Monday 28 August 2023

Alpha Strike

Have spent much of the past few weeks working on my Horus Heresy army, I was pleased to be able to get the entire force out for a 2200 point game against Pete.

The mission we played was Shatter Strike, in which the aim is to get units into the other players deployment zone. This was made trickier by the fact that we ended up playing lengthwise on the table with arrowhead deployment zones that were largely screened by the buildings I'd set up in the centre of the table.

Points would be scored as follows:

  • Slay the Warlord - 1 point
  • Most units killed - 1 point
  • Line unit in opposing DZ - 2 points
  • Other unit in opposing DZ - 1 point
Blood Angels

My army selection featured every model I've painted so far and so was limited to an extent. Given that the Blood Angels want to get to grips with they enemy, it's still not fast enough (beyond a couple of Rhinos) and doesn't have the firepower for a long range battle.
  • Cataphractii Praetor (Warlord)
  • Consul Chaplain
  • 10 Tactical Marines in Rhino
  • 20 Tactical Marines
  • 5 Tactical Support Marines (Meltaguns)
  • 5 Recon Marines (Nemesis Bolters)
  • 8 Indomitus Terminators
  • Casta Ferrum Dreadnoughts (Multi-melta)
  • Casta Ferrum Dreadnoughts (Lascannon)
  • 5 Heavy Support Marines (Missile Launchers)
  • Predator (Illiastus Assault Cannon & Heavy Bolters)
  • Leviathan Dreadnought (Power Drill/Claws)
Alpha Legion

Pete has not only found a much quicker approach to painting his army, he also is much better at maintaining his focus. As such he has a notably larger force to choose from. However, he did choose to leave units I don't currently have an answer to (namely Alpharius and a Land Raider Spartan) at home, making for a much more balanced battle. He still outranged me, but that's more to do with failings in my army than his.
  • Praetor (Warlord)
  • Consul
  • 10 Tactical Marines
  • 10 Tactical Marines
  • 10 Tactical Marines
  • 5 Tactical Support Marines (Plasma Guns)
  • 10 Headhunters
  • 5 Cataphractii Terminators
  • Contemptor Dreadnought (Twin Lascannons)
  • Contemptor Dreadnought (Lascannon & Multi-melta)
  • Sabre Tank (Neutron Blaster)
  • Leviathan Dreadnought (Twin Storm Cannons)

I deployed first and put my fast moving tanks on the left with the Chaplain leading a Tactical Squad in one Rhino and the Tactical Support Squad in the other. 

On the right I deployed the Dreadnoughts with the aim of stopping a counter offensive on that flank. The Terminators and larger Tactical Squad we put in the centre with the aim of pushing up through the factory and probably just holding the line as it was unlikely they'd move fast enough to cross the board in time.

The Heavy Support Squad were placed on the hill with a position that would allow them to provide cover to the infantry and Dreadnoughts.

With the benefit of being able to see my deployment, Peye aimed his Contemptors to my left, clearly intending to destroy the Rhinos and remove the small advantage I had in mobility.

His Sabre was placed opposite my Dreadnoughts, which was likely to be an unequal fight, but I think he was intending to just occupy them. Whilst the massed infantry swarmed forwards 

When it came to deploying infiltrators I learned a valuable lesson as I hadn't screened properly and suddenly found a large squad of Headhunters behind my lines looking ominously towards my Missile Launchers.

As a counter, I opted to put my Recon Marines halfway up the board on my left. I wasn't sure they'd achieve much against the Contemptors, but they might be able to slip past when the shooting started. At least I should get the first turn to try to get them into better cover...

...and then, of course, the Alpha Legion stole the initiative!

Alpha Legion Turn 1

As certain summer becoming autumn, a first turn roll did not go my way. Fortunately, this time it didn't turn out to be too punishing as the factory in the centre of the board combined with the deployment zones to really impede lines of sight.

However, this meant that the Contemptors only had my Recon Marines to shoot at and, in a textbook case of new model syndrome, wiped all but Sergeant Chavez out.

