Thursday, December 22, 2016

Titanfall(in' all over me)

So this week my comrade introduced me to Knight Titans.  Apparently some folks find them cheesy.

Let me start by saying I disagree - they are strong, but at the same time I don't see them as unbeatable.  At least, not yet.

I see the major issue being that while they ARE fast and hard-hitting and durable, they're also a tiny model count that can't take losses well, can be tied up, and can be hosed by luck since they just aren't throwing that many dice.
Thoughts on Taking Lots of Titans
I feel like there are a few standout pros/cons on this, and most of the pros come paired with said cons because you ARE concentrating a lot of points into one model - which to me is the major pro/con.

1) Durability (...obviously a pro)
Pro - these things take work to knock down unless you're packing D weapons.  You need a lot of S7+ shooting to grind through the hull points.

2) Speed (Pro)
12" a turn is pretty fast - you don't get a lot of shooting against that guy if he wants to get to grips with you, and chances are that he does.

Ouch.  Those guys may not pack a lot of guns, but MAN those things hurt.  It's like you took vehicle weapons and fed them a diet of steroids and hate.  And not like you would for Space Marines, either.

4) Versatility (Pro/Con)
You're always going to pay a premium for versatility.  If you're standing back and shooting, you're melee capability isn't getting used.  If you're chainsawing/stomping things to death, you may not be shooting much.  You get the most versatility out of pushing forward, shooting, and then using your melee weapons to commit things that would, in any other universe, possibly be considered war crimes. (Read: warmup in 40k)

5) Model Count (pro/con - the meat of it)
Pro - you don't have a lot of models to get in each other's way.  If time is a factor, you also don't have that many models to move.

Con - You don't have that many attacks to spread around.  At best you've got 1-3 shooting attacks worth talking about (the heavy stubber doesn't count; it just shoots at what you think you want to charge later).  That's IF you sacrificed your Strength D melee.  This also means you might have trouble in melee against large numbers of dudes - especially if they care not about losses.

Con - holding objectives.  Hope you brought enough friends to do it if you went Titan-heavy.  That's a chunk of points to dedicate to holding an objective.

Con(ish) - Army Composition - if you bring a chunk of titans, then they're immune to S5 or less shooting/attacks, and S6 unless you can flank them.  Which means the enemy is free to focus all of that on whatever softer targets you've brought - so you have to plan around that.  Not necessarily BAD, but certainly a consideration.

Baptism By Fire
We opted to go for 1500 points - I brought the same Hunter Cadre as last time, and he brought a trio of Knights with an AdMech allied group as backup.  One Knight had the scaled-up large-blast multi-melta (or at least what the multi-melta wishes it could be), one had the rapid-fire battlecannon & three-shot krak missile launcher, and the warlord titan had the roid-ragin' Heavy 12 assault cannon with a krak missile launcher.  The formation bonus involved upgrading the Ion Shield save to a 3+ when they were clustered together.  Naturally, they all had that silly, oversized chainsword as well.  His Admech lord had a trio of Kataphron Battle Servitors.

Short version?  I got stomped on.  I played a bad game of objectives, had some bad dice rolls, and to be honest let myself get intimidated by the knights.  By turn three he'd pretty much beat down the bulk of my army that could harm the titans, and we were pretty sure a couple dozen kroot and a pair of Piranhas weren't gonna do the trick.

I ended up holding the two Crisis Suit teams in reserve for a couple of reasons - one, there was no real good place to deploy them where they'd keep cover before dying a deadly death, two - my warlord rolled the 'Doesn't Scatter when deep-striking', and three - might as well try to get into that juicy AV12 side/rear armor.

So naturally, the first team to show up DIDN'T have the warlord with them - so they stuck their landing and proceeded to have hilariously terrible armor penetration rolls, in spite of having solid BS due to markerlights and Coordinated Fire.  So they kinda blew up next turn.

Then turn three the other crisis suits showed up and promptly repeated the same dice luck, followed by the same predictable (and gruesome) annihilation.  I'm honestly not sure what I could have done other than 'rolled better' at that point; I don't see the value in having Crisis Suits getting shot to death at range when I can instead try to get them a good round of shooting before the enemy gets a chance to murder them.

