Monday, December 2, 2013

Tactical Conundrums from the Standoff

I was trying to think of some positive tactical take-aways from the Standish Standoff tournament, and there are a few small interesting things that I have not seen others blog about in any detail.  So here are some observations specific to two units that may help (me/you) in future games:

The Sternguard Pod Squad 
I went with an all melta squad - 2 with meltaguns and 4 with combi-meltas, one lightning claw sergeant (I had been known for using half plasma, half melta).  10 total marines (BTW, for the event, 5 were from 1st Company, 5 were from the Deathwatch, sharing the same pod. I was short a 1st Company combimelta...nobody really seemed to care...). Their tactical use was to combat squad every game into 2 equal meltagun teams. 

In the first game, their object was to take down a dual autocannon dreadnought (120 pts) on the left (open) flank, which was done with one combat squad using three melta shots and a krak grenade.  The other combat squad and pod shot up the nearby "Sons of Medusa" (Ironhands) tactical squad and Master of the Forge (115 pts) in the adjacent woods.  The dreadnought was a prime target because it could shoot up my vehicles at range, and in that it was worth 2 KPs in this scenario by my own choosing.  The primary mission accomplished with the explosion of the dread, the two combat squads and pod remained a distraction through turn 3 on the opponent's flank.  Their actions drew the Medusa's Terminator Captain and Tactical Terminator Squad off to the flank from the center.  The Sternguard whittled away at the tactical squad and killed a terminator or two before they were eliminated.  On turn 3 they even tried to assault the tacticals in the woods, but failed their charge range.  They were not able to accomplish their tertiary goal of taking out the Predator.  The last survivors, however, drew the Terminators from out of cover where my Plasma-cannon totting Venerable Dreadnaught wreaked havoc on them, eliminating the Captain and the others.

In game 2, the Sternguard were called down for a more difficult and very important task.  The Imperial guard were playing in a tight grouping, with a Mortis Contemptor Dreadnought (with overwatch) and a platoon command (4xflamer) squad anchoring the flank a thin bubblewrap.  Immediately within their coverage was the target - a Manticore that was showing its flank.   The Manticore was the target clearly because of its board-wide threat potential of D3 large blast AP3 templates that could eat marines by the unit.  I had first turn, so the pod dropped in and the Sternguard combat squaded into a team flanking the Manticore, and a team flanking the Mortis Contemptor.  Needless to say, the Contemptor intercepted the combat squad closest to itself and 5 Sternguard were immediately down.  The other combat squad achieved their mission and exploded the Manticore, taking out a halo of nearby guardsmen.  The drop pod itself remained a thorn in the opponent's flank for a few turns, but both Sternguard combat squads were toast before the end of the first turn. Overall, their mission was a success, in that the Manticore was never fired.    

In game 3, these hearty Sternguard were called in again to play a major tactical gambit.  Game 3 was all about getting Victory Points into 5 different geographic parts of the board, coupled with getting scoring units at the 4 objectives that marked the boundaries of the geographic zones.   In the center of the Demon (Nurgle) battle line, a Great Unclean One, and a "little unclean one with attached nurglings", and a Soulgrinder (armed to kill AP3 marines) combined to be a large number of points.  I decided that the Sternguard needed to make a nuisance of themselves with the goal of drawing one or both of these units back towards the back corner of the Nurgle deployment zone.  On the drop the pod deviated a bit, giving the combat squadded marines flank shot on the Soulgrinder, and direct shots at the "little" unit.  The soulgrinder exploded from the meltagun fire, even with the obscured cover save Nurgle was granting.  The "little unclean" unit lost about half of it size to the marines.  In response, "Great Unclean" moved after the closes Sternguard combat squad and with a hefty charge roll through the crater that used to be the 'Grinder, took out the combat squad (losing 2 wounds to overwatch) in the process.  In turn 2, the remaining sternguard led the "Great One" further away from the table center, and by turn 3 they were also eliminated from the game (and the "Great One" was down to less than half its wounds and now worth half its original Victory Points).  It even delayed itself further by charging the drop pod...

Overall, you can see how the Sternguard worked well in their applications - in all three case, the Sternguard unit with pod was used to achieve both elimination of an opposing unit that was of high value, and then was used to distract or cause the opponent to react to it. Because the unit worked deep in the opponent's deployment zone, it had to accomplish its missions(s) with no assistance (except for maybe the timely application of the Ultramarines Tactical Doctrine.

