Escalation on Solypsus 9

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Yesterday concluded the map portion of our Solypsus 9 campaign! Fickle as they are foul, The Legions of Discord realized a losing battle when they saw one and quickly retreated from their beachhead gained last month. That left Spoilers and Order battling it out for control of the colony:

  • Forces of Order: Skitarii, Kingbreakers Space Marines, Sanguine Hunters Space Marines, and Grey Knights
  • Spoiler Horde: Tyranid, Dark Eldar, and two complements of Necrons

There are a few more photos in the gallery. Full results and missions are on the event webpage. Campaign mechanics are in the Solypsus 9 outline. Coming up next month is the conclusion of the series in an Apocalyptic mega-battle for the planet!

Master Apothecary Sauvon of the Kingbreakers singlehandedly holds back a flight of Necron Wraiths on their way to a key objective.

Master Apothecary Sauvon of the Kingbreakers singlehandedly holds back a flight of Necron Wraiths on their way to a key objective.

Solypsus 9

Apparently desperate for even the most meager source of biomass, months ago a Tyranid horde dropped on the small, forgotten, and largely barren Imperial outpost of Solypsus 9. Among the horde was a new Ork hybrid xenomorph assimilated in the course of earlier fighting throughout the sector. Caught off guard by this new threat and attack vector, Imperial forces rushing to defend the colony successfully shored up the major technical installations, reinforcing the Mine, Lab, Comms Tower, and Starport, but left the miserable population trapped within the Hab Blocks to be overrun and feasted upon.

Encouraged by this small blow to the Imperium, all manner of xenos then joined the fight, whether simply to revel in the bloodshed or for darker motivations. The significance of Solypsus 9 then shifted, as the Imperium continued reinforcing the planet rather than abandoning the fight or declaring it Exterminatus, while the Tyranid made good a new, purposeful assault on the Laboratory and knocked the defenders back to the Generator.

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

Finding nothing of interest to their unknowable minds, the major Discord forces were quickly redrawn by their overlords, but still the Order and Spoilers alliances battle on in an ever-escalating war for Solypsus 9…

Final disposition of armies and territories after the third event.

Final disposition of armies and territories after the third event.

Battle

Fighting in the fourth phase of the campaign focused on the Mine and Lab:

  • First Round: Tyranid moved on the Mine from the desert and crushed the just-arrived Grey Knights to gain a defensible position. Kingbreakers counter-attacked in the desert, but were intercepted and soundly beaten by Necrons and mind-controlled Tau. Dark Eldar went to investigate why the Tyranid and Imperium have shown so much interest in the Lab, but were blocked by Skitarii and a Mechanicus reclamation team, their sudden appearance yet another sign of the colony’s hidden significance. Sanguine Hunters and Necrons both besieged the Hab Blocks, with the Blood Angels successors displacing Discord defenders as well as prevailing over the automatons.
  • Second Round: Tyranid violently tore through the Skitarii to regain the Laboratory. Sanguine Hunters attempted to reclaim the Mine, but were ensnared en route by Dark Eldar raiders. Necrons marched on the Starport and obliterated the defending Kingbreakers. Grey Knights and Necrons fought over the Comms Tower, but Order maintained control.
  • Third Round: Vengeful Kingbreakers counter-attacked the core of the Tyranid campaign at the Laboratory and regained the facility in a swirling maelstrom of ground-to-air combat. Grey Knights attacked the Mine but Dark Eldar raiders once again swept in to cut and shatter the thrust en route. Necrons decisively defended their hold on the Starport against the Sanguine Hunters. At the Comms Tower, heavily augmented Skitarii waged a chillingly brutal yet ultimately bloodless combat with the fully automated Necron and won the field.
Tyranid swarm over ground defenders far below.

Tyranid swarm over ground defenders far below.

The Knight Errant Greenheart fights Necron among the colony's installations.

The Knight Errant Greenheart fights Necron among the colony’s installations.

Kingbreakers march to fight the Tyranid over ground already corrupted by Chaos' brief occupation.

Kingbreakers march to fight the Tyranid over ground already corrupted by Chaos’ brief occupation.

