Going Out In Style!

Black Knight held its final 5th edition tournament the other weekend, and as far as last hurrahs go, I could not have been happier!

Round 1: Trevor Engle (SM)
Deployment: Spearhead
Major Objective: Capture and Control
Minor Objective: Protect the Package (a Troop unit, in reserve and arriving automatically on Turn 2, has the 'package' and must survive)

Cato Sicarius
5 x Command Squad w/Apothecary, 4 x Plasma Gun, 4 x Storm Shield, Drop Pod
10 x Tacticals w/Plasma Gun, Missile Launcher, Rhino
10 x Tacticals w/Plasma Gun, Missile Launcher, Drop Pod
5 x Scouts w/4 x Sniper Rifles, Missile Launcher, Camo Cloaks
5 x Scouts w/5 x Combat Blades, Melta Bombs
Stormtalon w/Typhoon Missile Launcher
5 x Sternguard w/5 x Combi-Melta, Powerfist, Drop Pod

Trevor won the roll-off, and elected to seize the quarter with the superior cover for his scouts and his objectives. This meant I'd be going second, which in an objectives-based mission is no bad thing. But as I watched Trevor laying out his plan, his scouts camped in a ruin with the objective, his drop pods in reserve, Cato joined to the Tacticals in the Rhino and using his special rules to let them outflank, the Stormtalon in reserve and set to accompany the Rhino on from the edge, I realized something else; it also meant I didn't have to put anything on the board. My usual response to a drop-assault is to castle up, and it works moderately well, but it completely surrenders the initiative and it guarantees you'll lose vehicles and units to that first-turn, close-in shooting. And with combi-meltas and plasma guns in drop pods, that would be a seriously deadly turn of shooting, indeed.

Which is why, rather than castle up, I decided to just put everything in reserve.

I was quite pleased with the results, too. Immediately, it baffled Trevor, which is no bad thing to do to your opponent. The Tacticals and the Command Squad dropped in first turn, the former running for my objective and the latter just standing there, with nothing to shoot; second turn, his Sternguard dropped in to reinforce the Scouts on his objective, the Rhino and the Stormtalon came on, the former hiding by the table edge near my objective and the latter zooming out into the middle of the board for the cover save, and his other scout unit wandered on behind the Rhino. That meant the entirety of his army was on the board Turn 2, leaving me spoilt indeed for targets when my cadre rocked up. Turn 2 I got about half of them, with a Fireknife squad, the Pathfinders in their Devilfish, the Firewarriors with the Package in their Devilfish, an XV88 and my Hammerhead, and sent them onto my right corner, well away from either the combi-meltas in the top-right or the plasma guns in the bottom left. Turn 2 I scored first blood, blowing up the drop pod closest to my objective, but what little additional shooting I had either didn't connect or didn't go through cover saves. Turn 3 Trevor had me a little worried with his shooting; I'd actually lost track of one of his Tac squads, their paint job blending nicely with a ruin in the top-right quarter, but their existence came back to me when their krak missile immobilized the Firewarriors' Devilfish, while the plasma-armed Command Squad shot the burst cannon off my Pathfinders' Devilfish. Nothing too serious, but there was an equally good chance the Devilfish with the Package could have exploded as been immobilized, so I was on my guard. Turn 3 the rest of my cadre arrived, with the second XV88 rolling snake-eyes for his movement; unable to make it into the board, he was destroyed, sadly. Frustrating. Still, the second Fireknife squad clumped up with the first, who enjoyed a good shooting position, and the Deathrains took cover behind a bit of ruin, while the third Devilfish cruised up, pushing the weaponless Pathfinder one further up the board to provide more cover. My commander came on to the extreme right end of the board, more for lack of alternatives than any tactical reason, and really never got a chance to put his shooting to use. That's okay, though; the rest of my cadre had him covered.

Over the next few turns, my Package-less Firewarriors gunned down most of the Command Squad, one of the Fireknife squads finishing them off, then turned their guns on the Tac squad on my objective, taking them, with some help from the Hammerhead and the Fireknife squad again, clear down to just two guys. Of course, that second squad of scouts were on the objective, so clearing it was never really a possibility, but the slaughter sure made me happy! My Deathrains, the second Fireknife squad and my commander, meanwhile, took the Scouts on Trevor's objective down to just two, and did the same to the Sternguard, while my remaining XV88 managed to blow up the second drop pod near my objective and drop the Stormraven, though only after it shifted to hover mode and shot the railgun off my Hammerhead. If that had been where it ended, of course, it would've been a major loss for me, but I was playing a longer game. Turn 5, my two mobile Devilfish took off, moving their top speed and then throwing their drones forwards, contesting both objectives, and when the game ended that turn (which I knew it would, since the round's time was almost up and there wasn't time for another), Trevor suddenly found he'd gone from holding both objectives with overwhelming force to having no objectives at all. Of course, he still had Cato and the Package in a Rhino, but I had my Package-toting Firewarriors still alive as well, putting us nicely even straight down the line. End result? A perfect draw, and nine points for each of us.

