With the fall of Caldor IV and Rittenhouse Hive, yet another of Abaddon’s years-long black crusades continues to build momentum. Gazing deep into sector holomaps, Kingbreakers’ leadership decides to make a stand on Kimball Prime. Great works begin as the planet is made into a fortress world, with bunkers, shield generators, and innumerable weapons batteries built from the ice wastes of the poles to the sweltering jungles of the equator. Here the traitor’s tide of war will be blunted, or the incursion will rage through the sector unstoppable.
Despite a snowstorm shortly before and a variety of other hiccups, most of the PAGE crew got together for its much planned 2014 New Year’s Apocalypse this weekend, to smashing success. Brett, Colin, Lovell, Steve, Tom, and Warren joined armies to form the Forces of Discord. Akil, Jason, Justin, Owen, and myself made up the Forces of Order.
Lots more photos are in the Flickr gallery.
After extensive ad hoc rebalancing for missing players—presumably caught in the Warp—the two teams came out to about 20,400 points each, from an originally planned 24,000, including all Titans, superheavies, and gargantuan creatures. The armies of Discord brought a variety of Chaos Marines, Daemons, Cultists, Traitor Guard, and Necrons, supported by a Reaver, Warhound, a Baneblade chassis, Greater Bloodthirster of Khorne, Great Brass Scorpion, all lead by Abaddon. The Forces of Order brought together many allies, including Space Marines, Space Wolves, Dark Angels, Tau, and Imperial Guard, supported by a Reaver, Warhound, and three Baneblade chassis, lead by Librarian Rorschach.
The planet writhes in flames as the war grinds on to near stalemate. Finally all the hosts come to a head in a single line of battle stretching across half the planet. Desperate times at hand, the great heroes Grimnar, Belial, and Creed together with legendary commander Farsight hurl themselves into combat at the head of great columns of men and vehicles. Awaiting them lies a brutal gallows roll of all the mightiest foes of the Imperium, from blackest Abaddon himself to the greatest daemons of the Warp, with even the machined strategist Imhotekh and all his advisors rising from a newly awoken Tomb Citadel to throw in his lot with the bid to take down an Imperial sector. The last push begun, Captain Angholan clasps gauntlets with his battle brother Rorschach and embarks to the front, leaving the latter and his Council of Librarians to divine the Emperor’s light and guide the forces of order.
The board was 6′ x 17’4″, with teams each taking a 2ft long-edge deployment zone. Chaos won zone selection in a roll-off, and then took first turn as well after bidding 5 minutes’ deployment. The Imperium, expecting such a low bid from the heretics and having significant foot and vehicular forces to field, bid for a full 30 minutes of setup. Discord placed a dual set of Void Shield Generators and Vengeance Battery fortifications, with a Necron Tomb Citadel nearby. Loyalist fortifications included multiple Imperial Bunkers, Vengeance Batteries, and a Void Shield Generator creating a 12″ protective bubble over their central position.
Heretics placed one home objective in the Citadel, another safely ensconced within the overlapping Shield Generators, and targeted an immensely important fir tree among the ice caves on the Imperial flank for their opposed objective. Kingbreakers declared their central command buildings as tightly clustered home objectives, while the Dark Angels and Tau targeted a critical defensive wall in the jungle temple on Discord’s far right flank as the breach point through which to break the crusade.
We followed standard 6th edition Apocalypse scoring for the match: Killing superheavies, gargantuans, and the designated supreme Warmaster are each worth a point; objectives are scored at multiple times and progressively increase in value, in this case after Turns 2, 4, and 5 (game end), and for 1, 2, and 3 points per objective each time.
How quickly shift the tides of war!
Combat began hectically, with the defensive Imperials in particular rushing to activate all of their comparatively numerous models and ultimately skipping a fair bit of shooting when time ran out. Chaos declared a Trophy Kill objective on Grimnar on the Imperial right flank and began pursuing it with a massive Traitor Guard armoured spearhead combined with Abaddon himself and his Terminator bodyguards. Innumerable daemons spawned into existence, anchored to the Materium by a host of greater daemons bursting forth from the Warp at each corner of the battle and shrouding the field in their Tetragon of Darkness. A massive Necron Pylon came into existence in the very center of the combat, while Necron Sentry Pylons also beamed into place around the Discord objectives. Discord claimed a Baneblade chassis while Imperials killed the Pylon to gain one point each through the course of the first turn.
The Emperor’s light shone brightly in the next round as the Great Brass Scorpion approached Imperial lines but fell to massed multi-melta and lascannon fire. Chaos’ foul Tetragon was also quickly broken, with several greater daemons assassinated at their anchor points. Imperial shooting also took out a Baneblade chassis, and all this without giving up a kill point themselves. Further, Discord discarded their previously earned point to enact the Lies of Tzeentch Strategic Resource and temporarily control the opposing Reaver, forcing it to friendly fire and obliterate a number of Dark Angels Terminators. Fast moving Necron Destroyers rushing from their recently awoken Citadel did manage to contest the Space Wolves’ objective, leaving Order only 2 points on objectives versus the Discord 3, but the Imperials and allies still came out ahead after Turn 2.
