Berks Spring Assault

berks-paThis weekend I went out for the Berks 40k Spring Assault in the Classic track, a 1000 point casual-oriented tournament. Unfortunately several other PAGE and Redcap’s people bailed at the last minute, but Tom M, Colin K, and Steve S were also there. The Classic track had 40 players, and the 2500 point Unleashed track another 16, so together with a bunch of organizers, judges, and spectators, there was a sizable crowd. This was actually my first time going to the Spring Assault, and I was not disappointed. Despite a couple rough games personally and winning absolutely zero of the many many raffle drawings, it was as expected a really fun day.

A few more photos from my games and just a couple of armies on display are in the photo gallery. Unfortunately there was enough going on all day, and my games busy enough, that I didn’t manage to get nearly as many photos as I usually do, particularly from the surrounding games and armies.

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kingbreakers-iconArmy

I went with something atypical for me—no Drop Pods, no Sternguard, no Knight (not permitted in this format!), no fortification, just dudes in trucks and some skimmer supports:

  • Captain Angholan (Vulkan)
  • Squad Scolirus: Tactical x10 w/ Veteran Sgt, Powerfist, Flamer, Missile Launcher, Rhino
  • Squad Harbinger: Tactical x6 w/ Veteran Sgt, Combi-Melta, Meltabombs, Meltagun, Rhino
  • Squad Titus: Tactical x10 w/ Veteran Sgt, Chainsword, Meltabombs, Meltagun, Missile Launcher, Rhino
  • Scouts x5 w/ Camo Cloaks, Sniper Rifles
  • Landspeeder w/ Multi-Melta, Heavy Flamer
  • Landspeeder w/ Multi-Melta, Heavy Flamer

That is a pretty traditional and fluffy Space Marine list, but has some units of dubious performance in the modern day. Landspeeders, particularly of this kit-out, are not super strong at the moment, to a large extent simply due to not getting the Salamanders’ flame re-rolls. But their high mobility can be useful in these kind of small games to grab objectives and such and I love them, so I went with it. Vulkan on the other hand is generally a very good unit for a combat-oriented Space Marine, he’s just a lot of points to sink into a single T4 infantry model at 1000pts.

The Rhinos I took over Drop Pods because I expected terrain to be slightly lighter than what we generally run, so I wanted something for my dudes to bunker up in. With such few units I was also worried about my ability to cover any Maelstrom type mission with dudes on foot after Podding in.

All in all, to foreshadow a bit, I wasn’t too shocked to struggle in two games against newer toys, and was pleased to do well in the other half of my games.

Round 1

Dawn of War, Crusade with 4 objectives, against Mark V H’s Eldar. His list had a good mix of units, I actually think it was originally designed for Highlander format as nothing repeated. I think it really hurt me this game to not have my usual Drop Pods and Sternguard. With the Pods I could have taken the fight directly to the xenos, potentially slagging his exposed D-Cannon artillery, and the Sternguard could have put poison and melta on the Wraithknight. As it was though, those barrage S10 AP2 shots tagged anything I did manage to hide from the walker and a Wave Serpent, with a Nightwing Interceptor coming in later to clean up. The Kingbreakers did take down the Wraithknight Aevethon’s Lament, but it was a pyrrhic victory just before they were swept away.

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Round 2

Vanguard Strike, Purge the Alien with old school Victory Points (1 point for each 100 pts totaled among completely destroyed units), against Louis J and his Iron Hands. This kind of mission is always tough for me, and this seemed like just a particularly bad matchup for it. His army was a bit light on units, so playing for objectives I think I would have been fine. But for kill points all my light vehicles and troops rushing across a fairly open field at him seemed like they’d be tasty targets for his large quantity of S6+ long range shooting before I could get any melta into play: Dudes with lascannons, two Razorbacks w/ twin-linked Lascannon sponsons, grav Bikers, a Contemptor, a Sicaran, and a Master of the Forge. My usual Sternguard and Drop Pods again would have been useful here, to melta-drop some opposing vehicles. So, I kinda went to left field and played for a draw by reserving almost everything and hoping to simply keep it from being killed. Scouts I buried completely out of LOS within a hut to keep me in the game. Landspeeders I put on the table but very carefully out of LOS and range to anything, as juicy targets to try and draw the Iron Hands forward.

