TheChirurgeon’s Road Through 2021, Part 6: The Goonhammer Open

Welcome back, dear reader, to another episode on my journey to near-respectability at competitive 40k. In my last article, I was doing some final prep for the Goonhammer Open, getting in practice games against Eldar and Grey Knights. Four days later, I was on a flight up to BWI for the event. In this episode of my Road To series, I’m going to talk about the Goonhammer Open, the work that went into it, my games, and what comes next.

The Set-Up

The Goonhammer Open US 2021 space, the night before the event.

For the last three weeks the Goonhammer crew have been scrambling to make the event work. Greg’s been assembling terrain kits every night, and every weekend our Maryland crew are getting together with a few of our amazing Patrons – Massive props to Joe, Norman, and Rocco – and helping us assemble the remaining terrain. During the last weekend before the event they’ll get together for one more Saturday session and knock out the last of the kits. The 4Ground Vanguard Tactics kits look great and come pre-painted, but some are very time consuming to assemble. While they’re assembling the terrain, there’s still a ton more to be done – Fowler’s on the phone with the event almost every day, making sure we have the right number of tables and layout for social distancing. I’m working on making sure prizes are in order and in place, and that our event packets are done. As the Delta variant becomes more of a factor in the final weeks, we make some final changes to the event, requiring proof of vaccination and mandating masks and extending the drop date. We’ll end up getting a few more drops, but several people sign up to fill the void, and we’ll later get feedback from a couple of people who only attended because of the revised policy.

SD47 picks me up from BWI. We’re rooming together at the hotel, and I’m crashing at his place the night after. Greg’s my forever bro, but SD47 isn’t far behind. He is, easily, the most dependable dude I’ve ever known. He hasn’t finished painting his Space Wolves, and he’s volunteered to help Shane and Dan run the event. We arrive right before Dan and Greg show up with the U-Haul full of terrain and mats and set up goes pretty quickly since we have a few people helping out. We’ve got 25 tables for the GT and 12 for the Narrative event; for the former we have 4Ground’s Vanguard Tactics terrain kits (one of our sponsors), and for the latter Chris Stover (who provides the terrain for NOVA’s narrative) has volunteered his terrain. About an hour and a half later, we’re all set up and putting the terrain into position for game 1. We also set up some of the sponsor materials and prizes, including the belt. I cannot stress enough how awesome the championship belt is. It’s a hefty piece of hardware, and it’s just fun as hell to lug around. Everyone who sees it immediately wants to have it and it’s the only prize the Goonhammer staff can actually win (the others go to the next highest finisher).

The Belt in all its glory

People we know keep gradually rolling into the hotel all night and we end up walking up the street to a local ramen joint to grab beers and start our three-day ritual of what can charitably described as “eating like a giant baby with money.” We load up on wings, sake, and noodles and argue about the state of the game with Scott Horras “Heresy.” Then it’s back to the hotel for some final prep.

 

The Practice Game the Night Before

As is customary in these circumstances, you gotta play a fuckaround game the night before, just to get in the mood. Dan Boyd of Badcast and Necro fame has brought his wonderfully painted Raven Guard to the venue and this is the only time he’ll get to game. We set up to play a fun practice game. The terrain is already set up for mission 1 – Sweep and Clear – which while not impossible for me to lose as Death Guard is very easily the one mission my army should never lose at. Dan believes his quick, character-mashing Raven Guard will tear through my Death Guard and make me regret walking into the open. I suspect he hasn’t really played many games against the stinky bois.

This is basically how I always deploy on Sweep and Clear

 

For secondaries I take Grind Them Down, Direct Assault, and Engage on All Fronts. I probably should pick Stranglehold in future games, but I’m going with this for now because I want to get used to scoring Engage and because Dan is starting on multiple objectives. Dan takes Stranglehold, Oaths of Moment, and Retrieve Octarius Data.

I go second, and normally that irks me but again, the beauty of Sweep and Clear is that it’s perfectly suited for my Death Guard army – they’re slow and the list right now depends on a massive blob of Blightlords walking to a key spot – ideally the middle of the table – and just occupying it for the entire game. If I go second on Sweep and Clear, what I find is that usually my dumbass opponents will open the game by putting a unit out there for me to charge, giving me the free movement I need to slingshot to mid-table  This happens a lot with Space Marines, who pressure themselves into trying to move to the center to score points for Oaths, setting themselves up to get clowned. If they don’t move to the center I have to spend a turn advancing with the Blightlords, which means not shooting ad no charging. Put a unit there and I’m happy as a pig in shit, able to charge out and immediately kill things for Grind Them Down points.

Exactly where I want him

Dan spends a turn zipping around the table and my Blightlords occupy the center, partnering with the Daemon Prince to take out his Redemptors. We only have time for a few turns but I end up winning 85-74 after we talk out the rest – it’s pretty clear after turn 2 that I’ve broken the back of Dan’s list. I can’t max Grind because he just doesn’t have enough options to kill but I’m going to max Direct Assault and I come close on Engage thanks to being able to walk to the other two table quarters early on. Dan pulls more on Stranglehold , but only scores a couple of points on Oaths. While I’m playing this game, Greg is getting in his practice game against Scott Horras. It’s a learning experience for both of them. Greg is learning a lot about how his list plays and what he can do with it tactically. Scott is learning that actually, it is possible for one man to be this bad at Warhammer. Greg loses pretty handily which isn’t a huge shock, given that Scott is one of the best players in the US.

We chat for a bit, grab drinks, then head up to the room to crash. Sleeping on hotel beds sucks. It’s like 80 degrees in our room and the pillow feels like a bag full of cotton balls. I toss and turn until like 3am before I finally pass out, then I’m up again at 6:30 to prep and get down to the conference space for the pre-event prep.

 

Day 1

The floor on day 1

There’s a ton of energy and still a lot of stuff to do the morning of day 1. We’ve been given access to the front desk of the conference center so SD47 and I set up there to check vaccination cards and sign people in. I’ve also ordered bagels to the venue – my friend Jake Spain owns the Bagel Bin in Ellicott City, where they legitimately make the best bagels in the state. We have him bring down a shitload of pre-prepped, individually wrapped bagels for attendees to grab after they sign in. They’re extremely good, and one of the few things I miss about living in the area. I was a little worried about vaccination card check-ins but everything goes pretty smoothly, save for a couple of players who have forgotten their cards, but are able to look up their vaccination status on a state website, so we’re all good to go.

Just so we’re up to speed, here’s the list I brought to the event:

My sicknasty boys, ready to rumble.

