Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ashes to Ashes Sucks: Part 2

In my last post I put down a brief (and probably woefully underdeveloped) sum-up of Life on Mars, steering clear of spoilers.  At least I’m pretty sure it was clear of spoilers.  I can make no such promise about this follow-up post.  So, without further ado:

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Anyway, a couple of provisos before I get into this.  I haven’t watched all of Ashes to Ashes.  Most of the first series, but that was enough to annoy me so much I just jacked it in.  I haven’t rewatched it for the purposes of this rant either, so some of my recollections could be skewed, inaccurate or just plain wrong.  If that’s the case, let me know (but I doubt anyone will go overboard trying to defend this dreck).  I haven’t really done much research on the series either; only a little bit of Wikipedia to remind me of character names and such.  So don’t expect behind-the-scenes info or anything.  That said, I’ll refer back to my previous post and just compare the series for the most part and not get into individual episode plots, although I will mention the occasional blisteringly stupid thing that Alex Drake does.  She’s the main character, by the way (played by Keeley Hawes) and will be the focus of much of my ire.

However, that’s not where we’ll start.  Let’s start at the end of Life on Mars.  The end of Life on Mars had Tyler finally having to make the choice to either stay where he was with Hunt et al or go back to the life he knew before.  Unfortunately, in order to return to his old life, he has to destroy the one he’s made for himself in the ‘70s.  The choice is regretfully made and everything falls apart.  Tyler is returned to his old life and everything seems normal, except there is no joy or colour any more, and Sam falls into increasing ennui, perpetually unsatisfied with the world he now inhabits.  Eventually he makes another choice and throws himself off a building in a bid to return to the retro world.  He arrives, manages to undo (most of) the damage he inflicted upon leaving it and they all go down the pub and off to more adventure or whatever.  The overarching question ‘Am I in a coma, travelled back in time or just mad?’ is left unanswered, as all three options are still (relatively) valid.  This, in my opinion, is an excellent way to end the series and the programme as a whole; giving the audience something to think about and a talking point to mull over with other fans of the series.  Then Ashes to Ashes comes along.  And fucks everything up.

Within the first few minutes, all the ambiguity of the ending is destroyed.  Yes, the modern world is the real world.  Yes, Tyler was in a coma the whole time.  Yes, he genuinely committed suicide and died shortly after impact with ground.  Bravo.  Way to ruin one of the best endings to any TV series in the 25 years.  And it only took three minutes!  As with Tyler, Drake suffers a traumatic injurious event to send her maybe back in time into a coma and she meets up with Gene Hunt and the others.  Except Sam Tyler.  Moreover, it’s the 80s now.  And they’ve moved to London.  Here is where I have another problem.  Tyler was hit by a car and put into a coma.  Drake was shot in the head.  To me this just seems like blatant one-upmanship (as well as far less likely to actually, you know, result in a coma).

Anyway, Drake does a whole bunch of stupid, condescending and unself-aware bullshit throughout the various episodes that I’ve seen, but I’ll save my main gripes about her until tomorrow.  Today, I’ll just briefly (too late) compare a few characters.

1: Gene Hunt.  He was veering dangerously close to caricature in Life on Mars, but in this series he has completely thrown himself into being an utter bigot.  His ‘non-PC’ character was very popular and the lines written for him were very funny in the last series, so the writers seemed to have amped those up massively for the new series and ignored the subtleties and depth to his character as a result.  Don’t get me wrong.  Gene Hunt is a funny character and important to the story.  Glenister clearly has a great deal of fun playing him and his knee-jerk intuition was a superb counter to Sam’s analytical coldness.  They played off each other well and both seemed to be made better by their rivalry, each incorporating positive traits from the other and changing.  Only apparently Hunt has not changed at all.  This is a major source of annoyance to me because not only (despite everything in Life on Mars) has Gene not changed to be more thoughtful and less bigoted, he has actually got worse, further denigrating Tyler to irrelevance in the context of the series.  Prick.

2:  Annie Cartwright.  She isn’t here.  Fair enough.  She was very closely linked to Sam in the last series and bringing her back wouldn’t have served much purpose in character development.  Her replacement however, Shaz Lombard, is no replacement at all.  Where Annie was a strong, caring character and served as a sort of counsellor to the alienated Sam, Shaz is pretty useless.  She is just the typical ‘female side character’ used in a programme to look pretty, do nothing of any real consequence and get in trouble so she can be rescued.  That was more or less her entire character from I saw.  A massive step down from her predecessor.

3: Test Card Girl.  She’s not here either.  Instead, we get a clown.  Now, I know that as horror clichés go, a creepy clown is about as played out and tired as a creepy little girl, so I can’t really argue on that front.  What I can bitch out though is the fact that the clown is relentlessly one-note.  All he does is appear in Drake’s eye line every now and again, scare the shit out of her and be silent.  Occasionally he’ll run menacingly towards the camera.  That was round about all he did.  Again, the ambiguity that was very much there in the character of the Test Card Girl is completely stripped out for the clown.  The Girl was scary, but not because she was threatening.  It was because she was so otherworldly and unnatural.  This clown loses out on that because there is no communication between him a Drake.  Sure, the Girl wasn’t often directly helpful, being cryptic as hell most of the time, but what she said was relevant and her character was a useful expositional element when necessary, doubling as an potential indication for Tyler’s madness.  The clown just fails.

