The Meandering Road Towards NoVA – Week 3 and First Practice Tournament

My progress towards my NoVA list over the last week was……..lacking. It turns out that masking these caladius hulls takes hours, and work was crazy. Ended up not getting the tanks to an assembleable state, so I left them at home for this weekend’s tournament. I did want my list to run the same fundamental theme, so I could practice trying to screen my tanks off from getting punched to death while maneuvering around to hold objectives and keep line of sight. I was also hoping to get practice with remembering to use the right pre-game strategems and good selection of secondaries (thanks One_Wing for the excellent article on picking secondaries, despite forgetting everything I knew I managed to pick nothing worse than an OK objective)

With that in mind, and what I already had painted, I ended up with a TERRIBLE list. My goal was to at least have one of the games close rather than a complete blowout. This did not happen.
Army list - Click to Expand

Blood Angels - 2000 Points, 8CP
Battalion Detachment
Dante [175pts]
Lieutenant [82pts] Jump Pack, Power Sword, Bolt Pistol
Captain [124pts] Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer, Relic: Angels Wing, Warlord Trait: Artisan of War

Intercessor Squad [85pts] 4x Intercessor, Intercessor Sergeant, Chainsword
Intercessor Squad [85pts] 4x Intercessor, Intercessor Sergeant, Chainsword
Intercessor Squad [85pts] 4x Intercessor, Intercessor Sergeant, Chainsword

Repulsor [315pts] Las-Talon, Twin lascannon, Ironhail Heavy Stubber, Onslaught Gatling Cannon, 5x Fragstorm Grenade Launcher
Repulsor [315pts] Las-Talon, Twin lascannon, Ironhail Heavy Stubber, Onslaught Gatling Cannon, 5x Fragstorm Grenade Launcher

Super-heavy Auxilliary Detachment
Astraeus Super-heavy Tank [734pts] Twin Macro-Accelerator Cannon, 2x Las-ripper, Twin lascannon, 2x Ironhail Heavy Stubber, Storm Bolter

It sure is a thing. Not a good thing, but a thing. That Astraeus is absurdly overcosted, being generally weaker than a knight given the weak, degrading invuln save. But hey, it looks REALLY FUCKING COOL and will be the third time I’ve actually fielded it in the year and a half since I painted it. I might not be too likely to win, but I’m going to look pretty doing it. The repulsors lack an invuln entirely, and only have a 3+ regular save. They’re also irritatingly short ranged, with the fragstorms at 18” and half the anti-tank at 24”, which was an issue across the tournament. If I can keep them at that short range they do put out an awful lot of shots, even on overwatch with the chapter master rerolls. Taking Dante rather than using a normal captain came out to be clutch, as it helped my performance even as vehicles degraded – plus he could jump in and kill just about anything. It ends up being an interesting and thematic list that I feel OK running in this kind of event, but am unlikely to bring to a casual game because it’s too tilted. Either my opponent has a way to kill/ignore the tank, or they don’t and it walks over them. I tend to feel the same about knights in a casual game, which is why my castellan mostly sits on a shelf.

Game One:

Probably my favorite opponent of the day. While he brought a horde that could take forever to play, he also brought a chess clock. I haven’t played with one before, and I don’t think we used it perfectly (we failed to swap when taking saves or when alternating who fights in melee), we did manage to finish out the game with 15 minutes left on his side and almost 40 minutes left on mine (turns out a 21 model army plays really fast). Being the only one of my opponents to provide me with a readable copy of his list rather than a jumble of single-sided battlescribe printouts longer than War & Peace, and organizing his psychic powers with each of his daemon princes having their wings painted a different color and their psychic power cards in sleeves that matched made him a pleasure to play.

Summarized, his list was:

Ahriman & triple Tzeentch Daemon Princes in a Thousand Sons supreme command.
A poxbringer, sloppity bilepiper, and 88 (30, 29, 29) plaguebearers in a nurgle daemons battalion.
Two changecasters, 20 bloodletters, 20 pink horrors and 3 nurglings in an undivided daemons battalion.

