Friday, 29 January 2010

Wednesday Games Night: Battle of the Wheels of Steel

When I told L, our local Marine player, to prepare for the arrival of the ‘New Dirteh Basterds’, with new toys, new tricks, and new tanks of the 5th Edition Imperial Guard codex, I was over the moon with excitement. Finally, a 2000 point game, with my rats, my Psykers, Marbo, Straken, all the sweeties in the candy shop. Little did I realise, like myself, my opponent had brought a list of PAIN.

So without further adieu, here’s a nice little graphic legend showing the forces at play (I’ll be referring to my opponent’s forces as Ultrasmurfs for ease of reference. I know they ‘count as’ Raven Guard bikes, but If they look the part...), that memorable Wednesday night gone past:

“Bikers, and bikers, and bikes, oh my!”

List & Terrain Analysis

I had previously discussed my reasonings as to the wheres and whatfors of the selections of my list. A touch of chimeltas spam. Some cheeky anti-MEQ tanks. The long arm of the battlecannon. And as many cute little special character toys I could fit into 2000 points, with hopefully a hint of competitiveness and charm (hence ratlings).

While I understand some people’s concerns regarding a ‘Catachan Mechanised’ brigade going somewhat against the ‘established fluff’ of the Catachan Jungle Fighters, I just say “Hey it’s in the rules”, and “Hey it’s just a game”, and “Hey! Only not too long ago Catachan’s couldn’t get access to Heavy tanks or even Lascannons”. If Ol’ Iron Hand’s going to have to commandeer a Chimelta, by the Will of the Emperor, he’s gonna do so!

Without fully knowing my opponents forces in advance to remove the possibility of list tailoring, I expected drop pod assaults at the forefront, or even a Raven Guard-style jump pack assault force, or Landraider spam. The thought of Biker spam to rush me DID cross my mine, but I did think to myself “L surely doesn’t have the model count, and so would not proxy them surely”.

How was I supposed to anticipate that he would purposely buy 13no. new painted bikes off Ebay to supplement his existing 6no. unpainted, unglued bikes, just so he could get run a competitive biker spam list? ;) (that one’s for you, L, if you’re reading).

So I discounted that and resigned the possibility of taking hellhounds, banewolves, hydras, and other anti-biker goodness to the dark corners of my mind. Surely my pimped-up heavy stubber defensive, multi-laser & heavy flamer-kitted Chimeltas were more than adequate, even with an ultra-mobile, ultra-tough biker list of an opponent. My mobility, flexibility, durability and firepower would hopefully minnow down the enemy numbers, making every loss really, really hurt. And I had the advantage of knowing the lie of the land!


*ahem* A slightly revised map to the one discussed previously, with almost the same setup. D, our Ork player/invigilator spent a day making new river sections on the table, and jumbled everything around. So the terrain was re-setup, and as you can see there is now a lot less difficult terrain, and a more established zone of ‘blind spots’ from the three-level hills. 4+ ‘buildings’ are still there, elevated positions and ‘difficult zones’ to force bikes to circumvent them. The rivers still snake around in a way that hopefully, I’ll get to use to my advantage with the chimeltas amphibious rule, and with my previous thoughts I would get to use the terrain to my advantage. Or will my opponent turn the table on me and do so instead?

NOTE: The one thing I will point out here is after going through each other’s lists as an introductory overview as per the force graphic, L mentioned that there is a particular item/upgrade/something he had paid for in points in the list, that was SECRET, and I was not allowed to know about it, otherwise it would impact the way I played the game. I countered that I had nothing to hide and gave full transparency of my list to him, and thus the opposite should apply (as we won’t be making any last minute modifications to give a pre-knowledge edge over the other), but this was counter-overruled by our third-party invigilator, D, who said L can play it the way he likes it without me knowing what it was that was ‘going to happen to me’. And it was his board and his place.

I thought this both a little unsporting, and unfair, but against my wishes and protest, the game was played anyway not knowing what this was that was so earth-shattering, and also having not been given the opportunity to pull out a secret magic ace-in-the-hole myself, so watch this space!

Mission & Deployment

We roll off. The mission is Annihilation! That means Kill Points!

Waitaminnit. Aren’t KP missions bad for IG overall?

Let’s see: I have a total of 14 KPs, compared to the Marine’s 12 or 16 depending on how he partitions his squads with regards to Combat Squads.

