Friday, May 29, 2009

Apocalypse Tips and Tricks

So, as you can probably guess from my last two posts, I had a very fun apocalypse game, probably more fun than I’ve had in any game of 40k so far. And I wasn’t the only one- the veterans of an earlier apocalypse game that I had missed all vouched that this time through it was much more fun and exciting. To make sure that you all have similar success with your apocalypse games, here are a few basic rules that I found to be instrumental to success or would have made the game better if they had been enacted.

Tip #1: Start by ironing out the basics.

By this I mean make sure that everyone understands the fundamental aspects of the game: the rules of the game, the differences that Apocalypse makes to several rules (hello scout and infiltrate!), and the rules for (at least most of) your army/armies. These are the little things that apocalypse games need to have be no-brainers in order to run smoothly, as nothing can bog a game down more than constant rules checks/disputes. Granted, not everyone will know every rule- there might be a unit that they are using that they normally don’t, or someone might fudge up some of the apocalypse rule overlays (hello scout, infiltrate and super heavies!), but as long as they know the statlines of and how to use most of their army, everything will be fine and dandy.

Also included in this is time: when and how long. Plan in advance!

Tip #2: Have a large enough space

Nothing can ruin a huge game like not having enough space to maneuver in. Fast units aren’t able to use their speed well enough, infiltrators and strategic redeployment are moot points, and holding objectives becomes more of a slugfest than chances for deft commanding. Also assault armies are put at a major advantage. However, if you have too much space much of the action is lost and assault armies are left out in the cold. In our game we had a main board of about 10’ by 15’ and a side board that was the standard 6’ by 4’ for a game with 20k points per side, and the dimensions seemed perfect. Take from that what you will.

Tip #3: Balance the sides in the ways that matter

This would be number of titans, super-heavies, strategic assets and possibly destroyer weapons. Ours was a little skewed, 4 super-heavies vs. 3, but it was balanced out by our side having slightly more points than the other. These are the specially designed apocalypse units, and will lend a tremendous advantage to whoever wields them. I haven’t found balancing formations to be necessary as they do have considerable point costs, but you may wish to do this as well.

Tip #4: Commanders

Having commanders for our teams was a great idea. We probably could have put it into focus a little bit more, but having a set person to bounce tactics off of and to corral the other members of the team into getting phases done on time was a real boon. Also having a cohesive strategy helped speed up movement and shooting, as we knew what we were aiming at and could use our individual armies to accomplish the objective.

Tip # 5: Have a clock

You don’t necessarily have to listen to it, but it does keep the passage of time at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Tip #6: Break the rules

Apocalypse is all about cool stuff- huge robots, tanks, and points upon points of troops. But even with super-heavies and formations, it still just plays like a big 40k game. You can change this up by adding in elements not found in the game but that make thematic sense. In our case it was the warp rift which teleported troops to the secondary battlefield. For you it could be using side tables as spacecraft (like in the Reloaded book) or placing the battlefield under bizarre environmental conditions. As long as it’s cool and it changes the dynamic of the game in a fundamental way, it should be cool.

Corollary to tip #6: Don’t make it too complicated…

…because then it might end up in the dust. The more complicated something is the more likely people are going to forget what it does, which will lead to inevitable rules disputes. The stuff can still be cool, just make sure that it’s something that your gamers will be able to wrap their heads around.

Tip #7: Additional Objectives

This goes along with the break the rules part. Fighting for objectives on a map can get boring after a while- why not add additional, thematic objectives to the game that aren’t necessarily based on map locations? In our game we all had two secret objectives that our generals had to complete, one easy and one hard. Mine was to keep two random generals from my team alive (at which I succeeded), while another player’s was to suspect a fellow comrade of being a traitor and gain the ability to open fire on him on the last turn. These added a great secondary mission to the game and helped make it more thematic and fun. Balancing may be impossible, but as long as they are relatively even in difficulty everything should be fine.

