Wednesday, 15 March 2017

40k Road to Competence - games 6 and 7

Greetings all - welcome to the next installment of my Road to Competence series, where I look back and critically assess my games with the intention of becoming a better player. I'm getting my teeth into a decent number of games in this series now, and I think I'm starting to see the benefits!

I have two more games to add to my catalogue now, the first against the Alpha Legion again and the second against Tau - both would be tricky propositions for different reasons.

Reports on the games can be found here (Alpha Legion) and here (Tau).

Let's have a look back at the games then and see what can be learned.

Game 6

Ryan is comfortably one of the best tactical players I play against with any regularity, and though he combines that with good fortune on his dice, he can work his way out of even the most awkward situation with average dice rolling.

This was a 1250pt narrative game, and I went into it with the intention of providing a tough challenge but with a strongly themed list. The only unit I deployed on the table at the start of the game was a unit of sniper scouts, with everything else being either in drop pods or deep striking. The game scenario made this seem right, though I would have been more effective in the game if I hadn't been deep striking I think.

My alpha strike went reasonably well, stripping out the mobility of his troops units and drastically cutting down the size of one of them, but from there things became difficult. My terminators not arriving early didn't help, but as that was a narrative choice it's not relevant here.

The biggest problem I had here was that having separated my drop units to focus on specific targets, I once again became a bit disjointed on the table - Ryan was also, however it had been forced on him and his early moves brought his units together. He also had a warlord on a bike with two spawn and so had a very mobile, hard hitting unit available, whilst my initial forces were totally focused on shooting. As a result, once his warlord engaged my army in combat (which he was able to do early thanks to his speed) he had the freedom of the table, taking two turns to kill my central units let him charged unopposed at my scouts, and then my warlord and command squad without me being able to direct fire onto him. My biggest mistake however was my vanguard unit. Partly taken to give me a combat option and partly to fill out the 1st company taskforce, they were equipped with power swords and power axes. Unfortunately, none of these would hit before the chaos warlord with his higher initiative, and as they only bring 3+ armour with no invulnerable save despite charging in to support the tactical marines they were unable to hurt his warlord at all.

That therefore is the most significant learning point from this game - combat is decisive, but target priority is just as important for combat troops as it is for shooting units, and trying to take down the warlord's unit was a mistake, I would have been better served using the vanguard to kill everything else and stick to shooting the warlord.

The other less significant point is that knowing what you can achieve and what is the most valuable target is also key to winning. Looking at the battlefield at the end of the game Ryan had three models left, one of them fleeing. My force was battered but looked in much better shape, but by focusing on taking out his troops, I had been picking on the low value units (in victory point terms) and not taking down the significant stuff. That being said, I couldn't have really targeted the warlord earlier, as on turn 1 he would have been picking up a 2+ cover save.

Game 7

A much more palatable result for the Dusk Knights and one very much borne out of my previous experiences in the road to competence.

A new 1500pt list focused on balance and addressing all the phases of the game with options to combat many different types of opponent needed testing, and it came through with flying colours.

I took a withering amount of punishment early on in the game, but made sure that I grouped my forces for support as much as possible - the faster elements of the army allowed me to retain capability of reaching the more far flung objectives whilst I had been careful to place as many of the others within easy reach of drop pod forces as possible (essentially, making sure when I placed objectives prior to the game starting they were close to others).

Thankfully, my strategy worked out, and there was enough on the table that units not arriving from reserve straight away didn't punish me too much, whilst my tactical squads and drop pods were able to hold objectives and keep picking up points for me throughout the game. I made sure all my focus was on achieving the cards I drew, and I discarded ruthlessly anything that wasn't a certainty in the current or next turn.

It's true that you learn more from defeat than victory, but in this instance I can be confident that I'm working on the right lines - loss of some of my units didn't cripple the force. Having seen 13 tactical marines drop on turn 1 could have been decisive, but the flexibility offered by having the damage output of the vanguard veterans, plus the missile launchers on both the centurions and the storm hawk meant that I wasn't overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the enemy.

The main thing to learn here I think is that I need to be more aware of the capabilities of the enemy units near where I'm dropping. The Tau are nasty in this respect as the ability to run and then shoot weapons had a big impact on the volume of their return fire in their turn 1. I was expecting my big tactical squad to take down more than 4 breachers, but actually looking at the numbers it wasn't significantly down on where it would average out. Focusing fire more on turn 1 therefore would have been more effective.

Just a last note with regard to Tau specifically - a lot of places will tell you to focus on reducing their markerlight effectiveness by targeting drones. That is good advice, but it's not the only strategy and you need to be aware of their abilities. In this game I faced 5 units of 4 drones each. No way would I be able to take down all of those early on (particularly since 4 of those units had jink) so I didn't try. I only really targeted drones when I needed to kill units since they were often the ones with the fewest wounds to take. I think there were still 2-3 units left at the end of the game, but instead I focused on crippling the firepower that would benefit from the drones instead, either by casualties, or blocking line of sight, or even charging into combat. It was an effective strategy and once I'd weathered the initial storm of fire I could really neuter the enemy units quite effectively.