Escalation in Alpha Prime - Week 3

Opponent: Scott (Imperial Guard)
Deployment: Dawn of War
Mission: Big Guns Never Tire
Point Level: 1250

Company Command Squad w/Powerfist, Astropath, Master of Ordinance
10 x Storm Troopers w/Power Weapon, 2 x Plasmaguns
Platoon Command Squad w/Powerfist
Infantry Squad w/Lascannon
Infantry Squad w/Heavy Bolter
Heavy Weapon Squad w/3 x Lascannon
Heavy Weapon Squad w/3 x Missiles
10 x Penal Legion
Leman Russ w/Lascannon
Leman Russ w/Lascannon

Well, the good times couldn't last forever; eventually I'd have to run into that great anvil of the Imperium, the Guard. And I suppose, if I had to do it, doing so at 1250 wasn't a terrible point range to have it happen in. Even the notoriously points-efficient Guard can't bring too many toys along at that low a points value.

As for myself, my list was just an expanded version of last time's.

Shas'El w/Twin-Linked Missile Pods, 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
3 x XV8 w/3 x Twin-Linked Missile Pods, 3 x Flamer
8 x Fire Warriors
8 x Fire Warriors
8 x Fire Warriors
5 x Pathfinders w/Devilfish, Flechette Discharger
XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
Hammerhead w/Railgun, 2 x Burst Cannons, Multi-Tracker, Blacksun Filter
Aegis Defence Line

A little light on railguns to face the armoured might of the Imperial Guard, but there were only three tanks across from me, one of them a comparatively fragile Hydra. Not an insurmountable problem.

Scott won the roll off, and spread his army out nice and wide. The company command squad were on my left, behind a ruined church; inside those ruins were the infantry squad with the lascannon and the three-las heavy weapon squad, the platoon command squad near the doors. In the centre were the Hydra and one of the Leman Russ, screened by the second infantry squad. And on the right was the second Leman Russ and the heavy bolter team, the latter hidden inside a small ruin and the former behind it. Marbo, the Storm Troopers and the Penal Legion all started in reserve, the former to pull his traditional appearance trick, the other two outflanking. In response, I put one of my Fireknife teams in reserve, since the Pathfinder's Devilfish makes their deep strike slightly more reliable, and spread my own force out. My commander joined an XV88 on the far left, beside a team of Firewarriors behind a section of Aegis. In the centre, a second squad of Fire Warriors, the Deathrains and a Pathfinder team were sheltered behind a Devilfish, which was just waiting to start sea turtling for them. And on the right, my Hammerhead, the third Fire Warrior team, the second Fireknife team and my other XV88 were hidden behind the last section of Aegis line. There were three objectives on the field, one on my left, one on Scott's left, and a third around the middle of the board. Night Fight failed, my seize failed, and we were off.

Scott turned the full power of his army on pretty much the only three real threats; my two XV88s, and the Hammerhead. Thankfully, the protection of the Aegis line sufficed to let me weather the storm, mostly. Unfortunately, I lost the right-most XV88, and First Blood, though nothing else of note. In return, I managed to pick a few Guardsmen off with my pulse rifles, their long range and the relatively short rear area allowing them to reach most of the infantry. My commander split from the XV88, heading up the left flank towards the infantry in the ruins; against Sv5+ models in area terrain ruins, his AP5 cover ignoring AFP would be a godsend. Pity about the short range, though. Thankfully, the walls of the building mostly blocked Scott's line of sight on that angle.

The two of us traded fire for a while, but I'm sorry to say that he got the better end of it. Over the second and third turn, he managed to take down my other XV88 and Hammerhead, removing the threat to his Leman Russ, only one of which I managed to destroy before losing my railguns. I also lost one of the Deathrains and a few Fire Warriors, trading them for assorted dead Guardsmen and the aforementioned central Leman Russ. Despite that, though, there were some bright spots. My commander had managed to close the distance, thanks to a good run roll first turn, and dropped his AFP with unerring accuracy into the middle of the densely packed Guardsmen; the company command squad, which sallied forth to deal with him, found themselves suddenly outgunned and outfought, as he proceeded to take them apart over the course of two assault phases, thankfully avoiding the very real danger the powerfist represented. And of course, once he was unengaged, his large blast, S4, AP5, cover ignoring barrage weapon started to do exactly the damage I'd expected it to.

Unfortunately, while I was blasting his infantry to pieces, he'd pulled a very real threat to mine out of reserve. Turn 3 Marbo appeared, tossing his demo charge and killing the XV88 on my left and about half the Fire Warrior squad, the survivors promptly breaking and running off the objective. And at the same time, the Storm Troopers deep struck in front of my central Fire Warriors and the Penal Legion, gunslingers the lot of them, emerged from outflank just behind the Aegis line. Scott had initially scoffed at gunslinger, having hoped for the more impressive rending ability, but it turned out this served him quite well. When a second turn of shooting from the Storm Troopers and Penal Legion wasn't quite enough to do in my Fire Warriors, the latter could use their assault-classed weapons to follow up with a charge, and weak as Imperial prisoner-conscripts might be, the few lingering remnants of an 8-man Fire Warrior team were no match for them.

