Escalation in Alpha Prime - Week 1

Black Knight has offered those daring enough to wage war in the grim darkness of the far future a new opportunity to test their mettle; Escalation in Alpha Prime, a six-week league event. The league starts at 750 points, and adds 250 points each week, ultimately ending up at a full 2000 points. The main scoring determinant seems to be win-lose-or-draw, of course, but the league also provides a small, standardized list of milestones to reach over the course of the series. Some of them are easy (play 4 games, roll a 6 when you need to), and some of them require a little more persistence (kill a model with 4 wounds, kill two HQs twice). They haven't actually announced what impact the sheets will have on the overall score, but since it seems unlikely they'll have none, a smart general would do what he could not just to win, but to win in a way the meets the demands of the sheets.

For the first week, I took what I thought was a pretty basic Tau cadre, with the caveat of course that I still don't care for Kroot. At 750 there's not really any room to get fancy; no Fortifications, no Allies, nothing but the basic options in the codex, and not nearly as many of those as usual, either.

Shas'El w/Twin-Linked Missile Pod, Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, Hard-Wired Multi-Tracker, Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter
2 x XV8 w/2 x Plasma Rifle, 2 x Missile Pod, 2 x Multi-Tracker
2 x XV8 w/2 x Plasma Rifle, 2 x Missile Pod, 2 x Multi-Tracker
8 x Fire Warriors
8 x Fire Warriors
XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
Hammerhead w/Railgun, 2 x Burst Cannons, Multi-Tracker, Blacksun Filter

This was actually the first game I'd played at this particular points level, so I went into it with a certain amount of concern. In the past I've had trouble getting my cadre to perform in the 1000 points range; would they have what it takes to get the job done with even fewer tools at their disposal?

Well, there was only one way to find out.

Opponent: Aaron Plate (Orks)
Deployment: Vanguard Strike
Mission: Big Guns Never Tire

Old Zogwort
19 Boyz w/Nob, Power Klaw
19 Boyz w/Nob, Power Klaw

Usually, Aaron goes for the Nob bikerz, but I suppose if he couldn't rationalize cramming them into this points level. Instead, I found myself facing off against an Ork foot list, with a couple of flyers for support, something I haven't seen in quite some time. Usually the Orks in my neck of the galaxy are backed up by Killa Kans, Deff Dreads and Battlewagons, and nowadays looted Imperial Guard hulls and grots with lasguns and flak vests. The chance to test my guns against nothing but hardy Ork constitutions made me cautiously optimistic, as did my successfully defeating Aaron in the roll-off to go first. We rolled up four objectives, with each of us basically depositing them in our deployment zones, and got down to the business of murder.

I deployed in my customary spread-out fashion. The lone XV88 and a unit of Fire Warriors claimed the top floor of a ruined building, and the objective I'd placed there for them, while the other Fire Warriors took up position on a hilltop beside the Hammerhead, near the centre of my zone. My commander joined one of the units of suits on the far right edge, while the other two suits took the far left wing, deploying well up from the edge of the table. Hemmed in, Aaaron deployed his two mobs, one with the Weirdboy and one with Zogwort, towards the rear-centre of his zone, trying to get as much cover as possible. He attempted to seize, and failed, he checked for Night Fight, and succeeded, and the game commenced.

And almost immediately ended. Manoeuvring for advantage, I managed to align the Hammerhead and the commander's squad with the Weirdboy's squad, getting both units nice, clear shots through gaps in the terrain. With Blacksun Filters on each the cover of darkness did nothing to protect the Orks, and between six missile pods, two plasma rifle shots and a submunition that landed dead-centre in the middle of the mob, those twenty Orks very quickly disappeared. Throw in a bit of supporting fire from the central Fire Warriors on the hill and the other Fireknife squad, both managing a few kills even with the Night Fight saves, and there was no chance of Mob Rule carrying those Orks through the end of my shooting phase. Reduced to their own lousy leadership, which is not unlike my own lousy leadership, the few ragged survivors promptly struck up their heels and bolted for the table edge, giving me First Blood. Turn one, and half of Aaaron's ground forces were dead before they'd had a chance to move. Not that they actually accomplished anything once they were given the chance, though, with Aaron sending them shambling forwards, though not nearly as quickly as he'd hoped given a lousy Run roll. With Night Fight no longer an issue, and the Orks even closer to even more guns, there was a very real chance that I could win the game on Turn 2, by simply killing everything on the board.

Thankfully, I didn't quite manage that feat. I did, however, kill a heck of a lot of boyz, once more pouring firepower into the Orks and watching as body after body was lifted away. The new 'cover on an individual basis' is frankly brutal for armies like Orks, and makes the Kustom Force Field virtually mandatory if you plan to have a foot list survive to reach the enemy's lines. Old Zogwort survived the fusillade, as did a handful of boyz, and with his slightly better leadership the survivors managed to hold on until the arrival of one of the Dakkajets. Unfortunately, that wouldn't turn out to help much, as the Dakkajet managed to put all of one wound on one of the Fireknives accompanying my commander. Zogwort himself attempted to use his Curse on my commander, only to fail his psychic test. An attempt to charge my Hammerhead also came up short, even with the re-roll, leaving the Orks nothing to do. With the dice having failed him, at this point Aaron could frankly do little but await the end.

Turn three, I managed to put down the Dakkajet with my XV88, giving it its first kill of the game; turn one there'd been trouble with line of sight, and turn two the railgun had whiffed the to-wound roll. It made up for those failures with the jet, however, blasting it clear out of the sky in a single hit, and thankfully not scattering the flaming wreckage onto my own units. I sent the rest of my army to deal with the remnants of Zogwort's mob, save for my second Fireknife squad, who were tasked with making dead certain they were in Aaron's deployment zone at the end of the game, which at this point could come at any second, for the Linebreaker secondary. Rolling up the remnants of Aaron's Orks wasn't difficult, just a little time-consuming, though the appearance of his second Dakkajet did cost me my commander, the sole casualty of the match. At the end of turn 4, however, I'd shot the second Dakkajet from the skies and hunted down the last of the Orks, including Zogwort who provided me with the Slay the Warlord secondary, and ensuring total victory for the forces of the Tau Empire.

Opponent: Jamie Goddard (Tau Empire)
Deployment: Dawn of War
Mission: Purge the Alien

Shas'O w/Missile Pod, Fusion Blaster, Stimulant Injector, Hard-Wired Multi-Tracker, Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter, Bonding Knife, Hard-Wired Drone Controller, 2 x Gun Drones
2 x XV8 Bodyguard w/2 x Missile Pod, 2 x Fusion Blaster, 2 x Targeting Array, Hard-Wired Drone Controller, Shield Drone
2 x XV8 w/2 x Twin-Linked Burst Cannon, 2 x Plasma Rifle, Multi-Tracker
10 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'ui, Blacksun Filter
10 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'ui, Blacksun Filter
8 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'ui, Blacksun Filter

As a bonus for finishing off Aaron so quickly, I was offered the chance to help out a late arrival, who was otherwise opponent-less. Jamie usually gives me no end of fits with his Imperial Guard, but when I saw him fetching out battlesuits I must admit, I was intrigued; I'd never faced other Tau before. Of course, since neither of us were Farsight Enclave, clearly this was just a particularly realistic training simulation. So we rolled up the mission and the deployment, one of the few times I was content to see Kill Points as an objective, and got down to business, with Jamie winning the roll-off and Night Fight once more kicking in.

