Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Resurgence - and a return to fighting for the Greater Good

Rumors of my death and/or dismemberment have been somewhat exaggerated, though there was a break from the tabletop scene.  An old buddy of mine convinced me to come back in, so I looked at what I had, and decided "hey, space-commies in robots...with BIGGER robots?! SOLD!"  So I dusted off my old 5th Edition Tau, added some new stuff, and wandered back into the fray with 1500 points of mecha goodness.

The List - as a Standard Bit, none of those Formation Whatsits
HQ/Warlord Fellow
Coldstar Commander w/ 2x Shield Drones
3-man Crisis Suit Team w/ Plasma rifles & missile pods
Riptide w/ SMS, Burst Cannon,Skyfire-granting gear, 2x Shielded Missile Drones
Riptide w/ SMS, Ion Accelerator, SKyfire-granting gear, 2x Shielded Missile Drones
8-man fire warrior squad
6-man fire warrior squad w/ Devilfish packing SMS, Disruption Pods
Fast Attack
8-man Pathfinder squad
Piranha w/ Fusion Gun
Heavy Support
Hammerhead w/ Disruption Pods, Railgun w/ submunitions, twin-linked SMS
Hammerhead w/ Disruption Pods, Railgun w/ submunitions, twin-linked SMS

First Company deep-striking insanity formation, consisting of -
Terminator Captain
2x footslogging terminator shooty squads (1 assault cannon, 1 heavy flamer)
Land Raider Crusader w/ assaulty terminator squad
Stormraven, lugging assaulty terminator squad, Venerable Dread w/ Assault Cannon

Game Summary
Short version - I lost, about 9-13 VP in Maelstrom - the one where either of us can score the visible numbered objective cards.

Longer version - I elect to make him go first - no sense in me sitting around for a turn, twiddling my thumbs.

Opening - he gets everything but the Stormraven in on the first go.  His heavy flamer terminators make a bold decision and stick the landing - this ends with my Pathfinders being BBQ'ed.  Turns out being able to double-tap due to formation bonuses is helpful, and I'm reminded that most infantry really, really doesn't like fire. His other terminator squad manages a decent landing but does nothing spectacular.

Lots of gunfire happens - lots of saves happen.  His gutsy terminator squad ends up dying, while the other one walks to a ruined building and finds the '+1 to cover saves' objective, which is somewhat less than amusing for my AP2 shooting.

His Stormraven doesn't come in until turn 3 - which helps, but not as much as his ability to repeatedly make saves.  My Coldstar commander ends up taking potshots at it, ends up baiting Land Raider fire, laughing as his assault dice fail him, and even capturing an objective.  (Then dies horribly and forks over VP as my warlord.)  This is after my Pirahna runs around trying to cap objectives, and never actually shoots anything before developing a severe assault cannon allergy and dying in a fire.

Around turn 3 or 4, my Ion Accelerator Riptide loses a drone, box-cars his morale check, and promptly runs off the board.  His terminators eventually sweep in (very slowly and angrily) and kill my Fire Warriors, then the Dread immobilizes the 'fish, punches it to death, and eventually gets to the squishy squad inside, who are wholly unprepared to punch a dreadnought to death.  (Spoiler alert - Tau still don't really belong in assault...)

By the end of the game, he's got the Stormraven, a Dread, about 3-4 terminators, an empty Land Raider Crusader, and too many objectives.  I've got a Riptide (that's awfully close to his dread), both Hammerheads (who've jinked a crap-ton of shots), and

Logic behind my army
To be honest, it was "grab some stuff that used to work, add some new stuff."  So, here's what drove the choices, and how they felt after taking it -

Coldstar Commander
I thought - "Let's try out flyers, and have some fun with mobility!"
Now I think - "detaching the warlord from a squad and running him around the field seems like a great way to lose VP."  I'm not sure I'd want to pay that much for someone tooling around that ultimately is going to get shot to death.

3-Man Crisis Suit Team
I Thought - "Hey, these used to work, let's see if they still do. They're less expensive than I remember."
Now I think - "Hey, still decent."  They're plenty of gunfire for the points, but still need some protection from small arms.  And certainly from rending cannons and S8 AP3 missiles of death.  I can see trying to use these again.  Also, maybe they need some drones, or if I'm only gonna take one squad then the Commander hangs with them.