I took Headhunter, Kingslayer, and Reaper as my secondaries. I made the probably correct analysis that if I wanted to have any chance of winning I’d need to kill most/all of his characters, which should let me pick up both Headhunter and Kingslayer. With so many plaguebearers, horrors, and bloodletters I figured picking up reaper would come naturally with not losing as well. My opponent took recon, engineers, and big game hunter against me. One plaguebearer unit and the nurglings were his engineers.

This was ITC mission 2, with us rolling up short edge deployments. Lucky for me, since the Astraeus is right on 12” long, and can get extremely hard to deploy in some maps. Good thing it has fly. He deployed first, and dropped 3 lines of plaguebearers across the board, with his characters embedded in the middle. His bloodletters and horrors were all in reserve. I deployed my intercessors around my tanks to screen, and stacked them up to be able to get in range and have my various buffs.

My plan here is to quickly knock out the front screen of plaguebearers, kill the DPs, and use my intercessors to keep his deep strike from hurting me too badly. I knew it was going to be tough, but I was hoping if I could get rid of his antitank damage and his buffs that I’d be able to work my way through the hordes of plaguebearers, since he couldn’t pin down my tanks. I had some hope that I’d be able to clear out the center objective and hold the back one with my slam captain, but not a whole lot. This is a list that kills things, not holds objectives.

First turn, my opponent started advancing up the board, smited my front intercessor squad to death, and did a couple points to a repulsor. I got lucky here when his warlord perilsed, CP rerolled and still perilsed, and took a full 3 damage. Coming off that bit of luck, I got all my shit into range and unloaded 1500 points of shooting buffed by the best characters the Blood Angels have into his front rank of plaguebearers. At -2 to hit, I killed 13. This was not how things were supposed to go.

On turn two the expected deep strikes started happening, and a unit of bloodletters appeared to my side. I’d screened off well enough he couldn’t fit both the horrors and bloodletters in useful places at once, so only the bloodletters came in this turn. I had traded getting screening back in place for being able to shoot everything during my previous turn, leaving me wide open to psychic spam, killing one of my repulsors and hitting me with Infernal Gateway, which splashed some mortals across my other repulsor, the astraeus, Dante, and the lieutenant. The bloodletters made their 9” charge into my intercessors and pretty effortlessly killed them.
Starting my second turn I was down to 2 half dead characters, 5 intercessors, and 2 of my tanks. While I had slightly better targets in the bloodletters, I still couldn’t see any characters, and my repulsor couldn’t get line of sight on the bloodletters. I pulled my forces a bit back, and the astraeus unloaded everything into the bloodletters, completely destroying them. Actually wait, that’s what I hoped happened. They lived. The repulsor continued to dump everything into the plaguebearers, killing some but not enough. I did deep strike my slam captain this turn, intending to kill off the nurglings in the back and knock my opponent off his objective + deny him an engineers point. Turns out that my slam captain spent too much of that first turn drinking, missing most of his attacks and only killing one stand of nurglings.

Turn threes psychic phase ended a little bit better for me, with the repulsor just getting bracketed instead of exploding. Then the 5 bloodletters that I failed to kill charged Dante, the third intercessor squad, and the lieutenant. While they only killed one intercessor, they did manage to finish off Dante. Fortunately my LT and the intercessors did manage to finish them off in return. The slam captain remembered what he was doing and finished off the nurglings. Somewhere in here his pink horrors appeared, but they didn’t do a whole lot of anything.
Going into my turn 3, my repulsor continues to fail to kill plaguebearers, and my astraeus blew up the pink horrors. My LT went off to charge the changecaster that dropped with them, but flubbed a 6” charge. My slam captain charged into Ahriman and his other changecaster in the back of his lines, and rolled up the max 3 attacks on red rampage, giving me a total of 8. Given that neither of these had more than 4w, and I did 4d a hit, this shouldn’t be a problem. I allocated 5 attacks to Ahriman and 3 to the changecaster. I managed to kill the changecaster, but only landed 1w on Ahriman, and he made his invuln. Then poked my captain with a stick and killed him. Great work.

Turn four is more of the same, he finished off the bracketed repulsor and started on the astraeus, which shot back at the first unit of plaguebearers, still failing to kill it. My LT finally makes a charge into the changecaster, but doesn’t actually kill it.

