Played a game tonight against the ZombieArchivist as part of a Planetary Empires campaign that's been going in fits and starts. It's supposedly also a bit of an Escalation event, so tonight's game was at 1000 points. Just enough points to fit in a few nasty things, but not enough to take everything.
We played the Seize Ground mission, with 4 objectives, with Pitched Battle deployment. Nice and easy, especially when compared to my 5-6 game streak of only playing Dawn of War deployment. My force consisted of a Captain with bolter and power sword (my cheap replacement for Sicarius in small games), Tactical Squads I and II with plasma guns and missile launchers, Tactical Squad III with a flamer and a missile launcher, 5 Scouts with a power fist for the Sergeant and a heavy bolter, a Dreadnought with an Assault Cannon, and a Vindicator with Siege Shield. Lots of bodies, but with the tank and the Dreadnought to handle any big angry bugs.
The Tyranid force was not quite what I was expecting. I'd been seeing lots of Genestealers out of him lately, and this list was basically the opposite of that. A Tyranid Prime with Rending Claws and Adrenal Glands, 2 Venomthropes, a unit of 30 Hormagaunts with Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs, 30 Termagants, a Tervigon with Catalyst, and a Mawloc. Way more bugs than I'd planned to be seeing across the board.
My deployment was pretty straightforward- I split all 3 Tactical squads into combat squads, while the Scouts got into position on the objective in the near crater with their Scout move. The back halves of Squads II and III (IIB and IIIB) parked on the hill with their missile launchers, while IB got ready to set up shop on the wrecked Rhino with the objective. IIA and IIIA were escorts for the Vindicator, and getting ready to take the far crater objective, while IA ran with the Dreadnought to leapfrog the Scouts and take the objective in the forest on the Tyranid side. At least, that was the theory- we all know what happens to plans at contact.
The Tyranids set up in a couple of huge groups- the Hormagaunts in the forest on my right flank, the Termagants and Tyranid Prime on the hill on the left, with the Tervigon and the Venomthropes in between.
Taking the first turn meant that things were easy for me to start with- everyone moved up as planned, and my shooting phase was tremendous. With Squads IIB, IIIB, the Scouts, and the Dreadnought shooting at the Hormagaunts, I was able to thin their numbers very quickly, and an incredible stroke of luck with the Vindicator obliterated BOTH Venomthropes. All of the A squads ran, moving into position for the next turn.
Turn One for the bugs was not nearly as positive. Awful Difficult Terrain checks left the Hormagaunts swinging in the breeze right in front of the Scouts, and the Tervigon rolled 1-1-2 for his spawning, creating a unit of 4 Termagants and running out of eggs for the game.
In the second turn, the A squads continued to move up, while pouring fire into the Tyranids. The Scouts, IA, IIA, and the Dreadnought continued to lay waste to the Hormagaunts, while all of Squad III and the Vindicator dropped fully half of the Termagants.
In the bottom of the second, the Mawloc showed up, right in the midst of Squad IIIB, easily chowing down on four of their number, the missle-armed trooper just staring up at the massive beast in shock. The Hormagaunts finally remembered that they were hungry, assaulting the Scouts and Squad IA. The Scouts weathered a terrific number of attacks, managing to lose only one of their number, along with one Tactical Marine. Only managing to kill three of the Tyranids, that fight continued. On my left flank, Squad IIIA managed to account for 5 Termagants to no losses of their own, with the additional armor saves from Fearless accounting for 4 more dead Termagants.
In the 3rd turn, Squad IIA, accompanied by the Captain, moved up to support the Marines fighting the few remaining Termagants and their extremely angry Tyranid Prime, while the Dreadnought turned back towards where he started in an attempt to go deal with the Mawloc. His shooting was inadequate, but the two missile launchers on the hill were able to account for a wound on the huge monstrosity. The Dreadnought was slightly better in the assault, wounding the Mawloc twice while being immobilized itself, as the Mawloc failed its attempt at Hit and Run. The Captain and the Tyranid Prime squared off, with the Tyranid scoring one unanswered wound on the Marine hero. The Scouts and Squad IA continued their stalemate with the Hormagaunts, with the other Tactical Marine forward elements accounting for five Termagants, the rest of them falling to extra wounds from fearless, leaving the Tyranid Prime in combat with a full ten marines and the Captain.
The third turn for the Tyranids was almost entirely done in the Assault Phase. The Tervigon jumped into the fray to defend the Tyranid Prime, while the Hormagaunts were cut down by the Scouts, leaving the two remaining Scouts to consolidate their hold on the flag in the crater, with the Sergeant and Plasma gunner from Squad I making a break for the lightly defended forest objective. The immobile Dreadnought managed to inflict an unanswered wound on the Mawloc, while the fight between the Tyranid Prime and the Space Marine Captain continued to be a tied contest.