Anyway.  That’s it from me at the moment.  Lunch is over (happens faster and faster each time, I swear!) and my bitching about the character of Alex Drake will begin tomorrow. So long!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ashes To Ashes Sucks: Part 1

Well, it’s been a week’s break fro this blog.  Not planned by any means, though.  Work was hectic for a couple of days, then some prawns kicked me in the arse and had me off work for a couple of days, and Friday I decided to make it a whole week blog-less and just enjoy my lunch.  Anyway, I’m back now and I’m thinking about talking about something non-40K, which is a bit of challenge for me at the moment.  Battle reports are easy for me to write, because there’s a solid format, and most of the work (i.e. the game itself) is already done for me.  Trying to write about something else throws up a number of problems, starting with what to write about in the first place.  To solve this problem, I’ve decided to back up to an (almost) throwaway comment I made in one of early posts.  Ashes To Ashes was a terrible series.  That’s as true now as it ever was, but I suppose I should waste my time and yours trying to justify this ultimately subjective viewpoint beyond the typical ‘I said it, so it must be’ reasoning that I seem to apply to so many things I say.

In order to find out why I dislike the series so much, you have to look at its precursor (and far superior) series, Life On Mars.  For those that don’t know, Life on Mars was a two-series BBC One show that started in 2006.  The basic premise was that a modern-day policeman called Sam Tyler (John Simm) gets hit by a car and wakes up some 33 years in the past.  Most of the time, the episodes were a 1970s police procedural show with occasional anachronisms thrown in by Tyler as he tries to use modern methods and ideologies decades before their time in pursuit of his work.  Very episodic, but definitely above average.  However, what really made the programme interesting (for me at any rate) was the overarching plot of Tyler’s situation.  It boils down to three alternatives.  He’s either in a coma, has genuinely gone back in time or his whole future life was a delusion and he is therefore more than slightly mad.  To the show’s credit, all three options were eminently plausible (in so far as time travel via head injury can ever be plausible) based on the hints that the programme was giving. 

But that’s just the broad outline. Tyler is undeniably the main focus of the programme (I think he is actually in every single scene of the entire two series run), but there are also three very important side characters.  The first (and most popular) is that of Gene Hunt, Tyler’s immediate superior in the Manchester CID.  He was brutish, belligerent and a borderline alcoholic.  He was also smart in a variety of ways and nearly always certain in what he was doing and, as such, was very much the antithesis of Tyler.  This was the source of most of the main conflict in the show.  They played well off each other, with Gene being right on occasion and Sam being right at other times.  Gene was also a very good comic character and Philip Glenister plays him very well.  However, the comic aspects of Gene Hunt can run the risk of overwhelming the tragedy and hypocrisy of his character (aspects that can often be ignored by a stratum of the audience.  I’ll address that at some point.)

The next character is that of WPC Annie Cartwright and serves very much as an anchor and moral compass to Tyler, being a warm and caring character, again very different to Sam who comes across as cold and calculating through most of the series.  This is also a great source of conflict throughout the run, with the added romantic tension between the two of them providing another layer to the programme.  In my opinion, Annie is definitely one of the best female characters I’ve seen TV as she manages to be a very strong and realistic character with falling into cliché.

The final character I’m mentioning (there are more, but I don’t want to type a full dissertation here) isn’t really a character so much as an apparition. The Test Card Girl is an occasional character who pops up out of Sam’s TV when it’s left on for too long (or at dramatically appropriate moments) to offer cryptic advice or muddy the waters of the overarching plot.  She is creepy as hell (in the manner of many supernatural little girls in fiction) and adds to the surreal feel of the show.  It’s very possible to forget the sci-fi style elements to Life on Mars in the middle of an episode, and one of her appearances is always jarring in the way it reminds you about the weird overall metaplot to the show.

Anyway, that’s a brief outline of the series.  I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who may not have seen it yet.  If you haven’t, then please source a copy of the DVD or Netflix it or Lovefilm or whatever you do and watch it.  It’s a cracking programme and well worth your time.

I can’t say the same for its follow-on sister series but will be addressing that tomorrow.  There will be spoilers.

And rage…

Friday, 14 October 2011

MTT Report: Last Instalment!

Okay, okay.  Last Battle Report for a while now.

I promise.

The last game was strange, to be perfectly honest.  Due to an unexpected last minute rescheduling, my team (Overlords 1) were reassigned to play Overlords 2.  Hmm, convenient.  The night before the tournament we had been chatting together about how we would handle being thrown up against each other, bandying tactics and strategies around in a variety of ‘what if’ scenarios.  But, no, these were half-baked plans that now had to be put into half-baked action.  I flung myself forward as the chosen player for team 1 and the team 2 counter-forces were Dark Eldar and Tau.  That was a bit of a shame, because I wanted to go up against the Marine player.  Partly because I was pretty sure my list could take his and also because he’d been drawn up against three other Dark Eldar players earlier in the tournament and I wanted to see him throw a hissy-fit!  I ended up choosing to go against the DE player though, as he’d been really keen to throw down against me given the chance, and both teams kind of wanted to see a DE vs DE clusterfuck.

Mirror matches can often be very dull affairs, and the DE can be accused of have very samey builds for comp standards.  My list (as has already been addressed, probably at unnecessary length) varies a little from the traditional ‘good’ DE list, which has lead it to be stronger against some other lists and more resilient against a variety of threats.  However, when it comes to going up against Venomspam, they are packing more armour than I am and although AV10 can be fairly reliably taken down with small arms in most armies, the DE small arms are always unable to hurt vehicles.  So basically what happens is that we play tit-for-tat vehicle killing until I run out of vehicles and my main vehicle-killing option is reduced to Hellions trying to hit fast-moving skimmers with pointy sticks.  For those less inclined to handle the mathematics of that situation; it results in me getting 1 glancing hit for every 36 attacks I fling at a vehicle, so the odds are poor.

