Tuesday, July 17, 2012

40K's Mannerist Period

For aesthetic judgments I always defer to Conscript BrianH. After watching players struggling to come up with new lists for 40K 6th edition, he dubbed the current transition period as 6th ed. 40K's Mannerist Period - as people change from the  army design philosophy associated with the previous edition of the rules, characterized by very heavily mechanized armies. To be fair, something similar happened with every previous change in rules, but the process is happening more quickly. Thanks, interwebs!

In the last few weeks I've gone through several different versions of my Eldar Swordwind, trying to find a new way to play.

Game 1: Eldar vs. Tau

On Tuesday, July 2, I faced off against Thursty's shooty Tau, consisting of a Commander, two units of Fireknife suits, three dismounted squads of Fire Warriors, a pair of Broadsides, and a Railhead. This was probably the worst match up  possible for the list I took.

Scenario: Big Guns Never Tire
Deployment: Dawn of War

Note: Going first grants an advantage. Also, obtaining a Victory Point for "First Blood" can mean the difference between a win and a loss, since it is the only Secondary Objective that only a single player can claim.

Thursty won the roll to choose, so chose to go first. In the photo below, looking west, Thursty's Tau can be seen set up in a long line about 1 foot from the northern table edge.

Still retaining 5th ed. tactics in my brain, I thought I would reserve half my forces, to keep them from being shot at. This, of course, also prevented them from taking part in the battle until the Tau had had two turns...

Camera Roll-157

The Tau anchored their western flank with Fire Warriors and Broadsides in and around the water treatment plant.

Camera Roll-158

At the start I deployed some Dire Avengers disembarked outside (!) of their tank, in terrain near an objective. Thursty asked "Who are you, and what have you done with Dave?"

Camera Roll-159

The Tau forces all were equipped with Blacksun Filters, which allowed them to see in the dark. Sadly, the Eldar Codex does not have such relatively advanced gear, nor even more primitive equipment such as Searchlights.

Note: There is a significant chance for Night Fighting to be in effect. Forces that have access to wargear that can negate this effect have an advantage.

After taking a few casualties and losing a couple of Hull Points, the Eldar moved north, to each side of the garbage dump. I split their fire against the Crisis suits in the middle causing one wound each on two suits - if I had moved both Serpents to the same side, due to the wounding rules those two wounds would have instead removed a team member from the squad.

Note: Always be aware of placement of your forces with regard to both shooting and wound allocation.

Camera Roll-161

Concentrated Tau fire blew up a transport, killed off the Fire Dragons and the Farseer (garnering Thursty VPs for both "First Blood" and "Warlord"), and reduced the original Dire Avenger squad down to 2 survivors. In response, I outflanked a Hornet to try and take out a suit or two, but whiffed.

Camera Roll-162

Things then went from bad to worse for the Eldar. Another Serpent was destroyed, and its Dire Avengers wiped out by Crisis Suit missiles and flamers. The rest of the Eldar tanks were shot down as the Tau advanced south. The Tau garnered another VP for the destroyed Warp Hunter, since in this scenario Heavy Support choices are both Scoring Units and are worth VPs.

Camera Roll-163

As a final act of defiance, the sole remaining Eldar unit, a Hornet light tank, moved on from reserve past its destroyed wing man to take a pot shot at the Tau Warlord, in an attempt to salvage a single VP with its pulse laser. The Tau commander was hit, but his energy shield saved his life. The top of the next turn of the game saw the Tau commander and his bodyguards shoot down the Hornet, tabling the Eldar and thus winning the game!

Note: If at the end of any game turn, one player has no models on the battlefield, his opponent automatically wins.

Camera Roll-164

After a long after-game discussion with Thursty over some cold Croatian beer, I decided that the Hornets had to go. Re-jiggering my list, I managed to squeeze into 1,000 points a total of 6(!) AV12 hulls:

1000-point Eldar Roster:
  • HQ: Autarch (Fusion Gun), 80 pts
  • Troops: 5 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent (TL Shuriken Cannons), 160 pts
  • Troops: 5 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent (TL Shuriken Cannons), 160 pts
  • Troops: 5 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent (TL Shuriken Cannons), 160 pts
  • Elite: 5 Fire Dragons, Wave Serpent (Spirit Stones; Shuriken Cannon; TL Shuriken Cannons),200 pts
  • Heavy Support: Fire Prism, 115 pts
  • Heavy Support: Warp Hunter (IA), 125 pts 
The squad sizes are smaller than I would like. This is not optimum, since the Troops must have their boots on the ground to count as Scoring Units. In larger games I shall be running again with some full-sized Dire Avenger squads, complete with Exarch. Also, there is not one close combat weapon in this force. With the changes to close combat (Overwatch fire, in particular), I really don't see these Toughness 3 guys initiating a charge.

