beat ronin plays 40k… badly
A little while ago I played in a 40k doubles event at 3D6 in Tuggeranong. It was 2500 points a side, with each player required to bring 1250 points. I haven’t played in a 40k event for maybe a year and a half, and have only played two games of 7th edition (and one of 6th), ever. In that time I’ve ignored what’s been going on in the world of 40k, as much as a wargames blogger can, and consolidated, trimmed and reformed my models into an organic collection with its own story. When my old regular opponent Capn’ Stoogey asked me if I wanted to play on the same team for once, I thought it sounded fun. It was fun, on the whole. It was also very interesting to me, since the event turned out to be a clear demonstration of the things about 40k that we see people raging about on the net on a daily basis. Since I have other games to play, I didn’t get too hung up on the issues and was able to enjoy the event and just ponder what I saw.
Right. So the event was described as both “friendly” and “completely unrestricted,” and that’s where the misunderstandings began, right there. Four teams of two turned up. It was the perfect amount, because we each got to play every team. There were four prizes: a best theme, a lucky door prize, a wooden spoon, and winner on victory points. Out of the four teams, two (mine included) turned up with friendly lists, and two with uh… not so friendly lists. You’ll see what I mean when I get to describing the games.
But first, I’ll just quickly tell you our team list:
THE ST. ARKHAM ALLIANCE
The Red Sun Corporation (me)
Astra MilitarumImperial Guard Company command squad
Veterans (forward sentries)
Remora drone fighters (2)
Leman Russ demolisher
Ultramarines (Capn’ Stoogey)
Sternguard in a drop pod
Tactical marines in a drop pod
Tactical marines in a drop pod
Now, you might be thinking that’s not a particularly weak list, you have two S10 tanks and that Knight has a melee D-weapon! Especially because we are both players with around fifteen years’ experience on and off. But you have to remember this event was unrestricted, no comp at all (not even what we call “community comp” – where each team rates the others on list ferocity).
Superheavies were allowed, and we expected to face them, so we brought a Knight Lancer. He’s the knight who is specialised at killing other knights, but has pretty low-impact shooting. So that was nice of us. My list is largely new to me as I’ve only played one game with my Tau, but it’s simple and solid and old school. My vets didn’t even have transports. Both our lists were balanced all-comers. I won’t lie – that’s what we expected to face from the other teams: balanced all-comer, or perhaps even fluffy themed lists.
And thus, we really struggled in:
GAME 1: HEAVY METAL (NECRONS AND SPACE WOLVES)
Two Necron lordly dudes on seemingly indestructible chariot thingies
Nine necrons with jump packs for legs, each one a separate unit
Four(!) of those Doom Crescent flyer thingies, in a formation that made them reduce the leadership of all my poor little infantrymen.
All of the above in a formation that made them regenerate on a 4+
Bjorn the Fell-Handed in a drop pod
Another Space Wolf dreadnought with a freaking huge axe and shield combo, in a drop-pod
Like five or six Space Wolves in a razorback
Please forgive my lack of correct terminology. Like I said, been ignoring 40k for the last year and a half. The game used the Maelstrom cards for dynamic objectives, of which I am not a fan. One day I’ll explain why, if you’ve got a spare few minutes.
I deployed with a refused flank on the left of the table, within reach of/holding three of the six objectives. The Capn’s Knight guarded my right flank and my fire warriors were in reserve with the remoras and most of the Ultramarines. The Necrons deployed opposite me. The Space Wolves deployed opposite where my team-mate would have been, had he been on the table.
We made a very costly mistake early on – the Knight started turn two within 6″ of Darkstrider, rolled a one, and was frozen due to the Desperate Allies rule. Then all the grimdark cronuts flew on and blew him up, which also vaporized some of my guardsmen. Other than that though, we acquitted ourselves very well, considering most of our army couldn’t hurt the Necrons reliably, if at all. The nine no-legs dudes (I want to call them Destroyers?) just kept popping up, shooting, and then hiding again like bloody Tau battlesuits, so we didn’t have much choice but to ignore them.
Keeping a cool head and concentrating fire with my infantry and remoras resulted in one of the chariot dudes being destroyed and his objective being lost, which seemed to come as a surprise to his owner. My fire warriors, when they eventually came on, pulse rifled and hay-wire grenaded a vindicator to death, which was also pretty cool. Other than that, we didn’t kill much. I think Tigurius killed the Space Wolves before the other guy’s Knight stepped on him.