Pete's equally new and shiny Sabre failed to hit the Dreadnoughts with its Neutron Blaster and was left looking somewhat exposed in the face of their heavy guns.

Finally, and inevitably, the Headhunters demolished my Missile Launchers in a hail of Bolter fire. However, before they died, the Heavy Support Squad were able to unleash a salvo of Krak Missiles that took out several of the sneaky infiltrators.

First blood to the Alpha Legion.

Blood Angels Turn 1

With the two Contemptors looking incredibly menacing, I opted to make use of my mobility and switch my assault to the opposite flank, moving the Chaplain's Rhino up behind the advancing Dreadnought phalanx. Lascannon fire lanced out and destroyed the Sabre's Neutron Blaster, turning it into a mobile machine gun nest.

Meanwhile I moved the Tactical Support Squad's Rhino into cover to lie in wait for a possible ambush on the two Contemptors. This was an incredibly obvious move, intended more to give Pete something to think about.

Rather than run and hide, the doom Sergeant Chavez took aim at one of the enemy Missile Launchers that had clambered on to to roof of a building and promptly pinned them for the following turn.

Then I turned my attention to the Headhunters, and directed my Predator and large unit of Tactical Marines towards them. Although regular Bolters were never going to wipe them out in one go, the Headhunters were reduced to the point of no longer beaming a real threat and just needing wiping out.

Alpha Legion Turn 2

The Alpha Legion infantry swept into the factory complex using the buildings as cover. The Plasma Gunners Ans set themselves up in defensive positions in one of the buildings to support the advance of the Terminators through the centre.

Inevitably, the heroic Sergeant Chavez was gunned down for his neutering of the Missile Launchers' firepower.

Repositioning his Contemptors had given Pete a narrow shot at the lurking Rhino behind the building.

This is all it took to destroy the transport, disgorging the squad inside who fortunately took no casualties.

Blood Angels Turn Two

As I feared I was already losing out on the unit exchange rate and I needed to get forwards if I was to have any chance of victory.

The remaining Rhino advanced cautiously, using crates as cover from the deadly Lascannons whilst the plodding Casta Ferrums turned the Sabre into slag.

Meanwhile my rear units finished off the last of the Headhunters, freeing then up to join the assault, but the Terminators and Leviathan in the centre were being slowed significantly by difficult ground created the opposing Leviathan's Phosphex Launcher and were prevented fro charging by Pete's shrewd use of his move reactions to get his Terminators to run away fall back tactically.

Alpha Legion Turn Three

With one flank empty of targets and the other holding back in the face of my advance, the Alpha Legion turned their attention to the Blood Angels Terminators and everything that could fire at them did so.

Lascannons, Storm Cannons, Plasma Guns and massed Bolters tore into the Blood Angels assault unit and sheer weight of fire brought them down one by one until only the Praetor was left.

However, he too succumbed to enemy fire and the balance of the battle was now firmly in Pete's favour.

Blood Angels Turn Three

With Pete now definitely in the lead I needed to get into his deployment zone to have any chance of victory.

The Rhino gunned it's engines and rushed straight into the enemy Missile Launchers ramming them, killing one and narrowly avoiding being destroyed by a well placed Krak Grenade.

The larger Tactical Squad began the long march in support of this advance (which would only be relevant if we got a sixth turn) whilst the Predator leant it's guns to helping the Dreadnoughts in slowing the enemy advance through the factory.

Meanwhile, knowing that five Marines with Meltaguns had no chance of stopping two Contemptors, I moved the Leviathan out to my left as a defensive move to dissuade the enemy Dreadnoughts from making a rush for my deployment zone.

Alpha Legion Turn Four

Pete could clearly see what I was up to and turned his fire towards my Rhino. Fortunately for me, it was screened from many of the bigger guns and I used my evade reaction to protector from the point blank Missile Launchers.

This meant the the looming Cataphractii Terminators had to charge the Rhino rather than its somewhat more important cargo, which spilled out at the end of the combat phase with their objective in sight.