Fortunately, my opponent was running a different kind of DE list as well.  Instead of flooding the field with Venoms and Ravagers, he instead plumped for two Raiders full of Wyches, a 20 man Kabalite squad with Dark Lances, 3 Razorwings and a Raider with a nasty hammer unit comprising a powered up Archon (djinn blade, shadowfield, combat drugs, blast pistol and soul trap) with a Haemonculus (agoniser, shattershard) and a squad of 6 Incubi.

Remember way (way) back during my game 1 report, where I said I was falling victim to First Game Syndrome?  This was Last Game Syndrome.  My brain was all over the place.  So much so that after I lost the chance to go first in the Dawn of War setup, I forgot to bring in any of the stuff I decided was going to come in Turn 1.  Now anyone who has made this mistake will realise that accidentally leaving all your army in reserve can really hurt your game.  It is also a really dumb mistake to make.  I only had my 3 Wrack Raider and Haemonculus on the field for the first turn and the Raider died before any reinforcements turned up, leaving my guys stranded (in my backfield, luckily, but still stranded).  I received two Ravagers on Turn 2 that tried to take on the Razorwings and did a rather poor job of it too.  One Razorwing downed, but both Ravagers got splattered in the return fire.  My opponent was pushing forward on the offensive, with his hammer unit turboing forward toward my stranded survivors.  Two Objectives out of five were held by his forces; one by the Kabalites populating some area terrain and another by a wych squad on top of a building.

Both my Trueborn arrived and prompted proved their ineptitude by being utterly unable to bring down the archon’s Raider with all the 8 Blaster shots at their disposal.  I decided to kill them after the game.  I could let the Archon’s unit pick and chose their combat so I resorted to one of my (many) desperation tactics.  In addition to the useless Trueborn, I also received a squad of Hellions, and my whole remaining strategy for the game rested on them.  They surrounded the speeding Raider and assaulted it.  A bit of an uncertain tactic, but what else could I have done to bring the raider down?  As it happened; it worked like a charm.  2 Glancing hits; 1 stun, which was good enough for me to be honest (no-one would have been able to disembark from the Raider during the next turn), but I also rolled an Immobilisation!  Just in case you don’t know: if a skimmer which is travelling flat-out is immobilised, it gets wrecked.  The crew then have to emergency disembark (provided it was wrecked during the opponent’s turn).  If a model can’t be placed outside of 1” of an enemy model upon debarkation, then it’s dead.  No saves, no nothing.

That Immobilised result was awesome! That was about 500 points down in one assault and it really started turning the game to my favour.

Naturally, those heroic Hellions were the target of some extensive retribution during the next turn, as both the surviving Razorwings unleashed their entire arsenals into the crowds swarm.  Due to some luck on my part, and some inaccuracy on his, four Hellions managed to survive the firestorm.  Due to the pain token they’d grabbed from the dead Hammer unit, they were fearless to boot and didn’t care.  Their only role for the rest of the game was to fling themselves at an objective in cover and sit there for the rest of the game.  I job they did very well, may I add.

The Razorwings paid for their cowardly attack and were brought down in a hail of darklight.  My final squad of Hellions and the Baron finally deigned to show their faces and leapt forward to contest the wych-held objective.  The Wyches promptly (and predictably) charged them, but with numbers, strength and defensive grenades, the Hellions still manage to lose the combat by a considerable margin.  Seriously, they should not have lost.  Luckily enough, they didn’t run, even though they lost the combat by a total of 4.  The subsequent Hit and Run extracted the Hellions from the combat and they then set about flocking towards the Kabalites.  The next shooting phase, those Kabalites were broken and running.  One of my empty Venoms turboed straight to the wych-held objective to rob my opponent of his last objective.

And with that, my opponent conceded.  Can’t blame him.  All he had left were a raider and a squad of wyches and I was still packing a decent amount of firepower and mobility.  Had the game continued, I’m fairly confident I could’ve gone for the table in a turn or so.

And that’s that.  End of MTT report.  For realises, this time!

Excellent tournament.  I had a great deal of fun and didn’t play against a single opponent I didn’t enjoy.  Just as much by luck as by judgement, I managed to come away with Best Dark Eldar Player, despite the fact that my team came a mighty 14th place out 16!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

MTT: Squishing bugs and learning from the my mistakes in the NoVA

Next up was a game against Tyranids and I was determined not to make the same mistakes as the last time I played them.  This time my entire army was out in force from Turn 1 and I wasn’t going to use the Webway Portal at all.  The mission setup was a bit of an odd one; another custom job.  This one had four objectives Deep Striking in on the first turn, with the one closest to the centre of the board being worth two points instead of one, which added a bit more ambiguity and randomness to consider in deployment.

My opponent was packing three squads of ten Genestealers, some Ymgarls hanging around the place, two squads of two Hive Guard (damn their eyes!), two Tervigons as HQs and a couple of Trygons as backups (not Primes, thank God, just regular ones).  He actually won the roll off to go first (still not something I’m entirely used to but up until this tournament, I had had a pretty sizable run of going first) and hedged his bets with deployment, planting his four Monstrous Creatures as far forward as they could go and close to one another for mutual support.  The regenerating Trygons were placed ahead of the Tervigons for cover saves and the Hive Guard were placed in cover fairly near by; one on the left flank, the other covering the right.  His ‘Stealers were going to infiltrate and the Ymgarls were going to do what Ymgarls always do.  Hide like bastards and then pop up to crump stuff.