My Death Guard - click to expand

+++ Death Guard Battalion Detachment (-3 CP, 2,000 points) +++

Plague Company: Mortarion’s Anvil
Extra Relic (-1 CP)
Extra WL Trait (-1 CP)

HQ: Daemon Prince: w/wings, sword, talon, WARLORD: Gloaming Bloat, RELIC: Warp Insect Hive, POWERS: Miasma of Pestilence
HQ: Malignant plaguecaster, POWERS: Miasma of Pestilence, Curse of the Leper

TP: Plague marines x10: 2x flail, sigil, Champion: power fist
TP: Poxwalkers x10
TP: Poxwalkers x10

EL: Blightlord Terminators x10: 2x flail, 2x reaper autocannon + Combi-bolter, 5x axe + combi-bolter, Champion: Combi-bolter + Bubotic Axe, Plague Skull of Glothila (-1 CP)
EL: Deathshroud Terminators x3: Champion w/chimes
EL: Foul Blightspawn: Relic: Revolting stench-vats, Plaguechosen: arch-contaminator, viscous death
EL: Biologus Putrifier
EL: Tallyman

HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon
HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon

FA: Foetid Bloat-Drone w/Fleshmower

DT: Chaos Rhino

+++ 2,000 points, 9 CP +++

As I mentioned last time, the big change here is I’ve swapped out the Supparating Plate relic and Rotten Constitution Warlord Trait on my Daemon Prince for the Warp Insect Hive Relic and Gloaming Bloat Contagion from Mortarion’s Anvil. This makes him a bit less durable, but much more reliable in combat, and opens up the possibility of using Flash Outbreak on the Bloat-Drone or the Deathshrouds to pull of some nasty effects when I need to turn off enemy re-rolls. It probably means I should avoid taking the To The Last secondary now, as having the DP be one of those options was already iffy and now that he’s more combat-geared I’d rather not be relying on him surviving. Otherwise the list is the same as before; it plays at its best when it can occupy the middle of the board and sit on an objective and roll around in a big ball of blightlord goodness backed by the Blightspawn and the Putrifier. It kind of acts as an old school “Death Star” list in a lot of ways.

 

Game 1: vs. Josh Putz’s Dark Angels

Deployment against the Dark Angels.

Josh's Dark Angels - Click to Expand

++ Outrider Detachment -3CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Dark Angels) [45 PL, 915pts, 6CP] ++

+ HQ +

Lieutenant(s) [16 PL, 350pts, -1CP] . Ravenwing Talonmaster: Heavenfall Blade, Rites of War, Warlord
. Ravenwing Talonmaster: 1. Brilliant Strategist, Arbiter’s Gaze, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter

+ Elites +

Ravenwing Champion [5 PL, 85pts]: Chapter Command: Chapter Champion, Reliquary of the Repentant
. Black Knight Bike: Plasma Talon

+ Fast Attack +

Bike Squad [5 PL, 90pts] . Biker Sergeant: Astartes Chainsword
. 2x Space Marine Biker w/Chainsword: 2x Astartes Chainsword, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, 2x Twin boltgun

Bike Squad [5 PL, 90pts] . Biker Sergeant: Astartes Chainsword
. 2x Space Marine Biker w/Chainsword: 2x Astartes Chainsword, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, 2x Twin boltgun

Bike Squad [5 PL, 90pts] . Biker Sergeant: Astartes Chainsword
. 2x Space Marine Biker w/Chainsword: 2x Astartes Chainsword, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, 2x Twin boltgun

Land Speeders [3 PL, 70pts] . Land Speeder: Multi-melta

Land Speeders [3 PL, 70pts] . Land Speeder: Multi-melta

Land Speeders [3 PL, 70pts] . Land Speeder: Multi-melta

++ Vanguard Detachment -3CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Dark Angels) [53 PL, 1,080pts] ++

+ HQ +

Ezekiel [7 PL, 125pts]

Lieutenant(s) [8 PL, 175pts] . Ravenwing Talonmaster

+ Elites +

Deathwing Command Squad [4 PL, 90pts] . Deathwing Sergeant
. . Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield: Thunder hammer
. Deathwing Terminator
. . Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield: Thunder hammer

Deathwing Command Squad [4 PL, 90pts] . Deathwing Sergeant
. . Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield: Thunder hammer
. Deathwing Terminator
. . Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield: Thunder hammer

Deathwing Command Squad [4 PL, 90pts] . Deathwing Sergeant
. . Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield: Thunder hammer
. Deathwing Terminator
. . Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield: Thunder hammer

Scout Squad [4 PL, 80pts] . Scout Sergeant: Bolt pistol, Boltgun
. 3x Scout w/Boltgun: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
. Scout w/Heavy weapon: Heavy bolter

Scout Squad [4 PL, 80pts] . Scout Sergeant: Bolt pistol, Boltgun
. 3x Scout w/Boltgun: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
. Scout w/Heavy weapon: Heavy bolter

+ Fast Attack +

Attack Bike Squad [4 PL, 120pts] . Attack Bike: Multi-melta
. Attack Bike: Multi-melta

Attack Bike Squad [4 PL, 120pts] . Attack Bike: Multi-melta
. Attack Bike: Multi-melta

+ Dedicated Transport +

Land Speeder Storm [5 PL, 55pts]

Land Speeder Storm [5 PL, 55pts]

++ Total: [98 PL, 1,995pts, 6CP] ++

 

The Mission: Sweep & Clear

My Secondaries

  • Direct Assault
  • Grind Them Down
  • Assassination

Josh’s Secondaries

  • Death on the Wind
  • Direct Assault
  • Retrieve Octarius Data

My first game is against the teammate of my old nemesis, Robbie Triplett. I’ve tangled with Robbie a few times and as he’s unable to make the GHO for work reasons, he’s clearly sent one of his flunkies to try and dispatch me. Bad move, Robbie. Sweep and Clear is my JAM. I deploy in my usual formation and end up going second. Josh is a good player, but he’s trying to play too hard around my Relaptic Assault Stratagem, which offers me a very narrow ability to heroically intervene with my units. He gives me a first-turn charge to the middle of the table and I never look back. I’m able to take out big chunks of his list, but the Talonmasters can’t really be touched thanks to the Deathwing bodyguards protecting them. That said, they spend most of the game dancing away as I score 14 points for Direct Assault and 12 on Grind Them Down, only faltering on the last turn when he’s castled to preserve points and there’s nothing I can kill. The big miss here for me is Assassination, which I only score 7 for – getting to those characters was harder than expected. It’s a good start to the event and I kind of wish they’d all begin with Sweep & Clear. Josh is clearly a good player and I wish him luck, but I tell him to take a message back to Robbie for me: Next time if you’re gonna come at me, do it in person.

That’s right, Robbie. I’m gunning for you now. See you at NoVA 2022, when we’re inevitably matched up in like round 3.

Result: 88-71, Win

 

Game 2: vs. Brian Pullen’s Necrons

Up against Pullen’s Silent King. I don’t like these odds.

