Oh no, not again. Greg, at an RTT.

I went to another event this weekend. A smaller one, 8 player RTT at a local game store.  I was still inexplicably confident in my Dark Angels, running the exact same list that I took to my GT last time. No, it didn’t work out so well then, but I had put that down to inexperience with the list and a few rough match-ups. This time would be different.

The weekend began with a warm-up game on Friday night, against Goonhammer accomplice Norman and his Death Guard. I lost – obviously – 68 to 82, though the game was only close because we rolled one of the harder missions for Death Guard. For his part, Norman would end up taking 2nd in the event, after running face-first into Grey Knights before taking out Guard and Orks.

This ended up being the best and closest game of my weekend, and on the best table. No offense to the FLGS, and I give them all the credit in the world for trying to kickstart a local scene, but the vibes were definitely a startup situation. The event ran on full-size 6×4 foot tables, not the normal 44×60 inch, and terrain was the usual mix of GW kits, third-party MDF, and some quite nice home-built cardboard and foam jobs. It mostly did the job, but especially on the extra-large tables, did feel a bit sparse. I’m sympathetic here as, having recently been in charge of procuring and building a bunch of tables, I know that it’s neither cheap nor easy. The store was nice enough, with friendly staff, and I’m not trying to rag on them. Just a big fan of the 4ground/Vanguard Tactics terrain set that I have at home. It probably also had something to do with the fact that my house has free drinks and snacks, better chairs, and no mask requirements (not, to be clear, that I don’t appreciate the store’s masking rules, just that it’s more comfortable to not be in public, and thus not have to wear one).

Saturday morning, and the doom crept in as soon as we arrived. Matching team jerseys on several players, and most of the current meta represented: Grey Knights, new Black Templars, Orks, and Drukhari. The field was rounded out by an Astra Militarum tank list, Tyranids, Norman’s Death Guard, and myself. What I’d hoped for – a bunch of children and yokels that had never attended an event before – was quickly looking like a real field of actual competitors. Covid protocols were good, at least, with required masking and ready supplies of delicious hand sanitizer.

The event had a custom secondary available for all games, where wearing a halloween costume would net you a free 15 points, and everyone was given the 10 points for painting even if they didn’t do the work. So I was dressed like a slice of pizza, starting every game with 25 points bagged, and only had to pick two secondaries. Seemed like a good start.

Game 1: Drukhari 

Venom. Credit: Corrode

I got paired against Drukhari, with 8 Venoms that I kept calling Raiders, being driven by one of the team Vindicta guys again. This is becoming a trend, matching into them round 1, and while I don’t love the outcomes they’ve all been great opponents and fun games. I got smoked, 92-52.

After, Norman and I met up with Goonhammer Patron Aranan, and grabbed lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. It was good, it was cheap, and the burritos were huge. The menu had something labeled “Grande Burrito (Big Burrito)” and something about the parenthetical there made me lose my mind. I’m obsessed with it, this construction, the unnecessary translation. Not to get ahead of things, but Saturday night I was tidying up my house and repeating the words “big burrito” to myself while cackling like a mad man. That probably gives some indication of how the remaining games went.

Game 2: Tyranids

Hive Guard. Credit: Rockfish
Hive Guard. Credit: Rockfish

Newly empowered by the Charadon book, I was about to receive a lesson in Synaptic Links. I feel like this was my only winnable matchup of the day, and I still managed to beef it. I got caught off-guard by Genestealers re-deploying, then double-moving, then charging. This let them move basically corner-to-corner on the table, where they proceeded to get punched to death by Deathwing Terminators in two rounds, but did manage to out-ObSec me for one turn and deny me any meaningful points from Stubborn Defiance. I need to stop taking that secondary – it’s an easy no-brainer pick, but unless I’m going to commit to it hard it’s not worth putting a giant target on that objective and daring the enemy to come and take it off my hands.

I relied too much on Dark Talons to handle the Hive Guard and Land Speeders to handle the Hive Tyrant, neither of which worked out. I got ruined, 92-65

Game 3: Black Templars

This army was all-Primaris infantry, with two Land Raiders because he forgot his Impulsors at home. It didn’t matter. With so little terrain, and the Techmarine Awakening them, the tanks made short work of my speeders and jets, and after that I had no meaningful counters to his army – what am I gonna do, fistfight Helbrecht? Over the course of the entire game I took out most of one 15-model Crusader squad and killed no other models. Stomped into pieces against the floor and swept into a dustpan, 92-42. Not my favorite game.