I deployed to more or less mirror him, my two hellion squad populating some area terrain and deployed spread out as far forward as possible to force his infiltrating Genestealers to deploy further back and give me some extra room to manoeuvre.  My vehicles were placed right in my backfield to keep them away from the various anti-vehicle threats he was fielding (the Hive Guard first off, and then absolutely everything else in his army if they got an assault off).  When the objectives deep struck in, they were handily all placed on my half of the board, forcing the ‘Nid player’s hand even more than usual.  He had to advance, I just had to defend.

I started off with two pieces of good luck.  Both his Tervigons pooped themselves out at only 5 Termagants each, which was a load off my mind!  Unfortunately, the Tervigons proved to be one of the most major threats throughout the game, purely because of their Catalyst power, which kept giving Genestealer squads Feel no Pain.  Let me tell you, those FnP saves almost turned the game in my opponents favour.  He really was excellent at passing those 4+ saves!  Utterly aggravating.  My Hellions were unable to do much at range (cover-hugging FnP Genestealers don’t drop easy) and the assaults when they engaged the ‘Stealers usually ended poorly (or more accurately, more poorly than they should have).  By the time the Genestealers were brought down, a lot of damage had been inflicted to both the Hellion squads and I ended up playing very defensive with them.  More so than I would have liked.

The Ymgarls were another major problem for me, initially.  Basically (for those who don’t know) Ymgarl Genestealers secretly pick a piece of area terrain at the beginning of the battle and when they turn up from reserve, they automatically appear in that piece of terrain.  They can inflict major damage on standing forces.  However, there is an easy way to beat them.  If you know the terrain they’ll be deployed to and have the numbers, you can make it impossible for them to appear, in which case they are dead.  Easy as.  I had a pretty good idea where they were going to spring up from.  I had in fact narrowed it down to two pieces of terrain.  Annoyingly, I’d picked the wrong piece of terrain to group my Hellions in and the Ymgarls ate a squad of Trueborn, robbing me of more lance fire that I could have shot at his approaching Phalanx of MCs. 

Fortunately for me, the Ymgarls wasted too much time chasing down a Venom and they basically removed themselves from the game.  They didn’t die, they just became irrelevant.  They would have been better off trying to take down some more Hellions.  My Ravagers just plugged away reliably at the MCs, scoring regular wound and taking them down at a predictable rate.  Poor placement cost me one of the Ravagers to Hive Guard though, and that lead to the last Trygon lasting longer than I’d hoped and tearing apart my Wracks.  Luckily for me, the lack of Synapse creatures had thrown his army into disarray and enough of my forces persisted to fill the last of the big bastards with poison.  The Hellions moved in to claim the objectives they could and the few ‘Nids still standing were resorting to their Instictive Behaviours and generally being a bit rubbish.

Win to me!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

MTT: Edar vs Dark Eldar: Let the glass-chewing commence!

The first game on Day 2 turned out to be against Eldar, which is not one of the lists I salivate at the prospect of playing.  Indeed they are often one of the most frustrating armies for any player to play against, mainly because of two things: Farseers and the survivability of their tanks.  Farseers can, to a certain extent, be mitigated or nullified with Psychic defences.  The Dark Eldar don’t have any Psychic defences (except Lady Malys, but that’s only in a very limited capacity).  The survivability of their tanks can be somewhat counteracted by bring melta to the fight.  I wasn’t packing any melta either.  Add to that they fact that their tanks will only ever stop moving a ridiculous distance if their either dead or immobilised and, yeah, things were looking a little rough.

Nevertheless, I decided to play to the mission, which actually gave me a decent chance.  The mission was an irregular one this time round: Capture table quarters.  They added their own twist to it as well.  Only scoring units could capture or contest quarters.  Suddenly the tanks were rendered a bit less important and the fight was down to the troop choices, of which both my opponent and I only had three.  The big different being that his scoring units were a five man squad of Dire Avengers and two three man Jetbike squads with an additional Warlock, whereas mine were… well, you should know by now.  Anyway, when it came to scoring units, I had the edge in survivability.

My opponent was packing one of the many clones of Eldrad (quelle surprise), two squads of Banshees in Wave Serpents, some Fire Dragons in a Wave Serpent, two Fire Prisms, a Falcon with Dire Avengers and those two Jetbiker squads I mentioned earlier.  A bit lacking in melta (not that I care all that much, it’s not like I’m packing any heavy armour that needs melta to kill it) and not packing too much long-range firepower (as with most Mechanised Eldar lists).  Those tanks may be very hard to slow down and nearly impossible to kill, but they get their guns silenced as easily as anything else.

Anyway, I got the first turn for this game and my opponent made the odd choice of deploying both his Banshee Wave Serpents with Eldrad in his table quarter right from the start.  I think he was relying on the Serpents shrugging off my anti-tank and then speeding forward to deposit a tonne of Banshees deep into my battle-lines.  That did not happen.  Both Serpents got immobilised immediately, which was a bit of a coup for me, as it forced the banshees to slog across relatively open ground to reach anything.  Eldrad played Rambo for a bit and strode towards me to engage the Hellions and soak up firepower, which he dutifully managed.  Despite nigh-on my entire army firing on him, he failed to concede a single wound.  The one-against-many assault that followed lasted three agonising turns with Eldrad winning each combat by one (I always only caused one wound through his fortune and he would kill two Hellions each turn like clockwork) until I eventually ground out a win.