I Think - "I'm gonna need to test these guys more to really get the most out of them."
-I like the SMS for the volume of fire - fusion blaster seems a bit close-ranged, and the plasma rifle trades the volume of fire for the AP.
-I like the volume of fire from the heavy-duty burst cannon, though that 18" range had drawbacks against someone who could see where it was deployed and then avoid it.  That being said, it can throw plenty of dice, and turning into a Heavy 12 assault cannon is hilarious.
-I can see leaning towards the Ion Accelerator - seems a LOT more versatile than the burst cannon and has more range - this gun can contribute the whole time.
-The drones are interesting for wounds and token dakka, but I wonder if I could get better versatility out of things like the FNP gear or a nova-charged 3++ save.
-I really, really hate rolling a 1 or 2 with the Nova Reactor.
-Overall, it's a chunk of points - not sure a pair of them was the way to go in 1500, but T6 and 2+/5++ with four wounds is not the easiest of takedowns.

Fire Warriors & Fish
I Thought - "Hey, it used to work."
I think - "Kinda wish I'd brought bubble wrap (read - Kroot)"
-Fire Warriors still have decent basic infantry weapons, and a Fish squad can do some objective work.
-That being said, given that assault is 2d6, having some cheap bubble wrap wouldn't have been a bad thing

I Thought - Markerlights are awesome!
I think - they're probably still awesome, but having a single source in the army renders them vulnerable to, y'know, being prioritized and shot off the table.  I probably would've gotten one good turn out of 'em and that would've meant dead termies sooner.  Possibly two rounds, but who knows.

I thought - "Hey, used to work, plus mobility for objectives is probably important"
I think - "Not so sure suicide-melta works, and I wish I'd brought that disruption pod."
-didn't shoot once; pretty sure the meltagun is more of a bluff now than a death-or-glory attack.
-Jinking is awesome.
-Not sure if I'll end up taking them again or not; we'll see.

I Thought - "Hey, it used to work - plus huge guns."
I Think - "Probably not a bad thing still."
-...also, to be honest, I totally derp'ed out and thought they had BS3, because clearly I'm not literate enough to read my reference page. (Also, that 10-hour work day didn't help, but seriously, I could have RTFM...but it's funny now.)
-vehicles in general are tougher - but the versatility is still there.
-Not off the list yet - and jinking is hilarious.  That, and if I'd had markerlights, jinking isn't always as big a deal.

The Other Guy's List
-Setting up against all reserves is nasty - I'm used to having the luxury of reacting to the other guy, not vice-versa.
-He had excellent target priority - my Pathfinders got deleted ASAP, and then the Crisis Suits were next - thus depriving me of accuracy and then a ton of my AP2.

Up Next
-More blogging!
-A whole lot of learning - much of my habits are based out of 5th edition, so...yeah.  Gonna have to unlearn and relearn.
-Painting up the converted Riptides
-Looking into dusting off my Eldar
-Figuring out what to do with the ~25 terminators and heap of las/plas space bobs from my old Black Templar Termie-Spam Army (not really sure I want to go Deathwing; debating between converting them to Grey Knights and converting Dreadknights, OR doing up a first company list like the one I faced.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Wee Update: What's Next on the 40k Front

Here are my goals for the time being: I would like to put up at least a post a week in this blog. I enjoy blogging about the hobby (I make a pretense of being a teacher, and I enjoy spreading knowledge and discussing little plastic army men).

Current Army Project
Currently, I've been playing heavy with the Tyranids. Despite the utter curb-stomping of the previous game (sharp opponent + solid enemy army list + inability to roll well = DEATH) I enjoy the TMC/Venomthrope Stelek list.

I've got a Carnifex in the works on the bench (gotta convert the arms, then attach them) and I'm pondering ways to convert up Venomthropes. I like the idea of poison-cloud-bleching bugs, though I think I'm going to go for more of a walking smoke-belching factory than the floaty tentacle thing.

I also have the remainder of my Hive Tyrant's arm bits (wings/scything talons) to complete painting. Pictures will eventually be forthcoming, but at the moment I'm not sure I have access to a solid camera. I'll sort that when I sort it.