Turn 4 was a big shuffle for the Ultramarines, with squad IB moving from the wrecked Rhino forward towards the unoccupied crater objective, while IIB and the lone survivor of IIIB moved to take up their positions in the wreckage. The remaining Scouts, IA Tactical Marines, and the Vindicator collectively only accounted for 3 of the 4 Termagants guarding the forest objective. The Dreadnought managed to inflict a fifth wound on the Mawloc, though it got exploded for it's troubles, while the Captain continued his streak of bad luck, still failing to injure the Tyranid Prime, while it cut down two Tactical Marines. Their resolve held fast, however, keeping the fight going for another round.
With it's mechanical opponent now scrapped, the Mawloc took the opportunity to dig deep into the desert sands, avoiding any hostile gunfire. With a lucky Fleshborer shot, the lone Termagant in the woods managed to bring down the plasma gunner from Squad IA, leaving a lone Sergeant to face off against the vile Xenos. The Captain finally managed to wound the Tyranid Prime, but not without cost, with three more marines killed, while a fourth fell to extra wounds from combat resolution.
Returning from the ground, the Mawloc, eager for vengeance against the Vindicator, attempted to bore straight through the armored behemoth, but miscalculated, missing completely, a move that would take it almost completely out of the fight. The Vindicator, unfazed, brought it's Storm Bolter to bear on the lone Termagant, robbing the Sergeant of a chance to best it in single combat. The Tervigon crushed the last member of Squad IIA, but the Sergeant from Squad III and the Captain held fast, with all four objectives now solidly in the hands of the Ultramarines.
With the random game length forcing the Ultramarines to hold on, they had little to do besides hope that their Captain could hold the Tervigon and the Tyranid Prime in combat. The Vindicator easily obliterated the already wounded Mawloc, but the Captain again failed to wound the thick-shelled Tyranid Prime. The Tervigon had no such problem, eviscerating the Sergeant from Squad III, and feasting on his remains.
With only two models on the table, the Tyranid turn progressed quickly. Now undistracted, the Tervigon easily devoured the Captain, with Consolidation moves allowing the Tyranid Prime and the Tervigon to contest the objectives held by Squad IB and the Scouts, respectively.
Another unlucky turn roll led into turn 7, with nearly every Ultramarines model on the board firing on the Tyranid Prime in hopes of dealing a deathblow. The Heavy Bolter from the Scouts managed to deal a wound, but it was not enough to bring it down. With the Tyranids getting the last chance at assaulting, the Tervigon handily beat the Scouts, with only a single wound from the Sergeant's Power Fist on his way down the Tervigon's gullet. The Tyranid Prime managed to kill two of the five Marines holding the far crater, but the rest held fast as the game drew to a close.
With the Forest and the Rhino firmly in their grasp, and the Tervigon in the near crater, the Ultramarines held the field, two objectives to one for the Tyranids.
I think this game was a pretty good example of going in with a well thought-out plan, while remaining adaptable. I had hoped to get my Captain and Squad IIA onto the far crater, but with the Captain's power sword the only real shot at cutting into the Tervigon (with the exception of the Scout Sergeant's Power Fist, and he already had a job to do), I had to play leapfrog with my units on the left flank. The Mawloc was extremely disruptive- during turn 5, I spent my whole movement phase trying to spread out the squads holding objectives in hopes that the Mawloc's return wouldn't blast me off of an objective- really the only thing that kept it from being devastating was Joe's intense hatred for the Vindicator, even going so far as to admit that it wasn't the smart tactical play. There were a couple of rules errors that should have been obvious to me at the time- we misplayed And They Shall Know No Fear for a couple of turns, defaulting the Marines to Fearless when they failed a morale check, rather than after being caught by a Sweeping Advance. That cost me a couple of Marines and probably a few attacks from charging back into the fight, and there's really no excuse for it- I've been playing Space Marines for more than a decade, and ATSKNF has not really changed all that much. I also was panicking over the Tyranid Prime during Turn 7, forgetting that because it wasn't a Troops Choice, it had no chance at taking the objective away from Squad IB, just contesting it. Really, Turn 7, especially the Tyranid half, was a formality- there was no way for the two remaining bugs to contest or destroy enough Marines to keep the victory away from me. My own mental failings aside, however, it was a well-fought game by Joe, especially considering his poor luck early on with the Tervigon, and a pleasure as always. Certainly a worthy game for his debut in the Steamwerks.