PAGE Apocalypse 2016: Rebuffed at Barnes 595

kingbreakers-iconWithout a home and newly without their major supply base, the Kingbreakers Space Marines drifted through the void for a time seeming interminable. Then they turned toward action and their sworn enemies: “They take one of ours, we take one of theirs…”

Another year, another PAGE Winter Apocalypse! Our club’s annual mega-Apocalypse is in the books. Seven players came out for the Recon Squad skirmish prologue last Saturday, and thirteen for the all-day mega-battle on Sunday. Each team fielded 26,000 points across an array of factions:

  • Legions of Discord: Daemons, Daemonkin, Chaos Marines, Renegades, Eldar, Dark Eldar, and Tyranids
    • Hierophant, Harridan, Hierodule, Scabeiathrax, Angrath, Samus, Baneblade-chassis, Corrupted Knight, Macro-Cannon Strongpoint
  • Forces of Order: Adeptus Mechanicus, Steel Legion, Death Korps of Krieg, Valhallans, Grey Knights, Dark Angels, Kingbreakers Space Marines
    • Warhound, eight Imperial Knights, Crassus Armored Transport, Marauder, two Baneblade-chassis, Vortex Missile Strongpoint, Plasma Obliterator
Daemonettes attack the Steel Legion's position.

Daemonettes attack the Steel Legion’s position.

Although both days in the end came out a couple players smaller than last year, it was a stellar weekend of gaming. Supported by some fantastic looking boards and armies, the Recon Squad matches were excellent. A new terrain theme for the Apocalypse brought a different look and revised tactics to that game, while double blind deployment significantly changed the startup phase. In the end it was a full day of great 40k with giant warmachines exploding, lone sergeants defending critical positions, and everything in between. Bonus points go to Alex and Dan for making the trip to Philly all the way from Cleveland and DC respectively!

Join the Fight!

Join us!

Join us!

The full story is below, and many more photos are in the Flickr gallery. If you are interested in events like this in & around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), or the supporting campaigns, game variants, and other materials we post from time to time, we invite you to get involved or follow along in any of several ways:

The field of war.

The field of war.

Backstory

Years ago the Legions of Discord assaulted Kimball Prime, intent on taking or destroying the primary Imperial manufactorum in the sector. After many lives given in devotion to the Emperor, the invasion was successfully brought to a halt and then itself put on the defensive. Elsewhere in the sector though the Legions finally acquired the legendary Scythe of Unbound Light super-weapon after a years-long campaign across Caldor IV. Deploying it on Kimball Prime, the traitors crashed through the front gates of the manufactorum and won the planet.

With Kimball Prime fallen and its system lost, leaders of the in-sector armies of the Astra Militarum and Adeptus Astartes regrouped in secret. Drawn by the loss of a major manufactorum, the Adeptus Mechanicus joined their strategic auguries. Hungry for revenge, the Astartes proposed to conquer and cleanse the corrupted Chaos temple world of Barnes 595—an act of symbolism over pure strategy. Although initially hesitant to partake in this emotional response, the Mechanicus was swayed by the promise of archeotech believed lost in the planet’s swamps and dead forests, or buried in the collapsed sub-basements of its byzantine shrines.

Gazing into the strategios, the representatives of the Imperial Guard remained silent, then assented. They were also unconvinced by the Astartes’ constant vainglorious prioritization of honor and ideals over blood. However, the cogs of the Imperial war machine had already ratcheted toward the sector. Regiments and equipment must go toward some target, and it matters little which—there is no stopping the tide of war now, and it will wash over all the sector in time.

Recon Squad games underway.

Recon Squad games underway.

Commanders of the Legions of Discord plot their strategy.

Commanders of the Legions of Discord plot their strategy.

Recon Squads

Preparing for the onslaught to come, the Forces of Order sent small teams to reconnoiter and sabotage Chaos sites on Barnes 595. These were all played using our Kill Team-style Recon Squad rules combined with our Zone Mortalis-style Mortalis Solypsus boards and rules. The missions came from a set of eight worked out for last year’s larger Recon Squad campaign. Most are asymmetric and have specific thematic objectives, e.g., defending an installation, or assassinating a special character. In this year’s smaller form, each round the teams alternated putting forward a mission, role, and player. The other team responded with a player and a table. The third match contested the default Recon Squad skirmish mission.

Round 1

A band of Plaguemarines manages to intercept and ambush a Deathwatch team infiltrating a Chaos planetary missile complex. The fighting quickly concentrates in a hall junction and comes down to a single warrior from each side in hand-to-hand combat. At last the Imperial veteran gains an opening and jams his combat blade up to the hilt in the rotted traitor, another pyrrhic victory won for the Emperor.

Meanwhile, an Imperial commander met with a group of Tau to learn of mysterious energy signals they have detected buried within a collapsed underground extraction facility. They were beset however by a pack of ancient Bloodcrushers, and unable to prevent the assassination of the commander.

Deathwatch skulk through a complex.

Deathwatch skulk through the missile complex.

A Tau exploration team warily enters the collapsed mine.

A Tau exploration team warily enters the collapsed mine.

Round 2

Routed by Daemons, the Tau continue their desperate struggle within the collapsed mine. Quickly encircled, the xenos fight bravely but are caught in a pincer of Plaguemarine reinforcements.

Having regrouped and treated their wounded as best as possible, the Deathwatch also continue their own fight. With the missile complex’s defenders alerted by the battle with the Plaguemarines, they are attacked by Renegade infantry. Fortunately the Emperor’s light guides them into surrounding and neutralizing the heretics.

Elsewhere, the Steel Legion arrive at Barnes 595. Small teams land and begin making their way through a Chaos temple serving as a gate to the missile complex. Although believed to be abandoned, the gate turns out to be infested with daemonic devotees of Khorne. The battle proceeds slowly among the site’s barricades and overgrowth, but eventually the soldiers break through.

Short on ammo, a plague brother resorts to simply bashing in heads.

Short on ammo, a Plaguemarine resorts to simply bashing in heads.

The Renegade Sergeant bellows out orders...

The Renegade Sergeant bellows out orders…

As Renegades hunt for the Deathwatch team loose in their complex.

As his men hunt for the Deathwatch team loose in their complex.

Steel Legion enter the closed-off base.

Steel Legion enter the closed-off base.

Round 3

Their position underground untenable, the Tau attempt to fight back to the surface. Moving into the overgrown upper levels of the collapsed mine they are caught by Renegade militia and wiped out in bitter skirmishing.

Too late to reinforce the Tau, Skitarii renew the exploration of the collapsed facility at the fore of a Mechanicus excavation mission. Although beset by Bloodcrushers at every junction, their arcane weaponry bears them through. Fighting ceases with Mars in control of whatever secrets lay beneath the choking dust.

Simultaneously, a Steel Legion special missions team follows the wake of the Deathwatch into the heart of the missile complex. Though harried by Plaguemarines, they succeed in destroying a critical cogitator bank.

Outcomes

Order won the Recon Squad matches handily, 46 to 29. Together the Imperium and allies had captured an important planetary-scale missile complex, greatly aiding their establishment of a beachhead on the planet. Early excavation efforts in the collapsed mine also unearthed a long forgotten Imperial Shrine.