I'm not going to go into as much detail, this time around, because it was mostly just me chasing Jamie around the board. My Hammerhead accounted for two of his three Fire Warrior squads, while my commander and his squad duelled with the two XV8s, and the other Fireknives and y two Fire Warrior squads did their best to take down his commander and bodyguard suits, and finished off the third Fire Warrior team. My only casualty of the game was my XV88, who surprisingly died not to missile pods, plasma rifles or fusion blasters, but just to a few too many pulse rifle rounds to the face. Still, with all three of his infantry squads down, and me having only lost my XV88, it was a pretty convincing victory, and if the game hadn't ended it just would've grown moreso as my numerically superior force finished off the remaining few models he had on the board. A solid training exercise, and one that clearly indicates a certain shas'el needs to spend a little more time reading the tactical output of the shas'ar'tol.


2K Tournament - Round 3

Round 3: Chris Bader (Imperial Guard)
Deployment: Vanguard Strike
Mission: Purge the Alien
Secondary Objectives: First Blood, Linebreaker, Battlefield Superiority (control 2+ table quarters)

Company Command w/Vox Caster, Meltagun, Lascannon, Officer of the Fleet, Straken, Chimera
Platoon Command w/Vox Caster, Meltagun, Lascannon, Chimera
Infantry Squad w/Flamer, Missile Launcher
Infantry Blob Squad w/Grenades, Autocannon, Power Sword
Heavy Weapon Team w/3 x Missile Launcher
Platoon Command Squad w/Vox Caster, Meltagun, Lascannon, Chimera
Infantry Squad w/Flamer, Missile Launcher
Infantry Blob Squad w/Plasma Gun, Lascannon, Power Weapon, Vox Caster
Commissar w/Power Sword
Heavy Weapon Team w/3 x Missile Launcher
Vendetta w/Heavy Bolter sponsons
Vendetta w/Heavy Bolter sponsons
Manticore w/Heavy Flamer
Imperial Bastion w/Quad Gun

Yes, it's the Imperial Guard, yet again. Fewer tanks and no Allies, but a couple of Flyers, my first matchup against such units in 6th. I can't say I was particularly optimistic about this, especially since it was kill points; infantry blob squads with attached Commissars take a heck of a lot of killing for one point, and Guard tanks can inflict some pretty serious casualties, especially if, as Chris did, they win the roll-off.

Chris elected to go first, and deployed pretty well strung out along his diagonal; Bastion in the middle, with the two small squads inside and on top of it, command squads in their Chimeras around it, Manticore towards the back, and the heavy weapon teams and blob squads on the wings. Unfortunately, poor terrain placement left my own deployment somewhat hamstrung, with my Hammerhead, commander and Deathrains behind a huge building smack-dab in the middle of the table, a Devilfish full of Firewarriors, a Fireknife team and an XV88 team on the left being hassled by some craters (skimmers and jet packs don't like difficult terrain tests) and a mirror group on the right trying to hug a forest and small outbuilding as much as they could. Sadly, the BKG guys had decided not to allow for Night Fight this round, so if I failed to seize, my Devilfish were going to be stuck out with pretty minimal angles of cover. And so I did fail to seize, that's exactly what happened.

First round, I lost both Devilfish; a 5+ cover save is nice, but not really enough against the kind of firepower a Guard list can put out, even with the Vendettas stuck in reserve first turn. Though sadly, in both of the fateful fails, having the 4+ Flat Out save would have made the difference. Alas! Even more unfortunately, hampered as I was by the giant building in the middle of the table, which prevented my two wings from supporting each other (what good is superior Tau range if you can't get LOS?), my own shooting was too scattered to really crush any one thing in return. We traded shots, him shaking my Hammerhead, me managing to hit the Bastion with it anyway but only glancing it, a Chimera for a Devilfish, a few Guardsmen for a few Firewarrior squads. Unfortunately, while I was chipping away at models, he'd removed several units, putting him up to start with. And it only got worse when one of his Vendettas arrived second turn, and immediately lascannoned my poor Hammerhead straight into the ground.

I got my revenge, though, and let this be a lesson; always, always understand the rules. So, I hit the Vendetta with a couple of missile pods, and managed to lock its speed with the damage, forcing it to go 18" straight. Not exactly devastating. But then I realized I still had one Devilfish left, which hadn't fired yet, and whose 6" Flat Out move could basically put it exactly where the Vendetta's flying stand would have to be. The stand can't end its move within 1" of an enemy model; the Vendetta can't turn, or go further than 18"; and any Flyer that can't travel a minimum of 18" is automatically wrecked. Which is to say, with a conveniently placed Devilfish, I managed to turn a mere locked velocity roll into the destruction of the flyer. Not bad, not bad one bit.

Unfortunately, I wasn't having too much luck, otherwise. My entire right flank basically disappeared, save for the experimental XV25s who dropped in, only to be caught completely flat-footed when the nearby blob squad charged them. I'm used to my enemy's charging Tau units, but I must admit, I completely failed to anticipate that anyone would want to voluntarily charge a BA Captain with power sword and five Death Company. Unfortunately, while my Allies were grinding down the blob squad (both Chris and I having completely forgotten Challenges were even a thing), they weren't doing it quickly, or without casualties themselves. The game ended on account of time before the combat could be resolved, but it was depressingly clear that the quality of those counts-as-Marines simply wasn't going to match up to the quantity of all those Guardsmen. I did, however, take out one of the Chimeras before I went down, and more dramatically I managed to blow up the Bastion, which did impressively terrible things to the units inside and on top of it. Fortifications really are unforgiving if you can put them down, especially if you've only got t-shirt saves on the units embarked in them.

Unfortunately, even with the other Vendetta counting as a kill point for being off the table when the game ended, things went as I'd feared. Chris had won overall, and scored First Blood, while neither of us had Linebreaker or Battlefield Superiority. So while he only scored fourteen for his victory, I escaped with just a measly three for participation.

If only that blob squad had let me get the charge off, instead!

Still, ultimately I was pretty happy with how the tournament went. I had a pretty solid grasp of the new ruleset, I completely dominated that first game, and I even scored 'best presentation' again, which is always nice. Even nicer, though, I came in fifth overall that day, a new personal best and definitely something worth celebrating!


