Monday, 24 February 2014

Death on Acanthus II Part 2: A Warhammer 40,000 Apocalypse Battle Report

Mmmm..... venison sausages
The joys of playing in the West End of Glasgow with someone who is a PhD employed with a University is that the mid-game-repasts tend to be of a higher class.  Venison sausages with rocket was consumed as we regained energy for the second stage of the game, which would be between about 13:30 and 17:30.  That wouldn't actually be much in the space of play time - our early turns were averaging an hour per turn, with the sheer amount of figures needing moving and dice to be rolled.

The Chaos Space Marines had to try and regain momentum, so I used one of my Strategic Resource cards - items you pick before the start of the game with various temporary boosts.  A Chaos Space Marine specific one gave everyone in my army the benefit of the Fleet & Rage special rule, making them quick movers and nasty on the charge in close combat.  With that on the table, I set out to make turn 2 the turn of close combat carnage.

Battle is joined at close quarters.

My Noise Marines on the front leapt into combat with the Chaos Lord leading the charge triggering his Finest Hour - an Apocalypse-specific special rule in which a leader can gain a huge boost for this turn and your opponent's next turn, but it he is killed while the boost is in play he gives your opponent an extra Strategic Victory Point.  This boost was for the best, however, as he gave almost all the noise marines on the charge a 4+ Feel No Pain save which made them very resilient to injury.

The real battle of note wasn't on the front line, though, but a bit behind it in the forest.  Here the Cultists and one of the  units of Chosen converged on the Space Marines to retake the forest objective - through sheer weight of numbers they easilly masaccred the Space Marine unit but the Chapter Master proved resilient and my own Terminator Lord was slain in their personal duel.

The rush to retake the forest.
To the back of the table, the special forces continued their good work.  Another tank was destroyed by the Obliterators who set their guns to microwave-through-metal mode; the downriver Raptors entered the building and charged into combat with it's Space Marine guardians, dragging them into a bitter melee; and the upriver raptors climbed the turbine where they locked horns with the Tau battlesuits for control of the high ground.

Raptors atop the turbine set upon the Tau.

At the back table, Fulgrim and his bodyguard came out of his powerless Land Raider but I found myself unsure what to do with him - do I run him up table, facing the guns of the enemy which could blow him off table before he swings a single sword, or do I keep him back table where he is safer but has less to slay?  I decided to head him to the bridge, hoping he could clear up any straggling defenders and keep the bridge objective for the side of Chaos.

The melee could have gone better, but extra attacks and movement did help.  To plug up the gap ion my lines the Tau had made, I was able to race up my red Thousand Sons Rhino and drop a squad of armour-piercing Thousand Sons Chaos Marines to take up the downriver position.  They opened fire and made a pretty big dent in the Tau Fire Warriors.  I ended the turn reasonably happy. 

The Thousand Sons Rhino pops a handbrake-turn and the troops dismount.

This was not to last, however, as the TauMarTers kicked off proceedings with their own Strategic Asset Card, spending one of his Strategic Victory Points...

My first chance to use an apocalypse marker - that's a whopping 10" diameter affected by the blast bring down humungous aerial bombardment on the bunker objective which saw saw every unit I had nearby, including the anti-air missile launchers, pummeled into the dust.  My long-range high-potency weaponry was almost all gone, leaving my army stuck with minimal fire support.

Dave’s Marines fought on in the forest, where the Chapter Master refused to die and slew another Chaos Space Marine in a challenge.  On the bridge a whole swarm of Noise Marines were held up by a small contingent; the Tau were whittling down the Thousand Sons under volume of fire, clearing the way for a downriver progress at the cost of a few Vespid auxiliaries being swept off the table; and upriver the remaining Sisters and retinue were bogged down in combat with the Noise Marines, with a few kills either side but little in the way of conclusion.  Things had reached something of a Somme-like state of stalemate, with David’s larger numbers slamming into my superior toughness and armour as the corpses piled up in the shallows.

Dave advances on my lines, with the downriver flank all but broken open.

Back at the building complex behind enemy lines, Dave lost control of the turbines as my third turn began.  The Raptors were reduced to half strength in doing so, however, and were unable to get to the actual objective with their post-battle movement.  Meanwhile, in the large building, Raptor vs Marine combat was ongoing and saw little change in eithers numbers.  That objective was at least no longer claimable by either side while the two of them were busy wrapping their hands around each others throats.

