Adeptican’t: The Heart of the Hurricane

Like most people, most years, I also did not go to Adepticon last weekend. Instead, I took part in a Crusade-based Narrative campaign, which is a nicer way of saying I didn’t leave the house for two days.

You don’t hear much about wind shear anymore. I always remember it being a common thing in the news in the 80s and 90s, when it came to the reasons that civilian aviation takeoffs or landings would be considered, euphemistically, “unsuccessful”. It’s kind of like how cartoons trained us to worry about quicksand, only if you had particularly boring anxieties as a child.

This, and not my games, is what was going through my head Sunday night, during a slightly bumpy descent into Baltimore, on my way back from a weekend-long Crusade speedrun. A few of us had headed to the local Goonhammer branch office for a 48 hour corporate retreat. We had two items on our agenda: work on Administratum 2.0, and play a shitload of Warhammer.

I arrived with, as you’d expect, Booley’s Tau. Condit gave me a hard time because he was running fun and fluffy Torchbearers and I showed up with what he accurately described as “half of a tournament list”. In my defense, I’m so used to being forced into hyper-optimization by a bad Dark Angels book and having to balance out not knowing what I’m doing that I don’t know any other way to list-build anymore. Old habits die hard. He wasn’t wrong, and I did not come to play:

Ethereal Federation Space Force

Tau Army
Tau Army. Credit: Jack Hunter

Outer Enclaves, 999 points
Shas’o Amuro Ray: Enforcer Commander. Bagel plate, shield, 3 missile pods, Precision of the Hunter
Kamille Bidan: Ethereal. Stone, Grace, Humble Stave
Old Types: Breachers
New Types: Breachers
ECoAs: 4 stealths
Londo B’ell: 3 railsides with ATS/SMS and 2 shield drones
8th MS Team: crises suit, two with burst/burst/missile/shield, one with prototype burst/missile/missile/shield in an iridum suit

The rest of the field was pretty fun – the Torchbearers, Drukhari, Thousand Sons, Custodes that were run as Shadowkeepers instead of Emperor’s Chosen which gave the Thousand Sons a massive leg up – but my favorite list by some margin was the Orks.

Credit: Kevin Stillman

Our Ork player has got probably the most Orky attitude I have ever seen, to the point that he seemed to completely miss the point of Crusade. His 500 point list was 10 shoota boys, a battlewagon with no guns or upgrades, and Ghazkhull Thraka. At 1000, his full Order of Battle added two trukks of mega-armored Nobz, and Makari. Almost none of it was painted, and the 10-point margin nearly cost us a win in one of our team games.

Let’s break that down, because while this is clearly a crazy person’s idea, I think the breadth and depth of how crazy it is might not be immediately apparent. Might Makes Right, the signature Ork Crusade mechanic? Can’t use it. It doesn’t work on named characters, and those were the only kind of characters he had. Skrap points, the other signature mechanic? Can’t use that either, because he didn’t have a Mek. Agendas? Half of them are off the table because of his unit choices, and the killing-based ones barely matter because Ghazkhull was doing all the work, and he can’t gain XP from anything. A single table of Battle Traits, for Mobs, was usable, but there was only one requisition he could (and did, once) access – Specialist Mob. With no Characters, all the relics are also out. 

He brought an army with access to what is, still, to this day, one of the top-three Crusade supplements, and locked himself out of 90% of it, on purpose. Other than the Battle Traits, none of it was in play. And you know what? Who cares. Dude was having the time of his life, and nothing was funnier to him than when Ghaz’s wagon exploded and he rolled a 1 on the disembark to successfully die instantly. 450 points gone and dude just laughed. Meanwhile I’m over here chucking dice at Pendulin’s dome because he keeps mugging at me while his Custodes turn off my re-rolls over and over. One of us was obviously playing the game wrong, and I’m starting to think it wasn’t either of them.

