After a dry spell of more than a month, I was finally able to get in a game. It wasn't "true" Horus Heresy, as my opponent was playing Chaos Daemons, but I had a fun time.
• • •
Lír Korad surveyed the broken city. It was hard to believe that only twelve hours ago, this was a bustling metropolis, home to more than a million mortals. The buildings were broken and decayed and appeared to have been rearranged. The colonnade and pillared dais decorated with skull-shaped braziers and eight-pointed stars was most certainly not Compliant architecture.
The vox bud in Lír’s ear buzzed. It was his fellow praetor, the Nocturnian called Jor Kul’dor, requesting an update. It had taken all of Lír and Jor’s discipline and dedication to wed their forces together in the tense days after Isstvan; in the end, their shared identity as Salamanders - and shared oath of vengeance against the traitors - saw them through. Lír had taken command of this mission, accompanied by his First Fang breachers, while Jor waited aboard the strike cruiser Dracos Astera, orbiting far overhead.
“The city is dead,” Lír replied. “Casualties appear to be total. Their wounds indicate both conventional and biochemical weapons.”
“Lesions. Necrosis. Rapid-growth tumors. Primus Medicae Her’kan is en-route with samples as we speak.”
Jor’s response was cut off by shouts of alarm from the marines standing around him. Lír looked up, dialing up his modified vision to maxium magnification. It wasn’t as acute or as powerful as a set of binoculars, but it was enough to tell him that a host of creatures were coming over the hill and into the city. They were an impossibly varied crowd: red-furred lupine things that ran on four legs, pink tentacled things that scampered along on two or three, rotten greenish shapes that shambled upright like men, and behind them, giant flies that hovered low to the ground like jetbikes, and two winged shapes circling overhead. At the center was an enormous hulking figure that appeared to be the army’s leader, a monstrous, bloated thing, carrying a rusted slab of iron formed roughly into the shape of the sword.
“Lír? Report!” Jor insisted.
Lír decided to ignore the breach of protocol. “We have enemy contacts.”
“Proceed with caution, brother,” Jor warned. Lír smiled fiercely, burning rage simmering in his heart. He switched off the vox and gave the order to re-embark on the spartan assault tank, already cycling up its engines and weapon matrices.
’Caution’ was not his intention.
• • •
- Points: 2k
- Deployment: Search and Destroy
- Mission: Challenge
- Artificer armor praetor with iron halo, storm shield, and thunder hammer, using the Covenant of Fire
- 10 breachers with two flamers, sergeant has artificer armor, meltabombs, and a master-crafted combi-flamer, accompanied by an apothecary with artificer armor and a volkite charger
- 10 tactical marines, sergeant has artificer armor and master-crafted combi-melta, riding in a rhino
- 1 contemptor-mortis dreadnought with dual assault cannons
- 10 veteran tactical marines with two missile launchers (equipped with flakk), the sergeant has artificer armor, meltabombs, and a master-crafted combi-melta, riding in a rhino.
- 10 veteran tactical marines with two heavy flamers, the sergeant has artificer armor, meltabombs, and a master-crafted combi-flamer, riding in a rhino with a heavy flamer
- 1 spartan assault tank with a heavy flamer, flare shield, and armored ceramite
|The defenders of Humanity in all their glory|
Daemons of Chaos with:
- 1 great unclean one
- 1 winged daemon prince
- 1 Fateweaver
- 2 squads of flesh hounds of Khorne
- 1 squad of plaguebearers
- 1 squad of plague drones
- 1 soul grinder
|A horde of foul xenos bioforms|
My opponent’s Warlord (the great unclean one, of course) rolled a trait which gave him an extra wound; I rolled Void Walker, which I kept even though I wouldn't be able to exploit Deep Strike, because Adamantium Will seemed like an important advantage against Daemons. My opponent also went and deployed first. I did not successfully seize the initiative. My opponent had to roll many psychic powers and Daemonic gifts, and I didn’t bother to record them all.
