Munitorum Series #3 - Plasma Gun

So, my cadre and I wandered up to Black Knight Games this past Saturday, for the latest in their tournament series.  This time it was two thousand points, making these games officially the largest games I have ever played; before Saturday, I'd never gone above 1500.  Heck, before I finished off my last two XV88s on Friday, I didn't even have the points to play at 2000!  But I scraped in under the wire, managing to finish a Piranha and two XV88s in just over two weeks, so the Shining Long Strike cadre took to the field, ready for all comers!

Or at least, as ready as I ever seem to get.

Game 1
Opponent: Graham Wilson (Grey Knights)

Grand Master w/Psychotroke, Rad Grenades
5 x Purifiers w/Halberds, Razorback w/Psybolt
10 x Strike Squad w/Psybolt, 2 x Psycannon, Rhino
10 x Terminators w/Psybolt, Incinerator, Psycannon
10 x Interceptors w/Psybolt
Stormraven w/Twin-Linked Lascannon, Twin-Linked Multi-Melta
Land Raider w/Heavy Bolters, 2 x Lascannon

Major Objective: Capture and Control
Minor Objective: Headhunter (points for CC kills)
Deployment: Pitched Battle

This was my first game against Grey Knights; not bad, considering how omnipresent this 'Win Button' army is supposed to be, no? And I have to say, it didn't go so badly.

It's a cliche among 40K players that the battle is won or lost in deployment, a cliche I don't agree with in the least. In this case, however, it may not have been the game but poor deployment definitely lost Graham his Vindicare. He set the assassin on a nice, high point, with a good field of fire, and unfortunately for him he was too close and too exposed; on my first turn of shooting, which just so happened to be the first turn of the game, the combined firepower of an 8-strong Fire Warrior squad, the SMS off two XV88s and a trinary of Fireknives blasted him to smithereens. Graham has bragged about the threat of his Vindicare often enough around the store, the way it blows out invulnerable saves and kills Land Raiders better than Railguns do, so taking it out early seemed like a pretty good strategy. And I think it probably was.

With the rest of his army unmolested, more or less, Graham began his advance, and I began that oh-so-intricate dance Tau Empire players know so well. Graham used his Stormraven to deploy half his Terminator squad to my left flank, to meet up with his Interceptors already moving down there, and started rolling it up, while the other Terminators and the Grand Master in the Land Raider trundled up the centre. The game quickly turned into a bloodbath, with the Interceptors slaughtering my XV88s and Pathfinders, the Storm Raven blasting both my Piranhas with its multi-melta and the Strike Squad firing out of their Rhino immobilizing my Hammerhead with a lucky shot. Graham's aggression did not go unanswered, however. My other XV88s exploded the Land Raider and eventually shot down the Stormraven, my Shas'el, his bodyguard and one of the Fireknife squads gunned down the Grand Master and most of his squad, and a unit of Fire Warriors, dismounted from a wrecked Devilfish that was moving to contest, shot three of the five Purifiers to death. At the end of Turn 5 both our armies were quite depleted, with each of us still claiming our objectives, and Graham (obviously) having the minor objective. Sadly for me, however, the game went the full 7 turns, and ultimately these Grey Knights proved to be less a flashing rapier and more a grinding steamroller; I just could not stop their advance. Down to two XV88s, 8-strong and a 6-strong squads of Fire Warriors protecting my objective, I just didn't have the firepower to wipe out those Interceptors before they shunted onto my objective to contest it at the top of Turn 7, while out by his objective a second immobilized Devilfish, two Gun Drones and a Fireknife trinary that were criminally positioned nearly the entire game could neither break the Strike Squad off Graham's objective nor get close enough to contest it themselves. A game as hard-fought as it was well-fought, on both sides, in the end I just could not hold off those Grey Knights long enough to secure even a minor victory.