The turbine cleared.... but the objective marker is tantalizing a little out of reach for this turn.

Fulgrim remained a weapon I wanted to get use out of, so I had him declare a Finest Hour to improve his survivability and charged him forward.  Unfortunately the neverending melee on the bridge was thick enough that I couldn’t actually move him in to help; so instead he would attempts to slow down one of the scarier units at the downriver part of the bridge by charging the heavily-armoured Terminator unit now stomping its way through my broken line and towards the spire objectives  Fulgrim has no fancy long-range weaponry, but in close combat he is a complete beast.  Where a normal Chaos Space Marine Lord has 3 attacks, a Weapon Skill of 5 and Toughness 4 he instead has 6 attacks, a Weapon Skill of 6 and Toughness 6.  He also has an awesome sword that cleaves through almost all armour; a high initiative 8 (human baseline being 3) so he will almost always strike first; and a special rule whereby  he gains even more attacks in challenges, one per initiative point.  Dave did his utmost to avoid close combat with him, in fact for exactly this reason!
Fulgrim heads for the Terminators while the battle for the forest rages on.

Elsewhere, Chapter Master Titus is still swinging his Power Fist around at any Chaos scum who will challenge him, having taken only light injuries and two Wound points remaining. With the Terminator Lord and Chosen Champion dead only one person remains in the throng of troops who can accept a challenge –a Chaos Cultist Champion.  Titus has power armour, a weapon which kills instantly on a successful attack, genetically modified organs and a couple of centuries of battle experience.  The Cultist Champion…. Is a regular guy in a pink trench-coat with a sword and a shotgun.  Not a daemon sword or a power sword or a chainsword; just a bit of metal with a pointy end.  This poor schmoe can’t even demure the challenge; by the Chaos rules, all my champions must give and accept challenges wherever possible.

It seems like it’s going to be a massacre, with the only possible saving grace being I get to strike first.  (Power Fists are really painful but also really slow.)  I make my rolls….. and luck into two hits that wound.  Titus is in such great armour, though, that the only possible death would be a roll of snake eyes on two dice…

The Chaos Cultist stands over the "two wounds remaining" die
 …and that’s exactly what I get.  Titus is cut down; the Cultist is blessed by his gods with a new boon; and Dave pretty much wants Death to come and take him now, because life has lost all meaning.  He’s got a Strategic Asset card which only matters if Titus is alive; Chapter Masters can normally call down an Orbital Bombardment once per game but with this card he can instead do it twice.  He couldn’t use it while he was stuck in combat – now he’s lost a major asset in clearing out my goons.


Things aren’t looking up for me that much, though, because I lose my Obliterators to enemy fire on Dave’s third turn and I don’t seem to be able to make any progress on the fighting in the large building – we maybe lose a man each per round, but most of the time we just dink off each other’s armour.  Some Tau drones fly in to bulk up his numbers and it seems I’ll never be clear in that objective.  Meanwhile, the gap in the lines where the Noise Marines collapsed gives a clear passage for some reserve Space Marines & Tau to start moving up and the Rainbow Warriors quickly find themselves surrounded and taking a lot of fire, losing the spire objective.  Upriver the battle sees both sides depleted but the numbers game is one Dave looks like he’ll win.

As dinner time draws upon us we wrap up for our second break.  Dave is positioned for the bridge objective, bunker and the spire objective; I meanwhile have only the forest objective.  (The turbine and building are currently uncontested.)  In this game the objectives are worth more points every successive break – it’s two extra points for an objective this time round.  This means Dave ends up with a rather healthy 10 points and I’m sitting on a far less impressive 5. 

I’m going to have to do something amazing to bring it back together in the next stage… but if I can claim those rearward objectives where he has little in the way of other troops to fight back, I will be safe for the rest of the game.  Best of all I’m sitting on a Strategic Asset card that could swing that to my advantage – an ability for Chaos to destroy all objectives they claim, denying them to the enemy.  My goals for the next turns are clear – get the back table objectives under wraps then destroy them off the board before he can reclaim them for the double-points boost.

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