Tip #8: Keep everything manageable

So we’ve got our awesome objectives, secret objectives, balanced super-heavies and crazy special rules… now we pare it down. Having too much of anything can ruin a game of apocalypse. Too many players/points per player and you have turns taking forever and more chances for people to forget things. Too many crazy new additions and no one will be able to remember them all, leading to heated rules disputes and less fun. So introduce one cool new idea, invite a manageable number of people and keep the army sizes to more realistic levels based on how many people you have. When you have games that are this big that last this long, oftentimes less is more.

Tip #9: The obligatory Have fun!

Do it. This means not sweating the small stuff, remembering it’s just a game, and embracing the sheer ridiculousness that is 40k.

I hope these tips have been useful… if you have any questions about the game we played or anything else for that matter, let me know!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

40k points of Apocalypse, part 2

*begin transmission*
The battle began almost too quickly- the infiltrating portions of my regiment did not have time to set up properly and were therefore forced to find a way to outflank the enemy, hopefully to our advantage. In the meantime they would give us useful recon data, allowing our units to traverse difficult and dangerous terrain with ease. Blind barrages were fired by both sides, limiting firing areas to a very small area.

The Ice Jesters also had the foresight to place mines around the Tear on the enemy’s side, making their journey into the Tear a very difficult and dangerous one.

As the enemy had been set up when we arrived on the scene, they struck first, though to little effect thanks to the omnipresent smoke screens. This was especially good as enemy hammerheads and a vindicator linebreaker squad were unable to make much headway against our forces.

The Tau general unveiled another strategic asset, some kind of EMP warhead that he aimed squarely in the middle of our deployment lines.

Fortunately it scattered onto my xenos allies, and even then failed to do much damage as the warhead shorted out soon after.

On our turn we suffered the same shooting limitations as our enemies but managed to turbo boost the wave serpents, a Blood Angels land raider and a squad of Ice Jester bikers through the portal and into the maiden world, where we were angered to find a demon prince and some chaos forces already present.

There was much fighting around the portal, especially from our brave terminators.

The Imperial guard platoon command squad offered cover to the Space Wolves as they tried to outflank the enemy position.

Unfortunately for us, the next turn brought much disaster to our lines. Tau battlesuits, a predator annihilator and a dragon shaped defiler came in and decimated our tank squads while genestealers ran rampant over any units that had strayed too close to the edges of the battle.

Fortunately we were able to return the favor with the Emperor’s mercy.

Guardsman Marbo also made his contribution, wiping out half a squad of Khorne berzerkers with a demo charge before retreating into the woods to stalk another target.

Despite our best efforts, as the battle raged on more and more of the enemy managed to pass through the portal.

At this point our viewcorder was damaged by falling debris, so the rest will have to be an oral report. Space wolf drop pods probably sealed victory for us, landing on top of the mountain objective and holding it with support from a squad of my finest stormtroopers. On the Eldar world our xenos allies were surprisingly competent, their seer council annihilating the enemy seer council while howling banshees contested one objective and their wave serpent transport contested a second, with the third left unclaimed. My sentinels gave enemy marines a sound thrashing in close combat, and victory seemed at hand.

Then Creed ordered me into assault. I wasn’t sure why this order was being given, especially to his commander, but I figured that the battle was already won, so urged my command squad onwards to glory. Then Creed’s demolisher made an about face and his entire army aimed their weapons at my men who were in the ruins…

Apparently the general had failed in his previous campaign and, in order to restore his dignity, needed to be the sole force controlling the objective. So he fired upon my men and slew over half of them- just enough to give him all the credit.

In the end, we held two objectives to the enemy’s one, but apparently they had settled more of their personal vendettas than we had, granting them at least an equal share of victory. The war has reached a stalemate unfortunately, but one that another several regiments should be able to handle. I recommend increasing the recruitment zone another 100 light years in order to break through this particular block and ensure an Imperial victory.

I shall include a brief after action report on various tactics and ideas on fighting battle on this scale in my next communiqué. Ave Imperator.
*end transmission*

40k points of Apocalypse, part 1

*begin transmission*
This is a report from Gen. Card of the 24th Fortunan in regards to what shall be referred to as the Battle for the Tear. That's tear as in a tear in my uniform (of which I assure you there are none, thank the Emperor!), just to be clear. And my apologies for not transmitting any information for some time- a combination of recruitment time before the battle, personal vendettas/obligations that needed to be addressed and warp storms in the vicinity of the Tear have made communication nigh-impossible for some time. I shall have to complete my treatise on effective use of the Punisher Battle Tank at another time. If you wish to view any of the images in larger format, please activate them with your tactile interface.

