Sometimes you just have to go out and play a ton of warhammer.
This weekend, I attended the Flames of Autumn Major at Tables and Towers games in Westminster Maryland. Some big names were there, and it was an interesting field, with five Dark Angels players, two absolutely fearless heroes running Tau, and a handful each of AdMech/Drukhari. Because I was quickly relegated to the non-winners bracket, my rogue’s gallery alternated between Space Marines and Custodes, as usual.
Typically when I attend events, it’s with a big group of Goonhammer people and I stay in a hotel on-site, but this time I was commuting an hour in, and while I knew a few people here (shoutout to Fyeya, a Goonhammer Patron who is actually the one that told me about the event in the first place, and Shane Watts, a Goonhammer whatever the opposite of a Patron is. Patree?), I was largely flying solo. I love the Nerd Summer Camp vibe, but there’s something to this as well. Between rounds, with no hustling to track down Rob or Scott to mainline glizzies, I found myself sitting at the table with the event packet and pairings list, thinking about strategy for the upcoming missions, which secondaries I’d choose, and trying to course-correct mid-stream.
Outside of warhammer, I like to think I’m pretty good at knowing what my problem is, to probably an actively harmful degree of Overthinking It, but I’ve never had the mental space – inside or ouside of actively playing a game – to truly be alone with my thoughts in the hobby, and try to smush all the random dumb ideas down into something resembling introspection. There’s always too much going on that I need to react to, and I can’t settle down enough to give anything serious consideration. You might expect this new approach to be reflected in my scores, but reader, it was not.
Here’s the list I brought. I actually tried this time. Even ran it past the Competitive Crew here to get feedback, with the massive caveat that it had to use models I already had due to time constraints this past week, such as my house sprung a leak and Goonhammer needed to be re-launched.
A Cruel Gregel’s Thesis Dark Angels, 2000 points, 104PL, 8CP Deathwing Vanguard Detachment 0CP 140 HQ Belial (Warlord) 110 EL Deathwing Command Squad (3 models, 2x2LC, 1xChainfist) 75 EL Deathwing Command Squad (2 models, 1x2LC, 1xPowerfist) 240 EL Deathwing Knights (5 models, Watcher in the Dark) 195 EL Deathwing Terminators (5 models, 1 chainfist, 1 assault cannon) Ravenwing Outrider Detachment -4CP 175 HQ Ravenwing Talonmaster (relic: Arbiter’s Gaze) 135 EL Ravenwing Apothecary (chief, selfless, etc) 90 FA Bikes (3 models) 90 FA Bikes (3 models) 90 FA Bikes (3 models) 240 FA Land Speeder Typhoons (2 models, MM/ML) 210 FL Dark Talon 210 FL Dark Talon
Dark Angels, 2000 points, 104PL, 8CP
Deathwing Vanguard Detachment 0CP
140 HQ Belial (Warlord)
110 EL Deathwing Command Squad (3 models, 2x2LC, 1xChainfist)
75 EL Deathwing Command Squad (2 models, 1x2LC, 1xPowerfist)
240 EL Deathwing Knights (5 models, Watcher in the Dark)
195 EL Deathwing Terminators (5 models, 1 chainfist, 1 assault cannon)
Ravenwing Outrider Detachment -4CP
175 HQ Ravenwing Talonmaster (relic: Arbiter’s Gaze)
135 EL Ravenwing Apothecary (chief, selfless, etc)
90 FA Bikes (3 models)
90 FA Bikes (3 models)
90 FA Bikes (3 models)
240 FA Land Speeder Typhoons (2 models, MM/ML)
210 FL Dark Talon
210 FL Dark Talon
I also made a cheat sheet for secondaries, stratagems, and some of the rules I always forget (who has CORE, who has ObSec, what my Auras are, etc), though by the end of the weekend I was able to play without referring to it often. Always make a cheat sheet, it’s a great time-saver. The final printed materials I made use of were the Goonhammer Score Sheet, and of course Buttscribe.
