Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Snatching A Draw From Defeat - The Battle Of The Idol

Inquisitor Hraka sighed. He was sitting, cross-legged, on the turret of a Leman Russ, watching the Commissar berating the hollow-eyed group of men they'd found dug in on a hill overlooking the ruins of Dosant Minoris fifteen minutes previously. The fifteen Guardsmen had, their sergeant explained, made a tactical withdrawal in the face of severe enemy pressure in the form of traitor Astartes riding giant beasts that tore through tanks as though they were paper. A corporal had, in a dry voice cracked with fear, told the Commissar and the Inquisitor that their squads had taken cover in a ruined administration building, and had been attacked by three of these traitors. Their gunfire had slain two, but the third had killed four of them at close quarters and when their bayonets and pistols had proved ineffective they'd made the "tactical withdrawal". 

Behind them, smoke rose from the battlefield. Hraka didn't much care what happened to the Rigellians. He suspected they'd be put on punishment duties, the sergeant probably shot. Hraka cared about the idol. Somewhere in that ruined town was a graven idol, a foul thing, something that the traitor Astartes coveted and that he had to stop them getting. So he'd contacted the nearest Imperial force and moved them at all haste into the ruined town. From the vox-reports, the battle had been fierce, with the Rigellian troopers and their supporting armour hemmed in by ruins, unable to deploy, stymied by darkness and then hit by aliens! Eldar, if the reports were to be believed. 

Standing in one swift, smooth motion, Hraka leapt lightly from the tank and strode past the Commissar. "You men," he hissed, "come with me, and redeem yourselves." They fell in, the gunners wheeling their heavy weapons, sullen, scared. The Commissar, his face twisted with rage and shame, strode alongside as they moved over the hill to make contact with whatever was left of Captain Steiner's little force. Hraka rather thought there wasn't going to be much at all...

Tonight I fought a 2,000 point game of 6th Edition 40K against George from the Leamington Games Club.

We set up terrain to represent a ruined industrial town, with a bit of parkland, and overgrown roads.

The mission was The Relic, and deployment was diagonally opposite each other. I took the same army I took against JY in the Battle of Kolvic Gulch, while George took the same army he did last time with the addition of 500 points of Dark Eldar... including a Voidraven ground-attack aircraft!

George's Dark Eldar Allies:

Succubus with Agoniser
5 Wyches with Haywire Grenades and Hydra Gauntlet in Venom with Splinter Cannon and twin-linked Spliter Rifle
5 Wyches with Hydra Gauntlet
Voidraven bomber (!!)

I was quite apprehensive about the presence of the flyer; this is the first time I've faced one, and I had precisely zero dedicated anti-aircraft weapons. I decided not to worry and just crack on. Turn 1 would be fought in the dark. Which is where I made my biggest mistake...

Guard Deployment: Note I have no idea why this is appearing at 90 degrees from horizontal. A wall of armour, with the Valachian Leman Russ troop at the back to provide fire support. Infantry out of their carriers, and ready to form a second line of fire when the Space Wolves break through. I combined Squads 2 and 3 into a 'blob' squad on the grounds that it would make FRFSRF much more effective when this happened. Probably my best decision at this time. The ruin on my left flank is held by the Borithan Veteran Squad and the Platoon Command Squad with the sniper lascannon. What I should have done, knowing I was going second and, because it's nighttime, nothing outside of 36" can be targeted, was line up right on my board edge and not even attempt to do anything in Turn One other than not get shot. Ah well.

Traitor Deployment: He put his Long Fang squads as square opposite my Demolishers as he could manage, and then stuck his Wolves in a long line to my left. Wyches on foot with the Succubus were in the building with the rocket squad, while his Venom and the haywire grenade suicide squad went on his extreme right.

Board Overview: At the back you can just make out the Scout squad and 'Voidraven' being proxied by a Valkyrie. He did actually have a Voidraven with him... he just forgot the flying stand! The objective (a golden idol) is in the dead centre of the tabletop, obscured here by the tall building in the near centre.

Typically, I lost the roll to sieze the initiative. So the traitors went first!