Imperial Astropaths became aware of the Tear's forming several months ago and determined that it would lead to a long lost Eldar maiden-world filled with valuable xenos technology... that and that our astropaths in the region were going silent one by one. My regiment, members of the Ice Jesters and Blood Angels Space Marine chapters and even the glorious Cadian 8th led by Usarkar Creed himself were dispatched to secure the Tear and repulse whatever forces were seeking to claim the Tear for themselves. I was declared commander of the battlegroup, an honor that I feel was only given to me because of Creed's major failure in his last action.

As we were departing the system an Eldar vessel hailed us and asked to be allowed to join us, claiming that without their aid two of our finest commanders, Creed and Dante of the Blood Angels, would fall in the coming battle. After consulting the Cards our psykers determined the veracity of the xenos' claim and welcomed them grudgingly along.

Preliminary view of the battle field, located near the ruins of what used to be the capitol city. The city was destroyed, and the climate became cold when the warp Tear formed.

Preliminary view of the Eldar maiden-world, as depicted by our astropaths. We were ordered to take the xenos structures, as well as an icon to Khorne that had probably precipitated the warp Tear. There were three “warp-in” points, which, thanks to the whims of Chaos, we would randomly warp through.

And here are (most) of the assembled forces of his Imperial Highness, with notable exceptions of our super-heavy attachments (a Baneblade, a Banesword and a Shadowsword) and the glorious and ever victorious 24th, which I believe you have seen enough pictures of already.

As we entered the system the we spotted an odd assortment of ships: Chaos, Tyranid, Tau and, most surprisingly, Eldar.

The Eldar farseers on our side simply nodded when they heard this, mumbling something about “we knew.” Strange creatures, these Eldar.

It seems we arrived just in time, Battle lines were drawn up on both sides.

Warmaster Sam, foul traitor devoted to Chaos, was determined to be the leader of the strange alliance facing us.

Planetside, there were three objectives we were ordered to secure. One was a building in the heart of the city ruins around which the 24th and the 8th set up their command structure.

One was a large mountain from which we could accurately fire and call orbital bombardments upon the enemy.

And the final objective was an Imperial fortress that had survived even the formation of the Tear. It was unfortunately the first thing overrun by the foul forces of Abaddon the Despoiler… who had somehow managed to take a hive tyrant’s brain and use it to control the foul beasts.

The Tau set up towards the rear of the fighting lines, as if preparing for something…

Transmission will continue tomorrow. Ave Imperator!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Single Unit Strategy: Punisher, Part II

For Part I, go here.

Now that we have determined our strengths and weaknesses, let's try and find ways to boost our strengths and eliminate our weaknesses. We will do this by discussing various "variants" of the Leman Russ Punisher, in essence different roles that we want it to play in our army. All of these will be anti-infantry given the nature of the tank, but there are many different loadouts that we can create within that designation.

The first Punisher variant we will discuss is the Punisher Pillbox. This tank is equipped with hvy bolter or plasma cannon sponsons, giving it three weapons that can reach out and touch something at 36". Hvy bolters contribute to rate of fire and cost less, while the plasma cannons enable the punisher to retain effectiveness vs. heavy infantry. This also adds to the overall durability of the vehicle as it now has 4 weapon systems to disable instead of just 2. To add even more to its viability we could throw on camo netting and park it in cover, but at this point we will rival a land raider in price. Still, it will make for an infantry killing machine like no other.

Another variant we can use is the Punisher Surprise. Here we have a pair of standard Punishers given the Scout ability by Creed. The Punishers outflank and proceed to wreak havoc behind enemy lines, chewing up any squishy infantry that the opponent has left to guard his objectives. This variant takes care of the short range and speed limitations by placing the Punishers in close contact with the enemy right from the get-go, and the firepower of two Punishers should easily be enough to slaughter or break most infantry squads.