Steel Legion move against a vital cogitator bank...

Steel Legion move against a vital cogitator bank…

Defended by Plaguemarines.

Defended by Plaguemarines.

Skitarii work their way underground...

Skitarii work their way underground…

While battling Bloodcrushers for control of the collapsed facility.

While battling Bloodcrushers for control of the collapsed facility.

APOCALYPSE

Finally the big day.

It’s worth noting that our Apocalypse games are not the cliche of just dumping out all the models you own, or whatever ridiculously overpowered Titans you happen to have spent a fortune on. A good amount of effort is put into balancing the teams. For example, all superheavies/gargantuans must be declared in advance, and models with more than 9 hull points/wounds are negotiated between the teams. Between switching players to balance for skill, asking that Reaver or Warlord Titans (!) or such sit out the game if the other side can’t match it, and so on, we usually wind up fairly closely matched. Scoring and other mechanisms further ensure that troops matter and tactics count, even as whole units are obliterated.

Although a few people bailed right beforehand, this was probably the smoothest we’ve launched one of these mega-battles. We made it clear than anybody who showed up late would go into reserve, and in the end that only almost applied to me as I scrambled to finish my army list during deployment… (I was planning to reserve the bulk anyway). Everybody came prepared to fill out up to ~1k in additional points or trim down a bit to balance for the no-shows. When the time came we ran through a roll call, did some quick math, adjusted a couple armies, and away we went.

A Knight Errant stalks its prey across the crowded battlefield.

A Knight Errant stalks its prey across the crowded battlefield.

Field of War

Having fought largely among Imperial ruins the past two years, we moved this year to a wasteland forest with many barbaric Chaos fortifications and shrines. The final table was exactly 6′ by 18′, cluttered up with just enough line-of-sight blockers and scatter terrain. As usual the deployment zones were marked off with tape to speed things up and improve adherence. Seven primary objectives were symmetrically placed, two in each deployment zone and three along the midline, each associated with some particularly notable piece of terrain.

After doing an ‘L’ shaped deployment last year, we switched it up even more by using Vanguard Strike deployment zones, diagonal table corners with a 2′ buffer zone. I was concerned about the reduced frontage of this configuration leading to armies just sitting around in the comparatively deep backfield. If the table had a narrower aspect ratio or our armies included less deep striking and other fast mobility that may have been the case. As it was however, there was plenty of action all over the board, with significant charges both across and down the board, as well as deep strikers and outflankers coming in from all sides.

Traitor melta-bikers race through a slave village toward a Knight Errant threatening their perimeter bastions.

Traitor melta-bikers race through a slave village toward a Knight Errant threatening their perimeter bastions.

Double Blind

In previous Apocalypse matches we’ve used a bidding mechanism for deployment and turn order: Both teams make a bid on deployment time, up to 30 minutes. The lower bid would deploy first and play first, but only got that long to set up. At first that worked great. In the 2014 Winter Apocalypse, Order spent a lot of time debating its need to deploy lots of static gunlines versus trying to scoop Discord for an Alpha strike, only to have Discord bid a ridiculous 3 minutes… In the couple Apoc and Apoc-styled games we’ve had since then though, both sides have taken to bidding 30 minutes, through a combination of having more players to coordinate, more models to start on the board, and most importantly wanting to play second.

So this year we changed things up a lot: Double blind deployment. That’s a bold departure from standard 40k play, and risky for Apocalypse—we usually try to be a bit conservative with Apoc given the time commitment and how easy it is for things to go sideways with so many points and overpowered models in play.

Physically it would be really difficult to screen such a big table so the teams couldn’t see each others’ activities, let alone to not have the screen fall and crush models. Strategically we also really wanted players to have some idea what they were facing across the table before deploying. So instead we used a two step process. We drew a simple map of the table and gave each team a copy. The map showed all the primary objectives, deployment zones, and a grid of 2′ by 1.5′ sectors. The teams then huddled up and each player committed to deploying in up to two sectors by marking up the map, also making note of any superheavies, gargantuans, mighty bulwarks, or lords of war.

Those maps were then revealed to the opposing team, and the two sides simultaneously deployed. That worked well because at this scale of game players generally aren’t super concerned about the precise positioning of enemy units while they deploy, so there’s no gaming of trying to see what the other side is doing while deploying. There’s also only so much adjustment you can do within the 30 minute time limit. But you did have a rough idea of what’s likely coming after you and could take that into account while deploying. As a bonus, by deploying simultaneously, we shaved half an hour off the schedule. Choice of first or second turn was set as the prize for overall victory of the Recon Squad games.

Barnes 595.

Barnes 595.

Means of Victory

We also tweaked our scoring mechanism to be every turn rather than every other, the better to either end games earlier than expected or run an extra turn as time permits (the latter never happens…). The rules are:

  • All players designate a warlord as usual, one of which on each team is nominated to be the warmaster.
  • After deployment, each team alternates having each player place a secondary objective anywhere on the board, caveat the usual restrictions (at least 12″ from other objectives, 6″ from table edges).
    • Any player and either team can score any secondary objective, they’re just placed by a particular player to represent their personal goals.
  • Only troops may score objective markers until the final scoring, at which point all scoring units count.
  • Scoring happens at the end of each game turn:
    • Primary objectives are worth the current game turn number;
    • Secondary objectives are always worth 1 victory point;
    • The warmasters are worth 3 points;
    • Eliminating a superheavy, gargantuan, mighty bulwark, lord of war, or warlord is worth 1 point each.
A Harridan prepares to chow down on some Dark Angels.

A Harridan prepares to chow down on some Dark Angels.

The rule about troops is a huge deal. It does have the downside that it encourages players to bring a lot of individual infantry rather than sinking points into big models, which makes it hard to meet turn time constraints. However, it ensures that regular troopers are critical and armies have to include a good contingent of them to be viable, which consequently makes the match feel a lot like a regular game of 40k writ huge, rather than a whole different game of giant robot/monster battles.

The escalating value of primary objectives is another balancing mechanism. It’s difficult for teams to run away with the game by controlling objectives over the early turns since they’re worth so much more at the end. Conversely, by not scoring solely at the end, alpha striking and high-mobility armies are given a better chance than they otherwise would have against deathstar and brick armies.

The other points for killing supers, etc., are also of course a balancing mechanism. They and the secondary objectives become less important as the game goes on and the primaries scale up, which is how you want the focus to change heading toward the end of the game. However, those single points still add up over time and are critical to overall victory, as played out in this very game.

In practice this basic scoring scheme and the other balancing efforts have worked out very well, producing a number of close games over several years now.

Deployment

Following their successes in the Recon Squad campaign, the Forces of Order established their invasion base around the Missile Complex and Imperial Shrine and chose to play second. They turned their aim on the heavily defended Broken Altar and Warp Tower, important sites to all the disciples of Chaos. In between lay a disused Comms Tower that might be reclaimed for the invasion, a Side Gate barring the way to a complex of temples beyond, and of course the wreckage of Sergeant Titus’ Rhino, an important relic of the Kingbreakers claimed by Nurgle’s servants in the aftermath of the Apocalypse on Solypsus 9.

Deployment commitments.

Deployment commitments.

