Apocalypse on Solypsus 9

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Saturday was the fifth event in our Solypsus 9 campaign: Apocalypse! Their retreat last month having been a feint, the Legions of Discord returned en masse and assaulted the Forces of Order at all the colony’s installations. Battling it out with 16,000 points on the table were:

  • Legions of Discord: Chaos Daemons, Chaos Space Marines, Necrons
  • Forces of Order: Swords of Dorn, Sanguine Hunters, Dark Angels, and Kingbreakers Space Marines

More photos are in the gallery. Results and a few details are on the event webpage.

The Apocalypse underway!

The Apocalypse underway!

Solypsus 9

Months ago a starving Tyranid horde dropped on the small, forgotten, and largely barren Imperial outpost of Solypsus 9. Caught off guard, Imperial forces rushed to defend the colony and safeguarded the major technical installations, reinforcing the Mine, Lab, Comms Tower, and Starport, but leaving the miserable civilian population trapped within the Hab Blocks to be overrun and feasted upon.

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 Forces of Order continued reinforcing the planet rather than abandoning the fight or declaring it Exterminatus. Meanwhile the Spoiler Horde made 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 securing a breachpoint on the planet for the Legions of Discord among the Hab Blocks, and Order regaining the Laboratory.

The war then continued to escalate, with ever larger forces drawn into battles over the primary installations. Backed by their sheer numbers, the Spoilers stormed in from the desert and claimed the Mine. Order chased Discord out of the Hab Blocks, but had no idea what was awakening below them…

Disposition of Solypsus 9 after our fourth map event, Apocalypse to come...

Disposition of Solypsus 9 after our fourth map event, Apocalypse to come…

Scenario

Seven players turned out for the Apocalypse on Solypsus 9. The board was 12’x4′, with lightly themed terrain sections representing the colony’s six installations: The Laboratory, Mine, Hab Blocks, Comms Tower, Starport, and Generator. Primary objectives were placed roughly evenly in fixed locations for each of those. Secondary objectives were then placed by each alliance outside their own deployment zone; these wound up largely along the centerline of the battlefield. Each player designated a warlord as usual and one of these for each alliance was chosen as their overall warmaster.

Battlefield for the Apocalypse on Solypsus 9.

Battlefield for the Apocalypse on Solypsus 9.

Scoring was conducted every game turn, with alliances earning:

  • Primary Objectives: Victory points worth the turn count divided by two (rounding up) per marker;
  • Secondary Objectives: One victory point per marker;
  • Warmaster: Six victory points for eliminating the opposing warmaster;
  • Warlords: Three victory points for each enemy warlord eliminated;
  • Superheavy vehicles, gargantuan creatures, and mighty bulwarks: Two victory points for each such enemy unit destroyed.

We also ran an individual tournament inside the battle. Before the game each player selected an overall mission for their alliance to work toward and be scored on. Throughout the battle they also earned points through personal tactical achievements, such as holding an objective or killing psykers.

Personal missions and achievements amidst the Apocalypse.

Personal missions and achievements amidst the Apocalypse.

Battle!

With a keen interest in why the Imperium had not simply written off the barren rock, the Legions of Discord once again descended on Solypsus 9. Their onslaught quickly supplanted the Spoiler Horde both physically on the planet, and mentally in the minds of the Forces of Order. With its existential foe now truly engaged, the Imperium had no choice but to commit all of its greatest resources to a final apocalyptic showdown for the planet.

Older minds, however, had other plans. Though their increasing presence throughout the war should have been a sign, all were caught off guard by the eruption of a Necron Citadel below the Hab Blocks, pushing aside and crumbling entire buildings as it rose to the surface. Solypsus 9 was thus revealed as a hidden tomb world, sleeping through the eons until the fighting awoke the martial ranks of the Old Ones. Chaos warriors and daemons quickly adapted, implicitly working in tandem with the automatons against the arrogant Emperor.

Against this combined threat, the Imperium’s finest leapt into battle. The Swords of Dorn and the Sanguine Hunters dropped an entire army onto the Necron Citadel. Squad after squad rushed from Drop Pods and Stormravens in an urgent attempt to preempt the legions of Necrons sleeping within from gaining a foothold on ground level. Kingbreakers dropped on the Starport directly among entire buildings of Nurgle’s pustulent champions in hopes of preserving orbital access from the ground. Dark Angels drove amongst the heavy machinery, cranes, and power silos of the Mine against the Iron Warriors building a fortress in its works.

