Had a game last week where I faced off against Laur’s Ultramarines (again).
In my very first outing with my new Grey Knights, I had a Strike-squad Razorback list, with Coteaz and a henchmen base, with the Dreadknight & a squad of Teleporting terminators, all my cool new toys to play with for a 1000 points! Laur went with a real rock list of Lysander, Terminators in a Landraider, with a Devastator squad, and 3no. 5-men MSU squads. Laur went 1st and the game was more or less equally matched but ended up to the point where the best dice-roller (not me) won in Killpoints, having blown up most my Razorbacks to edge over a victory with Killpoints.
Cue the re-invention of my Grey Knights as a Ghostwing force. Will they fare better against Laur’s notoriously competitively-listed and well-played Ultramarines? At 1500 points, I present to you a mini-batrep..
THE FORCES ARE GATHERED
I’ve toyed with the idea of bringing a Draigowing force, but for the now I was convinced to stick with the Ghostwing. After all, they had done so well against Dougie’s Chaos, hadn’t they?
We rolled off for both mission type and deployment, which was Capture & Control (5no. objectives) and Spearhead. Laur rolled off to go 1st which I thought was alright (as my deepstriking force is built primarily for the 2nd turn to negate a round of shooting) but had niggling doubts over the objective-based nature of the game. With only 2, potentially 3 scoring units in which I knew exactly how my Grand Strategy would remedy this, I realised the odds were going to be stacked against me until then the curtain was pulled back to reveal Laur’s army...
Welcome to the Ultraspam
To my horror, Laur elected to bring a Tactical-squad spam army, with no less than 4 tactical squads, some to be combat-squadded and some not, and a total of 6 Rhinos, with 2 Librarians for Psychic Hood goodness and Psy powers to give himself and squads a 5+ invulnerable save, as well as forcing me to re-roll successful invulnerable saves. Looks like someone definitely boned up on their anti-Grey Knight tactics the past week!
With mobility, numbers, steadfastness and plenty of dangerous small arms and plasma fire to his side, all I could hope for is to deepstrike, survive, deploy the rest of my Terminators, and hopefully crunch face in the assault to overwhelm my opponent, like I did in my last game.
THE BATTLE COMMENCES
5no. objectives are placed pretty sparsely and far apart in equal zones, bar the middle board which has 3no. objectives pretty clustered, and Laur deploys his Rhino car park in such a manner where they’re parked up pretty tightly to this centre, due to Spearhead. Oh how I wish I was using my IG Manticores at this moment!
My Dreadknight, psyfleman and Mordrak himself I make scoring, and deploy them far enough to get shots in, and hopefully close enough to assault with my Dreadknight on the 1st go, everything else will come in on reserve.
The game starts and Laur’s Rhinos are spread out a bit. Mordrak deploys into ruins, to give the squad a decent cover save against the plasma spam. The Dreadknight rushes ahead but falls short of an inch for a required assault, which is then paid in kind with a Sternguard squad unloading their combi-plasma to take it down. Ouch!
Mordrak and co. take a thorough beating with 4 squads full of tac fire as the rhinos rearrange their layouts and unload their passengers, but after an efficient round of shooting manage to pick off 2 Ghost Knights. I roll for my leadership test and horror of horrosr I get an 11, and Mordrak and Librarian starts getting chased off the board by the multiple Rhinos and squads being in (too) close proximity, thus I am unable to regroup with ATSKNF.
The rest of my Terminators do come into play with the homer before Mordrak, Librarian and Ghosts, disappear, but with their efficient shooting Laur uses Combat Tactics to force a Fall back movement on his own squads, and thus I am unable to assault any of them until the closing stages of the game (there is so much difficult terrain in the table and my low rolling for moving through it results in groups of terminators moving 2, 3 inches and failing to close in Assault range.) Any assaults that do occur are negated by Psychic Hood rolling, and while I rely on cover saves as a remedy against the plasma, there were crucial moments where Laur's ability to force me to re-roll successful invulnerable* saves tipped the balance to his favour.
All in all, a pretty dire game for the Grey Knights (Psyfleman has lacklustre shooting, only shaking Rhinos here and there and ends with a standoff against a contesting Rhino & tac squad on his own objective he had been babysitting the whole game), but Laur almost throws the game away (how I wished) when a few of my Terminators manage to assault and chase off tac squads off their objectives (which they eventually recover to re-contest).
Game ends with him holding 1 objective to my none (him and I are equally contesting 2 others), and only 1 of my Terminators survive the game, the rest having been shot to pieces by rolling ‘1’s on dice to mass bolter fire. A definitive win for Laur, whereas the whole game I’ve scrabbled to chance a draw, a complete mirror image of the game between me and Doug!
A hard lesson learnt by me, again from our resident competitive player. In my attempt to do what Grey Knights do best (Assault the Shooty, Shoot the Assault), I failed to take into consideration the Ultramarines Combat Tactics which allowed them to fail Morale tests when required, which Dougie sympathised with me at the game’s end as he regularly falls foul of this being our resident Chaos Space Marine player.