When Creators Lose the Plot

As much as The Dark Knight Rises has problems with its plot, and pacing, and some of its character work, and it most certainly has problems with all three, that's not the real problem with this movie. No, the real problem is so much deeper than that. It took me a while to really wrap my head around it, but after talking it over with a few associates, particularly Major Armstrong and the Lovely Madame Meagan, I think I've put my finger on it. Those issues I mentioned, at the start of this paragraph? Those are simply issues with Rises on its own, irrespective of its standing in Nolan's trilogy. No, the real issue is that of the three major themes running through the Nolan trilogy, Rises completely wrecks two, and just sort of ignores the third.

Be warned; from here on out, there be spoilers.

"As a man I'm flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol... As a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting."
- Bruce Wayne

"Everlasting, two years, y'know, whichever comes first."

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne realizes that Gotham is so far gone, so riddled with corruption, so owned by the mob, its people so terrified or coerced or co-opted, that no man could save it. Not even billionaire philanthropist industrialist Bruce Wayne. Wayne's parents had tried to save the city, and enjoyed some minor success, but by making themselves so visible they made themselves targets. A mortal man (or woman, in the case of Martha Wayne) simply couldn't redeem the city, because the city would eat them before they could succeed. What was needed instead, then, was something more than a man. A symbol. The Batman.

And it works. At the start of The Dark Knight, the symbol of Batman has clearly had an effect on Gotham. The police are still shaky, but where before Gordon was completely alone, now he has a core of mostly trustworthy cops who actually seem set on doing their jobs. The DA's office is far stronger, and even if Dent doesn't trust Batman at first, Batman's existence has certainly motivated Dent; showing he can replace Batman is just as much a reflection of the symbol as wanting to live up to him. And the people of Gotham are starting to push back against the corruption; even if the Citizen Batmen are a disaster, untrained, out of shape and wearing hockey pads, at least they're doing something. The change from the Gotham seen in Batman Begins is astounding, and shows, yes, the power of a symbol. But by the end of the film, that symbol has been tarnished. Branded a cop killer and held responsible for the death of Harvey Dent, Batman is a fugitive, an outlaw who fights outlaws, a symbol twisted around itself and ultimately sacrificed to burnish another symbol; Harvey Dent, the 'White Knight'. So, to carry through the idea of Batman as an everlasting symbol, obviously Rises would have to provide a story in which Batman can be redeemed in the eyes of Gotham City as a whole, shaking off the mantle of killer and criminal and replacing it, once again, with the idea of Batman as an incorruptible force for justice.

But none of that happens. Instead, the movie opens with Batman apparently having hung up the cowl about five minutes after the end of Dark Knight. Far from being an everlasting symbol, he's abandoned the city for about four times as long as he ever operated in it. This makes Batman's totemic significance to certain characters completely baffling, and totally unearned. Yes, he stopped the mob and the Joker, but it's been the police who've been doing all the heavy lifting for almost the last decade, and the last thing anyone saw of Batman he was running from the cops after being accused of murder. A force of terror on the side of the angels, he isn't. But what's even worse, he never earns back his place as a symbol for the people of Gotham. As far as the people of Gotham are concerned, not only has Batman completely disappeared for eight months, he never did anything to stop Bane's initial assault on the city, and has left them languishing under his tyranny for five months, straight. The only thing he does is disable Bane's big guns so the police can do most of the fighting, go toe to toe with Bane, and then die for Gotham by getting the bomb away from the city. It's a nice gesture, and if this were Adam West's Batman, or Bruce Timm's, or heck, even George Clooney or Val Kilmer's Batmans, it would really have affected Gotham. Those Batmans actually established a strong relationship with the city. Nolan's Batman has given up on it. Most of the impressive things Batman accomplishes are done where nobody can see it, and while what little he does in public is good, it's hard to buy that these guys decided to put a statue up in his honour. It's a nice moment, but it doesn't feel earned.

And of course, it's completely ruined by the knowledge that there'll be another Batman along soon enough. Sort of robs that heroic sacrifice of its value if you turn up later...

"What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?"
- Rachel Dawes

Although sometimes, nothing is exactly what good people should do.

If Batman is to serve as a symbol, though, there has to be someone to see it; Ozymandias' feet mean nothing until Keats observes them, after all. It is for the people of Gotham that Bruce Wayne creates Batman, as a symbol of justice and the power of the individual to triumph over crime. This is an important element in Nolan's Batman universe, because individually the people of Gotham have been made to feel helpless in the face of the seemingly insurmountable scale of the problem facing them. It's too easy for each of them to say that they're just one man or woman, and what can they do, and therefore atomisticly allow their society to collapse around them. It's really hard to understate the importance of Batman as a symbol for this particular Bruce Wayne; he's not Adam West, having a grand old time trading wits and fists with ultimately harmless criminals, and nor is he Frank Miller's creation, a disturbed and violent misanthrope who is acceptable because he can't not fight crime, even if he's barely a step above the Punisher. Nolan's Batman understands the seriousness of the situation far better than West's ever could have, but unlike Miller's he's not willing to devote his entire life to being Batman; as early as the end of Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne is trying to visualize some kind of way out for him, a goal he can aim for and that, once reached, will justify him stepping down. And for this particular Bruce Wayne, to paraphrase American officials on Iraq, when Gothamites stand up, he'll stand down.

And he starts to have that effect in Dark Knight. I mentioned the Citizen Batmen earlier, and while they're a disaster in the film, it's not for lack of heart. They just don't understand that Batman is something to aspire to symbolically, not literally. To live up to his example doesn't require you to dress in black capes and masks and fist-fight drug dealers. So yes, Bruce Wayne shuts down the Citizen Batmen as best he can, though with not nearly the finality the Joker employs later, but that's not a serious problem because that's not what Bruce Wayne wants. We see what he wants in the form of Harvey Dent, in particular, and in the reaction of the Gothamites on the ferries, in general. Dent is a man who is willing to take up Batman's challenge in his own way, to wage the war on crime from inside the system, rather than as an outsider. He needed Batman to exist to encourage that system to work, but now that it's been primed, Bruce Wayne desperately wants to believe that Harvey Dent can keep it running. But again, it's not just about one man in Gotham City; one man can be ignored, or destroyed, as Bruce Wayne himself realizes. So, Harvey Dent is important, but arguably not as important as what happens on those ferries in the harbour.

Can there be any doubt that, before Batman began operating in Gotham, any of those people would've hesitated to blow up the other ferry to protect themselves? It was a brutal, violent, amoral city, where those like Jim Gordon were few and far between, and utterly powerless. But Batman serves as an example; he doesn't kill (mostly), he doesn't steal, he doesn't oppress the powerless and he stands up to the mob on behalf of the people. Capturing the Joker is ultimately of secondary importance in Dark Knight. What really matters is that he has offered the people of Gotham another, better way, one where even convicted criminals will refuse the Joker's offers of personal safety at the expense of others. The people of Gotham don't have to put on dollar store Batman masks, they just have to be good people, who are willing to risk their own lives for their fellow human beings.