Result: Major Loss

Game 2
Opponent: Phil Swayne (Soul Drinkers)

Vulkan He'Stan
Kor'Sarro Khan
Dreadnought w/2 Twin-Linked Autocannon
Ironclad Dreadnought w/Heavy Flamer, Drop Pod
5 x Assault Terminators w/Sergeant
4 x Scouts, Sergeant w/Meltabombs, Combi-Melta, Power Weaopn
10 x Tacticals w/Meltagun, Combi-Melta, Power Fist, Drop Pod
4 x Bikers, Attack Bike w/Multi-Melta
4 x Bikers, Attack Bike w/Multi-Melta
Attack Bike w/Multi-Melta
Land Speeder Storm w/Multi-Melta
Land Raider Redeemer w/Extra Armour, Multi-Melta

Major Objective: Annihilation
Minor Objective: King of the Hill (objective in the centre of the table)
Deployment: Spearhead

Phil's army may be painted purple, but they were using Kor'Sarro for his special rules, making them the most flamboyant White Scars in history, I suspect. With everything reserved and outflanking, and with me squeezed into a quarter of the table by the deployment rules, I had a chance to put my post-Blood Angels 'all-dropping FNP CC monsters' tactic to work. And y'know, it didn't do too badly. I set up with an L-shaped ruin at one corner, a bastion at the other, and a nice high cliff running between them, effectively protecting a quarter of my border that way. Then, it was castling all the way. The XV88s went on top of the bastion and ruins, and other than that it was battlesuits in the middle, surrounded by a ring of Fire Warriors, surrounded by every vehicle hull I had, facing out in a circle.

The Ironclad dropped alone on the first turn, melta-ing one of my Piranhas into oblivion and using its Heavy Flamer on the Fire Warriors bunched up behind it, though thankfully he didn't kill that many of them. In return, I shot both its arms off and immobilized it, though I just could not kill it. And then, the Marines came on. The second drop pod landed on my left flank, supporting the Land Raider full of Terminators and the other Dreadnought who charged in off the board edge, while the Land Speeder full of Scouts turbo-boosted out from my right, covering one of the biker squads and the lone attack bike. My other Piranha went down, along with a Devilfish and a few more Fire Warriors, and then we really just started tearing into each other. Phil sent his Dreadnought into the bastion, intent on coming up from under my XV88s and tying them up in close combat, a grinding affair since the Dreadnought lacked the power weapons to negate their 2+ saves and they lacked the strength to dent his front armour. It was a good strategy, though, as it kept my XV88s out of commission for most of the game. Meanwhile, concentrating on the bigger threats, I combined plasma and pulse fire to drag down the Terminators, though only after they'd wrecked my Hammerhead, used my ruins-based XV88s to explode the Land Raider right in the face of some Tacticals about to embark, and used my Shas'el and his bodyguards to wipe out nearly the whole of the biker squad. In return, however, the Scouts' sergeant slowly but steadily cut down my Deathrains with his power sword, Kor'Sarro himself felled my Shas'el, his bodyguards and a squad of Fire Warriors, and the surviving Tacticals charged up to reinforce the Dreadnought, their powerfist tipping the scales quite handily against my XV88s. And while all this was happening, that second biker squad gunned their engines, charged out of reserve on my left flank, and raced out to grab the secondary objective in the middle of the table.

Despite the shellacking I got (why is it always Annihilation against Marines who can go from off the board to in my face in a turn?), the game was as fun as it was challenging, and Phil gave me some good pointers on what I could've done better to protect myself. The fact that I didn't deploy against the table edge, blunting his units from pincering me quite so completely, seems blindingly obvious in hindsight, and is definitely a point I'll remember. Likewise, I should've borrowed the Pathfinders and ringed the XV88s on the Bastion with them, leaving no room for the Dreadnought to charge in. And I could even have spread my castle out a little more, left it less vulnerable to flamers and less trapped by its own units once the other shoe had dropped. Little by little, I'm getting better at this game.