Kingbreakers Squad Harbinger and Dark Angels Tacticals work to purge the alleyways and rubble surrounding the Hab Blocks.

Kingbreakers Squad Harbinger and Dark Angels Tacticals work to purge the alleyways and rubble surrounding the Hab Blocks.

Necron constructs engage the Swords of Dorn deploying from their Drop Pods.

Necron constructs engage the Swords of Dorn deploying from their Drop Pods.

But even as the alpha assault struck hard and Discord seemed to teeter on the precipice, the opposing forces were simply preparing for the counter-attack, the battle hardly begun.

Fleets of Necron flyers darkened the skies, raining bombs and Gauss blasts on ground forces before discharging Necron Warriors into vital positions. Their soldiers deployed to a myriad of critical locations across the battlefield, they then turned and took up dogfights with the Imperial air forces, harrying them throughout the conflict. Thus supported from the air, their legions quickly struck at the lightly guarded base of the Dark Angels’ charge on the east flank, contesting the Generator. Meanwhile, the first chapter’s forces already in the field were slowly ground to a halt against the impregnable defensive positions the Iron Warriors had already constructed among the Mine’s works. Their assault was finally completely repulsed when a Decimator’s malefic demon spirit rose from its own wreckage to lay Ezekiel low with a furious fusillade of Butcher Cannon fire.

A Soul Grinder exhorts Iron Warriors and Flesh Hounds on through the alleyways toward the Dark Angels' advance.

A Soul Grinder exhorts Iron Warriors and Flesh Hounds on through the alleyways toward the Dark Angels’ advance.

To the west, Kingbreakers and Nurgle daemons swept back and forth in mortal combat. Far extended into enemy territory and hotly embattled, the tide shifted for the Imperials when burning warriors of the Legion of the Damned materialized among their midst, blasting away the plague-ridden enemy hosts with eldritch fire. Such were the numbers of the horrors however that even this was not enough, and final control of the Starport came down to the lone Sergeant Titus holding his ground against a chittering insect daemon, locking the monstrous creature in close combat long enough for the facility to be secured.

At the beating heart of the battle, the Swords of Dorn and Sanguine Hunters together fought wave after wave of Necrons emerging from their risen Citadel. Harried by daemons prowling the edges, they carried the fight to the very entrances of the underlying tombs, eventually overcoming the defenders and stemming the tide of living metal gushing forth.

The Swords of Dorn fight to the very doorstep of the tombs.

The Swords of Dorn fight to the very doorstep of the tombs.

Nurgle is beset on all sides by the Legion of the Damned.

Nurgle is beset on all sides by the Legion of the Damned.

From the mounting piles of dead though lumbered the most horrible monstrosities. Towering above them all loomed The Lord of the Blighted Pit himself, Scabeiathrax. Called through The Warp by the rampant suffering, disease, and death wrought by the campaign, The Maggotspore coalesced into being already shuffling inevitably toward Order’s defensive line around the Laboratory. From mighty Knight Errants to foolhardy Tactical Marines, any that dared oppose its path were absentmindedly swept away by its foul claws. Soon it came to stand over the burning carcass of the Laboratory complex, unchallenged by all the Imperium’s might.

Scabeiathrax and the Knight Errant Greenheart face off among the Laboratory.

Scabeiathrax and the Knight Errant Greenheart face off among the Laboratory.

Outcome

After six turns, The Forces of Order emerged triumphant with 61 points to The Legion of Discord’s 51. At the final moment, Order held the Hab Blocks, Comms Tower, and Starport, while Discord claimed the Laboratory and Mine, and the Generator remained contested.

Jason and Alex won the individual honors for Discord and Order respectively with their daemons and Swords of Dorn, as well as claiming all the painting votes. TJ’s Sanguine Hunters claimed the prize for best general.

