[Meta Gaming] Dark Communion: the Return of Termite Art

This is where it started, you know. Bill King. John Blanche. Three pages, tucked away at the back of the second edition Wargear book. Four columns and a massive illustration in which Chaos is not explained but exemplified. I want you to hold on to that idea – not explained, but exemplified. I think we fall into bad habits, as nerd-folk: habits of codifying and classifying and explicitly stating I-think-you’ll-find-that-it-said-on-page-62-of-that-novel-that… and I can’t even be assed thinking of an example, because I’m pretty sure you’ve thought of one already. What we have here is an impression of what it’s like to be a Chaos Space Marine, to be something old and spiteful and powerful and yet lost in its own body and its own memories. It doesn’t baldly tell you things; it shows them to you, obliquely and elegantly articulating by example.

I can’t articulate some things without people articulating in songs for me. People can’t articulate what Shakespeare said without quoting Shakespeare chapter and verse. Not that I’m setting myself up against Shakespeare; I’m just saying that some things can only be articulated in Art. That’s what Art is for.
— Andrew Eldritch (again)

And is what we’re doing here Art? That’s one for the ages – what is Art, and what is Worth, and does what we’re doing have the signifiers of either? I’m not at liberty to say. It sounds to me, though, like what we can do with this is have some sort of vision, or impression, or concept in mind and communicate that vision through a medium, and it just so happens that our medium happens to be little toy soldiers and funny voices. I’m suggesting that if something can be articulated in a story or in a painting or in a sculpture then it can be articulated in something that has about it elements of them all and is, more to the point, something not consumed – look, don’t touch! – but created actively by a small group of people here and now, in the moment: something tactile and tangible and yet ephemeral, something gone in the morning. Art that renders you complicit in the act of making Art.

This of course brings us back to the art of making, and to Termite Art. Now do you see why I reposted the old Frugal post? Everything I said three years ago still stands – while purporting to encourage conversions and creativity the contemporary Games Workshop (and, increasingly, other manufacturers, including those who pal up with Army Painter and Battlefoam to shill their expensive gamer-brand hardware) doesn’t encourage you to make stuff out of crap you found in your house but instead out of the official brand-name conversion kits (and don’t think getting yours from Kromlech or Chapterhouse or wherever places you beyond the reach of my grand and arrogant swinge; it does not, it simply shows that you’re a smart consumer with aesthetic taste). However, there are a couple of things doing the rounds which have extended my worldview a little.

The first is this alternate usage of ‘Termite Art’ as a term by Manny Farber, meaning not art-as-scavenging but art-as-digestion-and-excretion:

Good work usually arises where the creators seem to have no ambitions towards gilt culture but are involved in a kind of squandering-beaverish endeavor that isn’t anywhere or for anything. A peculiar fact about termite- tapeworm-fungus-moss art is that it goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.

The most inclusive description of the art is that, termite-like, it feels its way through walls of particularization with no sign that the artist has any object in mind other than eating away the immediate boundaries of his art, and turning these boundaries into conditions of the next achievement.

We’re not operating under any pretence that what we do is High Culture or Great Art; the officer of my WoW-RP guild reacts with polite horror to the very suggestion that it has any artistic merit whatsoever. We are, I hope, acknowledging that what we do is in Farber’s sense an artistic practice. It’s not for anything other than the fun of doing it, and – if we discount the witless pursuit of Official Best Nerd status at events – we become better at it through a rather haphazard process of continually doing stuff.

The other thing that’s gnawing at my soul, post-Gamer-Gate, is the idea of the gamer as defined by what they consume. It’s about video games, of course, but I feel that much of it applies to the likes of us as well.

Gamer identity is tainted, root and branch, by its embrace of consumption as a way of life. If gamers suddenly became completely inclusive, if all of the threats and stamping of feet went away and the doors were flung open, conspicuous consumption would still be the essential core of their identity. The mythical gamer who does not exist to consume is not a gamer. A raisin is not a grape, and no amount of rehydration will turn it into one.

And let’s be honest here; primary or secondary markets, bought or traded, we’re all consumers here. The question is, are we smart consumers? Do we buy the shit that’s shovelled at us or do we say “this is shit, let’s make something better out of stuff I found in the kitchen cupboard or bought in the hardware store or have had in the loft forever”? Embracing Termite Art means, I think, that we take some degree of ownership; we don’t buy ugly models because they’re official or because they have good rules, we don’t spend a hundred and fifty quid on injection-moulded plastic when a perfectly decent 6’x4′ table with basic scenery can be hand-made for half that sum, and we don’t play Borehammer or Stallroller-type Warmachordes, obediently lining up to fit into the out-of-the-box experience that the siege mentality provides.

Embracing Termite Art means playing in a way that gnaws at the edges of the table, that spills over into other kinds of expression, that are bigger than just another pick-up game. I have so much that I want to do, so much that I want to write and draw and model and paint and play and, yes, all right, collect. Without, it must be said, automatically buying only models for parts, or even only buying things for parts. It’s still gaming as conspicuous consumption; but what’s consumed demands excretion, and that’s the principle of Termite Art. It’s not what we buy that counts, it’s what we do with it.

[Meta Gaming] Vintage Years For Grimdark

In a comment thread on the House of Paincakes, resident genius Mr. Cedric Ballbusch staked out the idea that it was a terrible, terrible mistake on the part of Games Workshop to set its space fantasy dakkafest at the end of the titular forty-first millennium. Easy enough to say with the benefit of hindsight, says I, but at the time I don’t think a) Messrs Priestly, Stillman, Halliwell et al were expecting the game to last for twenty-six years and counting, and b) they could have done things any differently.

Perhaps some context will help.

I was born in 1985; the same year that, for the first time since its launch, Doctor Who was deemed too shite for public broadcast, and the same year that The Sisters of Mercy sold out the Royal Albert Hall. It took another couple of years for the other great loves of my life to materialise – Hark was born in 1986 (obligatory mushy stuff here) and, in 1987, the aforementioned Sisters released Floodland and Games Workshop launched this funny thing called Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader.

While I don’t think there’s an explicit link between these latter two concepts, you have to understand that in the third term of Thatcher’s Britain, living with the rattling madwoman-in-the-attic spasms of the Cold War’s final years and under the dusty toxic shadow of Chernobyl, a definite sense of fin de siecle seems to have hung in the air, which the two products under the microscope here illustrate beautifully. While not the literal turn of a century in the same sense that the Decadence of the 1890s was, there’s a definite sense of closure, shutting down, boarding up the old shop windows and getting ready to call it a day. How else does one explain the brief fashionable flourish of gothic rock, a prevailing cultural mindset in which the Sisters can nab three Top Ten hits in a year?