Up Next: Power Armor
A while back, I'd contemplated starting up a Space Wolf army, and a Blood Angel army, and so on and so forth. At this point, I've acquired a few boxes of Thousand Sons marines, most of the armor I need, and I have a fair amount of other stuff (then I got Indoctrinated* by Warmachine...).

I intend to make this a work of love with conversions, as I'm a big fan of the Thousand Sons sculpt and fluff. On the other hand, their rules...well, I'm just not feelin' the CSM book. I also like the idea of marine cavalry, and I have a number of Chaos Knights left over from when I thought about doing them as cheap bloodcrushers. I think I'll be using the K-sons as the Wolf Guard stand-ins, and it'd be an easy-to-ID one.

I also owe RayJ a thanks for convincing me on the tabletop that they're as solid as I'd thought. Not unbeatable by any means, but certainly contenders. That, and I dig the idea of death-seeking warriors and all things Space Wolf in general.

In Parting
I want to thank everyone for bearing with the decreased activity as of late. Some life stressors have finally died down or bowed out. I'd like a few thoughts on what everyone would generally like to see; I'll probably end up doing unit breakdowns and the occasional batrep. When I get inspired for neat conversions and such, they'll probably show up.

I'm aiming to get a couple matches in a month, as they tend to eat a Saturday morning without a hell of a lot of trouble.

*Points for you if you get the Mass Effect pun. Slaps for you if you don't.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On Space Wolves, Tyranids, a Game, and News in General

I managed to clear time for a good 2,000pt matchup with RayJ. As I am told a picture is worth a thousand words (and he brought the camera) I figured I would sum up the battle report with a picture.

My 'nid army was something like:
Tyrant w/ 2x TL Devourers
3 seperate Venomthropes
2 Tervigons with Catalyst
2x10 Devourer-gants
2 Harpies w/ TL Heavy Venom
2 Tyrannofex

RayJ's list, from memory, had something like:
Logan Grimnar
2 Rune Priests (Living Lightning each, and some other random power that had no impact)
2 Lone Wolves (Terminator Armor, Chainfist, Storm Shield. You were expecting?)
2 Wolf Guard Squads (Sarge in terminator armor with Cyclone missile launcher, powerfists?)
2 Grey Hunter Squads (double melta, and a Wolf Guard in the lead)
2 single Thunderwolf Units (Fist/Shield)
2 Long Fang Squads (3 missiles, 2 lascannons each).

The Scenario
The crater describes the end state of my army. It's been a long time since I've been tabled. We rolled up Kill Points and Table Quarters. I won the roll to go first, brain farted, and made the grave error of going second. His stuff set up with the four melee speed bumps up front, then the hunters and Wolf Guard behind, and finally the Long Fangs with a commanding view of the field.

I set up with an eye towards making sure his Thunderwolf Cav can't get a first-turn charge off. His shooting drops a Tervigon (which takes out a chunk of one of the Devourer-gant squads. Stupid 'Brood Primogenitor' rule). At that point I'm beginning to realize what my cover saves are going to look like.

So, I unload a whole lotta gunfire into his approaching stuff. I am for the t-wolves because of their speed; I probably have another turn before the Lone Wolves reach my line. I have a metric crap-ton of anti-personnel shooting.

I inflict one wound on one of the T-wolves.

Yep. Gonna be one of them games...I made a few mistakes here and there, but my utter inability to roll cover saves or inflict wounds on the other guy (I kid you not, I had a TYRANNOFEX die while sucking up an amazing total of 8-9 wounds. Inability to make both a 2+ and a 5+....).

The Lessons
Naturally, in retrospect I should've gone first. Tyranids have very little shooting that reaches out more than 24 inches, and Rupture Cannons aren't the most reliable things for killing infantry at range. (Besides, they were trying to force instant death armor saves on T-wolves, which seemed like a good idea at the time.). It's a plain nasty Space Wolf list, and while I always figured Long Fangs were nasty, I'm now very, very, very sure that I dislike them greatly. When you get down to it, most armies don't have good ways to kill infantry from over 24-36 inches (excpeting IG Russes in some cases).

On the bright side, RayJ was a fun opponent to play against (which seriously mitigated the fact that I'm still sore from what the dice did to me...) and it was nice to not play Imperial Guard. I'm not knocking IG, but when you play against it for a while, a change-up is nice.

