Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review of 2013

I realise this is a pretty predictable post for this time of year but I enjoy looking back at the year and seeing how well I got on with my blog, gaming and hobby resolutions. Tomorrow I'll tie it all together with my New Year's hobby resolutions as the first post of 2014!

As ever I'll start by looking at how From The Fang did this year. My former Dark Eldar blog called Kabalite somehow then turned into a porn site after I'd deleted it last year!! With Kabalite gone I finally gave up on the idea that From The Fang was an exclusively SW blog (it hadn't really been for a while) and redesigned the banner. I'd love to do something flashier with it but I lack the artistic skill and the inclination.

This year I've posted 158 times (including this one) which is a 50% improvement over last year and nearly a post ever other day! A big chunk of these were certainly my reviews for the Tau, Eldar and Space Marine codices as you can see by the big spike in April/May. When I look back at the stats from last year's review there's clearly been a huge increase in the hit rate on the blog. I've racked up a massive 340,000 pageviews this year which is far more than I got in the first two and a half years that the blog existed!

I'm probably going to less blogging in 2014 as there's plenty of distractions in the form of my new son, postgraduate course and actually trying to paint some miniatures!

Last year I was thrilled to be able finish a tournament undefeated with the old book but obviously this year was a huge one for Tau. At first I was excited about the prospect of a new book which breathed new life into my Tau army. There's no doubt that they're alive and well now but sadly they've perhaps gone too far the other way. Whilst I've enjoyed using them at tournaments throughout the year they're usually met with groans of despair by my opponents.

They did give me my first ever tournament win (sadly it was my own event though) but towards the end of the year I decided that I'd probably played them to death and moved back to Dark Eldar for a while. The spike in interest did give me the motivation I needed to get the vast majority of the army up to tabletop standard though including the two new riptides and new pathfinders.

Dark Eldar
I've recently rediscovered my love for Dark Eldar after I took them to a tournament at the Outpost in Sheffield and managed to finish second after only narrowly missing out on first. Pretty good way to finish in my last event of the year and I plan on taking them to the Outpost against the weekend after next to see if I can start 2014 off in a similar fashion.

Sadly they're still my least painted army (aside from DA perhaps) which is a shame considering how long I've had them and how besotted I still am with the models. I'm sure something will distract me again from getting them finished but I'd love to think that this time next year I'd have a fully painted DE force ready for whenever they get an update.

Space Wolves & Dark Angels
Despite being my first love in 40K these guys have spent the vast majority of the year on the shelf. They'll be making an appearance in January though as we try out the new Tyranid codex. There's something about a battle between wolves and nids that really excites me.

The main reason there's been no action for my wolves this year is that despite being strong they are now the only Space Marine codex that doesn't have access to a flyer. Granted the DA (my other SM army) aren't in a much better position but it frustrates me that SW are still without a plane of some kind.

The Dark Angels have barely been off the shelf either. Perhaps I just find xenos armies more interesting and I certainly found the DA book to be frustrating. It really paled in comparison to every other release since. I think the only time my DA models have made it onto the table top this year was as a proxy for White Scars!

New Armies
You might think that I've got enough on my plate with four armies but being easily distracted I'm sure I can be persuaded into starting at least one more this year. I've always liked Tyranids actually so I'll pick up the book with my tournament winnings from the 2nd place and see if it grabs me.

I'm always toying with the idea of getting a codex space marines army to act as allies and effectively give my wolves the air support they deserve. I'm also considering starting a completely new SM army with a custom chapter I've been planning. Whether or not that materialises remains to be seen but I did pick up a Stormwing boxed set that is currently collecting dust....

GW Battle Brothers & Outpost Doubles
We've been attending these for a while now and have often been frustrated with the nonsense scoring system that includes favourite game votes in the overall score. This year, however, we were the beneficiaries of this system and won the April event to give me my first ever tournament victory (even if I had to share it with Matt). I'm far more proud of this achievement that I am of the embarassment of winning my own event in November. Later in the year we were back to being frustrated by the system missing out on a top 3 finish thanks to votes.

I'm sure we'll be attending more of these events this year providing there won't be Escalation units involved. They're always great fun and we do love a good doubles. Speaking of which we also won the doubles at the Outpost last Summer on the hottest day of the year in sauna like conditions!

Big Changes
This year has seen huge changes to the way 40K is played the Daemons, Tau, Eldar and SM books all had dramatic effects on the game in their own way. The top tier lists have certainly shifted from what they were this time last year. With the potential for Tyranids, Imperial Guard, Orks and maybe Space Wolves and Dark Eldar all being released in 2014 the game is likely to be totally different again in a year's time.

Obviously I'm excited by the possibility of Wolves and DE books but I'm also very much looking forward to the Ork and Tyranid books. There's a big pile of Orks in my cupboard waiting for some new codex love but I'm not sure what they can do with them to make them viable. Incidentally Matt and I have had a couple of escalation games recently (one involving a Stompa, the other a Revenant) that I'll write up early in the new year before discussing the plans for BW7.

Specialist Games
Despite the best intentions to play more Bloodbowl we only managed one session of our mini league. It's amazingly difficult to get four people in a room for an evening to get more games in! I've pretty much totally given up on Necromunda and I never got into Malifaux.

Matt and I did manage to get quite a bit of Space Hulk in though. We finished the campaign with Matt as the marines and hopefully we'll get to play through with the roles reversed this year.