The associations between the Games Workshop of the 1980s and the seemingly-invincible Iron Lady have been well documented (here and also here). Everywhere North of Watford and west of, say, Oxfordshire, there’s a sense of hard times, watching the skies, wondering if the rising waters or the falling bombs are going to kill us first. It’s no accident that The Sisters Of Mercy emerged from Yorkshire and no accident at all that 1987 saw them metamorphose into a synth-driven brooding engine, dropping out three singles around three themes – personal revenge elevated to pompous epic, geopolitical economics reduced to a semi-plausible adventure of loss and betrayal, and a seething, sexy, fuck-it-all-let’s-have-a-dance-in-the-ruins post-industrial foot-tapper. What else are you going to do in all those empty mills? Floodland is a personal breakdown wedded to a political quagmire, the one serving as metaphor for the other; it’s unrelentingly, gloriously doom-laden and yet there’s three songs which are basically elaborate sex metaphors and one about soaring away on an amphetamine-fuelled high. Steve Sutherland said at the time:

Dying on record is a dicey business, especially when it’s world destruction that dogs your every waking minute because there’s nowhere to go artistically – the bomb doesn’t get worse, it’s just there. Facing up to that, Floodland is a triumph of sorts, neither optimistic enough to suggest there’s a Noah’s Ark nor pessimistic enough to accuse us all of navigating like a ship of fools. It simply says rust never sleeps and this is what it sounds like.

I’m of the opinion that Warhammer 40,000, with its looming fin de grande siecle feel, is tapping into that same sense that there’s nowhere left to go but that we might as well have fun while we’re waiting for the bombs to start falling. The sense that there may soon be nowhere else to go, that our leader is simply not going to go away any time soon, that everything is falling apart but we keep it together because what else is there? That’s Thatcher’s Britain writ large. That’s the vision at the heart of Floodland. That’s the essence of 40K right there.

How could they not set it when they did? The ol’ China (Mieville, of course) never spoke truer words than “when you sit down to write, society is in the chair with you”, and the society of the mid-to-late-Eighties was one in which, for a brief moment, Mr. Eldritch and his drum machine were right on the cultural button.

It couldn’t last, of course. 40K’s black humour and smirk in the face of oblivion would be exaggerated and distorted as we moved toward the actual end of the millennium and realised that the end of the world has still failed to arrive on time.

The process started, I think, in 1993. Doctor Who‘s thirtieth anniversary, ‘celebrated’ with the cack-awful ‘Dimensions In Time’, a special which – sweet, nourishing irony! – crossed-over with the very programme in favour of which Who was cancelled. (Incidentally, if you think goth music and 40K are depressing, watch EastEnders for a month. Especially at Christmas.) The Sisters released their last single, and have since lurched along on permanent strike, touring every couple of years, trotting out a few new songs every time, but refusing to release either Jack or Shit.

Meanwhile, 40K received its Tom Kirby Big Box Game treatment (although this is where I came in, so I can’t be too hard on it). The words on the front of the box? IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FAR FUTURE THERE IS ONLY WAR. ‘Grim Darkness’ has become ‘grimdark’ since then, said with a sneer, in much the same way as “I still like The Sisters Of Mercy!” has become perfect shorthand for being sad, out of touch, trapped in one’s own memories. 40K wallows in its own pomposity, cranking its own release cycle like mad, subsequent Codices acting as ever-bigger giants, turning full circle back to random tables, Vortex grenades and psychic powers on cards (y’know, those things from… 1993’s second edition); forever ramping up the thread of an apocalypse it’ll never have the balls to see through.

At the time, it made perfect sense. Now? I don’t know. All the things I love have turned into zombies. I’ve spoken of my love for ‘dead’ things before, things which aren’t going to be fucked around with in order to produce a new iteration for the sake of paying the bills, and yet I can’t quite put down Doctor Who, or The Sisters Of Mercy, or indeed 40K.

I’m still selling my Necrons, though. And I still type things in Caslon Antique.

[40K] Battle Report: The Perfect Storm

The Black Planet, 4182013.M41

External Planetary Monitor Derv was concerned – not a state of mind to which he was accustomed, in all honesty. The job of External Planetary Monitor was not, in general, one that required a great deal of concern, or indeed concentration; by and large, the job did itself, the ancient computers ticking off incoming and outgoing vessels against flight plans and manifests, and displaying alerts on the Monitors’ monitors on the rare occasions when something didn’t tally. Derv would dutifully forward these alerts to the Navy Yeomanry Planetary Defenders, the Black Planet League of Merchant Venturers, and of course the Galactic Internal Taxation Subdivision – unread, of course, since the penalty for tampering with taxation records was too fearsome to contemplate – and then go back to occupying his time in some other fashion.

Nevertheless, he was concerned, and said so.

“Moon’s gone a funny colour.”

Derv’s immediate colleague, Torq, emitted a vaguely interested, vaguely dismissive, vaguely responsive grunt, and returned his attention to the screen in front of him.

“You’re not going to look, then?”

Another grunt. This one managed to convey irritation, a mild personal contempt for Derv himself, and a deep-seated wish that Derv would clear off and leave him, Torq, to his vitally important duties.

“Stop playing Dark Millennium and look, you slag.”

Having exhausted the possibilities of grunting, or expended his expressive capabilities in the medium too soon – a peril confronting all early-blooming geniuses – Torq thumped the monitor, called it a brainless son of a fragbunny, did the same to his controls, and then finally turned to look at Derv.

“Well, I’m dead now, and we’ve lost Armageddon. I hope you’re happy. That’s three weeks of dedicated grinding down the tube, thanks to you.”

“Shut up and look at the moon, Torq.”

“Which one? Coalfield?”

“No, the little one.”

“What, Solidhull?”

“No, the really little one.”

“That’s not a moon, is it? That’s spacejunk. Has to be.”

“Torq, spacejunk is small. Wulfruna is far away. We’ve been through this.”

“Why’s it green?”

Derv sighed, and gently laid his face in his palm. “It isn’t. Usually.”

“Think we should report it?”

“That’s what I was asking!”

“Well, take some initiative and do it and don’t bother me when I’m in the middle of a twenty thousand player kill-fest again, all right? You’ve got no sense of what’s important, that’s your trouble.”