The game followed a fairly regular pattern.  Every turn my opponent would get a couple of reserves in the form of tanks, who would come onto the board, fire a shot, fail to do much remarkable with that shot and the get shaken, stunned weapon destroyed or immobilised in my return fire.  The banshees would cover-hugging advance toward anyone they could threaten and then get shot down a few every turn.  My Hellions would squat in my two table quarter and the Wracks in their Raider hung around taking the occasional cheeky lance shot at any tank in range.  There were a couple of things that varied from the routine though.

One of the Fire Prisms decided to ram a Ravager who was shielding the Hellion squad on my left flank.  The ram destroyed the Ravager, but the resulting Dangerous terrain test for the Prism immobilised it and the tank was moving fast enough for an auto-wreck because of it!  It was the only holofielded tank to die all game.  One of the Jetbiker squad was shot down until only its Warlock was left, but that guy shrugged off a full two turns of Venom shooting before finally succumbing to single wound on the third round (and with 12 shots every round, wounding on a 4+, that’s quite a feat!).  My Wracks batted aside the other Jetbike squad, only to be gunned down by Dire Avengers the next turn.

The big tense moment was the final Fire Prism (his last mobile tank) tried to tank shock the left-field Hellions and fell an inch short.  My Raider then decided to return the favour and rammed the Fire Prism.  Unfortunately, only preventing it from firing the next turn (damn Holofields).  However, it did mean that the Raider was now close enough to the Hellions to give then Ld rerolls they sorely needed during the Tank Shock of the next turn (they actually failed the first test!).  With that, the game ended, not with a bang, but at least with a win, as I had claimed two quarters to my opponent’s one.

A solid game (even if I was a bit overeager charging the Wracks into combat and making them vulnerable in the process) and, against Eldar, that’s all you can really ask for.  I was just really glad to have beaten one of my ‘glass-chewer’ lists and to have killed Eldrad into the bargain.

Killing Eldrad always raises a smile!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

MTT: Game 3, Day 1, Aston Villa 2

I dislike dogs at the best of times.  I’ve been a bit canophobic for quite some time, mainly kicking off when the damn animals start making noise.  It’s an odd combination of anger, loathing and fear. Why am I telling you this?  No reason.

So, my next enemy were Space Wolves again.  You can doubtless imagine my happy-face at this news.  Pretty standard wolf list for the most part.  He had a core of Grey Hunter squads in Rhinos, a couple of Rune Priests, some Wolf Guard to split up as squad leaders, some Wolf Scouts and a couple of Long Fang Missile squads with a plasma cannon or two and some Lascannon Razorbacks to back them up.  The interesting flavour this guy brought was Landspeeders; specifically three Typhoons.  It’s an odd choice for Wolves (though not for the regular Codex guys and not as weird as the 11th guys would have you believe) because, from what I remember, they’re only firing at a BS of 3, decreasing their effectiveness a tad, but it’s till a very valid way of sticking a few more independently firing missile launchers into your Wolf list.  If, you know, you absolutely needed to.

The plus point for my list above the other DE lists out there (as I’ve previously mentioned) is that the ML spam isn’t quite as effective when I’m packing large squads fast-moving, cover-hugging, feel-no-paining, assault-loving murderous bastards.  With a Webway.  We were playing kill points, which can be bad for a lot of DE lists out there, but (again) my large Hellions squads even this mission a little more in my favour, as I’m only presenting 13 KPs rather than the more tradition Venom Spam numbers of nearly 20.  The Dawn of War setup for this game was another big advantage in my favour.  Having to move most of your units onto the board really does a number on the Long Fang aficionados as it stops them from firing for a turn and limits the number of decent firing points they can reach to set up.  It also gives me a good round of shooting at them, if that’s what I feel like doing at the time; especially if I’m going first and I get the first turn with decent lighting conditions.   I was going first this game.  My Haemonculus and the Wrack started forward in the Deployment zone and I placed the Webway fairly far forward.  The rest of my army bar the Hellions and the Baron sped on to gain some cover saves.

His whole army trooped on in Turn 1, even the Wolf Scouts, which I thought was a bit odd, but my opponent decided that it would be too easy for me to move away from my board edges, leaving the Scouts all alone and unsupported.  Fair enough.  Where my opponent boxed clever with his opening gambit was in scooting some Rhinos and Razorbacks forward and turning them lengthways, marching one squad of Long Fangs on behind them, keeping them protected while they set up.  The other squad walked then ran into area terrain to nab a cover save if necessary.  Unfortunately, this backfired and my antitank units opened up and wrecked one of the Rhinos, stunned another and immobilised a third, blocking his Long Fangs and rendering them mainly useless, which was definitely a bit of a coup for me!

Next up, the Baron’s squad of Hellions turned up in turn 2 through the portal and populated a large piece of area terrain, shooting the freshly wrecked Grey Hunter squad to oblivion.  This may have seemed unduly rash, but the main reason I acted so aggressive with them was to use them as bait.  So many DE weapons are utterly ineffectual against vehicles and so having an opponent disembark a lot of their army opens them up to a disproportionately large amount of poisoned death.  In this case, the bait worked nicely.  He disembarked nigh on his entire army and readied to deal with the imminent Hellion threat.  Unfortunately for my opponent, the Hellions shrugged off nearly all the firepower levelled at them and although they lost the ensuing assault, they kept their nerve (even though I forgot that I had defensive grenades).  The resulting Hit and Run placed them nicely in front of the cover-hugging Long Fangs and the Wolf Scouts.  The game was pretty much over at that point.  The Baron’s squad pulling through at a decent number (12 out of 18 survived the Wolf counterstrike) was the final nail in the coffin, and the second Hellion squad turned up in Turn 3 to deal with the leftovers.  The rest of the game was a mop-up operation from then on.  My opponent had given up.  It did well for my ego, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for him for this game.  Sometimes things just don’t work out.

