Sunday, 6 August 2017

Congo!


In a complete departure from the current gaming theme, we headed off to the jungle yesterday. Bull and I trundled down to the south coast to Awdry Towers to partake in a game or two of Michael's current passion project—Congo.


Let's start by saying that Mr Awdry had a table set up the likes of which I have only seen in rulebooks. It was exquisite. He has spent the bulk of his summer break creating terrain features and painting models for a day such as this and it was an absolute pleasure to take part. Not only did the gaming table (which included a swamp gaming mat from Deep Cut Studios) set the scene, you felt completely immersed in the adventure as you played. Kudos to Mr Awdry for what can only be described as the most professional demo game ever. I won't go into any detail about the individual terrain pieces, as Michael has a host of blog posts coming up to explain how he did it!


Congo, the game itself, was an unknown quantity to me going in. Michael had been kind enough to send us PDFs during the week to provide a backdrop and basic rules for the game. Alas I am not great with homework and didn't have much of a look. It didn't matter in the end as Michael explain things excellently and we were soon up and running. I won't go into too much detail about the individual games: the opening game (my Explorers vs Bull's Jungle tribes) was a landslide as I was incapable of rolling 5+ on handfuls of D10s whilst Bull was rolling 5+ on D6s at will; the second game (my now more experienced Explorers vs Michael's Jungle tribes) was a much closer affair and came down to a nail-biting 7th turn.

The ruleset has element from several different games. Players choose their actions for the turn from a handful of action cards, mimicking X-Wings dials, so decisions are made before the turn starts. These are supplemented by Totem cards which give bonuses during a turn or can be held on to for later. All dice rolls are successful on 5+, be that attacks, saves, bravery, etc. and skill levels are represented by the dice type being used—d10s for elite troops, D8 for trained troops and D6 for everyone else. It's a mechanic I've seen knocking around for a while and it does work. There are also stress tokens dished out liberally that will impede the types of actions and once this number reaches 4 you're in trouble. Given that the game comes from the Studio Tomahawk stable, the stress tokens were not surprising. I did find some aspects of the rules a little clunky, and melee combat felt a little off, but there is no denying that this is a great adventure game. We had a riotous laugh (especially Bull with his heavenly dice rolling) and came home feeling like we had actually been on some kind of expedition. The background and themes running through this game are superb.


Being a rulebook geek I have a hankering to pick this one up, it is fantastic to look at. We will no doubt have more Congo adventures at Awdry Towers in the near future—I am eager to see some of the other scenarios in action as the 'Capture Kong' one we played was excellent.


I also came away from the day inspired. This is just the kind of adventure game I've wanted 'Hood' to be, and when combined with a set of beautifully painted miniatures and a stunning gaming table it certainly has raised the bar for gaming experiences. I am now keen to create my own gaming table to a comparable level to this one—though let's be honest, Mr Awdry is in a league of his own right now!

Bull's blog has his take on our day out.


Friday, 4 August 2017

40k Battle Analysis: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda


The battle report from Tuesday's game against Bull's Orks highlighted a few points worthy of contemplation discussion.

Our opening game of 8th Edition was all about unlearning old rules. After having a couple of weeks to ponder on that before this week's game, Tuesday was all about getting to grips with the new rules. We used battle-forged armies, rolled for deployment, etc. and used Stratagems for the first time. Things went a lot better, but inevitably a few things were missed. To complicate the situation more, I had a brand new codex, with all the additional rules that implies. It's going to take some time before we truly get into our flow, without unintentionally bending or breaking rules or phase order, but we are only two games in.


For this week's game, my problems began in list construction. The books don't make it terribly easy to create things with points, to know what is/isn't included and exactly what you need to charge for. Wording is a bit vague in places. Anyway, I had priced up all my available units and then took enough to hit the 1000pt mark exactly.


I took the Razorback and Dred from last time (albeit re-armed the Dred with something more appropriate). The Razorback tore chunks off Boss Zagstruk in Overwatch, took his last wound in combat, then killed at least 5 Boyz from Ork unit three. It also absorbed a lot of hits from the Warbanner Boy and multiple units of Boyz before finally exploding. That explosion almost killed Banner boy and took another 4 Boyz down too. From a points perspective it probably broke even with kills, but its tarpit role was invaluable in protecting the Captain and Librarian from follow up waves of Boyz. The Dred killed about 10 Boyz in total, combined 1 round of shooting (the heavy flamer misfiring) and 1 round of combat. It took the full weight of attacks from a unit of 15 Boyz before dying (even then only just). Its main contributions were being deployed wide to protect the line and prevent the Stormboyz dropping in to my left, and then diverting the path of the final unit of Boyz away from the Captain and Librarian combat. In these aspects it did its job well and is a solid unit, though the fact it can be taken out in one solid round of combat is a worry.

