The Sword Sworn Campaign

Unfortunately, my friend Sascha is moving away. So we all decided to send him off proper by burning down a monastery of his beloved Swords of Dorn Space Marines!

Fourteen players came together Saturday for our Sword Sworn one-shot narrative campaign. Many heroes were made, villains created, and a ton of great games fought, with literally not a single unpainted model in play. This is a quick recap of the action. Many more photos are available via Flickr or Facebook.

In the grimdark of the far future, a new hero is born every minute… and eaten the next.

Backstory

Brother Mynaugh’s eyes swept the grounds from his perch in the east tower. Even with his superhuman vision he couldn’t see the group of his fellow initiates he knew would be assembling outside the chapel for night training beyond the walls. So soon now they would all deploy to the 10th company, full and true battle brothers of the Swords of Dorn.
Shattering his moment of reverie, the jaw of a servo skull in the tower’s cogitator bank suddenly sprung open and began emitting a piercing inhuman shriek. As Mynaugh looked on in the dim red lighting another and then another followed suit. The import came to the scout like lightning. He whirled around. Far on the horizon, faint lines streaking from orbit. This was no expected landing, no scheduled drop training. Mynaugh tugged his bolter off its wall bracket and pulled it close, not believing this to be any suprise drill either. Perhaps the initiates’ time had come early…

On the quiet planet of Hedron IX, the Swords of Dorn maintain one of their chapter’s training monasteries. This one specifically focuses on training Scouts in the art of piloting Landspeeder Storms to swoop onto objectives in turn five. The monastery has unexpectedly come under attack by the Blood Fed, a wretched mob of traitors, xenos, and galactic refuse come treacherously from their hiding holes to avenge imagined slights and punish the ostensibly vainglorious Swords of Dorn. Opposing them, in their moment of need the Swords of Dorn have called the many valiant allies with which they have shared mutual oaths over the decades to defend both honor and body to join them under the banner of the Sword Sworn alliance.

Icons for the Sword Sworn and Blood Fed alliances.

Map

Our campaign begins with the invaders amassed at the monastery walls. The campaign is played over seven major regions of the chapter monastery:

  • The Siege Front where the Blood Fed are encamped;
  • The Primaris Gate, Cawe Tower, and Saleron Tower keeping them at bay;
  • The Dormitorium where the monastery’s residents live;
  • The Munitorum where the Landspeeder Storms and other equipment are kept;
  • The Chapel of Mons where initiates pray and train in the combat arenas.

The Blood Fed start in control of the Siege Front and are working toward the chapel: Even if the Sword Sworn successfully rebuff them in the larger battle for the monastery, the Blood Fed’s leader and his personal army advances forward each turn.

There are three separate measures of success for the campaign—

  • Tactical: Taking/preserving the monastery (controlling a majority of the regions);
  • Strategic: Wrecking/preserving the Swords of Dorns’ recruit pipeline (higher total campaign points earned, a combination of victory points and campaign rewards);
  • Campaign: Looting/preserving the chapel relics (controlling the chapel).

Training monastery of the Swords of Dorn on Hedron IX.

Missions

A specific mission is associated with each map region, with the alliances alternating choosing regions to attack each round and thus the missions for each match to use—

  • Siege Front: A kill points style mission;
  • Towers and Gate: A breakthrough mission in which players place objectives whose worth is determined by how far they are from the player’s table edge;
  • Dormitorium: Both sides work to capture or rescue the many non-combatants enabling a Space Marine chapter’s operations, represented by Civilian NPCs.
  • Munitorium: Both sides work to destroy or extract equipment, represented by objectives that may be scored a finite number of times;
  • Chapel: An open battle with players vying for their choice of a combination of specific objective markers or kill points.

All of these are well tested and tournament-ready, based on our standard scheme of 20 victory points: 9 for primary objectives, 6 for secondaries, 5 for tertiaries. Each mission has a short list of secondary objectives from which players choose individually. This enables players to make strategic choices and play to their strengths, e.g., doubling down on killing versus objective grabbing or vice versa.

Mission writeup for the Munitorum.

Special Characters

There are multiple special characters at large in the campaign, including the aforementioned leader of the Blood Fed. In addition to their in-game presence, each special character awards 10 campaign points each round to the alliances for either their survival or death (interpreted as being forced to retreat) as appropriate.

The only characters known to both teams initially are the Scout Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus. Having been caught in the initial fighting, they are now swept away in the battle. Completely overwhelmed and seriously questioning signing up to be Space Marines, sheer luck just barely lets them survive, carried from one awful circumstance to another. This is represented by the Initiates being randomly assigned to a match each round, in which they are placed somewhat randomly between the two forces and huddle down until saved by the Sword Sworn or overrun by the terrifying invaders.

All of the special characters and tokens.

