Monday, 19 October 2009

First experience of facing a tourney player and list - Blood Angels vs Orks

At DWS On Monday I faced a chap called Alex with a very meaty Ork force.

He's going to be playing in Heat 3 of the 40k Throne of Skulls in Notts, UK this November and is trying to get 10 games in with an Ork army to get a feel for how it plays.

We played a 1500pt game and his list consisted roughly of:

Battlewagon - Ghazghkull & 5 Meganobz
Battlewagon - 15 boyz, Nob PK, Big Mek with Kustom Force Field
Battlewagon - 15 Boyz, Nob PK
Battlewagon - 10 Tankbusters with rokkit launchers
10 Gretchin with Runtherd

Alex was borrowing this army from his mate who had recently placed 3rd in Heat 1 of the 40k Throne of Skulls tourney using it so you can see that it's a heavy weight list.

My list was:

Librarian with 5-man tac (PF, M) in Razorback (TL LC)
Chaplain with PP, 5-man Death Company in Rhino
Furioso, DC, Ven, HF
10-man Tac (F, ML) - combat Squaded down to two fives on deployment
5-man Ass (PP, PF)
5-man Vet Ass (2xPW, M, F)
5-man Vet Ass (BGs, PG)
Attack Bike (MM)
Attack Bike (MM)

The game was Dawn of War deployment and we were playing for objectives (we got 4 on the table). Orks had the first turn.

Here's a very blurry shot (holding phone in the air) at the end of turn 1:

I'll not go into any specifics as Alex pretty much took me to the cleaners and left me with nothing on the table at the end of his turn 5.

In hindsight I think I did myself a bit of a disservice in how I played in this game as I kind of ignored the mission in favour of seeing how all the new units in my force could deal with things. How could I pass up the opportunity of sticking a furioso Death Company dread into close assault with Ghazghkull? It just looked cool! ...even if Ghazghkull battered him (he was in his waaaghh 2+ Inv save turn).

I didn't play well at all and feel a little guilty for not giving Alex a sterner test in his tourney build up, I think I learned more in that game than Alex.

A few highlights of things that I discovered during the game were:

1. Buildings are not necessarily impassable.

When Alex deployed his Battlewagons it struck me as odd that he'd placed them all together behind a building. I knew they needed to be close to get the cover save of the forcefield but, 'his mobility is screwed' I thought. Not so it seems, on the Ork turn the Orks drove straight over the buildings making dangerous terrain tests (with re-rolls because of rams). It was as if the terrain wasn't on the table for the Orks.

Now for some players this wouldn't be a surprise but me, I was stunned - I didn't question it as Alex is playing in prep for a tourney so knows what he's doing ruleswise but I'd never seen anyone play that way.

I've always played that buildings are impassable to vehicles - it just seems right to me. But on checking the 5th ed rulebook once I got back home I realised that it says that players can agree what terrain is impassable to what units etc. at the beginning of the game.

I'd assumed everyone plays buildings as impassable - but in tourneys it appears not.

This raises a very interesting point for me as I've always wondered why there is such a rant onlne about vehicles being too powerful in 5th ed. Well now I know. If players are allowing vehicles to drive over every building and bit of terrain on the tabletop it makes vehicles insanely powerful.

When you play with buildings and other features as impassable for vehicles you create areas which limit the mobility of vehicles. This also means that you can't park on an objective if it's in a building - you've got to get out of that transport with your infantry and do the house-to-house clearance.

Playing this way opens up much more scope for tactical and strategic decisions on the use of vehicles on the tabletop and helps limit their usefulness on certain battlefields.

I've always played that buildings are impassable to vehicles in 40k and never felt that vehicles are too powerful but now having seen how a tourney player interprets the rules I can see why so many people rant about 5th being all mech.

Similarly I've always played that infantry have to use ladders, windows and doors to move through buildings. Another thing that many players don't do I can understand that this may slow down play but impassable buildings doesn't slow gametime down.

2. Rules as written or "technically is says this..."

There was one point in the game where my razorback had moved to take a pop with it's lascannon at Ghazghkull after I'd killed his meganob bodyguard off (he shrugged the shot off with his 5+ inv save). In the process of moving into position I felt I'd put my Razorback into a position to get a 4+ cover save should Alex try to take a shot at it with his Tankbusters with rokkits in their Battlewagon.

Alas no - in my understanding of playing if the majority of the shooting open-topped vehicle can't see the target in the open then there's a cover save. But according to the rules, line of sight is simply drawn from any point on the open topped vehicles hull. So Alex picked the corner of his Tankbusters Battlewagon that was poking around a building and fired their rokkits from that point. There was a clear line of sight from that corner so fair play according to the rules.

It surprised me though... I'd never seen that done, it felt counter-intuitive to me as a bunch of burly Orks with whopping Rokkit Launchers dangling on the very corner of a tank seems a daft possibility but it's how it works in the rules as written.

Another useful little lesson learned.

3. Read the rules 'stoopid!' :-D

There were also several other little things that cropped up during the game like how independent characters are treated in close combat and things like that which highlighted my hazy memory of some of the details of the rules. So I'll be rereading a few areas before my next game - I never pay that much attention to characters as I don't really see them as being what the games about - it's about the units for me. Hence my use of 'stock' HQs rather than the Special 'uber' characters available. But I'll need to get myself reminded with a few paragraphs in the 5th ed. rulebook.

The main thing is having fun!

The biggest thing that sticks with me about this game is just how good an opponent Alex was. He was fun to play against, we had a relaxed and easy-going game and I really enjoyed the experience.

I can see that competitive 40k is a very different game to the game I play on a week to week basis. Playing Alex has confirmed I'm definitely a casual player (perhaps due to growing up with the detail of Rogue Trader 40k and then 2nd ed), but the experience hasn't put me off the idea of tournaments or that style of gaming.

In a run up to a tournament think I'd have to make a few changes in my head space to how I viewed the game. I see tournament gaming as a very different way to play the game - not better or worse than the way I approach it, just very different and I'd need to adjust my own thinking to account for that.

In my own games I'll keep to playing buildings as impassable to vehicles unless we play a scenario where the structures are very unstable in which case we could have buildings getting destroyed by vehicles (and/or heavy weapons). Now that's a cool idea... :)

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