Of course, they were no match for what came after them in return. The Storm Troopers took a couple of flamer blasts to the face from my surviving Deathrains, whittling them down but sadly not doing them in (I forgot they had carapace armour), while the Penal Legion squad went down to a hail of pulse fire from the central Fire Warrior squad. And those convicts certainly weren't wearing carapace. At the same time my commander continued to rampage through the infantry in the far left ruin, AFP'ing the command squad to death, including the warlord, while a Fireknife squad dropped in to finish off the heavy weapons team with the three lascannons in the ruin, killing everything off of Scott's objective. Of course, he responded by turning around and blasting my Fireknives to pieces, but they'd done their job, and as far as last-turn assaults go, it didn't add up to much.

When the game ended, it looked for a moment like I'd pulled out a win. There were no Troop units on any objectives (and fair few Troop units left alive, period), and no Heavy Support units on them, either. Scott had earned First Blood by taking out my XV88, but my commander had singlehandedly secured me both Linebreaker and Slay the Warlord. One secondary to two, it looked like I had it. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that in Big Guns Never not only do Heavy Support choices score, they also count for victory points. Which meant that, with my three dead units and only one of Scott's, things suddenly went from 2-1 my favour to 4-3 his. Accursed fragile Tau units!

Running Score: 2-1-0


Escalation in Alpha Prime - Week 2

Opponent: Austin (Tau Empire)
Deployment: Vanguard Strike
Mission: Crusade

Shas'O w/Missile Pod, Shield Generator, Blacksun Filter, Vectored Retro-Thrusters, Stimulant Injectors, Failsafe Detonator
6 x XV15 w/Shas'ui, Fusion Blaster, Bonding Knife, Blacksun Filter
12 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'Ui, Blacksun Filter, Rail Rifle, Bonding Knife, Markerlight
12 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'Ui, Blacksun Filter, Rail Rifle, Bonding Knife, Markerlight, EMP Grenades, Photon Grenades, Devilfish w/Smart Missile System, Sensor Spines, Decoy Launcher, Disruption Pod, Flechette Dischargers, Blacksun Filter
Hammerhead w/Railgun, Smart Missile Systems, Multi-Tracker, Target Lock, Disruption Pod, Blacksun Filter

One of the surest signs of an inexperienced Tau player is a proliferation of stuff. While many Tau units can't really take anything at all (Fire Warriors, Kroot, Vespid, Pathfinders), the ones who can have options out the wazoo. And many of them look like perfectly reasonable things to take. They all do interesting, even valuable things, and some of them stack together nicely enough. But they also eat into your points, and being a fourth edition codex Tau don't have a lot of points to spare for bells and whistles. Which is why, as soon as I looked at Austin's list, it was pretty obvious this would be less of a game, and more a teaching experience.

My list, for comparison.

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

Lots of units, with lots of guns, and nobody drunk on wargear options. In my experience, barring tactical wizardry, this is the only way to run a successful cadre.

We rolled up Vanguard Strike and Crusade, and I won the roll-off, selecting my corner and dropping my objective neatly behind one of my Aegis sections. I spread out in the usual three-point formation, the corners anchored by XV88s supporting a team of Firewarriors, with the Fireknives there to provide close support. My commander, attached to the Deathrains, and the Hammerhead made up the central spur, the tank hidden as best it could behind a large hill. Austin opted for a more aggressive approach, though also a less optimal one; one Fire Warrior squad, joined by his commander, held the objective on top of a hill opposite the one my tank was hiding behind, with his Hammerhead hiding it behind it in a mirror of my own strategy. The Fire Warriors with attached Devilfish, meanwhile, started out on the left edge of his zone, along with his XV15s, the lot of them just raring to go. He failed to seize, Night Fight kicked in, and we were off.

Unfortunately, the first turn was less than impressive. I'd put my Fire Warriors too far back to open up on his lines, and my suits found their shots either going awry or being blunted by Night Fight or Disruption Pod saves. I made no major advances, just shuffled around a little, and let Austin go. He sent his XV15s and Devilfish off as fast as he could, just as expected, while his commander took the odd potshot at my Fire Warriors behind the Aegis line, while his Hammerhead proved just as ineffectual as my own. Unfortunately, while the Devilfish is good, it isn't that good; putting it so far out in front earned it a railgun slug through the nose, wrecking it and spilling its contents out into open midfield. Where they perished mightily, caught under the guns of my own two Fire Warrior squads and the significantly more deadly firepower of my left-side Fireknives. Poor guys never knew what hit them. In return, however, Austin managed to do what I had failed at, using his Hammerhead to take out my own with a solid explosion that, thankfully, failed to do any collateral damage. His XV15s popped out from around the side of a building and took a few pot-shots at my Fireknives, who thankfully were behind the curve of the Aegis from that angle, since the fusion blasters were in range. Stymied, they jumped back into cover, though a bad roll left them slightly exposed.

Amazingly, that squad of XV15s would go on to completely destroy my left flank. They took casualties from my Fireknives, but not as much as they might've without their stealth fields, but over the next several turns they managed to shoot one of those Fireknives, break my Fire Warrior squad, and then charge and defeat both my remaining Fireknife and my XV88. There might only have been one of them left by the end, but that little guy earned his keep!