The final variant that we can use is what I call the Bouncer, and is my personal favorite. Once again the Punisher is simply a standard model (though HB sponsons might be added to increase the firepower if wanted), but this time we pair our Punisher with a chimera-mounted Psyker Battle Squad. One of the strengths that we listed for the Punisher was that it could routinely force morale checks for almost any infantry squad that it fired at. Even heavy infantry like Marines are whittled down enough with good rolling to question their faith in their general's tactics. To make sure that the squad breaks we can lower their leadership using the psykers, almost guaranteeing that they will break and flee. Depending on the unit they may still rally the next turn, but since they can only move 3" after rallying the Punisher wall of fire can steadily drive them back until they can't rally, at which point they will flee the board. Used carefully, two Punishers with two Battle Squads should be able to hold any advancing enemy infantry at bay, keeping them out of standard weapons or assault range of our squishy infantry.

Next time in Part 3: Lists for each of the Punisher archetypes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Single Unit Strategy: Punisher, part 1

Back when I was a hardcore Magic: The Gathering player I would always read the articles that Wizards posted every day. I guess you could call me an obsessive gamer in that respect. One of the recurring articles that they posted was called Single Card Strategy, where they would take one really cool but oft maligned card and build decks whose sole purpose was to break the card twenty ways past Sunday. They also pointed out various general tactics and deck building strategies that you could use to help the card be worth its cost and make sure that other people saw that the card was really, really cool.

I am going to try to do something similar with this blog. Not quite a tactica, and not quite just an army list, I am going to start with a single unit and build out from there, trying to make the unit both be worth its points and be a unit that I would want to play with.
  • make the unit be worth its points
  • make the unit be the star of the list
  • make the list one that I would use on a regular basis
I might not succeed with these three goals given that 40k's balancing issues are much worse than in Magic, but I will try and it should be a fun series of experiments.

Having said that, we're going to kick off this series with the loneliest Leman Russ variant out there: the Leman Russ Punisher.

The main drawing point of the Punisher, like all of the Leman Russ variants, is its main gun, which fires 20 Str 5 Ap - shots. Combined with a hull heavy bolter you have 23 Str 5 shots every turn, basically making the tank a heavily armored rapid firing firewarrior squad. There is also the fear factor- knowing that your opponent has a tank with a Heavy 20 main gun is terrifying to many people who don't trust their armor dice too well. This means that the tank will be a fire magnet, which is both good and bad given its Demolisher armor. Also, we don't have to worry about the large blast accidentally drifting off target completely or hitting our own units, which is a big plus for those of us who have terrible luck with scatter dice.

However we have to take a few things into account before we start drooling. First off, the range on the main gun is only 24", meaning that we need to get real close and personal in order to do a lot of damage. This can be a problem thanks to the Lumbering Behemoth rule which makes our tank move with the speed of infantry. Second, half of those shots will miss thanks to BS 3. Third, even orks in the open will be able to get an armor save thanks to AP -. Based on these latter points, we have the following mathhammerings. EQ means equivalent, M means Marine, T means Terminator and G stands for Guardsman. Now that we know XEQs, here we go:

vs TEQ: (1/2)(2/3)(1/6)=1/18 for 1.28 kills
vs MEQ: (1/2)(2/3)(1/3)=1/9 for 2.56 kills
vs MEQ on bikes (personal nemesis): (1/2)(1/2)(1/3)=1/12 for 1.92 kills
vs Carnifex: (1/2)(1/3)(1/3)=1/18 for 1.28 wounds
vs GEQ: (1/2)(5/6)(2/3)=5/18 for the main gun and 3 ap 4 from the bolter for 6.81 kills

So, we have a tank that is fairly effective against hordes but not terribly effective against M and TEQ and even less effective against MCs. However with a little help/luck it will be strong enough to force a morale check every round.

Our strengths and weaknesses now look like this:
23 strength 5 shots per turn
Heavy Armor
Strong enough to provoke morale tests fairly regularly.