Final result, a totally expected 0-3, and 8th out of 8. Not great!

Here I suppose it could be useful to talk about ITC rankings. World-wide, I am currently ranked 4401 out of 10387, off of 2 GTs and 1 RTT where I went a combined 0-13 in real games, plus one bye that counts as a win. It rules that “lose 13 games in a row” is Above Median. I ran what I genuinely thought was a good army into two Land Raiders, and earned – once you factor out the free 15 point secondary and 10 points for painting – seventeen points, and I am in the top half of ranked players, worldwide. 

Two main reasons for this debacle, as I see it. One, the only things I had that could handle vehicles were fragile, unreliable, and expensive. If the dice are hot, Dark Talons can put up positively gaudy numbers, but of course that’s not something you can rely on. My dice may have been a problem, but the root cause was having a game plan that hinged on swingy units in the first place. Sure, in most trials that many S8 d6-damage shots will dumpster a Hive Tyrant, but not every time, and if that was my only plan then it’s kind of on me. I also don’t like blaming bum luck because – as much as I do think that a full squad of Knights should really have been able to deal even a single wound to Helbrecht across two rounds – it removes agency from the opponent, and they deserve the credit here at least as much I deserve the blame. I still want to slowly feed half of these dice into a garbage disposal as a warning to the others, but at the end of the day it wasn’t their fault.

The other trend, which you may have noticed, is that my opponent scored 92 points in all three games. I need to have a better plan for preventing them maxing their secondaries on me, because even if I do create The Perfect List, it won’t be easy if I put myself into a situation where I have to score 90+ points a game just to compete. After I finish juggling some models around, my main tasks are going to be working on picking better secondaries, and thinking about how I can deny some on the other side.

Dark Angels. Credit: Greg Chiasson

The next list:

Dark Angels

Dark Angels, 2000 points, 101 PL, 9CP


RW outrider 

175 HQ Talonmaster (relic: arbiter’s gaze)

175 HQ Talonmaster

135 EL RW apothecary (chief, selfless)

180 FA attack bikes (3, MM)

120 FA bikes (4, chainswords)

120 FA bikes (4, chainswords)

120 FA bikes (4, chainswords)


DW Vanguard

170 HQ Azrael (warlord: brilliant strategist)

 75 EL DW command squad (2 models)

 75 EL DW command squad (2 models)

240 EL DWK (5, watcher, Marked for Command: master-crafted flail)

220 EL DW squad (TH/SS, cyclone/PF/SB, 3xPF/SB)

195 EL Redempto (plasma/icarus/flamer/rites of initiation)

It escalates what worked – double the Talonmasters, cheaper deep-striking Terminators for ROD/Engage, and more 4++ bikes for objective holding – but replaces my anti-tank options with big robots and more-reliable attack bikes. Is it better? Definitely. Is it good enough? Empirical evidence suggests not.

So, I didn’t win even a single game. The only meaningful question left, then, is the other obvious one: did I have fun? I’m not entirely sure. 

This was frustrating. I made what I thought was a real attempt, and even liked my odds after a relatively close loss to a good Death Guard player, but came up empty again. I’m not trying to win against stratoraptors or Speedfreakz over here, I just want a chance to beat up on the full-payload Manticores littering the 0-2 bracket. It feels like even a below-average player should have lucked into a win with this Codex by now, which raises some questions I’d rather not consider. I had no answers for anything. I don’t think I enjoyed the experience, though to some extent that wasn’t the point.

It did feel good to get some games in, and I got to hang out with some fun people. The games themselves settled into another series of soul-crushing losses and it became more of a slog to get through the day than anything properly describable as “fun”. I wouldn’t call it a chore either – I’d rather be playing the worst 40k of my life than cleaning gutters – but I’ve given myself expectations now, and the event didn’t – I didn’t – live up to them. Better luck next time, I guess.

I probably learned a few things, which does have value, but also learning harsh life lessons fucking sucks and I’d rather be done paying my dues so I can get on to the payoff, thank you very much. I did immediately start looking for other RTTs to play in, which I’m realizing is part of the cycle: Get destroyed, stare at the ceiling all night trying to figure out what went wrong, excitedly register for new events, build a new list, paint some models, get hype, get destroyed, etc. I wouldn’t say I’m having a blast here, but at the same time it’s not a ride I want off of just yet. It’s a process, I hope.

I can’t comment on prize support at the event because we left before the awards. My wife texted me to pick up dinner, and no Warhammer prize is as valuable to me as keeping my extremely strong wife from getting hangry in my direction.