Game 2: Eldar vs. Elysian Imperial Guard

On July 5 I faced off against Greg and his beautifully painted Elysian drop troops. IIRC, he had a Company Command Squad, three squads of Veterans (two mounted in Valkyries), a Vendetta and a Vulture. Lots of aircraft for the Guard, and the Eldar with no AAA!

Scenario: The Emperor's Will
Deployment: Dawn of War

Greg won the roll to choose, so chose to go second. Unfortunately, the new flyer rules forced Greg to keep his planes in reserve, which meant that only his Company Command Squad and a squad of Veterans would set up on the table. No one particularly liked the way these new flyer rules interacted with the older Elysian rules from Forge World. Greg had created an interesting, themed force, and was being punished for doing so.

Seeing an opportunity to obtain both First Blood and Warlord, I set up the entire Eldar force. Instead of castling, I ensured that there was enough space between each skimmer that Greg would be dissuaded from trying to nail more than one vehicle with a blast marker weapon.

Below, looking east, Greg's two units can be seen set up in the two forests.  The two objectives are near, respectively, the middle of the north and south table edges.

Camera Roll-165

Concentrated Eldar fire wiped out the Guard command unit..

Camera Roll-166

Guard counter fire was ineffective. The Eldar made a general advance south, leaving one unit of embarked Dire Avengers to babysit an objective. The remaining Guard squad broke and ran off the table due to tank fire. Greg still had his player turn, so the game did not end under the rules on p. 122 of the BRB since he was able to bring on most of his reserves.

Camera Roll-167

Three of the four Guard planes came on from reserve, damaging the Fire Dragon's Wave Serpent. In response, the Dragons dismounted into a crater. I needed `6`s`to hit Greg`s flyers. Massed Fusion Guns and several Twin-Linked Shuriken Cannons later, one of the Imperial Guard transports received an Immobilized result, meaning that its velocity was locked Zooming at Combat Speed and it could not disembark its Troops for the rest of the game. This took the wind out of the sails for the Guard, since they had only one scoring unit left.

Note: Absent dedicated anti-aircraft weaponry, massed fire and twin-linked weapons may still get the job done.

Camera Roll-169

Below, the Night Spinner futilely points its guns at Zooming Guard planes. Thank goodness for Jink saves.

Camera Roll-170

In retribution, the Imperial Guard Vulture gunship appeared from reserve and blew away the Fire Dragons with its Gatling cannons; after the equivalent of 40 shots (Twin-Linked Heavy 20), the Dragons were reduced to a fine mist, cover notwithstanding. The last Imperial Guard scoring unit, a Veteran Squad, disembarked on the landing pad, where they would receive a 3+ invulnerable save.

Camera Roll-171

Camera Roll-172

They proceeded to blow up an Eldar transport, whose infantry took cover in the wreckage.

Camera Roll-173

Below, a Wave Serpent was able to get on the tail of the Vulture, Shaking it for a turn. With the Eldar forces all disembarked and holding both objectives, and with  the Guard`s fire reduced or limited to a great extent, the game was called.

Camera Roll-174

I thought the game was closer than it appeared. Concentrated missile and grenade-launcher fire could have forced the Eldar off of the northern objective. If the game had lasted to a 6th turn, the Vulture might have been able to wipe out the small 6-man force holding the southern objective.

Because of the Zooming rules, a 6x4 table would have been better than 4x4; the flyers got really cramped trying to maneuver. At GW and at 40Kegger, 4x4 tables are the standard for 1,000 point games. However, such small forces are fully playable, I think, on larger tables.

Game 3: Eldar vs. Necrons

On July 10, Aaron came by to try out his Necrons for the first time using 6th edition.

Scenario: The Scouring
Deployment: Hammer and Anvil

Aaron has some neat conversions. Some more detailed photos follow further on in this post.