Expecting vehicles I had taken my Hellblasters, which turned out to be a waste against Strength 4 Ork Boyz. They killed 5 or so Boyz from unit three, and a few more from unit two, before being overwhelmed in combat, which is not their strong point. My Sternguard were a last minute filler unit to round out the numbers, and that was the biggest part they played, apart from one round of Overwatch resulting in a couple of dead Stormboyz.


The Reivers played their part quite well this week. Buoyed by the addition of two more models (albeit unpainted) the took out the Paindoc and hit the Wierdboy from behind, pulling Ork units three and four across the board to deal with them. This was key to slowing down the Ork advance and, though they may not have paid for themselves in kills, they were big winners on the day. It's nice to be able to pay the Orks back in kind, dropping a unit on them in their own table half.


The Aggressors had a very clear role to play – to burn lots of Orks as they charged in. However, poor deployment and positioning deprived them of using their flamers at all, and they spent the entire battle in combat until they were finally destroyed. They did hold out for a long time against a horrific number of attacks, their Strength 5 proving to be the tipping point. But in the end, the 2+ to hit and pure volume of hits meant that the Orks would kill them eventually. They almost certainly didn't pay for themselves, but their staying power helped tie up the Ork numbers for some time.

And finally my two (heroic) characters…

The librarian didn't manage to cast as many spells as I would like. Having an enemy psyker on the table didn't play a massive part, it was more a case of not rolling high enough to cast. He did hit his numbers when he needed to though, and the Captain spent most of the game buffed to an epic level. The Libby did clock up quite a few kills, notably the Banner Boy, and provided a great support for the Captain, who was the heart of the army.


The Captain, who was upgraded to a Chapter Master owned the table around him, to the point that I don't really recall Bull openly attacking him in combat. I gave him the Burning Blade relic to aid his attacks and it proved essential. I had considered the Salamanders Mantle for +1 Toughness, but being T7 rather than T6 (buffed by the Libby) against these Orks didn't give any additional benefit. His Warlord Trait of Iron Resolve meant that he had an extra Wound and allowed him a 6+ Feel No Pain equivalent. That's T6, 7 Wounds, 3+ save, 4+ invulnerable and 6+ FNP—no wonder he survived untouched! His buff allowing re-rolls to hit for units within 6" was awesome, and when combined with the Salamander Chapter Trait of rolling 1 Hit and 1 Wound miss per unit per fight meant that those around him were doing lots of damage. Yet despite this he probably didn't pay for himself in kills, despite felling bucket loads of Boyz.


Despite that, he was the lynchpin and was ultimately the reason why we prevailed on the day. I could have been more brave with him and often he missed out on combat as Bull strategically removed casualties around him, leaving him outside of combat when his turn to fight came. He needs to be in the thick of things to be at full effect. He is an awesome character, but I need to try him with different combos of Warlord/Chapter Trait and relics to see if there are better options.


As far as the overall game went?…

The big mistake from my perspective was initial deployment and positioning. My gaming experience allowed me to find a way to pull things back from the precipice, albeit only just. I needed to be on my A-game, which is hard when you don't really know your own army or your opponent's capability, or the rules properly for that matter.


The Primaris marines are expensive and few in number, but they are resilient and it took this game to see that in action. I'm undecided whether regular "mini" marines would have been a better choice. Maybe I need to test that theory, quantity over quality. I also ignored the Banner Boy for far too long, only killing him in the final turn. This made my job immeasurably more difficult. I had the opportunity, when the Dred charged into combat, but fearing a low charge roll I opted for the nearest Ork Boyz unit as the only target. Ork Boyz hitting with 4 or more attacks each on 2+ is just horrible and I should have taken him down as soon as I could (note to self)—Scout Snipers may be the way forward on that score, taking characters down from range.


I did ignore the VP objectives (first blood, etc.) and favour of simply surviving. Standing across the table from such a large number of Orks was very intimidating, even for a tournament vet. The Boyz may not have had much defence individually, but the ability of a unit of 30 to pump out 5 attacks each hitting on 2+ will decimate any army. Being outnumbered more than 4:1 and losing six guys in the opening exchange does not do anything to boost confidence.

At the end of the day we pulled a minor victory out of thin air, against a brutal and unrelenting assault by an experienced greenskins general. It felt good, if exhausting. I am now feeding off the buzz of 40k gaming and list building, something I thought was relegated to the past. Thanks as ever to Bull for being an awesome opponent and host, and for not pulling punches when things were going bad.

