Friday, April 1, 2011

Contest of Champions: VICTORY!

1500pts of Warhammer 40k Tournament awesomeness! Last Saturday, March 26th, with the blessing of the storm, the Wolfbrothers descended on Great Escape Games, Sacramento. BLOOD was in the air and Brutal competition awaited!

Three of us made it - bringing the only two Dark Eldar armies and the stoic, blood-thirsty Blood Legion. Of Eighty-two total competitors the Wolfbrothers represented well, Dark Eldar undefeated! We embraced the roar of battle and took great joy in the outright slaughter that day. Indeed the dark denizens of Vect and Sliscus are still cackling with glee.

Special thanks to all of the Wolfbrothers Chapter for the help preparing for this tournament. Five of us made it to the first 2011 CoC in January and did well on that day also. In the last almost two months we have dedicated ourselves to becoming experts at the CoC mission formats to advance our generalship to the same level we encountered in Sacramento. 

The armies we fielded have been a work in progress for some time of course. When we attacked Sacramento the first time we were not unprepared. We played through a few of the practice missions and worked our lists around comp, but the opponents we encountered were experts at the mission formats - we felt the edge as it cut.

Our training for this tournament was much more extensive. We play tested like madmen, 1500pts is all that we have known for eight weeks. CoC Mission Book Summary, Personal Bonus Objectives, Game the Mission Win the War, and the Wolfbrothers CoC PRIMER Tournament. We knew the Storm was a Blessing as we drove through Donner Pass, and we attacked Sacramento again.

Victory at the Contest of Champions

My first experience at the Contest of Champions was in January 2011. Our club had extensive discussions regarding the comp scoring and 3/5 of our team that day were Sacramento veterans of sorts. Almost all of us fielded full comp armies and we all scored well in Battle. My Space Wolf army was probably the only fully painted force we brought, and I ended up in the top 10 overall.

The excitement and energy and competition of Sacramento never left us! We ran a PRIMER Tournament two weeks before the March 26th event to kick off final preparations. The personal bonus objectives took me completely by surprise and added a new tier of victory to the games the first time around. This time we painted, we studied, we play tested, we slept very little.

General Oadius noticed the day before the tournament that the practice mission book was missing online. We expected new missions and twists and we got them! As we excitedly pored through the mission packet handout that morning we discussed the various elements old and new. I quickly decided that matchup would be the name of the game, and that I would stick to my plans and strategy.

My strategy for the tournament was pretty simple. I brought four very sticky troops, Wracks and Wyches with Feel no Pain. In fast skimmers - mobility was key to everything. In missions with Objectives, Table Quarters, or Enemy Deployment zone I felt I had great leverage. No one was going to kill all of my troops or any of them without a big fight and a lot of effort. There was other strengths and leverages that I have discussed in previous articles, but the sticky troops in fast skimmers are the keystone to everything.

The army build and codex is really optimised for reserve deployment. AV10 skimmers, T3, and 5+ armor saves among many other... traits, make the army overall less than tuff. All of these factors pile up to make reserve deployment more and more advantageous, then add in the mission, deployment and opponent factors. Play style matters too, obviously I am a dirty sneaky bastard.

The third most important part of my overall strategy was to target enemy troops. The Archon and Incubi are specifically good at slaughtering enemy troop units. Wyches, Wracks, Razorwing, Venoms are all also good at it. My whole army can hurt an enemy troop unit significantly. In all ways I targeted my opponents troop units, and played objectives, table quarters and deployment zones against them for the win and/or for the bonus points. Reserve deployment, fast skimmers, sticky troops were the advantages I  leveraged for the win.

The mission for Round one called First Responders seemed the most sophisticated. Dawn of War, C&C, with the first three units you deployed counting as additional objectives when destroyed. I was matched up against a vanilla Space Marine drop pod list. Everything about the deployment, and matchup seemed advantageous to my army and plan to win. My opponent won the roll off and deployed first.