Brian Pullen's Necrons - Click to Expand

++ Battalion Detachment -3CP (Necrons) [76 PL, 1,547pts, 6CP] ++

Dynasty Choice: Circumstance of Awakening: Relentlessly Expansionist, Dynastic Tradition: Eternal Conquerors, Dynasty: <Custom>

+ No Force Org Slot +

Dynastic Advisor [4 PL, 80pts] . Technomancer: Canoptek Cloak

+ HQ +

Catacomb Command Barge [9 PL, 190pts, -1CP]: Rarefied Nobility, Relic: Voidreaper, Resurrection Orb, Tesla Cannon, Warlord Trait (Codex 2): Eternal Madness, Warscythe

Chronomancer [4 PL, 80pts, -1CP]: Aeonstave, Dynastic Heirlooms, Relic: Veil of Darkness

Psychomancer [5 PL, 95pts]: Arkana: Atavindicator

+ Troops +

Immortals [4 PL, 85pts]: Gauss Blaster, 5x Immortal

Immortals [4 PL, 85pts]: 5x Immortal, Tesla Carbine

Necron Warriors [12 PL, 247pts] . 19x Necron Warrior (Gauss Reaper): 19x Gauss Reaper

Necron Warriors [12 PL, 260pts] . 20x Necron Warrior (Gauss Reaper): 20x Gauss Reaper

+ Elites +

Cryptothralls [2 PL, 40pts] . 2x Cryptothrall: 2x Scouring Eye, 2x Scythed Limbs

Hexmark Destroyer [4 PL, 75pts, -1CP]: Dynastic Heirlooms, Relic: Gauntlet of the Conflagrator

Skorpekh Destroyers [10 PL, 175pts]: Skorpekh Destroyer (Reap-Blade)
. 4x Skorpekh Destroyer (Thresher): 4x Hyperphase Threshers

+ Fast Attack +

Canoptek Scarab Swarms [2 PL, 45pts] . 3x Canoptek Scarab Swarm: 3x Feeder Mandibles

Canoptek Scarab Swarms [2 PL, 45pts] . 3x Canoptek Scarab Swarm: 3x Feeder Mandibles

Canoptek Scarab Swarms [2 PL, 45pts] . 3x Canoptek Scarab Swarm: 3x Feeder Mandibles

++ Supreme Command Detachment +3CP (Necrons) [23 PL, 450pts, 3CP] ++

Dynasty Choice: Dynasty: Szarekhan

+ Primarch | Daemon Primarch | Supreme Commander +

The Silent King [23 PL, 450pts, 3CP] . 2x Triarchal Menhir: 2x Annihilator Beam

++ Total: [99 PL, 9CP, 1,997pts] ++

The Mission: Battle Lines

My Secondaries

  • No Prisoners
  • Assassination
  • Engage on All Fronts

Brian’s Secondaries

  • Vital Ground
  • Stranglehold
  • Purge the Vermin

Game 2 is against Brian Pullen of the Tabletop Titans on the table with all our recording gear. We aren’t streaming, since that would have meant springing for the expensive hotel internet, but we are going to probably do a best-of video at some point. This game won’t be in that video.

Brian’s a wonderfully nice guy, but he’s clearly very used to being on camera during his games and so does not do things like “curse like a sailor,” which makes things even more awkward because I’m high on winning game 1 and talking mad shit. Although I’m completely fine with wearing a mask all day, I find the biggest downside is that it makes it harder to talk shit – when you can’t actively smile at someone, a lot of the warmth is lost. Or at least, I think it is. I’m probably just more of a shithead than I want to believe. Anyways, picking objectives is real tough here – No Prisoners is the only easy one, since it’s maxable with reanimations. Assassination is also maxable here but hard to score. Engage is the best of a bad set of remaining secondaries. I’m not going to beat Brian to the objectives as he has Relentlessly Expansionist, and he’s got the movement to blank me on Primary points pretty easy if I can’t stop his scarabs.

As for the game: It was a nightmare. My list is not particularly well equipped at all to handle the Silent King, and Battle Lines is one of my worst missions. It has no middle objective and is the only mission with 4 markers, so Spread the Sickness is off the table for me out of the gate. Making things worse, I can’t even ignore the Silent King – he’ll take one of those two midtable objectives early on and force me to engage with him. I have some ways to deal with him, but none are effective or reliable. This ends up being a real issue as Brian makes save after save with his menhir, taking his Silent king deep into battle round 3. He keeps flexing on me by re-rolling failed 4+ invulnerable saves into successes, something that happens so rarely for me that I just don’t bother spending CP to re-roll failed saves. Meanwhile the Warriors rocking Gauss Reapers tear up my Plague Marines and hurt my blightlords and I’m unable to keep a strong enough board presence to make up for a rocky start. This is an uphill battle against even a bad player, and Brian is decidedly not a bad player – he’ll end up winning the next round before taking his first loss on day 2. He takes full advantage of the matchup, my being completely unprepared to deal with Necrons, and his luck to dumpster me.

Result: 44-99, Loss

 

Game 3: vs. Melody Wallace’s Adepta Sororitas

Turn 1 against Melody

Melody's Sisters - Click to Expand

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adepta Sororitas) [61 PL, 1,340pts, 12CP] ++

Order Convictions: Order: Argent Shroud

+ HQ [23 PL, 465pts] +

Celestine and Geminae Superia [10 PL, 200pts] 2x Geminae Superia: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, 2x Power sword

Morvenn Vahl [13 PL, 265pts]: Warlord

+ Troops [18 PL, 430pts] +

Battle Sister Squad [3 PL, 75pts] 3x Battle Sister [33pts]: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
Battle Sister w/ Special or Heavy Weapon [31pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Sister Superior [11pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun

Battle Sister Squad [3 PL, 75pts] 3x Battle Sister [33pts]: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
Battle Sister w/ Special or Heavy Weapon [31pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Sister Superior [11pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun

Battle Sister Squad [3 PL, 75pts] 3x Battle Sister [33pts]: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
Battle Sister w/ Special or Heavy Weapon [31pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Sister Superior [11pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun

Battle Sister Squad [3 PL, 75pts] 3x Battle Sister [33pts]: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
Battle Sister w/ Special or Heavy Weapon [31pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Sister Superior [11pts] Bolt Pistol & Boltgun

Battle Sister Squad [3 PL, 75pts] 3x Battle Sister [33pts]: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
Battle Sister w/ Special or Heavy Weapon [31pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Sister Superior [11pts] Bolt Pistol & Boltgun

Battle Sister Squad [3 PL, 55pts] 4x Battle Sister [44pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Boltgun, 4x Frag & Krak grenades
Sister Superior [11pts] Bolt Pistol & Boltgun

+ Fast Attack [4 PL, 80pts] +

Dominion Squad [4 PL, 80pts] Dominion Superior [12pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun
Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts]

+ Heavy Support [12 PL, 280pts] +

Retributor Squad [6 PL, 140pts]: 2x Armourium Cherub [10pts] Retributor Superior [12pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun
Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [32pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [32pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [32pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [22pts]: Ministorum Heavy Flamer [10pts]

Retributor Squad [6 PL, 140pts]: 2x Armourium Cherub [10pts] Retributor Superior [12pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun
Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [32pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [32pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [32pts]: Multi-melta [20pts] Retributor w/ Heavy Weapon [22pts]: Ministorum Heavy Flamer [10pts]

+ Dedicated Transport [4 PL, 85pts] +

Sororitas Rhino [4 PL, 85pts]: Hunter-killer missile [5pts]