Outcome

Spoilers won the first round of the day significantly, more than doubled out Order in the second round, but lost significantly in the third round due to a couple Order players securing both massacres and their covert missions. The horde though still carried the day, 173 to 134, and closed the gap toward Order’s tally. That puts the total victory points earned at:

  • Order: 123 + 179 + 76 + 134 = 512 victory points
  • Spoilers: 110 + 140 + 66 + 173= 489 victory points
  • Discord: 114 victory points

Despite the Skitarii leadership’s strenuous and ominous exhortations for Order to make sure it has a way to get off the planet, the Spoilers took hold of the Starport in addition to the mine. Order regained the Laboratory and the remains of the Hab Blocks, and continues to hold the Comms Tower and Generator. Both alliances achieved their chosen strategic objective for the day: Spoilers for the Mine, and Order for the Laboratory. That puts the total campaign points earned at:

  • Order: 5 + 5 + 12 + 14= 36 campaign points
  • Spoilers: 1 + 4 + 0 + 9 = 14 campaign points
  • Discord: 6 campaign points

All told, Spoilers and Order have waged a closely fought tactical war, with just 23 victory points separating them. But Order has managed to largely defend and control the colony from the onslaught. They’ll be hard pressed to defend all those installations though when the world is thrown into Apocalypse!

Disposition of Solypsus 9 after the fourth event.

Disposition of Solypsus 9 after the fourth event.

Revelation Is At Hand

Next month our Solypsus 9 campaign will conclude with an epic mega-battle as the Apocalypse arrives and the alliances battle it out for final control of the colony’s installations. Stay tuned for details, as there will be a fair amount of coordinating beforehand to ensure a fun, strategic game for everybody.

kingbreakers-iconFirst Sergeant Scolirus subtly flexed the fingers of his powerfist impatiently as the Skitarii in front of him chittered away. He had no idea what it was trying to convey and didn’t much care for their heavily augmented kind, despite or perhaps because of the bionic reconstruction throughout the left half of his face. Moments from pushing it off and walking away though, he suddenly somehow understood the smallest part of the message.  The Mine. There was something important in the Mine? The Skitarii shook its head and blatted out its techna-lingua at an even more frantic pace. Finally Scolirus got the message.  Not something, but someone…

The hive mind comes to take what it wants...

The hive mind comes to take what it wants…

Alliances of Solypsus 9

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The third event of our Solypsus 9 campaign was yesterday. Eight teams comprising sixteen players total competed in the doubles format, each player fielding 1000 points. The Legions of Discord joined the battle, working to carve out a beachhead on the planet from the Spoiler Horde already invading and the Forces of Order defending:

  • Forces of Order: White Scars, two contingents of Imperial Guard, Adepta Sororitas, Kingbreakers Space Marines, and some surprisingly friendly Orks
  • Legions of Discord: Four contingents of Chaos Daemons, Chaos Marines, and Dark Eldar
  • Spoiler Horde: Tyranids, Dark Eldar, and two contingents of Necrons

More photos are in the gallery. Full results and missions are on the event webpage. Core campaign mechanics are in the Solypsus 9 outline.

Chaos arrives, on the wings of plague!

Chaos arrives, on the wings of plague!

Solypsus 9

The last two months of fighting began with a Tyranid and Ork horde dropping on the forgotten Imperial outpost of Solypsus 9. The horde quickly overran the Hab Blocks, but Imperium armies successfully shored up the Mine, Lab, Comms Tower, and Starport. In subsequent fighting the Spoilers took the Laboratory but the displaced Order troops reestablished themselves at the Generator. No doubt delayed in The Warp, this month the Legions of Discord finally arrived, hungry for battle.

Battle

Fighting renewed focused around the Lab and Hab Blocks.

  • First Round: Dark Eldar and Necron Spoilers correctly anticipated the primary threat on the Laboratory, making a move against the center of the settlement just as Imperial Guard and Sororitas troops attacked from there. The Spoiler attack though was disrupted by Chaos Daemons and the remaining Necron and Tyranid defenders in the Lab overrun. Meanwhile, yet more Daemons also clawed out of The Warp into the heart of the Hab Blocks, overwhelming the defenders and terrorizing the populance.
  • Second Round: Chaos Daemons and Imperial Guard both moved on the Necrons and Tyranids regrouping on open ground, but the Order was soundly rebuffed even as the Spoilers were crushed. On the hunt for fresh victims to buff up their strength, Dark Eldar supported by Necrons also successfully raided the Hab Blocks.
  • Third Round: Fighting spilled out all over the settlement, with Daemons and Kingbreakers making attacks on open ground to scour fleeing troops. Dark Eldar were routed from the Hab Blocks in the closing moments by Chaos Marines working in tandem with other denizens of Commoragh to betray their kind.
Tyranid harry Sororitas forces.