Derv reflected on this as he typed up a brief report, enclosed a series of grainy, poor-quality images, and punched in the commands that would send his message not down the usual sub-aether channels, but directly to Naval Astrotelepathic Regional Command. Torq had said the same thing when they’d been raided by eldar pirates the year before, of course. Not that he’d noticed. He’d been too busy fighting the Battle of Ichar IV on his monitor to notice the war going on outside his window. Not for the first time, Derv contemplated an intervention, before deciding – as usual – that it probably wasn’t worth the months of complaining that were bound to result.

Over the next six months, Derv’s barely-literate description of events, along with some of the worst examples of stellar photography the Imperium had ever seen, was passed like an unwanted takeway through NARC, back to NYPD as a strictly internal matter of no interplanetary interest, briefly through the dark and foetid halls of GITS where it had been sequestered as a cover for tax evasion, back to NYPD to be stamped as clean, back to NARC for transmission as a matter for the Explorator fleets rather than planetary defence, and finally, reluctantly, hurled into the galaxy at large for any passing explorer to wrap their grubby mitts around it.

The Explorator vessel which did eventually pick up the message and make a brief stop above Wulfruna spent a grand total of thirty-two seconds in low orbit before being struck by what its final transmission described as a hissing column of pure black oblivion, attended by an all-frequencies broadcast of indecipherable machine code which the Explorators had initially mistaken for the latest release by the ‘popular’ ‘experimental’ ‘technical noise producers’ Standard Template Deconstruction, and naturally switched off.

A further three months passed as the transmission was assessed, examined, standardised, verified, appended to a heavily-annotated copy of Derv’s report, and finally released to the galactic aether at large as the most bureaucratically correct distress call in recent history. It was at that point that the Hawk Lords Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes got hold of it, and decided to do something useful.

Another college holiday means another chance to troop up to the West Midlands with my Necrons in tow, and another chance to line them up in front of Ben’s assorted armies and see how much damage we can do before the game inevitably times out on the fifth turn. The slightly ad hoc nature of this trip meant I’d just grabbed absolutely everything and lugged it onto the coach; this turned out to be all right, as Ben had both a Night Scythe to surrender as belated Christmas tribute, and a 2000 point Hawk Lords (purple-coloured vanilla-flavoured Space Marines (TM)) list he wanted to try out. Apparently he’s bored with keeping track of pain tokens and never getting to roll any armour saves, and so has dug his formerly all-conquering Space Marines (TM), which have the added bonus of being closer to fully painted than his Dark Eldar.

Since we have the luxury of time on our sides for these games, they tend to be quite leisurely affairs, in which rules are checked, discussed and followed fairly accurately, and in which various aspects of the game are singled out as Learning Experiences. In this case, there were three things we wanted to learn about. First was, of course, the Flyer rules, since Ben’s Razorwing hasn’t come out to play since fifth edition and the only flying I’ve ever done involves Fell Bats and Winged Nightmares rather than anything with an engine. Second was the Psychic Powers. I play Necrons, Ben plays Dark Eldar, neither of us ordinarily get to lay hands on any whizzes, pops or bangs from the fevered brains of witches, mutants and other neurologically-advanced folks. I still wouldn’t, but Ben resolved to bung a Librarian into his list and see what all the fuss was about. Thirdly and finally, there was the small matter of the Relic mission, which I usually re-roll if it comes up of a Thursday night because, frankly, after my hardest working day, what I want is a nice quick quiet game and not a fartaround. Nevertheless, I figure it can’t be that hard; once I’ve played it once I’ll get it.

Anyway. Those armies.

Von’s Crons

HQ – Nemesor Tekeshi – Necron Overlord with warscythe and phase shifter
Catacomb Command Barge – Tesla cannon
Royal Court – Necron Lord with warscythe and sempiternal weave, 3 Harbingers of Destruction

HQ – Vargard Koschei – Necron Overlord with warscythe, sempiternal weave and resurrection orb
Royal Court – Necron Lord with warscythe and sempiternal weave, Harbinger of the Storm

Troops – 12 Necron Warriors (both Lords go in here)
Night Scythe

Troops – 10 Necron Warriors (1 Harbinger of Destruction goes in here)

Troops – 10 Necron Warriors (1 Harbinger of Destruction goes in here)

Troops – 10 Necron Warriors (1 Harbinger of Destruction goes in here)

Elites – 5 Lychguard with hyperphase sword and dispersion shield (Koschei and the Harbinger of the Storm go in here)

Fast Attack – 5 Destroyers

Fast Attack – 5 Tomb Blades with Tesla carbines

Fast Attack – 3 Canoptek Wraiths

Heavy Support – Annihilation Barge with tesla cannon

The plan is a simple plan. As usual, the footslogging Warriors cower on the edge of midfield in whatever cover presents itself; if required to advance and deploy further Gauss shots in the general direction of the enemy, they do so behind a wall of Lychguard (plus Resurrection Orb and models who can actually hurt things) and Wraiths. That first wave will also be going for the Relic in this scenario, though I didn’t plan the list especially for the mission or anything rude like that. Anyway, the Destroyers are there to point, click and delete small Space Marine (TM) squads, especially small Space Marine (TM) squads with AP4 or better weaponry in abundance, the Tomb Blades to strafe and finish off odd survivors, the Barge to target flyers as a priority (okay, so it needs sixes to hit, but each six is three hits, and it’s twin-linked to boot) and the Night Scythe to drop its cargo of Warriors and angry Lords off somewhere where they’ll be useful and then go dogfighting.

Ben’s Purple-Painted Poultry-Paragon Pigeon Punishers

HQ – Captain Talassar Kaine – Pedro Kantor counts-as

HQ – Cathartes Aura – Librarian with Terminator Armour (force axe)

Troops – Tactical Squad – 10 Marines, 1 meltagun, Sergeant with power sword

Troops – Tactical Squad – 10 Marines, 1 meltagun, Sergeant with power sword

Troops – Tactical Squad – 10 Marines, 1 meltagun, Sergeant with power sword (Kaine goes here)

Elites – 5 Terminators – assault cannon (Aura goes here)

Elites – Chapter Master Tobias Lombardi – Ironclad Dreadnought with assault launchers 

Elites – 5 Sternguard

Fast Attack – Stormtalon (escorting Mortis Pullum)

Heavy Support – Mortis Pullum – Stormraven (Kaine’s squad goes in here, as does Lombardi)

Heavy Support – Devastator Squad – 10 Marines in 2 combat squads. 1 squad has the Sergeant and 2 heavy bolters; 1 squad has 2 plasma cannons.