++ Vanguard Detachment -3CP (Imperium – Adepta Sororitas) [33 PL, 657pts, -5CP] ++

Order Convictions: Order: Bloody Rose

Stratagem: Open the Reliquaries [-1CP]: Additional Relics of the Ecclesiarchy [-1CP]

+ HQ [4 PL, 90pts, -1CP] +

Canoness [4 PL, 90pts, -1CP]: Blessed Blade [10pts], Inferno pistol [5pts], Relic: Chaplet of Sacrifice, Stratagem: Saint in the Making [-1CP], Warlord Trait: Blazing Ire
Rapturous Blows [1 PL, 25pts]

+ Elites [13 PL, 247pts] +

Celestian Sacresants [3 PL, 70pts] 4x Celestian Sacresants (Anointed Halberd) [56pts]: 4x Anointed Halberd, 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades
Sacresant Superior [14pts]: Anointed Halberd, Bolt pistol

Dogmata [4 PL, 65pts]: 3. Psalm of Righteous Smiting, Relic: Iron Surplice of Saint Istaela

Sisters Repentia [3 PL, 56pts] 4x Sisters Repentia [56pts]: 4x Penitent Eviscerator

Sisters Repentia [3 PL, 56pts] 4x Sisters Repentia [56pts]: 4x Penitent Eviscerator

+ Fast Attack [8 PL, 160pts] +

Dominion Squad [4 PL, 80pts] Dominion Superior [12pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun
Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts]

Dominion Squad [4 PL, 80pts] Dominion Superior [12pts]: Chainsword
Bolt Pistol & Boltgun
Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts] Dominion w/ Special Weapon [17pts]: Artificer-crafted storm bolter [5pts]

+ Dedicated Transport [8 PL, 160pts] +

Sororitas Rhino [4 PL, 80pts] Sororitas Rhino [4 PL, 80pts]

 

The Mission: Overrun

My Secondaries

  • Spread the Sickness
  • Grind Them Down
  • Assassination

Melody’s Secondaries

  • Raise the Banners High
  • To the Last (Celestine, Vahl, a unit of Retributors)
  • Engage on All Fronts

Adepta Sororitas Credit: Melody Wallace

Melody’s got a strong army and I’m glad that I got in practice games against Greg “Klobasnek” Narro’s Sisters over the last couple of weeks and also proofed John Lennon’s article on Sisters. Both have given me a bit more insight here on how to play against them. This is also the first game where I win the first turn roll-off, which is good since I need to screen out Melody’s Retributors, which are in Strategic Reserves. I move the Rhino and the Fleshmower to opposite sides of the table and use those to help block their entry. I’m able to kill one Rhino (on the far right side of the table) on turn 1, slowing Melody’s approach and using the stranded repentiae as a springboard to slingshot across the table with the Fleshmower. It’ll end up eating her right flank and holding an objective on her side of the table before everything is said and done. That said, Melody’s army hits like a truck and she nearly wipes out the Blightlords, though the Daemon Prince survives to crash into her lines. I spent half this game feeling like I was losing just because of the losses I wasn’t used to taking and then suddenly it was over and Melody had nothing left but a wounded Vahl and Celestine. She still pulled 10 points on To the Last when I couldn’t finish off Vahl but zeroed on Engage and Raise after turn 3. Melody was an exceptional opponent, and I was rooting for her. She’ll go on to finish 4-2.

Result: 88-47, Win

 

Greg mentioned in his article that these events tend to see the formation of a series of small groups around the margins, people who know each other OK and whose schedules line up just well enough to ensure they’ll be meeting up for dinner and drinks. Because I’m on the GH staff, my group ends up being me, Shane, SD47, Scott Horras, and Boon. We end up rolling over to Fogo for dinner a bit later – we have to wait for the round to finish before Shane can leave. Greg’s crew have already been there an hour and most of them have to roll back to the Narrative so we sit down and eat for a while. This is kind of a mistake since Fogo’s wait staff appear to have decided we’re done for the evening and it takes some real convincing to get them to swing by again with more meat, but eventually I’m able to cram my gullet so full of animal carcass that I regret it. We talk for a long time and listen to Scott “Horras” Heresy bemoan the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad fate of losing to some utter bullshit with Space Wolves in round 1 and finishing “only” 2-1 with Guard on day 1. Take note: Scott’s a great player, but he is an interminable whiner. We rag on him about this all weekend, which is what he deserves. Besides, everyone knows that Space Wolf bullshit isn’t real and can’t hurt you.

We’re up for a while after, setting up tables for game 4 and grabbing a drink in the hotel bar, then it’s off to the room for another 4 hours of sleep.

 

 

Day 2

I’ve lost one game on day 1 but finishing the first day 2-1 is a big win for me. My only goals for 2021 are to generally try and finish 4-2 and at this rate I’m already halfway there and feeling good. If you’re wondering about how good each win at a 6-game GT feels, here’s the ranker:

TheChirurgeon’s Ranking of GT Wins*

*Note that these are based on personal experience. I have never won a GT and don’t plan to so wins like “Winning the final game at the top table” aren’t on this list of scrub-tier fuckassery. I can only speak to the wins I have personally notched on my belt.

  1. The Game 6 3rd/4th win. It doesn’t really matter if you finish 4-2 or 3-3 at this point, winning your last game is the sweetest win. You’re most likely exhausted, and you get to go out on a high note. I suppose finishing 4-2 felt slightly better, but not by enough. You just want your last game to be against someone chill, and while snagging your fourth win is great (I did it!), snagging your 3rd win is just as satisfying at that point (phew, I didn’t finish under .500). The only downside is that you’re consigning some poor bastard to the opposite fate, with no hope for redemption in the next round. This is the best of the wins.
  2. Your first win. Ideally this happens in round 1 (holy shit I’m 1-0 HELL YEAH BAYBEE), but even if it doesn’t your first win is the “ah thank god I’m not going winless” win. That’s a huge load off your back, no matter what round it happens.
  3. The 2-0 win. The win that deludes you into believing you’re gonna win this whole thing. Feels great, but you know, deep down, that shit ain’t gonna last.
  4. Other disjoined wins. Wins are always more fun than losses, but once you’ve dropped out of contention, if it isn’t the last game, these wins are only sweet if they’re getting you to that 3 or 4 mark.

Really I’m WLW at this point so I’m more chasing win #3 than I am trying to win anything big, and 4-2 is still well within reach for me. That’s kind of a bad thing, in that wanting things makes you more likely to get salty when they don’t pan out, but I’m almost certain I won’t finish worse than 3-3 at the event now, which is comforting. Things are generally a bit more chill on day 2, in part because half of us are old as fuck and feeling a variety of aches and pains from spending all of day 1 standing around. That’s one of the secret keys to these events: Bring comfortable shoes and make copious use of the chairs. Standing and bending over tables is a young man’s game, the kind of foolish shit you do while telling your friends to “watch this.” Sure, does sitting down mean I can’t see all your dice over there? Absolutely. Do I give even the slightest shit if it means I’ll be able to walk tomorrow? Not at all. Greggles – the oldest and wisest among us – bows out of day 2 of the narrative entirely because of his day 1 soreness. I understand where he’s coming from, but it’s also cowardice – after a full year of COVID I’d lie on the floor and have SD47 roll for me if I thought I needed to. I respect the hell out of Greggles and everything he’s done for us, and he’ll show up again later to do our prize drawing, but in this instance I’d have chosen the path of pain. Also I’d have had to be at the hotel anyways watching people have fun so what would even be the point?