I think my Hammerheads tanked about a half-dozen krak missiles each with nothing but scratched paint.  Turns out a half-dozen titan-sized chainsword strikes aren't as easy to shrug off.

I also made the mistake of charging a Kroot squad at his treadheads on the admech side.  Turns out it's really, REALLY embarrassing when you scream, attempt a charge, and fail the charge because overwatch murdered too many of your dudes.

Lesson learned - Kroot are for staying in cover and shooting, and then possibly dying.  Ideally in that order.

Also, I kinda see the value in the oversized Burst Cannon for Riptides - that ROF (especially at Heavy 12 Rending) would have been useful.

In Closing
He played well, I played less than well, and the dice laughed off a few of my attempts to deal with it.  And honestly, there's a psychological impact of seeing a few building-sized dudes lurching towards your army.  Don't lose your head, and bring something to deal with medium-to-heavy army if you want to call your list balanced.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Purple People Eaters vs Blue Man Group - 1500 BATREP

So, I figured it's time to get back to the battle reports, and also to throw myself into the fray again.  This is my whopping second time out with Tau, and my comrade was wanting to test out his Genestealer Cult army.  Or rather, he realized a Guard player can get a new army with a book and some models.

The Armies
Tau Hunter Cadre - Blue Man Group with BULLETS
Crisis Commander w/ Plasma, Missile, 2x Shield Drones
3-man Crisis Suit Team (missile/plasma)
4-man Crisis Suit Team (missile/plasma, shas'vre with 2x shield drones)
Riptide (twin-linked SMS, Ion Accelerator, interceptor gadget, skyfire gadget, Feel No Pain)
10x Kroot (played by Fire Warriors, rather valiantly I might add)
10x Kroot + 3 Hounds
10x Kroot + 3 Hounds
8x Pathfinder
Piranha w/ disruption pod (model has a fusion blaster; went w/ Burst Cannons for points)
Piranha w/ disruption pod (as above; skipped the fusion blaster because suicide melta seems a little less neat than it used to be)
Hammerhead (disruption pod, twin-linked SMS, submunitions)
Hammerhead (disruption pod, twin-linked SMS, submunitions)

My Logic
Much as I enjoyed a Coldstar commander, he's asking to get crushed and hand over a VP for killing the warlord.  So I went with a Crisis Commander.

Crisis suit teams are there for mobile firepower - decided to add drones to see if I need the protection.

Riptide - I like the anti-air and Interceptor, and decided that the range of the Ion Accelerator was easier to use than the short-ranged buzz-saw that is the heavy burst cannon.  Opted for the stim injector because I'd rather throw dice for FNP than have someone shoot a missile drone and make me take a morale check on a 200+ point model, so I can box-car it and watch it run off the table, because dice.

I went with Kroot for the infiltration and bubble-wrap factor - I'm more than willing to condemn 60-100pt units to death if they get an objective first.

Piranhas - not too sold on a fusion blaster, but I like having the mobility for harassment and objectives.

Pathfinders - markerlights are silly, and coordinated fire makes them more efficient.

Hammerheads - versatility, cost, and potential LOS-blockers are awesome.  Also, 3+ jink saves are kinda fun too.

The Genestealer Cult (Purple People Eaters)
20-man Stealer Squad w/ Scything talons
5-man stealer squad
-12 man neophyte hybrid squad w/ 2x flamers mounted in Chimera w/ heavy flamer
-12 man neophyte hybrid squad w/ 2x flamers mounted in Chimera w/ heavy flamer
Leman Russ (Heavy bolter, battle cannon)
3x Scout Sentinel w/ autocannon, hunter-killer missile
Scout sentinel w/ heavy flamer
9-man Neophyte Hybrid squad w/ 2x Grenade Launchers and missile launcher
9-man Neophyte hybrid squad w/ 2x grenade launchers, autocannon
20-man neophyte hybrid squad w/ 2x flamers

My Thoughts
Cult ambush is a potent tool for this list - he gets to roll 1d6 for each unit that has it, and depending on what they get they get to set up accordingly.  It ranges from 'walk on my board edge in turn 1' to 'set up 6" away from you and I can assault turn 1."  His formation gave all his footsloggers the Cult Ambush - INCLUDING those sentinels.  His vehicles are out-flanking.  AND, if his foot units are more than 6" away from my guys, they can Return to the Shadows to ongoing reserves, gain 1d6 models back (up to max size) and then re-roll on the Cult Ambush table.  There's also his +1 bonus to reserves, so...yeah.