Unfortunately, the people of Gotham are almost completely ignored in Rises. Where Ra's al Ghul corrupted them from within with money and drugs, and the Joker brutalized them with exploding hospitals and murdered public officials, Bane mostly ignores them. He has his own army, after all, and despite a throw-away comment that some of Gotham's poor might have been drifting down to the sewers to find work (apparently to escape a grinding recession we never really get any evidence of) and Bane and Catwoman mooting about how this is a revolution of the people, it never looks like anything other than the conquest of a city by an outside force. The people of Gotham aren't eating themselves alive again, like before Batman came along, they're just being killed by outsiders. But nor are they standing up against Bane, either. That may sound like a strange objection given my earlier take on the Citizen Batmen, but bear with me. The Citizen Batmen were wrong, albeit with the best of intentions, because they were trying to simply ape Batman without any of his training or abilities or equipment. It was the inappropriate response to the situation. And here, it would be again, even if having the Citizen Batmen keeping that symbol alive in occupied Gotham would have gone a long way towards demonstrating the utility of that symbol in such a drastic situation. But there are other ways to fight, to resist, if you will. Such as, oh, forming a resistance.

But we never see that. Yes, Gordon and a few of his men are doing something, though not much that really amounts to anything. And eventually the police, rescued from the sewers and shockingly hale and hearty after five months trapped underground, turn up to fight Bane's army. But Gordon and the police are not the people; they're an institution of Gotham itself. And they're not really rising to the occasion, beyond what their position requires of them. If Bane had turned up before Batman, when the city was in the grip of the mob, do you really think the bought-and-paid-for police wouldn't have fought just as hard to keep Bane's men from muscling in on their territory? The police can't represent Gotham's people, because they're too busy representing Gotham as a thing, an institutional system in its own right, and like all such systems it will of course fight to defend itself. But if Gordon, deprived of his cops, had turned to the citizens of Gotham? If groups of armed civilians had established safe zones in the chaos of a lawless Gotham, fighting off the remnants of the criminal elements and Bane's forces, doing their best to show that Gotham isn't entirely beaten? Well, now that would have actually meant something. Instead, after a brief flurry of anarchic violence, the people of Gotham apparently just go inside and shut their doors for five months, emerging only once everything is over to put up a statue.

Talk about good people doing nothing.

"We start carrying semi automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds. And you're wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops."
- James Gordon

Escalation - Batman wears a mask, so Joker wears a dress. You'd be a fool not to see it coming.

The issue of escalation is the only one of the three that Rises doesn't completely ruin. Which makes it a success, I guess, but hardly a rousing one.

The thing is, if it's even happening, and that's always supposed to be a chicken-and-egg sort of question where Batman and his villains are concerned, escalation is supposed to be directly tied to his accomplishments. In the beginning, there's the mob, whom normal police can't handle. Then there's Batman, whom the normal criminals of the mob can't handle. But as he cleans up Gotham from the normal criminals, standing as a symbol and putting himself very squarely in the spotlight as the hero of Gotham, his presence inspires a very different kind of criminal. Super-criminals, if you will. Or supervillains, if you're feeling less fancy.

In Begins, Batman is basically fighting against ordinary crime, plus Ra's al Ghul, whose plot predated Batman's appearance and so cannot be said to be inspired by his presence. But once he's mopped the floor with those guys, along comes the Joker in Dark Knight, a supervillain to face off against a superhero. The Joker could've run rings around the GCPD, which is probably why he never bothered to; as a man who clearly craves constant entertainment, tangling with the police would've been unbearably dull. But Batman, ah, now Batman offers a worthy test of his deranged mettle! And so, you'd think, the same could be said of Bane. And, well, it sort of can be. But at the same time, it really can't.

If the presence and success of Batman is meant to be at least theoretically the cause of this escalation, then it can't really be used to explain Bane's presence in Gotham. After all, when Bane's plot begins, Bruce Wayne is a retired shut-in with a bum knee, and it's been eight years since anyone saw Batman. Batman can't be escalating the situation if he's not around. Bane represents a larger threat to Gotham than the Joker did, so it sort of works, but only in a purely superficial kind of way. Where the Joker had henchmen, Bane had an army. Where the Joker wanted to frighten people, Bane wanted to completely change them (apparently). Where the Joker had a few rigged buildings, Bane has a nuclear bomb. Where the Joker was a purely mental threat to Batman, Bane can both out-think and outfight the dark knight. But while the threat itself has grown larger, it's done so independent of Batman, who if anything has de-escalated the situation by hanging up the cape and cowl for nearly a decade.

So, yes, escalation. The situation itself is biggger and more dangerous than in previous instalments, but not through anything Bruce Wayne or Batman have actually done. If Wayne had left Gotham entirely after he decided to give up on it years before the movie starts, if he was living in seclusion in the Himalayas or in the jungles of South America or in a little domed hamlet on the North Pole, Bane's plan wouldn't really have been affected in any way. And for any Batman story to talk about the issue of escalation that surrounds Batman, that's sort of a bizarre situation to engineer.

So, three key themes that run through the trilogy, and Dark Knight Rises kind of demolishes two of them in its own stumblebum kind of way, while the third just sort of stands in the corner, out of the way.  Hardly a triumphant close to one of the biggest original trilogies to hit the box office in the last, oh, decade at least.


2K Tournament - Round Two

Round 2: Jamie Goddard (Imperial Guard/Blood Angels)
Deployment: Dawn of War
Mission: The Emperor's Will
Secondary Objectives: Slay the Warlord, Thin the Herd (kill three Troops units), Secure the Archeotech

Company Command w/Master of Ordinance, Officer of the Fleet, 2 x Bodyguard, Camo Cloaks, Vox Caster
Platoon Command w/3 x Flamers, Meltabombs, Vox Caster
Infantry Squad w/Meltagun, Meltabomb, Vox Caster
Infantry Squad w/Meltagun, Meltabomb, Vox Caster
Heavy Weapon Team w/3 x Lascannon
Heavy Weapon Team w/3 x Lascannon
Heavy Weapon Team w/3 x Autocannon
Veterans w/2 x Plasmagun, Vox Caster
Lema Russ w/Lascannon, Heavy Bolter sponsons
Leman Russ
Sanguinary Guard w/2 x Infernus Pistol, Powerfist
10 x Sternguard w/4 x Combi-Melta, Lightning Claw
Drop Pod

Apparently, the Blood Angels were a little conflicted about who to support this time around; ultimately, they seem to have decided to split the difference, and send Allies to both sides. A bit of bad form, really, for the boys from Baal...

I'm never happy to find myself coming up against Guard, since they basically do everything I do, but better. Still, no sense calling it before the ball drops. We rolled off, and Jamie opted to go first, deploying nearly everything. His Colossus and solo Leman Russ marked the left flank, while the two Leman Russes anchored the right side, with his infantry spread out between them. The Marines, befitting their fluff nature as a rapid reaction force, opted to stay in reserve, the Sternguard in the Drop Pod and Dante and the Sanguinary Guard formed up together. In response, I spread my XV88s out on each wing, with the Hammerhead towards the middle, and did my best to get my Devilfish, Firewarriors and Allies into decent cover. Between our two armies was the archeotech secondary objective, a huge pumping station that provided no small amount of LOS-blocking through the centre of the table. We each got an objective to deploy, as well, putting them well back in our respective zones. Finally, satisfied I'd done as much as I could, we rolled for Night Fight, and man was I happy to see it come on first turn.

