When I first started playing 40k, I was young and hot-headed. Playing 40k consumed my entire thoughtspace. I invested a lot of myself into winning and doing well in organised play - however basic it was. I didn't really understand what it was to play for the love of the game. To enjoy the "one-percenters" and the social aspect of sharing a beer as you roll dice. As I have gotten older, my playgroup smaller and my time with the game more limited, I have learned to take so much more out of the game. To enjoy more than just "that winning feeling" and to instead enjoy every aspect of the game.
Today's game was an absolute barn-burner between my Thousand Sons and the Raven Guard of Jim, a member of my "Sunday Crew" playgroup. Jim is always an excellent opponent, if only slightly guilty of tilting out and putting his hands up too early in any given game. But he has a good brain for tactics and is always willing to explore the intricacies of his army in order to extract peak performance from his force.
We played 1250 points and the game took a little under two and a half hours.
++Thousand Sons Battalion Detachment - 5 CP++
-Harvey Birdman (Demon Prince [Wings, Relic - Perfidious Tome, Warlord Trait - Duplicitous Tactician])
-10 Rubric Marines (Soulreaper Cannon, Warpflamer)
-10 Rubric Marines (Soulreaper Cannon, Warpflamer)
-15 Tzaangors (Brayhorn)
-10 Scarab Occult Terminators (2 Soulreaper Cannons, 2 Hellfyre Missile Racks)
-3 Tzaangor Enlightened
Jim's Raven Guard sported the latest in Primaris Technology - Suppressors, Eliminators and Infiltrators. I wasn't 'scared' of anything in particular, instead I was curious as to how each unit would perform. Certainly Jim had opted for a shooting-heavy list, with some mobile counterassault elements.
For posterity, I didn't want to type out the name of the Phobos Lieutenant's relic - so I insisted on calling it 'Barry' for the duration of the game. Now that I've had to explain the joke it isn't funny, but it is now a meme.
++Raven Guard Battalion Detachment - 5 CP++
-Special K (Kayvaan Shrike [Warlord Trait - Shadowmaster])
-Lieutenant in Phobos Armor (Relic - Ex Tenebris)
-5 Infiltrators (Helix Adept)
-3 Eliminators (Bolt Snipers)
-5 Hellblasters (Plasma Incinerators)
-Stormtalon Gunship (Twin Assault Cannon, Typhoon Missile Launcher)
This was the board we set out to murder each other on:
The scenario played was "Scorched Earth" - six objectives worth 1 VP per battle round, with the objectives in each player's deployment zone able to be destroyed for 3 VPs.
Jim won the rolloff to and opted to Defend. He declared Dawn of War as the deployment. The Thousand Sons would have the first turn.
As I usually do in these types of scenarios, I opted to deploy centrally and in force. I knew I had Sorcerous Facade and my Duplicitous Tactician warlord trait to help me out if I made any critical mistakes. The one thing I did do was to put my Demon Prince on the far left as bait.
Jim, being able to pick his angles and choose matchups, opted to deploy in a thin black line. His Infiltrators, Suppressors, Eliminators and Phobos Lieutenant constructed a firebase on the left hand side. Almost as if countering my deployment, Jim opted to deploy in strength on both flanks, leaving only a unit of Intercessors and a Stormbudgie in the middle.
The Inceptors and Shrike deployed on the right, hoping to make a dent with their high volume of shooting and pressure the objective on the far right in the open.
Jim was unable to seize the initiative. I'm not certain how fortunate this was for me, in hindsight. I also moved Harvey Birdman into the centre of the table having sufficiently drawn off a unit of Suppressors in the far corner.
A general advance was sounded by the the close combat elements of the army, who trudged into the centre of the board. I set the Daemon Prince up for a 'Slam Dunk' warptime maneuver, after Ahriman advanced 12 inches to get into Warptime range. The Scarab Occult terminators followed to the best of their ability, unaccustomed to walking across the battlefield:
The psychic phase had mixed results. Warptime failed (even with a command point re-roll), however the Scarab Occult recieved the benefit of Prescience and a Sorcerous Facade teleport to shunt forward slightly further and into maximum fun range.