The daemons largely pushed forwards into the ruins, dividing somewhat as they came. While the plaguebearers and great unclean one took the center, the daemon prince, pink horrors, and one of the squads of flesh hounds swung north, while the other squad of flesh hounds and the blight drones swung south. Three units split off from the main body: the soul grinder stepped upstairs in a ruin in my opponents deployment zone for a better angle on my approaching forces and both flying monstrous daemons began swooping. My opponents’ psychic phase was largely ineffective, though he did manage to summon some flamers. His shooting phase was only a little better, with snap-shots from the soul grinder’s cannon glancing one of my rhinos.
I could see what my opponent was trying to do - a fairly standard envelopment maneuver, something he could do because of how thoroughly he outnumbered me. I decided to go for the big win - his warlord - and ran right into his trap. I advanced, rhinos peeling north and south to engage the two arms of his force and keep them from reinforcing his center while my spartan charged directly ahead. Shooting from embarked squads and mounted flamers killed one flesh hound and all of the flamers my opponent had summoned.
VPs: Salamanders 1/Daemons 0
The daemons continued to advance, with the daemon prince landing near the northern group of flesh hounds. Notably, the pink horrors decided to linger behind the large central building where they could provide psychic support and stay out of trouble. My opponents’ psychic phase was, again, pretty ineffective, with Fateweaver failing to use his D-strength witchfire against my dreadnought, a summoning attempt failing as well, and only Cursed Earth getting off to enhance several squads’ invulnerable saves. My opponents’ daemonic shooting was a lot more interesting, with a soul-grinder ordnance shot immobilizing my southern rhino and killing a blight drone thanks to a bad scatter and a snapped fire cannon shot stunning my other rhino. This was also the first of many busy assault phases, as my opponent charged all three of my rhinos with the nearest enemy squads. To the south, my opponent’s flesh hounds failed to charge my immobilized veteran tatical (flame) rhino and lost one of their number for their trouble. The blight drones also charged, successfully, lost another unit to flame Overwatch from the embarked marines, and then failed to finish the rhino off. To the north, plaguebearers charged and glanced to death my other veteran tactical (missile) rhino and flesh hounds charged and destroyed my tactical squad’s rhino. Both squads disembarked.
On my turn, my flamers disembarked and prepared to engage the flesh hounds and plague drones (this, I think, was my first mistake - I should have continued to use the rhino as a bunker for as long as possible - but more on that later). The rest of my infantry held their ground. My spartan, on the other hand, tank shocked its way through a plaguebearer squad in order to get into position to charge the great unclean one next turn. My shooting phase was pretty sad: I killed a couple of flesh hounds and one of the blight drones in the south. To the north, I let the flesh hounds have it with Fury of the Legion from my tactical squad and killed… nobody. My missile squad fired blasts at the plagueberears, who were saved by 2+ cover.
VPs: Salamanders 1/Daemons 0
The daemons closed on in on the exposed marines. Warpfire rages as Fateweaver smites my dreadnought with incredible (ie. D-strength) blasts of energy, almost - but not quite - destroying it, and a blast of phlegm from the daemon prince kills several tactical marines. During the assault phase, there were charges all around. The flesh hounds and daemon prince charge my tactical squad, who hold their ground. The plague bearers assault my veteran tactical squad with missiles and kill the sergeant in a challenge. To the south, flesh hounds and blight drones charge my other veteran tactical squad, the one with flamers. Only my breachers - safe in their spartan - remain unengaged.
|This will not end well|
|This will end a little better, but only a little|
In return, the spartan advances slightly, positioning itself to unleash the breachers on the great unclean one. Snap shots from its lascannons wound Fateweaver, who stays in the air. When the assault phase finally comes, my breachers - and warlord - get stuck in with the great unclean one. My tactical squad is swept off the board, my missile veteran squad holds against the plaguebearers, and my flamer veteran squad does well, winning the round and inflicting more losses thanks to Daemonic Instability.
|Fully painted is for... somebody else - for now!|
VPs: Salamanders 1/Daemons 4
The daemon prince and soul grinder arrange to charge into the central scrum, but will go on to fail their charge rolls. In the psychic phase, Fateweaver finishes off my dreadnought with another D-strength witchfire. The assault phase is now where it’s at: the plaguebearers finally wipe out my missile squad, though the flamer squad holds their own. The central assault goes well for me, with the great unclean one taking three wounds… then recovering them all thanks to snake eyes on the Daemonic Instability roll.
