Last week we celebrated with release of the Imperial Guard codex with a cityfight game set in Jericho Station, the main city on Caluphel Prime. As it was a 3-player game, we opted for a smaller game, with Paul and John both bringing 30 Power Level of Tau and Imperial Guard, respectively, versus 60 Power Level of Chaos Space Marines from me.
For our game, the Chaos Space Marines (Night Lords, naturally) were trying to clear a landing zone for some inbound troop transports bearing reinforcements from the Death Guard. They had selected Hab-Block Fenax, a typical ruined sector of the city, for their impromptu landing area. Step one was to purge the defenders who were dug in from the earlier skirmishes.
We were pretty impressed to see that, even at 30 Power Level, John was still able to muster more than 60 infantry figures. Wow, Imperial Guard are cheap! John was trying out the Valhallan doctrine from his new codex, which emphasizes massive human wave attacks and a general disdain for self-preservation. Here’s a typical squad, entrenched near a ruined building, ready to blast some traitors.
By contrast, Paul brought a few Tau units, including his newly painted HQ unit, Commander Goldmoon. Check out that sweet custom halberd!
On the other side of the table, I mustered by Night Lords, which had also received some new reinforcements in the form of a beautifully painted Rhino and squad of Warp Talons that I had acquired from a fellow in The Netherlands. As I built my army, I realized that I actually had 5 units that would arrive via deep strike, which left me with just a couple units to actually deploy at the outset of the game — namely, the new Rhino and a 20-man blob of cultists.
We decided to play “The Scouring” scenario from the rulebook, so we set up 6 objective markers and got started. Our deployment zones were fairly close, which meant that John and I started the game within easy lasgun range of each other.
Deploying relatively few units had a pretty big impact on the game for me, as it allowed John and Paul focus their massed firepower on just a handful of units at a time. In the first turn of the game, for example, my cultist squad was completely annihilated — which was a bummer, as I was really looking forward to using my “Tide of Traitors” stratagem to bring the cultists back on the next turn.
Things started looking up once I started bringing in my deep strike units – a squad of Warp Talons backed up by a Chaos Sorceror, and a squad of Terminators, for starters. These highly potent units arrived right in front of many, many terrified Imperial Guard and proceeded to lay waste with bolter and sword.
In particular, the Warp Talons ran absolutely amok in the Tau lines, routing a squad of Fire Warriors and sowing chaos everywhere. I mean, if you’re a Tau Fire Warrior, this is *not* where you want to be.
Alas, the surviving Fire Warriors retired in good order, and Paul and John proceeded to light up my Warp Talons. The sheer number of lasguns, combined with John’s sneaky officer orders, meant that my entire squad was annihilated in one turn. Farewell, Warp Talons!
This unfortunate happenstance would take place several more times over the course of the game. I would bring in a cool unit via deep strike and it would threaten the defenders for a turn or two before dying horribly to massed lasgun and Tau drone fire. It was almost like shooting fish in a barrel!
I never could muster a critical mass of firepower to break through the Guard lines, and the Tau’s long-range weaponry ensured that my units were never really safe, even when they were in cover.
I managed to get a squad of Khorne Berzerkers into combat on the left flank, and was poised to roll up the flank and deal some serious damage — but once again, shooting won out over close combat. I think that’s just the reality of this edition of 40k. Ranged combat is where it’s at, and you have to really work hard to make a melee-oriented army succeed.
But damn, my guys looked gorgeous doing their thing.
Interestingly, this game took place about 12 hours before Games Workshop released its errata of commissars. We agreed afterward that a rules adjustment was in order — under the original rules, commissars virtually ensured that basic Guard squads were exceedingly steadfast in the face of casualties, probably moreso than the game designers had intended.
In the center of the table, I had marginally better luck when my Terminators arrived via teleport strike. They seized a ruined building, laid down some withering firepower, and began a grinding advance toward the Guard lines.
It’s hard to tell, but there are actually 30 infantry holed up in those ruined areas.
One turn later, I was close enough to charge with my Chaos Terminators, which again ratcheted up the grief on the defenders’ side of the table. Terminators have always been brutal, and it seems the trend has continued into 8th edition 40k.
At this point, with Terminators overrunning his defenses, Paul wisely decided to relocate Commander Goldmoon and her retinue of drones to the far side of the table — ostensibly to secure an important objective, but also possibly to avoid annihilation? In any case, it proved to be a tactically sound move.
Left to defend the barricades alone, John used “Send in Another Wave,” the Valhallan-specific stratagem that allowed him to recycle one completely annihilated unit back onto the battlefield. He brought in two fresh units on his side of the board, within easy lasgun range of the Terminators that were engaged with the defenders at the barricades.
But wait, you can’t fire into melee, right? Well, Valhallans can. They have a special officer order called “Fire on My Command” that allows them to do just that, with the added penalty that any rolls of 1 indicate that a friendly model was hit instead.
Channeling Joseph Stalin, John issued the order and scooped up a huge handful of dice.
You could cut the tension in the room with a chainsword as John tossed those dice onto the table. We held our collective breath and saw … a lot of 1s, actually. A few shots hit my Terminators and bounced harmlessly off their armor, but the majority of the casualties were caused by John slaughtering his own troops using his Valhallan’s special order.
We looked on in horror as he scooped up the dice and prepared to do the same with the next squad in range. “You’ll hit your own men, you monster!” we pleaded with him. “Have you no sense of honor, of humanity?!”
Cackling fiendlishly, John cast the dice for another round of shooting. Again, a few shots spanged off this thick armor of the Terminators, and plenty more dropped Valhallans by the bucketload.
When the shooting stopped, John had removed 7 or 8 of his own guys as casualties and had caused 1 total wound on my Terminators. When the poor Imperials tried to flee, the commissars shot dead the first man who fled, thus enforcing iron discipline and keeping the units in fighting shape despite the horrendous casualties.
Talk about a pyrrhic victory. And there were still the Terminators to deal with.
By this point, though, the game was more or less in the bag for the Tau-Imperial alliance. Paul had used the desperate skirmish taking place at the barricades as cover to allow his commander to fly across the battlefield and seize an important objective.
I had one chance to land a squad of Raptors via deep strke and try to oust her from the objective — and mathematically speaking, it wouldn’t have mattered much. I tried anyway, and actually landed a hit with a meltagun, but didn’t roll enough damage to kill Goldmoon. So my ambitions came to an end there.
During and after the game, we remarked at just how long it took for John to deal with his 60+ figures during his turns. We’re all adults and know how to play games pretty well, but the logistics of issuing orders, moving guys and rolling bucket loads of dice just ate up a lot of time, particularly compared to Paul’s fairly streamlined turns. And they were only at 30 Power Level each! I can’t imagine how an infantry-based Imperial Guard army would play at 75 or 100 PL. Hour-long turns, mostly likely. That’s no fun for anybody. Anyway, we resolved to explore some options for speeding up gameplay (maybe a chess clock?).
So, the defenders managed to keep the Night Lords from securing the landing zone, meaning the diseased hordes of the Death Guard will need to force a landing elsewhere to exploit their tiny foothold on Caluphel. Stay tuned for more!