Ahriman also inflicted 3 wounds on the Hellblaster Squad.
Shooting was fairly uneventful. The Terminators activated 'Veterans of the Long War' to remove the hellblasters, inflict 1 wound on the Stormtalon and kill three Intercessors. A good start, complete with a large hole in the Raven Guard line.
However with no warptime on the Daemon Prince, no teleporting Tzaangors and no other pressure to speak of, the Terminators had made themselves public enemy number one. Now the Raven Guard got a chance to respond.
The Thunderbudgie opted to move into 'hover' mode to maximise its shooting potential. Otherwise the Raven Guard chose not to move at all. The goal was to make the most of the distance between the Thousand Sons and the Raven Guard.
The reprisal was suitably brutal. With no Hellblasters to remove the Scarab Occult, the rest of the army had to step up - and step up they did. Between two squads of Intercessors, two squads of Inceptors and a Stormtalon, they managed to reduce the squad of Terminators to half strength. Rough.
Elsewhere the Infiltrators took aim at the Tzaangors with their bolt carbines, killing four - and the Suppressors killed three Rubric marines hanging out on the leftmost objective.
The morale phase was particularly punishing, with an additional Scarab Occult Terminator 'crumbling to dust' and two Tzaangors fleeing. Not ideal. But despite these setbacks the Thousand Sons had secured two objectives and "First Strike" to take a minor lead going into turn 2.
Thousand Sons - 2 (+1) / Raven Guard - 2
Before the violence could begin in earnest, the Raven Guard shifted gear from 'Devastator' doctrine to 'Tactical' doctrine. This also activated the Raven Guard bonus against characters, which turned out to be quite handy.
Ahriman and what was left of the Tzaangors advanced to the middle of the board to assert dominance and control the objective there. Harvey Birdman moved further, but stayed within 9 inches of Ahriman, hoping to snag a warptime slingshot into the Inceptor firebase.
The inconsistencies in last round's psychic phase continued again. Harvey recieved Prescience and Warptime to get within spitting distance of Jim's Inceptors:
Harvey also boosted himself with Diabolic Strength. Suffice to say, he wanted those Inceptors dead. Elsewhere the unit of Rubrics on the leftmost objective buffed themselves with Glamour of Tzeentch to reduce the efficacy of enemy shooting.
The Terminators, as roughed up as they were, still managed to inflict some pain on the Raven Guard, removing the damaged unit of Intercessors in the centre of the board.
Harvey was the star of the show, hacking his way with ease through the Inceptors and consolidating into the second unit. (Editor's note - both myself and Jim forgot to resolve the second squad of Inceptor close combat attacks) Knowing that they would fall back at the first opportunity, it was little consolation.
In the Raven Guard turn they did just that, falling back to convenient shooting distance whilst staying within Shrike's re-roll bubble. Elsewhere the Intercessors moved up on the Thousand Sons' right to pressure the rightmost objective.
Things got rolling for the Raven Guard in the shooting phase. The Stormtalon cleaned up 7 Tzaangors and a Scarab Occult Terminator in the centre:
Elsewhere the Suppressors, even with Glamour of Tzeentch reducing the effectiveness of their firepower, still killed 2 Rubric Marines. The Intercessors on the far right also killed a Rubric Marine, this time on the untouched rightmost squad, reducing their numbers to 5 and 9 respectively.
The star of the show in the end was the Eliminators. All weekend I had wondered about their performance today. I'd never encountered them. They did their chapter proud today - in conjunction with their chapter's bonuses against characters (+1 to hit and +1 to wound) they fired 'Mortis' rounds, which inflicted seven wounds to poor Harvey and sent him screaming back to the warp.
Of course it didn't go all the Raven Guard's way - with no Daemon Prince to charge and kill in the ensuing assault phase, old mate Shrike looked a bit sheepish:
As Harvey was my warlord (he's my official attorney at caw!), Jim elected to spend 2 command points on 'Decapitating Blow'. This reduced my leadership by 1 for the rest of the game. With the benefits of 20-20 hindsight, I can tell you that this penalty did not cause me to lose any more models as a result of leadership.