So, could be good could be bad. I do know my Chimeltas are a lot more survivable than naked infantry, even in good cover (as you need time to finally pop the cans of spam before getting to the meat inside)..

What’s the Deployment?

Roll off. Dawn of War.

Bleurgh. Dripfeeding our armies in? Playing a ‘I react’ ‘You react’ ‘I react’ off-the-cuff game? No thanks. So we roll off again.

Still Dawn of War. Right, right, third time lucky? We re-roll for the final time. Whatever comes up must stick this time!

Dawn of War. It must be fate.

We roll off to see who goes first. The Marines get to go first, but elect to use HQ Shrike’s infiltration ability to join a squad of ‘Troops’ (a 5-men squad of bikers, bikers being troops apparently due to the Captain being a biker), along with a 10-men squad of close-combat kitted Scouts.

So, I have to deploy first, then the guy who goes first deploys after me 18” range in full sight or 12” hidden, thus getting me in close-combat on the first turn with fleet and whatnot? Argh. I had better steal the initiative later!


I put my 2no. Chimeltas, and HQ in the river, hopefully in a way to make the enemy’s life a bit more difficult, giving me good line of sight and close enough to each other to give multi-laser/flamer backup, while leaving room to move if I need a quick getaway. I declare Marbo (as per his rules) and Harker (outflanking) in reserve, with the rest of my men coming in on Turn 2.

Happy as a Chimelta in mud.

The Marines set-up their scouts 18” away from my forces, but Shrike and his bikes ‘hide’ behind the building, and so are 12” away from me. I curse the fact that I hadn’t realised that the building itself can function as a blind spot, but then I realise with Shrike’s jump pack moves and/or the bikes 12” move, 6” charge reach, this is pretty much a non-issue. It’ll now be my job to just sit there and take my lumps, and hopefully survive to dish out the dirt later. L declares the rest of his Marines will come in on Turn 2

I do a final roll to steal the initiative. Nope, the Ultrasmurfs go first! So, onwards to the battle-report, complete with photoshopped map graphics, photos and highlights:


1. All ‘scouts’ do their scout move, come into range, run (the scouts) and charge. Who cares about Night-fighting?

2. Scout sarge powerfists one of my Chimelta’s, wrecking it. Shrike & his bikes blow up another, the blast killing 4 vets in total, in my 2no. disembarked squads.

Chimeltas meet Shrike Bikes & Scouts. Shoryuken with the Powerfist baby!

Score is 2KPs to the Marines, Zero to the Guard. Good start (for the Marines). Rackum frackum.


1. My turn to react. Vets move out of the way for Straken’s ride to flame the bikers. I’m using a template weapon. What’s Night-fighting again? Vets also shoot said enemy, thus 3 bikers die and Shrike takes a wound (leaving him 2no. left).

2. The other vets pour out melta & shotgun fire, charging the Scout Squad with Straken’s furious charge influence. They lose 2 of their own but kill 8 in total, though the Scouts hold their nerve.

Yoga flame = Roast Ravens tonight!
Score is the same as per last turn.


1. The rest of the Marines come on board, turbo-boosting and jumping their way across the board. Vrooom vroom. Man, that’s an impressively long reach they have.

2. Shrike separates from the bikes and goes for some vets. Bikes explode Straken’s ride, killing the Master of Ordnance and a Meltavet, and 2 vets from the squad in the river. They ruined Straken’s ride! He’s not gonna be happy..

3. Combat! Scouts lose one more, but the power-fist Sarge chews up the rest of the vets, and consolidates. Shrike kills 4 more vets, but succumbs to the Vet Sergeant’s powersword. Take that Shadow Captain of the Raven Guard’s 3rd Company, take that into your pipe and smoke it!

The Macragge branch of the Hell's Angels ride their bike convoy in unison

Score is 4KP’s to the Marines, to 2KP’s to Guard. Now we’re talking!


1. With the Astropath still alive, Harker and Marbo pop out where I want them. The rest of the Catachans arrive in a slightly bunched-up deployment, in the hopes that this will deny the manoeuvrability of the bikers somewhat, and force him to face my army in its entirety. Or so the thinking goes. The remaining vet hides in the pile of Ratlings and passes himself off as one of them, in order to be overlooked for purposes of denying my opponent a Kill Point. Tee-hee!

2. A hidden ‘scout bike cluster mine’ blows up underneath the PBS’ chimera, but luckily doesn’t damage it. It’s location had been determined ‘in secret’ on a scribbled piece of paper, verified by our third party referee. All I can say is if it DID blow up my PBS, I would have been a very unhappy camper I can tell you...