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In the end I brought the ‘Speeders out of hiding too early and they got slagged before doing anything meaningful. Partly that was do to poor targeting priority, sending them against the bikers to protect the Scouts rather than trying to trade fire with the Razorbacks. The other Kingbreakers that came on and went right into hiding did some damage after the enemy finally came forward enough to strike at meaningfully. It wasn’t enough though and I went down to a minor loss. Potentially this goofball strategy could have worked if I’d changed the order up a bit, deploying a Rhino and flying on the Landspeeders, and overall stuck to my guns and done nothing but waited for him to come to me piecemeal. It was really difficult for me to do all that sitting around though, even as Louis was a great sport and found it hilarious that basically nothing happened for three turns. Overall I wouldn’t do this strategy again, and was probably kitted out to fight toe-to-toe with this army anyway, but it just seemed like something different to try and maybe put him off kilter and engender a major mistake tipping the balance. That almost worked, when he finally broke and started bringing units forward, but then Louis realized what was about to happen and stepped them all back just a few meaningful inches before I could bring on a solid thrust at them.

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Round 3

Dawn of War, a variant on the Relic with additional immovable objective markers, against Chris S and his Dark Eldar. The Kingbreakers swept this one fairly systematically. Scouts got sacrificed as a ploy to bring some troops forward, which then got burninated as the meltas and missile launchers took down the opposing Raiders one by one. Even the Razorwing flyer eventually took a fair amount of damage. The Rhinos in turn just churned up field until they were controlling all three objectives and the xenos tabled except for the jetfighter. Here I think the Dark Eldar mostly just couldn’t bring on enough of a concentrated force to really score some major damage before the relatively fragile units could be rolled up one by one.

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Round 4

Old-school Spearhead setup, fighting to kill and control monstrous creature Peeps, against Steve S and his Space Wolves Chaos Marines. This deployment setup is funny, and one that I actually think about a lot in coming up with new arrangements for our events. Each army gets a table quadrant to deploy in, but must be at least 12″ from table center. The thing is that it doesn’t really preserve the 24″ boundary. The corners closest to center are a fair bit closer, so you’re open to Turn 1 charges if you deploy there, first player Turn 1 charges no longer being barred by the rules AFAIK. I totally forgot about this, deployed in the forward corners, and got immediately charged by Steve’s horde of Chaos dogs, cyber dogs, and Thunderhammer-wielding lord and henchman on Juggernauts.

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That was basically ok, because a Landspeeder and Rhino went *poof* and then the whole horde was ideally placed for the entire Kingbreakers army to drop flame, meltas, bolters, missiles, and the kitchen sink on it. Being kitted out with a fair bit of flame, including Salamanders’ re-rolling flame on the infantry, was decisive in tackling the dogs. Re-rolling meltas due to Vulkan, combined with several missile launchers, plucked wounds off the Juggernauts fairly rapidly. I also got very lucky on Steve’s Stormwolf flyer not coming in until Turn 4. Earlier on it would have shifted the game back in his favor quite a bit.

As things went though, very quickly only the lords and a couple straggler dogs were left standing. Then the sugary bio-morphs arrived…

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The Peeps came in via deep strike and wielded a WS4 BS2 S6 T6 W6 I2 A3 LD10 3+ Monstrous Creature, Eternal Warrior, Feel No Pain (5+) profile with Laser Eyes R18 S6 AP4 Assault 2. I brought mine in near my encampment so that it could fight the Juggernauts and then be easily claimed by my guys. Steve also dropped his Peep by my guys as he didn’t have much on the backfield except a Rhino charging at me, and hopefully it’d be able to do some damage on its own. Really though, the Peeps wound up being largely pushovers. Each of us wound up destroying the other’s Peep in close combat, Steve with his Juggernauts and me with powerfist wielding Sgt Scolirus. I was stoked because this kind of thing totally justifies my inefficient nostalgic dedication to powerfist sergeants.

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After that there were a bunch of small combats. The lords got mopped up. Steve’s flyer arrived and together with the Rhino each delivered a handful of Chaos Marines into the battle, but by that point there were far too many Kingbreakers outnumbering them and they went down pretty easily. The Rhino managed to dash onto one of the dead Peep objectives to contest it, as we ran out of time before I could finish it off, move for Linebreaker, and so on to sweep up more points. But still the Kingbreakers had killed one Peep, held the other dead Peep, and had slain the Chaos warlord, for a doubled-points victory.