At the end of the second turn, the slim lead I had going in was now gone. The Raven Guard had experienced a swing turn and had gained the upper hand. Jim, despite his analytical ways, hadn't appreciated it yet.
Thousand Sons - 4 (+1) / Raven Guard - 4 (+1)
The Thousand Sons were down, but there was a long way to go in the game yet. I moved my Scarab Occult terminators further into the ruins, but they were unable to properly receive the benefits of cover. Elsewhere, Ahriman moved out of distance of the Eliminators, as they had already plinked one wound off him and were hungry for more.
The psychic phase had moved from inconsistent to impotent as Ahriman missed on Prescience for the unit of Rubric Marines. As a consolation, a squad of Rubricae cast baby smite (do do do) and Glamour was maintained on the leftmost Rubricae squad.
The shooting was about as efficient as it could've been. The Scarab Occult terminators were able to kill an Inceptor and the Rubric Marines were able to reduce the unit of Intercessors from 5 to 1. This did take the 'Veterans of the Long War' and 'Infernal Fullisades' stratagem to do so. Then the smug gits passed their morale.
About as good a turn as I could've hoped, but it still wasn't anywhere near close to enough. I had lost offensive pressure and board control was no longer possible, even with Sorcerous Facade. Then the Raven Guard took their turn.
Shrike and his Inceptor chums moved into the centre to serve the Scarab Occult an eviction notice. They would have the center - at least for now:
Elsewhere the Stormtalon moved onto the objective vacated by the Inceptors to keep mission pressure on the Thousand Sons. (Editor's note - a Stormtalon has the Flyer and Aircraft keywords, and as a result cannot control objectives - but this did not affect the end result)
The Raven Guard shooting phase was characteristically efficient. Shrike, the Inceptors and the Stormbudgie combined to kill two terminators, softening up the other two in time to get brutally murdered by Shrike and his cronies. Elsewhere the Phobos Lieutenant used 'Barry' to deadly effect, killing a Rubric Marine and the Suppressors felling another one - my grip on that objective was now tenuous at best, with just three Rubricae holding it.
In the assault phase, a re-run of "The World's Most One-Sided Fistfights Caught on Film" was played. Shrike made easy work of the remaining two Scarab Occult terminators, claiming the objective for his own.
That scuffle, though minor, was decisive. Shrike had board pressure and the Raven Guard's long-ranged assets were starting to make a meaningful impact. As we moved into turn four I had a chance to shoot for a draw, but a win was now out of my grasp. But I've never let the inevitable faze me before and I wasn't going to start now. I'd make Jim earn it.
Thousand Sons - 6 (+1) / Raven Guard - 7 (+1)
The Raven Guard now realised their best work was going to be done in combat (not really) and shifted gears into Assault Doctrine to finish the job.
The Tzaangor Enlightened zipped up to take the midfield objective on the right and drew their bows to fire at the lone Intercessor who had withdrawn under fire from the Rubricae the previous turn.
Meanwhile, Ahriman was keen for a manfight and decided he was going to have a go at Shrike for murdering his Scarab Occult pawns. No doubt there were taunts and the promise of an epic fight scene. Unless Stephen Segal played either of the main characters, in which case it was going to be shit.
The Psychic phase was all business - one Rubric squad was able to Smite Shrike, whilst Ahriman and the other Rubric squad inflicted two wounds on the Inceptor. Unfortunately Doombolt did not succeed - if Ahriman was going to kill Shrike, he'd have to do it the hard way.
In the shooting phase, with the game on the line, I decided that I was going to have a proper manfight. I have no idea why. The Rubrics removed the last Inceptor in a hail of Inferno boltgun fire and cemented their hold on the right-most backline objective.
The Tzaangor enlightened were only just able to snipe the last wound off the last Intercessor, but that meant the Stormbudgie would have to pay attention to them to prevent their control of the objective.
In the fight phase, it was a close run thing. Ahriman charged in and looked to have landed the decisive blow on Shrike with the Black Staff - only for Jim to use a CP re-roll on the second failed save and pass it. Shrike, in return, used the 'Lay Low the Tyrants' stratagem and hacked Ahriman to pieces with his claws. The little things, indeed.
Fresh from cutting Ahriman apart, Shrike then advanced toward the Rubricae on the leftmost objective.
