Monday, 24 February 2014

Death on Acanthus II Part 1: A Warhammer 40,000 Apocalypse Battle Report

Everything I needed to bring for my massive game with Dave on Friday.
I arrived at Dave's house on Friday about 10:15 or so, laden with luggage.  Two black miniatures cases crammed with individual guys: two silver flight cases bearing all my dreadnoughts, tanks and other larger items; a green bag with some terrain pieces to help bulk out the table; and a bag bearing my rulebooks, dice and some refreshing beverages.

The largest game I'd fought before was two vs two, 2000 points a head.  This time round it was 7000 points a head - functionally our whole collection, bar some odds and ends - and on a massive, 12' by 6' table that Dave assembled using every table, work bench, wooden board and flat item he could fit in his living room.  Just witnessing the table added to the feel that this was going to be an epic event.

Looking down the table, from grass to river to building complex.  Bulk of the terrain comes from Dave's substantive collection of homemade items.
The river is a special piece he made just for this game: crepe paper for the shallows, plastic bags for the deeps with cling film to both hold it down and give it a more water-like sheen.  We decided to roll on the Mysterious River table at the start and got Industrial Effluent: all units in the deep river will get a 5+ cover save from the industrial goo coming out of what I assumed was some sort of refinery or processing plant.  Infantry would be slowed in the deep and vehicles will treat it as dangerous.  The shallows weren't anything special, though, and could be navigated safely.  Vehicles which wanted to avoid the river would need to take the bridge, which was a suitable width to move tanks across in single file.
We figured the go was being pumped out of the black pipes/orange bracket shown on the picture at the left, so we also had a house rule that at the end of every game turn all infantry units in the river would be pushed downstream D6 inches.  (Downstream is to the right hand side of the photo - away from the pipeworks.)  Vehicles would not be effected by this.  Anything going off the table was destroyed, which made that flank a riskier place to set-up.

Next up was choosing our Warlords - we decided to allow us to each have three.  This meant each of Dave's three armies could have a sub-commander - the Tau Ethereal, the Space Marine Chapter Master and then a Canoness for the Sisters.  His trusty Canoness Penelope De La Fleur would be overall commander, while on my side Fulgrim had that honour with a Slaaneshi Chaos Lord and a Tzeentchian Chaos Sorcerer as lieutenants.

Our chosen mission from the Apocalypse book: "Final Assault".  Click to embiggen.
Our game would be played with the Final Assault mission.  Dave was randomly selected as the defender and we decided to play lengthwide, so the building complex and that side of the shore was his deployment area.  Meanwhile I got the grasslands and the other side of the coast.  He could play anywhere on half of the board whereas I had to be at least 12" away - however, lengthwise that still have me a lot of table to work with.  It also meant we kept little off the table, rather deploying some units far to the rear to move up as required.

We each got to put three objective markers down.  The end result was one on top of the orange pump complex; one in the grey double-level building; one in the middle of the bridge; one in the large forest just across the river; one at the rock spires just across the bridge; and one on top of the bunker & silo pairing.

Dave's units were deployed with the sisters on the pump-side flank, the Tau on the down-river flank and the Space Marines held back as sweepers.  The Sisters would be seeking to get into close combat with their scary jump pack Seraphim ladies leading the charge; the Tau would be hoping to use their volume of fire.  He had Tau battlesuits on the pump complex and Space Marines inside the large building to start the game with those objectives.   The bridge objective right on the halfway line would be immediately available to a sisters column consisting of some troops and three huge Penitent Engines hoping to chop me into pieces.  He kept a Space Marine Drop Pod and some Tau Stealth Suits in reserve: plus a few units of Kroot to run around the back and outflank me with their savage jungle skills.

A view of the back defender lines showing the Tau heavy support holding off from the front line

For my deployment I put my my Noise Marines and anti-infantry heavy weapons on the front line with Dreadnoughts for fire support to allow them to open up at the first wave. The Vindicator took the lead on the bridge with Fulgrim and a squad of elite close combat Chosen in the Land Raider.  The forest and bunker objectives had lascannons and missile launchers respectively guarding them; the Rainbow Warriors took the rock spire objective, hiding behind the rocky cover.  Near the back Cultists and some spare Rhino-riding marines hang out as reserves to be brought up later on.  Some jump-pack wearing Raptors and a squad of gun-laden Obliterators will hang in reserves.
The view from Dave's side of the table: his defenders form up as Chaos charges their position.

We choose or roll for our final little tweaks; we double check some Apocalypse rules we aren't familair with; we confirm I'm getting the first turn; and then battle is joined...

See where all those sisters used to be?
 Almost immediately I let rip with my Noise Marines and a torrent of Sonic Blaster fire and some angry Dreadnoughts all but obliterate the Seraphim sisters and take the punch out of the upriver flank. Losing their main close combat troops will seriously weaken them here, and let me begin my assault in a far safer position.

Elsewhere my first turn goes promisingly.  The Vindicator blows out the Rhino trying to cross the bridge; the Tau take some casualties; and Raptors & Obliterators deep strike on the other side of the enemy line.  The Raptors each move for the two buildings with objectives while the Obliterators unload their fire-power at the vehicles at the back, destroying a tank on the very first turn.

One of two Raptor squads, appearing behind enemy lines to try and steal the  rear objectives.

It's a good start, certainly, but the Tau have many numbers so I can't do much to whittle them down.  And besides, Dave has reserves of his own...

The arrival of the amazing Irn-Bru Marines!
A Space Marine Assault Squad with Chapter Master arrives via Drop-Pod, flying down on top of the wood and massacring the heavy weapons squad in close combat.  I have reserves to fight back but I now find myself without my Lascannons which I was hoping would puncture a hole in his armour.   Worse still, the Vindicator on the very tip of the assault lost it's huge demolisher cannon in the first round of shooting, making it an expensive box on wheels.  Without that to clear the bridge, how would I ever advance Fulgrim and the Land Raider across?

St Celestine hids the now-stranded Vindicator and the Noise Marines trying to accompany it.

To make it worse, the downriver Noise Marines took a hail of fire from the Tau, whose weapons are short ranged but whose numbers were great.  Twenty or thirty fire warriors opening fire on one unit at close range adds up to a lot of dice, and that flank completely caved in.

See where all those Noise Marines used to be?
But I needn't have worried.... because the Land Raider wasn't going anywhere.  Crisis Suits dropped out of the sky and unleashed fire at the Land Raider, dealing little in the way of Hull Points but
managing to immobilise it and removing Fulgrim's invulnerable advance from the battle plan.

No longer capable of popping through the drive-thru.

The initiative had squarely been lost.  The only thing that really kept me in the running so far was that Dave refused to get stuck into most close combats on the table - he was worried about assault my Noise Marines, whose sheer volume of fire meant that their overwatch shooting against charging would blow Tau and Marines out of the water.  Instead he held off a little longer, hoping his firepower
would lessen the blow.

The carnage as 13:00 drew upon us.

By this point it was 13:00 or so and we figured we'd have our first break.  As Dave prepared us a quick lunch I totalled up the Strategic Victory Points so far: I was sitting on three objectives (bunker and spire) plus a mutually agreed one point boost for first blood, but Dave had two objectives in his own half (building and bridge: the turbine troops were considered too far away to actually count) which were therefore worth double points for him, plus one more for the forest objective he'd taken form the Lascannon dudes.  That meant our starting score was 5-3 - so far, so good for the forces of order, but all still to play for.

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