Other Bits
On the other bright side, I found out I'm getting transferred out of the high-intensity soul-crushing office* at work in a few weeks. What does that mean for you, dear readers? (Assuming there are still some out there, I know I've not been prolific as of late).

Hopefully, it means articles more than once a month.

Anyone interested in taking a look at a gallery of 'nid pictures can find my Tyranids here. It's what I've been laboring on for the last year, though I must warn you that picture quality is not necessarily what the interweb slang would call 'uber.' I think it's more 'servicable' myself.

*Seriously am getting out of the nasty stuff, which is just in time. I seldom bring personal matters onto this blog, though work stress was starting to leech into everything else (including chronic tension headaches, which you get AWESOME meds for...) and it's a matter of either a) not having the time/urge/opportunity to blog at the same time, or b) not wanting to inflict a Grim, Dark, Bleak, Bitter-er than usual rant on the potential passer-by.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Interesting Point on the Nature of Competition

Honestly, I tend not to post about other people's posts. It's a principle about avoiding interweb drama. I had enough drama in high school, and I get more than enough in the way of office politics.

That being said, Black Legion Matt has an interesting point about the nature of competition. His statement is something about list variation does not mix with a level playing field. Now, I agree with this to an extent, but I also think list variation is a part of what makes 40k interesting.

Honestly, there is something to this. Games like chess and checkers involve a predictable field of battle, and give each player identical armies (and in the case of checkers, uniform playing pieces).

The only real difference between the respective forces is that one side goes first, and one goes second. Not being a chess/checkers expert, I have to assume that there are tradeoffs between going first and second, and if not, there's at least the 50/50 shot (...I suppose that depends on the playing format? I'm making assumptions here) at getting it. I suppose you could try to go at the same time, but I don't think the games are set up that way, and the difference between first/second is just something that's built into the game.

The bottom line? Since first/second is generally random and the armies are identical, it's purely a case of player versus player.

The Disagreement
Frankly, if you wanted to play with uniform armies, you'd either play chess/checkers, or you'd have some kind of agreement with your opponent prior to a game that allowed for variety in army builds. Given the cost of the game and the allowance for variation in builds, I've got to kind of say if you're playing the game, part of you is tacitly in agreement with variation in army build.

So, I'm assuming you're cool with variation in army build. Where do you go from there?

Balancing Armies
Now, this is much, much easier said than done. Ideally, though, this is the solution to varied armies. Now, all the armies abide by the same Force Org charts (3 each Elite/Fast Attack/Heavy Support, 2 each HQ, 6 ea Troops; required 1 HQ/2 troops). They also abide by the same points level.

The stuff in the game (troops, vehicles, monstrous creatures) dictates the type of destructive tools you'll need. Now, honestly, here's where I think a lot of the variation gets screwy. The easy example is the mighty melta weapon. Some armies have access to it (Tau, the Marine armies, Imperial Guard, Eldar, Witch Hunters, Daemon Hunters) and some do not (Tyranids, Necrons, Orks, Dark Eldar).

Consider the effectiveness of melta weapons against vehicles (which are good because of Vehicle Damage Rules that say a 35pt Rhino can take the same number of AP1 hits as a 250+ point Land Raider) and the prevalence of vehicles in lists that can take a lot of them (Imperial Guard and Razorback-spam being a couple of the prototypical examples) or Tyranids, who can roll with a heap of T6 multi-wound monsters. It's easy to see that the people that can bring and effectively employ such weapons are in good shape.

The codices
So, having access to the right capabilities is crucial. Now, here's where we get to the meat of the problem. How does your army handle various types of threats? Vehicles are just the easy example, since they're prevalent. If you want another sample, look for psychic powers and/or psychic defense, and the effectiveness thereof.

The simplest example here is the Ork army. What do they have for anti-tank at range? Lootas. (Ok, they can take missiles as well, but considering you get only a few per squad, want to take large squads over multiple squads most of the time, and have a mighty BS2...yeah). Problem? AV13 and 14 at range are issues. So, how do you kill heavier armor? Assault it with...power klaws. Either by having your armored kanz walk up and punch, or committing a squad full of boyz and hoping the one Klaw can do the deed. Neither of these are attractive.