Anyways, if you take away nothing else from my rambling nonsense, take away that the two keys to completing a GT are: 1. Being able to play quickly so you can finish your games in 3 hours, and 2. Being able to stand for 8+ hours two days in a row.

Game 4: vs. Ian Donovan’s Space Wolves

Game 4 vs. Ian Donovan’s Space Wolves

Ian's Space Wolves - Click to Expand

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Space Wolves) [99 PL, 9CP, 1,998pts] ++

+ Stratagems +

Relics of the Chapter [-1CP]: Number of Extra Relics

+ HQ +

Chapter Master [8 PL, -1CP, 155pts]: Chapter Command: Chapter Master, Frost Weapon, Hunter, Jump Pack, Lightning Claw (Pair), Stratagem: Warrior of Legend, The Imperium’s Sword, Warlord

Librarian in Phobos Armour [5 PL, -1CP, 100pts]: 2. Murderous Hurricane, 4. Instincts Awoken, Rites of War, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter

+ Troops +

Assault Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 95pts] . 4x Assault Intercessor: 4x Astartes Chainsword, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Heavy Bolt Pistol
. Assault Intercessor Sgt: Astartes Chainsword, Heavy Bolt Pistol

Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] . 4x Incursor: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Occulus bolt carbine, 4x Paired combat blades
. Incursor Sergeant

Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] . 4x Incursor: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Occulus bolt carbine, 4x Paired combat blades
. Incursor Sergeant

+ Elites +

Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL, 185pts]: 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus Rocket Pod, Macro Plasma Incinerator, Onslaught Gatling Cannon

Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL, 185pts]: 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus Rocket Pod, Macro Plasma Incinerator, Onslaught Gatling Cannon

Wolf Guard [7 PL, 185pts]: Jump Pack
. Wolf Guard: Storm shield, Thunder hammer
. Wolf Guard: Storm shield, Thunder hammer
. Wolf Guard: Storm shield, Thunder hammer
. Wolf Guard: Storm shield, Thunder hammer
. Wolf Guard Pack Leader: Storm shield, Thunder hammer

Wolf Guard [7 PL, 140pts]: Jump Pack
. Wolf Guard: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Wolf Guard: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Wolf Guard: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Wolf Guard: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Wolf Guard Pack Leader: Lightning Claw, Storm shield

Wolf Guard Terminators [9 PL, 195pts] . Wolf Guard in Terminator Armour: Storm shield, Thunder hammer
. Wolf Guard in Terminator Armour: Storm shield, Thunder hammer
. Wolf Guard in Terminator Armour: Lightning Claw, Lightning Claw
. Wolf Guard in Terminator Armour: Lightning Claw, Lightning Claw
. Wolf Guard Terminator Pack Leader: Storm shield, Thunder hammer

+ Fast Attack +

Cyberwolves [1 PL, 15pts]: Cyberwolf

Cyberwolves [1 PL, 15pts]: Cyberwolf

Suppressor Squad [5 PL, 100pts] . 2x Suppressor: 2x Accelerator autocannon, 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Suppressor Sergeant

+ Heavy Support +

Eliminator Squad [5 PL, 75pts]: Bolt sniper rifle
. Eliminator Sergeant: Bolt sniper rifle
. 2x Eliminators: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Camo cloak, 2x Frag & Krak grenades

Eliminator Squad [5 PL, 75pts]: Bolt sniper rifle
. Eliminator Sergeant: Bolt sniper rifle
. 2x Eliminators: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Camo cloak, 2x Frag & Krak grenades

Long Fangs [9 PL, 198pts]: Armorium Cherub
. Long Fang: Multi-melta
. Long Fang: Multi-melta
. Long Fang: Multi-melta
. Long Fang: Multi-melta
. Long Fang Pack Leader: Astartes Chainsword
. . Boltgun and Bolt Pistol
. Wolf Guard Pack Leader: Astartes Chainsword, Storm shield

+ Dedicated Transport +

Drop Pod [4 PL, 70pts]: Storm bolter

++ Total: [99 PL, 9CP, 1,998pts] ++

 

The Mission: Vital Intelligence

My Secondaries

  • Grind Them Down
  • Engage on All Fronts
  • Spread the Sickness

Ian’s Secondaries

  • Oaths of Moment
  • Assassination
  • Retrieve Octarius Data

Remember when I said “Space Wolves bullshit can’t hurt you?” How wrong I was, dear reader. Round four saw me going up against Ian Donovan, the same Space Wolves player who had clowned Scott Horras out of nowhere in round 1. I took one look at Ian’s list and was immediately relieved – nothing about it is particularly scary to my list. Yes, the thunder hammers are a bit tough to work with, but I can deal with a pair of Redemptors and the Suppressors are a dead unit against my list. I thought I had this one locked up – just run the usual gameplan of head north, then turn in to score 3-4 Spread the Sickness objectives while grinding out turns.

Instead the game was a nightmare. There’s no lesson to be learned here, just an endless string of bad dice outcomes and things that shouldn’t have worked, but did. I ended up going second, but in prep for that I heavily screened out my PBCs. They tend to do work against Marines and Ian’s got a drop pod full of Long Fangs to remove one from the table, so I use the Fleshmower and Poxwalkers to keep them from being within 12″. This means likely losing the mower, but there’s no way I’m not going to lose a vehicle to multi-meltas on turn 1 and I’d rather it be that than the Rhino. Ian takes out the bloat drone and wipes a squad of Poxwalkers and on my turn I’m unable to beat his kill total when his last Long Fang makes a couple of 5+ saves to stay on the board, then scores a 1 on his morale roll. Great.

The whole game ends up going this way – nothing goes right for me, Ian makes a bunch of saves he desperately needs and gets a few long bomb charges in to touch one of my PBCs, then saves a bunch of shots from it. It all comes to a head when my Daemon Prince charges his Redemptors, one with 6 wounds remaining, the other with four. I take out the one with four wounds using the Blightlords, then the DP ends up scoring six wounds on the one with 6 wounds left, only to watch as Ian rolls four 6+ saves to keep it on the table, and then it pounds the DP to death. On the next turn it’ll walk over toward my characters, then I’ll kill it with the Plague Skull of Glothila, only to watch it explode and kill my two remaining characters and my last Deathshroud. The whole sequence scores Ian 10 VP on Assassination and cripples my ability to score Engage on All Fronts and Spread the Sickness on turns 4 and 5, essentially ending my ability to score points in the game at all. I end up scoring only 15 points for primary during the game and another 12 on Secondary, despite wiping out every major threat in Ian’s army. There is nothing to be learned from this game and one day I will have my vengeance on you, Ian.