Fight!

The invasion begun, the mighty armies on both sides rumbled to war. A gang of monstrous Tyranids held captive on Barnes 595 was unleashed on the Death Korps, with many fatalities in the earliest phase of the combat as the flying ones raked their dagger-like talons across exposed infantry. Worse, a Crassus superheavy armored transport poised toward the enemy lines was obliterated before it could even move from the landing point, with the entire platoon inside lost to the Emperor’s grace. A desperate struggle between the Death Korps and the gargantuan Tyranids towering over them would last throughout the battle.

Meanwhile, in Order’s backfield, a coterie of Slaneesh’s followers lead by a formation of Daemonettes made a devastating surprise attack. Spawning directly onto the Steel Legion’s lines, many tanks were immediately destroyed. Only after prolonged fighting and the death of the Order warmaster was their charge finally blunted by the arrival of the Shadowsword Indominator. No longer imperiled, the Steel Legion supported the Valhallans moving on the Comms Tower, as well as the defense of the Imperial Shrine and Missile Complex.

Matching that aggression, squad after squad of Kingbreakers, Grey Knights, and Dark Angels dropped directly into Discord’s backfield. Dark Angels claimed secondary objectives while Grey Knights fought Dark Eldar come to capture whatever they could in the heat of battle. Kingbreakers fought valiantly all around the Warp Tower and contested the site for some time, but were ultimately overwhelmed by the flood of Daemons and Daemonkin pouring into the area, guided and supported by the Renegades sworn to Discord warmaster Hellboy.

Major movements and drops throughout the game.

Major movements and drops throughout the game.

All across the land in between, daemons and traitors clashed with the Emperor’s finest. Dark Angels made an early play for Titus’ Rhino, but were eventually pushed off by the legions of Nurgle inexorably marching to reclaim the prize they had so carelessly left laying around. Valhallan air cavalry flew bravely into the daemons guarding the Comms Tower and successfully held it at several critical junctures. By their landing base, Commissar Yarrick almost singlehandedly defended the Missile Complex despite repeated wounds that would have been mortal for any lesser man. Nearly all the armies wound up engaged at some point in the fierce battle for the Side Gate as one unit after another claimed it, only to be blasted away and replaced by another in rapid succession.

Throughout all this, Adeptus Mechanicus light units guarded the Imperial Shrine while their heavy war machines were dispatched up and down the Order line wherever a heavy threat appeared. Surely the center would have caved but for a Warhound Titan come to lock in close combat with an enraged Hierophant. By the Side Gate, a Cerastus Lancer bravely launched into combat with Angrath, piercing the beast squarely to dispatch him back to the Warp and save that flank. On the opposite end, Knight Errants and Castigators blasted away at giant Tyranids and Daemons alike as they fought over the Missile Complex. Many irreplaceable war machines were lost throughout the battle, but no doubt their sacrifice prevented the total collapse of Order’s position.

In the end though that was all the might of Mars was able to ensure. The steadfast troops of the Legions of Discord stood firm against the combined attack on the planet. With their strike forces extinguished or hastily falling back, by the end the Forces of Order had been rebuffed, claiming little more than their initial beachhead. Although not repulsed entirely from the planet, the effort to cleanse the temple world had ground to a halt, its only trace yet more bones rotting among the dead forests and abandoned shrines of Barnes 595.

Monsters and war machines towering over the troops below go at each other's throats.

Monsters and war machines towering over the troops below go at each other’s throats.

A Death Korps Marauder swoops in to aerial combat with a Harridan menacing its Guard compatriots below.

A Death Korps Marauder swoops in to aerial combat with a Harridan menacing its Guard compatriots below.

A Soulgrinder prepares to crush a lesser walker.

A Soulgrinder prepares to crush a lesser walker.

A molten daemon lurks in the bushes.

A molten daemon lurks in the bushes.

Troops prepare to give their lives by the score.

Troops prepare to give their lives by the score.

Harbinger’s Charge

I wouldn’t want to play Apocalypse all the time, but with all our balancing mechanisms and other rules it’s actually a really good, strategic and tactical game.

As a small example, one of my own favorite stories from this game is that of the Kingbreakers’ Sergeant Harbinger. He and his Tacticals are part of the mass Drop Pod assault on the Warp Tower objective in Turn 1. His men blow up a Rhino, the rest of his squad gets obliterated, and he ducks back behind his Drop Pod while other units contest that primary objective.

Next, Captain Angholan splits from the Deathwatch team he dropped with, and I have a choice: Charge him at Samus now, or use him to wipe out Bloodletters standing between Harbinger and the objective. I go for the latter, and the Chaos players look at me like I’m silly for giving up the preemptive charge on Samus.

Turn 3, the Kingbreakers on the objective have all been wiped out. Samus has gone after Captain Angholan, who blocked him from doing anything else and stood there taunting the beast. But Sergeant Harbinger alone now has a clear path to run up onto the Warp Tower base and just barely contest the objective, shocking Discord and denying them 3 points. Didn’t win the game, but didn’t hurt either. And it wouldn’t have happened without just a bit of advance thinking on my part and forcing moves and mistakes on my opponents’ part to make sure I had that one Tactical left and a clear path for him. Meanwhile I’m also making larger decisions about where to commit reserves, use my stratagem, etc..

So even though it might look and even sometimes feel like a silly game of simply putting down units, shooting, and removing units, at least in the form we run Apocalypse there is actually both tactics and strategy.

Sergeant Harbinger contests the Warp Tower objective, against impossible odds.

Sergeant Harbinger contests the Warp Tower objective, against impossible odds.

Outcome

This was a very back-and-forth battle. Order opened the game in the lead, felt like it lost all momentum in the middle, then rallied to pull close but not enough to seize the day. In the final tally Discord won, 79 victory points to Order’s 70, a close result given the scoring structure. The last turn was a nail-biter right down until we’d gone over the final disposition of the objectives twice and tallied everything up.

The turn-by-turn breakdown lines up with how I felt things were going during the match. Order essentially lost on Turn 3. Taking ten less points that round was the biggest turn deficit of the game, and we never made it up. By the end of that Discord player turn I was actually telling Lovell that we were getting creamed and would be lucky to not fall tens of points behind and have zero hope for the remainder of the game. Fortunately Order managed to make some desperate moves that just barely tied us on primary objectives for the turn; I was shocked to sum everything and find us only seven points behind overall. But we got smoked on secondaries and tertiaries that round as Discord contested a bunch of our home base markers and destroyed a couple superheavies and warlords. With our alpha strike depleted that was just too much of a gap to cover by the end.

Turn-by-turn breakdown of the scoring.

Turn-by-turn breakdown of the scoring.