The other answer involves Deffrollas, which is committing a vehicle to a 12" move and hoping it can do some S10 hits to a heavy vehicle. Full stop, end of story, those are your options. And your psychic powers? A random power of questionable utility, and no meaningful way to stop others from casting powers.

I don't want to use Orks as the buttmonkey here, but they're just a simple example. They're lacking a couple of capabilities that make it hard to build a balanced ork list. I'm not saying it's impossible, but when someone like Space Marines can drop 200 points on a troop unit that has a meaningful anti-tank weapon (BS4 multi-melta), a workable anti-troop capability (a flamer, a bolt pistol and 8 rapid-firing bolters) and a transport it can fire the anti-tank weapon out of (Rhino not moving) then, well...yeah.

Symmetrical armies?
No, we covered that; it's probably not what people are paying $300-500+ on an army to play when a chess set is probably a lot cheaper. The core, then, is to give everyone the capabilities they need. At that point, it is on the players to bring all of the tools. Let's be honest, while some people play more (or less) 'cut throat', everyone plays to derive some enjoyment out of the game, and most people don't enjoy getting monkey-stomped.

Hell, most people don't enjoy giving out a monkey-stomp; you either wanted a challenge or feel bad for the other guy (and either way, it's somewhat counterproductive, since crushing people mercilessly and just gloating about it aren't healthy for the hobby).

So, what's the answer?

SIMPLE! (/sarcasm). Symmetrical capabilities. Everyone needs a reliable way to accomplish their missions: you need both access to competent anti-infantry and anti-armor capabilities, and you need to take them.

I don't care how good a player you are, if you bring as many power-armored bolter guys as you can and I bring a couple land raiders and some tanks, you're probably screwed. Now, the Space Marine codex is a solid book with plenty of ways to get the capabilities you need; you as the player need to bring them.

The Problem
So, we've solved the game's problem: you just have to bring the right tools for the job. Now, the issue: not everyone has access to the tools. Necrons are the easy example here: no transports, one option for troops that's basically a slower tactical squad sans weapon options, and one gun with a strength better than 6. The rules for 4th edition made them fine, the rules for 5th? Not so much.

So, what's the Necron player's situation?

Honestly, pretty crappy. You either try to find a build that works while you lack some crucial tools (I'm not saying necrons need psychic powers, but a psychic counter would be nice...) and hope that your player skill is enough to make up for it, get a new army.

Considering the cost involved in starting up a new army (even using e-bay or other discount methods, that's a few hundred bucks) I think that's a pretty crappy answer. The other option involves getting an update to the rules, but GW's release schedule for codices is...sometimes slow (I'm looking at any Dark Eldar fans that have kept their armies for the past however many years...).

Even my pet Tyranids were in the same situation not too long ago, and honestly? I had a 'nid army, sold it off, and then got back into it when the new book came out. Did I lose my love for the 'nid fluff and spontaneously recover it when the book came out? Or, did I get tired of trying to kill vehicles by running melee-fexes at them or hoping to glance them to death with S6 AP-, or when my best long-range gun was S8, single-shot, BS3? (Pro tip: it was the latter, and dying a little inside when the rules said I had an uphill fight).

The Answer
And this is the part where I propose a comprehensive solution, right? Well, honestly...the best I can think of is that GW should consider updating the rules a little more often. 4th to 5th edition was a major sea change, and the armies that had access to the right tools could be more competitive.

If you give someone a few tools to tide them over and have some semblance of competitiveness, you're going to keep that player happy, and they're more likely to keep them in the game. The alternative is to have people impose artificial, arbitrary limitations on the game, which isn't necessarily going to make the balance any better, only different.

Update the freaking books more than once every few years when you radically change the rules, or it ticks people off, and keep people angry long enough and they probably stop dumping hundreds of dollars into your game...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Harpies

At last, I have finished my Harpy conversions. And, of course, I feel the need to share them and to wax poetic about the care, feeding, and employment of harpies. The first picture puts them alongside some devourer-packing Termagants for a sense of scale.
They are PRETTY. YES. THEY ARE. Side view. Coat hanger bracing FTW.
Another side view.
This is probably not what you want to see.

