part where we realised how close the game actually was, in terms of Victory Points…

The above image will have to do for my third turn as well, as things were becoming sufficiently tense that photography took a back seat. The Ghost Ark restored a Warrior and dropped off their cargo, then drifted over to pick up Tekeshi and her Toyboys (taking advantage of the sixth edition rules for independent characters and embarking) who would otherwise be out of the game for the duration. Technically they had to take a difficult terrain test, but I’d already moved them by the time we remembered, and couldn’t remember where they’d been, so Ben let me off. The Tomb Blades and Barge closed in; the Barge glanced Ben’s Raider to death with more Tesla fire, the Tesla Blades mopped up four Warriors, and the Gauss Blades flubbed badly off the jinking Ravager. Meanwhile, the various Necron Warriors lagging in midfield opened up on the contents of the Bastion with so many shots that no amount of Going to Ground would save their Dark Eldar counterparts.

In the fourth turn, the Talos finally showed up and zapped a few Warriors, the Trueborn utterly toasted the Gauss-toting Tomb Blades, and the Ravager lanced the main gun off the Annihilation Barge in a shower of sparks. For my part, I pulled the Tomb Blades into Ben’s deployment zone to chase the Linebreaker Victory Point, glanced a Hull Point off the Ravager with the Annihilation Barge and another with the foremost Warriors, and brought the Ark up fast, closing the distance; if I could get Tekeshi and co. into the Trueborn I was fairly confident that I’d nail the Haemonculus and do something with that Warlord trait.

 Interesting Rules Intermission – I remain strong in my belief that Warlord traits are the first thing I’d house-rule around my way. Your Warlord traits represent both your senior HQ’s personality and their tactical style, and it’s sort of awkward to take the kind of ownership of one’s gaming experience that I try to take, i.e. stringing things together into a coherent and extended narrative, when that narrative’s central character changes randomly with every new instalment. Of course, I have a workaround for it – all those Tekeshi backups have very different attitudes, and they don’t necessarily share one another’s experiences – but I’d still like to at least keep the first one I rolled over a run of games.

Once again, Ben’s Ravager flubbed its shooting, this time doing naught to the Annihilation Barge but scratch the metalwork a bit. The Talos likewise flubbed all over the advancing Necron Warriors, and the Trueborn stripped another six Necrons clean off the board with another arrestingly brutal volley.

The Ghost Ark raised a Necron Warrior and gave itself a glancing hit in the process (not sure I like that trade, to be honest), and the Tomb Blades tried to find a sweet spot between their 24″ range and the 18″ range on the super-shooty Trueborn before giving up and settling down to take potshots at the Ravager instead. Tekeshi and the Toyboys disembarked to make their assault run on the Trueborn, and the Ghost Ark lined up for a broadside on the Ravager. One hull point left. One six in the right place was all I’d need…

The Barge whiffed its shot on the Ravager.
The Blades whiffed their shots on the Ravager.
The Ark whiffed its shots on the Ravager.
The Warriors whiffed their shots on the Ravager.
Tekeshi and the Toyboys ran one lousy inch and their charge came up an inch short. This was bad. I had every faith that those Trueborn would point, click and delete Tekeshi and co. in one round of shooting and bag Ben three Victory Points on the spot.

Good job it was turn 5, really. The Random Game Length roll came up a 2, and that was game over!

Necron Victory Points
Linebreaker – 1
Slay The Warlord – 1
Units destroyed – 5

Dark Eldar Victory Points
First Blood – 1
Units destroyed – 4

Victory to the Necrons!

Not that it necessarily felt like one. Much like the last game, I felt that the tide had definitely turned towards the end, and once again it was only the arbitrary mechanics that had ‘won’ me this one. I could certainly have played a much safer game towards the end, leaving Tekeshi safely in the backfield and ferrying disposable Warriors up to the front lines instead; in a context where safe, secure, boring wins matter, I’d obviously have done that, but since this wasn’t such a context, what’s the point? Anyway, it was only a run of sub-par dice that stopped me taking a creditable crack at a 10-5 win (1 point for the Trueborn, 1 for the Haemonculus, and another 1 for Tekeshi’s Warlord trait if she managed to win a challenge), although to be fair it’s only a run of sub-par dice in Ben’s second turn that let me keep up the tempo that I did anyway.

We did spend quarter of an hour rolling out Ben’s next turn, just seeing how many ifs and buts would have to fall into line for Ben to take out Tekeshi and snatch back the win. Given that there was still a Casket of Flensing to drop (for which Ben rolled AP1 during our test run… un-nerving!), a vicious shooting phase from the Trueborn (I wasn’t that worried about Overwatch, as the Toyboys seemed pretty good at shrugging off small arms fire, but the full torrent at BS4 would be rather more concerning), and a round of shooting plus a decent charge from the Talos (our test run saw the Talos avoid mindshackling itself, then fail to kill Tekeshi, but manage to break her and run her down), I’m not entirely sure I’d have come through that with my dignity intact.