Tokens

In addition, there are three types of tokens given out at various points—

  • Blood Favor: The very first unit across the event to claim First Blood each round gets a Blood Favor which it may discard to ignore D3 wounds/damage.
  • Blessing: The lowest scoring players on each side each round get a Blessing from their gods or the Emperor, which they may discard to reroll any single die.
  • Relic: Each alliance choose one final round match in the chapel to be for the relic they consider most important, earning or losing an extra 10 campaign points by holding the central objective or not. The token may be revealed to make all runs, flat outs, and charges +D3 inches that player turn. Players may choose objectives in this mission, so the opponent may not necessarily care about the central objective unless this revelation is made.

All of the tokens may be used at any point, and carry into the next game if not used.

Campaign

Appropriately enough, the Blood Fed wound up comprised of primarily Chaos Marines, a few Space Marine contingents apparently having just thrown in their lot against the Emperor, and a band of Tyranids come for the feast. Facing off against them, the Swords of Dorn were backed by a full host of Space Marine loyalists, Tempestus Scions, and an Emperor’s Fist Armoured Company.

As kind of a going-away party we wanted everybody to get a chance to play with multiple people. So we played rotating doubles, with the alliances choosing which of their players to team up each round. After some quick strategy discussion about first round teams and missions, the campaign was on!

Traitor Governor Friedman launches the surprise night attack.

Round 1

Scout Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus find themselves amid the heaviest fighting, defending the Primaris Gate. Caught without any support, they’re exposed to a massive charge by a ravening horde of Tyranid monsters. Mynaugh lays into the horde with his minigun, but both barely escape the Red Terror.

The Blood Fed’s leader is revealed by his thrust against the Primaris Gate as the Planetary Governor Friedman, unsurprisingly turned traitor. More is at hand though then just a minor rebellion as Governor Friedman is clearly being rewarded for his actions, growing in power and size as the blood flows.

Outside the gates, the Sword Sworn gamble on a counter-offensive, attacking into the Siege Front. They are eventually rebuffed, but at the worst moment the Warp-fired visage of Brother Edelkraut, a storied hero of the Swords of Dorn presumed long dead, appears and empties his wrath into the invaders.

Outcome: No change in regions, but the Governor breaks through the Primaris Gate.

The map after Round 1.

Chaos Daemons overwhelm Swords of Dorn Scouts while Crimson Fists rush to their aid.

Presumed long dead Brother Edelkraut appears from the Warp to support a Lamenters Chaplain in his moment of need.

Scout Initiates Te’Janus and Mynaugh stare down the oncoming horde.

Round 2

Having barely escaped being eaten, the Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus immediately stumble into an even worse horror: The soul corrupting might of Chaos! Still trying to escape the carnage around the Primaris Gate, they’re harried by Raptors and driven toward the maw of Nurgle’s mightiest minions.

His rage growing ever more powerful, Governor Friedman sweeps through the Dormitorium feeding civilians to his dark gods. The Swords’ desperation growing as the heretic works ever closer to the chapel, Brother Edelkraut lives up to his legend, moving so fast from fight to fight that he often seems to be in two places at once.

At the previously quiet Munitorum, the defense forces are overtaken by terror as they suddenly realize there is a silent stalker among them: The governor’s secret henchman Assassin Timday appears at the airfield and begins hunting down Tempestus Scions.

Outcome: The Blood Fed cleave a clear path from the Siege Front through the Primaris Gate and the Dormitorium to the very edge of the Chapel.

The map after Round 2.

Tempestus Scions hold their ground at the Munitorum airfield.

Chaos overwhelms the Munitorum’s refinery.

Assassin Timday hunts among the airfield.

Round 3

Now a lumbering hulk, Governor Friedman smashes through the chapel walls and makes his way to stake a claim on a chalice said to have been drunk from by Rogal Dorn himself. Despite dispatching ever more frenetic vengeance, Brother Edelkraut’s furious hauntings are not enough to stop this sacrilege. Meanwhile the twisted Assassin Timday lurks the outer edges of the chapel battle, continuing his persecution of the Tempestus Scions.

Blown by the winds of war from fight to fight, the Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus find themselves having gone full cycle, from the very first contact at the Primaris Gate, to the very last fighting at the Chapel of Mons. There they find themselves almost snared in the clutches of the Alpha Legion when an angry company of Lamenters Space Marines comes to their aid just in time. Rallying to their brave example, they join a squad of their brethren Scouts in a suicidal fight to hold the left flank and protect the Lamenters’ main position. At long last the Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus have truly learned what it means to be one of the Emperor’s finest.

Outcome: The Sword Sworn make a successful raid into the invader’s encampment as well as retaking the Primaris Gate, but do not stop the Blood Fed’s push to the Chapel of Mons and the precious relics inside.

The map after Round 3.

Snipers pick off targets from the rooftops of the refinery buildings.

Packs of Warp Talons and Nurgle bikers roam through the Dormitorium.

Ill-fated Brother Maximus, cursed with Black Rage in his Dreadnought armor tomb, surges forward to assault a Chaos Havoc squad.

Outcomes

The Sword Sworn maintain marginal control of their monastery on Hedron IX (Sword Sworn tactical victory). Their recruiting pipeline however is wrecked by the Blood Fed, who have indeed feasted on many of their trainees and destroyed much equipment and supporting personnel (Blood Fed strategic victory). Worst of all, the cursed Governor Friedman manages to loot the Chapel of Mons and makes off with the relics he came to steal for his masters (Blood Fed campaign victory)!