Vertus Praetor
Vertus Praetor. Credit: Pendulin

That said, it was generally easy for me to enjoy myself, because I steamrolled most of my games. We played 6 total, so I got at least one matchup against all of them, and the only one I lost was to Rob blasting a zillion Mortals out of his Wizards. That was, incidentally, the only game where I didn’t bring my Broadsides, who ended up gaining 20XP over the Campaign. Once I realized that three SMS railsides and Breachers with re-rollable wounds could easily manhandle whatever was on the table, I was free to just play the missions with everything else. It got to the point that in Operation: Pipes, my game against Condit, I passed up shooting with Drop Zone Clear in order to Do Activities on one of his objectives. I didn’t need any extra firepower at that point, what I needed was to run up the score.

I wasn’t able to conquer the star system I rolled up, which is probably fair considering that it’s a major goal, and should take a bit longer than 6 games to do. I rolled up a whopping seven planets, in what I creatively named the Fucko system, and assimilated four of them. A less ambitious Shas’o could have targeted a smaller system for the Empire, but I’m not unhappy with this. The empire-building mechanic felt great to play through, and the minigame of deciding on the order of assimilation makes it less daunting than it seemed at first. When you’re gaining a single (ugh) Military Point every game, it can take long time to get things done, but felling planets in the right order can weaken others, which can then reduce the stats on another, and so on and so on. 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Some of the results here, I’m willing to chalk up to practice and personal improvements, but I have to accept that no grindset on earth will account for leap-frogging from 0-15 to 5-1. I’m not going to apologize for my reign of terror, because I did my time getting stomped to death on Caliban. I’ve paid my debt to society. Still, I do think that Tau shooting and resilience might be perhaps a touch too psychotic. Two changes I think, in the context of my particular army – that is, one that doesn’t run AFP bombs or a bunch of Stormsurges – are in order.

One, Outer Enclaves, as much as I love it, has to go. I’m already bracing for that, and trying to decide if keeping the Ethereal and his almost-guaranteed 5+ Feel No Pain and extra command point every turn is worth changing Septs over. Free markerlights are great and all, in both raw utility and simply not having to worry about tokens, but so is being able to spike 5+++ not-quite-saves on Broadsides to keep them alive long enough to take a Shield Captain’s head off in danger-close shooting. If Drop Zone Clear goes up from 2/3CP to 3/4CP, that might make the calculation easier, but frankly none of the Septs really seem better enough to make up for losing the tools that Farsight offers, even if it also re-locks Ethereals.

Secondly, we gotta talk about Mont’ka. I have to assume that something is going to happen to make that less of an auto-take, and make Kauyon even worth considering. I just hope it’s not the advance and shoot. I like the way this book plays too much, with parkour railsides and scooting breachers, and I’d gladly give up the re-rolls on wounds or the extra AP (there’s enough of that already) in order to keep it. It’s too much. Just way too much going on, on top of basic stat lines that are already good, when the combination of Farsight and Mont’ka is letting an 8 point troop model move 7-12 inches, hit twice on 3s, and wound at S6 re-rolling 1s (or re-rolling everything if you spend a single CP), at AP-3. That is neither a combo nor a wombo: it requires no support units nor auras. It’s just what they do. Bonkers.

So what did we learn here? The beauty of Crusade, and something that I forgot since I haven’t played this format in a while, is that you have the option to hop off and worry about your own business even if you’re getting rocked. Winning the game gives you rewards in the next one. If you’re losing the game, you can still accomplish your agendas. If you fail your agendas, you still get some XP, which can turn into Relics or Battle Traits. There’s a dopamine hit of indeterminate size waiting for you on the other side of any game, no matter the outcome. Rob was acting as player/GM, and we all used Administratum, so keeping tabs on all the paperwork has never been easier. It also helped a lot that we each had a pile of books and laptops for our communal post-game bookkeeping phase, so we got to hoot and holler whenever someone rolled up a Trait or Battle Scar. Just an incredible sense of communal Warhammer, and if you have the means I highly recommend putting together a weekend-long Ham Slam of your own. 

The one thing I’d change would be to, perhaps, eat a vegetable that isn’t chili peppers. I don’t think I ate anything that wasn’t a meat, carb, or jalapeno, and after a second wholesome breakfast of “a bunch of spicy hot dogs”, I genuinely thought I might die. I’m glad I didn’t, but it might have been worth it.

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