Ben’s devilish cunning has tied a moderately fearsome counter-assault element, a heavy flier, a light flier, a scoring unit and a walking buff character to a single reserve roll, which slingshots in where the Victory Points are, picks up the two Tactical Squads on the ground, and sort of… grinds forward, rolling lots of attacks and firing lots of bolters. The list is not what I’d call strictly optimal, what with the passing up on free heavy weapons and the interesting choice of Sternguard, but Ben’s an old hand at this Space Marine (TM) business and I’ve seen him spin straw into gold before now. The sheer number of 3+ saves he has wandering around made me a bit leery about getting the objective off them if he managed to bury it in the heart of that Tactical brick, so seizing the Relic early on and getting it away from his footsloggers became something of a priority.

Mission – The RelicDeployment – Vanguard Strike
Warlords and Traits – 
Tekeshi (Tenacity) and Talassar Kaine (The Dust of a Thousand Worlds)
Psychic Powers – Cathartes Aura – Biomancy – Life Leech, Enfeeble

Ben deployed first. I was slightly perplexed to see his plasma cannon Devastators up front, though perhaps he wanted to avoid handing out cover saves for shooting through his own men; I was slightly relieved, meanwhile, to see the Terminators off on a flank where I could stay out of their way, or at least feed them something designed to be sacrificial and stodgy, like the Wraiths. The Sternguard might be a bit of a worry too, after Ben revealed just how flexible those naughty bolters of theirs can be. In fact, I was seeing a lot of AP4 on the board already, and the knowledge that a Stormtalon was waiting in reserve did not comfort me.

I set up the traditional Warrior phalanx – a very slight crescent which focuses its fire onto anything that ends up in the middle, and lurks in cover unless the opponent refuses to oblige me by moving to within 12″ of my guns. In such cases, the Lychguard and Wraiths spearhead an advance, offering their Invulnerable Saves to absorb fire and their mere presence to provide Cover Saves to the Warriors behind. I set up the various Tesla units on my right flank, theorising that the plasma cannon Devastators wouldn’t be terribly hard pickings, and I slapped Tekeshi down with them, with the intention of chewing through the outermost Tactical squad and making a run for the objective later in the game. The Annihilation Barge would similarly divert its attentions once I knew where Ben’s flyers would end up, while having the length of a long board edge to play with meant I was quietly confident of lining the Scythe up against something useful. The Destroyers, meanwhile, lurked behind the Warrior crescent – they would be pointing themselves at some Devastators as soon as possible, but I wanted a turn of cover saves for them before I put their metal lives on the line.

Naturally, I failed to Seize the Initiative.

Round One

The Space Marines (TM) fanned out ever-so-slightly, with the Terminators, Sternguard and outflung Tactical Squad all making cautious advance-like motions. Ben informed me that I would hate him for what he was about to do, and he wasn’t wrong; an Orbital Strike was called down. Now, I’m not complaining here or anything, since my HQs are good, but they’re not so good that they can drop a S10 AP1 Ordnance Large Blast anywhere they can see.

Quite rightly, Ben views this as an early-game ‘get the opponent on the back foot first thing’ option, and while he was tempted to land it squarely in the middle of the Warrior phalanx, the knowledge that my Barge was the only ground unit which could realistically touch his flyers won him over and he plonked it on the vehicles instead. When the dust had settled, the Annihilation Barge was miraculously unscathed (double ones on the Penetration roll, ho hee) and Tekeshi had sacrificed a Wound to keep her Command Barge mobile, although two Tomb Blades and two Warriors lay dead. A corresponding round of stern plasma and heavy bolter fire dropped two more Warriors, two Lychguard, and put a Wound on Koschei. Aura cast Enfeeble on the Wraiths, and the Sternguard and Terminators ganged up to blow a hole in one and reduce another to crater status. Alas for Ben, the Resurrection Orb proved its worth and both the Lychguard lurched to their feet, although nothing else seemed inclined to join them.

The surviving Wraiths hovered forward and laid hands on the Relic, while the Lychguard moved and then ran into midfield, establishing the kill zone betwixt themselves and the Necron Warriors. The Destroyers moved forward and strafed the Devastators nearest them, joined by the Annihilation Barge, which killed a Tactical Marine with its lightning arc, and the Tomb Blades; between all that Gauss and Tesla, the Devastators lay dead, and I was one point up with my claws into the Relic. Good start, I think!

Round Two – Necrons 1, Space Marines (TM) 0
Relic Possession – Necrons

The Reserves un-Reserved and tore onto the middle of the board, with the Stormraven in the lead and the Stormtalon bobbing after it. A mass disembarkation followed, with Captain Kaine and his Tactical chums landing in the centre and forming the brick I’d been so dreading, and Lombardi being flung from his Dreadnought clamp to land squarely in front of the Wraiths and, more troublingly, the Destroyers. Aura, meanwhile, frustrated by the Lychguards’ refusal to stay down, cast Enfeeble on those this turn.

The Sternguard and Devastators ripped through what was left of the Wraiths, and the hail of shots from the Space Marine (TM) fliers dropped three Warriors and Exploded Tekeshi’s Command Barge, to little other effect. The rest of the Space Marines (TM) sunk every shot they had into the Lychguard, knocking them all down and slapping a wound on Koschei into the bargain. Fortunately, they were one wound short of wiping out the whole squad (I love Crypteks) and two Lychguard Reanimated themselves back into the fray. Alas, that wasn’t enough to protect my poor Destroyers from wandering Dreadnoughts – Lombardi angled his descent, skidded straight through the wreckage of the Wraiths, grabbed the Relic, and smacked a Destroyer with his hammer for good measure.

That… wasn’t good. Though Our Weapons Are Useless (there’s Mat Ward’s love of Dark Omen again, you notice) was always an option, I wasn’t banking on the Destroyers’ ability to outrun an Initiative 4 Dreadnought when they fled, and if I lost them, I’d lose my only AP3 weaponry. Instead, I elected to leave them where they were and forfeit a turn of shooting in the hope of freeing them up on my turn and having them around for the rest of the game.

Fortunately, my Night Scythe turned up, and – after some minor brouhaha involving the difference between a long board edge and a deployment zone – was deemed able to arrive behind the Space Marines (TM), lining up its guns on the Stormtalon (I wanted the other one, but there was no way I’d be able to line up the shot and still have anywhere safe to put my Scythe’s giant base). The various Tesla units advanced to bring the Stormraven into their range, while Koschei ploughed on, rearranging his unit so he’d be able to charge Lombardi and retrieve the Relic.