Tyranid harry Sororitas forces.

Dark Eldar swoop in from the skies.

Dark Eldar swoop in from the skies.

Captain Angholan faces off against the wormlord.

Captain Angholan faces off against the wormlord.

Outcome

Discord handily won each of the three rounds, for a total of 114 points versus Order’s 76 and Spoilers’ 66. Spoilers were routed from all the installations, with Discord taking up control of the Hab Blocks while Order regained the Lab while retaining the Mine, Starport, Generator, and Comms Tower. With both Discord and Spoilers targeting the Hab for control in this session but Discord winning out, the latter gained 6 campaign points in its first appearance. By gaining the Lab order achieved its target and, combined with the other installations, earned 12 campaign points. That puts the current standings at:

  • Order: 5 + 5 + 12 = 22 campaign points; 123 + 179 + 76 = 378 victory points
  • Spoilers: 1 + 4 + 0 = 5 campaign points; 110 + 140 + 66 = 316 victory points
  • Discord: 6 campaign points; 114 victory points

It was very clear very early on that all of the games would be extremely pressed for time in the doubles format, so I left out some of the narrative campaign elements originally planned. They’ll just have to make an appearance in next month’s finale.

Final disposition of armies and territories after the third event.

Final disposition of armies and territories after the third event.

Kingbreakers

An Ork player did not have a partner, so I wound up playing two matches with him and then a third on my own after he left.

Round 1: The opening deployment setup split up each team, and already not having a ton of obvious synergy with the Ork Green Tide we basically wound up playing two separate games on opposite flanks of the table. Facing oncoming Chaos Marines, I managed to sacrifice a Rhino and some Marines to draw their beast pack into combat with my Terminators. Otherwise I was concerned that the beasts would literally just run around them, the Kingbreakers never being able to tag them before they could swoop around to my home objectives. Unfortunately though the Terminators all failed their 2+/3++ saves and were swept off the field en masse. That left nothing with a realistic chance of stopping the Juggernaut lord from sweeping through all of my rear infantry. The Orks meanwhile were largely contained by opposing Dark Eldar, and the whole thing went down to a loss.

Split deployment zone setup for round 1.

Split deployment zone setup for round 1.

Round 2: Next, the opposing Dark Eldar + Necron team did a good job on mutual target priority and support in this Maelstrom battle. They wound up fighting as a real combined force, first primarily whittling away the Kingbreakers and then shifting focus to the Orks, still operating largely as distinct armies. In the early going though we established control over most of the board and leapt ahead. At one point we drew the Commander tactical objective (1 VP per objective) and were easily able to claim a whopping 5 of 6 objectives that turn. Several other objectives cards were also easy pickings. After that though the Kingbreakers were spread all over and picked apart, while the Ork blob couldn’t effectively claim new tactical objectives. The Spoilers slowly clawed their way back from a substantial deficit and eventually won by a few points.

The mob swarms through the rocks.

The mob swarms through the rocks.

In the first two rounds we were a bit disadvantaged as it just wasn’t clear how my Marines could work well with the Ork mob. With over 100 Orks crammed into 1000 points, they simply filled an entire sector of the board. Mixing the armies together evenly or putting the mob forward would have limited the more mobile Kingbreakers from moving about or engaging in longer range shooting. Conversely, putting the mob on rear defense would have forced the Kingbreakers’ defensive units into an awkward role. So, we wound up essentially splitting the board into two flanks.

That would be fine as such a mass of Orks could hold down an entire side, but they were grouped up into a Green Tide formation, making the vast majority of the army a single unit. That made them near impossible to dislodge, but rendered that huge points percentage only able to hold a single objective. Combined with being on foot, the blob just wasn’t able to effectively hold down all the objectives on its side, particularly in the more dynamic Maelstrom mission. We spent as much time trying to figure out how to move the other units of Gretchin and so forth through our own troops to actually claim objectives as we did working out offensive tactics.

Overall then, we had an awkward mix. Kingbreakers could take objectives easily, but needed support from a longer lasting force. Orks were longer lasting, but couldn’t really move to support or take objectives themselves.

Necrons and Kingbreakers pile in.

Necrons and Kingbreakers pile in.