Still nice for it to happen to someone else though! /Schadenfreude

That was the end of Day 1.  Next up was drinking, quiznighting and moaning that they hadn’t bought enough Desperadoes for the bar.  I’d done well for the first day and was probably radiating smug at toxic levels throughout the evening.  The rest of my team, less so.  The Daemons and the Orks had grabbed a win each during the day, but our Blood Raven toting fourth player had not been so fortuitous.  Still there was always the next day!

Monday, 10 October 2011

MTT: Round Two!

My second game was interesting and, to be honest, the game where I thought I played the best.  My opponent was running a pretty nasty list:  Battlewagons and Kans.  Three Battlewagons all with small nobz squads in them, nine Kans (mixed armament) and two Deff Dreads, topped off with a couple of Big Meks packing Kustom Force Fields.  Doesn’t leave a lot of room for Troops does it?  Apart from the Dreads, obviously.  But in terms of actual scoring units, he had the typical Ork deckchair unit.  Two minimum strength squads of Grots coming on from reserve.  Nice.

I had put myself forward for this round, and my prospective opponents were this list and a mid-range Monstrous Creature Tyranid list.  I decided to go for the Orks instead of the softer target of the ‘Nids mainly because I wasn’t sure the other lists in my team could take it.  I wasn;’t sure I could take it, but I figured I had a better chance than my captains low model count Daemon list or the mixed Marine list we were fielding.  Also, our last player was packing a similar Ork list, but running 60 Boyz, some Kommandos and Lootas instead of the Battlewagons.  In my experience, Ork vs Ork games can drag a little, as it all comes down to who can get the charge first, and the guy with Battlewagons is the one most likely to be the answer to that question.

So the scene was set: Spearhead setup for 5 objectives.  A pretty good deployment option for the Orks there, anything that allows you to field your wagons close to the enemy is a good deal.  To make matters worse, the jammy goit stole the initiative on me, so I had even less time to deal with approaching wall of pointy death.  Fortunately, I had deployed far enough back that he wasn’t able to do anything catastrophic with that free move.  After that, it was strict target priority for me:  Cut down his mobility, worry about the rest later. 

The Battlewagons had to go, even though I wasn’t too worried the wagons in particular.  Deathrollas are just not a massive threat to my vehicles (skimmers dodge out of the way of everything on 3+).  They are tricky for my Troops, but not impossible to take down with a rear armour value of 10.  The reason they had to go was the Big Meks loitering around inside them with those bloody force fields.  Any area of effect ability in a vehicle turns the vehicle into some strange talent amplifier, projecting the ability far farther than originally intended whilst also providing a nice safe bunker for the character in question.  By removing the wagons, I was able to cut the effectiveness of the Big Meks in half whilst robbing him of reliable 12” movement units to contest objective points.  So with single-minded purpose I flung all my lances at the three wagons.  They had all exploded by turn 2, which was gratifying. 

Devoid of their rides, the small Nobz squads and the Big Meks were easy pickings for the wealth of poisoned weapons I was slinging about and pain tokens were being collected all over the place.  He made the mistake of throwing one of the Nobz squads into assault with a full size squad of Hellions and all of the were killed before they could take a swing.  The main concern now was the tide of Gretchin gubbins waddling towards my lines.  I hate fighting Killa Kans.  I imagine most people who come against them hate fighting them too.  On their own they’re fine, easy even.  But squadroned up, they are relentless bastards.  Fortunately, one thing I’ve learned is that with an army as mobile as mine, they are easy enough to stay away from.  The main thing I had to worry about was the ranged firing from them.  I loathe Grotzookas.  Luckily for me, the Kans were split the usual way (three big shootas in one squad, three rokkits in another and three grotzookas in the last), so I had a decent target priority thing going.

The only thing that really went wrong that game was a gambit I attempted with the Baron.  In order to stop the Kans from wreaking havoc on my Hellion squad with grotzookas I detached the Baron from the squad and barrelled him into assault with the Kans, relying on his high WS (the Kans needed 5+ to hit him) and his Shadowfield (2+ Inv) to keep the Kans bogged down and useless for a turn.  He was called on to make two saves that round and fluffed it.  Not what I’d planned or what I wanted, but at least he took one of them down with him, although that’s scant compensation.  I’d do it again though, the odds of his survival were quite good, but they just didn’t pay off this time.  Shame.

The Rokkit Kans were a pain in my arse throughout the game, totalling a Raider, the Trueborn’s Venom and a Ravager before the game ended.  I wasn’t even able to kill all of them.  Two down, and the last one missing its close combat weapon.  So close!  Anyway, whilst all this business with the Kans and Battlewagons was happening on my side of the board, my opponent’s two squads of Grots stumbled in from reserves and camped down on the two objectives in his board half.  Fortunately, I’ve lost enough games to Grot Objective Campers to have expected this, and one of my large Hellion squads had been skirting round the edge of the board (just out of charge range of the Dreads and Kans) and proceeded to eat both squads in the next couple of turns, claiming an objective and being too far away from the Kan battlelines to be reached in time before game end.  Seeing as he had no other troops aside from the Grot deckchairs the game was mine from that moment.  All that was left was to find out how many Kans and Dreads I could pop and how many Dark Eldar my opponent could squish in the last turn (we rolled game over on turn 5).