My Annihilation Barge landed three hits on the Stormraven (told you Tesla was good), which Ben elected to Jink against; probably a good call too, as two penetrated its armour. One was Jink-saved, and the other came up… Crew Shaken. Can only fire Snap Shots. Whoop-de-doo, that’s all it was going to do anyway. Still a Hull Point though. The Night Scythe similarly landed three hits on the Stormtalon – one was Jinked, but the two glancing hits were enough to strip away its scanty Hull Points and send it crashing to the ground behind the Devastators. The rest of my shooting was less effective; a lone Tactical Marine who’d been enjoying the view from the mysterious dolmen arches, nothing at all on the Sternguard despite half my army shooting at them, and everything the airdropped Warriors managed to do to the Stormraven was cheerfully Jinked away. In retrospect, shooting the Devastators or even the Terminators might have been a better plan, but you live and learn…

In the Assault Phase, meanwhile, the Lychguard ploughed into Lombardi, who failed to hit with a single attack and got carved into tiny bits by Koschei, freeing the Destroyers up to consolidate away from the Space Marine (TM) lines and the Lychguard to move onto and secure the Relic.

Round Three – Necrons 1, Space Marines (TM) 0
Relic Possession – Necrons

Various Space Marines (TM) shuffled to improve their fire lanes, while Aura Enfeebled the Warriors behind the Space Marine (TM) lines and led his Terminators in a waddle toward the offending mechanoids. The Stormraven turned hard right and dove for the board edge, intending (so Ben claims) on a tight square which would enable it to stay on the board for two more turns and snipe at the Night Scythe with its turrets.

Unfortunately, the Machine Spirit proved a less than capable shot, landing only one lascannon hit, which I successfully Jinked away. The Space Marines (TM) were more successful on the ground, sinking a hail of bolts in various sizes into the Warriors and stripping them off the board, with the final kills on Necron Lords being claimed by Kaine and the Terminators’ assault cannon.

The one Tactical Squad that couldn’t see the Warriors shot at the Lychguard instead, downing two and causing them to drop the Relic – and one, true to form, stood up.

Without the luxury of turret weapons, there wasn’t really anything the Night Scythe could contribute to my turn, so I sent it off the board at Cruising Speed with orders to return next turn from a more sensible position. The Lychguard and Annihilation Barge gave chase to the Stormraven, which had helpfully pointed its rear armour at them (not that it matters for AV12 all round fliers, but the prospect of shooting a death chicken up the bum is never to be turned down), while the Necron Warriors decided that it was time to approach the possibility of maybe getting to Rapid Fire something at some stage and lumbered out of cover. The central unit was joined by Tekeshi – with the Relic unclaimed, it was time to get some mileage out of that Warlord Trait.

The Necron shooting phases were becoming more and more cautious, with orders of fire being preserved so’s to minimise the chance of either lightning arcing my own models or waste the Destroyers’ capacity to bust Space Marines (TM) open like soggy cantaloupes. The Tomb Blades opened up by killing a lone Tactical Squaddie, while the Annihilation Barge secured one (and thus three) hits on the Stormraven. Ben chose not to Jink – a fatal mistake, since two more hits glanced, stripping the vehicle down to little more than a flying anvil, which crashed to no effect. This freed the Lychguard’s Cryptek up to shoot the closest Tactical Squad and nail one Tactical Squaddie, who was joined by his Sergeant and six of his mates as the Warrior crescent focused its fire on them, which meant the Destroyers were able to devote their attentions to the Sternguard and scoop them off the board. The Lychguard, whose continued survival had begun to impress and surprise me, went into the survivors of the foremost Tactical Squad, butchered them, and consolidated at full pelt toward the heavy bolter Devastators. They were almost certainly going to die next turn, but pushing toward that vulnerable and important unit would surely mean that Ben had to focus fire on something within his battle-line rather than outside it, just like last turn… and that would leave Tekeshi free to grab the Relic.

Interesting Rules Interlude – The thing about those Lychguard is that they become perversely more survivable when there’s only one of them left. With hits being resolved against the majority Toughness (5, from the Overlord and Lychguard) and the best available save (either the Overlord’s 2+ or the Lychguard’s 4+) it’s surprisingly hard to shift them, even with Enfeeble to tweak the odds in your favour somewhat. Ben and I had some discussions about this, as it seems – in its own way – as open to exploitation as the old Wound Allocation system was, especially for Necrons with their capacity to take casualties up to this magic p0int, then Reanimate those casualties and do it all again.

Round Four – Necrons 1, Space Marines (TM) 0
Relic Possession – None

Aura cast Enfeeble on the Lychguard again, and led his Terminators back toward the front line and the Destroyers, while the Tactical Squads broke cover and brought the Annihilation Barge within meltagun range. Alas, the Shooting phase was not kind to Ben; the meltagun nearest the Barge missed it, and he decided to hold on to Kaine’s squad until last, just in case he needed them to finish the Lychguard. As it happens, he did – a turn of stupendous Armour Saves from my apparently magical hands meant the Lychguard weathered every single bolt of every size that came their way, although the Rending hits from the Terminators’ assault cannon and Kaine’s super-bolter were too much for them in the end.

The Night Scythe returned from my corner of the long board edge and flew over the battle-line, landing in front of the Relic, which Tekeshi advanced into and scooped up. The Annihilation Barge turned on the spot, while the Destroyers moved up to screen Tekeshi – important as they were, the Relic was more important with Random Game Length looming on the horizon. The Tomb Blades, meanwhile, enfiladed into Ben’s deployment zone, with their eye on either shooting up the Devastators or turbo-boosting to secure a decent save and the Linebreaker point. After the Scythe successfully dropped three Devastators, the Tomb Blades tried to finish them off, but couldn’t quite manage it – the last one fled toward the Tomb Blades (counter-intuitive, but whatever), Knew No Fear, and promptly hid behind a wall. The rest of the army threw everything it had at Kaine’s Tactical squad, killing everyone but the Captain himself, the Sergeant and the lone melta-gunner.

Round Five – Necrons 1, Space Marines (TM) 0
Relic Possession – Necrons

Tekeshi’s fiddling with the Relic had obviously done something, at least, as a bolt of black light shot into the heavens and seemingly turned out the sun! Night had fallen, rather earlier than anticipated, and what remained of the Space Marines (TM) closed ranks and range to pursue the Destroyers and the Warriors behind them. The surviving Devastator nailed one Destroyer, the Tactical Squad nearest the Barge another, but Kaine and his battle brothers flubbed spectacularly, leaving the last one intact and well. Aura reached out to Life Leech Tekeshi, but her sheer Tenacity allowed her to shrug off both the wounds. The Terminators likewise failed to excel themselves, with a combination of Feel No Pain and Reanimation Protocols keeping all but one of Tekeshi’s Warriors in the fight. In fact, the only real disappointment for me was the Destroyers’ failure to Reanimate after the lone survivor broke and fled.