Result: 37-88, Loss

 

Game 5: vs. Sam Kenney’s Tyranids

Sam's Tyranids - Click to Expand

++ Patrol Detachment -2CP (Tyranids) [33 PL, -2CP, 685pts] ++

+ HQ +

Hive Tyrant [9 PL, 195pts]: Adrenal Glands, Heavy Venom Cannon, Lash Whip and Monstrous Bonesword, Power: Onslaught, Power: Symbiostorm, Resonance Barb, Toxin Sacs

+ Troops +

Termagants [3 PL, 50pts] . 10x Termagant (Fleshborer): 10x Fleshborer

+ Elites +

Hive Guard [12 PL, 270pts] . 6x Hive Guard (Impaler): 6x Impaler Cannon

+ Heavy Support +

Exocrine [9 PL, 170pts]

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Tyranids) [70 PL, 10CP, 1,313pts] ++

+ Configuration +

Battle Size [12CP]: 3. Strike Force (101-200 Total PL / 1001-2000 Points)

Detachment Command Cost

Hive Fleet: Kraken

+ Stratagems +

Bounty of the Hive Fleet [-1CP]: 1 Extra Bio-artefact

Progeny of the Hive [-1CP]

+ HQ +

Hive Tyrant [11 PL, 215pts]: 2x Monstrous Scything Talons, Adrenal Glands, Power: Paroxysm, Power: The Horror, Toxin Sacs, Wings, Xenogenic Acid
. Adaptive Physiology: Murderous Size

Neurothrope [5 PL, 95pts]: Power: Psychic Scream, Warlord

The Swarmlord [14 PL, 240pts]

+ Troops +

Genestealers [4 PL, 65pts]: Acid Maw, 5x Scything Talons
. 5x Genestealer: 5x Rending Claws

Genestealers [4 PL, 65pts]: Acid Maw, 5x Scything Talons
. 5x Genestealer: 5x Rending Claws

Hormagaunts [3 PL, 60pts] . 10x Hormagaunt: 10x Scything Talons

Tyranid Warriors [12 PL, 258pts]: Adrenal Glands
. Adaptive Physiology: Enhanced Resistance
. Tyranid Warrior: Boneswords, Deathspitter
. Tyranid Warrior: Boneswords, Deathspitter
. Tyranid Warrior: Boneswords, Deathspitter
. Tyranid Warrior: Boneswords, Deathspitter
. Tyranid Warrior: Boneswords, Deathspitter
. Tyranid Warrior: Deathspitter, Scything Talons
. Tyranid Warrior: Boneswords, Deathspitter
. Tyranid Warrior (Bio-cannon): Boneswords, Venom Cannon
. Tyranid Warrior (Bio-cannon): Boneswords, Venom Cannon

Tyranid Warriors [4 PL, 63pts]: Adrenal Glands
. Tyranid Warrior: Lash Whip and Bonesword, Scything Talons
. Tyranid Warrior: Lash Whip and Bonesword, Scything Talons
. Tyranid Warrior: Lash Whip and Bonesword, Scything Talons

+ Elites +

Lictor [2 PL, 37pts]

+ Fast Attack +

Raveners [3 PL, 60pts] . Ravener: 2x Scything Talons
. Ravener: 2x Scything Talons
. Ravener: 2x Scything Talons

+ Heavy Support +

Trygon [8 PL, 155pts]: Adrenal Glands, Toxinspike

++ Total: [103 PL, 8CP, 1,998pts] ++

 

The Mission: Retrieval Mission

My Secondaries

  • Minimise Losses
  • Grind Them Down
  • Spread the Sickness

Sam’s Secondaries

  • Stranglehold
  • Mental Interrogation
  • Retrieve Octarius Data

Unfortunately this is the only game I don’t have photos of. I was tired and a bit cranky at this point and it just slipped my mind. This was a game I probably could have won, and was a bit closer than the final score, thanks to a dumb mistake on my part that cost me 8 VP, but ultimately my inexperience against Tyranids led to making some bad errors on my part and Sam absolutely outplayed me with a list that was more than capable of handling my slow bullshit. Sam won the first turn roll-off (I only went first in two games during the event), and proceeded to move block me wonderfully while layering buff after buff on his units. I’m able to get an early leg up by killing his Exocrine with some good shots on the Entropy Cannons but it’s all downhill from there. The biggest challenge with going second here is that I have to basically spend three turns screening out Trygons from my backfield, and that’s really movement I can’t afford to lose on a map with Hammer-and-Anvil deployment that requires I walk across the table. The big “oh shit this is what you get for not practicing against Tyranids” moment comes with Sam bombs his Flying Hive Tyrant across the table at my Daemon Prince, dumping 6 CP into it to fight twice and kill him before falling back wherever he wanted. The move, along with killing my Fleshmower, really leaves me without much mobility and while the Blightlord mass stayed on the table, Sam was able to run around and avoid them along the opposite side as they just took pot shots at whatever they had line of sight on. On turn 5 I forget to fall back with my PBC when it’s in combat against his Trygon, a move that costs me 8 points (3 for grind, 5 for Minimise), but the points hardly matter – just saving face in a loss at that point.

Anyways Sam’s a good player and he played a very tight game. Some things went my way early, didn’t go my way late, and he took advantage of my mistakes well and earned every bit of this win. His list is surprisingly tough and I’m not shocked at all he finished 4-2.

Result: 68-87, Loss

 

Game 6: vs. Joshua Foster’s Custodes

Game 6 vs. Custodes

Joshua's Adeptus Custodes - Click to Expand

Patrol Detachment 0CP (Adeptus Custodes) [94PL, 2000pts]

Shield Host : Shadowkeepers

-HQ-
Shield-Captain on Dawneagle Jetbike [9pl, -1cp, 178pts] Warlord, Salvo Launcher, Misericordia, Auric Aquilas, Superior Creation, Captain-Commander, Unstoppable Destroyer

-Troop-

Sagittarum Custodians [7pl, 159pts] x3, Misericordia, Misericordia, Misericordia
Sagittarum Custodians [7pl, 159pts] x3, Misericordia, Misericordia, Misericordia
Sagittarum Custodians [7pl, 159pts] x3, Misericordia, Misericordia, Misericordia

-Fast Attack=

Venatari Custodians [16pl, 330pts] x6, Kinetic Destroyer, Tarsus Buckler
Vertus Praetors [20pl, 425pts], Salvo Launcher, Salvo Launcher, Salvo Launcher, Salvo Launcher, Salvo Launcher

-Heavy Support-
Telemon Heavy Dreadnought [14PL, -1cp, 295pts] Telemon Caestus, Arachnus Storm Cannon, Eternal Penitent
Telemon Heavy Dreadnought [14PL, -1cp, 295pts] Telemon Caestus, Arachnus Storm Cannon, Eternal Penitent

 

The Mission: Sweep & Clear

My Secondaries

  • Spread the Sickness
  • To the Last (the Daemon Prince, the Blightlords, the Plague Marines)
  • Stranglehold

Joshua’s Secondaries

  • Stranglehold
  • Assassination
  • Grind Them Down

Ok, last game and the one where I’m hoping for 3-3. Joshua’s got a lovely Custodes list that takes after Crab-Stuffed Mushroom’s, with lots of purple and gold styling. It looks great and he’s a great guy. Joshua, I’m sorry about what happened next.