Like so many chapters before them, the Swords of Dorn will have to rebuild from this loss, no doubt to become even mightier warriors for the Emperor…

Newly trained Swords of Dorn stand their ground to the last in the chapel.

Awards

Full campaign and individual results are posted here (XLSX). As this was purely a casual narrative event, we awarded the following as small store credit prizes:

  • Best Generals: Top overall points in each alliance, encompassing victory points + sportsmanship + army appearance (a 5 point rubric for minimum standards);
  • Craftsperson: First and second place in player votes for best army appearance;
  • Lucky Warriors: Our two primary prizes were drawn from a raffle, each player having earned 2 tickets for a loss and 1 ticket for a win.

Jake C with his Tyranid and Brian M with his Ravenguard won the raffle prizes. Steel Thunder Mike and Sam L from the Berks PA Gaming Club took home Best General titles for the Sword Sworn and Blood Fed respectively. A relative newcomer to our Redcap’s community, Fernando V took second in the painting votes with his Crimson Fists while man of the hour Sascha and his Swords of Dorn once more won that ballot, donating his prize to our ongoing Shadow War campaign. Congratulations everybody!

A Crimson Fists Fire Raptor makes a last ditch strafing run in a futile attempt to hold the airfield.

Next Up!

I have a bunch of thoughts on different aspects of this campaign to tweak. But it seemed very successful at creating the feel of a larger story and throwing in lots of fun little bits without being overly complex or unbalancing. A PDF with all the missions, tokens, map, etc., is mostly prepared and will be posted once 8th edition is released and the necessary changes made.

As a bonus, I was blown away by all the amazing armies and models that came out to play. Many under-utilized models made an appearance, particularly among the Chaos Marines. Many more photos are available via Flickr or Facebook.

All in all, I had a great time, everybody else seemed to have a great time, and I hope it was a fitting community tribute to Sascha, who has been the heart of our 40k group the past few years. We’ll miss you, and we’re sorry we burned down your monastery!

For everybody else, if this is the kind of Warhammer 40,000 gaming you crave and you can get to Philadelphia or Washington DC, you should join us for our upcoming LibertyHammer weekend in June and the NOVA 40k Narrative over Labor Day!

    

Scout Initiates Mynaugh and Te’Janus fight on, having become true warriors of the Swords of Dorn.

First Playthrough: The Molokh Gambit X-Wing Narrative

Saturday PAGE hosted its first X-Wing event: We did our first full playthrough of The Molokh Gambit, a new lightweight narrative campaign for X-Wing. Fourteen people played, twelve in the missions and six in the concluding epic battle, graciously hosted as usual by Redcap’s Corner in West Philly. This is a quick recap to post some photos and introduce the campaign. In the next couple weeks we’ll be cleaning up the packet, collating links to all the necessary supporting materials (ships, cards, dials, etc), and posting it for the public much like my other unofficial game supplements for 40k.

Many more photos than those here are in the Flickr gallery.

Prep

The campaign is built around a mess of toys, including Senator’s Shuttles, Cargo Pods, Crawlers, Stormtrooper Transports, Satellites, a whole bunch of custom tokens and cards to go with them, a collection of official huge ships, and a giant Nebulon B frigate.

My buddy Matt and I 3D printed and painted boxes and boxes of the unofficial models, some of which I designed and some I downloaded and edited to print better, assemble easier, or be in a more useful scale. For those interested but completely unfamiliar, I have previously written a general introduction to 3d printing in the context of wargaming. A step beyond that, recently I posted a detailed tutorial on modeling & printing, using GR-75 Cargo Pods I created for this campaign as the exemplar. Again, when we finalize the packet shortly we’ll post a full manifest of resources for those with and without access to a 3D printer to produce the models or counters for them, all the tokens and cards, etc..

UPDATE: There is a growing collection of links here to resources for getting or making the various components needed.

Many more photos of various stages of printing and assembly are in the gallery.

Modeling the Cargo Pods.

Modeling the Cargo Pods.

Colin playtesting the VIP Escort mission.

Colin playtesting the VIP Escort mission.

Printing a fleet of DX-9 Stormtrooper Transports.

Printing a fleet of DX-9 Stormtrooper Transports.

Working out mounts and a base for the frigate.

Working out mounts and a base for the frigate.

Cards, dials, tokens, and even a custom maneuver template to be mounted and cut.

Cards, dials, tokens, and even a custom maneuver template to be mounted and cut.

Campaign

Key design goals of the campaign, as with most of my narrative wargaming designs, are flexibility and a reasonable tradeoff between cool mechanics and simplicity. It’s intended for public events or casual home gaming as either a 1-shot over a long-ish day, or a small number of evenings or afternoons. There aren’t extensive mechanics or game modifications to learn, the number of players is variable, people can drop in and out between rounds, and it won’t run so long as to just peter out. For all the X-Wing players that really want to enjoy more storyful gaming but don’t have a fully committed play group or who just want to jump into going pew-pew-pew without everybody having to read lots of extra rules, this is going to be a campaign you should try.