I would say one of the key points in my favour for this game was the fact that my opponent wasn’t particularly experienced in the fine art of Dark Eldar killing, underestimating how hard Hellions can punch against poorly armoured foes in an assault and not taking pain tokens into account when throwing away his sacrificial units.  DE leap on pain token opportunities when they can, and he should have retreated his Nobs squads out of poison range of the Hellions instead of trying to get them into assault.  He also left his backfield utterly undefended, not seeming to realise the manoeuvrability of my units to deal with his objective campers.  I think one unit of Kans (probably the big shootas) would have done wonders for his chances of a win. 

Never mind, eh?  Fun game from both sides though!

Next up: more Space Wolves!


Thursday, 6 October 2011

MTT: DE vs SW: The Attack of the Acronym!

As I’ve previously mentioned, this game was not my finest hour (or two).  Fortunately, it wasn’t my opponent’s either.  Capture and Control mission with a Pitched battle setup.  I place my objective on the top of a two storey building with no stairs thinking that a good placement.  Then turn 1, my opponent pointed out that there was no way I could get my Hellions to claim it and still be within squad coherency.  The squads were too large (18 strong) and I couldn’t fit more than four on the building.  Arse.  I hadn’t realised this and it hit my plans fairly hard.  This changed the battle from a Capture and Control mission to a Let’s Beat The Shit Out Of Each Other For A Single Objective mission.  A single objective deep in my opponent’s deployment zone.  To make matters worse (and to emphasize the fact that neither of our heads were quite in the game) both of us had deployed spread out across the entire board.  I have no idea why.  I set up first turn and did this, and I think my opponent just mirrored the setup to engage as many of my forces as possible.  I’m not sure.  Either way: bad move from both of us.

The battle carried on as you’d expect, really.  Splinter fire did for a fair number of the Long Fang fire, but my vehicles were still popping like bubblewrap.  The spread deployment helped neither of us.  Despite the mission requirements, the Space Wolf objective was fairly sparsely defended, just a squad of Long Fangs and another of Grey Hunters which both fell to a Hellion charge in turn 4, with the squad populating the scenery and capturing the objective.  This was unfortunately contested by a small Rhino Rush and a squad of Grey Hunters cropping up Turn 5.  To make matters worse, he charged the Hellions with his Rune Priest to drag my only remaining scoring unit off the objective, leaving his Hunters as the sole scoring unit in range and capturing the objective. 

We had timed out by this point and had the TO tapping his foot impatiently at our game, grudgingly allowing us to finish the assault phase.  The problem for me with the Rune Priest combat was the fact that if I won, there was a 50/50 chance of not getting back into contestation range for the objective, thereby giving my opponent a sneaky (but well-deserved) win.  Fortunately though (and in one of those oddly counter intuitive examples), my Hellions utterly sucked in hand to hand combat and only inflicted 1 wound on the Priest, resulting in a drawn combat.  This was the best thing that could have happened.  The drawn combat meant that I didn’t have to do a Morale test and then the squad simply Hit and Run out, easily placing themselves neatly back on the objective!  We ended the game there, much to the relief of the exasperated TO.  It was a draw, hard fought, but with my opponent scoring about 500 more victory points than me.

Playing the way I did, I should have lost that game.  I was not playing decently and was suffering a little to nerves (I still get nervous at tournaments) and First Game Syndrome.  But, as a mitigating factor, my opponent was using a list (indeed an entire army) he wasn’t used to, as he spent most of his games as a Dark Eldar player, switching to Space Wolves for the tournament because he wanted to try something a little different.  That would explain why his las/plas Razorbacks were merrily skipping about the board, wasting my vehicles when they normally wouldn’t have been able to fire. Or loosing off both armaments when they had already moved.  It can take a while to get used to non-Fast vehicles.  The big deal was that I only noticed this and pointed it out on Turn 5!  I should have picked this up damn near immediately. And it could have resulted in a much different game, but it was sadly not to be.  Still, I wasn’t unhappy with a draw.  It turned out to be the best result on our team.  Everyone else got beaten down as we feared! 

Anyway, the worst was over now right?


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Maelstrom Team Tournament: DE vs SW Primer

May as well continue as I started.  Here is a brief (or maybe not so brief) roundup of my games at the Team Tournament.  Overlords Team 1 went into the tournament on a bit of a low, because we knew who our opponents were and had spent the night before steeling ourselves for a round of losses.  The lists we were up against were high standard comp lists and ours, to put it lightly, were not.  I’d say my Hellion list is decent, but not great simply due to the fact that there are certain builds that mince them.  There were definitely a few of them in attendance that weekend!

Looking at the lists, I knew I didn’t have a chance against the Grey Knights (Psyspam-yawn) or the Guard (take a guess!), but the Space Wolves and the Tau looked a little less dispiriting.  Anyway, after all the draws were complete, I was pitched against the Wolves.