Quickly though the clouds darkened over the Imperium. Abaddon and friends bested Logan Grimnar in personal combat, achieving a Trophy Kill strategic asset and claiming 3 points. Simultaneously the traitor Reaver and tank columns took down a loyalist Baneblade chassis for another point, the earth shaking crunch as its flaming pieces hit the ground second only to that of Grimnar. These combined losses in the polar fighting left the Space Wolves distraught and open to systematic decimation in the coming turns.
Ongoing tremendous amounts of heavy shooting also did little to stop the inexorable flanking march of the Greater Bloodthirster onto the Imperial’s command bunker. Only sustained sacrificial delaying tactics and careful positioning of many Space Marines, Imperial Guard, and Tau vehicles and infantry continued to keep it from reaching the Kingbreakers’ encampment and cracking open the critical Void Shields. Ultimately Order gained no points and ceded its lead in the planet-wide battle royale.
Approaching the endgame, the match pitched into a grinding battle of quarter inches and small chances. Discord caused a cataclysmic explosion on the jungle flank by exploding the Imperial Reaver. More damningly, the raging Bloodthirster, chosen warrior of Khorne, achieved his primary objective and crushed in a single blow the Imperials’ Void Shield Generator, exposing the command bunker and both objectives previously under its aegis.
Recovering from their mounting losses though, Order achieved several critical successes. Hulking in screaming victory over the savaged ruins of the Shield Generator, the massive Bloodthirster was yet again lit up and wracked by fire from every possible weapon across half the field of battle and finally succumbed, sent back to its blood god at the very door of the Imperial command bunker. The great warmonger Abaddon was similarly forced to flee the battle in the face of mounting personal injury, yielding Order 2 points for these kills.
Significantly, the Dark Angels’ long battle through the heart of an equatorial jungle temple paid dividends. With the bulk of the Chaos flank guards tied up by the Unforgiven, the Tau, Imperial Guard, and Kingbreakers were able to sweep the targeted strategic breach point. At the same time, Kroot reserves and Imperial Guard bombardments arrived to reinforce the Space Wolves struggling under massive combined assault and help prevent further Necron and Traitor Guard incursion. These actions denied Discord a third objective for the second round of scoring, which awarded two objectives each.
In its last moments the epic battle for Kimball Prime reached a fever pitch of critical moves, last-chance shots, and final coups de grâce. Resurrecting the courage of Russ, Space Wolves squadrons regrouped into secure positions overlooking the bizarrely anonymous Discord objective in their midst. Charged thrusts from elite soldiers and fast attack vehicles of the Tau, Dark Angels, Imperial Guard, and Kingbreakers also swept away the straggling Chaos Cultists and lesser daemons attempting to resecure the breachpoint, the nearby traitor Warhound stomping in rage at its inability to stop the loyalist troops swarming about its feet.
But even as the Forces of Order prepped for these advances on the flanks, Discord piled all of its remaining heavy shooting onto the Kingbreakers’ command headquarters, the Bloodthirster’s suicidal, singleminded, successful mission to cripple the Shield Generator having rendered it exposed for the first time in the battle. With the points near tied and Discord’s two home objectives safely held but the third stripped away and Order claiming its own flank objective, everything came down to the two on the bunker complex.
With nearly all other long range shooting eliminated or crippled, the traitor Reaver and Warhound Titans combined fire to strip away the bunker’s internal Void Shields and then pummel it with the most powerful weaponry ever fielded. They were prevented though from directly targeting the most critical troop units and the bunker itself by a well placed Shield Generator Strategic Asset, carefully saved for exactly a deeply dire moment such as this. A precious few Forest Guard platoon members survive the incoming blasts, even as nearby Kingbreakers Tactical Squads rush in to shore them up. The Forces of Order continued to hold their two home objectives.
The last of the flanking Obliterators dead and Skarbrand sent back to the Warp, Captain Angholan pauses to survey the battlefield and catch his breath. His muscles all clench though and his eyes yield to horror as he turns just in time to watch a final massive overcharged plasma blast from a retreating tainted Reaver slam into the newly unshielded command bunker, instantly obliterating its top ramparts and engulfing an extraordinary area in blazing gouts of flame. Sprinting into the blinding rockrete dust, he calls on all his decades of steely training to choke back surging memories of the fall of Forestway and his own long entrapment in the collapsed capital building. Armor servos shriek in protest as he rips apart nanobar and flings away huge chunks of rockrete. Finally tossing aside an entire interior wall, he falls to his knees. Ahead of him is a large energy bubble supporting all the tremendous rubble of the upper levels. Huddled inside are a few all-but-dead yet still living Guardsmen and Space Marines. At the center is his great, troubled friend Rorschach and the Kingbreakers’ Council of Librarians, eyes closed and faces a rictus of concentration from the inconceivable effort of maintaining the telekinetic shield. With Angholan frozen in relieved shock, Squad Scolirus finally catches up and slips around their Captain to begin carefully extricating the survivors. The battle is won.