The campaign is built around a two phase structure:

  • Missions: Themed, asymmetric missions toward strategic objectives.
  • Epic Battle: A concluding team-based mega space battle.

Players naturally divide up into Rebel and Imperial alliances, with Scum going to either side to balance as necessary. Short collaborative planning sessions are held by the alliances to divvy up unique pilots and upgrades among themselves, and to help each other tweak squad builds toward particular missions.

We ran this first event as a 1-shot narrative over a single day of gaming, so we did two rounds of missions and then the epic battle. There’s no reason though that there couldn’t be more or fewer mission rounds, the mechanics normalize for that. Each round the alliances alternate choosing missions and players to execute them.

The selection of five missions available is:

  • VIP Escort: A Senator coming to the sector to coordinate the Rebels’ plans is ambushed by an Imperial squadron.
  • Holonet Intercept: Rebels attempt to slice an Imperial holonet relay network to learn about the ultimate target of their campaign.
  • Depot Raid: Imperials attack the Rebels’ covert supply lines.
  • Clandestine Meeting: Imperials come to kill or capture a Rebel Agent meeting covertly on the ground with a Spy traveling undercover among a Mining Clan.
  • Dogfight: A standard X-Wing battle, but augmented by nominating Hero Aces that have a few buffs but yield extra campaign points.

The first four missions listed are grouped into two tracks, Information and Resources. The former yields information helpful in the final battle, while the latter yields raw troops and materials. Dogfights can be allocated toward either one. Each mission has a 5 point rubric for scoring based on campaign objectives like slicing Satellites. Players thus need to work to achieve those, not necessarily just to keep their ships alive and destroy the opponent’s. It’s a very different and fun way to play X-Wing.

Concluding the campaign is a final battle themed around an attack on a critical Imperial Nebulon-B frigate, the Redemption. Storyline and details on that to come!

All the extra toys used for the day.

All the extra toys used for the day.

One of the Senator's Shuttles (3D printed)

One of the Senator’s Shuttles (3D printed).

Cargo Pods (3D printed) unloaded from a GR-75 Medium Transport.

Cargo Pods (3D printed) unloaded from a GR-75 Medium Transport.

DX-9 assault craft and Mining Clan Crawler (both 3D printed).

DX-9 assault craft and Mining Clan Crawler (both 3D printed).

Holonet relay satellites (3D printed).

Holonet relay satellites (3D printed).

The Nebulon-B frigate Redemption (3D printed with the base a mix of printing and scratchbuilding).

The Nebulon-B frigate Redemption (3D printed with the base a mix of printing and scratchbuilding).

Story

Beginning their campaign, Rebels successfully escorted two Senators into the sector to lead their efforts. However, the Imperials were able to defend their holonet relay as well as destroy a Rebellion supply shipment. A clandestine information exchange was a strategic toss-up, with the spy escaping Imperial forces but the Rebellion’s agent unable to bring the data back. The general balance of operations remained neutral as both sides fought to a draw on dogfighting, but the Imperials took a slight lead on strategic factors through the strength of their victories.

Rebels attempt to escape a thwarted clandestine meeting.

Rebels attempt to escape a thwarted clandestine meeting.

Imperials and Rebels think hard about how to stop or enable a Senator to enter the sector.

Imperials and Rebels think hard about how to stop or enable a Senator to enter the sector.

The Senator's Shuttle flies into the thick of a dogfight.

The Senator’s Shuttle flies into the thick of a dogfight.

Rebels and Imperials debrief and make new plans between rounds.

Rebels and Imperials debrief and make new plans between rounds.

Regrouping from the uptick in Rebellion activity throughout the sector, the Empire struck back. Rebels managed to slice the Empire’s holonet relay, but the Imperials destroyed one Senator, stalled another, and destroyed a Rebel supply drop. The Empire also caught a traitorous spy and destroyed their agent contact just in time before the latter could escape with stolen data. Rebels took a slight edge in the sector’s general combat operations through successful dogfighting, but lost ground strategically.

Mercenary Scum defend a Rebel supply drop.

Mercenary Scum defend a Rebel supply drop.

TIEs swoop in, destroying Rebel Cargo Pods unloaded from a GR-75.

TIEs swoop in, destroying Rebel Cargo Pods unloaded from a GR-75.

A clandestine meeting is disrupted by Imperial bombers and ground assault teams.

A clandestine meeting is disrupted by Imperial bombers and ground assault teams.

A formation of TIE Bombers fly to soften the ground for Stormtroopers preparing to assault from their transport.

A formation of TIE Bombers fly to soften the ground for Stormtroopers preparing to assault from their transport.

The battle develops among the ice world's crystal spires.

The battle develops among the ice world’s crystal spires.