Unfortunately, his success was mostly a sideshow. On the main stage, I managed to shoot down Austin's Hammerhead after a few more turns, its submunition blast singularly failing to do the job when it came to clearing my Fire Warriors off the objective; a 4+ cover save, jumping to 2+ when he really got a solid roll to wound and I opted to go to ground, proved too tough to overcome with just a single vehicle's weaponry. Meantime, his single battlesuit, anchored to a unit of Fire Warriors, was steadily chewed up by a pincer strike of my own commander and the Deathrains coming left and high, and a Fireknife team, supported by the surviving XV88, coming in low and right. At the end of Turn 5, when the game ended, he'd completely lost the squad and commander, leaving him shot entirely off the table save for that single, valiant XV15 hiding down on my far left flank.

Running Score: 2-0-0


Quoth the Raven? Thankfully, not in this book.

Like the White Scars and the Iron Hands, the Raven Guard are one of those Space Marine legions that just never seemed to get much in the way of publicity. Sure, each of them have a single special character in Codex: Space Marines, and there's the odd book devoted to them or their successor chapters, but it's pretty small potatoes for a First Founding legion. The Raven Guard are third tier, falling behind not just the big names, the Ultramarines and Blood Angels and Space Wolves, but the lesser-known but codex-toting Marines, the Black Templars and the Dark Angels. Which is all a really long-winded way of saying that unlike The First Heretic and A Thousand Sons, I went into Deliverance lost with no real preconceived notions one way or the other.

Deliverance Lost picks up from the infamous Dropsite Massacre, which at this point is probably running just behind D-Day for 'most fictionally covered battle', where the Raven Guard have been practically destroyed. Corax and a handful of his men make it off the planet, thanks to a slightly psychic noble and a rather daring Raven Guard strike cruiser commander, and the primarch of the Raven Guard is faced with the fact that there's no real way for the shattered remnants of his legion to participate in the accelerating civil war. The Raven Guard would make a particularly strong chapter, but this is the time of the legions, and there just aren't enough of them left for that sort of designation. Which is why Corax decides to take drastic measures to rebuild his legion, setting the plot of the novel into motion.

It's a bit of a slow burn, really, but Gav Thorpe puts the downtime in the middle of the novel to good use. Corax, of course, needs to be built up; unlike Magnus the Red or Leman Russ or Roboute Guilliman, this is not a primarch the reader can be expected to know from the start. Humorously, the only think Corax is really famous for are his reputed last words, which are not going to be of great use in any story but his very last. Thorpe unspools Corax' past through a series of flashbacks, explaining how he came to be on Deliverance, his campaign to establish himself as ruler and his meeting with the Emperor, the seminal events in every primarch's pre-Great Crusade life. But he also spends time on a couple of Raven Guard characters, who give the reader a good sense of what it means to be a member of this particular legion, demonstrating both their common cause with the other legions and the particulars that make them unique. And even with all that, there's still a little time left over for an Alpha Legion character or two.

I've said it before, and my opinion hasn't changed; I fundamentally do not like the way the Alpha Legion decided to align with Horus. The Emperor's goal with the Great Crusade was always and explicitly to elevate humanity to the rulers of the galaxy, so to have Alpharius and Omegon swayed by a group of aliens explaining how the extinction of humanity would destroy the powers of Chaos just rings false. Not only does it not really make sense, since Chaos pre-dates humanity and Slaanesh was explicitly born from alien actions, with no human involvement whatsoever, but it requires the twin primarchs to somehow intuit that while what the Emperor has always said he wanted was the primacy of humanity, secretly what he wants even more is the destruction of Chaos. Also, they have to trust aliens, which is sort of a non-starter in the grim darkness of the far future. I just don't buy it.

That being said, though, Thorpe does a good job with the Alpha Legion characters. The soldiers are believably conflicted about their actions, infiltrating and sabotaging a loyal legion, killing their battle-brothers while pretending to fight alongside them, and Alpharius and Omegon both get some good scenes. The former's meetings with Horus, which book-end the novel, are particularly solid, presenting Alpharius as a consummate schemer faced with an ego-maniacal madman in Horus, both of them entirely aware of the others fundamentally untrustworthy nature. Given that the traitor primarchs as basically a collection of unbridled egos just waiting to stab each other in the back and festering grudges that have completely ruined the ability to think rationally, this is about what I would assume every gathering of more than one of them would boil down to. Also, there's a nice little Fabius Bile cameo in the end, which ties smoothly into his codex abilities. It's really quite delightful, and clear evidence of the author really thinking out how to connect fluff and tabletop.

Deliverance Lost is another of those 'basically inconsequential' Horus Heresy novels, which is to say that by the time the story is resolved the situation is basically back to where it started. Like Nemesis and Battle for the Abyss, however, Deliverance Lost manages to be an excellent read despite not really advancing the larger story of the Horus Heresy, and like those others it also manages to plant a few little seeds that will, a few books down the line, no doubt pay off nicely.