The big change to our "specialist games" repertoire this year came from us starting to play X-wing. I'm pretty much obsessed with this game at the moment. We've only had a couple of game so far but it seems brilliantly balanced and a hell of a lot of fun to play. I love having painted models too! We had a game last week that I'll be writing up soon but I hope 2014 involves lots of X-wing.

Well there's no doubt that this year was a pretty poor show on the hobby front. I painted a decent chunk of my Tau army but otherwise I got very little done. I had big plans for getting my scenery sorted but that fell by the way side too. There's only one thing for it then, 2014 will have to be a mega year for the hobby. I'd love to be sitting here in a year's time looking back on battle reports on a fully painted table with two fully painted armies battling it out. The pressure's on!

To help me in this goal I'm trying to get an airbrush for a decent price on eBay. There's plenty of them on there but I'm trying to get a particular one for a reasonable amount. If I get the hang of it sharpish then it should make a huge difference to how quickly I can paint my models. Normally the hours spent basecoating are enough to put me off spending much time on the hobby. Fingers crossed the airbrush can make the difference.

Blog Wars
This year's events saw the biggest attendances yet despite a change in venue. Sadly, however, they also saw some controversy with the problems that occurred at BW6. Hopefully 2014 will be a bumper year for the event with the best events yet.

A big year for 40K with all of the changes we've seen and a big year for From the Fang too. I'm hoping next year will be just as good. Tomorrow I'll talk about my plans for next year but ultimately I'd like to get more hobby done and write up more battle reports!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Rapidly Changing Face of 40K

The last month has been pretty mental with the number of changes that have taken place in this game of ours. To say there's been a mixed reception to these changes is somewhat of an understatement. For anyone who's somehow not heard about them, here's a quick list:
  • Inquisition codex
  • Formations/Dataslates
  • Stronghold Assault
  • Escalation
Each of these things has changed or will change the way 40K is played in a big way. Whether they're an improvement or not is another matter. I want to get something out of the way before I go any further though. Games Workshop want to sell you models. They're a business. They want to make money and keep their shareholders happy. Could they go about that in a more customer friendly way? Almost certainly. The problem is that what they're doing works. In a struggling economy they're still posting healthy profits for a company of their size. The game and its rules will always be secondary to the sale of models. They playtest the rules to a point but clearly not as thoroughly as we'd like. You can try to convince yourself that they're stupid and don't understand their player base. On the contrary, they know exactly what will make us buy models.

With that out of the way let's look at the new additions to the game and how they affect things.

Inquisition Codex
There's a lot of fuss about this because essentially it created an extra detachment that quite a large number of armies could employ. Most people will take one look at Coteaz and think "yep I could use that". He's probably the most useful thing in there and what army couldn't use a re-roll to Seize, access to more Divination and option to fire at reserves coming down near him. He was already an awesome character in the GK book and Matt has used him with decent success at singles events and also alongside my Wolves in doubles play. The Inquisition Codex allows you to just take him in your list for 100pts with no obvious penalty.

Of course there's plenty of other options in there but he's the standout entry. What's a shame is that a lot of the stuff is just a copy/paste from the GK book. There's nothing especially new to get excited about. Essentially the book boils down to "hey look I can take an inquisitor in my Eldar army without having to pay for any troops and I can still have my Tau allies too!".

The fluffy player in me loves the idea of an inquisitor joining the fight against some daemonic horde but would he really show up against Orks (depending on his Ordo)? The tournament player in me is saddened too. Supplements and allies have already offered enough loopholes for people to essentially just bring whatever they want (unless your play Tyranids). The Inquisition book just takes this a step further and potentially paves the way for similar nonsense. In summary, exciting from a fluff perspective, frustrating competitively.

When GW announced the big boxed sets of miniatures offering big discounts I was certainly suprised and excited. I couldn't resist buying the Stormwing (although it's still wrapped in celophane at the minute). With the Black Library advent calendar they've also introduced rules for these things as "formations". This isn't a new idea, it's straight out of Apocalypse. Essentially by taking the models specified in the formation the units get a bonus special rule or two. This isn't especially game breaking but it does allow you to take these formations as separate detachments meaning you bypass the FOC quite drastically.

I'm not hugely concerned by this, sure it messes some things up but generally I don't think it's too big of a deal.

Dataslates are a nice way of introducing new units into the older codices but they do feel a bit like video game DLC. You're left wondering why they couldn't have just put them in the book in the first place.

Stronghold Assault
You can now take several fortifications per FOC slot and there are a few extra upgrades that weren't previously available. The big one that everyone is talking about is the Void Shield. Essentially a protective bubble to minimise the affects of alpha strike. I'm not sure it's as amazing as people think but even so it's the most significant thing in the book. I'm intrigued to see what the model looks like when they eventually release it.

The main thing about this book for me is that there's some new content here. Unlike the other three "expansions" listed in this post the Stronghold Assault book isn't just a copy/paste from another existing book.

Last but certainly not least, Escalation is what everyone on the 40K internet seems to be clammering about. There are multiple shouts of "this breaks the game", "40K just isn't playable at tournaments" or "they just want to flog you a Revenant". To an extent all three of which are true.

Essentially, Escalation lets you take a super-heavy in a normal 40K list. There's something missing amongst most of the whining on the internet though. The big question for me is why was this book even necessary? The content is mostly straight out of the Apoc book and if you wanted to use super-heavies then go right ahead and play Apocalypse with other like-minded types. Some are arguing that the inclusion of super-heavies and, more importantly, D-weapons is as a counter to the re-rollable invulnerable save lists we're seeing more and more. Of course they are indeed an excellent counter but as someone pointed out in the comments section of Faeit212 it does feel like a "swallowed a spider to catch the fly" scenario.