After numerous close fought missions, the Imperials managed to maintain strategic initiative in the sector. Rebels thus had to fly blind into their final attack on the frigate Redemption, and had fewer resources with which to do so. However, they slowly gained the upper hand through their pilots’ maniacal focus on attacking the primary target at all cost. That cost was indeed great though as Imperials swept in from the flanks, crushing the Rebels against the dangerous might of the frigate itself. The battle became a question of time, with the frigate steadily losing shields and hull just as the Rebels lost ships. In the end though, with only a few Rebel pilots still extant, they managed to score a few final hits and cripple the frigate. An important victory for the Rebellion, but made at a tremendous sacrifice of irreplaceable personnel and material.

The final battle all staged.

The final battle all staged.

The Redemption's TIE escort prepares to turn toward the Rebel B-Wing bombers inbound.

The Redemption’s TIE escort prepares to turn toward the Rebel B-Wing bombers inbound.

Mass exchanges of fire across and at the aft section of the frigate.

Mass exchanges of fire across and at the aft section of the frigate.

An Imperial Raider comes to bear on the Rebel fleet.

An Imperial Raider comes to bear on the Rebel fleet.

A lone ARC-170 and a pair of mercenaries finally finish running down the frigate.

A lone ARC-170 and a pair of mercenaries finally finish running down the frigate.

Outcome

Imperials won the campaign missions well but not astoundingly:

  • Campaign Points: 38 Imperial to 28 Rebel
    • Information: 14 Imperial to 6 Rebel
    • Resources: 24 Imperial to 22 Rebel
  • Squad Points: 627 Imperial to 607 Rebel

Rebels however managed to destroy the Imperial frigate as they hoped and was the final goal of their campaign, though it was a close matter in the end with most of the Imperial ships remaining and almost none of the Rebels’ left as the battle concluded.

Many more photos from the day’s action are in the Flickr gallery.

Design

Overall it seemed like the event went smoothly. The relative closeness of the mission results and the individual games was good to see. With a majority of close games and last-minute swings, they need only very slight tweaking to deployment rules and a couple stats to be very balanced and yet capture the intended air of the Rebellion being on its backfoot and making a desperate gamble.

The concluding epic battle was also very close, but it had a bit too much of an air of inevitability about it as the frigate continually, regularly lost shields and hull. Once squads were selected and deployed, the Rebels also had too little strategic decision making to perform because it was so clear that they just needed to keep attacking the frigate and hope they survived longer than it did. At the last minute going into the event we simplified the final battle quite a bit because there seemed to be already so much going on. However, in hindsight everybody could have handled the additional mechanics and they would have brought a lot more story and balance to the battle.

Matt ponders game balance as he watches a VIP Escort playtest, while Jason stays firmly focused on the grimdark.

Matt ponders game balance as he watches a VIP Escort playtest, while Jason stays firmly focused on the grimdark.

Next Steps

For those in the greater Philadelphia area, we will definitely run this event again sometime in early 2017. Stay tuned on the Philadelphia Area Gaming Enthusiasts’ Facebook page to be notified when that pops up. There is also a more discussion-oriented, very active South Jersey X-Wing/Armada/Imperial Assault group that coordinates a number of events and ongoing gaming throughout the region. Our hosts & friends at Redcap’s Corner have weekly X-Wing every Tuesday and Friday night.

Beyond that, the missions already have a very solid packet that can stand just a couple minor tweaks coming out of this first play-through. More importantly, we want to get in some playtesting with the full ruleset for the concluding epic battle before we put out the campaign packet. Look for that to be out though right before or after the new year. There’ll be announcements on the X-Wing Reddit subforum and the official FFG forums. I also have an extremely low activity mailing list to which you can subscribe (form on the left sidebar) for very infrequent announcements about this and other projects.

Thanks to everyone that came out & played, it was a great time. We’ll see everybody out there, and stay on target, pilots!

The battle is joined.

The battle is joined.

First Infinity Tournament: Redcap’s RECON

military-orders-iconYesterday I entered my first Infinity event. My home shop, Redcap’s Corner, hosted a beginner’s tournament using the unofficial RECON missions. This was a great driver to actually start playing. I’ve had a few models for two years now but other than a tutorial by my buddy Steve this summer and another by Alex this Thursday, I’d never gotten them on the table. Only four players showed up, but it was an excellent day of gaming. I’ve totally got it now: Though almost overwhelmingly complex to get started, and I think unnecessarily convoluted in rules presentation as well as jarringly inconsistent here and there in some details and mechanics, Infinity is an incredible game with a ton of strategy and narrative.

Though just beginner games, interesting things happened throughout, so this is a battle report for the day. There are a few more photos in my Flickr gallery.

Wounded but undaunted, my Father Knight leads the charge.

Wounded but undaunted, my Father Knight leads the charge.

Army

RECON is basically half size games. Lists are 150 points, with a single combat group and fireteam permitted, along with some other restrictions. The table is cut down to 2’x3′ and the ITS mission scenarios reduced to match, with all specialists (forward observers, medics, and hackers) able to activate all objectives.