Round 3: The final round was an old school matchup of 2000 points of Kingbreakers versus Chaos Daemons. I gave myself little odds of winning on the primary objective of annihilation, so from the start I focused on the secondary objective of holding markers. In addition, given that every match had been pressed on time and the opposing Chaos army particularly slow-playing with all its spells, Warp Storms, and other trickery, I strongly assumed the game would make it at most to Turn 4. This was born out when we only made it through Turn 3 and my army had taken heavy losses but few units been broken, while also claiming two of the markers and Linebreaker as well as First Blood. That eked out a win and nothing substantial would have changed in a turn, but a full five or six turn game would have swung hard the other way as units were wiped and markers forfeited.

Key here was that I had exactly what I needed to quickly grab the three secondary objectives and start off having to be dislodged, rather than fighting my way in: A bunker to put on home base, tanks to roll onto the midfield, and Drop Pods to go after the opposing marker. In general Marines can also just take a fair bit of abuse before they crumple. Terminators did a good job tying up several incoming units long enough that they had no chance to slaughter my squishier rear units. Captain Angholan (Vulkan) , Master Sauvon (Harath Shen), and Squad Scolirus similarly hung tough to draw out combat with both a Greater Daemon and a Soulgrinder in order to claim the far objective. Meanwhile, the other units did their best to not die and to make what contributions they could, like Sternguard in a single volley taking down a Nurgle Beast skulking about on the far flanks, for First Blood.

Placement of the three secondary markers.

Placement of the three secondary markers.

Finale

Next month will be the conclusion of our Solypsus 9 campaign. We’ll be running a 1000 -> 1500 -> 1850 point escalation format, with each list having to contain the previous list, as the armies and alliances hurtle into the endgame for control of the planet. Don’t miss out!

In the second round.

In the second round.

Shift on Solypsus 9

bannerYesterday our Solypsus 9 campaign continued. Tyranids settled down to munch on biomass, Orks brawled with anybody they could, and some Necrons decided to help out the Space Marines and Guard, while Chaos finally descended in force. Ten players made it through the snowy streets:

  • Forces of Order: Swords of Dorn+Legion of the Damned, fascist Guardsmen, White Scars, Space Marines, and Necrons
  • Spoiler Horde: The Flying Swarm, Ork Mob, Death Guard, Traitor Marines, Rotted Daemons

More photos are in the gallery. Full results and missions are on the event webpage. Core campaign mechanics are in the Solypsus 9 outline.

Chaos Marines ride to the assault on Solypsus 9!

Chaos Marines ride to the assault on Solypsus 9!

Mechanics

The core of the campaign is based around a map of the sole settlement on Solypsus 9. The alliances are working to control one of the major installations on the planet—the Laboratory, Hab Blocks, or Mine—as well as the supporting sites—the Starport, Generator, or Comms Tower. Each round the alliances simultaneously place secret orders on their active armies. Those orders are then revealed and the alliances alternate assigning a player and a target to a chosen order, with the other alliance(s) responding with a defending player. Cumulative mission results then determine the outcome and control of each territory. Full details are in the draft writeup. The system continues to seem to be working really well, especially as more players get a better handle on it.

commands

map

Drop on Solypsus 9

In last month’s fighting, a massive Tyranid horde descended on Solypsus 9 with new Orkoid hybrid morphs. Caught off guard, the Imperium was forced to drop assault their own planet to shore up defenses as fast as possible. Lead by the Swords of Dorn, they successfully established positions in the Laboratory, Mine, Comms Tower, and Starport. The invaders though occupied the Hab Blocks and began feasting.

Battle

This stage of the campaign started off focused on the mine, and then swung onto the Laboratory.