Round 2: Dave Grant (Orks)
Deployment: Pitched Battle
Major Objective: Annihilation
Minor Objective: Forward Push (+1 point for having a Troop unit on your opponents half of the table, -1 point for having a Troop unit on your half of the table)

3 x Killa Kans w/3 x Rokkits
3 x Killa Kans w/3 x Rokkits
Deff Dread
Dakka Jet
Dakka Jet
12 x Lootas
21 x Boyz, Nob w/Big Choppa, Boss Pole
21 x Boyz, Nob w/Big Choppa, Boss Pole
21 x Boyz, Nob w/Big Choppa, Boss Pole

Again I lost the roll-off, and again my opponent opted to go first. He arranged his army along his back edge, the three mobs equally spaced and the Lootas hiding behind a crater, with the two Dakka Jets between them, and the Kans flanking the Deff Dread and Ghazghkull in the middle. I responded in kind, breaking my force up into several small fire teams; my commander, Deathrains and an empty Devilfish were tasked with destroying the mostly-unsupported mob on my right, the two Firewarrior teams were arranged in rank behind their Devilfish for cover, and supported by the twn Fireknife teams, while the Hammerhead was on the left flank, ready to drop submunitions on the Orks, and my two XV88s and the Pathfinder team were in a small bunker, between and just ahead of the Firewarriors and my commander's team.

I failed the roll-off, but it didn't much matter, because there was basically no shooting. The Lootas fired at one of my Devilfish and shook it, but other than that the Orks either missed, or couldn't punch through my disruption pods. In return, I brought down both Dakka Jets with my XV88s (AV10 means auto-penetrate, whoo!), and began the long task of whittling down sixty-plus boyz. It was remarkably refreshing to find an opponent whose armour wouldn't shrug off anything I threw at him; pretty much every other Annihilation game at a tournament, I've ended up facing Marines of some description, which gets rather frustrating. Unfortunately, I was so taken with the novelty of killing huge swathes of enemy models that I forgot the most important detail in fighting Orks; just because you're killing them doesn't mean you're winning.

Dave lost big getting across the board to me; on the right there was just a single Nob left stubbornly standing, while in the middle he'd lost one of his Killa Kan squads, and both of the other mobs had taken huge casualties from the combination of missile pod, plasma rifle, pulse rifle, burst cannon, pulse carbine, SMS and railgun submunition fire. Unfortunately, I let myself get overconfident, and before I knew it there were Orks in my lines. Ghazghkull and the survivors from the central mob poured into the bunker, killing one of my XV88s and the Pathfinder team, while the mob that had suffered under the Hammerhead's fire got their revenge, tearing the big gun off and stunning the vehicle. The Killa Kans piled in, slaughtering one of the Firewarrior squads while the other fell to the crude attacks of the central mobs' survivors, then turned their rockets on my Devilfish, shooting down one of them while the Lootas finally managed to down the other. Most ignominiously, that lone Nob? He charged into my Deathrain squad, and it took six assault phases before he finally went down, putting a wound on one of my suits before he went!

The game was an absolute slaughter; by the end, Ghazghkull was leading one mob of two boys, three Killa Kans, an immobilised Deff Dread with its skorcha shot off and the Lootas, while my commander had a railgun-less Hammerhead, a single XV88, and his Deathrain team still in the game. But the relatively even nature of our surviving model count was deceptive, as that Ork-fighting dictum should've reminded me, because while I'd killed over sixty boyz, three Killa Kans and two Deff Dreads, it was only worth five kill points, while the eighteen Firewarriors, six Pathfindgers, six XV8s, three Devilfish and an XV88 had netted Dave a handy ten kill points. Even worse, while he had just two boyz left, they were both standing nearly up against my table edge, while my own Troop units had been slaughtered to the last, giving him the Minor Objective, as well. Which left me with a Major Loss, and a reminder of just how careful you have to be, fighting Orks for kill points.