The Night Scythe and Tomb Blades criss-crossed elegantly, the one flying over the others in order to finish the last Devastator while the others swept under the one to zap Kaine and his squad from the safety of the Space Marines’ (TM) deployment zone. Tekeshi, somewhat surprised at the effectiveness of the device she’d picked up, led her Warriors back into formation, and the collected firepower atomised the Space Marine (TM) officer and his associates, with a Cryptek claiming the final kill and the point for Slaying the Warlord. In a final insult to Ben’s dignity, the Annihilation Barge spat electric death into the Terminators, and Ben failed two of the only 2+ saves he’d been called upon to make. Lady Luck had stuck up two fingers for long enough, and the Random Game Length – as predicted – kicked in.

GAME OVER – Necrons 6, Space Marines (TM) 0
Glory to the Dynasty of Kadavah!

Post-Mortem

Well. That was… fortunate.

I’m not going to attribute my victory entirely to luck, as I do think I played a solid game without any of the usual “oh sod that’s blown this one” moments which are the default state for my wargaming career. I do think that Ben had a pretty poor streak, though, from the Barrage flubbing so spectacularly, through the deeply inefficient turn where those Lychguard just wouldn’t die and those meltaguns just wouldn’t hit, to the final kick in the teeth of losing two Terminators. Even his finest moments – landing the Dreadnought right in my army’s face and wiping out the airdropped Warriors in one turn – ultimately came out bad for him, as it meant a turn in which his army turned around and shot things behind them instead of paying attention to the Relic in front of them. That the Lychguard induced a second turn of that was just insult to injury, really. All things being equal, though, I feel he did make three significant mistakes, any two of which might have ended up costing him the game.

In deployment, the Terminators being on a flank meant I could more or less avoid them and focus on things I could actually kill. The Terminators being in the centre would have both supported his Dreadnought strike and allowed him to advance his 2+ saves onto the Relic, secure it, and then bunker up the Tactical Marines around it. It’s not like they didn’t contribute, but they didn’t make themselves a priority target, and if I don’t need to sink torrents of fire into Terminators, I won’t bother.

In movement, I think that it was unnecessary to move the Terminators back toward the airdropped Warriors – that vacillation meant they spent another turn moving back to where they were instead of making a nuisance of themselves. Enfeeble happens before movement, so they could feasibly have done that and then kept driving forward, hooking up with Kaine’s buffing auras, and become a truly frightful proposition for a below-strength Lychguard squad to handle, never mind anything else in my army. To be honest, I don’t feel like enough was made of Kaine; Ben used Dust of a Thousand Worlds to reposition but never actually ended up assaulting anything bar that one drop with the Dreadnought, which ended up out of Kaine’s inspiring range anyway. Personally, I’d attach Kaine to a combat squad and have that unit dart back and forth to place his aura most effectively, catch bullets for him, and chuck out some plasma gun shots to help with high-save infantry and light vehicles.

In list building, upon which we’re in agreement, Ben’s passing up some free heavy weapons, yet he’s paying for the same guns elsewhere in the list, and with no Victory Points for any dead units past the first, the lack of Combat Squads to allow more efficient fire control is inexcusable. His special weapon loadout also leaves him a bit devoid of mid-range or long-range armour-cracking, and the Stormraven has more guns than it can actually fire with any effectiveness. There’ll be a follow-up post to this one at some point in which that matter of list building is discussed in more detail, as I feel it might be educational to go through that process in its own right.

As for the learning objectives; the Relic doesn’t seem that hard now that I’ve played it and feel I have a working grasp on it, although I have no idea what I’d do with the mission in a 900 point Escalation League game – dragging the Relic onto the Ghost Ark and hope for the best seems like it might be worth a shot, but apart from that I’ve no idea. I do feel quite comfortable with the flyers now; this deployment type is tailor-made for them, with a whole long board edge to work with, and lacking any turret guns, I think the standard approach for my Scythes (oh yes, I want another one) will be to fly them on, do the business, and then take them off for a turn to set up a decent vector for next turn. For Ben’s flyers, the temptation is to stay on the board, use a tighter flight pattern, and drop two turns of firepower – but with only one turret mounted gun, I think he’s still better off entering, shooting, and departing to set up a missile vector for the turn afterwards, though I’m willing to give the Stormtalon the benefit of the doubt since it handily turns into a Skimmer after it’s arrived. In terms of Psychic Powers, we’re both quite taken with Biomancy, and I think we’ll both be using it again…

Xiberia, in the Second Year of the Reign of the Tekeshi Conglomerate

With every flash of the dolmen gate, with every movement of her forces through the ether, with every expenditure of energy, Xiberia grew more unstable. Deep in her logic cores, phaeron-Tekeshi knew this, and though the deployment of military capability was necessary, the parameters for failure verged further on the unacceptable with every exertion of the tomb world’s systems. Xiberia’s reigning overlord no longer had the capacity to worry – it had been pruned out of her when she ascended to her current position – but the raw probabilities were not in her favour.

Even now, as the gate flashed, the tomb structure lurched. Stone ground on stone; the ice cage which her planet had become shifted as its latent energies wer harnessed to draw her forces back. Her senses reached out around the world – or did data from around the world flow in? Some outlying chambers had been crushed, some corridors collapsed, some parts of her domain filled with gelatinous irradiated filth. Steam rose through this harness or that, as the constant shifting of material to and from the planet’s core was interfered with for the sake of conquest. Xiberia shuddered – but she endured.

Tekeshi detected her nemesor-self advancing from the gateway, and transmitted to the chamber; for form’s sake as much as anything, the techu displayed a hovering image of her face opposite the gateway, a greenish blur in the vast darkness.

“Hail. Nemesor.”

The smaller, more slender iteration that commanded their armies in the field halted, and bowed demurely, lowering her warscythe in deference. Was that a hint of theatricality in the gesture? A suggestion of whimsy? Perhaps – and yet it was that ingenious quality, that flair, which justified the maintenance of this altered iteration.

“Hail, Phaeron,” she buzzed, in what she doubtless fancied to be a purr. Sometimes, when her selves were sufficiently close for such reflection, Tekeshi wondered if the nemesor had truly grasped that she was no longer flesh and blood.