I fight for the PanOceania technological hyperpower, specifically its Military Orders sectorial army. Sadly I chose that sectorial because it looks awesome. Coming from 40k as a Space Marine commander doggedly serving the gothic emperor, I have a special appreciation for religious nut jobs running around in power armor with swords while everybody else is packing oversized rifles, orbital bombardments, and so on. Only after I had a handful of models painted did I come to know that universal consensus is that the faction is really hard to play competitively, and certainly one of the hardest to start with… Most critically, the models are so expensive in game points and you field so few that you just can’t afford to make mistakes. As the kids say: Womp womp.

In any event, I brought the following army list:

screenshot_2016-10-30_07-31-30

I lead off choosing a Father Knight just because the physical sculptures are amazing. I really wanted to field both of mine (blister + Icestorm variant), but putting 2/3 of my points into two models seemed excessively foolish. However, I do think the unit is solid. It’s weird that a strong close combat fighter doesn’t have a Martial Arts skill, but they’re tough models with 2 wounds, 5 armor, and 9 bio-technological shield.

The Fusiliers are my cheapest options for the specialists needed to claim the scenario objectives. I didn’t field a hacker mostly to conserve points and a little bit to minimize the game mechanics involved in my squad. Taking the maximum of three permitted by the sectorial also got me to 7 models (plus the AUXBOT) generating 7 regular orders, which felt viable at 150 points. Anything less I felt was very risky in terms of actually being able to do anything, even before casualties started.

The Spec Sergeant with Auxiliary Bot essentially filled out points I had remaining. The bot wields a heavy flamethrower, which pulls at my heartstrings as a Salamanders-rules 40k player. But it’s also half again faster than standard infantry, which I thought might be handy for a late move on an HVT or similar action.

The last two models were my main strategic army choices. The Crusader has Airborne Deployment L4. The Spec Sergeant Forward Observer has Infiltration and TO Camo. Both give me a way to deploy upfield, obviating spending precious orders just moving models forward. With its boarding shotgun, the Crusader can hopefully run amok in my opponent’s backfield and take out weak order generating cheerleaders, reducing their army’s ability to act. Meanwhile, the Spec Sergeant hides in perfect camouflage until the moment comes to break for an objective it can activate as an FO specialist.

Everybody watching Thursday's tutorial game lead by Alex.

Everybody watching Thursday’s tutorial game lead by Alex.

Round 1

First up was Rae and his Yu Jing in the Exfiltrate mission. With both of us super unfamiliar with the rules, this was a sloppy, slow affair. We only made it through one of the standard three rounds. One notable moment though was actually in deployment, when an Oniwaban with a lethal monofilament close combat weapon failed to infiltrate and had to run up from his backfield. Unfortunately a Ninja did pop up right next to my Father Knight and couldn’t be kept out of close combat. The humble AUXBOT saved the game though in the final actions, just barely managing to tag the charging Oniwaban with its heavy flamethrower and burn the ninja to a crisp before it could grab a civilian.

Outcome: Draw, 0-0 with no civilians rescued and no HVTs claimed. Fortunately for my standings the other table came to a 0-0 draw as well. Most importantly though, coming out of this match I felt reasonably in the groove with the basic mechanics of the game.

Analysis: The AUXBOT was MVP, deployed to guard one of the enemy civilian objectives and doing exactly that to preserve the draw. One note was that the hidden Ninja attack on my Father Knight essentially forced me to reveal my TO Camo Spec Sergeant in my reactive phase in a desperate attempt to stop its charge. Didn’t matter here, but in general that would be unfortunate, wasting the hidden sergeant’s ability to make a surprise shot, late grab for objectives, and so on.

Ninjas, attack!

Ninjas, attack!

Round 2

Next was Alex and his Haqqislam in Seize the Antennas. Fortunately I saw his list Thursday when Tim borrowed it for a tutorial. So I knew to watch out for the sniper, missile bot, and the hacker lighting up my models to call down orbital bombardments.

Also very helpful was a short discussion we all had beforehand about the different tables. Bonsky (the TO) pointed out a slight asymmetry on this map: One deployment zone had a wall closing off an alleyway which was clear on the other side. I got to choose deployment zones, so I chose the side with the extra wall. Partly that would prevent any shenanigans with models appearing near my table edge, running behind the buildings, and seizing the antenna objective in the alley. More importantly, if Alex had the extra wall, it would potentially cripple the effectiveness of my Crusader combat jumping into his backfield by limiting firelanes and hampering movement.

Missile bot.

Missile bot.

That decision had huge impact. Alex quickly seized two of the three antennas and set up a bunch of models in defensive postures around the midfield. However, the Crusader came down right in the middle of his deployment zone and went on a rampage with its boarding shotgun. First it went forward to execute a specialist on the antenna—I was worried about Haqqislam doctor tricks bringing her back if left just unconscious—and then ran back behind the buildings to take out both baggage droids and successfully draw and rebuff fire from one of the rooftop teams. Cutting those three orders from Alex’s next turn put us on much more even footing, and taking out the specialist poised to run up the center toward the next antenna didn’t hurt.

Downed baggage bot.

Downed baggage bot.