Analysis

Directly from that, I think Order’s big strategic issue continues to be that it puts itself in the position of half-committing to an alpha strike. One way to look at the loss is that we needed to scoop a couple more objectives early, and ideally keep Discord off them longer. Alternatively, maybe we needed to sit back and save more resources for the closing turns. I view the Discord team as largely following the latter. Brett frequently does some pretty aggressive alpha striking deep into enemy territory, and Justin did some as well this game. But everybody else tends to sit back a bit more and work their way across the table in a more traditional fashion. Their most aggressive flanking attacks usually come late in the game, after we’re spread thin and out of steam. So, Order should consider two paths:

  • Tone down the alpha strike. It can’t go away completely just given some of the armies and players. But it should be smaller, and be better concentrated on taking and holding specific objectives. Part of this is that the forces being dropped need to be modernized and hardier: More Centurions and Venerable Dreadnoughts, fewer ridiculously brave but foolish Tactical Marines.
  • Amp up the alpha strike! Just go for broke, and dump a lot more forces on the other side of the table early on. Sure, we’ll regret it horribly as the bad guys roll right onto our home base objectives. But so what, as long as we’ve taken theirs? Further, most of their stuff moving across the ground might be either blocked or more or less forced to turn back and reckon with the drop.
Elite Valhallans fly over the battlefield on their mission to take the Comms Tower.

Elite Valhallans fly over the battlefield on their mission to take the Comms Tower.

The big meta-point to make that happen is that we probably need to establish a commander not also entangled in organizing this and many of our other events. With the Winter Combat Patrol and NOVA taking up much more time than I had hoped, I wasn’t able to foster any team discussion leading up to the Apocalypse. What little strategizing did happen pre-game was actually instigated by Colin stepping in to help out. Which, you know, is awesome, because it basically amounts to the Discord warmaster saying “You puny Imperials are no match for our dark strategies! Come, come, please talk amongst yourselves such that you may offer at least some challenge to our warriors!” With Colin at the helm, Discord does just a bit more planning over army focii; use of reserves and their entry vectors; and stratagems. Although we generally manage to keep the games close, that extra bit of coordination shows in the closing turns and the slightly higher percentage of Discord wins across all our Apocalypse battles.

Revisions

Back to the organizational side, I have just a couple notes for next year.

One issue in this match was that the armies were too large. Discord in particular had a hard time completing all of its actions in the early turns. Next year we should cut the baseline back down to 3000 points, but allow people to field up to 4000 if at least a quarter of that is made up of superheavy, gargantuan, or mighty bulwark models. That way they should have a low enough model count to be a touch more comfortable in the turn time limits, yet still field lots of toys.

A Knight Castigator marches toward deadly combat with rotted Scabeiathrax.

A Knight Castigator marches toward deadly combat with rotted Scabeiathrax.

We should also perhaps try to find a way to limit how many different sections of the table in which a single person can have units. That’s tough, because sprawling interaction across a huge landscape is part of the appeal of Apocalypse, and important to some armies playing more of a supporting or counter-attacking role. You can’t limit people down to a single table or such, as then you may as well play separate games in a linked campaign. But that’s a major cause of slowdowns, when one person is getting shot at or is in assaults all over the place. Even with other people helping resolve them, it’s a bottleneck. One possible idea is to have players secretly record several reserve vectors and deep strike locations on the map, and only allow their reserves to enter from those sectors. Obviously many units could still move around the board quite a bit regardless, but that would prevent a great deal of the spreading out which occurs. Most people shouldn’t have armies literally all over the place because it hurts their focus and encourages mistakes, let alone generally weakening their forces. But lots of people do, and as a side benefit, a mechanism like this would cut down on that.

Finally, although this is just a free, semi-invitational event, next year we’ll probably require $20 deposits to sign-up. For those that show, the money will be put toward food for the day and the remainder returned, or maybe we just put it toward club expenses or new activities. It would not be returned for people that bail after some cut-off close to the event. That will likely eliminate the usual couple of people who sign-up but aren’t committed and simply don’t come through, as opposed to those that legitimately have something come up at the last minute.

Wrap-Up

more-photosAlthough not without its trying moments in preparation, this was another great event. Some old friends made the trip, some new friends joined up, and we had a bunch of excellent Recon Squad games and another epic, closely fought Apocalypse featuring some interesting new mechanisms. Again, there are tons more photos in the Flickr gallery. We’ll see you next year!

The Lord of Skulls cares not the victor, for he wins the loser regardless!

The Lord of Skulls cares not the victor, for he wins the loser regardless!

 

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Apocalypse on Solypsus 9

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Saturday was the fifth event in our Solypsus 9 campaign: Apocalypse! Their retreat last month having been a feint, the Legions of Discord returned en masse and assaulted the Forces of Order at all the colony’s installations. Battling it out with 16,000 points on the table were:

  • Legions of Discord: Chaos Daemons, Chaos Space Marines, Necrons
  • Forces of Order: Swords of Dorn, Sanguine Hunters, Dark Angels, and Kingbreakers Space Marines

More photos are in the gallery. Results and a few details are on the event webpage.

The Apocalypse underway!

The Apocalypse underway!

Solypsus 9

Months ago a starving Tyranid horde dropped on the small, forgotten, and largely barren Imperial outpost of Solypsus 9. Caught off guard, Imperial forces rushed to defend the colony and safeguarded the major technical installations, reinforcing the Mine, Lab, Comms Tower, and Starport, but leaving the miserable civilian population trapped within the Hab Blocks to be overrun and feasted upon.

All manner of xenos then joined the fight, whether simply to revel in the bloodshed or for darker motivations. The significance of Solypsus 9 then shifted, as the Forces of Order continued reinforcing the planet rather than abandoning the fight or declaring it Exterminatus. Meanwhile the Spoiler Horde made a new, purposeful assault on the Laboratory and knocked the defenders back to the Generator.

Intrigued by this deeper shading on the conflict, the Chaos gods finally sent their minions and champions to the conflict. Intense multi-faceted fighting between all three alliances splintered control for the colony, knocking the Spoilers out of all the major installations and securing a breachpoint on the planet for the Legions of Discord among the Hab Blocks, and Order regaining the Laboratory.

The war then continued to escalate, with ever larger forces drawn into battles over the primary installations. Backed by their sheer numbers, the Spoilers stormed in from the desert and claimed the Mine. Order chased Discord out of the Hab Blocks, but had no idea what was awakening below them…

Disposition of Solypsus 9 after our fourth map event, Apocalypse to come...

Disposition of Solypsus 9 after our fourth map event, Apocalypse to come…

Scenario

Seven players turned out for the Apocalypse on Solypsus 9. The board was 12’x4′, with lightly themed terrain sections representing the colony’s six installations: The Laboratory, Mine, Hab Blocks, Comms Tower, Starport, and Generator. Primary objectives were placed roughly evenly in fixed locations for each of those. Secondary objectives were then placed by each alliance outside their own deployment zone; these wound up largely along the centerline of the battlefield. Each player designated a warlord as usual and one of these for each alliance was chosen as their overall warmaster.

Battlefield for the Apocalypse on Solypsus 9.

Battlefield for the Apocalypse on Solypsus 9.

Scoring was conducted every game turn, with alliances earning:

  • Primary Objectives: Victory points worth the turn count divided by two (rounding up) per marker;
  • Secondary Objectives: One victory point per marker;
  • Warmaster: Six victory points for eliminating the opposing warmaster;
  • Warlords: Three victory points for each enemy warlord eliminated;
  • Superheavy vehicles, gargantuan creatures, and mighty bulwarks: Two victory points for each such enemy unit destroyed.