For this scenario, Fast Attack units counted as Scoring Units, and they would give up VPs if destroyed. Aaron won the initial roll, and chose to go first, setting up on the eastern table edge. In the photo below, looking west, the 5 objectives and the initial deployment can be seen. The objectives had randomly-determined, variable VP values; the most valuable being the ones located in the water treatment plant to the northwest (4 VPs) and in the forest to the east, at the bottom (3 VPs).

From left to right below, Aaron set up a Monolith, some Wraiths behind it, and a large unit of Immortals led by a Lord. He left a Night Scythe and a large (15-man) unit of Warriors. I set up all the Eldar, anchoring each flank with an artillery tank accompanied by a couple of Wave Serpents.

Camera Roll-177

I managed to steal the initiative, and shot up the Immortals a bit.

The Immortals used a Veil to try and teleport near the northwest corner, but deviated onto a tank. They rolled well on the Mishap table, so went back into reserve. Necron fire was ineffective.

The Eldar advanced east. The Fire Dragons, Autarch and some Dire Avengers all disembarked. Five Fusion Guns blew up the Monolith (Living Metal and skimmer jink save notwithstanding), scoring First Blood.

Camera Roll-180

Everything else opened up on the Wraiths. After the dust cleared, for the Necrons a single wounded Wraith remained on the table! Note the intricate detail Aaron has modeled on these scratch-built figures.

Camera Roll-181

The Immortals tried to Deep Strike again, and suffered another non-fatal Mishap. Aaron's scratch-built Night Scythe and Warriors showed up. The flyer knocked out the Night Spinner, and the Warriors disembarked via teleportation, knocking out the Warp Hunter with their Gauss weaponry.

Camera Roll-182

Note: Gauss weapons grant Necron troops duality of capability, against both infantry and vehicle targets.

The Autarch and Dire Avengers moved into the forest to the southeast, firing on the Wraith, killing it and gaining a VP for the Fast Attack kill. The Fire Dragons moved into the bunker in the middle of the table, whereupon I promptly forgot about them. I guess they were really excited about their Monolith kill! Twin-linked weapons manged to hit and remove two of the Night Scythe's Hull Points.

Camera Roll-183

The Immortals came back to the northeast, knocking out an empty Wave Serpent. Concentrated Necron fire wiped out the Autarch and his Avengers, granting the Necrons the Warlord Secondary Objective.

Some other Avengers moved into the wreckage near the table centre. A Wave Serpent moved to try and shield them from assault.

Camera Roll-184

The last Avenger squad made it into the water treatment plant. Despite losing 3 members, the Avenger Squad in the centre managed to hold on. As the game ended, the Necrons had 5 VPs, and the Eldar managed 8 VPs for the win. Loss of the central objective would have resulted in a tie.

Camera Roll-185

Game 4: Eldar vs. Imperial Guard

Last Sunday, Hugh came over to try out his all-infantry Imperial Guard - around 100 figures' worth!

Scenario: Big Guns Never Tire
Deployment: Hammer and Anvil

This was the first outing for Hugh's "New Caledonian", Scottish-themed Imperial Guard force. Looking west, below, there were three Primary Objectives, each worth 3 VPs, placed in the open to the left, in the forest at the bottom (whose mysterious powers granted sheltering troops a 2+ cover save!), and by the water treatment plant (counted as ruins) in the upper right corner.

Hugh won the initial roll, and chose to go second. I again deployed everything, with the artillery tanks to the corners, Fire Dragons in the centre, and the Avengers' Serpents spread out. Hugh set up 90 Guardsmen. From the left, an anti-tank squad, a big blob of infantry, a unit of kilt-wearing Veterans, a special weapons squad of sniper rifles, a couple of more big blobs, with the Company Commander and Master of Ordnance in and around the tower in the bottom right (counted as a three level ruin). Another Veteran squad was left in reserve. That`s 4 feet of Guardsmen!

Camera Roll-220

Hugh failed to seize the initiative, so the Eldar made a general advance to the east and killed almost 20 Guardsmen with tank fire. The entire anti-tank squad was targeted and shot away, since their weapons could easily suppress or destroy my light armour; this also granted the Eldar First Blood. Another particularly hard loss for the Guard was the Master of Ordnance, who was the sole target of of a Night Spinner barrage. The artillery barrage he could have called down would soon be sorely missed.