Short range
Lacks effectiveness vs. heavy infantry

Stay tuned for part 2, where we begin to take advantage of the strengths and nullify the weaknesses.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Battle with Close Combat Guard: 4k

Well, there were a couple of expected and unexpected changes for our mission, as such things are wont to happen. Expected changes were in my army list, switching out the commissar, a grenade launcher and the assault weapons in my main command squad for a medic and an astropath. Unexpected changes were adding a 5th player and bumping the number of points per side up to 4000.

Now, I can deal with 3000 point games. It's a little cramped, but there are a manageable number of units on a 6x4 board. When we go to 4000 per side things get a little too hairy. I was actually forced to keep some units in reserve just to make sure that I could deploy my troops and not be completely murdered by blast weapons. This was ok, as I now had the astropath, but it did force me to make some really poor reserving decisions which were especially brought to light when the opponent forces seized the initiative.

I don't really have a battle report for this match as things were too hot and heavy to get away and detail different troop movements, but here it is in brief:

My side: Imperial Guard, Tau and Space Wolves.
Other side: Korsarro Khan Space Marines and Broodlord led Tyranids.

When I saw how many units the enemy was putting in reserve I smiled. With two masters of the fleet they would be coming in on 6+ on the second turn AND I would get to reroll the board edge that they outflanked onto. I informed my opponents of this before they went for reserves like a good boy, but they just smiled and nodded. I shrugged, and play commenced.

The broodlord and his retinue infiltrated to within striking distance of my lines and panic reigned. Both of my guard squads were mowed down in the first two turns thanks to the broodlord and fast moving bikes along with one of my lascannon teams. Without commissars they broke quickly, which was good as it allowed me more shooting.

After this initial break through the lines coalesced a bit more. The Space Wolves rocked it in close combat throughout the game, taking down TH/SS terminators, land raiders, vanguard veterans and genestealers with ease. Straken, on the other hand, failed to do jack, getting terrible rolls and was slaughtered after only taking 2 genestealers and a marine bike down with him.

The sentinels also failed as none of them were in the correct position to counter charge and their shooting was abysmal. Most of this was due to the sheer number of troops on the board, but I still probably could have placed them a bit better. The stormtroopers also failed miserably, missing with both meltaguns on a Predator's rear armor and were subsequently broken and destroyed by gaunts.

Things that worked out really, really well for me were the twin Masters of the Fleet. We managed to keep almost all of their reserves (except for two exceedingly lucky genestealer squads) off the board for almost the entirety of the game. Since this was large portions of both enemy armies they earned their points and then some. The melta vets continued to be awesome, taking down many a bike and a carnifex to boot, and not even breaking after losing 7 members of their squad. My one remaining lascannon team also performed admirably, making sure that the predator couldn't fire for most of the game and even finished off Korsarro Khan himself. It sucked that they missed BID almost every time, but they weren't a poor investment at least.

We decided to end the game on turn 4 as some of us had evening plans. Because of this, we decided that the units that did not make it onto the board due to the awesomeness of the Masters of the Fleet would not count for KP. When tallied up, the IG/Tau/Space Wolf alliance pulled ahead by one KP over the Marines/Nids. Technically a victory, but it felt like a hollow one to me.

I made a few key mistakes in this game. First was not putting Straken's squad out on turn 1. I really missed him as a counter-charger against the broodlord, and his flagbearer would have helped at least a few squads stay in the fight a while longer. Second was giving plasma guns to normal guardsmen and NOT using them in a BID-only capacity. I managed to get 4 shots off before they were murdered and none hit and 1 killed himself. If I want to use them in that capacity they need to be placed in reserve and come on when the MCs or marines get closer, so that their special weapon won't be wasted in a bloody turn 1/2 assault.

I think I will try the stormtroopers again in my next list (mostly because I want to use the damn models), but I think I am done with Straken. He just doesn't fit my play style and just isn't good enough in close combat to be worth the extra points and KP necessary to make him viable (stupid priest...). I'll miss the ability to punch through land raiders, but a 15 point powerfist and 5 point melta bomb will probably be enough in the future to ensure equivalent close combat potential.

Next time: Making the Punisher viable...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hank Stahl's CCCC Squad of Doom: 1500

As mentioned previously, I'm going with the second favorite choice on the poll, Iron-Hand Straken's CC Squad of Doom, for my next list.