Meanwhile, my Fusilier Forward Observers advanced as a fireteam duo toward the central antenna, carefully using the buildings to stay hidden from long range shooting teams on the rooftops. Then they dashed across an alleyway, dodged the incoming fire, and climbed up the objective building. After a brief but intense firefight with the Haqqislam specialist guarding it and the various models arrayed to shoot on that position, they managed to huddle down and seize that antenna.

From there, Alex’s lieutenant made a play for my home antenna, winning the firefight with my Father Knight leaping at the threat. That put me into loss of lieutenant, but I had just enough command tokens for the final turn to convert the resulting irregular orders to regular. That gave me just enough to get it done. Suddenly my Spec Sergeant in hiding revealed himself on a nearby rooftop, slid down a ladder, and ran up to recapture the antenna. At the same time, with the central antenna secured, the Fusiliers jumped from their position and ran through incoming fire from the rooftop enemies to secure the Haqqislam HVT, counterbalancing the loss of my own HVT.

Battle!

Battle!

Outcome: Victory for the Military Orders 8-5, with two and one antennas respectively claimed, and both HVTs secured by the opposing sides.

Analysis: My plan to use the Crusader to take out vulnerable order generating units in the enemy backfield worked perfectly. There was also an interesting decision at the very end to send the Fusiliers either toward the enemy HVT or to clear off a light infantry model on my HVT. I went for the former, which worked out. My rationale was that if the Fusiliers were going to take roughly similar fire along both courses, then clearly I should go for the objective that just required moving into place. Otherwise I’d risk failing rolls and not taking out the enemy model.

The real clutch of this game though was deploying the TO Camo Spec Sergeant very defensively, and holding him hidden until the absolute end. At multiple points I was really tempted to have him pop out for some surprise shooting. But it was much more valuable to still have him perfectly positioned for a last minute critical objective grab.

Checking to see if there's any way to get those pesky Fusiliers.

Checking to see if there’s any way to get those pesky Fusiliers.

Round 3

The last round was a minefield, literally. With a central tech-coffin and its data package as linchpin of the Smash and Grab scenario’s capture-the-flag, Tom had his Nomads deploy mines and crazy koalas (basically a hopping mine) all around it.

I tried to trigger all the mines and koalas at once by dropping my Crusader into the thick of them. But it dispersed and only triggered just enough to get killed, not enough to clear the area. So then my infiltrating Spec Sergeant revealed himself right next to the tech-coffin in slim hopes to quickly grab the data package. He didn’t weather everything that came at him, but did set off most of the remaining mines.

Nomad remote oversees the battlefield.

Nomad remote oversees the battlefield.

With that a Nomad Moran charged onto the objective building but fortunately failed to operate the tech-coffin and retrieve the data package. That gave one of my Fusiliers time to climb up on the building and take down the enemy, but not enough to grab the data package. Unfortunately, a Jaguar was able to use smoke grenades to make his way unhampered to the tech-coffin, operate it (this mission did not require specialists), and run away with the package before I could respond.

With the endgame approaching, the chase was on! I burned my command tokens to make most of my remaining squad run after the Jaguar in coordinated orders. Charging across the rooftops, rebuffing mines and repeated hacking, the Father Knight was able to gun him down from the back in an alley. A Fusilier then grabbed the data package and ran for safety while everybody else set up a kill box on the only path between him and the remaining enemies. The enemy lieutenant that came leaping down was thus easily dispatched, while my defenders also claimed the enemy HVT.

Battle!

Battle!

Outcome: Victory for the Military Orders 6-2, after Tom scored the data package at the end of the second round but I scored at the end of round three when it was worth double for the endgame bonus, as well as claiming his HVT.

Analysis: Sacrificing the Crusader in attempt to trigger the mines wasn’t ridiculous, but I probably should have sent it against Tom’s backfield baggage bots just like I did with Alex. Partly I did not because I thought his units back there were more deadly than they are, partly there wasn’t enough space to ideally position the drop zone template. But mostly I wanted to keep the TO Camo Spec Sergeant hidden to pop up and grab the data package after the mines were cleared. However, in the same position, I would now probably have the Crusader go to reduce the enemy order count, while either a Fusilier ran up to trigger all the mines or the Spec Sergeant did—it being well placed to do so perfectly—and the Fusiliers came in to grab the objective.

Fusilier engaging a Nomad.

Fusilier engaging a Nomad.

Once the Fusilier was in place to grab the objective, I made a conscious decision to not grab the objective right then. My thinking was that I had no remaining orders to take it anywhere, the Fusilier would probably die exposed on the rooftop so I wouldn’t hold it to score anyway at the end of the round anyway, and it would be better to have Tom potentially fail the test to release the data package after he finally got in position. That logic again wasn’t terrible, but I’m not sure I would do it again. The Fusilier might have survived, and the Jaguar’s smoke grenades made it vastly easier than I expected to just walk up and grab the objective since I couldn’t see to respond at all.

At the very end I failed to put my kill box models into suppressive fire mode. It was a longshot anyway for anything to move through them to get at my data package Fusilier, but I just didn’t think about it due to inexperience.