Mortalis Solypsus

This was the last stage for now of the battle for overall control of the colony. Later this summer though the combatants will descend into the wreckage of the Laboratory and Mine in search of the secrets buried deep therein. Stay tuned for yet more fighting in the campaign for Solypsus 9!

kingbreakers-iconEven on one knee in his mountainous power armor, Titus had to jam his chainsword into a rent piece of deck plate to keep from sliding back. His free hand instinctively tried to hold together his shattered torso, but of course could do nothing through the bloodied remnants of his armor. The furious windstorm beat by the daemon’s insectile wings was near overpowering. More than twice as tall as he, it was even more imposing nonchalantly hovering a few feet off the ground. Dismembered parts of his squadmates rolled past Titus in the gale and off the edge of the landing pad the monster had turned into its personal arena. As the wind shifted aside for a moment, Titus’ head lolled heavily, utterly exhausted. He saw what had caught the monster’s attention, a technical team moving into the nearby control buildings to attempt to activate any of the remaining bulk lifters. The beast gave another of its piercing shrieks, ratcheting up the pitch and volume so high it somehow blew out all the circuitry in his helmet. Vox traffic, sensor signals, the constant noise of a roiling battlefield, it all cut away instantly. In the sudden silent clarity that followed, Titus understood. He was going to die here, or worse. But if he could keep the daemon engaged and away from the control building, he would die doing his duty to the last. Shakily he stood up and freed his chainsword. With not a moment to spare, he charged forward and drove its revving blade up to the hilt in the side of the beast’s chest. It screamed at an even higher pitch and turned back toward Titus. Now he had its full attention.

Titus battles the daemon fly to keep it from the control building.

Titus battles the daemon fly to keep it from the control building.

PAGE Apocalypse 2015: The Fall of Kimball Prime

kingbreakers-iconThe Kingbreakers’ First Squad burst from their Drop Pod even before it hit the ground, running as one toward their objective. Flamers swept away a pack of zombie cultists without pause. Sergeant Scolirus’ powerfist dispatched an intercepting greater daemon on the fly, preserving momentum. The battle brothers each felt the tingling energy crackle as they breached the overlapping void shields but none had a moment to reflect on it. Their target in sight, Captain Angholan jumped in a single bound to the top of the shield generators, ran across the battlements, and leapt into space, hurling an ancient Vortex Grenade into the smoking maw of the corrupted Warhound directly in front of them. At this range the wildly unpredictable warp attack might prove as deadly to themselves as the traitor Titan itself. But none would ever be able to say they had not given everything for the Emperor that had saved them.

This past weekend the Philadelphia Area Gaming Enthusiasts (PAGE) crew held its roughly annual major Apocalypse match. The event was expanded this year to two days: One of Recon Squad skirmishes and a Cataclysm mini-mega battle, and another day of full-on Apocalypse battle royale. Sixteen players participated, with 24,000 points per side in the finale.

A largely successful push was made by the entire group this year to field painted armies and terrain, and tons of photos are up in the Flickr galleries:

A full report of the campaign follows below.

IMG_9619

We march to war!

The Long War

This was basically the finale of a series of events loosely connected by narrative and players over the past half decade:

Campaign map from the 2010 Combat Patrol League.

Campaign map from the 2010 Combat Patrol League.

For 2015’s climax of this story arc, the Legions of Discord brought The Scythe of Unbound Light to the gates of the Kimball Prime Manufactorum, bulwark of the Forces of Order on the planet and last bastion of the Imperium in this system. Meanwhile the instigator behind this entire campaign was also revealed…

Kimball Prime

The entire weekend was fought over a single board, representing the main gate to the major Manufacturom on Kimball Prime (the venue, my house, being on Kimball St and my painting log being the Kimball Prime Manufactorum Log). Though we’ve previously done well at building good Apocalypse boards, this year a bunch of people built even more terrain so we’d have a single unified look.

The table was just over 6′ by 17′ long, following our usual calculations on sizing multiplayer and mega-battle tables. Apocalypse deployment zones were L-shapes, with the teams taking one short edge and all but 4′ of their respective long edges, creating a 2′ strip of S-shaped no-man’s land. At one end was the parade ground and main gate fortress of the Kimball Prime Manufactorum, built for a display board at this year’s NOVA Team Trios Tournament. The other end was anchored by a series of giant skulls emplaced on Chaos temples, representing The Scythe of Unbound Light. Both were essentially played as Aquila Strongpoints with Macro-cannons, the fortress actually being two strongpoints but one cannon, and The Scythe having two annexes. These were blended into an urban core in the middle, with the ruins progressively more dense toward the center. Between and among all this both sides deployed defensive constructs, with Discord’s Iron Warriors in particular laying down extensive siege works.

The field of battle prepped and ready.

The field of battle prepped and ready.