Game 1: Joe’s Black Templars
There’s an adage in competitive play, that the worse an army looks, the worse you’re about to get ruined in a game. This one put the lie to that.
Joe plays for Vindicta, and is a teammate of GHO US Champion and belt-holder Anthony Vanella. He runs a sharp Templars list, which he’s played in over 160 games, and the speed and tactical acumen he shows in games absolutely bears that out. He’s also, and this is the part that I wasn’t expecting, not just a good hobbyist but a legitimately great one. I took one look at his Templars and withdrew from the painting competition. There was no point entering if that dude was involved.
We’d both taken Oaths of Moment, which meant this game would boil down to a mad rush to slug it out at the center objective, and that’s a game his army plays a lot better than mine does. I do appreciate a game where I get crushed quickly instead of dragging it out, and on that count, this game delivered. Once my speeders and jets were down (which was: instantly), I had no answer for his three dreadnoughts, and it was just a matter of him taking out the trash. I was tabled on turn 4 – my only tabling of the event – with an hour left in the round. I appreciated the calm, workmanlike job he did dismantling my army. Nice guy to talk to, and I genuinely hope I see him again.
I lost, 100-49.
Game 2: John’s Guard/Custodes
I’m 38 years old. That’s not ancient by Warhammer standards, but it does put me in the upper tier of player ages, and I’m starting to see the appeal of playing with other Olds. Just a calmer vibe, a casualness to the social interactions, even if the game is still tight, and I have an easier time relating. What am I going to talk to a 25 year old about? Give me an Elder Millennial every time, we can chat about back problems and how stuff costs more than it used to. John is also a big fan of Goonhammer, so: hello.
We ran into each other a few more times over the weekend, and I’m always happy when people remember who I am, that’s why I got into this website in the first place. Would absolutely play him again.
The game itself didn’t go great for me. I started to learn at this point that Grind Them Down is a bad, bad, secondary for me, and that I should just be taking Retrieve Octarius Data every game. I’d avoided it because I only have 15 infantry models in my list, and they’re all expensive Terminators that need to be doing something more useful than ROD Activities, but given the skill level I’m at, I should take the easy 12 and stop overthinking it. This is my plan now unless the game seems obviously skewed: Oaths of Moment, ROD, and whatever else, probably Assassinate because I don’t have to think about it a lot.
I lost, 77-31.
In between this game and my third, another very nice Dark Angels player came by to tell me how much he liked my army. In a show of stunning Unforgiven Solidarity, he noticed that one of my Knight’s maces had broken off (I dropped a Land Speeder on it during a movement phase in game 1), and came by to offer a selection of fine adhesives. Absolute champion. He was also running a variation on the 40 Terminators list I proposed a few weeks ago, though I was too nervous of the answer to ask if it was my article that inspired him.
Game 3: Cutter’s Raven Guard successors
Something I like to do before events is go through BCP and see if there are any cool names in the attendees list. In this game, I was playing against one Cutter Steele. I don’t know if that’s his real name, and I don’t care: what matters is that he went into BCP and entered his name as Cutter Steele, and in doing so became incredibly powerful. Pleasant enough guy, and I can empathise with no one being at their best going into hour eight of a day’s warhammer when all you have to show for it so far is crushing losses. I’ve been here enough times that it doesn’t (usually) bother me, but I get it.
Cutter was running a Raven Guard successor based on Alpha Legion, so his models were a mix of Phobos marines and converted models (Raptors as VenVets, Custodes wardens with spears as Bladeguard, etc – all very cool, and readable, if not entirely WYSIWYG). This was the only game where I encountered a psyker, and even then I didn’t get to use the Watcher’s free Deny because the phobos librarian bum-rushed the center and got clobbered. Not much else I was going to use those five points on, but it was definitely a waste.