  • Round 1: The Tyranid settled down in the Hab Blocks to gorge on biomass after their long journey through the stars, while the Orks mob continued to roll throughout the settlement in their jalopy battlewagons. Finally awoken to the major conflict on Solypsus 9, Chaos Daemons and traitors descended from orbit against the Imperial forces. Death Guard and their cultists attacked the Astra Militarum guarding the Mine and won the tactical battle but were rebuffed by supporting forces. Traitor Marines dropped on the undefended Generator and were surprised but not deterred to find Necrons phasing onto Solypsus 9. Rotted daemons meanwhile were intercepted by a collection of Space Marines. Swords of Dorn engaged the Ork Mob at the center of the colony but could not overcome their sheer mass. Finally sated, a Tyranid Harridan led a sortie of flying beasts that cut through the White Scars defenders and entered the Laboratory complex.
  • Round 2: The Swords of Dorn rushed to retake the Laboratory, crushing a Chaos beast pack on the way. Orks, Death Guard, and Tyranid made a combined assault on the Mine, with Space Marines, Imperial Guard, and White Scars defenders suffering a major defeat. Necrons meanwhile successfully took the central pathway of the settlement from the rotted daemons.
  • Round 3: Death Guard could not repel an onslaught on the Generator from the Swords of Dorn. Traitor Marines again assaulted the Laboratory and almost lost to White Scars defenders, but the Ork Mob arrived hot on the heels of Necrons moving on the facility and rolled over the entire complex. Daemons guarding the Mine were dispelled by the exhortations of Astra Militarum Priests and Psykers even as their Space Marines outriders were mulched by the Tyranid swarm.
Swords of Dorn advance through the slum shacks surrounding the Hab Blocks.

Swords of Dorn advance through the slum shacks surrounding the Hab Blocks.

Orks and White Scars engage in a frenzy of speed and close combat.

Orks and White Scars engage in a frenzy of speed and close combat.

Imperial Guard roustabouts take up arms under the banner of psykers and priests.

Imperial Guard roustabouts take up arms under the banner of psykers and priests.

Outcome

Although the individual rounds were closely fought, Order took the day with 179 victory points to 140 largely due to successfully claiming a number of covert missions in the second round. Spoilers advanced their position slightly, maintaining control of the Hab Blocks and gaining the Laboratory. Order meanwhile entrenched their position on each of the other installations. Neither side though claimed their chosen primary objective for the day, leaving Order slightly ahead on campaign points earned, 5 to 4.

Again, more photos are in the gallery, and full results on the event webpage.

Final campaign positioning at the end of the second event.

Final campaign positioning at the end of the second event.

Design Notes

One of the challenges in the campaign structure is that we don’t have a fixed group size or composition. The underlying mechanics seem to support this well, but some narrative sleight-of-hand is required. In this case, a bunch of last month’s Spoilers couldn’t make it but some new Chaos players did. The number of players though came just short of warranting a third faction. Absent that, I erred toward simplicity and narrative continuity and kept the factions as Order and Spoilers.

The highly modified and fairly original Maelstrom mission seemed to work well. I did though notice a preference to use the standard cards to draw and track objective numbers, rather than marking our sheet, then consulting our sheet to read the actual text in play. That’s not a really problem, but clearly people prefer the physicality of cards over checkboxes. There are logistical hassles though to rolling our own cards that I’m not sure how to work around, and I can’t see just switching to using the standard deck (more on that its many flaws in a later post).

A rotted Plague Drone roams the battlefield.

A rotted Plague Drone roams the battlefield.

On a similar logistical note, almost every table played the last round decidedly slow. I would guess some part of it was the extra complexity of the Maelstrom bookkeeping, though everybody I polled seemed to think it was mostly just being tired. In general I continue to think 1850 points is just a touch high for 2.5 hours for a group mostly on the more casual end of the spectrum.

For this event I started introducing a few narrative aspects to the actual gameplay itself. One of the rounds included Apparations, little entities scattering around scaring everybody. I forgot though one of my cardinal rules of game design for 40k: If a narrative mechanic doesn’t clearly benefit somebody or directly determine the game outcome, most people will forget or purposefully ignore it. I do exactly the same thing with Mysterious Objectives, for example. To avoid unbalancing games I gave people the option to simply ignore this—Patrick, with his low-leadership Orks, in particular looked terrified. Several did, but the rest mostly forgot about them anyway. Reinforcing that design lemma though, people continue to be pretty excited about the covert missions giving to the trailing alliance. So, for next month the narrative aspects will be reworked into the covert missions, which will also provide some more inspiration and direction for the latter.

Stormtroopers search the burning crash site of their downed flyer for fellow survivors.

Stormtroopers search the burning crash site of their downed flyer for fellow survivors.

Onward!

Next month is going to be a doubles format, players competing in teams of two with each fielding 1000 points. Doubles are by far the best attended 40k events at Redcap’s, and attendance has been a bit higher for our events recently than the previous trend, so I’m hopeful for really good turnout. Should be a blast!

The Swords of Dorn stand firm at the center of Order's campaign to defend Solypsus 9.

The Swords of Dorn stand firm at the center of Order’s campaign to defend Solypsus 9.