I was actually really proud of how we played under difficult circumstances. I think our experience showed. We adapted well to the crazy constantly changing objectives, held on to the ones we started with (helped by our guys being the only battle-forged lists in the event), weathered a shit-load of fire we couldn’t really return, and came away tabled; but respectably so: 9 points to their 12. I think our opponents expected a much more decisive result.
GAME 2: ULTRAMARINES AND DARK ELDAR (I CAN’T ACTUALLY REMEMBER THEIR TEAM NAME. SORRY.)
Two devastator squads
A shooty Knight
Archon and a bunch of wracks in a ravager
A very cool-looking fighter jet
A couple of venoms with kabalite warriors in them.
This is more like it. During our game against the Wolfcrons, these guys were tabled in about an hour by the Tau-Dar (see below). One of them said to us: “why do I always make the mistake of bringing a friendly list to a friendly tournament? WHY?!” Which may be a joke, but it definitely has a grain of truth to it, in my experience.
The two Ultramarines players had a good old chat about general Macragge history while I asked the Dark Eldar man what his various things did, seeing as I’d never played against them before. It was another Maelstrom game, only this time we could claim any objectives the other team had cards for as well as our own. So yeah… it was double GW insanity.
They won first turn, and deployed the Ultramarines on our left, and Dark Eldar on our right. The ravager with the archon stayed in reserve. I put most of my army in some ruins on the left, but put my commander and forward sentries in some ruins on the far right where they had a good shot against any Dark Eldar who tried to cross the table to reach the rest of us. The Knight went with my guys again, supported by the hammerhead and demolisher, and pointed right at their Knight. We made sure to keep Darkstrider well away this time. Capn’ was itching to fight another Knight face-to-face after the disappointment of last game.
Well first off their Talos engines wiped out most of my forward sentries in an eyeblink. The last two guys went to ground on an objective for the rest of the game. The Dark Eldar player split his army, sending the bikes and venoms diagonally across the table to have a go at my grenadiers and Fire Warriors, while his Talos engines advanced slowly at my commander on the right. I turned the demolisher to face the bikes and venoms and caught them in a cross-fire with the tank, my grenadiers and fire warriors, and my commander’s autocannon team. This stopped them in their tracks. Capn’ Stoogey’s Knight slammed into the enemy Knight and annihilated it, and there was a suitably enormous ‘splosion.
Then our drop pods landed amongst their line and started to wreak havoc. The archon and his wracks appeared, jumped out of their raider and slashed up one of our tactical squads. My hammerhead slid forward and hit them with a sub-munition shot. I rolled horribly and nothing happened, but they were well and truly given the willies. They jumped back in their spiky Jabba skiff and flew away, playing no further part in the game.
At this point we’d been playing for an hour and a half and were having a great time, laughing and making our pew-pew noises, when the other four players (whose game was over – Tau-Dar victory) came over and basically rushed us into finishing because it was only half an hour till the next game. The last two turns were a bit of a blur as people ordered the four of us around and pushed us for decisions, but we came out on top, 13 points to 8.
GAME 3: THE RETURN OF THE TAU-DAR (TAU AND ELDAR)
Tau commander and drones
Two XV8s who could infiltrate for some reason
Two broadsides with missiles instead of railguns
Farseer on bike with a retinue of some sort
Wave serpent full of wraithguard
Three war walkers
Some dark reapers
One big Eldar fighter jet (voidraven? nightraven? I dunno)
Ah, the dreaded Tau-Dar. They seemed pret-ty confident, and not unjustifiably I reckon. Especially because the mission this time was no objectives – just kill points. This wasn’t all bad – even though their army had horrendous firepower and was mostly in reserve, it did have a lot of small units; we did not. Our army had a few large units of infantry, and their firepower seemed geared more to facing small units of heavy infantry, vehicles and monsters.