Recon Squad + Cataclysm

The first part of the campaign used our Recon Squad rules for 200 pt skirmishes. These are very similar to the traditional GW Kill Team variant, but with tighter rules and better adaptations to 7th edition. Around these we used our Twilight on Caldor IV campaign mechanics, in which each player picks a legacy like Bodyguards, Sentinels, Headhunters, or Scouts from eight options, and tries to achieve that legacy through winning several specific scenarios from eight missions like Assassination, Installation, Excavation, or Breakthrough. The main table was divided up with twine into four 4×4 Recon Squad boards, with two more side boards assembled for fighting at the poles and in the swamps of Kimball Prime.

Legacy card for the Sentinels.

Legacy card for the Sentinels.

A pack of Screamers dominated their matches, helping the Legions of Discord to a healthy 116 to 83 victory in the vanguard battles of the imminent Apocalypse. In a key moment, however, a squad of The Fallen were run to ground in a ruined Imperial chapel, yielding the first hints of the greater forces at work behind the scenes.

kingbreakers-iconBrother Teleos stepped carefully among the rubble, futilely trying to avoid crunching in the loose debris. The shadowy figures had clearly retreated into these chapel ruins once the cultists they’d been using as meat shields had been pulped. At the distinctive boom of a bolter firing behind him, instinct spun Teleos around instantly even as another part of his mind registered that it was too late already. It took a moment then to process that he was still functioning, and then another to fully register the robed, power armored figure falling to the ground mere feet away, a long monoblade raised toward him. Framed in the archway beyond stood Ghost Sergeant Harmon. The black clad Kingbreaker gave Teleos the sign for eyes-up before silently stalking on deeper into the chapel.

Fallen and Kingbreakers have a standoff in a ruined Imperial chapel.

Fallen and Kingbreakers have a standoff in a ruined Imperial chapel.

In the next part the Recon Squads gained 300 points of reinforcements and piled into a single Cataclysm battle over half the main board. On the edges of the parade grounds a seesawing conflict was fought between Mechanicum automata and Chaos Cultists joined by summoned daemons. Across the battlefield, an isolated band of Imperial Fists were rolled off the flanks of the temple grounds by daemons and traitor Marines. Coming to reinforce the position, Clan Raukaan troops found themselves ambushed by Night Lords. Despite a steady armored push up the center of the battle, Major Zdarsky’s 59th Armageddon crashed onto the enemy objectives too late to swing the Imperials’ fortunes.

By the end both warmasters were slain but Discord continued its successes, holding the majority of the six primary objectives in scoring rounds after Turns 2, 4, and 6 to earn 20 points to Order’s 14, both having also assassinated several opposing warlords. Squads on both teams squads secured their legacies, with the daemons’ Penetrators claiming an Order objective and the Kingbreakers’ Bodyguards successfully executing a flying block for Major Zdarsky and his armored column.

Lizardmen fight against the Imperium that would scorn them.

Lizardmen fight against the Imperium that would scorn them.

Night Lords stalk the shadowed alleys and ruins.

Night Lords stalk the shadowed alleys and ruins.

The Cataclysm underway.

The Cataclysm underway.

Apocalypse

The next day the conflict at the Manufactorum gates expanded again. Companies of Space Marines, packs of Cultists and Daemons, Mechanicus war engines, and all manner of armies descended on the battlefield.

Setup

Six primary objectives were placed before deployment in a ring around the board:

  • The main gates of the Kimball Prime Manufacturom;
  • The base of The Scythe of Unbound Light;
  • The headquarters of Discord’s siege works;
  • Clerics’ dormitories at an Imperial Shrine;
  • An Imperial Aquila Strongpoint with Vortex Missiles;
  • A newly arisen Necron Citadel.

After all deployment was complete, each player additionally placed a secondary objective anywhere 12″ from table edges and other objectives.

apoc-board

Scoring was held after turns 2, 4, and 5 (game end). Primary objectives could only be scored by troops in the mid-game rounds. All troops had Objective Secured regardless of detachment structure. Primaries were each worth the current turn number. Secondaries were worth one point each. Warlords, superheavies, gargantuan creatures, and mighty bulwarks were additionally worth a point each, with an additional point for slaying the designated warmaster (chief warlord).