3. First of the new toys, the PBS try to weaken the resolve of the bikers near the Landspeeder, but roll an 11 on their Psychic test. Lovely.

3. Straken gives an order, and kills the straggling vet, while Harker and his ride kill 4 bikers.

4. A Russ takes out the Landspeeder Storm. Boo-yah!

5. Marbo misses. Maximum scatter on a double 6 (with BS5, it's 7" away now). Nuff’said.

6. The rest of my tanks try to kill the Captain and his bikes. Only 4 plasma blasts connect, but the 3+ turbo boost save is just too good.

Score is 4KP’s to the Marines, to 4KP’s to Guard. Optimism is high!


1. Bikes turbo boost again, ready to get to the tanks next turn. Everything else advances steadily. Jump troops go right into the river, passing their dangerous terrain test.

2. Scouts shoot at Marbo with their side arms. With only 2 shots wounding, and me thinking he’s in Difficult terrain (4+) and has Stealth USR (+1 to cover save), I choose not to Go To Ground (WHY??) to save on a 3+ cover save. Fails both and dies. Nuff’ said.

3. A bike stuns Harker’s ride, while a double-twin-linked autocannon armed Dread, being able to see Harker, successfully kills the Astropath, Medic, Meltavet AND wounds Harker once, even while going to ground to give a 3+ cover save. Hmm.

Marbo bites the dust.

Score is 5KP’s to the Marines, 4KP’s to the Guard. Alas poor Marbo, I knew him well.


1. Tanks move around a bit, primarily to try to give the Rats and PBS a good line of sight. Weaken Resolve and Pinning Test on Bikers HERE I COME. I roll a Psychic test for the PBS. Double 6’s. NOOOOOOOO. (The Overseer shoots 3 in the head, splattering their gory remains inside the Chimera). The Rats & Chimera shoot at the Bikes anyway, but their 3+ cover save is still too good to beat.

2. With Straken down and Harker still stunned, there’s not much else to do but fire everything at the jump-pack assault squad (what I perceive to be the more necessary threat). Cannonfire, heavy bolters & plasmafire kill all but 1 (refusing to go to ground), though he holds his nerve too. Damn that high Marine leadership!

Hey ho the dairy o
The cheese stand alone.

Score is still 5KP’s to the Marines, 4KP’s to the Guard.


1. Tacticals disembark, and assault Harker’s ride with the remaining biker, while the lone Jump Troop jets away to deny me a much needed KP. Bikes get into position, while the Biker Captain detaches from his group.

2. Harker’s ride is stunned again, and the Marine scouts pin down the Ratling Snipers (Leadership 6 after all) after losing one to sniper fire. You know what they say, he who lives by sniper fire...

3. The Multi-melta attack bike successfully wrecks one of my Russes, and the Captain and Scout Bikers shake, shake and immobilise one Russ and half of my Executioner squad. Not too shabby for me, I thought! (Shame about the wreck).

How long is 12"? Why my dear fellow, it is as long as my
Best part of the game, figuring out how much dice to roll. 1... 2... 3.. 4...

Score is now 6KP’s to the Marines, still 4KP’s to the Guard. Oh dear.


1. Tanks manoeuvre even further to put some distance between them and the bikers, while Straken gets up and moves (1”) in difficult terrain. I note here that I forgot to run him out of LOS of the Dread, or give out any useful orders that may have assisted him or others, as we shall see in the next turn. Damn you ‘Senior Officer’ Orders ability!

2. The Psyker’s ride fires at the attack bike and his squad, and the PBS FINALLY pass their psychic test to fire a strength 6 blast. Unfortunately I roll a 5 for the AP value, so only 2 bikes are killed.

3. The Executioner fires it’s 3no. plasma plates (backwards! It’s front face AV14 is still facing the Dread’s autocannon. Sneaky) at the Captain, killing 2 more of the bike squad (the attack bike loses a wound being a 2 wound model), wounding the Captain twice (leaving him with 1 wound) and killing 2 more of the scout bike squad. Was hoping for a KP here, but good, reasoned, and proper wound allocation on the part of our Marine player ensures greater survivability of his bikes.

"I didn't manage to buy a painted attack bike off Ebay so here is my proxy."

Still 6 KP’s to the Marines, and 4KP’s to the Guard.