The Devastator Squad
In my list I used a 5-man, 4xML Devastator Squad with Flakk Missiles.  I was pretty concerned I'd see more flyers or Helldrakes than I did, which was mostly luck of the draw. As a reminder, I'd use a different color dice each turn to denote a ML fired with e boost from the sergeant's signum. 

In Game 1, my opponent had a 10-man Devastator squad with 4 MLs, no Flakk. We both had placed our Devastator Squads opposite each other, both on the top floor of some ruins.  Through the luck of stealing the initiative I was shooting first.  And this game became a small exercise in tactical leadership.  On the first turn, my devastators coupled with every weapon that could reach, whittled away at the opposing Medusa devastators.  In turn 1, Tigurius cast Prescience on them (reroll misses).  But here is where the tactical conundrum began.  Tigurius was with a tactical combat squad on the ground floor.  All of his spells were from Divination.  With all the cover going on in the opponent's deployment zone, I wanted to get Perfect Timing played on the Devastators to increase my firepower effects on the opposing units.  All non-witchfire spells are cast at the beginning of the movement phase.  A IC can only join or leave a unit in the movement phase.  So, what happened turn 2 was an error - Tigurius cast Perfect Timing, and then moved to join the devastators.  He then cast Perfect Timing every turn after.  As pointed out by a commenter on B&C, if a psycher casts a blessing that affects him and his unit, and then leaves the unit, the effect lasts on the psyche and that original unit for the duration of the effect.  So the Devastators would not have had Perfect Timing that turn, but the original combat squad (with ML) would have retained it. Overall, it probably had an impact on the game for that one turn, probably 3 extra casualties on the opponent.  More importantly, it showed to me what 4 MLs with perfect timing could do.  They also benefited from the Devastator Doctrine in repositioning, and later accounted for shooting down the opponent's Stormtalon. 

In Game 2, Tigurius started deployed with the Devastators, but he (and the sergeant) remained low behind cover while the missile launchers did their job.  In this game, the spells only included prescience, forewarning, and precognition.  This allowed the devastators to maintain a 4++ invulnerable save.  By turn 3 there were 2 MLs remaining, but they accounted for the Vendetta in addition to causing numerous casualties on the Guard blob squad.  By turn 4, they were down to the sergeant and Tigurius, but neither survived the game. As a side note - I lost game 2 due to a strategic error on objective (relic) placement, and on turn 1 tactical errors on Objective (relic) capture.  When playing special scenarios, it is always best to read and understand the tactical requirements of the scenario...Overall, the devastators worked very well, buffed by Prescience and Forewarning.  Frankly, as I write this, I seem to now think that I forgot to use my precognition rerolls on the last turn...Tigurius might have then survived the game.

In Game 3, my Nurgle Demon opponent had a flying demon prince and a unit of flying nasty bugs (plague drones of Nurgle).  In deployment, these were to be the primary targets of my devastator squad.  The squad was deployed across the roof of a small building, with the Sergeant and one ML marine on the ground (I wanted to be spread out if the Soulgrinder survived or the opponent had other AP3 templates or blasts).  Tigurius was deployed on foot nearby with spells of Perfect Timing, Forewarning, and Foreboding.  The Devastators did not have a major impact on turn 1 due to night fight.  On the following turns they focused on the Demon Prince and started stripping off his wounds and caused a grounding check, which attracted an assault by the drones.  They overwatched and killed a drone or two, but were assaulted nevertheless.  In one round or so of combat, the Devastators were reduced to a single ML marine, who was able to break off.  He rallied and aided in eliminating the drone survivors, and started flinging missiles down range on Nurgle troops that deep struck to the center from reserves.  On the last turn that attracted the charge of a spawn survivor, and I cannot recall if that sole marine lasted the combat. 

So, overall, you can see a few things here - in each game the Flakk missiles helped against flyers (mechanical or monstrous).  It also showed what buffing them with a psycher can do for their resilience or damage output, both are key.  As a tactical note I'd decided to have Tigurius spend game 3 attached to a 10-man tactical squad deliberately (I was using a rhino as a visual shield wall) and wanted to move that unit forward into the central geographic region for Victory Point scoring purposes rather than in my backfield.  In a larger game I'd almost consider taking a larger Devastator squad to have ablative wounds, although I've also experimented with having a Rhino just for added flexibility.

All for now, hope you enjoyed the read! If I can find some game photos that show these two units in use, I'll add them later this week.  If you want me to write up any of my other units as a similar tactical commentary, let me know in the comments.  See my prior post for some pictures from the game and a snapshot of my army used at the event. 

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