Hot on the heels of the NOVA Open 40k Trios Tournament, Carl, Colin, Jason, John, and I plunged into the 40k Narrative Warlords and Nightfighters tracks. This is a quick look at them and especially my personal campaign. Many, many more photos from my games are in the Flickr gallery.
The narrative tracks are essentially an ongoing NOVA campaign in which a coalition of forces, the Virtue, have invaded Earth and another coalition, the Humans/UN, is fighting back. It’s not set in the 40k universe, which is a little weird and possibly not quite as compelling as it could be, but does give the organizers—Owen Beste, Steve Carey, and Bob Birrer—a lot of leeway to have a motley, random collection of forces fighting on either side.
This year’s campaign was fought for control of three areas: Cities, Space, and Wastelands, with a number of boards associated with each though they only varied a bit, mostly in look, as each followed the standard NOVA table setup. The teams also nominated secondary discretionary objectives that would be available each round to earn bonus points toward the campaign, but also entailed a long list of various board and terrain rules that would be in play in the different areas. For example, having the first couple discretionaries available meant space boards would have meteors dropping at the top of each player turn. In each round after the first, the team falling behind would be secretly given covert mission objectives that they could work toward in order to gain a substantial amount of campaign points and even things up. The teams were also given a bunch of special stratagem cards to distribute among their players to help tip the scales in various matchups.
Players split off into Virtue or Human as part of registering, and then the organizers brought in a bunch of ringers as needed to balance each session. Nightfighters played a game each evening. After the first night those players were paired based on Nightfighting results so far, and then the teams alternated picking an area for that match. So, for example, a matchup where a team felt doomed might be put into either an area where the team was either untouchably far ahead or had already given up, to minimize the negative effects of a loss on overall control of that area. For the Warlords games a modified team championship style matching was used, with teams alternating putting forward a player and an area and the other responding with a match. Mid-day strategy sessions among the Warlords invested a lot of thought and discussion towards contingency planning for areas and matchups, though more effort was probably put toward drinking. Before each round there was a brief session to recap the preceding results, narrate the resultant story progression so far, and work out the final pairings and locations.
Competing in both tracks of the narrative I got in a full 7 2000pt games. Combined with 3 more for the Trios and an additional Recon Squad game, it was a lot of 40k over the long weekend! These are quick summaries of each narrative match.
Nightfight 1: Eric Hoerger’s massive Imperial Guard blob lead by White Scars bikers. He wound up getting the 4th highest battle points in the GT with this army, though he took a loss in the middle and thus didn’t make it to the top bracket. This was a pretty grueling end to a long day/several days. The bulk of the army was two 50 man Guardsman blobs, with attached Scars bikers that would pile them into assault super quick. It was ridiculous how fast the blobs were moving across the board. In the end I was almost entirely crushed on units but more or less held 2 objectives to Eric’s 3, but he also claimed 6 more points by maxing out discretionaries.
Warlord 1: Jeremy Chamblee’s Necrons. My Knight got evaporated on turn 1 by 60 Gauss shots after Jeremy seized the initiative and I had not accounted well for teleporting Warrior blobs. After that I scored a bunch of objective points on the first few turns and fought dearly to hold those but slowly got whittled down and lost control going into the asymmetric end-game scoring. Final score was 8 to 9 on objectives in Jeremy’s favor but he claimed 5 more points on discretionaries. I still felt pretty ok about this game though, battling back reasonably well after the substantial first turn set back when the Knight exploded. It was also pretty cool to meet and play someone I recognized from blogs & forums.
Nightfight 2: Jason Spinnern’s Tzeentch. This must have been a physically brutal game for Jason, immediately following the first day of the GT, just like the first Nightfight round was for me immediately following the Trios. I felt pretty good about the matchup, I’ve been doing well against Tzeentch. My current stock army has enough shooting to ground and take out some FMCs, expendable units and an assault blocker to tarpit and tackle Screamers and remaining daemons if I can get in position, and enough blasts and general shots to quickly whittle down horrors and start reducing psychic dice. In the end I claimed max points for this on the regular game, holding all 6 objectives as well as taking 6 points for the discretionaries, though I did not manage to claim the Human covert mission as well.
Warlord 2: Connor Carey’s Tyranid/Eldar combo. I took a risk by taking the fight deep into the enemy ranks at the back of the long axis, hoping to take out the core of his Synapse early. A single Zoanthrope survived with a remaining wound after the alpha strike however, the death of which would have really swung the game my way. As it was my backfield shooting took care of the Gaunt hordes pretty handily and I felt well up for a while. But the opposing Wraithknight and Wraithguard started piling S10 shots into my Drop Pods for easy kill points. To make it worse, the asymmetric mission rules handicapped my ability to claim KPs as each of my units could only score once. I did ok at spreading kills around, but it still cost me points compared to what I actually eliminated. Final score was 5 to 11 in his favor as a result and we both picked up 5 more on discretionaries.