I’m no stranger to playing Custodes. I haven’t played against them a ton, but I also know their score pretty well. Lots of wounds, high toughness, good saves, small model counts. Joshua’s list has two Telemons, who are more than capable of shrugging off a lot of my crap, and those dawneagle jetbikes can be a real nightmare. Surround and Destroy gives me six objectives to play with, and I think I can get 3-4 Spread the Sickness points here, plus I like my odds holding more objectives despite everything in Joshua’s army having ObSec so I go with Stranglehold. Finally I take To the Last. The DP is probably going to die early but on this mission I have a plan to make Joshua come to me, and force him to engage my Blightlords. We talk before the game about the Foul Blightspawn and its Stench-vats and he tells me about how bullshit that ability is. I agree, but I’m going to make him charge into it anyways. Or at least try and shoot me from a distance. I deploy kind of across the table but use my higher drop count to force Joshua to spend a turn sending half his army across the table to meet me. That’s good, because any dividing and conquering I can do on this one is worthwhile.

I win the first turn roll-off and spend it advancing up the side of the table with my Fleshmower, advancing him 5″. I pull forward with my Blightlords but only roll a 1 for their advance, forcing me to use the DP to score Stranglehold on Turn 1. He’s in the craters, which protects him a bit, but it’s a risky move since it means one Telemon can shoot him. The Telemon does, but the DP survives with 1 wound remaining. I’m able to blank Joshua on Grind at that point, and will do so for the rest of the game. On the following turn I fire up Flash Outbreak with the Fleshmower to prevent re-rolls within 6″ of it, then shoot up his Sagittarum and finish them off with the Fleshmower, while pulling my Rhino and Daemon Prince back to protect them from shooting on the following turn. The Fleshmower consolidates into the other Sagittarum and then I gear up for the Jetbikes to assault.

On Joshua’s 2nd turn he whittles down the Blightlords to 6 models, then plows in with them and the Telemon. Both are in range of the Stench-Vats, and the bikes are within 3″ of the Blightspawn, who forces them to fight last. I use Relaptic Assault to intervene with the Deathshroud against the bikes, have the Putrifier charge up the Blightspawn, then spend 2 CP on Eternal Hatred to ensure I’ll load up on wounds. I end up doing the 6 wounds I need to kill the Telemon with 5 of the Blightlords, then kill a jetbike with the remaining model, and spend 1 CP on Break Their Spirits to give the unit -4 Ld. Then the Deathshrouds do their part, using Vermid Whispers for +1 to hit on their big attacks and dropping the unit down to 1 bike with 1 wound left, who then flees. At this point that’s a back-breaking turn for Joshua and the rest is just going through the motions. It’s a rout and we’re done more than an hour early, which is great, since it gives me time to start breaking down tables.

Result: 91-52, Win

 

The rest of the event is a blast. We break down tables as players finish, and I stop periodically to check in with Shane. We get the whole thing pretty much wrapped up and loaded into a UHaul in an hour thanks to some extra help from Phil Wong and SRM. Condit’s wandering around at this point and he’s more than a little drunk, talking about the stellar bbq his dad brought to the event and how we should all play Titanicus. The awards ceremony is great – we’ve got some amazing prizes – and all-told, we ended up raising more than $1200 for Tablewar Charities. Anthony Vanella wins the belt and he absolutely deserves it. We end up missing the sushi dinner and instead walk over to Nandos in a group that includes SD47, Phil, Greg “Klobasnek” Narro, Scott, Boon, Condit, and FromTheShire. That’s fine, because a bowl with chicken and rice and a bunch of other shit is exactly what I’m in the mood for at the moment. We hang out until they kick us out around 10:30 and I ride with SD47 back to his place to get another 4 hours of sleep before my 6am flight back to Houston.

Before I left for the Goonhammer Open my wife asked me if I was “ready to have fun” that weekend and I just looked at her for a moment before telling her that I wasn’t sure “fun” was the right word. I had a great time, sure – helping set up, break down, and play in the Goonhammer Open was one of the more rewarding experiences of my life. But it was also a shitload of work, and even more exhausting than the average GT. That said, I am incredibly proud of what we pulled off, putting on a GT with great terrain, good venue, and great prizes with a sensible COVID policy that hopefully felt like something we’d done many times before. It wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of more than a dozen people, chief among them Greg, Shane, Fowler, Primaris Kevin, Scott, Craig, SD47, plus our patrons Phil, Joe, Rocco, and Norman. We also had some wonderful sponsors, and while I’ll talk about them more in a post this weekend, it’s worth giving another look to the fantastic folks at Tablewar, Koyo, Skirmish Mats, 4Ground, and Tinkerturf, who provided us with wonderful terrain, mats, and prizes.

Alright, that’s enough of the “What happened.” Time for “What’s next.”

 

Why Do I Keep Losing on Hammer and Anvil Deployments, and How Do I Fix It?

With another event in the books, and this one with a finish worse than I was hoping for, it’s time to get introspective about my losses and figure out how to shore things up. There are a few reasons I’ve lost games. Sometimes I’m making bad mistakes, other times I’m getting outplayed, but generally speaking my faction choice isn’t holding me back from 5-1 and there are things I can do to improve. My win rates improve substantially in games where I’m familiar with the opponent – I think I could have won the Tyranids game with a bit better insight – but that’s going to be an issue of getting in more games and I’m kind of at capacity there at the moment. The other thing I can do is improve my list, and doing that well means thinking critically about my games, why I lost them, and how I can improve things.

At one point during my Tyranids game, Shane walked by and noted that I keep a notebook with notes on every game I play, plus scoring. He suggested I should go back and look at my games and figure out if I’m losing on Primary or Secondary. I ended up doing this, but what I noticed was less a primary/secondary issue – though I did have some bad secondary picks in there that I’ve worked on addressing – and more that I was consistently losing on Hammer and Anvil deployment missions, i.e. the ones where you deploy along the short table edges, specifically Retrieval Mission and Battle Lines. The exceptions here are The Scouring and Priority Targets, and looking at these that’s because both of those missions give me access to a central objective that I can occupy with my Blightlords, scoring points while forcing the enemy to engage with me directly.

If I plot out the way movement generally went on the games I’ve played at the Goonhammer Open and Lone Star Open, this becomes a bit easier to see. I mentioned Sweep and Clear as my bread-and-butter, and here’s a diagram of how units moved during my first game against Dark Angels at the GHO – various Dark Angels units press to mid-table on turn 1, giving me the ability to slingshot out without advancing my Blightlords, and I proceed to hold that spot for the rest of the game, forcing his units around it while I pick off targets on the sides with the rest. This is as good as things get for me, especially since I get to start only 9″ away from the middle of the table, ensuring I get 50% odds on being able to advance there without a re-roll on turn 1.