The one game of apocalypse I've played (but never quite managed to write up on here) taught me about how powerful a Revenant can be. It was the only super-heavy to survive our game having taken out two stompas (with a little help) in a single turn. I love the model but I'd be less than happy to see one across the table from me.

Those in favour of Escalation say that people are only complaining because their power gamer net-list doesn't work any more. They're saying that people only don't like it because they can no longer bring a dirty combination and walk through a tournament. Whilst there's probably an element of truth to this I do think that attitude is somewhat naive. Deathstars like Screamer-council, Farsight bomb, etc are mostly despised because they take little skill to use and make for a boring game. How exactly are super-heavies going to be different in that regard? Obviously the most problematic is the Revenant but when there's already a good chunk of people using Eldar at the moment it won't be long before we start seeing the wraithknight proxy for a Revenant at permissive tournaments.

I'm all for variety in games. I hated the end of 5th edition when all you seemed to play was Grey Knights, I hated played Screamers/Flamers from the WD update, Necron air, etc. The point is though that there'll always be something. Those with apparently limitless disposable income will think nothing of buying a Revenant to win events that allow them.

My main problem with all of these "new" additions is that they simply aren't that new. Sure there's new content here and there but for the most part it just feels like Apocalypse stuff creeping into 40K. There's the potential for hugely varied games against a wide variety of opponents. Will we see Harridans, Stompas, Baneblades, Tiger Sharks, Tesseract Vaults, etc. in equal number? Of course not. As with everything in competitive 40K the best combination will be quickly discerned, posted online and repeated ad nauseum. At the moment Stronghold Assault looks alright but it won't belong before some combination is discovered that makes people sigh.

Like anything else, there are counters to Lords of War. Massed melta fire can do enough damage to bring them down but that's assuming you survive long enough to shoot. Part of the "balance" in 40K comes from armies not being able to counter one thing without leaving themselves vulnerable to another.

Games Workshop are trying to sell you models. There's no doubt these new additions will shift units. The problem with 40K is actually the people who play it. I'm not going to sit and pretend I'm not one of them. I've taken dirty lists to tournaments in the past, rarely the current in-thing but still pretty nasty. The way 40K is written there are always going to be rock/paper/scissors matchup.

My problem is going to be trying to decide how the hell to rule on everything for Blog Wars. In the six weeks since Blog Wars 6 the game is almost unrecognisable from what it was! Any input on that discussion will be gratefully received. More on how I'm intending to tackle BW7 in a later post though.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

X-wing Miniatures Battle Report - Chewy and Luke vs Boba Fett (100pts)

Despite our little boy being just over a week old I somehow managed to persuade my wife to allow me to get a game of x-wing in with Matt last night. We've been wanting to have a full game ever since we dipped our toes into the water last month. We've both made a pact that we'll avoid reading about the game online to prevent us bringing "net lists". If we find the good combinations by ourselves then fine but we don't want to make it into a competitive game. I know I've said this before but I think in this time when 40K is becoming ever more ridiculous it's important to have a game you can just play for fun. Incidentally I'll be talking about the recent changes to 40K and, specifically, how they might affect Blog Wars 7 in a later post.

Anyway, back to a galaxy far away. The first expansions I bought were the A-wing and Millennium Falcon. I've already given the A-wing a spin and loved it so was itching to try the Falcon out. We wanted to keep things pretty simple though and Matt has limited Imperial ships at the minute. Therefore we just fought to the death rather than playing one of the missions.

Rebel (100)
YT-1300 with Chewbacca
X-wing with Luke & R2D2
X-wing with Garven

Empire (100)
Firespray (Homing Missiles, Proximity Mine) with Boba Fett (Determination)
TIE Fighter with Dark Curse
3x TIE Fighters with Academy Pilots 

I'll try and make the battle report simple so that anyone who hasn't played the game can get an idea for how it works. It's worth checking out the tutorial video on YouTube to see how the game works before reading the report though.

The rebels were outnumbered 5-3 but the academy pilots are all pilot skill 1 so they'd be moving first but shooting last. Luke and Boba are both pilot skill 8 so they'd be firing first together but with both lists at bang on 100pts Boba would get to roll first. 

All three of my ships blasted forwards with Luke and Garven ganging up on Dark Curse. My rolling was disgusting and Matt was unlucky meaning Dark Curse was blown to pieces with the first volley from the X-wings. Meanwhile Chewbacca was targeting one of the academy pilots but could only cause 1 damage. Boba fired the homing missiles at Chewbacca but only stripped a shield token. In the following round Chewy completed the job though evening up the numbers and making it look like a Rebel whitewash was on the cards. 

Boba Fett and the remaining pair of TIEs had other ideas though. They combined to gun down Garven Dreis whilst Luke misjudged his manoeuvre and was lucky not to take damage from his collision with an asteroid. Meanwhile Chewbacca was in behind the Firespray and was slowly breaking down its shields. Boba responded by dropping a proximity mine to try and throw Chewy off. By some flukethe YT-1300 was able to make a 90 degree turn and squeeze in between the mine and an asteroid without touching either! This allowed Chewbacca to completely remove the Firespray's shields. 