So - I have to deploy conservatively against someone who's going to then react to my deployment, and have to react to it.  And I get a turn to deal with it before his reserves hit and get to react to my actions.

I have basically zero initiative.

The Battle
We roll up diagonal deployment, and neither of us get a particularly influential warlord trait.  Mercifully he does NOT roll the "choose what Cult Ambush I get."  I opt to deploy first, and opt to infiltrate the Kroot to react to his deployment, and hope I can get them into decent positions.  Pathfinders 

We opt for a more urban-looking table, because that's how 'stealer cults would probably roll, and the Tau are probably trying to figure out just what is going on here.

 "What is this 'deployment zone' you speak of?"
 So, all his vehicles are outflanking (or in the case of the sentinels, I get to watch them cult ambush.)  He drops one of the 9-man heavy weapon squads in those buildings at the corner.  His 20-man walking blob has the magus, and it walks on from his table edge alongside his 5-man stealer squad.

What about the 20-man stealer squad with the broodlord?  Oh, you see that tall, skinny building?  They're hiding in that.  Because they rolled the 'We can assault the turn we arrive' result and clearly this means they need to be as close to my army as possible.  Other highlights involve stealth and/or shrouded on turn 01, which is...oh boy.

Tau Turn - 01
 Target priority is pretty simple - if that 20-man blob of genestealers is alive at the end of the turn, I am seriously screwed.  So, I markerlight it - then here's where the 'Coordinated Fire' rule comes into its own.  It lets me nominate units to fire as one - they all resolve shooting simultaneously, they all share markerlight benefits, AND if 3+ units use Coordinated Fire they all get +1BS.  I promptly nominate virtually my whole army to use Coordinated Fire, and reduce their cover save to be commensurate with their 5++ invulnerable.

When the dust finally clears, the 20-man stealer blob and their broodlord look like modern art and are largely imitating chunky spaghetti sauce.

Aftermath of Tau Turn 01 shooting
 I pretty much HAD to focus-fire the unit down - otherwise it would've pulled 6" away, faded back into reserves, and come right back.  Not gonna deal with that, I don't care if it's overkill.

Genestealer Turn 01
 I discover that the Magus can summon units, and that Tau have no real psychic defense beyond a lot of bullets.  So, I notice that the Magus phoned...oh, about 20 friends, and they showed up in my backfield.  Actually, they're like ankle-deep in the remains of the remains of their genestealer friends and broodlord, and manage to knock out a Crisis Suit and a shield drone from the originally-four-man-team.  Otherwise, not a ton happens.

Tau Turn 02
 ..didn't I just focus-fire a unit down in my backfield?  So, we do it AGAIN, and then we focus-fire the Magus down as well, because SERIOUSLY I'm done with random guys showing up in my back door.  My army decides to add a second layer of steam chunks to that building.

The backfield offenders fail a morale check, which is close enough.  By all the blue space-commies hold dear, I'm glad my dice cooperate enough - though the +1BS from Coordinate fire SERIOUSLY comes in handy here.  I brace for the random sentinels and wonder which direction the Russ and Chimeras will come from, because 2+ reserves means he's gonna get them all.

Genestealer Turn 02
Now the pain starts.  His retreating backfield squad ends up within 6" of my midfield objective-camping Kroot, which means no regroup, no BS.  His heavy flamer sentinel shows up behind my Pathfinders, but the Riptide turns around with the Ion accelerator and provides a short and effective lesson about the 'merit' of AV10 open-topped.  This is my moral victory for the turn because I lose the wounded Crisis Suit team to the Russ, and his Sentinels with autocannons get to fire in the move AND shoot phase.  I seriously luck out with jinks and end up immobilized, between his BS4 and my rear armor.  His chimeras ALSO show up on this side, and the 'dozer blade one ends up rolling snakeyes going for the objective.  Which is also contested by the now-grounded hammerhead.  If you look close in the bottom corner you can see his 'stealers after they mowed down my Kroot squad that was on that objective.