Result: Major Loss

Game 3
Opponent: Chris Bader (Imperial Guard)

Company Command Squad w/Straken, Lascannon HWT, Vox-Caster, Meltagun, Officer of the Fleet, Astropath, Chimera
5 x Storm Troopers w/Meltagun
5 x Storm Troopers w/Meltagun
5 x Veterans w/Plasma Pistol, Meltagun, Meltabombs
5 x Veterans w/2 x Meltaguns, Meltabombs
Infantry Command Squad w/Vox-Caster, Lascannon HWT, Meltagun, Chimera
Infantry Squad w/Power Weapon, Grenade Launcher, 2 x Missile Launcher HWT, Vox-Caster, Krak Grenades, Commissar w/Power Weapon
Infantry Squad w/Power Weapon, Grenade Launcher, Missile Launcher HWT, Krak Grenades
Infantry Squad w/Power Weapon, Grenade Launcher, Missile Launcher HWT, Krak Grenades
Vendetta w/3 x Twin-Linked Lascannons, Heavy Bolter
Vendetta w/3 x Twin-Linked Lascannons, Heavy Bolter
Medusa w/Siege Mortar, Heavy Bolter, Enclosed Crew Compartment, Camo Netting, Bastion Breacher Shells
2 x Hydras

Major Objective: Seize Ground (4 objectives rolled)
Minor Objective: Big Game Hunter (points for all HQs, MCs, and vehicles with an AV over 12)
Deployment: Dawn of War

Again, awful deployment, but this time it was the both of us. Chris was initially going first, so he deployed his biggest blob-squad right up against the centre line, with most of them hidden in a series of craters and forests to give them cover. In response I decided to leave everything off the board edge; after all, two of my four XV88s had Blacksun Filters for just this occasion, and this way I could position my units to respond to Chris' when he brought them on.

And then, for reasons I still can't actually explain, I rolled to seize. And won.

Making the best of this baffling decision, I spread my army along the table edge, my Piranhas turbo-boosted up on either side, and aimed just about everything I could at that blob squad. The only Guard unit on the table, it took a serious beating that first turn. Despite the cover it probably lost at least half its units to a staggering fusillade of SMS, Missile Pod, Plasma Rifle, and AFP fire. The unit didn't break, though, despite its pounding, and after hiding my battlesuits as best I could behind the tanks, Chris brought his army out to play. The Manticore and the Medusa took cover on my left, the two Hydras on my right, the Chimeras moved to reinforce the badly-beaten blob squad, and the Vendettas raced forwards. The two squads of Storm Troopers stayed in reserve, and thankfully Chris didn't manage anything noteworthy with his first round of firing; his searchlights could not get the range, and nor could anything else. At the top of Turn 2 I started my attack, and kept up the pressure all game. XV88s fired at Vendettas, which were ludicrously survivable (an enraging string of 1's and 2's to penetrate and on the damage chart kept one of them flying nearly all game), one of my Fireknife trinaries went after the Hydras, with mobile cover from a Devilfish, while my Fire Warriors and battlesuits kept hitting that blob squad, which half the time had a 2+ cover save, making them particularly difficult to remove save for those killed by the AFP. Hooray for S4 AP5 large blasts that ignore cover! The stars of Chris' army, meanwhile, were definitely the Medusa and the Manticore, which between them accounted for two-thirds of my Deathrains, 13 Fire Warriors and one of my Bodyguards. Thankfully, however, those Storm Troopers were absolutely useless; the first squad couldn't get a clean drop, earning them a trip back into reserve, then actually landed on the Hammerhead Chris was sending them after, which got them put nice and out of the way in the corner. The other squad did manage to go after my Hammerhead, but a torrent of close-in pulse rifle fire in return meant they didn't get to enjoy their victory. Both Piranhas, by the by, blew up well short of getting their shots off, meaning that they were three-for-three in terms of being completely useless. I really must figure out how to use those things.

With time running out, Chris and I both threw our last tricks at each other. He killed all but one of the Fire Warriors heading to my left-side objective and charged my Shas'el with his Company Command Squad, getting close enough to contest the other. Thankfully, however, my lone Fire Warrior passed his break test and hung on, and in the very last shooting phase my Fireknives finally blasted one of the Hydras to pieces. That left Chris with a Hydra and both Vendettas gone, while I had lost a Devilfish and my Hammerhead; the Piranhas, being only AV11, didn't count. That meant I had the minor objective, three points to two, and that my friends means that, for the first time ever in a Black Knight Games tournament, I had won a game!

Result: Minor Win

Total Result: 14th of 16, tied overall with 13th (but 13th had more battle points, while I'd made the difference up with presentation)

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