The Forces of Order break Discord’s Apocalypse winning streak!
Order claimed 5 of the 7 possible kill points offered by the Discord forces by tagging the Pylon, Scorpion, Bloodthirster, Baneblade chassis, and the Warmaster (Abaddon), leaving the Warhound and Reaver on the table. Order also held two objectives after Turns 2 and 4 as well as three after game end, for a total of 20 points.
Discord claimed 3 of the 6 possible bonus points offered by the Order forces by eliminating the Warhound and two Baneblade chassis, leaving the Reaver standing. It also claimed 3 more in achieving a Trophy Kill on Grimnar, declared as one of their Strategic Asset selections. However it spent 1 to enact Lies of Tzeentch. Discord also held three objectives after Turn 2, as well as two after Turn 4 and game end, for a total of 18 points.
In a game like this there’s a thousand big and small things of note that happen. These are just a couple very top level notable observations.
Range and Formations
It was really helpful to have Owen, a newcomer to our Apoc fights, be able to make the battle. That made a big difference in equalizing the 6th edition experience levels across the two teams, helping Order play both better and within the time limits. Tactically speaking, it was particularly helpful that he plays Guard and has played a few large battles before as he thus brought a significant increase in Order’s long range, heavy shooting. On an 18′ long table even the normally impressive 48″ reach of a lascannon just doesn’t amount to much. Without that we would have been in real trouble. I was really counting on some of the missing players’ armies to provide the ability to go out offensively and hit things at distance, but the Guard shooting at range probably present a safer way to do that anyway.
Despite the story text above, my Librarians were yet again a huge, huge disappointment. At this point I’m pretty used to how limited in appeal they are for normal play. But I had high hopes for the Apocalypse formation I fielded, basically 5 Librarians potentially tossing out a D weapon large blast every turn. Literally nothing walked into their line of sight and range though that wasn’t immediately swept away by much less risky shooting. One consequence of having two redundantly Void Shielded, heavily armed encampments staring at each other across a relatively open expanse was that almost nothing ventured into what became a completely empty dead man’s land across the desert terrain. I thought about having them disembark the bunker to get better sightlines, but even then not that many targets wandered close enough, and our little Warmaster would be out running around with giant Greater Bloodthirsters and such running amok in close quarters. I love the models & concept so much, but…
The general point there though is that the Apocalypse formations are basically dumb. They’re either (1) incredibly hard to field, (2) very brittle, or (3) have limited effect. To (1), of the Space Marine formations, the majority involve fielding a full company of troops or a weird collection of very specific HQs. On (2), a great many of their effects can be easily defeated, e.g., no one walking within two whole feet of my Librarians, or Brett’s Tetragon of Darkness being popped almost immediately. For (3), due to the extra points available with the missing players Justin did actually field and use a Space Wolves Great Company. But despite the large number of models and points that entails, I couldn’t tell you that I noticed the benefits. Similarly, I actually fielded the requirements for a Space Marine Predator Assassin Squadron. But I didn’t select the formation because it seemed more limiting than useful.
Obviously critical to the success of all of our Apocalypse games is the effort put beforehand into balancing the headliner models. Coincidentally but unfortunately, the Forces of Discord have many more Titans, superheavies, and gargantuans at hand than Order. Fortunately though they have so many that there’s enough—and they’re more than willing—to share them around and balance things out.
But, to that need to put a lot of effort into balancing things, D weapons are pretty dumb. Since they’re so strong against everything, they make everything else all uniformly worthless. With no protection of any kind being allowed against them, there’s no reason to field anything but the cheapest possible options and put all the points toward your own D weapons. Given that they’re both equally dead if tagged, and equally unable to strike back at the shooter, why field 14 point Marines when a 5 point Guardsman is just as useless? A ~250 point Landraider versus a 55 point Chimera? Previously I had mixed feelings about the recent expansion of D weapons into the regular game. Watching them up close again though has really pushed me to be very concerned.
Similarly but in the other direction, the new Void Shields fortifications are probably also a problem. I don’t have as much of an issue with them because ultimately they don’t directly remove models, and they’re somewhat readily countered on their own as well as much more internally balanced—you do what the Bloodthirster did: Walk right in, get protected from remote shooting by the Void Shields themselves, and then smash them. But they’re almost certainly too cheap though for such a massive buff to a potentially large number of units.
Beyond that, I’m going to save for another post some thoughts on organizing and executing Apocalypse battles. Ultimately we all collectively put a lot of thought into crafting a good plan and come at the game with the right mindset, and that all paid off in overcoming near disaster with multiple missing players and instead having a truly great day of gaming.
Again, more photos are in the Flickr gallery. Till next time; the Emperor protects!