The game felt pretty swingy, but it was in my favor until his deep strikes hit on turn 3. It was bad enough when his Terminators evicted me from my Free Real Estate of Stubborn Defiance, but I wasn’t truly out of it until his Bladeguard effortlessly carved through a full-strength unit of Deathwing Knights in one turn, and a full-strength unit of Deathwing Terminators on the next. Through a combination of chapter tactics and stratagems, every six to hit in combat was 1 auto-wound (bypassing my main defense, the Inner Circle permanent-transhuman ability) plus another regular wound roll. This was also my only game one day 1 that almost ran to time (we finished totalling up our scores right as the 5 minute warning was called).
I lost, 86-64.
After the game, Fyeya and one of his teammates came by, and I found out that he was 2-1 with his sisters, with the stated goal of placing in the top 4 in order to force Wings to write about his off-meta Sisters list in Competitive Innovations.
Game 4: Bye
We started with an odd number of players, which meant someone got a bye every round. This time, it was me, which is when and where I am right now, writing this.
I’m not super cracked up about missing this particular game, if I had to pick one to miss – The Scouring is a trash mission – but I did wake up at 7:30 and drive 45 miles just to wait around for hours before I could throw any dice. Between the event dropping down by a round and this bye (there was no ringer, so I was free to wander), I got 4 games instead of the promised 6, and also only one all day on Sunday, which doesn’t feel great. I’m not blaming the TO for this – odd numbers make up almost half of all possible numbers, and so byes are inevitable and randomly assigned – but “spend three hours bumming around the mall” doesn’t hold the same cachet for me that it did 20 years ago.
I won, technically, 85-0.
Game 5: Will’s Custodes
This is a look into the future from where I’m writing this, but I’ll go ahead and say now that I probably lose, maybe like 75-40.
UPDATE: Results are in and this is the only loss that pissed me off. Not because of my opponent, he was great to game with and had a good sense of humor, but I’m angry with myself. This is the only loss of the weekend that I felt was directly my fault, where a win was in reach and I let it get away from me. I had a plan, picked good secondaries, and his army wasn’t massively better than mine, but I made two big mistakes that I think ended up costing me the game.
One, I continue to vastly overestimate how much damage I can do to Custodes with shooting, and split my fire too much on turn 1 (he went first, but as I’d done the Coward’s Deployment, not much happened, so I was fully intact going into my turn), failing to kill a single unit but damaging several. Two, I had screened out his deep striking Telemon with bikes, and then I brain-farted on the bottom of two and moved the goddamn bikes away onto an objective, giving him a clear path to ram a giant robot onto my Priority Target/Stubborn Defiance castle. Just stupid, stupid, mistakes, only exacerbated by not having any other games on the day to balance it out.
I lost, 68-93.
What Did We Learn
For once, actually, something. I learned that this list might have legs, but that I need to stop relying on expensive fragile vehicles for handling armor, or at least be more careful with them, especially because I keep running to Vanguard Vets and Custodian Jetbikes that just charge and murder the planes. Since Land Speeders aren’t CORE, they don’t get access to re-rolls on their scarce high-strength shots. I might swap the Deathwing Knights for Bladeguard Veterans, and use the extra leftover points to bulk out the bike squads, because those worked pretty well for holding objectives, but only being three models makes them a bit fragile. I also didn’t do enough deep striking, and Terminators are slow. If nothing else, the list was good enough that I want to play a variation of it again, instead of burning it all down.
There’s something else, too. I generally haven’t cared about wins and losses, but having gotten close to the top of the mountain (a single legitimate win), I am now done with semi-ironic detachment. I need to win a tournament game. I don’t care if it’s Seigler or just a kid that’s never played before, using a borrowed army. I want to crush someone’s models and play around in the wreckage, and when I win 100-40 I will throw my head back and roar into the sky. I want to pound the table with my fists and scream until something in my throat rips, and then I am going to point a finger at God and challenge Him for the throne. There’s blood in the water, and for once I want it to belong to someone else.