Nightfight 3: Joe Johnson’s Adamantium Lance triple Knights with Eldar Crimson Hunter and Wave Serpent escorts. This was a pretty ridiculous list. A bunch of us on the human team spent a lot of time talking about it, but no one really had great answers. The Adamantium Lance formation grants re-rollable saves on the Knights’ Ion Shields as well as D3 Hammer of Wrath attacks and re-rollable charge distance, for no extra points cost, provided they stay within 3″ of the Seneschal (Warlord). Crimson Hunters are awesome escorts for Knights because they have an extra turn and thus don’t fly off the table easily, and are equipped to take out opposing Knights & armour or can go after opposing flyers. Wave Serpents of course are basically one-model gunlines all on their own. I got completely rolled in this game, gaining zero points and giving up the max. One unfortunate thing was that another table revealed the covert mission to the Virtue pretty early, and since that objective was killing things in midfield and running the resulting marker back to the enemy deployment, Joe was able to deny it by just moving his most vulnerable units (single Dire Avengers) back into their zone.
Nightfight 4: Craig Valvano’s Eldar, featuring a Revenant Titan! Actually a morning fight due to a schedule flip on the last day. This was kind of a weird game because he was pretty up front about playing for the Infamous Warlord standings, running his Wraightknight off the board from the start, and going for the covert mission, which he achieved. The mission scoring also had a built-in two point imbalance toward the opposing team. Craig went first and rendered the Revenant Invisible, so I took my melta alpha strike elsewhere and basically ignored the big guy as best I could other than scrounging for cover and pinging at it with my Knight until the latter was pulsared into oblivion. Wave Serpents held on tenaciously and wound up being a huge problem, mopping up Tactical stragglers as they ran about trying to tag terrain for the mission. In the end the 2pt imbalance turned the game into a 5-5 draw on objectives, both of us taking 4 discretionaries but him nabbing the covert for a big team boost.
Warlord 3: Charles Craig’s Tzeentch. This was a great game to wrap up the campaign. At the bottom of turn one I thought I was about to be rolled off the board: Screamers and Daemon Princes all over my front lines, a Knight Errant coming around my flanks, it was grim. Human team passers-by were giving me condolences. But the Kingbreakers fought back valiantly. After the alpha strike on the traitor Knight did little damage, a bunch of Tacticals and a Landspeeder held on to tarpit and then destroy it. Terminators finally ran a solid wall and tied up the Screamers the whole game until Angholan and Scolirus could drop in and take the Relic off them. The backfield combat squads and Predators took down the most threatening Daemon Prince early after a lucky break on a grounding check. Scouts and the Thunderfire Cannon wiped Pink Horrors off a home objective and then supported the regrouped alpha strike combat squads to whittle down and push back a blob of Horrors on the far edge. We ran out of time against the awards ceremony and called the game on turn 4, scoring it 2 points to 3 in his favor, and a discretionary point or two to him. If we’d played out a couple more turns though I think I could have dealt with the remaining DP and scored a few more points on both objectives and discretionaries while taking away 2 of his; when we ended I’d killed some 1150 points while only losing ~650, and had good positioning as well as the momentum. A great game either way though.
So, all in all I went a measly 1 for 7 on victories. On the other hand, despite the losses I managed to score enough points throughout to keep myself up in the standings and getting paired against tough armies & players. Until getting obliterated by the triple Knights going into the last half of the campaign I was holding in 4th of 15 or so among the humans. Making things even rougher, my list is fairly balanced and in theory has at least some tools for basically any opponent, so I kept getting put forward as a defending player for the Virtue to throw their best possible army matchup against. Long story short, it felt terrible throughout and things were pretty grim at a couple points, but more objectively I guess I did reasonably and was definitely happy with some of my play toward the end of the campaign.
Despite the grueling schedule and some bleak points in my personal campaign this was an awesome event and a ton of fun with a good bunch of people. It could use a little more strategic input and decision making from the warlords, campaigning over a map, explicit progression tree, or something like that. The very abstract form of fighting for the three areas though gives a lot of room for dungeon mastering behind the scenes to keep the sides fairly even, and compensating for missing players and so on.
The biggest area to improve I would suggest is that the overall tone is very mixed and could use some additional structure. Pretty much everyone is going into the event with a fairly casual, devil may care attitude. But not everyone’s going into it with casual, fluffy lists. In the Nightfighting track a bunch of guys just brought their GT armies plus 150 points of stuff. In the Warlords track, most guys had pretty standard lists while a bunch basically dropped mini-Apocalypse armies, with a Transcendant C’Tan, Eldar Revenant Titan, and an Adamantium Lance triple-Knight list all making appearances. There were definitely some mismatched expectations and assumptions. I think it’d be good to do something like have two tracks, one for more casual & smaller lists—in particular, so people can’t just play their GT lists—and another for anything-goes Apocalypse at higher points, with people opting into one or the other or potentially bringing a list for each and focusing on one or the other on the fly. The rules and missions could also use a fair bit of editing, which we’d be happy to help with, as well as some streamlining. For example, it’d probably be better to have special rules associated with particular tables rather than the large, easy to forget set of rules based on the discretionaries.
All in all though a fantastic time. I’ve already got it on my calendar for next year!
Again, many more photos are in the Flickr gallery.