My Astraeus dies on turn five, and rolls up a nice big 9” explosion for D6 mortals. This puts my LT and his changecaster both at 1w, and takes 3w off two of his daemon princes. All three of them are now at 3w without me ever having shot at them. My LT is my only model alive going into turn five, where he charges the 1w changecaster, doesn’t kill it, and dies.

End result: a 34 to 8 loss. This list was a pretty hard counter to mine, with a lot of mortal wound damage I couldn’t really mitigate, and very tough screens preventing me from killing his shit back. I found the void shields to be significantly better than I thought they’d be, since even a 5+ ended up mitigating a fair number of mortal wounds.

Game Two:

I’m up against a mostly Death Guard list with two Tzeentch daemon princes and Ahriman. He had three units of 19 poxwalkers buffed by Typhus to provide his screens, two bloat drones, two of the stupid nurgle flamer characters whose name I can never remember, and three plagueburst crawlers for some damage. I was a lot more confident going into this game because he didn’t have anywhere near as tough or numerous of a screen, plus I could actually shoot at some of his units.

We were playing Mission 5 on table quarters this time. I took headhunter, as he had seven characters, big game hunter to kill the three crawlers and two bloat drones, and reaper. I knew I couldn’t max reaper, but this list doesn’t have the mobility or number of units needed to spread out to claim any of the other secondaries reliably. He took titanslayer, recon, and old school. As predicted by One_Wing, old school turned out to be a trap.

My plan on this one was to keep him away from my objective, while knowing I’ve got no chance of claiming the bonus myself. Otherwise I just need to work his screens off without taking too much damage before I can open up the characters, and deny him as many of his secondaries as I could.

My opponent starts turn one off by rushing everything forwards, with the bloat drones and smites killing most of two different intercessor squads, but finishing off neither. I retaliate immediately by blowing the hell out of both bloat drones and killing half of his poxwalker screen, leaving two of his plagueburst crawlers as the only thing screening most of his characters. I run one unit of intercessors up the board to grab a second objective, letting me claim “hold more”

On turn two he continued to push things forward, deciding that the plagueburst crawlers were better served hitting me with flamers than the mortars. This killed off the rest of one of the intercessor squads I had in front of my tanks, which is uhh ok I guess. A few points of damage ended up on the astraeus and a repulsor, but not enough to bracket them.

I deep struck my slam captain to go hit the plaguebursts, and noticed that I could slide my repulsors over and get shots on one of the daemon princes. They slid over and managed to completely whiff all their lascannons, though all the anti-infantry firepower managed to drop it down to 4w remaining. The astraeus took aim at the rearmost PBC (that hadn’t been buffed with cloud of flies for the -1 to hit) and blew it up. Turns out that a bunch of flat three damage shots are pretty decent (but probably not 750 points decent). The slam captain did his job and killed another PBC, leaving me with just one to deal with next turn. This is when I remembered I forgot to declare I was using Death Visions to give the slam cap Death Company.

Turn three saw my slam captain eating a bunch of smites and exploding, and his wounded DP charging my repulsor. I can’t remember what his third PBC did. It was too close to shoot anything with the mortar, so I think it flamered the astraeus for a wound or two. The DP that charged my repulsor took two wounds on overwatch and one from the repulsor melee, having not done enough damage to it to bracket it.
My third turn finished off the last plagueburst with the las weapons off the repulsors, killed that DP sitting there on one wound, and finished off his first poxwalker squad that was working its way towards one of the unclaimed objectives. Sadly my heroic intercessor sergeant that ran off to grab a second objective on turn one finally succumbed to a horde of poxwalkers.

Turn four has turned into a bunch of his characters vs my tanks. They do some damage to the repulsor, and do manage to bracket it down to 10w. The remaining DP jumps past my tanks to peel my last intercessors out of a ruin. Into my turn my tanks manage to evaporate all his characters other than the daemon prince, and the astraeus turns its main gun on the poxwalkers that killed my sergeant, easily removing them. Dante and the LT jump behind the tanks and cut down that DP. Turns out that Dante is a combat monster, who would’ve thought it?