Knowing that shooting the Rubricae may have prevented Shrike from having a target to charge, the Suppressors wisely opted to withold their fire. Instead, the lads opted to pop smoke:
Elsewhere the Stormtalon was seeing its available targets dwindle away. It turned its guns on the Tzaangor Enlightened and managed to kill 2. That objective would remain in Thousand Sons hands, but with Shrike about to run over a unit of Rubrics and raze their objective, it was about to go beyond doubt.
In the ensuing charge phase, Shrike did just that. If the Scarab Occult were a soft target, the Rubricae were butter. He did it with attacks to spare, consolidated onto the objective and the rest, as they say, is history.
Thousand Sons 8 (+1) / Raven Guard 12 (+1)
I wasn't surprised. I made a blunder in not shooting at Shrike and trying to make it easier for Ahriman. Instead the two wounds he kept were the difference.
Still, I had one last attempt to save face. If I wasn't going to win, Shrike was at least going home in a bodybag.
Out of options, out of time and out of patience, the Rubricae had one more sting in their tail. They cast Sorcerous Facade and appeared right next to Shrike:
Shrike died in a hail of Bolter and Soulreaper fire. But in that moment he died knowing that he had won the day.
In response, the Phobos lieutenant used 'Barry' to kill three Rubric Marines, placing the remaining Rubricae out of range for further retribution. At that point, I produced a '2' on the die roll for random game length.
All over, red rover - Raven Guard victory.
The Wash Up
I promised Jim I'd slag him off on the internet. But the truth is I will do nothing of the sort. He lost his most expensive unit early, but kept his cool, kept thinking and played smartly and efficiently. If there's one thing that always impresses me about Jim, it's that he always takes the time to prepare. He knows his army, he knows his rules and he thinks about how his force fits together. That preparedness showed again today.
But the other part of today (and maybe I am a bit surprised in hindsight) was that I really enjoyed that game of 40k, even though I didn't win. It was tough, it was fair, it was played in the right spirit and it was close and exciting. Partway it was how close our forces were together, partway was how clean and how well the game flowed. But it has been a while since I have played a game that good. I felt content.
For all intents and purposes the game swung in turn 2. It wasn't over, but the balance of power shifted heavily to the Raven Guard. Between the brutally effective shooting and the efficiency in combat, I needed to be smart on the day. But I really wasn't. I mucked up deployment, meaning I had to use Sorcerous Facade on the Terminators, instead of the Tzaangors. Not being able to Warptime the Daemon Prince in turn 1 was also quite costly, as I lost the ability to pressure Jim with multiple threats.
The mistakes kept coming with the Rubric Marines, either not moving them forward (in the case of the rightmost deployment) or redeploying the other Rubric Marines in deployment from the left to the right to overload the flank. I did consider it at the time, but decided against it. How much difference this would've made only the dice gods know. But there were opportunities to play better and I knew it.
I want to make a regular thing out of these next two segments of content. Emperor knows I don't need to pad the word count for a change, but I'd like the audience to know what (or who) I thought was the most valuable unit - and also which unit I thought was a secret heavy lifter.
Man of the Match - Kayvaan Shrike
Shrike started slowly, but put in a bumper performance by the end. His contribution can be measured not just in the impact he had, but also where he had the impact. Starting out as a force multiplier for the Inceptors, he then took the centre of the board away from the Scarab Occult, mulched Ahriman and then razed a backfield objective. Shrike's also a resilient little bugger, being able to advance and charge (with a stratagem) and is immune to overwatch. He's also T4 6W 3+/4++. Suffice to say he'll be number one on my hit list for awhile.
Le Hidden Gem - Suppressors
I wanted to give it to the Eliminators for their excellent takedown of Harvey in turn two, but I thought the Suppressors had done enough to earn it today. They sat and plinked away at anything that moved - and did it well. Being too far away and too well protected to engage, the Suppressors pressured my leftmost objective all game - and I could do nothing in response. By the end they had racked up 7 Rubric Marine kills - and were on track for more if the game hadn't ended.
That's all from me today - see you at the next installment of the Weekly War!
Catch you next time,
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