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Outcome

Final tally was that I got crushed by Eldar, took a minor loss to the Iron Hands, won a perfect game against Dark Eldar, and massacred Chaosy Space Wolves. So I lost two games I thought would be extremely difficult just based on armies (let alone players, Mark from Round 1 finished 7th overall), crushed a game I in some sense should indeed have won (newer player to this edition, with a difficult to play army), and wrapped up the day winning the game I wanted to win but could have gone either way (against Steve, a friend and good player who’s crushed me many times).

The scoring system is a little opaque, but my painting and sportsmanship must have boosted what on average seemed a middling amount of points per game, to put me 11th of 39 registered players in the final standings. Tom finished an impressive 8th, and Colin and Steve 17th and 18th for all of us to finish in the top half.

Conclusion

All in all, yet another excellent Berks tournament. Bonus points to Berks and Mike B for the best catered lunch I’ve seen at a 40k event, notably including tons of vegetarian options. I was super glad I went despite it being a crazy weekend—Friday I moved, just barely managing to keep my 40k stuff from being lost among all the unopened boxes, and Sunday I ran a small but intricate tournament. I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s Spring Assault already, and hopefully we’ll get more people to come out from Philly and enjoy such a great event.

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Berks PA Doubles @ Railyard

kingbreakers-iconSaturday the dynamic duos of Colin and Brett and John L and I went out for a Berks PA 40K Doubles Tournament at Railyard Hobbies. First of all, that place is amazing. I haven’t been to the Railyard before, and it blew my mind.  It’s ridiculously huge, and the terrain building supplies are all but endless. Definitely a good tournament venue, and though a bit out of the way from Center City Philly, potentially worth the trip for terrain materials and tools.

Armies were 1500 points per player, battle forged but no other restrictions. Both players on a team fielded a warlord. All partners were treated as Allies of Convenience. A single psychic warp charge pool was shared.

Eight teams showed, with various Marines, Imperial Guard, Daemons and Chaos Marines, a small Eldar presence, Necrons, some Imperial Knights, a couple more Knights dropping out of a Thunderhawk, and oh yeah a C’Tan and his buddies who just happen to also be Knights. Photos are in the Flickr gallery.

For the Emperor.

For the Emperor.

Armies

John and I fielded what I feel is a well balanced and relatively normal army. Originally we were going to divide into John on offense and me on defense. But then we were both busy and didn’t coordinate at all, so we wound up with a combined thrust across backfield, midfield, and the frontline.

On the Raukaan side:

  • Epistolary w/ The Gorgon’s Chain
  • Ironclad Dreadnought w/ Drop Pod
  • Sternguard x5 w/ 5x Combi-Melta, Drop Pod
  • Tacticals x10 w/ Meltagun, Lascannon, Lascannon Razorback
  • Tacticals x10 w/ Meltagun, Lascannon, Lascannon Razorback
  • Stormtalon Gunship
  • Stormtalon Gunship
  • Centurion Devastators (Grav-Cannons and Grav-Amps, Hurricane Bolters)

On the Kingbreakers side:

  • Captain Angholan (Vulkan)
  • Squad Harmon (Sternguard x5 w/ 3x Combi-Melta, Drop Pod)
  • Squad Scolirus (Tacticals x10 w/ Powerfist, Flamer, Missile Launcher, Drop Pod)
  • Squad Harbinger (Tacticals x5 w/ Combi-Melta, Meltagun, Meltabombs, Drop Pod)
  • Scouts x5 w/ Sniper Rifles
  • Devastators w/ 2x Plasmacannon, 2x Heavy Bolter
  • Knight Errant Greenheart (generic melta Knight)
  • Inquisitor Hersch (Coteaz)
  • Imperial Bunker w/ Void Shield

The few “gimmicks” in there are the Knight, Coteaz, the Void Shield Bunker, and the Librarian with The Gorgon’s Chain hanging out with Centurions hoping to cast Invisibility on them. Well, ok, maybe that’s a couple of gimmicks.  But it’s no re-rollable 3++ on a 6 HP model or a world-ending god shard. And it’s a solidly fluffy, Marines-out-for-a-stroll force composition.

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Come get some!

Round 1

First up we faced Ethan and Dustin with Imperial Guard and Space Wolves with a Knight. Mission was Dawn of War (12″), five objectives, double value Slay (effectively quadruple if you tagged both opposing warlords), Linebreaker, and bonus points for killing both opposing warlords while losing none of your own.