Sensing that Boba was in trouble the TIEs positioned themselves to block the Corellian freighter. This allowed Fett to go off in pursuit of Luke. Several times he was able to damage Luke's shields only for R2D2 to repair the damage. Needing to make green manoeuvres was slowing Luke down though and Boba Fett was closing in. A short range blast from the Firespray was able to badly damage the x-wing and Luke had no choice but to perform a koiogran turn to avoid the edge of the battlezone and hopefully get one last volley off on Boba before being destroyed. 

In the meantime Chewbacca had badly damaged one TIE fighter making it repeatedly gain stress tokens when it moved. This allowed Chewy to concetrate on the other TIE fighter and finish it off. Not before he'd lost all of his shields though. 

Boba opened up on Luke and with his shields depleted, young Skywalker met a fiery demise. With his last breath he was able to fire his x-wing's blasters and cause damage to the Firespray though. By this time the YT-1300 was on hand to enact vengeance. The turrets of the rebel ship were able to keep a bead on the Firespray despite evasive manoeuvres from its pilot. Chewbacca's ship took damage but was able to bring down the bounty hunter and could now turn his attention to the stricken TIE to clean up. 

Rebel victory!!

That turned out to be an incredibly close game in the end. When two of the TIEs were destroyed within minutes I didn't fancy Matt's chances but Boba Fett certainly pulled his weight by gunning Luke down solo and helping take down Garven. The homing missiles were massively underwhelming though and I'm not really sure why you'd use them over the blaster thing he can take. The bomb could've been great but Chewy was jammy to avoid it. Matt had a spare point and at the last minute threw Determination on Boba. Obviously this could've been useful but in hindsight he'd have been better off taking Veteran Instincts to make him skill 10 and therefore preventing Luke from firing back at the same time.

Chewbacca was clearly the star of the show though but there's do doubt he was lucky several times when it came to squeezing between the asteroids. The 360 degree field of fire for the YT-1300 guns makes a huge difference. It means there's rarely a need to perform a koiogran turn which means all of the fire is with target locks. I'm interested to see how I can equip it with secondary weapons to make it even more deadly. 

In our previous test games Luke has felt invincible when paired with R2D2 but we were sure this would change when we played a bigger game. Indeed it did and when concentrated fire was applied to him he struggled to maintain his shields and prevent Boba from getting in close. The x-wings can be backed into a corner quite easily by the more agile Imperial ships.

I'm already excited about the next game. In that one I'm going to try and use one of each of the ships I've got to get a feel for what works and what they're capable of. It really is a joy to play a game with fully painted miniatures on a beautifully themed mat. There's literally counters for everything too which is a great. The asteroids I made provided great scenery to the battle too and are a big improvement on the 2D templates. I'll post something up soon about how I made them. The big thing for me is that I've found a miniatures game with depth that doesn't require much on the hobby side. It's made me more determined to get to the same point with 40K too but that's a long way off I'm afraid.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

From the Fang - The Next Generation

Sorry things have been a bit quiet on the blog recently but here's the reason:

His name is Arthur and he was born on December 5th at 16.25, weighing 8lb 5oz. He's our first child and as such we're still getting the hang of things. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks that I'm on paternity leave I'll be finding more time to blog and perhaps even get some hobby time.

Matt is hopefully coming over on Friday for a couple of games of X-wing so I'll try and post up some battle reports for those who are considering getting the set for Christmas. I've slowly been collecting all the rebel models (except the Y-wing) and Matt is picking up the Imperial ones. I've also bought the TIE fighter expansion though so that I've got some options if I want to play someone other than Matt. Once I get a feel for what's good I'll probably get a few more Imperial ships and I expect Matt will get the odd Rebel one.

I'm hoping that we manage to keep our games of X-wing nice and casual. I'd like it to remain a "beer and pretzels" affair and I have no intention of heading to tournaments. I'll be writing a bit about the current state of 40K in the next couple of days but suffice to say I think entering the tournament scene has dramatically affected the way we play our "casual" games. I'd love to return to the themed/narrative kind of play but it's very difficult to go back once you head down the competitive road.

Anyway, here's hoping Arthur will grow up to be as big of a geek as I am and that I can enjoy teaching him how to play some of my favourite war games. Who knows what edition of 40K we'll be on by then and how much GW will be charging for the models! Perhaps I should start saving now in case he wants his own army....

Friday, December 06, 2013

Blog Wars 7 - Saturday June 14th 2014

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the logo to the right has changed to a big purple 7. That means I've updated the Blog Wars page with details of the next event which will take place on Saturday June 14th next year.

As I discussed a few days ago I'd like to keep things pretty similar for Blog Wars 7. I want people to feel like they can refine their list from BW6 now that they've seen how the scenarios play out. Hopefully I can keep them missions nearly identical for both events this year. I don't want them to become boring but chances are you won't be playing them in between so that shouldn't be an issue.

The scoring system has been refined a little so that there shouldn't be any clashes and hopefully the new scorecards and spreadsheet will minimise any errors in entry whilst also making sure people are scoring things correctly.

Throughout the event I'll make it abundantly clear that tabling won't score maximum VPs in the objective games but I want to mention it from the start so that people can design their lists with that in mind. If you only have two troops you simply won't be able to take maximum points in the objective missions. I know this will favour armies that can spam cheap troops but with allies in the mix this shouldn't present too much of an issue. With the pace of GW's codex updates I don't expect there'll be many books that would struggle to cover the objectives.

Any event with custom scenarios (no matter how similar they are to the rulebook variants) will require an element of list tailoring and BW is no different. At the end of the day the competitive tournament isn't the main reason to come to Blog Wars 7. I hope veterans of previous events can back me up when I say the friendly atmosphere is what it's all about.