It's not the save that really mattered, though that was nice; XV88s being protected by a 2+ cover save against lascannons makes them pleasantly survivable, for a change. No, the big benefit to Night Fight was that it meant his Master of Ordinance and Colossus literally could not fire; with no units within 36", they were incapable of selecting a target. My army weathered the storm pretty comfortably, since nearly everything had a 2+ cover save (no Chimeras, no searchlights), but his Sternguard dropped nearly on top of my right-hand XV88s, and those melta guns were much too close, and firing at the wrong angle, for my poor '88s to stand a chance. Of course, that meant two five-man squads of Sternguard standing pretty much out in the open, so it wasn't exactly a totally one-sided strike. Before I could get to them, though, I had to deal with the Colossus. Against an MSU T4/3+ army, something that drops AP3 large blasts that wound on 2's and don't allow cover saves is just devastating. Jamie completely agreed, and wasn't at all surprised when I made it the focus of my first turn's firing, since as he put it that blast would otherwise have just walked along my army line, killing everything it hit. Thankfully, not only did I manage to put that down, I also blasted apart the solo Leman Russ, though that took pretty much all my anti-tank firepower. With those dealt with, it was time for threat number two, the Sternguard. A Fireknife squad and supporting Firewarriors managed to wipe out one of the combat squads, while the other was left for my own Allies, who unfortunately suffered two casualties, despite the captain striking first with a power weapon and the protection of FNP. Still, it meant they were dealt with, which removed a serious threat from my army's vitals.

Unfortunately, as I said, the Guard do what I do, but better. With my only assault unit pinned down in my deployment zone it was down to a shooting match, and the result of that is usually going to be safe to assume. Things only got worse when Dante and the Sanguinary Guard turned up, finishing off my other XV88 squad (though not before they managed to pop one of the two remaining Leman Russes) and hanging dangerously close to my objective. Sadly, the Fireknives in the area rolled poorly, only managing to kill two Sanguinary Guard with their plasma rifles despite being in rapid fire range, and for obvious reasons they didn't get another chance to shoot. While Jamie cleared out my objective with his surviving Allies, a squad of Guardsman hustled forward to take the archeotech, which turned out to be a psychneuin hive; as neither of us had psykers, that didn't much matter. He also managed to finish off my Death Company, which meant that, combined with the Firewarrior squad he'd killed to clear my objective and a second team lost on the right flank, he'd achieved the Thin the Herd secondary. Fortunately, though, I wasn't completely out of the game. Since there was no chance I could finish off the Sanguinary guard and get my objective back, I opted instead to shoot the Guard off the archeotech, and claim that one, instead. A combined Devilfish and Firewarrior assault managed to either kill or displace enough Guardsman for them to be out of range of the thing, while my Firewarriors were right inside the envelope to catch it for themselves. Thankfully, time ran out before the turns did, because it was still entirely possible for Jamie to have shifted me off that thing; while my army was pretty much a broken ruin, he still had plenty of infantry to throw at me.

In the end I scored a measly six points, three for showing up and three for claiming the Archeotech, while Jamie was just a slain Warlord away from sweeping with a perfect 20, finishing up with 17 points.

Night Fight continues to be the best thing Tau can hope for; cheap blacksun filters mean that your anti-armour will be unaffected first turn, while the enemy's is likely to be far more restricted. And good heavens, was it nice to be able to weather a first-turn barrage of firepower without losing much of anything, for a change! Jinking saved my transports more than once, though if they hadn't been protected first turn there might not have been many of them left to save. I still say dropping disruption pods to save the points is a viable strategy, but it can be a little nerve wracking at times. Warlord traits, on the other hand, have singularly failed to impress. I don't even remember what either of us rolled, since neither of us had any use for it. I have a sneaking suspicion I may have gotten the Furious Charge one, which is particularly useless for Tau...

Having barely survived the crushing power that is the sledgehammer of the Imperium, the numberless masses of the Imperial Guard, my Tau cadre pressed on to the final round, for a confrontation with...

Oh, come on!


2K Tournament - Round One

Vs. - Aaron Plate (Orks)
Deployment: Hammer & Anvil
Mission: The Scouring
Secondary Objectives: First Blood, Slay the Warlord, Linebreaker

Warboss w/Power Klaw, Cybork Body, 'Eavy Armour, Bosspole, Attack Squig
Warboss w/Warbike, Power Klaw, Cybork Body, Bosspole
7 x Nobs w/Warbikes, 3 x Power Klaw, 4 x Big Choppa, 7 x Cybork Body, Painboy, Waaagh! Banner
9 x Nobs w/5 x Power Klaw, 4 x Big Choppa, 9 x 'Eavy Armour, 9 x Cybork Body, Painboy, Waaagh! Banner
Battlewagon w/Kannon, Armour Plates, Grot Riggers, Red Paint Job
30 x Ork Boyz w/Nob, Power Klaw
15 x Lootas
15 x Lootas

Ah, Hammer & Anvil; a shooty army's best friend. Sure, there's the same two feet of no man's land between deployment zones as in the other two missions, but here your deployment zone is twice as deep. If you've got the range, and Tau most certainly do, you can put a solid three feet of distance between yourself and your on-the-line enemy, and still be in range. Which, after winning the roll-off, is exactly what I did. Everything went onto the table, except for my Allied unit, which hung back in reserve. I spread out as well as I could, a unit of Firewarriors on either side shielded by a Devilfish and supported by a Fireknife and XV88 team, while in the middle the third unit of Firewarriors and a Devilfish were sharing space with my commander and the Deathrains, the Hammerhead at the back, and the Pathfinders up front. In response, Aaron deployed his Nob bikerz on the line in the centre, with the Battlewagon and non-biker Nobz behind them, the two squads of Lootas on the distant edge, one of them standing on a hillside and the other against the table edge, and the large mob hanging out down on the side closest to me. Aaron failed to seize, which was bad news for him, but not as bad as Night Fight coming on first turn.

