Sunday, July 29, 2012

Victory Through Attrition

The past week had a number of nerdy highlights: I saw the new Batman movie (although viewing a movie that made $160 million its opening weekend is hardly a departure from the mainstream), painted some Star Trek miniatures, and got in a game of Warhammer 40,000.

It's the first game I've played since G&G back in May, and maybe my third or fourth this year. I still like the models and enjoy the game, but especially with the arrival of summer, other distractions abound, and they convince me that the necessary preparations involved to play a game are not a sufficiently rewarding use of my timeframes earmarked for frivolity. What with finding an opponent, arranging a time, picking a venue, choosing an army, writing a list, insuring everything is packed, muling it over and deploying all your models, miniature war gaming is possibly the least spontaneous leisure activity there is.

Still, any excuse to push model soldiers around a tabletop is a good one, and when executed with the right attitude and the correct people, is an unequalled form of entertainment.

Not being a tournament player, or someone so hard up for opposition that I need to play with strangers, means that I get to play exclusively with the correct people. Even among them, Scott is an exemplar, ready to critically disadvantage himself if a course of action does not fit the character of his army or the narrative unwinding over the course of the game.

Scott's Orks have developed significantly over the years, evolving from a fairly grabasstic mob of footsloggers into a swift and deadly mechanized force that have pasted by Dark Angels in may a battle, and over which my Imperial Guard have never known victory. I took a fairly generic list, as I wasn't sure if he was fielding his Orks or perhaps his Eldar, so I needed to be flexible. About fifty regular Valhallan infantry, plus another twenty conscripts and the infamous Bom Squad in the Pterograd Express, joined by a Leman Russ battle tank (Cold Comfort) as well as Lux Cathedra, an Executioner pattern tank bristling with plasma weapons.


We deployed on opposing table quarters, each with a single objective to defend, some ruins in Ork country and a stairway to heaven in my own backfield. With victory going to the side with the most objectives at the end of the game, it is a scenario that generates more than its share of ties, and since my ordinary humans have little hope of running in and taking the Orky objective away from them, I focused on defending my own. With the Imperial Guard, ofttimes your initial goal is simply not losing.


Scotty's Tankbusta boys secured the ruins holding his objective, which also gave them line of sight to Lux Cathedra. This gave me pause, since very few of his greenskins had the firepower to breach the hide of a Leman Russ tank, but the tankbustas certainly might, if they were lucky enough to hit it in the first place. His three trucks split up to cover the flanks, while his big foot mob, led by Mad Doc Grotsnik, took the center, supported by some Killa Kan mini-dreadnoughts. Even more troubling was the mob of Dethkoptas sitting slightly back from the main line of resistance. With enough speed to get practically anywhere on the field, twin linked weapons to make up for their intrinsic lack of accuracy (laccuracy?), and whirling blades capable of turning whole squads of Valhallans into just so many piles of cold cuts, they were the primary threat visible at deployment.

My own forces deployed far from the front, knowing full well that Orks not only had no choice but to come and get me, but also the ability and desire to do exactly that. Hoping my armor was up to the task, I put Lux Cathedra on my left flank, and Cold Comfort and Petrograd Express in the center, with another ruined building covering their right flank. Most of my infantry went up on the hill where my objective was, although I left Commander Chenkov and his Konskripts down in the valley to serve as a lasgun toting speed bump, since they could be replenished if they got wiped out or ran off the board edge.

The Orks got to move and shoot first, but a little luck and a bit of laccuracy meant I was in good shape when my opportunity came, and I was able to roll up the Chimera to toast some of Grotsnik's Orks with the hull mounted heavy flamer and plug up the centre gap. Massed fire from the infantry managed to take down all of the Dethkoptas, which meant my foot troopers might last a turn or two longer. All in all, a satisfactory first turn.


The second turn was less satisfactory as Grotsnik's Orks, all wound up on greenskin angel dust or its prescription equivalent (Ork or not, he's still a Doc), slammed into the front of the Chimera and their leader's power klaw disabled the engine, immobilizing it. Simultaneously, their air support, in the form of a Burna Bommer, showed up and commenced dispatching Valhallans in job lots. On the other flank,the Tankbustas brazenly left their cover (and the objective!) in order to close the distance to Lux Cathedra. While this allowed their Squig Hounds to charge the tank with the explosives gripped in their teeth, the Executioner tank survived, while they did not.

The next couple of turns involved quite a bit of back and forth. While the plasma tank shrugged off a number of shots, it's return fire was wildly inaccurate and ineffective. Although the Petrograd Express was immobilized and its hull mounted flamer disabled, the crazed Orks could not disengage from it until it was destroyed, and there was no room between it and Cold Comfort for another mob to pass through, until it too was destroyed. Meanwhile, the Burna Bommer worked roughshod on my infantry, destroying the command squad along with Marshall Kratten.
The Bom Squad bailed out of their stricken Chimera and turned their weapons upon the Killer Kans attacking its flank, dispatching them handily. After an Orky incendiary bomb dropped on them from the skies however, even these stalwart veterans broke and ran.

The second wave of Konskripts held up one squad of Orks for one turn on the left flank, but amazingly, the squad on the right actually managed to drive off another with a withering volley of lasgun fire.

By the time the bottom of the fourth turn rolled around, the Petrograd Express was a smoking crater, but Scott's Orks were unable to reach the objective behind my few remaining Valhallan infantry, and if I could sanitize his own objective with Lux Cathedra, I would be in a position to win, at least, if the game didn't go to turn five. Even if we played on, he would have to send a squad to secure his own objective, or be forced to play for a draw.

As any Ork will attest, sometimes quantity trumps accuracy, and this was true for the 5 plasma blasts the Leman Russ Executioner sent downrange into the Orks frantically scrabbling for cover. Enough of the high-intensity fusion blasts landed on target that the entire squad was converted into free-floating hydrogen and the occasional scorched tooth.


A fortunate dice roll ended the game there, and Scott graciously conceded defeat. Despite losing my command elements in their entirety, two of my three tanks, and about 70% casualties in my troopers, I had kept the Orks off their objective and protected the Stairway to Heaven.


I'm not sure why the stairs would be so important; a key vantage point, psychic hotspot, or a symbolic gesture critical to morale. One advantage that model armies have over real ones is that they never have to question the value of their sacrifice, since all of them will be back for the next battle anyways.

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