Friday, 26 April 2013

Having the courage of your convictions

I played my first game in over a month last night, and boy does it show how rusty you can get very quickly, following as it did my first and second wins in the last week before the break. As such, I thought I'd reflect a little on the challenge that I faced and what I think i did (very) wrong.

Just to set the scene for you then, it's a backwater world, and there's a small(ish) imperial outpost protecting a research station. Prying Dark Eldar eyes see a rich source of slaves and subjects for their flesh laboratories, and a raid is organised. The station is protected only by an aegis defence line and a small infantry force, supported by armoured personnel carriers, a Leman Russ and two Griffon Mortars. The nearby landing pad boasts two Vendetta armoured transports.

The Dark Eldar force assembles, it is a light raiding force consisting of raider mounted warriors and wyches, supported by a pair of ravagers, two small squads of reaver jetbikes and the archon and his Incubi bodyguard.

We rolled up the Scouring for the mission. Great, those Vendettas would be scoring units, and I'd left my main flyer defence at home (Razorwing). Meanwhile my own fast attack choices, the reavers, had just had great big targets painted on their canopies as they were now worth victory points to my opponent.

Just before dawn, the Dark Eldar strike, taking advantage of the cover of darkness and their own incredible night vision, the dark lance armed ravager strikes out, vapourising the battle cannon from the Leman Russ. The massive explosion however shocked the Imperial Guard units, who cowered behind their aegis line, and the withering fire from the rest of the raiding party spattered harmlessly from its reinforced panels (yup, sneaky little monkey went to ground behind it to get a 2+ cover save!). Imperial Guard return fire spat from the defence line, the Griffon mortars speaking up and the explosions lighting up the dawn sky. When the smoke cleared the shattered wreckage of five reaver jetbikes was all that could be seen, with no sign of the last remaining rider (rolled 16" on 3D6 to flee right off the table!)

The ranged exchange doesn't go well for the dark eldar, particularly when Sly Marbo arrived back from patrol to sling his demolition charge into the back of a passing raider, destroying it outright and wrecking the nearby venom in the explosion. His pleasure at seeing such a one in a million throw come off was short lived though, as the Dark Eldar warlord emerged from the wreckage of the venom with murder in his eyes (short combat anyone?)

The Griffon mortars continue their barrage, devastating the bulk of the dark eldar infantry, which was doing its best to bring down one of the vendettas (skyfire mysterious objective had meant I could hit on my normal BS, but I failed to roll any significant damage). Having had enough of being shot at, the wyches gunned the engines on their raider, but isolated as they were their transport was brought down in flames and its passengers shredded by the concentrated autocannon fire from the centre of the Imperial Guard lines.

Seeing his raid collapse around him, the Archon was overcome by a fit of rage, and pulled out a whopping 10" charge to engage the Guard Veterans on the flank (he actually rolled 5" to start with, but the re-roll from fleet came up a double 6, so he made it with room to spare!). The plucky sergeant called out a challenge, but was despatched in short order, and the rest of the squad followed in the subsequent turn. By now sporting a S10 huskblade, the Archon was proving to be an unstoppable juggernaut, despite his shadowfield shorting out when a lucky guardsman stuck his bayonet into the mechanism. Joined by the Incubi he proceeded to butcher his way through another Guard squad, and the Senior Command Squad before finally falling to a krak grenade from the remaining infantry squad.

The remaining Dark Eldar were wiped out by the two vendettas' and the remnants of the last veteran squad.

That being said therefore, what did I do wrong, and what should I try to do better next time?

1. Target priority.
2. Don't be timid.
3. Don't give up free victory points.

Regarding point 1, what did I do wrong, and what did I do right? Well things started well, with the destruction of the Leman Russ' main weapon. Arguably I should have finished it off as its heavy bolter was a pest for the rest of the game, and it would have yielded a first blood point, but i thought i'd got bigger fish to fry at the time. Sadly it went downhill from there, the other ravager (with disintegrators) wasted a lot of shooting at infantry behind the aegis line to little effect, particularly with regard to shooting at a basic infantry squad.

Once the Russ was down, I should have concentrated fire on his Griffons, and his command squads. The Griffons took down more than one raider and wiped out reavers and kabalites galore, whilst the command squads really make a difference with their orders, as his infantry was going to ground with no worries about not being able to get straight up in the next turn and acting normally, or gaining twin linking to their autocannons, which contributed to the raiders going down quite quickly. Or in other words, use AT to take out their large blast templates first, then the transports, with the anti infantry concentrating on the HQ squads. I think i missed this one because i was keen to try and knock out his scoring units, which were sitting on a bucketful of victory points, not realising that their effectiveness dropped significantly if the HQ units weren't around.

Point 2 then, which is the one I'm most ashamed of. I was even reminded several times through the game as a casual observer turned up asking the same question every time "Why are you not over there yet?". For the first two turns of the game, I was so focussed on trying to take out his vehicles, mostly transports, and with my AT firepower mainly coming from Raiders and one Ravager, I dithered in the midfield instead of going flat out in turn one to give me the opportunity to charge in turn 2. This is exacerbated by the fact that going flat out actually increases your survivability as your jink save increases to 4+ so I'd probably also taken more damage than I would have going hell for leather at his gunline.

As such, it was turn 3 by the time Mr Archon got out of his transport and things were already looking grim. He then proceeded to cut a swathe through the enemy lines, aided by the Incubi and abetted a bit by some very poor dice rolling (which evened out the absurdly good I'd had in terms of shooting hits earlier in the game). Had he and the Wyches made a coherent charge into the enemy back line in turn 2, I'm confident that I'd have wiped out all his footsloggers before the game finished. That approach would also have the added effect of getting my warriors within rapid fire range, hopefully behind the aegis line, which would have further increased the damage I could have done.

Finally then we look at point 3. The mission we played made fast attack choices scoring, but also meant they were worth a victory point each to our opponent. We both had two, I had two units of three reavers, he'd got two Vendettas (yes, two, I know, annoying isn't it when you've not taken any air defence!). I've struggled with my reavers really every time I've taken them, partly due to my indecisiveness and partly due to markerlights, which on two occasions have stripped their 3+ cover save entirely leaving them extremely vulnerable. In this game I took two units of three, one of which started behind a building but got splattered by indirect fire from a Griffon, and the other caused a few bladevane casualties in turn one but then got wiped by sheer volume of return fire.

Obviously I couldn't know what mission we would get so I can't second-guess taking two small units, but i think turbo boosting a small unit forward on turn 1 was probably over-ambitious, both in terms of getting the first blood vp (I was hoping they'd run off the table, they stopped about 4" short then regrouped) and in regard to the fact that they were then the most obvious target for return fire and even a 3+ save isn't going to stop that much of an ammo-storm. Taking out those two units gave my opponent three victory points, and wiped out a significant proportion of my points early on.

I'd love to play the same game again, now I've been there once and have some idea of what the issues are and how best to go about winning.

One final observation, which is that I think the Dark Eldar really do suffer at lower points values due to the fragility of their troops units. Their speed can compensate for this, but they really need to have alternative targets for the enemy to shoot at until then.

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only THOR!!!