Tickets will remain at the bargain price of £15 including lunch. Assuming a decent attendance there'll be similar or better prize support. I'm going to look at other sponsors to try and improve this even further so stay tuned. Tickets aren't on sale yet but will be soon. It'll probably be in the new year though to minimise the number of people who buy one and then drop out nearer the time.

I've made the decision to only play in the tournament if we have an odd number on the day. This will address the two main issues of Blog Wars 6 in that I'll be able to give refereeing and organisation my full attention and secondly that I won't win the bloody thing again! It also means I won't need stand-ins and there won't be the usual last minute panic when people don't show up on the day.

As ever the tournament is designed with the players in mind so if you have any suggestions for things I can do differently then please please get in touch. Otherwise check out the details and  I hope to see you all there.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Tournament Report - Kill It With Fire (1750pts) - Dark Eldar in 6th

Having threatened to take my Dark Eldar to several Blog Wars and only managing it once I thought it was time to give them another tournament outing. I haven't actually used my DE in a tournament since 6th edition hit. The reason for this was the death of the webway as none of my vehicles were painted enough to take to the usual three colour minimum events. However, as I mentioned the other day, the Outpost don't require any paint on the models so it seemed a good way to end the year. My very simple list was covered here.

Game One - DE vs. Eldar
Having looked around the room and seen the usual plethora of big things, I wasn't surprised when I was paired up with Dan Eatch and a duo of wraithknights. However, considering nearly everything in my army wounds them on 4+ I can't say I was worried about them. The three wave serpents on the other hand....

We'd be playing what was essentially Relic (although for some reason the central objective was only worth 2 VPs) and Vanguard Strike deployment. The tournament also uses Blood Points in every round. Luckily for me I won both the deployment zone and first turn roll offs and also managed to get Night Fighting. However, with so few points up for grabs I'd need to get First Blood or I'd be on the back foot for the whole game.

I focused all four venoms and one of the ravagers on one of the wraithknights whilst the other ravager targeted a wave serpent. I assumed that four venoms would be more than enough to get the job done. That was of course assuming that Dan rolled a reasonable number of 1s and 2s on his armour saves. The first three venoms reduced the wraithknight to 2 wounds. When the fourth caused 6 wounds I felt confident that I'd not only downed one of the monsters but also secured First Blood. Sadly, the dice gods didn't favour me and Dan passed all six 3+ saves. All was not lost however, if the Ravager got lucky I'd still kill the thing. Unfortunately I only took one more wound leaving the wraithknight standing. The other ravager could only take a hull point from the wave serpent. Meanwhile my two raiders had blasted up the board so that I could make the most of the haywire grenades. With so many AV10 vehicles I was now almost guaranteed to give away First Blood.

Sure enough Dan easily took out the two raiders with the Hornets and Wraitknights. The wave serpents were underwhelming with low rolls on the serpent shields. Still they claimed hull points on the venoms. Fortunately for me one wraithknight failed his charge against Duke. The other wraithknight, with one wound remaining, attempted to charge the wyches. The wyches had other ideas though and caused two wounds with their splinter pistols which was enough to kill the mighty creature!! Lucky break for sure.

Duke and his squad attempted to finish off one of the wave serpents with their blasters but could only take a single hull point despite being in the rear arc. This forced them to go in with haywire grenades to finish the job. With the rear hatch blocked the dire avengers were forced to many an emergency disembarkation and were therefore pinned. The wyches pulled a similar number on Eldrad's wave serpent but without the pinning. The venoms lined up to gun down the second wraithknight but could only strip four wounds. The reavers had lined up to sweep across the dire avengers that I hoped would be out if I blew up a wave serpent. Instead they fired their splinter rifles at the wraithknight and yet again it survived on a single bloody wound.

However, with two of the serpents down and not much hope for the remaining wraithknight I felt pretty good about the game. What should've been the easiest vehicles to kill on the board, the hornets, proved to be near invincible and I didn't manage to stop them forcing enough 2+ saves for him to succumb to instant death. I was now a First Blood and Slay the Warlord down. When the warp spiders arrived in my back corner I was pretty much certain to give up Linebreaker too! My only hope then was to claim the objective. Luckily I still had all four kabalite units (the wyches had been gunned down by Eldrad's unit). I surrounded the objective so that it couldn't be contested so now I just needed to get Linebreaker and Slay the Warlord to claim a narrow victory. The reavers would almost certainly give me linebreaker but I'd need to shift Eldrad. Bladevanes had dealt with his dire avengers but he'd moved behind a building so only a single venom could see him. Luckily for me this was enough to gun him down and give me the 4-3 win with 1,560 BPs.

Game Two - DE vs. Space Marines (Minotaurs)
The event allowed Forge World so I was facing Minotaurs led by their funky character dude (Moloch or something?). Anyway, the list was essentially centurions, tac squads in rhinos, stormtalons, scouts and a thunderfire. I was jammy again and took the First Turn and Night Fighting.

We were playing Purge the Alien on Dawn of War which is pretty much the last thing I should be playing with a paper army like Dark Eldar. Once again then I'd need to get the secondaries if I could. I started the game well with the venoms and Duke's squad conspiring to give me Moloch as First Blood. Sadly my opponent, Mark, had made the librarian his warlord but two VPs was a good start. The rhinos had stayed off the board so I focused my efforts on the remainder of the army hoping I'd have freed up the ravagers to kill the rhinos when they arrived. Once again the wyches blasted forward, lost their transport but were able to charge the scouts and stayed locked for most of the game. This allowed me to slowly chip away at the centurions, eventually killing them and the librarian over my first few turns.