Having handily won the preceding day, Discord took the prerogative of choosing to deploy and play first or second and chose second. They also got a free Macro-Cannon on The Scythe for their successes throughout the campaigns. Each team took up to 30 minutes to deploy, with Seize the Initiative unavailable. Modified Apocalyptic Reserves were applied, with a schedule of earliest arrival based on maximum unit movement speed. Each turn the commander for each team could designate one unit to make an All Out Attack, advancing at triple its movement but foregoing shooting/running/moving flat out. Both commanders also selected eight Strategic Asset cards to be given to their warlords in need throughout the match.

The Sentinels of Terra and the 59th Armageddon await the onslaught.

The Sentinels of Terra and the 59th Armageddon await the onslaught.

Battle

The Forces of Order had a nearly decisive first turn, inflicting major losses. The Kingbreakers’ Librarius of Rorschach make a suicidal Drop Pod strike into the heart of the enemy deployment zone. Binding their psychic potential together, they cast a massive Warp Vortex directly on top of a corrupted Hellhammer, blasting it immediately into the Immaterium. Though the entirety of the Librarius gave their lives for the action, their angry spirits lived on in the vortex they’d spawned, sucking a number of Greater Daemons back into the Warp throughout the battle.

Nearby, punishing bombardment from the 59th Armageddon and a contingent of the Sentinels of Terra on the parapets of the main gate fortress obliterated a Void Shield Generator and a corrupted Baneblade on the leading edge of the Discord siege works. Covered by the withering hail of fire, the Knight Errant Greenheart simultaneously charged across the battlefield and plowed through the zombie cultists futilely blocking its way, stomping through their lines and crushing the other Void Shield Generator guarding the Discord siege headquarters.

At the far end of the battlefield, Clan Raukaan Centurions and Sternguard made a mass drop on the Necron Citadel and astoundingly earned a critical first turn kill of the emerging Transcendant C’Tan before it could wreak havoc.

A Great Unclean One exchanges mighty blows with a Terminator Sergeant.

A Great Unclean One exchanges mighty blows with a Terminator Sergeant.

Reeling from these blows, the Legions of Discord worked grimly to pull their battle plan back together. Four greater Daemons bound together in a Tetragon of Darkness shrouded the Chaos troops in protective wards from the enemies now running amok among their lines, while the nanites and scarabs of the Necron Citadel did the same for the automatons. A massive blind barrage shielded the advance of hordes of Lizardmen, Night Lords, and other traitors in the shadows of a many-legged Greater Brass Scorpion toward the Mechanicum’s Aquila Strongpoint. One of Ahriman’s Covens sacrificed itself en masse ahead of the group to spawn a bevy of warp rift vortexes that would plague the soldiers of Mars for the entire battle. Responding in kind, a Dark Angels Librarius began tearing at reality ahead of the oncoming army. Together the two bands of psykers turned that entire quadrant of the battlefield into a crazed, unpredictable nightmare where instant death might come at any moment, no matter how brave the warrior or thick the armor.

A Dark Angels Librarius recklessly tears rifts in reality all about the incoming Chaos Marines from their Aquila Strongpoint.

A Dark Angels Librarius recklessly tears rifts in reality all about the incoming Chaos Marines from their Aquila Strongpoint.

A band of Chaos Marines marches toward the Mechanicum's Strongpoint.

A band of Chaos Marines marches toward the Mechanicum’s Strongpoint.

With little left in reserve following the punishing first round strike, the Forces of Order were stretched thin to cope with seemingly endless Discord reinforcements and slowly the momentum shifted.

Deep in the Discord lines, isolated bands of Kingbreakers, Dark Angels, and Raukaan fought brave tactical battles to claim important ground, but were repeatedly swept away by outnumbering opponents: Once the Siege HQ was threatened by Order forces, Land Raiders full of Chaos troops appeared to fight them back. With the Necron Citadel about to be overrun by combined arms, a large band of Cultists arrived to hold it until the Maynarkh could regroup. Again and again the story repeated, snatching victory from the loyalists.

On the Imperial side, wave after wave of Necron flyers harrassed the Mechanicum position. Though many Tech Thralls and reinforcing Raukaan gave their lives to shore up the Strongpoint and the Greater Brass Scorpion was eventually brought down, the redoubt was inevitably overcome in a flood of Chaos Marines.

Deathwing drag down a daemon spawned on the parapets of the main gate fortress.

Deathwing drag down a daemon spawned on the parapets of the main gate fortress.