Of course, Night Fight doesn't bother Tau. My commander, Hammerhead and two XV88 squads have Blacksun Filters, the commander passing it along to the Deathrains, and Pathfinders no longer care about Night Fight at all; 36" is the limit of their range anyway, and you can't take saves against markerlight tokens. So, turn 1 was predictably devastating for poor Aaron. With an assist from some markerlight tokens, the XV88 squad closest to me put a round clear through the Battlewagon, blowing it to smithereens, earning me the First Blood secondary and killing five Lootas in the process. Sadly, my Hammerhead could not keep up, its large blast scattering not just off the Lootas on the hill, but clear off the table. The others added their firepower, wounding Nob bikerz and picking away at the big boyz mob and the unwounded Lootas. I'd deployed a little badly, my Firewarriors too far back to get their shots in first turn, but I certainly wasn't unhappy with it. In return, Aaron sent his bikerz up the middle, opening fire on the Pathfinders and killing all but one, who bravely kept his post. The dismounted Nobz trundled towards one the far Firewarrior squad, while the boyz mob spread out, heading towards a 4-point objective. I myself only had two 2-points in my deployment zone, with the rest being on Aaron's side of the table, behind his advancing horde. Aside from the Pathfinders, his shooting accomplished nothing, with my extremely well-protected Devilfish (4+ Flat Out save, +2 for Night Fight distance) easily shrugging off the Lootas' firepower. At the end of the turn I was cautiously optimistic, though still wary of what kind of damage those bikerz would do if they hit my lines.

As the game went on, however, it quickly became obvious the Orks were fatally outgunned. With no more vehicles to shoot at my XV88s started popping bikerz, and while it was lucky if one shot per team got through, Aaron's Look Out, Sir! rolls weren't so hot; he lost his Warboss to an early hit, giving me Slay the Warlord as a second secondary, and when bikerz weren't being one-shotted by railguns they were being whittled down by the pulse rifles of my close and central Firewarrior squads and the missile pods of my commander and his Deathrains. The Lootas on the hill, meanwhile, weren't so lucky a second time, and lost six more to a railgun submunition. Meanwhile, my distant Firewarrior and Fireknife squads traded fire with the more intact Lootas squad, who got pretty lucky in only losing a few at a time; bad to-hit and to-wound rolls on my part, while the only unit that could engage the boyz mob was my Fireknives, whose firepower was too strong and not plentiful enough, picking away just a couple of boyz a turn. Aaron's only attempt to get his Nob bikerz into close combat ended poorly, with a charge at my commander and the Deathrains not only falling short, but earning the squad another couple of wounds, though no deaths, from their flamers' Wall of Death effect. And for the rest of his force, well, things were bad, and about to get worse.

My Allies remained in reserve until Turn 3, somewhat disappointing but hardly catastrophic. When they dropped, they landed near Aaron's table edge, on my near side, a bit back from the boyz mob. Aaron tried to shoot the 'experimental XV25s' away, but between 3+ and 5++, not a one of them went down, leaving the full force of them to crash into the edge of his mob next turn. Between their Hammer of Wrath attacks, their Rage bonus and the number of base attacks all the models had, they easily cleaned out a 3" circle of bodies around them, leaving no Orks close enough to consolidate back into combat. Unable to get a hit in, the Orks lost combat by seven, and since there were only ten of them left, and no Nob (he'd gone down to plasma rifle fire earlier) they quickly broke, ran and were swept. Nearly twenty boyz, killed by six models. For a Tau commander, it was so awesome as to be a little baffling, frankly. And more importantly, they were the only squad on an objective, meaning we'd suddenly gone from being tied to me being up 4-0.

By the last turn, there was really only one question left; could I kill enough of his walking nobz to keep him from being able to get the Linebreaker secondary? Well, I gave it the old college try, but between their regular saves, their invulnerable saves and their FNP, I just could not put enough wounds onto the squad. I whittled it down, but not enough, so at the end of the game Aaron had a scoring unit in my deployment zone, earning him six points; the basic three for playing through the whole round, and three for the secondary. I, meanwhile, had pulled off a perfect twenty; three for playing, eight for achieving the primary, and nine for achieving all three secondaries.

Not bad for a first outing with the new rules.

I didn't get a chance to put everything I'd worked hard to remember into action, this battle. While I did make extensive use of the sea turtle trick (moving Devilfish out of the Firewarriors' line of sight, shooting the Firewarriors, then Flat Out-ing the Devilfish back in front of them to give both units maximum cover), some of the new rules just didn't come up. I didn't really get a chance to use Focus Fire, since usually there was either no cover for the Orks or so much cover I'd have only been hitting one or two of them, and the 'no wounds on models out of sight' did bite me a little with the boyz mob; most of them were hidden from my Fireknives, the unit primarily tasked with dealing with them, by a hill for much of the game. I also didn't score any precision shots, which isn't surprising, since my commander is the only character in my army, and he's only got the two missile pod shots and an AFP he can't score 6's to-hit on. On the other hand, the closest-to-closest removal was just as brutal as I'd expected it to be, though if Aaron had remembered to Turbo-Boost his nobz no amount of failed LO,S! rolls would've saved me from losing a unit or three to those monsters. Of course, now I have monsters of my own, and I really could not have been happier with the way my Allies performed. Yes, they're about four hundred points, and yes, even with 3+ Reserve rolls they took their time getting in, but once they hit they hit hard! Hammer of Wrath is a serious boon to jump pack assault units, letting them start the fight with a kill or three in their favour, and jump packs rerolling charge distances took me from getting two or three models into combat to getting the full six-strong squad in there. Coupled with the changes to Rage, and those boyz never knew what hit them. Which was a pleasant change, since usually I'm the one who's concussedly ignorant of preceding events. A very nice chance, indeed.

So, flush with the greatest possible victory I could achieve given the scoring framework, I headed into the second round the consummate optimist. Unfortunately, that optimism lasted just about as long as it took me to find myself face to face with Jamie, and an army practically tailor-made to hurt Tau.


Rises? It Barely Sits Up.

"The audience is expected to accept too many things we are and are not told."
- Mr. Plinkett, in his Attack of the Clones review

Well, it took me a little longer than I might have liked, but I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises. Possibly the most eagerly anticipated film since The Return of the King, like it the concluding part of a visionary director's critically and culturally acclaimed masterpiece, The Dark Knight Rises closes out Nolan's Batman trilogy, though without the absolute finality so many might have expected him to employ given his stated desire not to return to the franchise and the likelihood that those who own Batman will likely reboot the series rather than try and have someone step in and continue Nolan's universe without him. And as the credits roll and the curtain falls on the third act of Nolan's trilogy, amid all the clapping and whistling and general good-will, I found myself struck by a single, startling thought.

This movie is not very good.

Oh no, Batman.  This time, I look down on you!

Oh, I enjoyed it. I most certainly left the theatre with a sense of pleasure, the sort of amped-up feeling of giddy energy a good action-adventure film is meant to inspire in the viewer. And I liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway, and Bane was fantastically done, and Morgan Freeman pretty much always turns in a good performance. But honestly, I found the first, oh, third of this movie to be kind of brutal. And the reason for that goes back to Mr. Plinkett's complaint, at the start of this post.

I'm not really going to spoil anything here, and the film's been out for, what, three weeks now? But still, if you haven't seen it, and you want to, go see it first. It is worth seeing, despite everything I'm about to say.