The Father Knight was probably the MVP here, with his very high BTS 9 shrugging off several critical hacking attacks and enabling him to take down the escaping Jaguar, in addition to knocking down several enemies earlier in reactive shots.

Mines everywhere!

Mines everywhere!

Final Results

With two wins and a draw I came out with the best record and most points. I chose for my prize a small gift card and the Druze Hacker special model that came with pre-release orders of the N3 human Sphere book. I figure it’ll make a good HVT.

Druze Hacker pre-release model.

Druze Hacker pre-release model.

Observations

Father Knight especially but the Military Orders overall feel very 40k Space Marine-y: Expensive in points, very robust, pretty good at everything, not great at anything. Also echoing 40k Space Marines, the Military Orders units being religious and thus not retreating when your army is well depleted is probably a boon at this low point value, since you might hit that point pretty quickly.

Initially I was really worried about not having enough orders, but seven is probably reasonable for this format. With a single combat group in RECON the max is 10, and only Alex fielded that many in this event. I didn’t feel overly limited.

Ironically for Military Orders, I may have fielded the greatest number of offensively capable models. I’m not sure about Rae, but Alex and Tom both had two baggage remotes and another one or two remotes also without serious shooting capabilities. In some sense I spent those same points on Fusiliers. The tiniest bit more costly, but with reasonable attacks. Both games were really tight until the end. But both those opponents also hit a point a bit before that where I unexpectedly felt they had more or less run out of ways to come at me and the objectives even though they had a similar number of models on the table. In Tom’s case the active attackers were mostly dead, and in Alex’s most of the remaining models were long range shooters and supporting models in backfield positions. Meanwhile, I had just a few more models still actively running around midfield shooting and grabbing objectives even though the number of casualties weren’t very imbalanced. Despite being super worried about Military Orders not fielding enough models, I wound up running comparatively more of a swarm of relatively basic troopers. As another sign of that, note that I spent 0 SWC, i.e., spent no squad points on fancy equipment. Those extra bodies perhaps gave me a bit more robustness to make mistakes and more depth to have a strong end game. That gels with my experience in other miniatures games, especially at low points. There’s a lot to be said for simply having more bodies—the other army list I considered possibly better but less fun and cool looking was just a bunch of Order Sergeants and the Fusiliers. I was considering that primarily in terms of order generation, but simply having more models running around would also be a strength. In preparing a RECON list, you need to be really careful that you’re not bringing so many cool toys that it cuts into your basic ability to suffer some casualties but still fight and maneuver.

Haqqislam lieutenant just rudely pushes the paramedic aside.

Haqqislam lieutenant just rudely pushes the paramedic aside.

The only special ability among my models I didn’t use was the Paramedic, through poor placement on my part either getting her killed early or just not being in position to resuscitate anybody. I’ll have to work on that.

Everybody else though came through in at least one critical moment by leveraging their unique traits, so overall I was really happy with my army list selection. The AUXBOT preserved the draw in the first round by having a good weapon to reliably defend an objective. The Crusader and TO Camo Spec Sergeant enabled the second round win. The Father Knight earned his points in the final round by being tough enough to shrug off a bunch of physical and hacking attacks to chase down and eliminate the Jaguar carrying the data package.

However, the MVPs for the whole day were my Forward Observer Fusiliers, quietly but significantly making the central pushes without which the second and third round victories wouldn’t have happened. Both times they charged up and onto a central objective, won firefights to clear it off, claimed it, and then moved on to also secure enemy HVTs. That’s pretty good for a pair of 12 point models! They proved more resilient and potent than expected. I’m also really happy with their paint job, so I’m pretty pleased with these guys at the moment.

Fusiliers saving the day.

Fusiliers saving the day.

RECON

Although pretty solid for a fan effort, the RECON packet itself could stand some cleanup. There are some clear presentation errors, such as the Smash and Grab mission seemingly copying some text from the full ITS missions about specialists but apparently not actually requiring specialists to operate the tech-coffin. It’s unclear if that’s an oversight or intentional. There are also at least a few substantive changes needed that we made on the fly. Dispersements should be cut down to match the smaller table. We played it as 8″, but I would probably do 9″ in the future so that you would definitely disperse out of any zone of control effects you intended to apply. The second player should also only be able to use a command token to cut one of their opponent’s orders in the first turn, and maybe none at all.

More subjectively, for beginners the missions probably either need to be chosen carefully or some of them tweaked down in difficulty. The Exfiltrate mission in particular seems just too difficult to start off with. Either the scoring needs to be tweaked (e.g., shift the emphasis between grabbing civilians versus bringing them back toward the former) and/or the exclusion & saturation zone needs to be diminished.

Welcome to the Sphere!

That said, RECON was a great format for my first event. I learned quite a bit about Infinity and am eager to play it more often from here on. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, Redcap’s has a small crowd of regular players on Sunday afternoons, and people sometimes play on Thursday nights. There is a small Philadelphia Infinity Facebook group to hook up with people for those or other meetups.

Again, there are a few more photos from this event in my Flickr gallery.

See you out there!