Traitor Turn 1: His Thunder Wolf cavalry moved to try and minimise my chances to shoot them dead, his Blood Claws and Grey Hunters walked forwards, and his Venom sped across to my extreme left. The Plasma Cannons and Rocket Launchers managed to knock one hull point each off Demolisher 1 and an infantry squad Chimera (immobilising it in the process). A scattered plasma cannon shot nearly, but didn't, killed a man from the combined squad.

Guard Turn 1: I moved my Chimera firing line around to bear on the leftmost Thunder Wolf squad, and retreated my Company Command Chimera so it wasn't such a massive target for the Long Fangs. My shooting was pretty desultory thanks to the +2 to cover save bonus provided by night fighting. I did, however, kill a Thunder Wolf from one of the squads, and a couple of Wyches from the Succbus' squad. Oh, and the platoon command squad's plasma gun overheated, exploded, and put its user out of action. D'oh!

 Traitor Turn 2: Argh, something's got into the machine-spirit of this cogitator... anyway, both the Voidraven and the Scouts arrived. Damn! His Suicide Wyches leapt out of their Venom (which shot and killed a Borithan Veteran), threw a Haywire grenade at the platoon commander's track, charged it, and wrecked it. The Thunder Wolves on his right charged my damaged Demolisher... and exploded it. Curses! Then his Voidraven damaged my surviving Demolisher, forcing it to be able to fire only snap shots in the next turn. Long Fang fire was ineffective, and the Scouts immobilised Charlie Three. First Blood to the traitors, and now he had Linebreaker too. 2 VP to 0!

Guard Turn 2: I moved my Chimeras to bring as much fire as possible on those damn Thunder Wolves, reversed my surviving Demolisher, and began ordering. The infantry that could, fired at the two Thunder Wolves responsible for blowing up Demolisher 1. Then this was followed by all bar the Veteran Chimera, while Captain Count Geranium sniped a Long Fang with Plasma Cannon. The end result was that the Thunderwolves both died! Eventually. Charlie Two and Charlie Three blew away the Scouts, with a little help from Captain Steiner, and then...

HIT! HIT! HIT! My surviving Demolisher, unable to do anything but snap-fire its Lascannon, fired at the Voidraven. And hit it. And penetrated. And blew it out of the sky! Who needs AAA, anyway!?

The Veterans, unable to see the Wyches, fired at their Venom (killing their own plasma gunner in the process) and knocked it out of the sky. The Platoon Command squad's lascannon team sniped another Long Fang with Plasma Cannon, much to my delight. I still wasn't winning, but I felt a lot more confident all of a sudden.

Traitor Turn 3: Half-way through the game, and George is feeling confident. As he should be. I had just realised that, realistically, I couldn't win. But we played on! His Long Fangs fired away, blowing up my Company Command Chimera, and killing a man from Squad 3, but his bloody Thunderwolves attacked and exploded both the Veteran Chimera and a basic infantry Chimera too. Then his Wyches leapt over the wreckage of the Platoon Command Chimera, chucked a haywire grenade at the surviving Demolisher, and then wrecked it in close assault with a barrage of the damn things. I was suddenly not confident at all of even scoring one VP. I'd dropped from five main battle tanks and six AIFVs to three battle tanks (one of which was immobilised) and two AIFVs (one of which was immobilised)! At least I still had most of my men...

Guard Turn 3: I had to do something, and quickly. So I didn't move anything but the remaining mobile Chimera, and opened fire with everything I had at everything I could see. The end result was four dead Thunder Wolves, five dead Wyches (that took a battle cannon shell and a hail of heavy bolter fire to accomplish), and another dead Long Fang with Plasma Cannon. I was still, however, on 0VP. George was one turn away from getting the Relic and with most of my Chimeras wrecked or exploded my ability to get to it or even Tank Shock his Marines off it was no longer extant. But, the Emperor protects the just!