Most devastatingly, late in the battle several small squads of Chaos space marines outflanked onto the Imperials’ position around the shrine dormitories. Having already repelled a large attack of Soulgrinders, lesser daemons, and zombies, the position had been thought secure. Heavy shelling from the 59th Armageddon combined with sustained fire and assaults from the Kingbreakers and allies eventually cleared the position, but the damage had been done. Stretched thin across the multiple objectives in the area, there wasn’t enough time for Order forces to shore up the position before a final, desperate, high speed strafing run of an entire squadron of Necron Doom Scythes managed to wipe the defenders off the primary objective in the closing moments of the battle.

Inquisitor Hersch and Kingbreakers Tacticals investigate noises in the alleys around the shrine dormitory.

Inquisitor Hersch and Kingbreakers Tacticals investigate noises in the alleys around the shrine dormitory.

Maynarkh Doom Scythes make a high speed formation strafing run through the occupied city ruins.

Maynarkh Doom Scythes make a high speed formation strafing run through the occupied city ruins.

Midway through the battle, however, the last of Discord’s primary siege works had been finally cracked open. Exposed therein was the treacherous mastermind of the entire campaign: No less than Cypher himself! His position was immediately obliterated beyond all recognition by the Sentinels of Terra and the 59th Armageddon. Presumably nothing could have survived the severe overkill, but the Fallen’s fate is unconfirmed: Deathwing rushing to the site were intercepted en route and unable to gather evidence either way.

apoc-movement

Outcome

The Imperial bulwarks on Kimball Prime are lost before the might of The Scythe of Unbound Light and the Manufacturom lost to Chaos, but the instigator of this campaign throwing the sector into disarray is revealed!

Both teams claimed 5 superheavy/gargantuan/bulwark and 3 warlord kills, though Order also dispatched the Discord warmaster—Cypher cowardly hiding in a bunker! After Turn 2 Order had a small lead (19 to 15), but Discord gained a slight advantage by Turn 4 (40 to 37), and then Order’s long edge collapsed in Turn 5, yielding a final total score of 65 to 51 in favor of the traitors, heretics, and xenos.

A solitary sniper eyes up the battlefield.

A solitary sniper eyes up the battlefield.

Analysis

A few points on the game play itself as well as the design of the match.

Game End

With 120 points up for grabs, the 65-51 Apocalypse outcome certainly wasn’t a blow out. With another turn before scoring the end several of the objectives would have been closely fought, potentially dramatically changing the outcome. The Kingbreakers in particular were setup for 6 turns, and didn’t have time to move back onto the Dormitory objective when the game ended early. By that point though most of the (merely mortal) warlords were ready to pack it in after a long, brutal campaign. We did a reasonable job of keeping things to our schedule, but this was a packed weekend of two long days of gaming. Regardless, in the future we’ll probably score every turn and commanders will have to be prepared for the game to end early in the event that the group starts to flag.

The Mechanicum's Strongpoint is overwhelmed in a combined tide of living and corrupted metal.

The Mechanicum’s Strongpoint is overwhelmed in a combined tide of living and corrupted metal.

Balance

Our group consciously works to make our Apocalypse battles more than just Titans point & clicking at each other from across the table. In this match basic troops, heroic warriors, and giant war machines all felt equally important and critical. To a very large extent the game came down to a couple combat squads of Tacticals slugging it out with some Chaos Marine stragglers over a primary objective in the last turn. Among the factors contributing to this are:

  • Major units, defined as anything with more than 9 hull points/wounds, are “negotiated” between the teams. For this match we agreed not to allow Reavers, though we have in the past, mostly because one in the group isn’t painted and very very few of our players are familiar enough to use them effectively. Otherwise everything was allowed and this rule basically just prevents surprises, and enables some shifting around of excess Baneblade-chassis to roughly balance the superheavies across the two teams.
  • Tons of line of sight blocking terrain as well as barricades, rubble, and other smaller terrain providing places for the little guys to hang out. In addition to the board pieces placed pre-game, we ignore the official Apoc rules and leave ruined vehicles in place (as destroyable wreckage) as well as amending the 7th edition core to still replace exploded vehicles with craters, so that infantry have places to hide, particularly after spilling out of a transport.
  • Permitting only Troops to hold the primary objectives in the mid-game scoring obviously makes them critical. Giving all Troops the Objective Secured rule regardless of detachment is also a nice and very relevant buff. A good number of points came down to having Elites vs Troops on the secondary objectives.
A full handful of plasmacannon Sentinels lurched about in Order's backfield waiting for deep striking traitor Terminators to squish.