 You would have taken the picture if it was your army too.

Tau Turn 03 
 I immobilize the other chimera with the Hammerhead, and decided that I've GOT to murder the Sentinels.  Turns out S6-7 shooting murders open-topped AV10.

GSC Turn 03
 Not much happens - he doesn't have good deployment options from the Chimeras, so stays in 'em.  Long-range heavy weapons fire doesn't do much, and his heavy weapon teams opt to hold down objectives and keep me from readily getting them.  From here, it starts to consolidate.

 My crisis suits end up being the second assault of the game - turns out that a bunch of wannabe tac marines can melee down guardsmen, which is good.
 I try to clean off objectives, cover saves are annoying.  My fire-warrior kroot-stand-ins are waiting for me to clean off a fire team so I can get that objective; they're gonna keep waiting.
 Russ bombardment continues, stuff continues making cover saves or his dice fail to scratch AV13.
Last pic - we call it at turn 05; he's down to a couple heavy weapon teams and a Russ, I've lost a kroot squad, a crisis team, a Piranha, and have an immobilized Hammerhead.  I have a ~2-3 VP lead on him.

Closing Thoughts
1) Cult Ambush
MAN that is a pain to fight against.  Good dice can put them on my doorstep and force me to prioritze.  Deploying against this is difficult as well - they go AFTER everything else, and end up getting to react.

2) Coordinate Fire
Being able to boost my BS by combining fire? YES PLEASE.  Being able to economize on markerlights by combing fire AND getting a BS boost without spending a markerlight?  YES PLEASE.  The drawback is hoping that I get my firepower allocations right, because I've got to pretty much call them before I throw dice.

Hands-down this is the Tau MVP though, because it let me wipe his Magus and his huge genestealer blob.

3) Crisis Suits and the Missile/Plasma loadout
There were only a couple times I wished for flamers, but the range is awesome and it's more likely to contribute.  Flamers still smell like death-or-glory, but at least aren't markerlight reliant.

4) Riptide
Generally I'm glad I went with the Ion Accelerator - the range was more useful than the massed close-range fire, and I think it meshes better with the Interceptor bit as well.  I think one is a good number for a 1500 list.

5) Piranhas
I was a bit concerns about ditching the fusion guns, but in all honestly they did what I needed them to do - capture objectives and be a relatively easy way to contribute to the Coordinate Fire rule.  Who cares if it's snap shots? They just have to fire.

6) Kroot
Yeah, much as I like Fire Warriors, I like the infiltrator flexibility and the cheap bodies.

7) Pathfinders
Markerlights are awesome, but I think I need to investigate ways to add more than one source of markerlights - I was lucky enough to have them in position when I needed them in turn 01 and 02, but one unit can still get shot off the board if the enemy can and needs to do so.  I was fortunate.

8) Cult List comp thoughts
-We both agreed that the scything talons and hunter-killer missiles were probably better spent on more bodies - specifically, beefing up that 5-man squad; otherwise the 5-man team is good for nipping at flanks and securing objectives.
-Cult-Ambush + Sentinels is pretty sick - autocannons vs. rear armor is kinda sick.
-Broodlord & Friends-  the 20-man unit is required by his formations; and is legitimately sick.  I don't think there's another way to play them other than ramming them down the other guy's throat - I was fortunate to murder them to the last on turn 01.  Failing to do so may not have been game over right there, but it would have been an uphill batter after assaults.
-The Magus probably needs to hide in the back in a heavy weapon squad and do psyker BS.
-Overall, it might be better to start non-Sentinel armor on the table and Cult Ambush everything else; the trick is making sure whatever's on the table on turn one can't be cleared off before reserves happens.

We both had a blast - the Genestealer Cult needs some rules clarifications, but we just went with the more sensible-sounding stuff and I don't think it made too big of a difference.  I have a healthy respect for (and envy of) that list's ability to react with cult ambush and reserves.

Also, Hunter Cadre's Coordinated Fire has some serious utility if you have enough units.  I'm not really sure what I'd do to my list at 1500 other than look for a way to get different sources of markerlights for sake of redundancy.