These guys did a good job deploying, in part through simply having so much to field. We had no juicy, vulnerable alpha strike targets and wound up taking risky drops against the opposing Knight, tucked hard into a corner and surrounded by Guardsmen. One Combat Squad went well off course but luckily toward our own forces, and bunkered down in ruins on an objective until it had a chance to pop out late-game and help slag a Punisher. The joint Sternguard attack put five hull points on the traitor Knight but didn’t manage to take it down before being summarily blown off the board. A lone surviving veteran did tie up the enemy Knight in combat for a turn or two, though this mostly just protected it from our lascannons.

Our Knight meanwhile trudged forward dropping melta on Terminators and Guard tanks, eventually walking onto an opposing objective. Centurions defended our center table and wiped out Terminators that made it to threatening positions. Squad Scolirus and Raukaan Tacticals burned out Creed and the Guard’s Company Command, but paid for it when Captain Angholan was forced to face the full withering fire of a Punisher at point blank and was mortally wounded. With things looking grim in the mid-game,  the Space Wolves and Guardsmen  started taking chances on risky reserve drops with terrible results teleporting in and dropping from flyers, further boosting our momentum.

Scoping out the battlefield.

Scoping out the battlefield.

Creeeeed!

Creeeeed!

Notes

We wound up with all the objectives and secondaries, only missing out on max points by losing my warlord. Unfortunately I took a bunch of chances on Angholan withstanding the Punisher, trying to tank wounds on him rather than his squad. He actually made it through the main gun pretty ok, but I forgot it would also then be shooting heavy bolters and a stubber at him and it was just too much. On the upside, it seemed like almost nobody got this bonus either.

The big thing here was that we had a bunch of weapons to fight Terminators, enough alpha strike and mobility to pen their army up against their back line, and nothing especially fearful of the Guard’s large blasts or heavy weaponry. Our small Combat Squads all over the place made for inefficient blast targets, and a combination of good line-of-sight blockers and the Knight’s shield rendered the missile launcher and lascannon teams largely moot until we could take them out.

Aaaaaahhhh!!!

Aaaaaahhhh!!!

Round 2

Next up was Zack and Brad with Imperial Guard and Grey Knights. Mission was Vanguard deployment (corners) for table quarters control with bonuses for Slay, surviving friendly Warlords, and no enemy units in your deployment zone.

Joint Sternguard blew up a Landraider, dumping out the many Purifiers inside on foot, far removed from our central area. The Sternguard along with reinforcing Raukaan Tacticals and an Ironclad Dreadnought spent the battle in an ongoing fight with them before eventually prevailing.  Our Knight got an early lucky hit torching the Grey Knights warlord and his bodyguards. Greenheart and our lascannon teams then wore down a squad of plasmacannon Sentinels before they could target our Centurions. Squad Harbinger put a lot of wounds on a Dreadknight, which then shunted right into the middle of half a dozen Raukaan lascannons. Captain Angholan and Scolirus spent the battle in assault with a group of Bullgryns protecting their Lord Commissar, eventually smashing her. A late arriving Vendetta and Valkyrie harried a thinly held rear table quarter, but were slowly attrited away by Stormtalons and lascannons.

No further!

No further!

Aaaahhh again!

Aaaahhh again!

Notes

We wound up with max points in this one, controlling all the quarters and picking up the secondaries. This battle was very similar to the previous one given the matchup. Again we were fortunate to have many tools, especially the Centurions and Knight Errant, for taking out Terminators. Zack did a great job of drawing it out with his Guard via harrying thrusts all over the board, but with us largely taking out the Grey Knights early on we just had too much momentum.

I really liked this mission. I wouldn’t want to replace standard objectives with table quarters, but it’s a good mix-in. One thing I liked was that because it’s harder to calculate on the fly, and in some ways easier to swing at the last minute, it can be much less clear who’s ahead and by how much, raising the tension throughout.

You're following the wrong path, commissar!

You’re following the wrong path, commissar!

Round 3

Finally we faced Mike and Al with their four Imperial Knights and Necron C’Tan army. Mission was Hammer and Anvil deployment (long axis) for a combination of kill points and objectives, with bonuses for Slay and each surviving troop unit.