1. Bikes chase down the Executioners, although L makes the mistake of positioning his multi-melta attack bike to the side, as he gets a bit confused by my backwards/forwards tank turret. Tee-hee. Another of my Executioner’s becomes Shaken, though the other clears. Good news!

2. The lone biker and tactical finally blow up Harker’s ride (though losing 1 of their own in the ensuing explosion of debris). Horror of horrors, Harker and 2 Catachan Devils are shredded in the blast, and the squad breaks and runs for it.

3. The Dreads fire everything at Straken as they can still see him (D’OH!), and even with going to ground and getting a 3+ cover save, Straken bites the dust and the surviving melta vet loses his bottle and legs it off the table. Nice one.

Leman Russ Punisher (Executioner proxy) as driven by Knight Commander Baxter Frunnt.

Score is now a respectable 8 KP’s to the Marines, and yet again 4KP’s to the Guard. ARG.


1. Righty-o, it’s a stretch but I need KP’s to equalise here. If I kill the lone biker, blow up the Rhino, and mop up the biker Captain and 1no. wound attack bike. I’ll have a draw. Can I do it? YES I CAN! SELF-BELIEF WILL CAUSE INSANE GOOD LUCK ROLLS. This I know from my 3rd-edition codex days, that and better-painted armies win more games, yesiree.

2. I elect to use my PBS to flatten the biker. Come on Soul Storm! YOU CAN DO IT! I roll a Psychic Test, and get Double 1’s. Double D’OH! The Overseer executes yet another Psyker, but because it’s double 1’s I still get to use the power. But then it’s less effective Strength-wise, and it scatters.

Just. One. Of. Those. Days.

3. The fleeing vets are still in range to the Rhino (but not 6”) and melta away, with a single Shaken! Result. Definitely just one of those days.

4. My last unshaken Executioner kills the Attack Bike. And joy, of joys! A single Ratling manages to snipe the Captain, taking away his last wound and spilling his geneseed-enhanced brain all over the bloodsoaked rubble of the battlefield. Aaaaahh (This is why I take Ratlings now and then).

We roll off for the last time, and it’s a 2, and no more turns. We shake hands. Great game! (despite losing).

Final Scores: Marines = 8KP, Guard = 6KP.


In the land of ‘what-if’s’ I could have stolen the initiative, gone first and wiped out the scouts. I could have passed my Psychic tests and pinned down those pesky bikes, or flattened the last biker for much needed kill-points. I could have had more chimeltas spam to serve as survivable screens for my tanks, or I could have chosen different heavy support components that could lay down effective hurt onto the bikes. Or I could have even deployed my HQ/2 troops more aggressively to create more breathing space for my Russes, with the Chimeltas screening in advance.

But that is all to remain in the land of what-ifs.

I did learn that an all-biker rush list, can be pretty tough to fight even with chimeltas spam, especially going on the second turn and not having the heavy support there to dish out an effective rate of fire.

I also learnt that much of the ‘terrain exploitation’ I talked about in principle, didn’t apply so much in a game where the enemy turbo-boosts and jumps in and out of terrain, relying instead on using the terrain against me to their advantage.

Lastly I learnt I had sh!t dice. Always blame the dice!


Just kidding.

A quick VP analysis shows that the Marines gain a rough 1200 worth of victory points, and myself 1070 victory points (using the old method of full points for full wipe-outs and fleeing squads, half points for immobilised/weapon destroyed and squads under 50% strength), also compare 8 KPs, to my 6 (again in the land of what-if, if the game lasted a couple more turns I COULD have gained an extra 2 KPs, but then the Marines would claim the 1KP from my fleeing Catachan Devils as they run off the board). Therefore, a hard fought, close-game, not an out-an-out beating I would think, although at times it sure did feel like it.

D, our referee, reckoned I could have fared better if I split my incoming tanks & PBS in turn 2 at opposite corners, therefore forcing his bikers to split up even more. Perhaps I’ll try that next time.

I also realised that my 320 points of investment in the PBS, Marbo, and Ratlings, most certainly did not do me any favours, especially when they underperformed.

Straken, however, was a star team player. His Counter-attack & Furious Charge range is just pretty awesome. Some people say ‘Assaulty-Guard’ is laughable, but in this game it was I that did the laughing when Shrike got the living shrit kicked out of him.


