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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Battle Report: Mechdar vs. Footdar


Round three, here we go! The final game of the day saw me matched against yet another Eldar army, this one a colourful mixed bag of units rather than an optimised onslaught of mechanised firepower. This mission was the most conventional one of the day, with VP for five Objectives (three Crusade and two Emperor's Will), kill-point differential and the three standard Secondaries.

You can see my list in my round one battle report.

Pre-Game

My opponent's list comprised a variety of units from Codex Eldar plus a Bunker:
Autarch with Jetbike
10 Dire Avengers in Wave Serpent
10 Dire Avengers
3 Windriders
3 Windriders
Crimson Hunter
7 Shining Spears
7 Warp Spiders
Fire Prism
7 Dark Reapers
3 Shadow Weavers
Bunker
I found it interesting that despite the minimal restrictions in this tournament, only one of my opponents made use of multiple Detachments or a Super Heavy. So I guess the sky isn't falling?

I was happy I could handle a single Serpent and Hunter, and was not too worried about the Spears, Prism or Weavers. The Spiders and Reapers were a credible threat, however, especially since the Reapers had Starstreak (krak) missiles and ignore Jink saves.

This was the first mission of the tournament that allowed players to place Objectives. We had to place the three Crusade Objectives before choosing table edges, and the two Emperor's Will Objectives in our respective deployment zones after we chose them. My opponent placed two of the three Crusade Objectives, and followed the conventional wisdom of placing them in midfield where they could be reached from either deployment zone. Both were in fairly open ground, which I considered to be a mistake given that he had a couple of mini Jetbike squads that would have benefited from Objectives placed on the top level of ruins (they can hide on the level below and block my infantry from scoring). You can see all five Objectives in the photo below (red circles).


I don't always follow conventional wisdom, so I decided to try a gambit and placed my Crusade Objective in an extreme corner of the table edge with the least terrain. I didn't want that edge and I hoped that if my opponent won the roll to choose deployment zones, he would take the side with that extra Objective. As it happened, I won the roll-off so I got the side with better cover and one less Objective—and good access to the two midfield Objectives.

My opponent placed his Emperor's Will Objective behind a ruin and I did likewise. He then won the roll to deploy and go first; the first unit he deployed was the bunker—full of Dark Reapers—in front of the Objective I'd placed in the corner. Damn, I'd overlooked that possibility, but the seeds of a plan started to form...

My opponent deployed his Shadow Weaver battery and Fire Prism behind the ruin with an Objective (green circle), and the Wave Serpent loaded with Dire Avengers behind another ruin (blue circle). His Autarch joined the Shining Spears in Outflank reserve, the Warp Spiders lurked in Deep Strike reserve, and the Windriders and Avengers on foot were also held back in reserve.

I deployed my Autarch hidden in a ruin on my right flank, opposite the Bunker, and all my tanks on my left flank. I placed my Void Shield Generator not to shield my tanks, but within shield range of the two midfield Objectives, so it could protect my infantry later in the game. My VSG was just out of range of the Reapers in the bunker. I kept two Avenger squads in reserve to walk on to Objectives later in the game.

I chose not to attempt to Seize.

Footdar Turn 1

With nothing in range or LOS, the Reapers dismounted their Bunker and walked into range of my VSG. The Serpent and Prism moved slightly to get firing solutions. The opposing Eldar let fly with all their firepower but were totally ineffectual, undone by the Void Shields or cover saves.

Mechdar Turn 1

In return, my tanks repositioned to shoot and wrecked his Serpent, and took 1 HP from the Prism for good measure.


Meanwhile on the right flank, the Autarch zoomed across the table and landed on top of the Bunker. Since the Reapers ignore Jink saves, I wanted to take advantage of the Bunker's battlement save with Mantle of the Laughing God for a rerollable 2++ that the Reapers could not deny. I positioned the Autarch so the entire Reaper squad could not get back within 2" of the Access Point whilst staying 1" away from my model, preventing them from re-embarking the Bunker unless they walked the long way around the back.


For the first time of the day, I hadn't been mauled on the first turn and was confident that the fireworks would really begin when my Hunters arrived.

Footdar Turn 2

My opponent's Autarch and Spears arrived on my left flank, supported by the Crimson Hunter. His Avengers walked on to the opposite flank to support the Reapers against my Autarch. The Spiders and Windriders remained off the table this turn.


The Spears and Hunter blasted away but Jinking saved me from any ill effects. The bad dice luck I'd had in my previous game seemed to have totally reversed for the final round. The Prism and Weavers bounced off my Void Shields.


My opponent initially considered moving the Avengers directly into the Bunker, but realised that he would not be able to shoot the Autarch on the battlements from its Firing Points. He instead walked them into the gap behind the Bunker and blasted away with the Reapers—my Autarch emerged unscathed thanks to his Mantle.


