Monday, August 9, 2010

Astronomi-con Winnipeg 2010 - pre-tournament thoughts

Another summer, another Astronomi-con Winnipeg. Hard to believe that this year's tournament is the 10th annual event! Astro has grown to include annual tournaments in Toronto, Vancouver and Dallas.

40K 5th edition has been around for a couple of years now, and two things are clear: (1) tanks are great, and (2) the newer codices are powerful and well balanced, allowing multiple builds. However, that means that older codices (like Codex: Eldar) have a bit of an uphill struggle against the likes of Codex: Space Marines or Codex: Imperial Guard.

I chose to run again with my Eldar Swordwind - with a few twists, arising out of extensive playing under 5th ed.:


Ciara Lorcáin (1#, 158 pts)
1 Farseer @ 158 pts ( Doom; Fortune; Runes of Warding; Eldar Jetbike; Singing Spear)

Saoirse Riagáin (1#, 133 pts)
1 Autarch @ 133 pts (Banshee Mask; Eldar Jetbike; Laser Lance; Fusion Gun)

Companions(7#, 192 pts)
6 Dire Avengers @ 72 pts
Fencing Master –1 Wave Serpent @ 120 pts (TL Missile Launchers)

Blood Redeemers (6#, 195 pts)
5 Dire Avengers @ 60 pts
Peacemaker –1 Wave Serpent @ 135 pts (TL Bright Lances)

Fate's Tears -1st Chorus (6#, 180 pts)
5 Fire Dragons @ 80 pts
The Kid –1 Wave Serpent @ 100 pts (TL Shuriken Cannons)

Fate's Tears -2nd Chorus (6#, 190 pts)
5 Fire Dragons @ 80 pts
Ancient Whispers -1 Wave Serpent @ 110 pts (Shuriken Cannon; TL Shuriken Cannons)

Breaking Waves (3#, 210 pts)
1 Vyper Jetbike Squadron @ 210 pts
1 Vyper (Scatter Laser; Shuriken Cannon)
1 Vyper (Scatter Laser; Shuriken Cannon)
1 Vyper (Scatter Laser; Shuriken Cannon)

Dream Weavers(5#, 127 pts)
4 Warp Spiders @ 88 pts
Soul Hunter–1 Exarch @ 39 pts (Death Spinner x2)

War Prayer (1#, 115 pts)
1 Night Spinner @ 115 pts

Total = 36 models @ 1500 points

There it is. Five skimmer tank hulls. Everything moves at least 12" a turn, with the majority able to move up to 24". Lots of firepower, and very little close combat capability.

Back in 4th ed., I ran full 10-strong Avenger squads with Exarchs. I've now pared back the squads to just about the minimum they need to be to do their jobs. The Avengers stay in their tanks, and make them scoring. They get out to physically pick up some types of objectives (the Astronomi-con series has some scenarios like that) or to lend their firepower if required. The Dragons typically only need 5 to kill a tank, and I'll throw both squads at targets of opportunity (e.g. a Terminator command squad without Storm Shields).

The Autarch and Farseer often run together as a small unit, Fortuned up to re-roll their saves. They hang back behind the tanks, waiting for an opportunity to lend a hand or to contest late game. I can use one or both as bait, drawing in an enemy unit and setting up a counterattack. The only dedicated close combat weapon in the entire army is the Laser Lance of the Autarch - I can't count the number of times she's gone down fighting, being a "speed bump" for the enemy, allowing the rest of the Eldar forces to redeploy. Sometimes I run the two HQ's with the Warp Spiders (who move 12") as an ersatz mini-council; they've all got a 3+ Fortuned save and the unit then throws out more S6 firepower than bikes would.

As part of this season's tournament prep I played variations of this list a couple of dozen times against a varied set of opponents and armies: Marine variants, Tau, Orks, Chaos, Eldar , etc.

With such a low model count, my toughest opponents will be massed Orks and Imperial Guard. If the scenario and terrain allow, I'll try and jam up Battle Wagons or heavy tanks with my Dragon Serpents, then disembark and sacrifice the Dragons to destroy the armour next turn. Meanwhile, the other Wave Serpents can move and fire at long range. The Vyper squadron (often interspersed behind and between the Avenger Serpents to get cover) can throw out from 12 to 21 Strength 6 shots. The Spiders can Deep Strike anywhere on the table, contributing another 12 S6 shots to targets of opportunity. The Night Spinner hangs back, forcing Dangerous Terrain tests on every model in the units it hits; if I'm lucky and hit two big Boyz mobs that's up to 60 tests even if no casualties are at first caused (unlikely with S6, Rending).

Astro is a hobby tournament, not a purely competitive event. That is, scoring is not just a result of gameplay, but includes "soft" factors such as sportsmanship, painting, composition, army list and the like. As another Astro alumni has remarked, you can lose the event by being "nickel and dimed" to death. By trying to max out on those points that are completely under your control, you are in a better position come game day to just try and play some good, fun games and see where your battle points leave you. Therefore, it pays to spend time pre-tournament trying to meet the criteria for the various soft scores.

The modeling this year was fun, especially the single-seat and drone Vyper jetbikes. I finished the Night Spinner's turret a couple of nights before the tournament (I need to go back and detail the tank's guns a bit more, to match the Warp Spiders' weapons).

I also spent some time to create a bespoke army list and an interesting movement tray. I give a copy of the list to each opponent, which I hope enhances the cinematic aspects of our games. Conscript KevinH cleaned up an image which I then took to Staples to make into a poster, to line a wooden tray I already had. As a practical matter, a good tray also eases moving my army around in between rounds.

In the end, though, LCF (Looks Cool Factor) is the biggest reason I play games with toy soldiers.

Please click here for Game One - Over the Top.

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