The stormtalons arrived and tried to gun down some of my vehicles. One of the venoms died off but my raider held on with a single HP. The rhinos arrived one at a time but as ever the ravagers (even with help from the voidraven) struggled to destroy them. One of the tac squads disembarked though which allowed me to kill them off for another point with massed fire from Duke. A ravager was able to focus fire on the techmarine and kill him off to get rid of both him and the thunderfire.

With the other rhino far from the action and the rest of the army pretty much wiped out the battle essentially boiled down to me trying to chip away a few more VPs whilst trying to keep my vehicles safe. When the dust settled at the end of turn 6 I'd scored 12 VPs (incl. 3 secondaries) to Mark's 5 giving me an unexpected second win with my Dark Eldar. The last game was guaranteed to be tough though!

Game Three - DE vs. Space Marines (Imperial Fists)
After I recovered from the shock of being on table one with my Dark Eldar, I discovered I'd be playing even more Space Marines but this time of the Imperial Fists variety (although sadly not yellow). Kev Cochrane was equally surprised to be on table one but clearly he must know what he was doing to have got there. The mission we'd be playing involved dividing the board into six 2'x2' zones which any unit could control or contest. The exception being ICs who could contest but not control. The three zones in my table half would be worth four points to Kev but only two to me.

This time around I wasn't so lucky and, despite getting to pick deployment for the third time in a row, I wouldn't be going first this time. I did, however, manage to get the Night Attacker warlord trait I'd been trying to get all day. Kev had some centurions, a thunderfire, three rhinos with tac squads, some bikes with a captain, a stalker and a stormtalon. The bikes and centurions were likely to make mincemeat of my vehicles so it was always going to be an uphill struggle. I had a brief glimmer of hope when I successfully rolled to Seize only to be reminded that it wasn't in play in the final mission. Gutted.

Sure enough two of my venoms went down to the centurions straight away thanks to Split Fire. One kabalite unit was pinned whilst the other was reduced in number. The bikes turbo-boosted forward to be in range of my other venoms in turn two. Luckily the thunderfire could only cause a single hull point on one of the ravagers and the stalker was scuppered by Night Fighting. Two of the rhinos advanced on my right flank whilst the third hit the left. Kev had infiltrated some scouts which put them in range of a turn 1 charge by my wyches. The remaining venoms targeted the bikes but thanks to some great rolling from Kev they only suffered a single casualty. One ravager dealt with the stalker whilst the other attempted to take out the rhino on my left. As ever it failed to do so and I was feeling very pressed in.

The bikes charged into my venoms destroying one whilst the other made its flickerfield saves and survived. One tactical squad disembarked on the right and gunned down some kabalites. The scouts were wiped out by the wyches which left them free to charge the tactical squad. Despite having two pain tokens, and hence Furious Charge, the wyches failed to kill a single marine and would stay locked for a couple of turns. Eventually they lost the combat and fled only to be gunned down in the next enemy turn.

For some reason the bikes seemed invincible. Despite wounding them on 4s like everything else I couldn't seem to make Kev fail any armour saves. To look at the board at this point you'd think it was obvious that I'd lost. At the back of my mind though I was thinking about the mission which stated that if you controlled all three of your enemy's zones at the end of any turn then you won automatically with full VPs. To do that I'd need to shift the thunderfire, crippled stalker and centurions. One of the ravagers easily dealt with the thunderfire (thanks to jammy rolling). The centurions were another matter though. With Kev easily making 3+ saves on his bikes I didn't fancy my chances against the 2+ save centurions.

The mistake I made was to fire the flyer at the bikes instead of the centurions but at the time they seemed like a priority target. Indeed I was in danger of giving up my zones and an automatic win too. The captain had split from the bikes and was working his way through my back line. The tactical squads had dealt with the kabalites and wyches. I'd kept my two squads of reavers in reserve and was trying to make the most of their bladevanes by sweeping back and forth across the board.

At the end of Kev's turn 5, I had to assess my options. I'd need to contest some of my own zones whilst still going for some of my opponent's. With Kev having scored all three secondaries I needed at least 4 more points than him from the zones. There was still a chance I could pull a win from this game. My ravager controlled the left hand enemy zone, the centurions would control the centre and my voidraven (flyers could score) swept into the right hand zone giving me a 6 VP lead in his half. In my own half I had tactical squads claiming two zones and a bike contesting the third with my kabalites. I swept the reavers back into my central zone to contest it but that still left me a point behind. My only hope was that the three remaining kabalites could finally gun down the last biker. In a final bit of luck they did the job giving me two points for the zones and a 10-9 victory.

I'd managed to win all three games with my Dark Eldar and hoped that winning on the top table would give me a tournament win too. Sadly, Matt had other ideas and he took maximum points from his game on table two to win and push me into second place. I can't complain at that though as my target for the day was to win at least one of my games!

Could I have won the event outright though? Obviously luck plays a major factor at tournaments. If I'd done better in my opening game then I'd have probably ended up with stiffer competition in the second and probably been smacked back down. The only way I could've won would've been to claim maximum points from the final game and that never really felt possible.

In the first game I really should've focused on First Blood though and concentrated all of my fire on a single wraithknight. There was nothing stopping me from doing it and to leave it on a single wound was hugely frustrating.