Note: Barrage weapons may be used to snipe important targets, due to the casualty removal rules (i.e. take casualties closest to the centre of the blast marker first). This is somewhat mitigated by their inaccuracy.

In the photo below, Hugh contemplates his next move.

Camera Roll-221

Guard counter-fire peeled off a couple of Hull Points from Eldar tanks.

Camera Roll-222

The Veteran squad, armed with assault special weapons and Krak grenades, was next on the Eldar target list; the Dragons and some tanks killed 9 of them.

Camera Roll-223

An infantry blob and a lone Veteran advanced toward the centre. The other Veterans moved on from the east.

Camera Roll-224

The Eldar pushed forward some more, killing the lone Veteran and inflicting some casualties on the troops in the magical forest with the Warp Hunter's Aether Rift.

Camera Roll-225

The Guard Company Commander managed to issue Bring It Down orders, whereupon Hugh's Scots shot down the Warp Hunter (the only Eldar unit armed with flamer-template style weaponry just had to go!). The Warp Hunter also granted the Guard a VP for a Heavy Support kill. The Guardsmen to the south were led by a Power Fist armed sergeant. They close assaulted the Wave Serpent in front of them, and blew it up! The surviving, suddenly disembarked, Dire Avengers staggered out of the wreckage of their ride but were Pinned.

Camera Roll-226

Note: Vehicles are vulnerable to enemy close assault. They should be supported by infantry or other tank units.

The Fire Dragons entered the bunker, to add their weight of fire against the remaining Veterans advancing towards them.

Another squad of Avengers moved up in support of the squad by the southern objective. Eldar fire wiped out the Guardsmen to the south and killed several more to the north.

Camera Roll-227

Two squads of Avengers remained by the objective in the open. The third squad of Avengers and the Autarch disembarked by the objective to the northeast. Under the Mysterious Objectives rule, that objective then blew up, killing a couple of Avengers, whose morale held. The Night Spinner, also a Scoring Unit for this scenario, moved near the same objective. With two Scoring Units by each of the two objectives, I hoped the Guard wouldn't have enough firepower to nail all of them.

Camera Roll-228

Note: Multiple scoring units on an objective grant resiliency against enemy action.

Hugh made his final push against the water treatment plant. The Company Commander issued Fire on My Target orders, forcing the Autarch and his men to re-roll any successful cover saves!

Guardsmen and Veterans advanced on the plant. A couple of snipers bounced shells off the Night Spinner. A storm of frag missile, plasma gun, and laser fire engulfed the Avengers. The closest Avenger fell, whereupon the remainder of the shots had to be allocated firstly to the Autarch, due to the Mixed Saves rule...

Camera Roll-230

...After the smoke cleared the Autarch remained on his feet!

Camera Roll-231

The Imperial Guard ended the game with 4 VPs, and the Eldar had 7 VPs for the win. The game was very close; loss of that one objective by the Eldar would have resulted in a tie.

Note: Joining an independent character to a unit allows for heroic, and legal, wound allocation  shenanigans.

Final Thoughts: 

I am liking 6th edition. Games are very dynamic, with models almost always being able to fire or take a snap shot. Vehicles are more vulnerable to both shooting and close assault, but are harder to suppress. Interestingly, my response has been not to reduce the number of tanks but to increase them; this potentially diffuses the effect of fire against them and increases the number of hulls available for a counter-attack.

Note: Eldar transports have to be more aggressive. Gone are the days when they could hang back shooting all game and then zip forward to Control or Contest with embarked DAVU (Dire Avengers as a Vehicle Upgrade). Such fast transports have to get where they need to go earlier, so their contents can disembark at the right time (i.e. 5th turn), or be in place when the vehicle is destroyed.

I look forward to playing against more and varied opponents and armies.


Samulus said...

Some really nicely painted forces battling it out there! I'n not sure if its just because you tend to field a lot of vehicles but the games look very cramped in 28mm scale on a 4x4 board, looks like a couple of armour platoons duking it out on a football field :P I suppose it probably keeps play time down though.

DaveV said...

I shall be playing some 40K games on my 6x4 table topper again soon. Tournaments like 40Kegger are played using 1K pts on 4x4 tables; the games are lightning fast.