GHO Game 1: Sweep and Clear vs. Dark Angels

Likewise, things are tougher but not so dire on Dawn of War (long table edge) deployment missions, where the larger number of objectives usually means I can spend more time on Spread the Sickness and circle around in a way with my Blightlords that makes them harder to avoid. There’s usually a movement path on these that makes sense for me and allows me to occupy objectives as I move while also threatening an opponent’s position.

GHO Game 3 vs. Sisters of Battle

GHO Game 6 vs. Custodes

Surround and Destroy doesn’t give me quite a mid-table objective, but a reasonable facsimile of one, while Overrun lets me move across two midfield objectives en route to my opponent’s deployment zone, and that helps me concentrate my forces on a shorter walk across the table. While my army is slow, paradoxically the wider deployment zones help if I’m up against an opponent who either needs to engage with me or has spread themselves too thin, as now they have more ground to cover and I can deploy around mid-table and make determinations as I cross. That said, speed can also be a factor here, and I’m going to come back to that in a minute.

The challenge comes on the Hammer and Anvil maps that don’t have a central objective; on these I have to commit to one side of the table or the other, and it’s a long, long walk to the other side. What my games in the GHO taught me – both against Sam Kenney’s Tyranids and Brian’s Necrons – is that a faster army can just choose to not engage with my Blightlords at that point, running around me. and forcing them to walk across the table to do anything of note. If the opponent doesn’t have to come to me, I’m screwed, and if they do and it’s with something I can’t reasonably handle – like the Silent King – I’m also screwed because I have no choice but to engage it.

Game 2 vs. Brian Pullen’s Necrons

Game 5 vs. Sam Kenney’s Tyranids

On this Tyranids mission my Blightlords are stuck walking across the table when it becomes clear they won’t be able to engage anything otherwise, and all of Sam’s units can easily run away. The end result is a game where I was able to keep more than 50% of my army on the table (barring a last-turn unforced error on my part), but still lost by 8+ points because I couldn’t really make use of more than one third of my army’s points.

Also, because JONK asked, here’s the diagram of my Space Wolves game against Ian:

Game 4 vs. Ian Donovan

Fixing This Problem

Regardless of whether hammer-and-anvil deployment is specifically the issue, I’m pretty confident that the core problems are twofold: The first is forcing opponents to engage with me, and the second is a lack of speed when they don’t. I can generally work to force an opponent to engage with me by taking To The Last, which paints a 5 VP target on the Blightlords and works well in missions where I might otherwise worry about being ignored. The big problem right now is that the Daemon Prince costing 185 means that he’s always the third unit for To The Last. This is a problem, in part because he’s relatively fragile, especially in his current T6, 3+ save state, and because he’s also worth 4 VP on Assassination. That means I have to play conservatively with him and although he’s got 10″ movement, he functionally can’t leave the Deathshrouds or Blightlords or risk being caught out and destroyed. I’ve contemplated dropping him before, and I think now is the right time to remove the Daemon Prince from the army. I love the conversion work I’ve done but it’s just not working out. He was certainly more deadly with Warp Insect Hive – and that’s my preferred way to run him now – but with Wings he’s too big a liability. My options here are to either remove his Wings (35 points) or remove the DP altogether (185 points). I really like having the re-roll 1s to hit he provides, but if that’s all I’m looking for I can get better results with a Lord of Virulence, Lord of Contagion, or even just a Chaos Lord. Taking a Chaos Lord saves me a full 100 points and those are points I can use to add another Bloat-Drone to the army.

After talking with Don Hooson for a bit, he suggests trying out the Heavy Blight Launcher drone variant – its Assault 6 gun means it can advance and shoot, and because it’s not pure melee, it can be active on every turn of the game. It also gives me quite a bit more speed over the DP, who’s stuck with the terminators, and a second unit I can screen things out with if I need. The two drones can work well in tandem or supporting the plague marines as a second front for my army and I don’t lose any effectiveness on the Blightlords. Meanwhile no longer being tethered to Mortarion’s Anvil frees me up to either go with the Poxmongers or the Inexorable as my Plague Company. The Inexorable give me a killer Stratagem in Ferric Miasma, which can help keep my PBCs from getting tagged, plus Ferric Blight improving AP by 1 could be an absolutely devastating effect used correctly. On the other hand, the Poxmongers give me Bilious Blood-Rush which would let me punish the shit out of units attempting to bad touch my PBCs by just letting them blast the unit off the table. I’m 50/50 on this at the moment, but I suspect I’ll end up taking the Inexorable for now since preventing those charges is more valuable than shooting after being charged.

Based on this analysis and some work on my end, here’s what I’m looking at testing next:

+++ Death Guard Battalion Detachment (-3 CP, 2,000 points) +++

Plague Company: The Inexorable
Extra Relic (-1 CP)

Extra WL Trait (-1 CP)

HQ: Death Guard Chaos Lord w/Power Sword, Bolt Pistol, WARLORD: Ferric Blight, RELIC: Plaguebringer
HQ: Malignant plaguecaster, POWERS: Miasma of Pestilence, Curse of the Leper

TP: Plague marines x10: 2x flail, Champion: Bolter and Plague Knife
TP: Poxwalkers x10
TP: Poxwalkers x10

EL: Blightlord Terminators x10: 2x flail, 2x reaper autocannon + Combi-bolter, 5x axe + combi-bolter, Champion: Combi-bolter + Bubotic Axe, Plague Skull of Glothila (-1 CP)
EL: Deathshroud Terminators x3
EL: Foul Blightspawn: Relic: Revolting stench-vats, Plaguechosen: Arch-Contaminator
EL: Biologus Putrifier
EL: Tallyman

HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon
HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon

FA: Foetid Bloat-Drone w/Fleshmower
FA: Foetid Bloat-Drone w/Heavy Blight Launcher

DT: Chaos Rhino

+++ 2,000 points, 9 CP +++

I’ve gutted most of my upgrades and save the Viscous Death on the Blightspawn, there’s not much lost there. The Power Fist gets almost no use as I usually want to use the knife for Trench Fighters, while the chimes and sigil are neat but don’t do a ton for me in most games. If I like how this feels but it turns out I want a second Fleshmower, I may end up buying one more and scrapping the sword on the Chaos Lord to get back those 10 points for Viscous Death. And if I need more muscle in the Blightlords blob, I’ll look at swapping the Chaos Lord for one of the Terminator Lords and potentially dropping the Putrifier to make room for the second Bloat-Drone and put a few more upgrades back on the units, or look at swapping one unit of poxwalkers for Plague Marines since I’ll have an extra 30ish points to work with.

 

Next Time: More Practice Games, Probably

That wraps up this instalment. Join me next time when I look at practicing for the GW tournament in New Orleans and getting a refund on Warzone Houston, which I’m no longer comfortable attending. I’ll have a few more practice games to play to test out this list, and figure out if I’m on the right track or not. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop me a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.