The Eldar player set a trap in the backfield for our drop pods, baited with his dark reapers, and the Tau player infiltrated his XV8s into my flank thinking I guess that it would be easy pickings. He underestimated how stubborn infantry in cover can be to clear, and how effective IG veterans can be in terms of damage output. Being a veteran commander the Capn’ didn’t take the bait and instead of attacking the vulnerable Eldar on the other side of the table he dropped his marines in our DZ, in support of my guys. The Tau player then deep-struck his commander in to support his now-outgunned XV8s. We ganged up on them and destroyed them all but for one wounded XV8, and the Eldar army zoomed towards my line. I forgot to mention we were playing lengthwise, so he had a long way to go…
By the third turn we may have actually been winning on points. I’m not sure. There was a lot of coffee in my system by then. My guardsmen focused fire and destroyed his wave serpent, but then the wraithguard inside it crawled out and effortlessly killed our Knight. The Eldar guy had been prophesying that since the beginning; his wraithguard easily killed all three knights over the course of the day.
Then all their stuff came on, and we were obviously fucked, as they say in the Classics. Everyone was getting tired, and the game ground into a war of attrition. We called it at the end of turn four, because for the last hour their high-powered weapons had been slowly chipping away at our infantry (all our vehicles except the hammerhead were destroyed pretty quickly), and our infantry returned mostly ineffective fire at all the giant robots, jet fighters and wraith constructs prancing about. It was an even higher-octane version of the first game, except that there were no objectives for us to dominate this time. I’m not sure what the points were at the end; but we lost, badly.
At the end of the day the Tau-Dar got the prize for victory points. The Dark Eldar/Ultramarines got the wooden spoon, and the theme prize. This was judged by a shanghai-ed Fantasy player who walked around, decided that the Dark Eldar army was the least cheesy (which was fair enough), and gave the prize to them. I have to admit this surprised me, as the Capn’ and I interpreted “theme” to mean you know, theme. We had a history, and thematic unit names and everything. I didn’t realize “theme” was modern 40k event code for “weakest army.” The Necron/Space Wolf team won the lucky door prize, and so we got nothing which was a bit of a shame. But it’s OK I’m not bitter at all… well maybe a little.
WHAT I LEARNED
I learned two things at this event: one, that the current 40k meta-game is very different from the one I remember. I started back in Rogue Trader as a lad, but the bulk of my 40k experience was had during 5th edition, which I played in its entirety and during which I attended quite a few events. I was a bit surprised by the definite swing away from tanks and boots inside tanks, and towards giant robots, flyers, and monstrous creatures. Likewise, all three teams we played against seemed surprised (and perhaps a teensy bit frustrated) by how resilient my basic infantry were in cover, and how much damage they could actually do. Capn’ Stoogey told me that in the larger pool of players he regularly crosses swords with, people generally underestimate guard infantry in particular, and troops in general. It’s as if people are building lists to counter one another’s big things and just ignoring the little guys as pure fluff or irrelevant. Very strange to me. Also, no-one except us cared about having a battleforged list. I guess if they had they wouldn’t have been able to bring all their big fellas. This was a minor but powerful advantage in both games where objectives could be secured. I’d go so far as to say it was what allowed us to win our second game, and to get so many points in our first.
The second thing I learned was that sadly, open 40k events (as opposed to events within a group) can still be… problematic. The Ye Olde problem of differing expectations between players was firmly in evidence here. The event was advertised as “friendly and unrestricted.” Exactly half of the teams decided to interpret this as “don’t be a dickhead, and bring models that you think are cool and thematic.” The other half interpreted it as “don’t be a dickhead, and bring your hammertime cheese that no-one ever lets you use.” So there were no jerks: everyone was gentlemanly and friendly. But there were huge imbalances in list power, which is a weakness of 40k. It just has so many options and can be turned towards so many different play styles that people need common agreement to get the sorts of games they want. This is also one of 40k’s biggest strengths of course, but if you don’t know who you’re playing and what they expect, people can have their fun compromised. It is what it is.
Anyway after the day was over, the Capn’ tracked down the Ultramarines and Dark Eldar player and invited them to a narrative campaign at his club. I’m thinking of playing in it too, gods help me…
Oh and I did learn one more thing. Dark Eldar models look kind of awesome and now I kind of want to paint some. Much like golden Achilles, I can only pray that wise Athena yanks me by the hair and stops me from doing anything too rash (sweet, now I can use the Classical Allusions tag Thuloid made up, if I can find it).
Till next time, have a good one!