Stahl's Command (1500)

HQ (400)
Company Command Squad
Feldmarshal Hank "Dead Man's Hand" Stahl (counts as Straken)
2 bodyguards
4 vets with regimental standard, meltagun, grenade launcher and flamer
Officer of the Fleet
Carapace Armor
Priest w/ Eviscerator

Company Command Squad
Regimental standard
Heavy Bolter
Officer of the Fleet

Elites (100)
5 Stormtroopers with 2 meltaguns

Troops (685)
Platoon Command Squad
Heavy Bolter
2 grenade launchers

Infantry squad with plasma gun * 4

Lascannon HWS * 2

Vet squad with 3 melta guns in a chimera (multilaser, hvy flamer)

Fast Attack (270)
2 Armored Sentinels with Plasma Cannons
2 Armored Sentinels with Autocannons


The overall strategy is very simple: get Stahl's command squad into CC range and let 'er rip. The vets in the main command squad all have different loadouts so that I can play fun wound allocation games if necessary, and all are assault oriented. The combination of Stahl/Straken and the chainfisting priest should prove interesting and deadly. The carapace armor is to make sure that enough veterans survive to ensure that Stahl/Straken has enough ablative wounds left to take down big baddies like hive tyrants while staying out of trouble.

The four infantry squads will play defense for the CC squad, making sure that it always has cover, and the squads will also make sure that each other has cover. I will do this by splitting squads 3:1, with the one lone squad masking enough of the other 3 squads to achieve cover saves while hopefully getting some in return. The plasma guns combined with BID from the command squad should put the hurt on any MCs or squads that come too close, helping pave the way for Stahl to take down the really nasty squads.

The armored sentinels will also be performing screening duty, gunning down anything in their way and distracting large mobs of infantry from assaulting my squishy guardsmen or my hard hitting CC squad (it wants to hit hard, not be stuck in combat with a lesser squad for too many turns.) The plasma cannons will be awesome at taking out mobs of heavy infantry while the autocannons will throw out some shots early and be the first to charge into combat.

In the rear field we have the two lascannon HWS with the secondary company command squad and the platoon command squad. Both are armed with heavy bolters and grenade launchers to take out outflanking genestealers and will throw themselves in harm's way to buy the HWS an extra turn. BID will be less effective thanks to the ld 7 of the HWS, but it should result in some solid kills. The mounted melta squad will move to one of the flanks and try to take down anything in its path.

Finally, I will be experimenting with stormtroopers with this list. They are only a squad of 5 to conserve on points and make sure that I don't use them for anything other than their one purpose, which is melta gun delivery team. Normally I will try to deep strike or outflank them so that I can take out one really nasty thing before they die. They might also help out the melta vets in taking out an MC in one turn if necessary. I don't expect much of them, but I do expect them to take out at least their points worth before they are annihilated.

I'm trying out a lot of new stuff with this list: Straken, stormtroopers, non-mortar HWS, but I believe that in contrast to my previous list this one forms a cohesive whole, with each component working to help the others. Any comments or criticisms are of course always welcome.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In the Clear

Sorry about the lack of posting- as mentioned I have been extremely busy at work the past few days and just got done with most of my major responsibilities today. For those of you who are curious about me and what kind of busyness I was talking about, go check out my other blog, 13:72, where I post most of the goings on of my day-to-day life.

On the plus side, today I finally made my large IG purchases! The store didn't have much in stock, but I did pick up a few things to tide me over till my orders arrive, including the standard templates and dice, codex, a much needed chimera and some kasrkin. The latter might have been a poor choice, but the models are far too pretty to not at least have in my collection.

Based on these purchases and the poll on which you all have been diligently voting I will be posting a new list tomorrow showcasing the second favorite unit choice, Iron-hand Straken, and some guest appearances by stormtroopers.

Because really, if you have pretty models, they have to come out and play at some point, right?

*edit* I'm also making some changes to the layout of the blog, so don't be alarmed if the entire world turns upside down and inside out for a while. Though I do have to say, I'm liking the expanded text space already...