On turn five my opponent has 19 poxwalkers and typhus remaining. He pulls them all back into a magic box (magic boxes are really really dumb), and can’t do anything else. I have 2 CP left, so use Upon Wings of Fire to jump Dante onto a second objective, letting me claim “Hold More” for this turn and turn 6.

End result: 27 to 15 win. I end up with 4 points for both headhunter and big game hunter, though I was only able to claim 2 points for reaper. I think if I’d shot the astraeus into that rear poxwalker squad at one point instead of shooting one of the exposed poxwalker units I could’ve gained a third point, but I’m not sure if that would’ve cost me a turn of holding more. My opponent did enough damage to the astraeus to pick up 1 points on titanslayer, but I kept him from ever claiming more than 1 point for recon or more than slay the warlord from old school. One fun discovery is that the void shield on the astraeus is explicitly not an invuln save, so can’t be death hexed off.

Game Three:

We’re playing mission 2 again. The TO for this was running them out of order, and it turns out we were supposed to play mission 3 for the first game. My opponent had done it correctly, and is a bit more serious a tournament player than me, so I didn’t mind running the same mission again. This was a second opponent without a good printout of his list, so I’m just going off memory here.
A 17-man battalion of Red Corsairs with Huron and a Sorceror.
A Black Legion battalion with a chainlord, master of executions, and a bunch of cultists. This battalion also had two squads of havocs – one with three missile launchers and a lascannon, one with four chaincannons, and a single deredeo.
An outrider detachment with a squad of raptors, a squad of warp talons, a unit of chaos spawn (I think), and a chaos lord with lightning claws.
I believe the Black Legion was using the devastation battery specialist detachment, and the outrider was the host raptorial.
I took similar secondaries to previous mission, with headhunter to go after his 5 HQs, reaper to kill cultists and marines, and butcher’s bill because it stacks and I was hoping I’d be able to knock out multiple units a turn. My opponent took Recon, Behind Enemy Lines, and Engineers.

Like the previous games, my strategy is mostly just to kill everything, focusing on antitank and characters. There’s not a lot of room in a 21 model list to try to get positioning based bonuses or to have a unit standing around instead of shooting things.

Our deployment rolled up as chevrons, which was great for actually letting me fit my astraeus into my deployment zone.
This was the third game in which I wasn’t going first, and his deredeo and antitank havocs dropped one repulsor down to 3w. He pushed some of his CSM and the chainlord into one of the two stupid boxes in the middle of the board, and started pushing his raptors up my flank.
I pushed straight up the middle claiming the center objective in addition to mine, and pushing an intercessor squad into the same magic box to counter his CSM. I was able to knock out his deredeo and most of his havocs, though I was limited by the narrow alley between the buildings being my only way to draw LOS and my front repulsor being limited to a 3” move, so I couldn’t bring my full anti-infantry fire to bear. Fortunately, while my guns weren’t able to do anywhere near as much work as I needed, that intercessor squad in the magic box charged the chainlord and put 4w on him. My opponent burned a CP on a reroll, but that still left him on only 2w remaining. Although he did manage to kill the unit, that still left me a lot more comfortable dealing with that character.

On turn two his one remaining lascannon finished off my damaged repulsor, and his non-engineers units continued to push forward. His raptors made it into an intercessor squad, who promptly died without accomplishing a whole lot. He packed out the magic box next to the center objective with cultists, making me lose control of it even with three intercessors still standing on it.
My turn two had my tanks continuing to be less effective than I would’ve liked. The astraeus finished off the havocs and one cultist squad, and my one remaining repulsor plinked at a generic CSM squad. I dropped my slam captain into the backfield, where he was able to charge the sorcerer. Unfortunately that left him a bit too close to the master of executions, who was able to heroically intervene. Dante and the LT charged into the magic box, and killed off the chainlord and most of the chaincannon havocs. The remaining havocs managed to drop the LT down to one wound remaining, which was a little awkward. While the slam captain died, he killed off both the sorcerer and master of executions. Again two turns too late I realize I forgot to give him the Death Visions strategem.

Turn three his raptors were able to mostly make it into the magic box, but still left a couple guys standing around outside. His warp talons deep struck behind a building in the corner of my deployment zone, and the lightning claw chaos lord jumped from building to building. He had to fight twice, but was able to kill off Dante, and the havocs finished off the LT. Huron super-smited my last intercessors to death, leaving me with no troops alive.