“Do you. Have it?” Like worry, impatience was no longer a quality possessed by phaeron-Tekeshi; nevertheless, nemesor-Tekeshi had been sent through the gateway for a purpose, and the achievement of that purpose had taken longer than anticipated, and upon that achievement rested the stability and sustainability of Xiberia.

The nemesor took a delicate, mincing step to one side, and another. A catafalque drifted after her, attended by the cadaverous crypteks, hands darting over its contents with what could, perhaps, be imagined as love – for inside the catafalque there rested a construction of cable and crystal, dark as uttermost night even in the deep corpse-light of the tomb.

“We brought back the khepera, as commanded.” Tekeshi’s nemesor-self struck a pose of triumph, then crooked an elbow, rested the forehead of her skull in a palm, tapped long fingers one by one upon the metal in a pastiche of regret. “Koschei has been… inconvenienced.”

“Re-iteration. Acceptable.” Phaeron-Tekeshi paused, savouring the flow of data. “Xiberia. First.”

Nemesor-Tekeshi straightened, capered aside, would almost have clapped her hands had she not been armed. Then take it. Harness the sun. Regenerate our world.”

The image winked out. The crypteks moved, bearing the device further in. Xiberia would rise again.

[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?

[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.”

[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”

[40K] Death Robots vs. Space Vikings

+++ IMPERIAL RECORD: SW 016/7 V +++ +++ CROSS FILE: XENO-NC-3.0  TACT-WH-5.0 +++ +++ PLANETARY CO-ORDINATES: JANNERIA PRIME +++ +++ SUB-CO-ORDINATES: BUDSHEAD CARBON FUEL REFINERY +++ +++ SUB-ETHER ORIGIN: AV-VON +++ +++ TIMESTAMP 7012011.M41 +++ +++ TRANSMISSION OPENS +++

They came at us out of the north… ghosts, ghosts in the machines.  Green lights in the dark.  Metal men with faces like death.  They didn’t speak.  No chance to negotiate, no offer of surrender. They’ve cracked every building open – metal shattered like clay.  They kill people, but they leave the machines standing.  I can hear them moving down below.  There can’t be a dozen of us left alive.  They don’t want us.  They want the refinery.  I don’t know why. If you’re hearing this, don’t send help.  There’s no-one here to help.  Don’t avenge us.  No fight in us – nothing worth avenging.  If you’re coming… you’re coming to destroy the fuel.  That’s what they’re here for.  Don’t let them get it. They’re on the stairs.  I don’t have much time.  Domina, salve nos…

+++ TRANSMISSION ENDS +++ +++ RECEIVED ASTROTELEPATHIC DUCT: SW-AWE +++ +++ SPACE WOLVES CHAPTER +++ +++ DIVERTING SQUADRON CLAWS OF RUSS +++ +++ DESTINATION: JANNERIA PRIME +++ +++ OBJECTIVE: ENGAGE AND DESTROY +++

Von’s Crons

Destroyer Lord  

10 Warriors     
10 Warriors  
10 Warriors    

3 Wraiths
whip coils & particle casters *
2 Destroyers         
4 Scarab Swarms    

Canoptek Spyder    
twin-linked particle beamer

* – yes yes yes I know.  The ‘crons book is surprisingly strict in the restrictions it does have, vis. usages of ‘one’ and ‘any’ in army list entries.  Not like they could hit anything with the casters anyway…

In a game this small I couldn’t be doing with expensive Royal Courts and Phaerons; the Warriors are just bodies on the board, there to camp one objective and, if necessary, shoot enemies off nearby ones while the fast stuff goes a-hunting.  S6 guns should be enough to see off any vehicles I’m likely to encounter and the Destroyer Lord or Scarabs can always go after any AV14 that does show up.  The Destroyers are ablative wounds, pure and simple; the Spyder gives me another ranged tank cracker and maybe a couple of extra Scarab bases, whose job it is to tie up and whittle down anything that can stand up to a sustained gaussing.  The Wraiths are maybe slightly overequipped, but I wanted a few more decent S guns and striking first with Necrons seems like something to be relished where it can be achieved.

Awesome Mike’s Hairy Herberts

Wolf Priest                                           
Terminator armour
(joins Wolf Guard unit)
(Preferred Enemy: Infantry)

5 Wolf Guard                                       
Terminator armour
4 pairs of wolf claws
1 heavy flamer (joins Blood Claws)

10 Grey Hunters                                     
2 meltaguns
power fist
Rhino                                              

15 Blood Claws                                           
2 flamers
power fist

Predator Annihilator                                   
twin-linked lascannons
lascannon sponsons

In lieu of Awesome Mike’s thought process, which I assume went “pick units from pre-existing roster for a small game which I haven’t really planned for”, have this small excerpt of pre-game banter instead:

“Well, I was quietly confident, but then I saw the Space Wolves book in your case…”
“I went for character with mine.”
“You can do that and still win.  That’s pretty much why it’s a good book.”

Deployment

Mission: Capture and Control
Deployment: Spearhead

“Okay, so this is the one with two objectives…”
“Ah, the draw mission!”
“Not always!”

Mike won the roll-off and chose to set up first.

I failed to seize the initiative and thanked the Triarch Mike hadn’t brought any big nasty templates.

Turn One

Largely uneventful.  The Wolf Guard plodded forward, the Rhino drove through four walls and parked up by the building with the Scarabs in it, and the Predator zapped two Warriors.  It didn’t stick.  The Scarabs didn’t even manage to climb the building walls and settled for running around the outside, now five strong after the Spyder strained out a new base; the Wraiths, Spyder and Destroyers failed to put a dent in the Rhino; and the Warriors shot up a couple of Terminators.  Mike isn’t very good at passing 2+ saves, it seems.  The Wraiths similarly failed to accomplish anything in assault (in their defence, rolling sixes to hit is hard), and I braced myself for unpleasantness.

Turn Two

Mike’s Predator backed up a bit and shot a Destroyer.  Unimpressed at having its paintwork blistered, it decided that the Reanimation Protocols could go hang; the living would just have to wipe themselves out.

The Rhino sped forward again, disgorging its cargo of Grey Hunters into the woods harbouring my objective.  Anyway, they blasted three Necron Warriors from the squad camping out in the woods, one of whom stood back up and made a rude gesture at them.

The surviving Terminators, meanwhile, made for the Wraiths.

“Initiative 1.”
“Yeah, I thought I’d strike first.”
“No, you’re Initiative 1.  Whip coils.”
“Ah.”