We also ran an individual tournament inside the battle. Before the game each player selected an overall mission for their alliance to work toward and be scored on. Throughout the battle they also earned points through personal tactical achievements, such as holding an objective or killing psykers.

Personal missions and achievements amidst the Apocalypse.

Personal missions and achievements amidst the Apocalypse.

Battle!

With a keen interest in why the Imperium had not simply written off the barren rock, the Legions of Discord once again descended on Solypsus 9. Their onslaught quickly supplanted the Spoiler Horde both physically on the planet, and mentally in the minds of the Forces of Order. With its existential foe now truly engaged, the Imperium had no choice but to commit all of its greatest resources to a final apocalyptic showdown for the planet.

Older minds, however, had other plans. Though their increasing presence throughout the war should have been a sign, all were caught off guard by the eruption of a Necron Citadel below the Hab Blocks, pushing aside and crumbling entire buildings as it rose to the surface. Solypsus 9 was thus revealed as a hidden tomb world, sleeping through the eons until the fighting awoke the martial ranks of the Old Ones. Chaos warriors and daemons quickly adapted, implicitly working in tandem with the automatons against the arrogant Emperor.

Against this combined threat, the Imperium’s finest leapt into battle. The Swords of Dorn and the Sanguine Hunters dropped an entire army onto the Necron Citadel. Squad after squad rushed from Drop Pods and Stormravens in an urgent attempt to preempt the legions of Necrons sleeping within from gaining a foothold on ground level. Kingbreakers dropped on the Starport directly among entire buildings of Nurgle’s pustulent champions in hopes of preserving orbital access from the ground. Dark Angels drove amongst the heavy machinery, cranes, and power silos of the Mine against the Iron Warriors building a fortress in its works.

Kingbreakers Squad Harbinger and Dark Angels Tacticals work to purge the alleyways and rubble surrounding the Hab Blocks.

Kingbreakers Squad Harbinger and Dark Angels Tacticals work to purge the alleyways and rubble surrounding the Hab Blocks.

Necron constructs engage the Swords of Dorn deploying from their Drop Pods.

Necron constructs engage the Swords of Dorn deploying from their Drop Pods.

But even as the alpha assault struck hard and Discord seemed to teeter on the precipice, the opposing forces were simply preparing for the counter-attack, the battle hardly begun.

Fleets of Necron flyers darkened the skies, raining bombs and Gauss blasts on ground forces before discharging Necron Warriors into vital positions. Their soldiers deployed to a myriad of critical locations across the battlefield, they then turned and took up dogfights with the Imperial air forces, harrying them throughout the conflict. Thus supported from the air, their legions quickly struck at the lightly guarded base of the Dark Angels’ charge on the east flank, contesting the Generator. Meanwhile, the first chapter’s forces already in the field were slowly ground to a halt against the impregnable defensive positions the Iron Warriors had already constructed among the Mine’s works. Their assault was finally completely repulsed when a Decimator’s malefic demon spirit rose from its own wreckage to lay Ezekiel low with a furious fusillade of Butcher Cannon fire.

A Soul Grinder exhorts Iron Warriors and Flesh Hounds on through the alleyways toward the Dark Angels' advance.

A Soul Grinder exhorts Iron Warriors and Flesh Hounds on through the alleyways toward the Dark Angels’ advance.

To the west, Kingbreakers and Nurgle daemons swept back and forth in mortal combat. Far extended into enemy territory and hotly embattled, the tide shifted for the Imperials when burning warriors of the Legion of the Damned materialized among their midst, blasting away the plague-ridden enemy hosts with eldritch fire. Such were the numbers of the horrors however that even this was not enough, and final control of the Starport came down to the lone Sergeant Titus holding his ground against a chittering insect daemon, locking the monstrous creature in close combat long enough for the facility to be secured.

At the beating heart of the battle, the Swords of Dorn and Sanguine Hunters together fought wave after wave of Necrons emerging from their risen Citadel. Harried by daemons prowling the edges, they carried the fight to the very entrances of the underlying tombs, eventually overcoming the defenders and stemming the tide of living metal gushing forth.

The Swords of Dorn fight to the very doorstep of the tombs.

The Swords of Dorn fight to the very doorstep of the tombs.

Nurgle is beset on all sides by the Legion of the Damned.

Nurgle is beset on all sides by the Legion of the Damned.

From the mounting piles of dead though lumbered the most horrible monstrosities. Towering above them all loomed The Lord of the Blighted Pit himself, Scabeiathrax. Called through The Warp by the rampant suffering, disease, and death wrought by the campaign, The Maggotspore coalesced into being already shuffling inevitably toward Order’s defensive line around the Laboratory. From mighty Knight Errants to foolhardy Tactical Marines, any that dared oppose its path were absentmindedly swept away by its foul claws. Soon it came to stand over the burning carcass of the Laboratory complex, unchallenged by all the Imperium’s might.

Scabeiathrax and the Knight Errant Greenheart face off among the Laboratory.

Scabeiathrax and the Knight Errant Greenheart face off among the Laboratory.

Outcome

After six turns, The Forces of Order emerged triumphant with 61 points to The Legion of Discord’s 51. At the final moment, Order held the Hab Blocks, Comms Tower, and Starport, while Discord claimed the Laboratory and Mine, and the Generator remained contested.

Jason and Alex won the individual honors for Discord and Order respectively with their daemons and Swords of Dorn, as well as claiming all the painting votes. TJ’s Sanguine Hunters claimed the prize for best general.

Mortalis Solypsus

This was the last stage for now of the battle for overall control of the colony. Later this summer though the combatants will descend into the wreckage of the Laboratory and Mine in search of the secrets buried deep therein. Stay tuned for yet more fighting in the campaign for Solypsus 9!

kingbreakers-iconEven on one knee in his mountainous power armor, Titus had to jam his chainsword into a rent piece of deck plate to keep from sliding back. His free hand instinctively tried to hold together his shattered torso, but of course could do nothing through the bloodied remnants of his armor. The furious windstorm beat by the daemon’s insectile wings was near overpowering. More than twice as tall as he, it was even more imposing nonchalantly hovering a few feet off the ground. Dismembered parts of his squadmates rolled past Titus in the gale and off the edge of the landing pad the monster had turned into its personal arena. As the wind shifted aside for a moment, Titus’ head lolled heavily, utterly exhausted. He saw what had caught the monster’s attention, a technical team moving into the nearby control buildings to attempt to activate any of the remaining bulk lifters. The beast gave another of its piercing shrieks, ratcheting up the pitch and volume so high it somehow blew out all the circuitry in his helmet. Vox traffic, sensor signals, the constant noise of a roiling battlefield, it all cut away instantly. In the sudden silent clarity that followed, Titus understood. He was going to die here, or worse. But if he could keep the daemon engaged and away from the control building, he would die doing his duty to the last. Shakily he stood up and freed his chainsword. With not a moment to spare, he charged forward and drove its revving blade up to the hilt in the side of the beast’s chest. It screamed at an even higher pitch and turned back toward Titus. Now he had its full attention.

Titus battles the daemon fly to keep it from the control building.

Titus battles the daemon fly to keep it from the control building.