So another turn passed with minimal damage to my army. With my big guns due to fly on next turn, the game was already looking like it could turn into a very one-sided affair...

Mechdar Turn 2

Two of my Crimson Hunters arrived and I flew them on to my right flank to blast the exposed Reapers with AP2 goodness while my Autarch dealt with the Avengers. I was happy I could handle the new arrivals on my left flank without air support.

The Hunters blazed away and killed four of the Reapers. The Autarch lobbed a Plasma Grenade into the tighly packed Avengers behind the Bunker and killed six. I followed-up with an assault that killed the rest, and the Autarch consolidated back up onto the battlements, safe from the surviving Reapers.


My Dragons and Avengers jumped out and my tanks realigned to fire on the Shining Spears. My opponent had used their assault phase moves to jump his Jetbikes up into the multi-level ruin, with models split across three levels. Unfortunately he was unaware that 7th Ed had removed the rule which made blasts and templates only hit a single vertical 'layer' of models—so when my Spinner fired in its Torrent mode it scored an obscene number of hits. Combined with the dakka of two Serpents and an Avenger squad, the squad was whittled down to just the Autarch and the Exarch—and the Autarch was in LOS of the Dragon squad. When the smoke cleared, the hidden Exarch was the only Jetbiker left alive. My infantry Battle Focussed to get into the shelter of the ruins or VSG.


It was pretty clear at this point that the game was going very much in my favour. To his great credit, my opponent vowed to play out the game despite the odds against him.

Footdar Turn 3

The Windriders stayed off but the Spiders arrived; however, they attempted a risky Deep Strike behind one of my Serpents and mishapped. I was allowed to deploy them so I placed them far from any of my models, in Dangerous Terrain that killed one.

The Reapers jumped back into their Bunker and fired ineffectually at the Hunters.


My opponent's Hunter hooked around into a good firing position, and also into the protective bubble of my VSG. The Shining Spear Exarch zipped behind a Serpent, and the de-meched Avengers emerged from the shelter of their wrecked Serpent to shoot my Dragons, killing two. The Hunter shot the only Serpent to have taken damage and my opponent finally got his first kill of the game. The Exarch was unable to wreck another Serpent with shooting or assault.

Mechdar Turn 3

My third Hunter arrived and joined my other two on the right flank, the three flyers aligning to fire on the Weaver battery and the Prism that was still lurking in midfield. I planned to use my Autarch to chip away the HP from the Bunker—the Eldar hero instead penetrated the Bunker with his AP1 Fusion Gun and I rolled a 6 to annihilate the fortification! No Reapers survived the destruction, and my hot dice continued with the Autarch shaking off five Ignores Cover wounds.

The Hunters killed a single Shadow Weaver and the Fire Prism between them, and the Autarch used his assault phase move to dash closer to the surviving artillerymen.


I played poorly on my left flank this turn. A squad of Avengers walked on from reserve, and the other two infantry units positioned to shoot the Shining Spear Exarch. However, I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to shoot the flyer in their midst instead—to no effect—since it was shielded by my own VSG! Stupidity!


Meanwhile my tanks shot dead the last of the enemy Avengers on this flank, leaving my opponent without Objective Secured units...

Footdar Turn 4

...Of course, I had forgotten about the two mini Windrider squads in Reserve! They both moved on my right flank and hid amongst the ruins, where they could turbo-boost next turn to grab any Objective they liked. The Shining Spear Exarch and Crimson Hunter continued to run amok amongst my lines, threatening my own Objective Secured units. And the super-fast Warp Spiders flashed into the midfield onto the central Objective.

At this point I realised that I had played my last turn very complacently, thinking I already had the game in the bag. I should have known better considering my own late come-backs in the previous two games! Of course, when I did the count, I realised I probably wasn't in too much danger of losing, but I did kick myself for not keeping control of the game. If the dice had been fairer in the earlier turns I may have been in a lot of trouble.

But the bias of the dice continued and I suffered no losses from the Spear, Hunter or Spiders—and I resolved to lift my game!

Mechdar Turn 4

My last Avenger squad walked on to my right flank to grab the Objective hidden in a ruin. I slid my flyers into position to fire on the Spiders now holding the centre Objective.


The only Serpent I had lost was the Dragon's transport so my remaining three were all Objective Secured units. Foregoing shooting, I zoomed a couple of Serpents into position to snatch Objectives on turn five. One Avenger squad consolidated its hold on the left flank Objective, and shot dead the defiant Shining Spear Exarch for good measure. The other Avenger squad advanced on the centre Objective and fired on the Spiders.


