Kanaan Cluster League – Week 1

Opponent: Tyler (Dark Angels)
Mission: Purge the Alien
Deployment: Vanguard Strike:
Warlord Trait: Princeps of Deceit

10 x Tacticals w/Missile Launcher, Flamer
5 x Scouts w/4 x Sniper Rifles, Missile Launcher
5 x Deathwing Knights w/Perfidious Relic of the Unforgiven
5 x Deathwing Terminators w/Assault Cannon, 2 x Thunder Hammer/Storm Shields, Lightning Claws, Storm Bolter and Power Fist
5 x Deathwing Terminators w/Assault Cannon, 2 x Thunder Hammer/Storm Shields, Lightning Claws, Storm Bolter and Power Fist
Dreadnought w/Drop Pod

For the first game of the new league, I had my first fight against any of the 6th edition codexes. And against the most recent of them, too! I'd flipped through Codex: Dark Angels, so I had some idea of what to expect, but you never really know an army until you fight it on the battlefield.

My own cadre consisted of the following:
Shas'El w/Twin-Linked Missile Pod, Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, Hard-Wired Multi-Tracker
Blood Angels Captain w/Jump Pack, Power Sword
2 x XV8 w/2 x Plasma Rifles, 2 x Missile Pods, 2 x Multi-Trackers
2 x XV8 w/2 x Plasma Rifles, 2 x Missile Pods, 2 x Multi-Trackers
2 x XV8 w/2 x Twin-Linked Missile Pods, 2 x Flamers
8 x Fire Warriors
8 x Fire Warriors
8 x Fire Warriors
Blood Angels Assault Squad
XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
Hammerhead w/Railgun, 2 x Burst Cannons, Multi-Tracker, Disruption Pod, Blacksun Filter
Blood Angels Stormraven
Aegis Defence Line

We rolled off, and my opponent got to go first. He deployed Ezekiel and Azrael together in the Tactical squad, and infiltrated the scouts on my left flank, parallel with my own forces. Everything else went into reserve. In response, I kept my Allied contingent in reserve, and built a circle of protection against that deep striking melta; Hammerhead in the middle, surrounded by the suits, surrounded by the Aegis wall (the ends butting up against a terrain feature for full surrounding cover), with the fire warriors spread out as wide as possible on all sides to really crowd out drop units. I failed to seize, we failed to get Night Fight to go off, so turn one started with Tyler.

And ended, pretty quickly. The dreadnought podded in, to the back and right of my bubble of fire warriors. Under other circumstances this would have been a problem for me; Dreadnoughts dropping near my warriors usually spell dead warriors. Lucky for me, however, Tyler had swapped out the heavy flamer for a multi-melta, no doubt to try and buff his army's small number of anti-armour elements, and between them the storm bolter and multi-melta managed to kill all of two warriors. I actually suffered more damage from the scouts on my left flank, who managed to put down three fire warriors. The tactical squad advanced, or at least tried to, but as they had to go through difficult terrain Tyler managed to move them an inch, not quite putting them in range to engage my front squad. Nobody broke, thankfully, but those low dice rolls continued into less useful phases. I wrecked the drop pod while trying to explode it to give me a clear shot at the dreadnought, though that did still get me First Blood. I managed to pick away at a couple of the tacticals with pulse fire, but the dreadnought shrugged off everything I could throw at it. With neither of us appreciably weakened, turn two began.

Tyler had opted to have his Deathwing Knights drop in on turn 2, arriving alongside his two terminator squads. The two terminator squads dropped in on my left, midway between the scouts and my fire warriors, while the knights landed on the right of my little firebase, supporting the dreadnought. Despite the impressive abilities deep striking Deathwing get access to, their shooting was rather ineffectual; they managed to kill enough fire warriors on the left to force them to break and run off the table, bothersome but hardly catastrophic. The dreadnought, meanwhile, held its fire, as it believed it had a clean charge line at my XV88. Unbeknownst to that venerable old Marine, however, my Broadside was clearly ready and waiting, and managed to not just hit, and not just penetrate it with Overwatch fire from its railguns, but roll a 6 on the damage table, to boot. One extremely dead dreadnought, and one still-standing Broadside. If only all combat went so well for me!