His army had 4 troops, two tactical squads in drop pods, five-man and ten-man scout units. His backup was a big devastator squad and huge deep striking terminator unit with chaplain. None of these army elements were safe from any of the Dark Eldar weapons/units. Not a single vehicle to kill before hurting the troops inside, or assaulting them. I deployed most of my army and drove into the middle, easily slaughtering the drop pod and tacticals on my side of the board. I drove the Incubi deep and exposed the objective venom to drop pod melta - hoping he would bring his terminators and drop pod and scouts in from reserve in an easy to eat unsupported manner, and thats what happened. Notice each part of his army attacked me from a different direction. This was a rough mission and matchup for the opponents list for sure.

His terminators were scary and unnecessary for the win unless he used them to contest an objective. I was glad he did not deploy them as an objective. After the end of turn 3 all of his troops were dead and I had scored the 3 unit-objectives. My personal bonus objective was to get more troops into his deployment zone (half the board.) In the video you can see how I placed my Venoms and Wych raiders so they could score my objective, or his, or move to either board half very easily. I placed my objective in the open, almost as close to his as possible, with LoS so that Venoms could score my objective and shoot at his. Around 24" is perfect so that a Wych raider or even Incubi can position between the two to have the potential to move and score/contest either.

Round Two was Divide and Conquer. Spearhead deployment, Five Weighted Objectives placed in the center of the board and the center of each table quarter. The Objective in the middle was worth 3, your opponents deployment zone objective 2, and all others 1. Chaos Space Marines on foot was the matchup. One defiler, a unit of terminators, two oblits and two big troop units, one being thousand sons. He deployed first with the entire Dark Eldar army in Reserve.

I thought that this mission and matchup was good for me also. His army had two troops and no vehicles. I was wary of some kind of trap and wanted to take advantage of the long table edge to get to his 2pt objective. Looking back I wish I had deployed the two Ravagers to hunt the defiler. I thought hard about the Venom/Wrack units, they could pound on the Chaos troops longer if deployed, but did not want to risk basically giving away troop count - his army had enough firepower to wipe out a troop unit or two or three with shooting alone if given the chance, so I didnt.

Reserve deployment almost hurt bad but my plans worked in the end. I choose destroying his most expensive unit, the large CSM troop at 345pts as my personal bonus objective. Only because it seemed very easy and went along with my primary strategy of slaughtering troop units. My plan was to kill one or both troop units, contest the middle objective and hold his 2pt objective. Plan B was the last stage to pull off Plan A, and it was to circle the three small objectives and contest the middle. So I basically shot the CSM unit and eventually assaulted it with a Wych squad for the kill. Incubi/Archon and 2nd unit of Wyches didnt come into the game until the bottom of turn 5, Time was short for some reason, and even with the round ending about 1.5 minutes into my turn 6, Plan B paid off and the win was mine.

Round Three End Around vs ORKS! Pitched battle deployment tweak gave us 24" swaths along the short table edge (thirds.) The mission was black and white Annihilation, and the Ork player won the roll off and went 2nd. Of course, the entire Dark Eldar force went in Reserve. He fielded a battlewagon and four trucks, a choppa, a unit of warbikes, burnas in the bwagon with bigmek and warboss with nobz in a truck, three units of boyz in the other trucks.

Probably should have Deployed the Ravagers and Razorwing but that would have affected how he moved around the board turn 1/2 - either good or bad for me. I am very inexperienced against Orks and was entirely unsure of shooting capability's and effectiveness. Also didnt want to give him a chance to overwhelm any element in my army with waaagh etc.  From reserve I can almost always pick all of my battles, even dictate the back and forth of the whole game some times. His army spread out in a half-moon, threatening both corners of my long table edge. warbikes, battlewagon and warboss/nobz towards the middle. He seemed poised to strike fast.