So, as should have been obvious the second Bane appeared, Rises is focused on the breaking of Batman, and his eventual triumph over the gravest threat he'll ever face. Strangely, however, Nolan starts off with Batman broken, and then builds him back up, and then piles on contrivances in order to make his eventual mid-movie defeat even more comprehensive so he can be, yes, built back up again. Not only does it make the opening, say, third of the film kind of redundant in the face of the far superior post-back-breaking rebuilding, it requires some really strange contrivances. Bruce starts off half-crippled, walking with a cane, living in seclusion in the east wing of Wayne Manor and half-broke. The last of these is sort of explained, though only after far too long, and in a way that sort of only raises even more questions, but the first three? Nothing at all. The implication is that Batman retired some time ago (making his taking the fall for Dent to up his credibility among criminals at the end of Dark Knight sort of pointless), so what happened to his leg? If it's an injury from the end of Dark Knight, a theory I've seen tossed around, why hasn't he had it fixed before? It apparently took about five minutes in a robo-knee brace, and it's been eight years. You're telling me he didn't want to be able to walk comfortably for eight years? And why doesn't he need robo-braces for his other knee, and his shoulders, and his elbows, all of which a doctor tells him have no cartilage left in them at all? But that's just the appetizer to the ludicrous isolation Nolan heaps on Bruce Wayne. First he loses control of Wayne Enterprises and all of his money, in a way that would be easily and immediately refutable in court. And his car gets repossessed (because Bruce flipping Wayne leases?), and his power is immediately shut off (because the power company doesn't need you to miss a payment before they cut you off), and he has no friends he can turn to because he's become a recluse for no reason, and he's not really Batman-ing anymore so he doesn't have that, and he has no hobbies, and he frankly has no life, at all. And Alfred is removed, in a scene that ultimately falls short of the emotional punch necessary because, quite frankly, Dark Knight was a while ago now and Rises hasn't actually rebuilt any of the immediate emotional foundation necessary to really make that conflict work. And Gordon is laid up for the entire opening sequence, and never interacts with Bruce or Batman at all, or really does much of anything. And Rachel is the only woman he could ever love, and she's dead, do you hear me, dead! Nolan just piles on more and more things, but if you actually stop and look at how it all hangs together, the whole thing just collapses under its own weight. It's easily as ludicrous as the Enterprise constantly being 'the only ship in range'.

Still makes more sense than these guys, though.

Those aren't the only catastrophes in the plot, but unfortunately I can't really get into the problems later on without hugely spoiling things. Suffice it to say that, compared to Ra's al Ghul and the Joker, both of whom had specific objectives in mind and both of whom very clearly built things up, step by step, in order to arrive at their desired outcomes, the villain's plot in Rises is a mess. The setup is fantastic, but once it actually goes into action much of its internal logic and morality, such as exists, just collapses. And by the time it's meant to be resolved you're left wondering what the point of it all was, on several levels, not least because the villains apparently have absolutely no plan in evidence to escape the massive consequences of their actions. Where al Ghul only decided to sacrifice himself once Batman had removed all other options to make his plan work, and the Joker never placed himself in immediate jeopardy at all, keeping himself constantly free to slip away to plot more chaos to inflict on the citizens of Gotham, Bane and his allies just sort of stand around, being evil and, apparently, suicidal for no real purpose. It's the most simplistic funny book villainy, and utterly unworthy after Nolan's efforts to craft truly ingenious evil in the first two films. I could almost buy it for Bane, but the man has an army, and apparently that entire army is also completely and unhesitatingly suicidal for no reason.

The pacing for this movie is also, frankly, embarrassing. The opening I was just complaining about stretches on for an interminable length of time, during which the only people doing anything interesting are Bane and Selina Kyle; for a movie called 'The Dark Knight Rises', the titular dark knight takes his extremely sweet time actually putting in a meaningful appearance. Batman, Gordon and Alfred are basically bit players in the opening, while instead we get weird interludes with John Dagget and his lieutenant, and some police captain talking about how Gordon's totally going to get fired (which never amounts to anything), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Blake just completely taking over the good guy's side of the film. It finally picks up once Bruce puts the mask back up, but then goes into overdrive; if the crawling opening has covered, oh, a few days to a week or two in far too great detail, the middle portion of the film suddenly leapfrogs over nearly five months in just a brief montage. The time frame is in some ways far too short, and in others unbelievably long, considering where everything and everyone is when the action actually resumes again with Batman back from his breaking and out to show the world that Gotham City still has a protector.

And in a larger sense, this movie throws off the pacing of Nolan's trilogy. Batman Begins is set, obviously, at the beginning, during Wayne's first real outing as Batman. And The Dark Knight picks up soon afterwards, with the Joker's presence having been suggested at the end of the first film and realized early in the second. There's perhaps a year or two between them? It's a short period, anyway. But The Dark Knight Rises jumps eight years ahead after the last one, and basically ends Batman's career before it's even begun. Rather than being a vigilante driven by the murder of his parents to fight an eternal war against Crime, then, this Batman just sort of pops up long enough to break the mob's power in the city, fight exactly two super-criminals, and then hangs up the utility belt. Which could work, if he was just so broken down by the events of The Dark Knight that he couldn't do it anymore, but that's not really seen in that movie, and not really suggested as the reason for it in this film. It's like doing Batman: Year One, and then doing The Dark Knight Returns, but not bothering to put in the years of crimefighting, supervillains, heroism, tragedy and sacrifice that come between them. Those are, you know, kind of the whole point of the story.

Uh, Mr. Nolan?  You might've missed a Batman story or two...

So. The plot is contrived and full of holes, even by superhero movie standards, and the pacing is horribly out of whack, both within the movie and for the trilogy as a whole; what, then, makes this movie work? If it's not very good, why did I enjoy it? Well, honestly, while there is a lot about this movie that doesn't work, not just pacing and plotting but characters just disappearing, or not really being introduced, or not being allowed to develop, there are things that work. And the things that work, work. Wayne being retired at the start of the movie is an indefensible idea from a storytelling and pacing perspective, but once he shrugs that off and makes a triumphant return to Batman-ing, with the batpod and the batplane, it's thrilling stuff. His conflicts with Bane are fantastic, though sadly for most of the film the two are kept in completely different spheres. Bane himself is excellent; it took me a little while to get used to his new voice, but the character is both strong and smart, a pleasant change from his post-Knightfall appearances in television and film. There's a brilliantly executed reveal that really changes the opening of the film in several key ways, and while some feel it undermines Bane, it didn't bother me. Catwoman is a little shaky, her relationship with Batman based far more on 'Catwoman always loves Batman' then what you actually see of their interactions in the movie, but as a character on her own she has some nice moments. Blake is a really good character, though not so good that him basically taking over most of the first half of a Batman movie doesn't grate a little. You buy that he still believes in Batman, and that even on a non-corrupt GCPD, there's a certain sloth and inertia you get in all large institutions that he chafes against. It's not Gordon as the only clean cop, from Batman Begins, because that wouldn't have been appropriate; it's just a cop who still believes in the lessons learned from Batman's war on crime, in a police force that's ready to declare victory in the war and go back to peace time.