PAGE Apocalypse 2015: The Fall of Kimball Prime

kingbreakers-iconThe Kingbreakers’ First Squad burst from their Drop Pod even before it hit the ground, running as one toward their objective. Flamers swept away a pack of zombie cultists without pause. Sergeant Scolirus’ powerfist dispatched an intercepting greater daemon on the fly, preserving momentum. The battle brothers each felt the tingling energy crackle as they breached the overlapping void shields but none had a moment to reflect on it. Their target in sight, Captain Angholan jumped in a single bound to the top of the shield generators, ran across the battlements, and leapt into space, hurling an ancient Vortex Grenade into the smoking maw of the corrupted Warhound directly in front of them. At this range the wildly unpredictable warp attack might prove as deadly to themselves as the traitor Titan itself. But none would ever be able to say they had not given everything for the Emperor that had saved them.

This past weekend the Philadelphia Area Gaming Enthusiasts (PAGE) crew held its roughly annual major Apocalypse match. The event was expanded this year to two days: One of Recon Squad skirmishes and a Cataclysm mini-mega battle, and another day of full-on Apocalypse battle royale. Sixteen players participated, with 24,000 points per side in the finale.

A largely successful push was made by the entire group this year to field painted armies and terrain, and tons of photos are up in the Flickr galleries:

A full report of the campaign follows below.

IMG_9619

We march to war!

The Long War

This was basically the finale of a series of events loosely connected by narrative and players over the past half decade:

Campaign map from the 2010 Combat Patrol League.

Campaign map from the 2010 Combat Patrol League.

For 2015’s climax of this story arc, the Legions of Discord brought The Scythe of Unbound Light to the gates of the Kimball Prime Manufactorum, bulwark of the Forces of Order on the planet and last bastion of the Imperium in this system. Meanwhile the instigator behind this entire campaign was also revealed…

Kimball Prime

The entire weekend was fought over a single board, representing the main gate to the major Manufacturom on Kimball Prime (the venue, my house, being on Kimball St and my painting log being the Kimball Prime Manufactorum Log). Though we’ve previously done well at building good Apocalypse boards, this year a bunch of people built even more terrain so we’d have a single unified look.

The table was just over 6′ by 17′ long, following our usual calculations on sizing multiplayer and mega-battle tables. Apocalypse deployment zones were L-shapes, with the teams taking one short edge and all but 4′ of their respective long edges, creating a 2′ strip of S-shaped no-man’s land. At one end was the parade ground and main gate fortress of the Kimball Prime Manufactorum, built for a display board at this year’s NOVA Team Trios Tournament. The other end was anchored by a series of giant skulls emplaced on Chaos temples, representing The Scythe of Unbound Light. Both were essentially played as Aquila Strongpoints with Macro-cannons, the fortress actually being two strongpoints but one cannon, and The Scythe having two annexes. These were blended into an urban core in the middle, with the ruins progressively more dense toward the center. Between and among all this both sides deployed defensive constructs, with Discord’s Iron Warriors in particular laying down extensive siege works.

The field of battle prepped and ready.

The field of battle prepped and ready.

Recon Squad + Cataclysm

The first part of the campaign used our Recon Squad rules for 200 pt skirmishes. These are very similar to the traditional GW Kill Team variant, but with tighter rules and better adaptations to 7th edition. Around these we used our Twilight on Caldor IV campaign mechanics, in which each player picks a legacy like Bodyguards, Sentinels, Headhunters, or Scouts from eight options, and tries to achieve that legacy through winning several specific scenarios from eight missions like Assassination, Installation, Excavation, or Breakthrough. The main table was divided up with twine into four 4×4 Recon Squad boards, with two more side boards assembled for fighting at the poles and in the swamps of Kimball Prime.

Legacy card for the Sentinels.

Legacy card for the Sentinels.

A pack of Screamers dominated their matches, helping the Legions of Discord to a healthy 116 to 83 victory in the vanguard battles of the imminent Apocalypse. In a key moment, however, a squad of The Fallen were run to ground in a ruined Imperial chapel, yielding the first hints of the greater forces at work behind the scenes.

kingbreakers-iconBrother Teleos stepped carefully among the rubble, futilely trying to avoid crunching in the loose debris. The shadowy figures had clearly retreated into these chapel ruins once the cultists they’d been using as meat shields had been pulped. At the distinctive boom of a bolter firing behind him, instinct spun Teleos around instantly even as another part of his mind registered that it was too late already. It took a moment then to process that he was still functioning, and then another to fully register the robed, power armored figure falling to the ground mere feet away, a long monoblade raised toward him. Framed in the archway beyond stood Ghost Sergeant Harmon. The black clad Kingbreaker gave Teleos the sign for eyes-up before silently stalking on deeper into the chapel.

Fallen and Kingbreakers have a standoff in a ruined Imperial chapel.

Fallen and Kingbreakers have a standoff in a ruined Imperial chapel.

In the next part the Recon Squads gained 300 points of reinforcements and piled into a single Cataclysm battle over half the main board. On the edges of the parade grounds a seesawing conflict was fought between Mechanicum automata and Chaos Cultists joined by summoned daemons. Across the battlefield, an isolated band of Imperial Fists were rolled off the flanks of the temple grounds by daemons and traitor Marines. Coming to reinforce the position, Clan Raukaan troops found themselves ambushed by Night Lords. Despite a steady armored push up the center of the battle, Major Zdarsky’s 59th Armageddon crashed onto the enemy objectives too late to swing the Imperials’ fortunes.

By the end both warmasters were slain but Discord continued its successes, holding the majority of the six primary objectives in scoring rounds after Turns 2, 4, and 6 to earn 20 points to Order’s 14, both having also assassinated several opposing warlords. Squads on both teams squads secured their legacies, with the daemons’ Penetrators claiming an Order objective and the Kingbreakers’ Bodyguards successfully executing a flying block for Major Zdarsky and his armored column.

Lizardmen fight against the Imperium that would scorn them.

Lizardmen fight against the Imperium that would scorn them.

Night Lords stalk the shadowed alleys and ruins.

Night Lords stalk the shadowed alleys and ruins.

The Cataclysm underway.

The Cataclysm underway.

Apocalypse

The next day the conflict at the Manufactorum gates expanded again. Companies of Space Marines, packs of Cultists and Daemons, Mechanicus war engines, and all manner of armies descended on the battlefield.

Setup

Six primary objectives were placed before deployment in a ring around the board:

  • The main gates of the Kimball Prime Manufacturom;
  • The base of The Scythe of Unbound Light;
  • The headquarters of Discord’s siege works;
  • Clerics’ dormitories at an Imperial Shrine;
  • An Imperial Aquila Strongpoint with Vortex Missiles;
  • A newly arisen Necron Citadel.

After all deployment was complete, each player additionally placed a secondary objective anywhere 12″ from table edges and other objectives.

apoc-board

Scoring was held after turns 2, 4, and 5 (game end). Primary objectives could only be scored by troops in the mid-game rounds. All troops had Objective Secured regardless of detachment structure. Primaries were each worth the current turn number. Secondaries were worth one point each. Warlords, superheavies, gargantuan creatures, and mighty bulwarks were additionally worth a point each, with an additional point for slaying the designated warmaster (chief warlord).