Mike continued his run of poor 2+ saves and two Terminators were rendered unto dust, while the Wolf Priest fumed and swore and couldn’t actually hurt the Wraiths, although he didn’t take any wounds for Fearlessness.  I pretended I was playing Lord of the Rings and surrounded the Priest.  Well, it looks nice.

Taking the bull by the horns, I set my back to the wall, my shoulder to the wheel, my nose to the grindstone and my knuckles to the ground.  After a quick trip to the osteopath, a splash of TCP on the injured parts, and an inconclusive animal rights case, we got on with the game.  My Warriors combined arms to blast a few Grey Hunters, the Spyder missed the Rhino right in front of it and nobbled a couple of Grey Hunters instead (heigh ho), while the Destroyer Lord decided that hiding in a shed wasn’t going to scour the pestilence of organic life from the cosmos any time soon and that chopping up Blood Claws was better than waiting for a lane to the Predator that would never come.

Note the cunningly placed ablative Destroyer, getting hit by power fists so that his Lord and master might survive a turn.  Maybe.  Mindshackle Scarabs could be a laugh here.  Between them they chopped up a Blood Claw or two but the Destroyer, as predicted, was smushed.  Meanwhile, the Canoptek Spyder gave up on shooting and elected to investigate possible uses for this claw-like appendage on its other arm.

There then followed a short break while Mike did his job.

The Scarab discovered that claws make good can openers, and that space-diesel is quite flammable.  The six inch explosion failed to nobble any Warriors, but I’m pretty sure it killed another Grey Hunter.  Mike, to his credit, did not say a bad word.

Finally, the Scarabs piled onto the Wolf Priest, intending to rip his armour off him with a few Entropic Strikes.  Twenty-five attacks (apparently they could all attack him, because the ones at the back were within two inches of the ones in front, or some such) and not a single wounding hit – not that it mattered as Mike failed his armour saves against the Wraiths’ attacks and the Priest had some science done on him.  The Necrons consolidated into the open, since nobody but the Predator was going to be shooting this turn and it’s not like the Wraiths cared whether they were in cover or not.  Mike still didn’t say any bad words.  That GW training must be doing him good.

Turn Three

The Grey Hunters let rip with their pistols, toasted a few brave little toasters with their meltaguns, and charged into the Warriors holding my objective, with predictable results.

Elsewhere, the Predator backed up and zapped a Scarab base (which Mike says he shouldn’t have done; if he’d have shot three times he might have managed three), and the Blood Claws piled into the Destroyer Lord.  Alas, while the Wolf Guard did bash some nonessential components off with his power fist, the Lord chopped up two more Claws and hung in there.

The view at the top of my turn looked pretty good.  Although I didn’t technically hold any objectives, I had a cunning plan to get them back.  I told Mike of this, and do you know what he said?

“If your cunning plan is ‘shoot them to death’, mate, it ain’t that cunning.”

He doesn’t credit me with nearly enough imagination.

The two surviving Warrior squads performed a sort of sideways shuffle, clearing a space for the Spyder to close in without having to take any difficult terrain tests.  Between the particle beamer (which finally hit what the Spyder had pointed it at) and the forty Gauss shots, all the Grey Hunters were reduced to tinned spam.  Without the tins.

On the other side of the board, the Scarabs headed Predwards, while the Wraiths announced that difficult terrain was for suckers, and loomed ominously over both the Blood Claws and Mike’s objective.

The Wraiths barged in, crucially stripping the Initiative scores off some of the Blood Claws fighting the Destroyer Lord.  He accounted for three, the Wraiths for four or five more; while the Wolf Guard finished off the Destroyer Lord with his power fist, it proved to be Not Enough, and the Space Wolves legged it.  The Lord failed to reanimate himself and the Wraiths consolidated onto Mike’s objective.

Finally, the Scarabs remembered where their running claws were, and chewed the front off Mike’s Predator.  Reducing AV13 to AV4?  Good times.

With five Space Wolves left on the board, surrounded by assorted Canoptek nastiness and running for the hills, Mike called it a day.

Necron Victory!

I can’t fault my game too much – I did win, after all – although the Scarabs spent a bit too long buzzing around behind that building and I think they’d have been better tasked with swarming up the midfield, having an extra base added every turn, and preventing the Rhino from going where it wanted to go.  I’m not overly impressed with the Destroyers either, although I suppose they did do their job of delivering the Destroyer Lord into a position where he could tie up those flame templates for a few turns and help clear Mike’s objective.

The trouble with playing staff members is you can never be sure they aren’t making sure you win in order to encourage you.  I’ve known Mike for years and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t do that to me, but you never know…  Anyway, I feel Mike’s list was a bit unfocused and lacking in redundancy, and I’m not sure why he felt the need to rush the Grey Hunters in ahead of the Terminators, or disembark them when he did – it’s not like they could assault anything that turn and lurking inside the Rhino might have saved them from a turn’s gauss flaying.  As a result, I was able to concentrate two or three of my units on each one of his and that was pretty much the end of that.  That said, he was arrestingly unlucky to lose all four Terminators by the second turn (I didn’t force him to take a stupendous number of armour saves – evidently enough, but not that many) and if they’d made it into my Warriors I could probably have kissed them goodbye.

Mike reckons Necrons must be his nemesis – he’s yet to beat them since the new book came out.  Personally I think that’s karma for all those years of lining up four Dispel dice in front of my Army of Sylvania and informing me that I can just take my Grave Markers off the board (okay, so he only took the +3 auto-dispel Rune combo once, but I still hated playing his super-tough, utterly fearless Dwarfs with my poor skelliegogs), but I’m sure he’ll get me next time.

[40K] Do Necrons Have A Motive?

So last night Lexington and I got to talking about my last post, and the result was EITHER some deep thought OR a waste of several hours and two and a half thousand words.  Either way, I bring it to you, for sharing purposes.  And yes, I said two and a half thousand words; you were warned, so I don’t want to hear any whining about any funny-coloured ruminants.

Continue reading “[40K] Do Necrons Have A Motive?”

[Meta Gaming] The ‘Ultramarines’ movie and unrealised potential

A post about Ultramarines has been on the cards since March, but I couldn’t be bothered to actually watch it until fairly recently.  In the following post I unashamedly saddle up my cultural studies high horse and claim that Game Settings Are Art With Symbolic And Narrative Value – and I won’t apologise for that, because a) I’m a godawful snob about these things and b) I think it’s a valid claim that co-exists just fine with people who just want to play with their toy soldiers – but I feel you deserve some sort of warning, and this is it.

Continue reading “[Meta Gaming] The ‘Ultramarines’ movie and unrealised potential”