There's no denying I was lucky to go first in 2 out of 3 games and certainly lucky to get Night Fighthing throughout. Both of those things are HUGE for Dark Eldar. You really need to cripple your opponent early on to minimise the damage you'll receive in return. I gambled by not taking Baron to give me a better chance of going first but I always struggle with what to do with him. Duke did well (despite me forgetting my actual Duke model and borrowing a Farseer to replace him). He died in two of the games but not before doing his job. Having all those 3+ poisoned shots in a game dominated by big creatures is excellent.

In fact, poisoned shooting is excellent right now. Having four venoms causing on average 16 wounds per turn no matter what they target is difficult for any big thing to deal with. I'm not sure how effective they've be against tons of Tyranid MCs but at least they don't care about Iron Arm.

The biggest thing I'll take away from today is to not give up. In the final game I was very much on the back foot and the blood point totals of 738 to 1,320 attest to that. I've been in Kev's position before, feeling like you've got your opponent on the ropes only to lose in the last throw of the dice. It's why objective games exist I suppose but I know how frustrating it can be from the other side. They key thing though is to keep up the pretense that you've got no hope. If you've always got a wry smile on your face despite heavy losses then your opponent is going to get paranoid and realise they haven't got it all sewn up.

Right, that's more than enough rambling. This will almost certainly be my last tournament of the year and I'm glad I've ended on a high. Clearly people have forgotten how to play Dark Eldar so it's time they got some love even if GW doesn't seem to have a codex on the horizon for them.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Building A Better Blog Wars - Lessons from BW6

I've already talked about the bad (the tabling problem) and the ugly (me winning) so it's about time I looked at what was good about Blog Wars 6 and what it means for BW7. From the feedback I've had from various people it seems that despite my perception the event actually went quite well. Don't get me wrong, I didn't think it was a total disaster but I'd certainly say from my perspective the organisation was poor in comparison to previous events. Anyway, this was meant to be positive...

Custom Scenarios
Whilst I enjoy tournaments where the scenarios are completely unique, what often happens is that players write their lists to exploit some unforeseen loophole. It's how 40K is played I suppose but I was keen not to stray too far from the rulebook missions when creating the Blog Wars scenarios in the hopes of having a fairly level playing field (if such a thing is possible).

I think the Purge the Alien variant that I ran actually worked for the most part. I decided to make it the first mission of the day as, although people were probably half awake, the round would be followed by lunch so there'd be time to crunch those numbers without delaying the next game. This would've worked had I not messed up the scores for the stand-ins. Having an old school VP (let's call them Blood Points/BP to avoid confusion) based first mission meant the scores were more varied and people were less likely to end up with identical scores and/or duplicate matches. I recorded the raw number of BP in the spreadsheet so that if all else failed I could use it as a tie-breaker. I was tempted to make people record BP in every game but no-one likes adding all the numbers up and I think once in a day is enough. I know they're a ballache to calculate but hopefully people can see the need for it.

The "Emperor's Relic" mission seemed to achieve it's aim of making people push for the central objective and/or opponent's objective rather than sit back and play for First Blood like the Emperor's Will encourages. Perhaps that's just my perception though, how did everyone else find it? There's very little to say about Crusade as it was essentially the same as the rulebook mission but with 5 VP per objective but I think it was a good way to end the day. Having a mission with a large number of objectives encourages people to tailor their lists accordingly and hopefully not just rely on cheap scoring units to do their objective grabbing.

Generally speaking the scenarios seemed to work well. There was the tabling issue of course but I've explained why I believe it works despite it's many detractors. I think the missions were pretty straightforward and with the exception of a few exceptions (see below) I don't think there was anything to cause problems.

Scoring System
The idea this time around was to have all of the rounds be worth 25 VP each. In practice this didn't totally work thanks to the wonder that is 40K. The first mission in particular had a number of units which caused problems. Tau Ethereals give an extra VP when they die, Lone Wolves give up points when they survive, Bjorn gives up multiple VP if he dies, Tervigons and Portalglyphs create extra points, etc. etc. Some of these also affected the objective games but they were more of a problem in the Purge the Alien mission.

There'll always be exceptions to the rules, it's the way 40K is made. The difficulty is in deciding how to incorporate these into the scoring without making things too unfair. Despite the theoretical 25pt limit there were a couple of games where more points were scored. I'm not really sure why people were spawning termagants in a game based on Blood Points but each to their own. Before the next event I need to go through all of the books and try to identify any possible bonus points that could be scored so that I can list them in the rules pack to clarify everything before the event. It's difficult to know if people were adding the 150 bonus points on for killing the special character but next time I'll probably alter the score sheet so it's easier to see.

I think in round one I ought to consider giving the scores with a decimal place. This will help differentiate better between the scores and should clear up why someone seems to have an identical score but actually places above someone else.

Other Stuff
I've changed my mind a few times about whether to allow Forge World or not. For now at least, I'm going to keep things as they are and not permit it at Blog Wars 7. Despite the "official announcement" that people seem to think is necessary for it to be legal in 40K, I actually believe it is perfectly legal to use it in regular games of 40K.  I'm not the only TO to stop people bringing FW units and I hope people can understand the reasoning. I may have to review this when the new expansion comes next month but I can't see me changing my mind.

I'm having difficulty deciding about the Inquisition codex and supplements at the moment. On the one hand I love them from a fluff perspective but they make the game even more complicated than it already is. I think BW7 may be the last time I allow supplements depending on how well they work and what new ones are released between now and then. In the same way as FW models, you don't want to stop people bringing something fun and fluffy but I want to minimise the amount of dirty combinations that are possible without specific comps.