Ben reckons the turning point of the game was as early as his very first assault move. He took something of a gamble in assaulting my Warriors with his Archon rather than dropping the webway portal, and while it did earn him two Victory Points straight off the bat, it ran counter to his army build’s signature trick, and left the Archon vulnerable to the Necron counter-attack. I’m inclined to agree; when a goodly chunk of your build and tactics revolve around a particular item, deploying that item should probably be the priority. Granted, his unfavourable reserve rolls wouldn’t have let him make the best of it – he does better when the whole bloody army pours out of that portal – but it would have brought his Warriors into the fray properly and they might have been able to clear a spot for the Trueborn in the middle of my army. Ben pointed out that the sheer mass of Necrons meant that surrounding the portal and preventing anything moving through it might have been rather easy for me, and that makes me think dark thoughts about some allies that could provide big or tough squads of combat-capable bodies. Neither Ben nor I are inclined to forming alliances for the sake of power, but a justification for Chaos or Orks is easily crafted. In fact, I have one in the works right now!

For my part, I was quietly impressed with the Necrons’ performance; for a list based around Shiny New Toys it did very well for itself, and while I think it’d have had real trouble with, say, the Razorwing, I’d consider running something similar again. Forty Warriors is probably too many and I’d consider either two tens in transports and twelve on foot or three tens, one transport and some Immortals to round things off. I’m also considering whipping Tekeshi off her Chariot, giving her a Resurrection Orb, and embedding her in the close combat Court. Of one thing I am very sure; the Necrons are greatly improved by the presence of a few bodies that can tie things up in close combat. The Lords, with their excellent Toughness and save, fill the niche well and have some impressive offensive capacity; the Lychguard might be able to do the same job but would, I think, suffer a bit from their comparative lack of punch and lack of a sempiternal weave.

The ghost ark’s engines thrummed beneath her feet as it drifted and turned, presenting a broadside to the eldar vehicles. As they fired, Tekeshi stepped between the flayer beams and saluted the last of the raiders with her scythe. Her new aristocracy descended with her, raising their own weapons and preparing to charge. And yet, even as she singled out the flesh-monger and executed the command that would send her scarabs out to snare his mind and turn his weapons against him, she detected something – some ethereal resonance that hung around the casket in his uppermost hands, a pattern of data corresponding to something she recognised. A process flared into activity within her consciousness, checking, comparing, contrasting… and then she realised. Of course the data was familiar. She contemplated it, with some fraction of her processing power, at every moment of her renewed existence. The eldar, somehow, was carrying her mind.

Of course! The raid on Solace, ten revolutions previously. This iteration of her persona had been uploaded when a previous iteration failed to return from that venture to the surface; her crypteks had confirmed degenerate eldar to have been her opponents, but not the actual fate of her previous self. The backup had floundered for a while, uncertain of how to pursue vengeance, before settling on this hunt, the personal humiliation of eldar commanders in a primitive – but rather satisfying – act of retribution. Tekeshi focused her vision, and allowed her voice to be heard.

“Punitive retribution has been carried out. On presentation of reparation, hostilities may cease. Access to the primary world of this system can be negotiated.” The degenerate giggled, as they so often did, and Tekeshi lamented the frivolities of the flesh as she laid her claws on the nearest of her swains. The statuesque figure hurled what he was carrying at the torturer’s feet – the eldar commander’s head bounced across the sand and rolled to a halt there. The giggling rose in pitch. That probably meant he was listening. Tekeshi considered this, and added, with a kink in her vocal mechanisms, “Alternatively, you could die.”

“If you could kill us, you would, but you haven’t, so you can’t,” the torturer sniggered. “And you’ll be picking sand out of your soldiers for months and months and months.” His voice dropped, into a grating monotone, a poor parody of a necron. “Your empty threat is noted and your proposal accepted. We could fight, if we wanted to, but we don’t, so we won’t. We want to leave. So do you.” His upper arms threw the box to Tekeshi. “And we’ve got what we came for – you’ve killed him for us.”

“Further conflict is unnecessary.”

“We could stay, if we wanted to. But we don’t.”

“Your continued presence would not be tolerated. Your continued existence is… acceptable.” Tekeshi let her shining guardians lift her back onto the hovering ark, and nodded to the torturer. “Honour is satisfied. I counsel that you leave, before you insult me again.”

[Meta Gaming] M. A. R. Barker, ‘Create a Religion in your Spare Time for Fun and Profit’

Some time ago, Kent spent some time talking up this essay by the author/engineer/creator of Tékumel as being exemplary and inspiring stuff for the GM interested in establishing their own campaign world. Relevant to my interests though it assuredly is (and I’ll get around to building worlds once I’ve blown the dust off my practical at-the-table GMing skills, as it’s all for naught if one’s running a boring and directionless game), it’s taken quite a while to get around to reading it.

Continue reading “[Meta Gaming] M. A. R. Barker, ‘Create a Religion in your Spare Time for Fun and Profit’”

[40K] Sixth Edition and Cautious Optimism

I’ve made little secret of not really giving a toss about 40K. This might be why I’ve spent the last fortnight of Blog Time sitting around with my fingers in my ears, as everyone who hasn’t been talking about sexism in gaming and game culture has been talking about the impending/imminent/just-gone-by release of 40K’s sixth edition.

Then, though, word started trickling in from the blogs I was still paying attention to; the Oldhammer crowd started to say a few words of cautious commendation. Apparently, 40K.6 is very much about encouraging narrative play, going to far as to point out ways and means by which this might be done; attempts have allegedly been made to flag up the Imperium as the dystopian nightmarescape it is; some have even gone so far as to say that the new Big Green Book doesn’t so much lay down the law as encourage you to shoot big holes in it in the cause of exploring a galaxy full of crazy notions.

Continue reading “[40K] Sixth Edition and Cautious Optimism”