All three objectives wound up placed in a short line along the table center cross axis. We mostly positioned far forward, as near to them as we could, and held on as long as possible. Join Sternguard got a good drop on one of the opposing Knights but its rerollable save via the Adamantine Lance formation shrugged it all off. The Knights and C’Tan hung back for several turns pinging away at our threatening weapons before coming forward supported by Night Scythes. From there the forces of good got slowly rolled up.

Yep.

Yep.

Notes

We picked up a single point for the Raukaan zapping a Night Scythe, and otherwise gave up an obscene amount of points as all our units except one lonely Drop Pod got obliterated. We felt it was a moral victory that we lasted until Turn 7, but the outcome was pretty much foregone from the start. Four Knights with three in an Adamantine Lance, a Transcendant C’Tan, and four Night Scythes with Warriors is a rough force to be looking at across the board. Playing the long axis didn’t help, as it enabled them to lurk out of range of our lascannons for most of the game. I really don’t know how we could have done any better against this army though.

Hands up!

Hands up!

Outcome

We didn’t come in with any tournament bonuses (early list submission, fully painted, etc.), but it seemed like few people did so that didn’t matter. Despite the third round drubbing, John and I held on for second place by a reasonable margin. First place, our Knights+C’Tan opponents, were ridiculously far ahead. A couple people quietly cheered us as the “non-cheese real winners.” I was happy with how we played throughout, and the final results. Depending on how you consider the NOVA Trios (we got crushed on games but got the 2nd best prize), that maintains what I believe is still a straight record of 2nd place results for me throughout 2014.

Thoughts

A couple more general thoughts.

Meta

I’m always hesitant to single out individual units, but it seems very plausible that the Transcendant C’Tan is a gamebreaker. Talking afterward I asked Al what could beat it. He replied “Well, you could buy a Warhound.” I had to work pretty hard to keep a straight face. Eventually he did come up with some other ideas, but they were all generally very specific and substantial purchases.

The Adamantine Lance formation is certainly a huge problem. It makes absolutely no game design sense to take an extremely strong, somewhat undercosted unit like the Imperial Knight, and give a collection of them huge bonuses for no additional points cost. Sure, they have to stay within 3″ of each other to get the effects, but that’s barely a limitation for the group in practice. Some of GW’s formations make rules sense to me as a way to fix or buff underpowered units and armies, like the Stormwing formation. A huge problem in frequently being a deliberate cash grab, like the Tyranid supplements (1, 2, 3), but otherwise solid. Others like the Lance though are definitely detrimental to both the game’s affordability and its play.

Lords of war.

Lords of war.

Tournament

The final mission highlighted issues with the scoring approach being used here, and I gather in several of the Berks PA events. Rather than determining games by victory points and then giving tournament points for wins and losses with bonuses for some special conditions, points earned in missions were simply summed throughout. In that last game the entire opposing army would have only given up fourteen kill points total even if we’d somehow managed to destroy everything. Meanwhile, John and I were each fielding that many units. That’s one thing in terms of the problems inherent to kill points missions, but a huge problem for a tournament if that goes directly into the tournament standings. It wouldn’t have mattered, but those last guys got a massive points boost off John & I between the kill points, objectives, and bonuses, unfair to everybody else. In general, tournament points should always at least be capped, preferably normalized.

That matchup was also a good example of where optional continuous scoring can really help balance the game. If we could have scored points throughout by holding objectives then we could have played a more tactical game, sacrificing units to try and hold up the oncoming tide with no expectation of lasting to the end. We all but certainly would have still lost, but potentially we’d have stood at least a chance of not being completed wiped on points, given that our opponents had so few units with which to attempting claiming and holding throughout.

On a final note, three thousand points total is probably too many points for a doubles game. Somewhat counter-intuitively, they tend to run slower anyway. At that many points there’s just a lot going on to begin with, and doubles games can take a very long time. That’s particularly true if at least one side is active in all the phases. It seemed like Colin and Brett really suffered from this, with several of their games cut short when they would have benefited from more turns.

Conclusion

Despite those concerns about the scoring and the serious balance problems built into 40k itself right now, this was a super fun event, well run in a low key but smooth manner and with a great crowd. Berks is going to run another team tournament in January, and I’ll definitely try to make it to that.

Again, more photos are in the gallery.

Wwwwaaaaaahhhhh!

Wwwwaaaaaahhhhh!