Ominously, the Contemptors backed off from the Leviathan on the other flank. The mercurial Alpha Legion had clearly decided to forgo their initial objective and concentrate on defending the gains they had already made.

In short, it was guns o'clock.

Blood Angels Turn 4

The battle was going to be decided on the right flank. Tactical Marines surged forwards with Dreadnoughts in support whilst any guns that could poured into the Alpha Legion to thin their numbers.

On the left the Meltaguns and Leviathan broke cover with the sole intent of pinning the Contemptors and Tactical Squads in place, reducing their ability to either surge forwards or reposition for defence. They concentrated their fire on the Marines as they were significantly easier targets.

In the combat phase the Blood Angels finally made some charges. With Pete once again using his move reactions to flee like a coward back off out of charge range, the Chaplain's squad opted to plough into the Missile Launchers and finish them off.

Meanwhile, the Lascannon Dreadnought made it into the enemy Terminators and began tearing them limb from limb. Although they held their ground, the Alpha Legion warlord and his bodyguard were prevented from intervening in the defence of their deployment zone.

Alpha Legion Turn 5

On the left flank the Alpha Legion continued to flee screaming like children withdraw in the face of the enemy advance, keeping the Leviathan at arm's length.

In the centre, the Alpha Legion Terminators were wiped out in combat with the Dreadnought and the Praetor ran away crying failed his morale check and avoided being run down by a sweeping advance.

On my right Pete turned every gun he had available on the Tactical Squad threatening his deployment zone. The Storm Cannons and Bolters blazed away but if just one Marine survived I could snatch victory in the next turn.

They didn't. So I couldn't.

Blood Angels Turn 5

However, hope wasn't lost. If the Dreadnought that had beaten the Terminators could charge the enemy Marines it could possibly sweeping advance to victory and if there was a sixth turn the remaining Tactical Squad could achieve the objective with two VERY long advance moves.

The Tactical Squad managed to move twelve inches towards the enemy deployment zone. The were in striking distance...

The Dreadnought made it's charge and barreled into the Tactical Marines, weathering hits from the Consul and the Sergeant's Power Fist it managed to win combat but the enemy held their nerve with the Dreadnought reduced to a single wound.

At this point, the Alpha Legion were still leading...and then we rolled up another turn...

Alpha Legion Turn 6

Pete moved everything he could to get a bead on the Tactical Marines and once again blazed away at the exposed Blood Angels, once again wiping the unit out and removing all hope of a last gasp victory.

In the final fight, the crippled Dreadnoughts armour was pierced by the Consul's power sword, finally ending the life of the hero of the chapter.

At this point we called the game because there was no way my remaining units could alter the result.

Pete had slain my warlord and destroyed eight of my units (I'm not certain if dedicated transports count as separate units for scoring, I'm assuming do but it doesn't change the outcome). Although I'd caused his warlord to flee, he'd managed to rally in turn 6 and I'd only destroyed four (maybe five, I might have got one of the Tactical Squads) units.

Neither of us had achieved the primary mission objective.

Final Score: Alpha Legion 2 - Blood Angels 0

This was a great game which swing backwards and forwards and genuinely could have gone either way. As I suspected, the telling factor was Pete's superior firepower and my inability to get my Terminators into combat (things I have taken action about).

What I really liked is that we both ended up playing to the character of our respective legions. The Alpha Legion were sneaky and evasive, eschewing glory in favour of securing concrete gains, whilst the Blood Angels fought valiantly, and made furious assaults to get to grips with the enemy.

The combination of the scenario and the internal balance brought about by Marine Vs Marine combat led to an experience that was infinitely more enjoyable that playing 40k 10th edition a few days earlier.

It was a palpable reminder that the result isn't what makes a good game, it's the fact that both sides get to play.

Oh, and about that whole needing firepower and a way to get Terminators into combat sooner thing...

...yeah, I'm on it!

Acquired: 83
Painted: 215
Lead Mountain: 470

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