A full handful of plasmacannon Sentinels lurched about in Order’s backfield waiting for deep striking traitor Terminators to squish.

Deployment Zones

The funky deployment zones used here definitely made things interesting. It’s certainly not uncommon in Apocalypse for a section of the board to get blown away early. This setup though makes the long ends of the L-shapes “obvious” focal points for massive bombardments and attack because they’re exposed on two sides.

Despite Discord’s significant siege works, most of their forces on that point were obliterated early on. Probably Order’s Sentinels and 59th Armageddon should have advanced en masse to roll down that flank a bit after it was opened up, but they were harassed enough by deep striking Oblits and Daemons to stay put. In turn, that gave space for the large number of reserves Discord had held back to roll on and just barely mantain that point.

On the opposite end, Discord didn’t manage to knockout Order’s Strongpoint at that leading edge for quite some time, but the writing was on the wall with an inexorable wave of enemies working toward it from multiple angles. Order placed a ridiculous amount of forces around the main gate objective for mostly psychological reasons, as well as not wanting to split up commanders’ forces, but we should have allocated some of them down at the opposite end.

So, both sides expected the brunt of the fighting to be at those points, but neither adequately realized how true that would be. Encouraging that kind of analysis is a good thing, so I think this deployment setup worked well without being more punishing on any particular player than Apocalypse can be anyway.

Grenadiers oversee the battlefield.

Grenadiers oversee the battlefield.

Strategy

To that end, this match was actually really strategic. Though definitely not a perfect game, 40k done well is by no means a beer and pretzels affair. That’s surprisingly also true of Apocalypse. With enough attention to terrain, scenario, schedules, and balanced teams, there’s a ton of strategy to be had.

For the most part, Apocalypse doesn’t have the same tactical game that standard 40k does. There’s just too much going on, and not enough time to micro-optimize play or avoid all mistakes. I almost certainly removed my warlord on a failed save he didn’t actually fail but was too harried to catch that the power weapon attacking him didn’t defeat his artificier armor. At the same time, I know his unit lived through a turn when they could have gotten crushed because an opposing player was moving too fast trying to get in all of his actions, and accidentally blocked the Discord Warhound from going after them. It was actually jarring going from Recon Squad, which is very tactical, to this monstrosity. My skirmish Saturday against Colin’s Fallen was extremely chess-like and tight (and awesome!), whereas Sunday’s chaos was all about the broad strokes, having a well designed list and making the appropriate large scale moves that sailed well above all the really fine grained stuff.

A Typhoon heads out on patrol.

A Typhoon heads out on patrol.

To a large extent, 40k is a game of resource management and area control rather than micro-maneuvering, and in my eyes is a better game for it. Apocalypse done right takes that to a different level even as it swings on pivotal dice rolls just like any other match. Discord won this game because they kept a large number of units in reserve and combined them well with strategic asset cards to bring them on in the most effective places at just the right times. Ultimately it came down to just a couple Chaos Marines posing a significant threat, combined with a few flyers in position to sweep away the counter-response.

Though the gambit looked very promising at the start, Order didn’t have enough oomph left after its initial alpha strike even though it was largely successful. Compounding that, we didn’t wipe out enough of the opposing defenders in the mid-game to prevent Discord from sneaking small groups of reserves into critical positions. Most importantly though, the alpha strike and serious buildup around the main gates left all our troops committed in the wrong places going into the end game, and we just weren’t as able to adapt as the opposing army bringing in new troops all around the board.

In sum: Two very different strategies, both almost worked out, one wound up with a solid win through intentful strategic play and a lot of pre-game thought. That’s exactly how it should work. And along the way there were ridiculous piles of armies and huge models being pushed all around the table…

The Apocalypse somewhere in the early turns.

The Apocalypse somewhere in the early turns.

Closing

It took a lot of advance work and was a looong weekend, but this was a stellar event encompassing a huge swathe of 40k gaming: Skirmishing, Apocalypse, campaigns, narrative, frantic late night painting, the whole shebang.

Again, lots of photos are up in the Flickr galleries:

g6587We’ll also be posting the PDFs driving all of this, and are also considering hosting a larger event around the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) area sometime in the future. If you are interested in either of those, please sign up for our very low-volume, announcements-only mailing list!