Traitor Turn 4: The Blood Claws and Librarian didn't quite make it to the relic, thankfully, but the Succubus and her surviving Wyches did make it to my last mobile Chimera (aargh). Meanwhile, the two surviving Thunder Wolf cavalry charged my combined squad of 20 men. Overwatch fire killed one, and although four of my men were torn apart in close combat, they did manage to take another wound off the lone survivor, before fleeing off the board. Sensible fellows! At this stage I was still pretty confident that I'd lost, George was about to go from being 2-0 up to 5-0 up and I hadn't a hope in hell of coming back from it. So I said a prayer to the God-Emperor and commended my men to sell their lives dearly.

Guard Turn 4: Truly, the Emperor protects! I moved my just still alive Chimera away from the crazy alien warrior-women, moved the Borithan Veterans into rapid fire range of them, and moved Squad 1 up to flamer range of the lone Thunder Wolf. Then I blazed away with the squad, inflicting four wounds (from lasrifle fire) and killing the damn thing! Hurrah! Suddenly George only had a 1-0 advantage... and then my command squad and Veterans killed the Wyches and Succubus, with Take Aim! on the command squad being instrumental in wounding the Succubus enough for the Veterans to take her down with First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire from the Platoon Command squad. Who, incidentally, shot another Long Fang dead with the Lascannon. Then, and you can't see this in the picture, but the Battle Cannons of Charlie 2 and Charlie 3 hit the Grey Hunters who were slowly working their way around my right flank, turning them all into a fine mist of shrapnel and body parts. HA! Take that, traitor scum! Serves you right for renouncing the Emperor's light!

Then I had a moment of clarity. I bent. I sighted. I chuckled. "My tanks can see your Blood Claws, George. You'll get a cover save, but... I can see them." I could pull off a 1-0 loss. I wouldn't be hammered 4-0. All I had to do was survive the next turn, and then drop some shells onto the Blood Claws, killing them. I wouldn't kill his Warlord, he was too tough, but I could certainly stop him claiming the Relic.

Traitor Turn 5: Movement was limited. His Blood Claws and Librarian moved up to sieze the Relic. 4-0 to George. Shooting from his Long Fangs was desultory, but it did succeed - at last - in wrecking the Chimera he'd immobilised in turn one.

Guard Turn 5: I saw a chance to win. If the game went on just one or two more turns, I could get the Relic. I could win. All I had to do was blow the Blood Claws off the damn thing. With that in mind, I got my men up and moving, as fast as they could (not very - Move, Move, Move! failed me twice!) and fired all of Charlie Troop at the Traitors. Two square hits with the battle cannon! A hit from Captain Count Geranium's main gun! A total of 12 wounds on six figures - they died. All of them. Even the Librarian! Suddenly I'd gone from 4-0 down to 1-1! And, to top it all off, the Platoon Command lascannon killed another Long Fang with Plasma Cannon!

And then the dice came up a 1, and my chance at victory was gone. But I had a draw! And I was in much the better position. I was left with three main battle tanks, a mobile but damaged AIFV, and 30 men. The Traitors, on the other hand, had a Long Fang sergeant, and a squad of Long Fangs with rockets. I had little doubt that had the game gone on another turn or two, victory would have been mine. As it was, I am content with the hard-fought draw, particularly after being so convinced I'd lost earlier on.

...Hraka ran his thin, dark hand through his silver-white hair. The young Captain had held the traitors off, despite losing almost all his armour. His men were covering the access to the Relic, and so were the enemy. Wreckage littered the park, along with bloody shreds of enemy fighters and the bigger, laser-pocked hulks of Fenrisian wolves and the hulking forms of their riders. True enough, the Eldar had been there. Another black mark against these rogue wolves, Hraka though. He turned to the Commissar, who had begun berating a soot-covered Lieutenant about the men who'd run.

"Leave it, Commissar. These men have served valiantly and well. There is no shame in moving to a better position of fire."

The Commissar opened and closed his mouth, and managed to make a salute. The Lieutenant, and the men who'd moments before been slumped in the ruined chapel, their dead comrades covered in ground-sheets nearby, exchanged glances. Perhaps working for this Inquisitor wasn't going to be so bad after all. Hraka smiled as he read their thoughts, and motioned to the Stormtroopers who'd followed him in. 

"Come on," he said, "I've got a relic to collect."

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