More then half my army came in turn 2. Gunboats on the right and troops on the left spearheaded by the Incubi. I hugged the board edge and drove as deep as possible with Aethersails and flatout. I was sure he couldn't assault anything without a Waaagh, and not much with it anyways. Right away the Ravagers popped the warboss truck despite bigmek cover. The Razorwing dropped its missiles in another awesome bombardment. I killed a trukk and a couple nobz, put two wounds on the warboss, to me the satisfaction came from putting the warboss on foot, smack in the middle of the board, far away from anything he could kill.

The Ork player split his forces. Troop trukk and warboss/nobz going towards gunboats on right and the rest of his army left towards the Incubi, Wyches, and Wracks. His choppa came in, battlewagon turned around, he shot a ton of str5 shots with little effect. One of his trukks had unloaded a big unit of boyz and he Waaaghed to get into combat with my fast skimmers on the left, immobilizing the Wrack Venom and Incubi Raider. To me everything just gave up a turn of movement by turning around, and the Waaagh was wasted.

The rest of my army came in turn 3. Wyches zoomed around, Incubi and Wracks stayed inside their transports. There was juicy boyz squad to assault but there was also more boyz, burnas in a battlewagon, and a warbike unit inbound. Gunboats blasted at boyz Trukk and nobz doing very little, but on the left I murdered the boyz that got out and charged, and then waited inside for the next wave, terrified at what the burna unit might do if things went well for the Orks.

He closed in on the left with his whole army and pounced as well as an Ork army could pounce. Boyz on the right attacked a Ravager. Warbikes got closer. Battlewagon positioned for flamer fun, choppa started the shooting, and with a ton of str5 shots the Orks eventually exploded the Incubi raider. It wasn't what the Orks wanted or needed, they assaulted the Incubi and Archon inside, eventually killing the Incubi that survived Ork shooting phase. The Archon lived and consolidated - ready show the Orks what real a pounce was.

Turns 4 and 5 were a whirlwind of Dark Eldar slaughter. It started with the Wyches getting out to murder the battlewagon and trukks with haywire grenades. The Archon made short work of the bigmek and burnas. Dark Lances and Splinter Clouds did the rest, and the game ended turn five with a quiet ...two... Dark Eldar Victory 9 to 5.

The Ork general was meticulous but probably made a big mistake with the Turn 2 Waaagh. I piled on one side of his army and intended to stay away from the warboss and warbikes as much as possible. Killing the battle wagon with little casualties in Annihilation was a feat that needed to be approached surgically. This Dark Eldar List seems to have 11 lances but they quickly burn down to 8 and then 6 depending on the matchup, deployment and other circumstance. He also spread out somewhat with the intention of smacking me down when I flew in, but it worked against him giving me a thinner longer army line to work with then normal. My units fought his one at a time, and the Archon personally got 3 killpoints. We both tried to get quickly ahead by killing vehicles and it never worked really, but eventually I was able to stack up points on turn 4 and 5.

In the 2nd and 3rd games I am sure I could have deployed more or all of my army and overpowered both opponents. I was skeptical of traps and understand the weaknesses of the Dark Eldar and my army build. I never once in any situation wanted to allow my troop strength to be diminished. I wanted to always use my mobility, attack his troops, and play the mission with each move. I was focused entirely on leveraging my troop strength for the win and bonus points each mission. The Ravagers and Razorwing are much more expendable then I have been treating them but I am sure my caution and gamesmanship are what paid off the most throughout the tournament.

The Razowing, Splinter cannons, Incubi, and Archon have been just plain slaughter all day everyday. Wych units are by far the MVP due to utility. Wracks are awesome because of cost more than anything else. Liquidfiers have become the real hidden bite, there are four of them in this army. Ravagers are dependable and suprise the enemy with massive AV11 armor! Whats next? You will see the Trueborn, and they will be quite deadly!

Hope this After Action report has been useful,

Thanks everyone!