Next up is our regular tournament/event at Redcap’s Corner on Saturday, January 24th. Details will be posted to the store’s 40k mailing list and the PAGE Forums shortly, but armies are 1850 points and entry $10. Be there or be forever a traitor enslaved to laughing gods!

kingbreakers-iconCaptain Angholan subtly motioned for his men to wait as he stepped forward onto the dais. In the complete silence he could hear the soft boom and crunch of the colossal battle going on outside the courtyard. Here though the air was completely still and stale, dead. Ahead stood the motionless monarch, flanked by row after row of his automatons. Eyes locked on his opponent, Angholan swept his softly flaming Vorpal Blade languidly across the arc of the room, then pointed it straight at the Nemesor. Deep in its hollowed eye sockets he thought he could see a slight upbeat in the small lights set there. Then, wordlessly and as one, the ranks of automatons slowly moved forward, enclosing their leader safely behind. The licks of flames at the edge of Angholan’s blade burst to life as First Squad stepped up to join him. It could go down that way too.

The Kingbreakers' Captain Angholan and Squad Scolirus fight their way onto the Necron Citadel to challenge Nemesor Zahndrekh personally.

The Kingbreakers’ Captain Angholan and Squad Scolirus fight their way onto the Necron Citadel to challenge Nemesor Zahndrekh personally.

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NOVA Open 40k Narrative Recap

kingbreakers-iconHot 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.

Kramer Doyle, humanity's commander, sends the Kingbreakers off to space to do battle against unimaginable enemies and impossible odds.

One of the Warlords’ strategy sessions. Kramer Doyle, humanity’s commander, sends the Kingbreakers off to space to do battle against unimaginable enemies and impossible odds.

Scorched Earth

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.

A pre-round campaign progress briefing from Owen Beste, Steve Carey, and Bob Birrer.

A pre-round campaign progress briefing from Owen Beste, Steve Carey, and Bob Birrer.

Games

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.

Just after deployment. Yes, in technical terms that is a metric butt ton of Guardsmen.

Just after deployment. Yes, in technical terms that is a metric butt ton of Guardsmen.

The vanguard approaches.

The vanguard approaches.

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.

Scouts watching the shit go down.

Scouts watching the shit go down.

Wraiths multicharge anything and everything.

Wraiths multicharge anything and everything.

Deathmarks lurking in the shadows.

Deathmarks lurking in the shadows.

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.

Caw! Caw!

Caw! Caw!

Like ships passing in the night...

Like ships passing in the night…

Chomp! Chomp!

Chomp! Chomp!

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.

Into the heart of darkness!

Into the heart of darkness!

Tyranid infest the local ecclesiarchy church.

Tyranid infest the local ecclesiarchy church.

Forward, ho!

Forward, ho!

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.

Yep. Trouble ahead.

Yep. Trouble ahead.

Dooooooooom!

Dooooooooom!

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.

Yep.

Yep.

Dire Avengers leap out to scrub an objective but instead get scrubbed themselves.

Dire Avengers leap out to scrub an objective but instead get scrubbed themselves.

Scouts warily approach an Imperial double agent (for the covert mission this guy flipped sides).

Scouts warily approach an Imperial double agent returning with critical information (for the covert mission this assassin flipped sides but was immediately executed by the Eldar).

Sgt Harbinger stands alone.

Sgt Harbinger stands alone.

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.

Your weapons are useless, fleshlings!

Your weapons are useless, fleshlings!

Huuuwwwrrr!

Huuuwwwrrr!

Scouts hold down the left flank.

Scouts hold down the left flank.

Captain Angholan and Sgt Scolirus drop in to assist their Terminator brethren and claim the Relic.

Captain Angholan and Sgt Scolirus drop in to assist their Terminator brethren and claim the Relic.

Summary

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.

Dan Boyd, John Lamanna, Carl McLaughlin, Colin Kielick, and Jason Woolf lose their minds over the vintage model bins.

Dan Boyd, John Lamanna, Carl McLaughlin, Colin Kielick, and Jason Woolf lose their minds over the vintage model bins.

Conclusion

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.

Steve Carey, Owen Beste, and Bob Birrer give the final narrative briefing at the closing awards ceremony.

Steve Carey, Owen Beste, and Bob Birrer give the final narrative briefing at the closing awards ceremony.

Till next year!

Till next year!