I have been trying to rationalize foot Eldar, but I don't yet see how they can work, even in 6th edition. Weak (Aspect Warriors are S3, T3 and 4+ armour mostly), with not enough firepower or strong close combat capability. Maybe a Saim Hann force (mostly jetbikes) would have some staying power - lots of mobility and T4, but I'm not a huge fan of the current jetbike models.

The force I am painting for 40Kegger next month is the Crimson Fists First Company - 16 Marines in Terminator armour and a Dreadnought, using Deathwing rules. Very different look and feel.

Muskie said...

Thanks for typing these out. I should get my first game of 6th in this weekend. I plan to just use a hodgepodge of models from my painted miniature collection to try and test out as many rules as possible.

Going forward I need my life to level off and I'll probably won't paint a damn thing until the new Chaos Codex. Rumors keep going around, most don't surprise me but already it seems I may have some unusable models again after getting everything at least legal if not effective for 4th/5th.

I also will branch out some more to have some useful allies to call on for large games, though I think I will lobby hard for lower points as I like the portability of smaller armies...

Hugh said...

Great write ups Dave. I'm working out a list with some heavy armour support for our next bash now.

JP40kegger said...

Those write ups were very helpful. I love the notes you add to help people wrap their heads around tactical decisions in 6th. I have yet to try the new edition with moving and all, but I am already getting the hang of it just from doing lots of battle report reading.

I have a unit of 3 D-Cannons that never saw the board in 5th but I think I will try them in 6th. Artillery units seem to have a new life to them in this edition, and the idea of Guardians operating big guns just looks awesome with my Ulthwe Black Militia. I am thinking of bringing back a bit of a Hybrid force that I used to play in 4th edition. Basically, Guardian based firepower with hidden Warlocks all over the board, and a few skimmers with specialist forces and Farseers. I really want to tap into those psychic Disciplines and create some great re-roll combinations under concentrated firepower.

Curt said...

Actually, I think of the 40K rules as being more Kafkaesque than anything...

Good write-up Dave! The games looked great and its nice to see folks enthused with the new rules.

The perennial concern (as with every GW rules release) remains how well the various codex will align or clash with these new rules (and each other) as they are published. That has always been one of my pet peeves with 40K: the special rule 'acne' that spreads with each successive expansion. It ultimately creates an unbalanced play environment in which those who are intimate (i.e. up-to-date) with the plethora of rules/expansions/codex will usually dominate, making the game decidedly un-fun for those casual players who just want to have a pick-up game or be introduced to the system.

And then there is the D6. Why they can't get past this ancient, out-of-date mechanic and bring in a dice system that can properly reflect the wide variety of races, technologies, doctrines, etc. is beyond me.

I could go on and on, but its pointless - Its like shouting into the wind. 40K is 'too big to fail'. The game system has grown to mimic the dystopian universe it is meant to portray. The rules will be embraced, the naysayers will conform (or quit) and the 40K Hobby (TM) will grind forward. It is as it should be.

DaveV said...

Muskie, I just heard some rumours about new Eldar plastic models. Their new codex may not appear until well into 2013.

Hugh, we can look at using a 6x4 table to reduce the parking lot appearance of the battlefield.

J.P., I've been thinking about adding Vibrocannons for their automatic glancing hits.

Curt, for all the internet debate and discussion, the main rules engine has not changed; it's stil IGO/UGO and it still takes 3 or 4 sets of die rolls to resolve a single fire action. It's like they've never heard of odds/ratios and a Combat Results Table. Unit activation, odds other than 1/6 increments, or freeing the game of impedimentia like tape measures and blast markers all seem to be foreign concepts.

For example, in The Battlefield (a set of modern rules downloadable from Wargame Vault)
one unit firing at another unit requires only a single opposed set of dice rolls - a number of attack dice vs. defence dice (which includes all modifers for weapons, cover and armour). The difference in successes (if any) in favour of the attacker is the number of casualties inflicted. Very fast and elegant.

I would love to see "living" 40K rule books and codices, updated by GW with every new release. I would pay to subscribe to such a service...

Curt said...

I hear you Brother. The venerable three stage die mechanic is very clunky on anything above skirmish level. The rules have codified/petrified to such an extent that they are now like holy scripture, with any thought of core revisions being seen as impossible, or I dare say 'heretical'.

I agree, both 40K and Fantasy would benefit greatly from a well-managed 'living rules' model (and it would probably be quite lucrative for GW).