What this game taught me is:
1. Ghostwing: There is such a thing as a bad mission & objective-style matchup.
My Ghostwing list is designed to dominate and overwhelm, especially in Annhilation missions. In Objective games, I would’ve again relied on killing opponent’s troops to give myself that edge (as would Draigowing) but in this instance I failed miserably. Conversely the opposite is true, as Laur could not hide his glee in getting a multiple objective-based game and his masses of meched-up, flexible and survivable troops which put me on the backfoot before it even started.
2. Ghostwing: There is such a thing a putting all one’s egg in the same basket. And if you do so there's a time and place for it.
Ghostwing as I perceive it, is designed to go big or go home. All Terminators, all-deepstriking, all supporting Mordrak, but this precisely played into Laur’s strategy. He would cordon off Mordrak and deploy his Rhinos and tacs in such a way to deny me my assault. Mordrak buggering off due to an unlucky roll was just icing on the cake as he would’ve gotten a 2nd turn assault and put a spanner in my opponent’s plans but alas that was not to be. Low but elite bodies means every model counts as a GK player, and unfortunately a third of my force is instantly negated on a bad roll, which had the domino effect of me losing the game, which in turn changed from a ponderous, tense deepstriking assault game into a ducks-in-a-barrel shooting game, to my opponent’s delight.
A clever opponent will always be able to see, and counter, the trick that holds together a trick list.
3. Ghostwing: There is no such thing as point-and-click. Use with caution.
Laur and I have this habit of experimenting with army lists due to the variety of models that we have in our collections. Laur has done biker lists, drop pod lists, predator spam, Landraider rock-lists, and now tactical marine spam. But every time he does so he wields these one-sided lists with a degree of precision and admittedly some good luck, in which he has consistently won most of his games against both Dougie and me. I, on the other hand, have tried this ‘trick-list’ method but have never quite managed to get above winning 25% of my games with Laur. This, obviously, did not help that I was the resident punch-bag Imperial Guard player, which of course made every victory sweeter when it did occur!
Now with GK, and with the wisdom of the Internet behind me, this should have changed right? Well, maybe it has and maybe it hasn’t, but what I do know is that I will have to start wielding Ghostwing with more finesse. Maybe NOT deploy Mordrak and all the Terminators in at once offering them up as a large target, changing my strategy depending on each opponent, matchup, deployment and mission, which brings me to my last and final point.
Thinking I could play Ghostwing point-and-click was a weak strategy. Letting Laur lull me into thinking I had no other choice but to play it point-and-click (congregating it onto the cluster of objectives and trying to survive a war of attrition) was another failing. Never again!
4. Ghostwing: Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you have to.
Mordrak’s First to the Fray is a great ability, a human Drop Pod. Combo him with a Librarian and Teleport Homer and you have a great, fluffy, fun, competitive, and playable army methodology to bring forth time and time again. But in this instance, my opponent was ‘ready for it’. What could I have done?
I could’ve played more defensively instead of going all-out aggressive. I could’ve used the natural advantage of GK’s being king of the midfield, wielding my psycannons and Stormbolters to stun, shake and wreck the Rhino car park to my advantage. I could’ve taken him apart in a piecemeal fashion, focusing fire on his stragglers and minnow down his numbers. Instead, that was what he had done to me, as I felt that I had not really any other choice but to charge right in and hope for the best (come on 2+ armour!) but alas luck was not on my side.
I could’ve split my Terminator squads, deploying some on the board to provide a distraction, lumbering forward and capturing objectives the traditional way while Draigo flys in with deep strike attack on a weak point, as opposed to forming a desperate beachhead in a hotly-contested piece of land in which the player with the weaker luck will ultimately have to give ground, which is what happened to me!
I could’ve mixed up my list a little maybe introduce a unit of Interceptors for greater flexibility in my games. After all, Annihilation is only 1/3rd of the game, right?
5. Ghostwing: Just because you're part of the new hotness doesn't mean the old hotness can't still burn you.
Ultramarine tactical and rhino spam, and maxed-out librarians? Despite all the fancy new bling the GK can bring, good old Ultramarines can still bring their 'A'-game and combos to play amongst the big boys. In many ways proof that the old Space Marine Codex is still a force to be reckoned with, and one of the (many) codices that can still prove fun, playable, and versatile in the modern 40K game.
Obviously, should Mordrak have passed his Leadership test things would’ve turned out a little different. Obviously had I realised that Laur would manipulate his squads with ATSKNF I would’ve refrained from shooting, then assaulting them. Obviously I would’ve played my Dreadknight more carefully should I hav known it would fall foul of combi-plasma spam. Obviously!
Ultraspam. An acquired taste.
‘What-ifs’ aside, I played a risky strategy and it didn’t really pay off, especially against an opponent who is quite prepared for it. I should’ve finetuned it, tweaked it a bit, and played Ghostwing in a fashion that can still exploit its strengths but undermined my opponent’s simultaneously. Because I didn’t do that, despite all the ‘what-ifs’above, I know in the back of my mind I would’ve still have had to struggle, or have been incredibly lucky, to pull off a victory, let alone a draw (I mean 8 possible scoring units Vs my 3 potential units? Ouch).
Live and learn!
*correction, thanks to eagle-eyed reader!
*correction, thanks to eagle-eyed reader!