Despite a couple of notable failures on my part, I know what went wrong and I know what I can do to stop it happening at Blog Wars 7. I've already put work into improving the scorecards and spreadsheet to make the scoring smoother and more reliable.

The main thing I need right now are comments from you guys. What worked, what didn't and what should I be doing that I'm not or vice versa? If you don't want to comment here then by all means email me. I'll be announcing BW7 shortly so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Tau Army After Action Thoughts - Blog Wars 6

Blog Wars 6 may have been quite a while ago but sadly I've been too busy to get much content up since then. I've already decided that I'm giving Tau a break for a while but, before I put them to bed, I'd like to run through what worked and what didn't in my most recent Tau list. Head over here for my list.

When testing my list prior to the event I really noticed the difference when I didn't include an Ethereal. They're disgustingly cheap for what they offer but their drawback is that they cost you an HQ slot. Still for the leadership bubble alone I think they're worth it. Perhaps I was doing something wrong but I kept my Ethereal in his Devilfish the whole time and measured from the vehicle which obviously increased his range. I can't find anything to say you can't do this but maybe someone will enlighten me.

Nevertheless the Ethereal really makes the fish of fury tactic effective. It wasn't difficult to get all three squads of fire warriors to disembark in range of the Ethereal and make full use of Storm of Fire.

Fire Warriors
These guys certainly have their detractors across in the internet. In fact, it's rare to see any in a list. Most people look to Kroot or Allies for their Troops. I really think mechanised Fire Warriors can work though. Basically you keep pile them all out to put a ton of S5 shots onto something and then mount the surviving warriors back up if they take some serious fire. There are going to be times when you lose some of them but hopefully they've done their job before that happens.

They really rely on the Ethereal though. They're not useless without him but they aren't stellar either. Your opponent will be pretty disgusted by the number of dice you pick up when you fire with them at full strength and that's always a nice feeling.

Shadowsun and Bodyguard
My problem with Shadowsun was that I simply forgot her rules most of the time. There were a few occasions where she was out in the open and I forgot that her unit got a 4+ cover save thanks to Stealth & Shrouded. The bodyguard are pretty much essential I'd say to allow her to pass off S6+ wounds onto them. Her Warlord Trait allows her to cover ground quickly which means you can make the most of her fusion blasters and keep out of harm's way too.

There were times when I missed my usual commander though and I still think in non-BW games I'd take my fusion/plasma commander over Shadowsun. You're always paranoid about her getting hit by something and you have to steer well clear of combat at all costs. Her drones are excellent though as they make her unit pretty sturdy and devastatingly accurate if you get a markerlight or two.

It frustrates me that they lost their S4 and extra attack but this firmly puts them into the shooting category in my mind. There's rarely a need to charge them in. They were disgustingly lucky in my first game but the rest of the time they either got ignored or were easily dealt with. They're there to grab objectives for cheap so you don't have to expect much else from them and you won't be disappointed.

I couldn't find 10pts to give my two units a hound each but I have to say I didn't really miss them. This is probably mostly due to my fire warriors having some mobility but also you have to think carefully about objective placement.

Crisis Team (Missile Pods)
I spent 10pts to the two shas'ui suits a flamer each but I don't remember using them once. Obviously, there are times when they might come in handy but generally you're trying to keep the missile suits around 36" away from their targets.

These guys did what was asked of them providing ranged anti-vehicle fire. They do, of course, struggle against AV12+ but that's where the fusion weapons in the list come into play. The PENchip makes a massive difference for anti-tank and is great when fighthing the many MCs that are around these days.

As you might expect these guys are a bit hit and miss. You have to accept that anyone who knows about Tau will take them out ASAP and deploy them as far forwards as you can to make the most of them whilst they're alive. Having them for the first couple of turns is worth the points in my opinion. Being able to decimate enemy infantry and vehicles alike with the rest of your army in turn one or two is vital.

Marker drones with a buff commander are definitely better at marking targets whilst staying alive but for the same points I'm lighting up three different targets with three marker hits pretty reliably. I'm keen to stick to three units as invariably at least one makes it past turn two and can make the difference between victory and defeat. There's something satisfying (dirty as it is) in firing an S8 AP2 pie-plate and killing everything under the template. Speaking of which....

Undoubtedly the most dirty part of the list. There's no question that using a pair of them won't make you many friends. With the benefit of hindsight I shouldn't have taken them to an event like Blog Wars but they were definitely made to look better by the armies I faced.

I've sung their praises plenty of times before. Some people are saying SMS is the way to go for dealing with Eldar jetbikes but that opportunity to fusion a flyer is just too tempted I'm afraid!

The List in General 
I'm much happier playing this Tau list instead of my static gunline version. Seeing the confused look on my opponents' faces when I advanced my army towards them was priceless. I love using Tau but simply don't enjoy sitting back and shooting. It's a shame that's what 40K has become but I'd much rather be getting stuck in and taking the fight to my opponent.

The list works well together with every part of it being a crucial cog in the machine. There's no doubt that the new codex is powerful and I don't think it takes much to come up with a strong list but I'm glad I can at least do something a little different from the norm and still do well. I promise that should I end up playing at BW7 I'll be bringing something A LOT friendlier.

What I'd like to try is running the list without any riptides and replacing them with more crisis suits and perhaps even more fire warriors! Anyway, the Tau are going back on the shelf for a little while whilst I dust off my Dark Eldar. I've loved playing a top flight army for a change but it's time to move on I think.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...