If you wanted to read his take on the game, go visit Bull's blog here.

Roll on the next game…!


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Post 700: Dark Templar vs Orks Battle Report


I'm just going to warn you this is a long one—sit back an enjoy!

Bull and I had our second game of 8th Edition 40k last night. We decided on a 'quick' 1000pt game as we continue to get our heads around the new rules.


After assessing the models available to me, I decided to go for a Primaris heavy line up. An evolution of my list from our first game, containing only 23 models, this had a very elite feel to it. In contrast, Bull went for an infantry heavy Ork force, with 100 models hitting the board. That's odd of more than 4:1 in favour of the green skins. This was going to be brutal.


To help mitigate the situation I had the Burning Blade relic and the Salamander's Chapter trait, plus I upgraded my Captain to a Chapter Master and gave him Iron Resolve. I would need all the help I could get.


We rolled for mission and deployment, ending up with a "No Mercy" last man standing scenario deploying in an arrow shape only 9" away from each other. The one advantage of having few models is that you finish deploying first, so I got to choose who went first. I chose the Orks to go first!


As expected, Bull dropped his Stormboyz right up in my grill, and they charged into my Sternguard. A mistake on his charge meant that his character, Boss Zagstruk, could only charge the Razorback and had to survive Twin Assault Cannon overwatch. He did, but only by a single wound! The Sternguard were decimated, twice over, and even a Heroic Intervention by my captain did little to slow the onslaught.


The positioning of my units meant that Bull was able to consolidate his Stormboyz in such a way that he locked my Aggressors and Hellblasters (my two remaining shooty units) in melee. I was devastated as this meant his big unit of 30 Boyz would be on me in the next turn unhindered. It seemed pretty much game over at that stage, I just could not see how my marines could survive the numbers being thrown at me.


I dropped my Reivers behind enemy lines and they went after the Pain Doc. He eventually ran off the table on his final wound after failing a morale check.


The combat rumbled on and I managed to thin out the Stormboyz, and even Boss Zagstruk died to a cheeky Razorback attack. The re-rolling of hits, thanks to the Chapter Master, was becoming really helpful—plus I kept forgetting the Chapter Trait re-rolls! Eventually though the unit of 30 poured in, though strangely had to daisy-chain around the back of the warpgate to stay in coherency. The main issue though was the Wierdboy's spell that gave everyone an extra attack, and the banner giving them +1 to hit. The Aggressors were epic, dishing out damage with their fists and somehow keeping to wounds taken to a minimum. The volume of attacks were starting to tell.


I had to do something to slow the advance of the third big unit of Boyz, and if I could take out the Wierdboy and Banner Boy then all the better. The Reivers jogged up and shot at the Wierdboy, taking off a wound. The Dread and Hellblasters stepped and poured fire into the big unit of Boyz, killing quite a few. The Razorback swung around the warpgate and also fired into the big unit, killing 5 more. The Hellblasters than charged back into the main combat by the warpgate, the Dred smashed into the big unit, whilst the Reivers and Razorback attempted to pin down the two characters.

A few hits later the Wierdboy, on his last wound, failed a morale check and ran off the table. The Dred killed more Boyz but was wounded just enough to be removed from play. The Orks in the main melee were dying but they were taking Primaris marines with them. The Aggressors finally died and the Hellblasters were reduced to two in number. Things felt like they were swinging back in favour of the Orks.


The last of the Ork units ran up and managed to get into combat with the Reivers, and the combined hits from this unit and the remaining Boyz from unit 3 took the Primaris down and turned their attention to the Razorback. The vehicle had been unable to make an impact of the Banner Boy, and his bonus to Ork attacks had been key throughout. My inability to identify him as a target was costing me badly. Eventually the combined attacks from both Ork units took down the vehicle, but as a final sting in the tail it exploded, killing a handful of Boyz from each unit and badly hurting the Banner Boy.


On the other side of the warpgate, the Hellblasters were gone but the Chapter Master and Librarian had cleared out the rest of the Boyz. We were approaching the end of the game and things were still in the balance—two mighty characters versus around 13 Boyz (including 2 Power Klawz) and the Banner Boy.


The Librarian swung round the left and hit the Banner Boy with Smite, killing him. He then charged into the 3 Boyz remaining from Ork unit three killing 2. The Chapter Master lumbered round the other side of the warpgate, charging into the larger Ork unit four. He survived overwatch unscathed and smashed the unit, killing 6.


The remaining Ork Boyz all failed their morale checks badly and ran off the table—Victory to the Space Marines.

I'm still battered and bruised the morning after. Lots to contemplate and discuss, but I'll save that for another time…

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