Because just killing them is almost never enough.

Round 3: Alex Kirley (Chaos Daemons)
Deployment: Dawn of War
Major Objective: Seize Ground
Minor Objective: Marked Man

Keeper of Secrets w/Pavanne of Slaanesh, Unholy Might
Herald of Slaanesh w/Chariot, Unholy Might, Transfixing Gaze
5 x Daemonettes, Chaos Icon, Instrument of Chaos
5 x Daemonettes, Chaos Icon, Instrument of Chaos
5 x Daemonettes, Chaos Icon, Instrument of Chaos
5 x Fiends w/Unholy Might
Soul Grinder w/Phlegm
Daemon Prince w/Mark of Slaanesh, Daemonic Flight, Iron Hide, Unholy Might, Boon of Mutation
Daemon Prince w/Mark of Slaanesh, Daemonic Flight, Iron Hide, Unholy Might, Boon of Mutation

Third game, third time my opponent won the roll-off and opted to go first. We rolled up four objectives, placing them in each of the four quarters of the board, and then deployed. Or, rather, didn't. Because, in response to Alex' Chaos Daemons all starting in reserve, I decided to revisit my round one strategy, and do the same.

Alex got his preferred half onto the board, starting with several Daemonette units, which he placed on two of the objectives and a third close by, the Herald, one of the Daemon Princes and the Fiends, which he dropped near the table edge, ready to snap up my Tau when they arrived, and I believe the Soul Grinder, hanging out in the back behind a ruin for cover. To confront these forces, I initially rolled up a Fireknife squad, the Deathrains, Pathfinders in their Devilfish, one of the Fire Warrior teams and an XV88. The Fireknives put the boots to the Daemon Prince, their plasma and missile fire gunning him down in one shooting phase, while the XV88 used its SMS to try and damage the Fiends and the Deathrains peppered the Daemonettes on the left-side objective, who went to ground. In return, the Fiends charged up and ate one of my Devilfish, losing a wound to the flechette dischargers, while the Herald started around my other Devilfish, intent on getting to the Fireknives, who'd been confronted by the second Daemon Prince and lost one of their number to the Boon of Mutation. Neither the Herald nor the second Prince survived the following turn, however, with the Firewarriors disembarking to pour pulse rounds into the Herald and the second Fireknife squad arriving to help the first finish off the slightly-luckier-rolling Daemon Prince. My commander, second Firewarrior team, XV88 and Hammerhead also arrived, the commander joining my Deathrains in putting pressure on the left-side Daemonettes and their nearby cohort, and the Hammerhead aiming to drop its submunition on anything it could draw a bead on. Amusingly, it actually ended up being the death of the Soul Grinder, skipping over and behind it and putting a solid slug into the thing's back, even managing to roll a 6 to seal the deal. That tank has never been so effective before! The Keeper of Secrets fared no better, done in by a combination of the Fireknives and markerlight-guided Firewarriors, completely overwhelming it with weight of fire and sending it right back into the mark. Since it was the Marked Man, that meant I was up on the minor objective, as well.

With the main combatants seen off before they could do much damage, it was just a matter of mopping up. The full-strength Fireknife squad killed their mutated brother, while the depleted one, the XV88s and the Hammerhead poured fire into the lone Daemonette squad, and my commander, Deathrains and one of my Firewarrior squads targetted the other two. The full-strength Fireknives were eventually called away to deal with the Masque, who they were still in combat with when the game ended, one of only two Daemons left on the board. The Firewarriors, complete with their Marked Man, had piled back into their Devilfish and seized one of the objectives, while both left-side Daemonette squads had been obliterated. Unfortunately, the remaining solo Daemonette on the right was a little luckier than her sisters, and my last-minute contestation attempts ended up with my Hammerhead out of position (curse me for choosing to shoot rather than go full-speed to contest!) and a pair of detached gun drones falling just a single inch short on their run rolls to get into position. With one objective each the game would've been a tie, had I not gunned down that Keeper of Secrets, earning me a minor win.

With that, I found myself sitting in fifth place overall, far and away a personal best and still rather shocking. To make things even more pleasant, I won best presentation, earning me both the accolades of my peers and, no small matter, a thirty dollar gift certificate from Black Knight. With 6th edition just days away, and my thoughts clouded with visions of Allies filling serious holes in the Tau codex, the possibilities for that thirty dollars are tantalizing indeed...

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