Now Wolves can be a very bad matchup for the Dark Eldar.  Split-firing Long Fangs with missile launchers will mess up a DE mech list.  However, I’ve had a fairly decent competition rate against them due to the one thing that makes my list different from the other DE compers: the Hellions.  I know a lot of Dark Eldar lists will run a unit Hellions.  Mainly because they want the Baron’s +1 for priority and to use all the little rerolls and rules he uses.  They don’t throw themselves into the Hellions as Troops idea enough in my opinion.  What they bring to my list against the typical Wolf missile list is survivability, which seems like an odd sentence.  The thing is, if you’re using cover properly, then it’s very hard to shift the squad, especially if they’ve already accrued a pain token.  Missiles won’t cut it.  By using the unit’s manoeuvrability and available cover properly, you can close in on static shooting elements quickly and with fairly low casualty rates (assuming halfway decent luck).  Then you can descend on them and take them out en masse.  They’re also great for disrupting the enemy attack plans, as no-one sticks to their battle strategy when there are 18 hellions multi-assaulting their backfield.  It’s often a sacrificial role, but hey, it’s worth it.  Most of the time.  If you’re running the standard Venom/Raider spam list, then almost all of your anti-infantry is tied up in vehicles.  The missiles flying around will shut your paper planes down even if it doesn’t kill them, massively reducing your firepower response and ensuring just as many rockets next turn.  They have to deploy different tools to deal with Hellions, and many times my opponent has had to get nearly everyone out their transports to deal with a Hellion combat.  They can kill the Hellions when they do that.  But it means I can hurt them with poison weaponry during my turn now.  Or, even better, get the drop on them with my second squad.  If they don’t kill the Hellions (hey, it happens sometimes…) then I just Hit and Run out and I’m in an even stronger position.  With a 3D6 Hit and Run move and the normal movement of these guys you can cover an obscene amount of ground and then assault a less well defended area (maybe some more Long Fangs, who knows?).  Anyway, enough digression.  Back to the game.

I can fairly safely state that we both weren’t playing our best that time.  But that report I promised will have to wait for another time.  Lunch is over.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Maelstrom Team Tournament Musing

Well, well, well.

I’m back again, this time from a tournament in Maelstrom Games up in Mansfield.  Fun weekend, if a bit stressful, but that’s tournaments for you.  This one was different from any of the other ones that I’ve been to so far, in that it was my first bona fide Team Tournament.

It naturally took a while to get my head round the selection system (never having done one of these before), but it added an interesting element to what were otherwise (hypothetically) fairly regular games.  Of course, what with me having nearly zero forward planning or strategic wherewithal, I hadn’t actually done anything as salient as read any of the mission setups or how the players were going to be teamed up.  Heaven forfend!  I had to have all that shit explained to me by the rest of the team whilst chatting over dinner. 

Basically, the selection procedure was thus: You put one member of your team forward and so do your opponents.  Then each team selects two of their three remaining lists as counters and the chosen player can then pick which of the two he wants to take on.  The remaining two matchups are then assigned randomly.  That may sound confusing in text form, but it works relatively smoothly in practice.  It may not sound tempting to put yourself forward and have your list scrutinised by your opponents before they deploy their two best counters, but I found myself relishing that role and half the time, I was the nominated player.

This was because most of the time, I was only really worried about one of the lists in any one team.  Not to say the other lists were bad in any way, but with an army like mine, you know precisely what lists can take you down without breaking a sweat.  You can probably work out which lists they could be, although I’m sure as hell not going to tell you. If they had more than one of those lists in a team, then I would take my chances with the random draw.  If they had only one of those lists, then putting myself forward is actually the safest thing I can do, because it’s the only way to absolutely guarantee that I’ll not be taking on a glass-chewingly frustrating bastard list.   To be honest, that’s why I did it most of the time.

I would get a pang of guilt occasionally though, because those horrible lists I sidestepped just ended up colliding with other members of my team and hitting them instead. I have no excuses for doing this.

What I do have though, is a bucketload of half-arsed rationalisations!

1)  My list (Dark Eldar with a tonne of Hellions, by the way) is decent against a lot of lists, but there are two variations where it nigh on has zero chance whatsoever.  Fling me up against either of those lists styles and I may as well jack the game it before deployment and buy my opponent a pint.  Of gin.  Most other lists stand a bit more a chance than mine in circumstances.  Not much, but a bit.

2)  If you’re not sure you can win at these team tournaments, the best thing you can do is play for the draw.  My army is not good at playing for a draw.  Few DE lists are (that I’ve seen anyway).  A lot of them tend to run out of steam in the late game.  Too much expensive AV10 and T3 to survive a war of attrition.  Most of the time, I have to play for the win.  Games I can’t win, I massively tend to lose.  Lists I really don’t think I can beat are far more likely to be ground to a draw against my team’s Kan wall or Daemon lists rather than mine.

3) If there are terrible lists for my team-mates, most of the time I can take them out of the equation with mine, allowing easier matchups for them by removing tougher opponents from the picture.

4) Wins are good for the team.  I’m not being selfish.  Honest!

5) I’m a Dark Eldar player.  If anyone’s meant to specialise in capricious, self-centred treachery, then it’s going to be me!  The fact that I acquired the title of Grand Vizier should have in no way given then a clue as to my evil intent.

6) My team went along with my plans without any complaints.  Of course that may be because I drugged their tea.  No-one will know now.

7) My ego needed boosting.

8) I’m a heartless bastard.

9) Information redacted.

10) If you’ve got any other ideas, I’d like to hear them!  Feel free to add some in the comments section!  Could be good for a laugh.

I’ll probably write more about the tournament later in the week.  There’s a lot of pointless information and conjecture to be mined from this rich seam of self-interested drivel!