On my turn, my spartan withdraws to get a bead on several targets. With lascannons and flamers, it wounds and removes models from the unengaged daemon prince, plaguebearers, and flesh hounds. The assault phase continues to go my way, with the flame squad hanging on in the south and the great unclean one dropping to two wounds!
VPs: Salamanders 1/Daemons 5
Fateweaver - who stubbornly refuses to become dead - kills my spartan with another D-strength witchfire. The daemon prince and plaguebearers are able to charge into the central combat, in which nothing much happens, in part thanks to a near-miraculous Deny the Witch which prevented the great unclean one from manifesting Warp Speed. To the south, my remaining veterans take out the last plague drone, then turn their attentions to the flesh hounds.
|The bigger they are...|
VPs: Salamanders 2/Daemons 6
This is the final turn, in which everything happens.
Things start to go pear-shaped during my opponents’ psychic phase, when his great unclean one - now down to a single wound - up and Perils itself to death, denying me a chance at instant victory. The assault phase, on the other hand, is where I start to turn things around. Although I lose my final veteran squad, my breachers finish off the soul-grinder, plaguebearers (including a challenge against the plaguebearer leader thing for a bonus victory point), and the daemon prince.
|Fateweaver... I could really get to hate that guy|
Then, in my turn, in a final Hail Imperator, they charge the nearby flesh hounds squad - who were never able to get into the central combat due to being blocked by other units, terrain, and vehicles - and wipe them out thanks to Daemonic Instability.
VPs: Salamanders 8/Daemons 7
First of all, if anyone wants to check my math, I suspect that I made a mistake somewhere along the line. At the end of the game, we counted the points up as a seven-seven tie, but as you can see, while writing up this report, it looks like an eight-seven win for the Salamanders.
Either way, it was definitely a fun, close game. I would definitely play with this guy again, as well as with his gorgeously gribbly minis.
Like I said, I think I made three main mistakes:
- I should not have disembarked from the immobilized rhino with my veteran tactical heavy flamer squad. They should have continued to use the rhino as a bunker for as long as possible. With another extra turn or two of survival, they might have lived to see the end of the game, which would have earned me another victory point.
- I should have kept to the mission in assault phase when my opponent's plaguebearer leader charged my tacs. There was no need to accept that challenge, and refusing to would have saved me another victory point.
- I probably shouldn't have withdrawn the spartan to get a better bead on the daemon prince. It didn't really matter in the end, but it would probably have been better to use the spartan to delay my opponent's other units from supporting his great unclean one in the central assault.
Also, I believe that I definitely suffered from not having the right tools for the job. With their army-wide invulnerable saves, things like the meltagun support squad I've built don't really suffice to take on Daemons. I should probably invest in some more volkite
And finally, I'm considering reconsidering my stance on Salamanders and long-range firepower - which is to say, I've generally considered it not worth it. However, I don't think that even with their +1 Strength flamers, Salamanders can actually deplete the enemy enough to avoid being swept when they finally (inevitably) end up in close combat. I think that it's time to invest in some long-range firepower, something that can soften the enemy up, even though most of the best examples of that are static. Maybe a heavy support squad with volkite calivers? I'll have to think about it.
• • •
Lír surveyed the battlefield. With the rotten hulk of flesh that led them dead, the xenos things were in retreat. It was unsatisfying, not to have laid the thing low with his own hammer, but at least it was done. As usual, the XVIIIth had given as good as the received, and the enemy was at least as depleted as they were - if not more so.
Lír gave terse orders: gather the wounded, retrieve gene-seed from the dead, and prepare the wrecked vehicles for salvage. Lír knew that he had many hours of reports and meetings ahead of him. The xenos he had faced today had strongly resembled some of the things he had seen in pic-captures of the battle at Calth...