There's one other thing, though, that sadly does not work, and it's the result of factors outside the scope of the film; the death of Heath Ledger. Nolan clearly took Ledger's death hard, as hard as you possibly can. Parents have been less devastated by the death of their children. And in his apparently towering, insurmountable grief, Nolan declared that not only would he not recast the Joker (which was fair), but that there wouldn't even be any reference to the Joker, anywhere, at all. Which was a disaster. The Dark Knight Rises is full of Harvey Dent; it starts on Harvey Dent Day, it's concerned with the Dent Act, Gordon's guilt over what happened with Dent at the end of Dark Knight cuts through his character, the reveal apparently cripples him psychologically when it comes. But for all that, there's absolutely no mention of the Joker and his crimes. It's like watching a movie where one of the subplots is the renewal of the Patriot Act, and nobody, not one single person, ever mentions even the existence of terrorists. Bane's plan is more reminiscent of Joker's than al Ghul's, and to have nobody comment on it, and to have no residual scars from it haunting Gotham, its people and its institutions, just beggars belief. Worse, it cripples the film as a meaningful sequel to Dark Knight, which with the omnipresence of Harvey Dent and the reverberations of the end of that film all through Rises, it is quite clearly meant to be. Rises doesn't have enough to say to stand on its own, but its total unwillingness to address the Joker's legacy means it fails as a sequel.

If you've seen the first two Nolan Batman films, you should see this one. It's far from perfect, but it does enough well that it's a worthwhile investment of time and energy. But don't go in expecting another Dark Knight; this movie is so much less, in nearly every way. It's enjoyable enough while it's happening, with some good action and character beats and some nice ideas, but it's a fleeting kind of pleasure, and by the time you make it home you may have decided to cut Nolan's 'trilogy' down to a duology from there on out.

I know I have.


2K Tournament - Prologue

I tried to get a couple of practice games in, but ultimately I just couldn't manage to fit in a full-length outing; the best I got were a few turns during the open gaming periods at Black Knight. That meant the three-round tournament on the 28th would be my first real foray into 6th edition 40K, and my first chance to put all the theory I'd been absorbing as fast as I could from the 40K blogosphere into practice. It would also be a 2000 point tournament, with no artificially-imposed restrictions on what the players could bring; double FOC, Allies, and Fortifications were all in. Which made it all sorts of tempting to just go crazy and bring along everything and the kitchen sink, throwing all sorts of strange new units and tactics and combinations onto the field and seeing what worked and what didn't. Ultimately, though, my natural inclination towards moderation won out.

My Cadre:
Shas'el w/Twin-Linked Missile Pod, Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, Hard-Wired Multi-Tracker, Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter
Blood Angels Captain (Allies) w/Power Sword, Jump Pack

3 x XV8 w/3 x Missile Pod, 3 x Plasma Rifle, 3 x Multi-Tracker
3 x XV8 w/3 x Missile Pod, 3 x Plasma Rifle, 3 x Multi-Tracker
3 x XV8 w/3 x Twin-Linked Missile Pod, 3 x Flamer

8 x Fire Warriors w/Devilfish, Flechette Discharger
8 x Fire Warriors w/Devilfish, Flechette Discharger
8 x Fire Warriors
5 x Death Company (Allies) w/5 x Jump Pack

5 x Pathfinders w/Devilfish, Flechette Discharger

2 x XV88 w/2 x ASS, Team Leader w/Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter
2 x XV88 w/2 x ASS, Team Leader w/Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter
Hammerhead w/Railgun, 2 x Burst Cannon, Multi-Tracker, Blacksun Filter, Disruption Pod

So, just two Allies units, a Captain and 5 Death Company, and nothing else. I was hoping to have a Tau-designed Aegis Defence Line ready to go, but alas, it was not to be; converting the 'experimental' XV25s to stand in for a BA Captain and Death Company took more time than I'd expected them to. I also went back and forth on the nature of my allies for a while. Captain, or Librarian? Death Company, or Assault Squad? Sanguinary Priest? Ultimately, I decided the Captain's invulnerable save outweighed the Librarian's psychic powers, and that while a Sanguinary Priest could pass FNP to the HQ choice, he could also be sniped or challenged out of the squad, while the only way to deny FNP to the Death Company would be to hit them with S8+ weapons. Finally, I squeezed a power sword onto my captain, so his superior initiative would allow him to thin out any power armoured herds the unit might get thrown against, leaving the whopping five attacks per Death Company model, on the charge, to simply overwhelm the survivors through sheer weight of numbers.

As for my core force, there were just a few changes from my usual 2K list, discounting the units dropped to make room for Allies. The Tau FAQ has removed the battlesuit Target Lock, so that fell away from my commander and XV88s, and the new Jink save for skimmers meant the disruption pod was mostly unnecessary, especially on Devilfish, who could go Flat Out in the shooting phase for a save that was actually superior to that provided by the wargear at the cost of foregoing shooting I rarely used, anyway. I wavered on the Hammerhead, but ultimately decided to leave it's disruption pod on, to defend against the threat of alpha strikes taking it out before I had a chance to get it moving. Hull points already make vehicles more vulnerable, no sense making the risk any greater than it has to be.

My plan, generally speaking, was to play a traditional Tau shooting game; spread out, hug the edges, use superior range to inflict significant casualties. With Firewarriors now able to walk and shoot their full 30", they could finally contribute alongside, well, everything else in the army; missile pods, plasma rifles, markerlights, SMS and railguns. And with the drop in cover saves and the introduction of both closest-to-closest casualties, Focus Fire and Overwatch, I had some confidence that my units would be able to reliably put down even large foot lists before they could get the majority of their units up into my face. And for those armies that did have either the speed or the deep strike capabilities to get up close and personal, I had a new weapon in my arsenal, an actually competent assault unit. Six jump packs mean six Hammer of Wrath attacks from the get-go, plus five power weapon attacks from the Captain and twenty-five followup attacks from the Death Company. Combined with 3+ armour and FNP, even if it is 5+ instead of 4+ now, and not only could they dish it out, they could take it, too. True, they wouldn't be any real help against Terminators and Monstrous Creatures, but that's okay; those things would be the province of my guns, not my swords, if they dared to show their faces. The experimental XV25s, which just happened to have the same points costs, statlines and special rules as a BA Captain and some Death Company, were for handling large units of weak troops or small units of mid-level assault troops, and within that role there was every reason to expect them to be able to perform to my expectations.

So, that was my army, and my strategy. And how did it work? Well, since this tournament represented my first real outing with 6th, I've decided to do something a little different. Instead of rolling all three fights into a single post, I'm going to break them up into their own posts, and try and justify that by going into greater detail about what worked, what didn't, and how all the new rules shook out under the circumstances. So, join me next time, when we see whether the cold, precision fire of Tau Empire can stand off the hot-blooded fury of those great 5th edition boogeymen, Nob bikerz!