My own turn two went well enough. The surviving fire warrior squads spread out, away from the knights, while the entirety of my Allied contingent arrived. The assault squad, with attached Captain, landed just where I wanted them, threatening the scouts from the far side of the crater they were hiding in relative to the two terminator squads. My Stormraven, meanwhile, came in on a rather sharp angle, to line up shots on the terminators. When all was said and done, I'd managed to fell a single knight, and five terminators, three from one squad and two from the other. It looked like a solid opening for the real fight.

Unfortunately, Tyler's squads were well up on my face, and had little trouble bringing me to battle. The knights charged over the Aegis walls in their movement phase, while one of the terminators advanced on a duo of fireknife suits on my left flank. Both squads were killed, breaking from the fight and fleeing easily off the table edge, unfortunately taking my commander with them for a Slay the Warlord point. Those terminator-armoured Marines might not be able to catch much, but everything they got their hands on disappeared.

Now, this is where I actually made one of the two mistakes which I can say, without fear of exaggeration, cost me this game. My BA captain and his assault squad thundered up into the scouts, neatly dispatching them for exactly zero casualties in return. My remaining fireknives, backed up by the two XV88s and my fire warriors, actually managed to shoot the knights clear off the table. And my Hammerhead took a couple tactical Marines down with its pie plate. So what went wrong? Well, in an attempt to do more damage with my Stormraven, I switched into hover mode, since zooming would've left me basically no targets to fire out. And all I did was pivot. Sure, I put down another couple of terminators, leaving one of the squads down to just two models, but I left my flyer wide open. In my defence, it was only my second game with such a unit. Still, it cost me, badly, because on his next turn Tyler simply walked two of his terminators up to my Stormraven and proceeded to smash it to pieces with a thunder hammer. Meanwhile, the survivors of his other squad immobilized and stunned my Hammerhead, less immediately catastrophic but no less serious in the long run. Lesson learned, though; flyers may seem tough while they're zooming, but if you drop them out of hover they're just really expensive tanks with so-so loadouts.

Unfortunately, Tyler's low unit count, combined with a decent kill-rate per turn, saw him pulling ahead. Needing to step it up to draw level with him again, I took a chance and charged the Stormraven-killers with my assault squad. Unfortunately, while they managed to put one of them down, overwatch from the assault cannon killed one of mine before they even reached combat, while the actual fighting killed two more. I lost combat and fled, breaking for the safety of open ground. Meanwhile, the lone terminator still in base contact with my Hammerhead was positioned in just such a way that I simply could not draw a good bead on him, leaving him free to finish off my tank in the assault phase since he was still in base contact with it. I'd lost three ASM for no real return, and my best source of high-volume shooting at the tacticals hiding in the woods.

The game went for the full seven turns, but sadly Tyler had used up all his bad luck early in the game; with his few surviving models in solid cover, and the sole surviving terminator blocked from view of most of my remaining forces, I just could not force enough saves to kill anyone else off. I also managed to forget to Look Out, Sir! a wound onto my captain from the sergeant of the assault squad, something that would have had no impact on the captain but finished off the last surviving assault Marine, offering up another kill point. At the end of the game I actually had a fair fighting force still on the board, while Tyler had four one-man kill points walking; the lone terminator, the last remaining tactical, Azrael and Ezekiel, both of them down to 1 wound. But almost doesn't count, so as far as the final tally was concerned it was five kill points and First Blood for me, and seven kill points and Slay the Warlord for him.

More than anything, what I'm going to take from this game is the danger of switching flyers to hover. With so little ranged anti-armour, my Stormraven would have been invincible if I'd just kept it moving; sacrificing a turn of shooting, even by flying off the board and then coming back next turn, would have left me with two more AP2 shots, twin-linked at BS4 no less, for three more turns of the battle. Given how slim Tyler's margin of survival was, forcing those extra saves would almost certainly have driven him over. Even trading the survival of the Stormraven for killing just one more model, anywhere, would have swung the game to a tie. Instead, my inexperience with the units led me to expose it to incredible danger, and unsurprisingly Tyler seized on the opportunity to score an otherwise-impossible kill point.

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