Having handily won the preceding day, Discord took the prerogative of choosing to deploy and play first or second and chose second. They also got a free Macro-Cannon on The Scythe for their successes throughout the campaigns. Each team took up to 30 minutes to deploy, with Seize the Initiative unavailable. Modified Apocalyptic Reserves were applied, with a schedule of earliest arrival based on maximum unit movement speed. Each turn the commander for each team could designate one unit to make an All Out Attack, advancing at triple its movement but foregoing shooting/running/moving flat out. Both commanders also selected eight Strategic Asset cards to be given to their warlords in need throughout the match.

The Sentinels of Terra and the 59th Armageddon await the onslaught.

The Sentinels of Terra and the 59th Armageddon await the onslaught.

Battle

The Forces of Order had a nearly decisive first turn, inflicting major losses. The Kingbreakers’ Librarius of Rorschach make a suicidal Drop Pod strike into the heart of the enemy deployment zone. Binding their psychic potential together, they cast a massive Warp Vortex directly on top of a corrupted Hellhammer, blasting it immediately into the Immaterium. Though the entirety of the Librarius gave their lives for the action, their angry spirits lived on in the vortex they’d spawned, sucking a number of Greater Daemons back into the Warp throughout the battle.

Nearby, punishing bombardment from the 59th Armageddon and a contingent of the Sentinels of Terra on the parapets of the main gate fortress obliterated a Void Shield Generator and a corrupted Baneblade on the leading edge of the Discord siege works. Covered by the withering hail of fire, the Knight Errant Greenheart simultaneously charged across the battlefield and plowed through the zombie cultists futilely blocking its way, stomping through their lines and crushing the other Void Shield Generator guarding the Discord siege headquarters.

At the far end of the battlefield, Clan Raukaan Centurions and Sternguard made a mass drop on the Necron Citadel and astoundingly earned a critical first turn kill of the emerging Transcendant C’Tan before it could wreak havoc.

A Great Unclean One exchanges mighty blows with a Terminator Sergeant.

A Great Unclean One exchanges mighty blows with a Terminator Sergeant.

Reeling from these blows, the Legions of Discord worked grimly to pull their battle plan back together. Four greater Daemons bound together in a Tetragon of Darkness shrouded the Chaos troops in protective wards from the enemies now running amok among their lines, while the nanites and scarabs of the Necron Citadel did the same for the automatons. A massive blind barrage shielded the advance of hordes of Lizardmen, Night Lords, and other traitors in the shadows of a many-legged Greater Brass Scorpion toward the Mechanicum’s Aquila Strongpoint. One of Ahriman’s Covens sacrificed itself en masse ahead of the group to spawn a bevy of warp rift vortexes that would plague the soldiers of Mars for the entire battle. Responding in kind, a Dark Angels Librarius began tearing at reality ahead of the oncoming army. Together the two bands of psykers turned that entire quadrant of the battlefield into a crazed, unpredictable nightmare where instant death might come at any moment, no matter how brave the warrior or thick the armor.

A Dark Angels Librarius recklessly tears rifts in reality all about the incoming Chaos Marines from their Aquila Strongpoint.

A Dark Angels Librarius recklessly tears rifts in reality all about the incoming Chaos Marines from their Aquila Strongpoint.

A band of Chaos Marines marches toward the Mechanicum's Strongpoint.

A band of Chaos Marines marches toward the Mechanicum’s Strongpoint.

With little left in reserve following the punishing first round strike, the Forces of Order were stretched thin to cope with seemingly endless Discord reinforcements and slowly the momentum shifted.

Deep in the Discord lines, isolated bands of Kingbreakers, Dark Angels, and Raukaan fought brave tactical battles to claim important ground, but were repeatedly swept away by outnumbering opponents: Once the Siege HQ was threatened by Order forces, Land Raiders full of Chaos troops appeared to fight them back. With the Necron Citadel about to be overrun by combined arms, a large band of Cultists arrived to hold it until the Maynarkh could regroup. Again and again the story repeated, snatching victory from the loyalists.

On the Imperial side, wave after wave of Necron flyers harrassed the Mechanicum position. Though many Tech Thralls and reinforcing Raukaan gave their lives to shore up the Strongpoint and the Greater Brass Scorpion was eventually brought down, the redoubt was inevitably overcome in a flood of Chaos Marines.

Deathwing drag down a daemon spawned on the parapets of the main gate fortress.

Deathwing drag down a daemon spawned on the parapets of the main gate fortress.

Most devastatingly, late in the battle several small squads of Chaos space marines outflanked onto the Imperials’ position around the shrine dormitories. Having already repelled a large attack of Soulgrinders, lesser daemons, and zombies, the position had been thought secure. Heavy shelling from the 59th Armageddon combined with sustained fire and assaults from the Kingbreakers and allies eventually cleared the position, but the damage had been done. Stretched thin across the multiple objectives in the area, there wasn’t enough time for Order forces to shore up the position before a final, desperate, high speed strafing run of an entire squadron of Necron Doom Scythes managed to wipe the defenders off the primary objective in the closing moments of the battle.

Inquisitor Hersch and Kingbreakers Tacticals investigate noises in the alleys around the shrine dormitory.

Inquisitor Hersch and Kingbreakers Tacticals investigate noises in the alleys around the shrine dormitory.

Maynarkh Doom Scythes make a high speed formation strafing run through the occupied city ruins.

Maynarkh Doom Scythes make a high speed formation strafing run through the occupied city ruins.

Midway through the battle, however, the last of Discord’s primary siege works had been finally cracked open. Exposed therein was the treacherous mastermind of the entire campaign: No less than Cypher himself! His position was immediately obliterated beyond all recognition by the Sentinels of Terra and the 59th Armageddon. Presumably nothing could have survived the severe overkill, but the Fallen’s fate is unconfirmed: Deathwing rushing to the site were intercepted en route and unable to gather evidence either way.

apoc-movement

Outcome

The Imperial bulwarks on Kimball Prime are lost before the might of The Scythe of Unbound Light and the Manufacturom lost to Chaos, but the instigator of this campaign throwing the sector into disarray is revealed!

Both teams claimed 5 superheavy/gargantuan/bulwark and 3 warlord kills, though Order also dispatched the Discord warmaster—Cypher cowardly hiding in a bunker! After Turn 2 Order had a small lead (19 to 15), but Discord gained a slight advantage by Turn 4 (40 to 37), and then Order’s long edge collapsed in Turn 5, yielding a final total score of 65 to 51 in favor of the traitors, heretics, and xenos.

A solitary sniper eyes up the battlefield.

A solitary sniper eyes up the battlefield.

Analysis

A few points on the game play itself as well as the design of the match.

Game End

With 120 points up for grabs, the 65-51 Apocalypse outcome certainly wasn’t a blow out. With another turn before scoring the end several of the objectives would have been closely fought, potentially dramatically changing the outcome. The Kingbreakers in particular were setup for 6 turns, and didn’t have time to move back onto the Dormitory objective when the game ended early. By that point though most of the (merely mortal) warlords were ready to pack it in after a long, brutal campaign. We did a reasonable job of keeping things to our schedule, but this was a packed weekend of two long days of gaming. Regardless, in the future we’ll probably score every turn and commanders will have to be prepared for the game to end early in the event that the group starts to flag.