1. The Mech Spamremacy: Even with the loss, this still proves to me that mech-ed up Guard with Chimeltas are a formidable force, definitely more survivable and pose a greater threat to enemies of all types. I had put heavy stubber and heavy flamers on the Chimeras and a power weapon and shotguns on the Vets to make them a greater, more credible threat, and combined with Straken can pose a danger to even heroes the like of Space Marine Captains. They are definitely worth it, and in future I will rely on this load-out in a more aggressive fashion to get stuck in into the enemy instead of hanging back and jamming up my more slower-moving forces.

2. Iron Hand's Has A Steady Pair: Straken is my new herocrush. Combined with mech and a medic, this Guard codex character really adds flavour, fun, and thrills to the game. Definitely take him again.


1. What’s This Nonsense About Where To Fight? Not following my own advice with regards to terrain, manoeuvrability, breathing space, etc. I should have either made a firm commitment to spreading my forces to spread the bikes apart and use my longer reach to minnow them down, sacrificing a unit or two for the greater good (tee hee), or formed a more impenetrable castle in a corner to use all my forces as one while his straggling bikes and scouts, etc are rendered useless. Also, in Dawn of War, I most definitely will deploy more aggressively, if the scenario was to be replayed again under the same conditions.

In hindsight, while putting my Chimeltas by the river seemed a terrific idea, this caused a downside in which I couldn’t really bunch up my Russes behind a wall of them, as difficult terrain and the ensuing traffic jam would make life even more difficult for me. In retrospect, I think not having enough space between tanks is definitely a weakness of mine and this was exploited by my opponent, so I hope to rectify this is my next game.

2. Putting All My Eggs In One Basket: Don’t. I relied too much on my new toys, new tricks, and new tanks, leaving me with a less effective solid core (e.g. chimeltas, screening infantry hordes, or even an al-rahem outflanking force maybe) to rely on. Too many spectacular gambles also resulted in too many spectacular failures. My Elites, were most definitely, a 360points block of uselessness.

3. Senior Officer Memory Loss: Forgetting to run Straken out of LOS, or bark out more useful orders (like Move! Move! Move!, or even Incoming! To stack up my got to ground + cover save) in the heat of the battle. So easy to forget, especially in the heat of battle!

4. When Shot At, Duck & Cover: Not making Marbo Go To Ground was a mistake, when he should have, as he would’ve been assaulted anyway, and I really needed him to stay alive. Scouts could have kicked his ass though, perhaps. Marbo may be good, but he's not that good surely.

5. Secret Ace In The Hole: I will come clean on this and admit the ‘hidden secret game-changing’ declared but undeclared Marine Scout Bike Cluster Mine did p!ss me off more than losing the game itself (evident by my grumpy look by my Turn 2, which would have been even uglier if it did do any real damage). I know it was only 10 points, but I called this up on L after the game, and he was under the impression that in the Space Marine codex this was the manner and method as to how a booby trap was to be played (in secret). We both reread the passage re: scout bike cluser mines (pg 67), and discovered that while the exact location/deployment of the booby trap is meant to be in secret (duh), he was in fact, supposed to declare straight up to me that this is indeed the case and that he had purchased booby traps/mines instead of "I paid for something cool but you can't know about it as it'll change the way you play which then defeats the purpose of me buying it", and apologised for his misinterpretation and the matter was resolved.

Perhaps I am taking the whole ‘list transparency’ thing a bit too seriously (after all it’s only a game, and some people even play ‘secret lists’ in certain games), but at the time I did feel personally aggrieved by this. Maybe I’ll write up another article re: list reveal, before, or during, or even after a game, but that’s for another time!


Am I right in saying that I had lost the game as a combination of a bad meta-game list? Bad deployment? Bad luck with the dice? A combination of all three?

Or perhaps was it a gamble my opponent made and it paid off this time? I also note that he too had some bad rolling, as I’m sure more of my Russes and Chimera’s should have blown up earlier and I was lucky this was not so.

Do Biker Spam trump Mech Spam? Should I bring some REAL Mech Spam (e.g. all Chimeltas) next game? Should I have played more aggressively (e.g. deployment, maybe even drop-troopin’ Stormies)?

Can Two Wheels of Steel really beat Four? (Or is it 52 wheels per tank track, I forget?)

Who knows. All I know is despite the loss, I did have fun, and so did my opponent.

I also hope you have all had fun reading, and dissecting this battle report as much as I have enjoyed producing this, for your contemplative armchair-general reading pleasure. Many t(h)anks, and the floor is yours gentlepersons. Critique away!

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