Combined with the fire of my Spinner, last Serpent and Hunters I reduced the Spiders—which prudently went to ground—to a single Eldar. Meanwhile on the other side of the table, my Autarch charged the remaining crew of the Shadow Weaver battery and slaughtered the lot.

Footdar Turn 5

My opponent moved his Hunter onto the Objective previously held by the Weavers, and managed to draw LOS on my Avenger squad hiding on the right flank Objective. One of his two Windrider squads moved into range of that same Objective, and the combined firepower of the flyer and Jetbikes killed my infantry. A very good move by my opponent.


He also moved his other squad of Windriders onto the corner Objective—a bad move in my opinion.


An assault phase move got the first Windrider squad into position on an Objective, and had the game ended at that point he would have had this one, the corner one and the midfield one held by the Pinned Spider. However, I had gone second, and had no intentions of allowing this game to slip out of my grasp like that!

Mechdar Turn 5

My Hunters wheeled around and shot down the enemy Hunter, and my pre-positioned Serpent zoomed up to take its place on an Objective.

The Autarch charged the trio of Windriders on the corner Objective and unsurprisingly slaughtered them.

The other pre-positioned Serpent zoomed over to contest the Objective held by the Windriders in the ruins.

The lone Spider holding the centre Objective stood little chance of surviving the combined firepower of the rest of my army, and an Avenger squad ran in to take his place.

We did not bother rolling to see if the game went on—I held four of the five Objectives with only one Serpent and one Avenger squad down, and he only had a single mini Windrider squad left.

Conclusion

While this game was very one-sided throughout, my opponent played very well and ensured I had to keep thinking throughout the game. There is no denying that the dice favoured me and punished him, but ultimately I think that given the massive disparity in army list power this was really my game to lose. But if he had given up on shooting my tanks and instead killed off all my dismounted infantry, and he had not thrown away one of the Windrider squads, then he just might have snaked the win on Objectives.

This game really reinforced the immense tactical value of having mini Windrider squads for late-game Objective ninja'ing. This game also demonstrated how powerful the Void Shield Generator is in a Mechdar list—I'm already pushing armour saturation, and against an army with 'only just enough' anti-tank it makes a huge difference.

At the end of the day, I finished with two Wins and one Loss, which put me somewhere in the 3rd to 8th place bracket of the 16 player tournament. Not a bad result, and I had an enjoyable day of 40k playing with an army list of my choosing without external interference or restriction. More importantly, I didn't hear any complaining about army lists; even the players that chose to bring moderate lists seemed to have realistic expectations and no one was surprised by the brutality of some lists fielded.

I believe the tournament was won by a Necron Air list—a single Combined Arms Detachment from the oldest Codex with no Super Heavies, D-Weapons or Psykers. So I guess an absence of list restrictions is not going to shatter tournament balance? Obviously, a single isolated observation means nothing, but that doesn't seem to stop the rest of the internet from taking such things out of context and crying that the sky is falling...

6 comments:

  1. Void shield looks great. Easy to pick out on the tabletop! Nice bat rep...now you want me to take void shields for my orks :).


    I think when tournaments relieve their restrictions, the game actually becomes a bit more balanced. (outside of certain things, such as the necron super ctan or ignore cover D weapons).

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  2. I think it's important to identify that there are really two different types of balance: 'chess' balance and 'rock/paper/scissors' balance.


    Anyone who thinks 40k will ever be chess balanced is just deluded. It never has been, and only ever could be if the game was fundamentally redesigned.


    However, the game is actually in a very good state of rock/paper/scissors balance right now. I hear a lot of players crying about the r/p/s nature of the game, but that does actually represent balance. No single build can trump all others, everything has a countermeasure, and no single build can include all possible countermeasures. This means that whatever you take to a tournament, there is always another list that can beat you (on paper) so you have to work hard for your wins. And this is a very good thing.

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  3. I greatly agree with you Charile!

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  4. It's naïve to think that 40K is balanced (chess balanced: awesome description), however the r/p/s balance definitely keeps people honest. If I rock up with one hard-as-nails build, it's a reasonable assumption to think that at least one person will have the counter to it.

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  5. That's a really good way of looking at it. I think a lot of discontent in the tournament community comes from the crusty old players who think that 'competitive' means 'chess balance', hence the banhammer restrictions that get thrown around in their refusal to adapt and move forward.


    Once the prevailing mindset adapts to something like, "I will build the best list I can, understanding that I could always be hard-countered anyway, and play my best if I do get a bad match-up" then the tournament community will finally start to improve.

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  6. I find banhammer particularly depressing. It's in the same vein as people breaking comp systems to their advantage. I say take what you will and let the dice decide.
    Regrettably, there will always be "That Guy" and all we can do is try to discourage the behaviour as much as possible. I'm constantly disappointed that we're having the same conversations over and over again because it seems that we can all see the answer so clearly.

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