The Mechanicum's Strongpoint is overwhelmed in a combined tide of living and corrupted metal.

The Mechanicum’s Strongpoint is overwhelmed in a combined tide of living and corrupted metal.

Balance

Our group consciously works to make our Apocalypse battles more than just Titans point & clicking at each other from across the table. In this match basic troops, heroic warriors, and giant war machines all felt equally important and critical. To a very large extent the game came down to a couple combat squads of Tacticals slugging it out with some Chaos Marine stragglers over a primary objective in the last turn. Among the factors contributing to this are:

  • Major units, defined as anything with more than 9 hull points/wounds, are “negotiated” between the teams. For this match we agreed not to allow Reavers, though we have in the past, mostly because one in the group isn’t painted and very very few of our players are familiar enough to use them effectively. Otherwise everything was allowed and this rule basically just prevents surprises, and enables some shifting around of excess Baneblade-chassis to roughly balance the superheavies across the two teams.
  • Tons of line of sight blocking terrain as well as barricades, rubble, and other smaller terrain providing places for the little guys to hang out. In addition to the board pieces placed pre-game, we ignore the official Apoc rules and leave ruined vehicles in place (as destroyable wreckage) as well as amending the 7th edition core to still replace exploded vehicles with craters, so that infantry have places to hide, particularly after spilling out of a transport.
  • Permitting only Troops to hold the primary objectives in the mid-game scoring obviously makes them critical. Giving all Troops the Objective Secured rule regardless of detachment is also a nice and very relevant buff. A good number of points came down to having Elites vs Troops on the secondary objectives.
A full handful of plasmacannon Sentinels lurched about in Order's backfield waiting for deep striking traitor Terminators to squish.

A full handful of plasmacannon Sentinels lurched about in Order’s backfield waiting for deep striking traitor Terminators to squish.

Deployment Zones

The funky deployment zones used here definitely made things interesting. It’s certainly not uncommon in Apocalypse for a section of the board to get blown away early. This setup though makes the long ends of the L-shapes “obvious” focal points for massive bombardments and attack because they’re exposed on two sides.

Despite Discord’s significant siege works, most of their forces on that point were obliterated early on. Probably Order’s Sentinels and 59th Armageddon should have advanced en masse to roll down that flank a bit after it was opened up, but they were harassed enough by deep striking Oblits and Daemons to stay put. In turn, that gave space for the large number of reserves Discord had held back to roll on and just barely mantain that point.

On the opposite end, Discord didn’t manage to knockout Order’s Strongpoint at that leading edge for quite some time, but the writing was on the wall with an inexorable wave of enemies working toward it from multiple angles. Order placed a ridiculous amount of forces around the main gate objective for mostly psychological reasons, as well as not wanting to split up commanders’ forces, but we should have allocated some of them down at the opposite end.

So, both sides expected the brunt of the fighting to be at those points, but neither adequately realized how true that would be. Encouraging that kind of analysis is a good thing, so I think this deployment setup worked well without being more punishing on any particular player than Apocalypse can be anyway.

Grenadiers oversee the battlefield.

Grenadiers oversee the battlefield.

Strategy

To that end, this match was actually really strategic. Though definitely not a perfect game, 40k done well is by no means a beer and pretzels affair. That’s surprisingly also true of Apocalypse. With enough attention to terrain, scenario, schedules, and balanced teams, there’s a ton of strategy to be had.

For the most part, Apocalypse doesn’t have the same tactical game that standard 40k does. There’s just too much going on, and not enough time to micro-optimize play or avoid all mistakes. I almost certainly removed my warlord on a failed save he didn’t actually fail but was too harried to catch that the power weapon attacking him didn’t defeat his artificier armor. At the same time, I know his unit lived through a turn when they could have gotten crushed because an opposing player was moving too fast trying to get in all of his actions, and accidentally blocked the Discord Warhound from going after them. It was actually jarring going from Recon Squad, which is very tactical, to this monstrosity. My skirmish Saturday against Colin’s Fallen was extremely chess-like and tight (and awesome!), whereas Sunday’s chaos was all about the broad strokes, having a well designed list and making the appropriate large scale moves that sailed well above all the really fine grained stuff.

A Typhoon heads out on patrol.

A Typhoon heads out on patrol.

To a large extent, 40k is a game of resource management and area control rather than micro-maneuvering, and in my eyes is a better game for it. Apocalypse done right takes that to a different level even as it swings on pivotal dice rolls just like any other match. Discord won this game because they kept a large number of units in reserve and combined them well with strategic asset cards to bring them on in the most effective places at just the right times. Ultimately it came down to just a couple Chaos Marines posing a significant threat, combined with a few flyers in position to sweep away the counter-response.

Though the gambit looked very promising at the start, Order didn’t have enough oomph left after its initial alpha strike even though it was largely successful. Compounding that, we didn’t wipe out enough of the opposing defenders in the mid-game to prevent Discord from sneaking small groups of reserves into critical positions. Most importantly though, the alpha strike and serious buildup around the main gates left all our troops committed in the wrong places going into the end game, and we just weren’t as able to adapt as the opposing army bringing in new troops all around the board.

In sum: Two very different strategies, both almost worked out, one wound up with a solid win through intentful strategic play and a lot of pre-game thought. That’s exactly how it should work. And along the way there were ridiculous piles of armies and huge models being pushed all around the table…

The Apocalypse somewhere in the early turns.

The Apocalypse somewhere in the early turns.

Closing

It took a lot of advance work and was a looong weekend, but this was a stellar event encompassing a huge swathe of 40k gaming: Skirmishing, Apocalypse, campaigns, narrative, frantic late night painting, the whole shebang.

Again, lots of photos are up in the Flickr galleries:

g6587We’ll also be posting the PDFs driving all of this, and are also considering hosting a larger event around the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) area sometime in the future. If you are interested in either of those, please sign up for our very low-volume, announcements-only mailing list!

Next up is our regular tournament/event at Redcap’s Corner on Saturday, January 24th. Details will be posted to the store’s 40k mailing list and the PAGE Forums shortly, but armies are 1850 points and entry $10. Be there or be forever a traitor enslaved to laughing gods!

kingbreakers-iconCaptain Angholan subtly motioned for his men to wait as he stepped forward onto the dais. In the complete silence he could hear the soft boom and crunch of the colossal battle going on outside the courtyard. Here though the air was completely still and stale, dead. Ahead stood the motionless monarch, flanked by row after row of his automatons. Eyes locked on his opponent, Angholan swept his softly flaming Vorpal Blade languidly across the arc of the room, then pointed it straight at the Nemesor. Deep in its hollowed eye sockets he thought he could see a slight upbeat in the small lights set there. Then, wordlessly and as one, the ranks of automatons slowly moved forward, enclosing their leader safely behind. The licks of flames at the edge of Angholan’s blade burst to life as First Squad stepped up to join him. It could go down that way too.

The Kingbreakers' Captain Angholan and Squad Scolirus fight their way onto the Necron Citadel to challenge Nemesor Zahndrekh personally.

The Kingbreakers’ Captain Angholan and Squad Scolirus fight their way onto the Necron Citadel to challenge Nemesor Zahndrekh personally.

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