Going into my turn three with just an astraeus and repulsor alive (though both at full health) forced me to split them up to try to start handling different things. The repulsor moved off and shot everything at the warp talons behind a building, only killing 3 of them. The astraeus started sliding around one of the magic boxes, and took out all his raptors as well as his spawn. The rest of his army was hiding in the buildings, so I had no way to interact with them (and as long as I stayed a few inches away from the buildings they couldn’t do much to me).

Turn four he continued to hide in buildings, and my astraeus was able to get sight on his engineer cultists, wiping them out from behind a building. The repulsor stayed in place to keep the warp talons from getting back into my deployment zone, while claiming one objective.

Turn five was more of the same. He moved his second engineers unit into the building, costing him a potential engineers point for this turn but keeping him on the objective. My astraeus was now sitting on top of his original deployment, and could draw sight on the pinned down warp talons and finish them off.

We didn’t really bother with turn 6, as neither of us had anything we could actually do. Just sat still and scored what we could.

End Result: 24 to 23 win. I just barely pulled this out. Killed exactly 61 models for reaper. Sadly I was only able to get 3 characters killed for headhunter, and while I killed plenty of units I was either killing 3+ in a turn or just one a turn, so I only got butchers bill twice. My opponent maxed engineers and recon, though I was able to keep him to only 1 point for behind enemy lines. If he’d remembered to move both the cultists and the CSM engineers units into the magic box they were next to earlier in the game I would’ve lost out on a “kill more” VP, and at best tied the game.

Final Thoughts:

I’m not really sure how this happened. I was hoping to go 1-2, and expecting to go 0-3. Absolutely no inkling that I could go 2-1. The only thing I expected to stand a decent chance against was aeldari fliers, as the astraeus main gun doesn’t take a penalty to shooting them, so should be able to knock them out reliably. I ended up not facing them at all, and coming up against three distinct versions of chaos. My overall strategy worked pretty well, have tanks that are fairly durable and could kill off the threats to them faster than they get killed, then work on scoring objectives. My ultimate list ends up doing everything this does, only a little more – the caladius tanks are absolutely better than repulsors, with the -1 to hit banner they’re more durable, and I have the points to take both guard and more deep strike melee, giving me more choices in secondaries with the mobility to take some of the positioning based objectives. The list also needs to have something to deal with magic boxes, at least if I’m in a tournament that uses them. I may need to trade out a dread or something for a melee infantry unit, which will give me options rather than ending up like game three where I was sitting outside the boxes and my opponent sitting in them. I’ve also been informed that Death Visions is used at list creation, not during pregame, so I should just note it down on my list and not worry so much about it. I don’t know if having it would’ve made a difference, but it would’ve stuck better with my plan.

The astraeus did a LOT better than I thought it would. I still think it’s significantly overcosted given its firepower and durability, but it was usable. In general whatever I pointed it at died (except the damn horde of buffed plaguebearers). If it dropped down to around 600 it would be a perfectly viable choice, or if GW would finally give marine vehicles traits I could even see it around 650. Taking Dante with it was absolutely necessary, since its BS 3+ base. As always it’s a marine unit costed for having Guilliman next to it, so not having him there reduces its value.
The repulsors did OK, though I regret their loadout. Fragstorms being limited to 18” and the lastalon being 24” were huge limiters, if I was rebuilding this I would absolutely put the heavy onslaught on instead of the lastalon. If I’m not going to be shooting at their antitank with the lastalon it might as well be more anti-infantry. Less sure about replacing the fragstorms with storm bolters, the frags are often going to be more shots even if they can’t do anything from 18-24”.
If I was going to run this list again I would make the above tweaks to the repulsors, drop the jump LT for a phobos lieutenant, swap warlord traits over so he’s got target priority and can give the astraeus a +1 to hit, and upgrade the intercessor sergeants to all have power swords. That’ll improve my biggest lacking area of anti-infantry firepower, make my intercessors a little more able to deal with power armor, and continue to improve the viability of the astraeus (though I’m taking a mediocre unit and making it good by throwing buffs at it, rather than throwing buffs at something already good).