A cookie if you spotted the ingredients already. It's not an exhaustive list.
1) Old-school Hive Tyrant
2) Dragon Wings from WH Fantasy
3) Pair o' Venom Cannons from Warriors
4) pair o' scything talons from the trygon/mawloc kit.

The limbs were generally chosen for sake of scale. The general scale of the thing was built with transportability in mind. The wings are pinned on, as I simply could not make magnets work that well. They're secured to the base at two points; there's the coat hanger and there's an additional point on the tail, be it the base or the jutting building wreckage.

First off, the Harpy is fast, as it's basically monstrous jump infantry. It can get a good 12" move each turn and then fire off both of its weapon systems. However, synapse means that you will probably NOT use it to rush across the field, and frankly there's no need to close with the enemy that much. 18" is just fine for infantry-hunting, and 36" is fine for shooting at larger targets. Use the speed not to advance, but to set up shots.

Honestly, you brought this thing because it's got guns. It starts with a twin-linked stranglethorn cannon, but I highly recommended paying 10 points to go to the twin heavy venom cannon. Why?

Simple: suppressive fire against vehicles. With twin-linked, the gun's got a base 50/50 shot of landing where you put it, just from rolling a hit with the scatter dice. More refined odds involve 2d6-3/ (size of the vehicle) and are a bit too tedious to put here. S9 has a good chance of glancing, and even with a -1 to damage from a penetrating hit it's likely to at least keep a vehicle from shooting, and will do damage 50% of the time on a good pen. Mostly, though, it's to shut those frakking tanks up for a bit. Use the mobility to line up flank shots if necessary, and you can always try to ping multi-wound T4 guys in a pinch.

In closer, you should've equipped Cluster Spines. Large blast, S5, AP-. Quantity over quality of hits, but it wounds most infantry pretty readily.

In really really close, you get the once-a-game Harpy Crap-over. You just have to move over an enemy model, and then you can barrage d3 S4 AP4 Large Blasts on top of them. Hilarity can ensue.

A word of warning: bad rolls on danger-close shots CAN hit you. As you are T5 with a 4+, it's reasonable to assume you can wounder yourself, and I kinda helped a harpy kill itself with its own large blasts.

Well, as a monstrous creature you ARE ignoring armor, and rolling 5+2d6 against vehicles. You get two base S5 hits, so pick your fights carefully: go for depleted units or go in with friends. You won't do much more than polish off a couple non-melee guys by yourself. Still, you do have Sonic Screech, which translates to assault grenades and making the enemy go at 1/2 initiative (rounded down), so if you can get buddies in there it's a good time to go to town.

Even so, I probably wouldn't try to fist-fight a dreadnought unless it's wounded or minus the Dreadnought CCW, since you'll get maybe one good penetrating hit on it in melee.

This is where some folks start quibbling about the 170pt price tag: you have four wounds at T5 with a 4+ save. At danger close, you can harm yourself with your own spore mine offal. Autocannons can ding you up, and a rail gun will break you in half.

I've got four answers for that:

1) in a pinch, hide behind another MC or grab cover if you can find it (or, say, a venomthrope).

2) there's ONE ARMY that can insta-gib you at range. One. Crap happens. Are you seriously going to make your decisions based on ONE graphic mis-match? That's being a wee bit disingenuous.

3) Make sure harpies aren't the only monstrous creatures in your army, because, um, well, they won't like the attention.

4) when you get down to it, stuff like missile launchers and lascannons will wound you on a 2+ and take away your armor save ANYWAY, so how's the T5 and 4+ change that? Other than autocannons and rail guns, you're more or less identical to other MCs in terms of heavy weapons (...excepting heavy bolters, I'll grant, but they're not too common other than dakka-preds).

Harpies are mobile suppressive fire that get nastier up close. They're snipers with a point-defense system and some assault power. Use them to suppress/harass armor at range and from the flanks (since it's one of TWO guns that fire more than 24" and can harm vehicles in the 'nid book). If infantry closes, unload spore mines and cluster spines on them, and watch the wounds pile on. Take them as part of a shooty army (IE: consider Tyrannofexes, and/or hive guard/Venomthropes) to augment your long-range vehicle-harassing capabilities.

They're not all bad, but they're not auto-includes in all 'nid armies.