This weekend my housemate and I made the long trip from the deep south to Mansfield to attend the last Epic tournament of the 2009 season - the Epic UK Grand Tournament. I had my spangly new well-behaved Dark Angels and Ole had his Biel-Tann.
I was quite nervous. I'd had only two games with Space Marines prior to this (one proxying with Si's Shadow Scorpions and one with my own figures) and had lost horribly both times. In fact, the second game was disastrous as by turn three I was left with only a single Thunderbolt, and that was only because it chose to stand down to avoid a completely humiliating defeat. And that was against Ole who was only on his second game of Epic ever. It seems that my air assault Space Marines were as fragile and underpowered as their most vocal critics would have me believe. Add to that my last Epic event (May's Club Challenge) had me finishing last and I was expecting to achieve a whole new low in gaming history. But hey ho, at least my army was nicely painted. Not that it would stay on the table long enough for anyone to spot the squad markings.
The list I eventually settled on was:
Razorback - twin lascannon
So, I consulting Grand Master Jeridian (Si) for how to make my Marines work. Paraphrasing the exhaustive essay he provided from his years of experience pilotting Thunderhawks to their dooms the plan was:
- Choose corners to cluster for the benefit of my Strike Cruiser's orbital bombardment
- Keep the Tacticals on my Blitz to ensure the survivial of the Supreme Commander re-roll
- Sneakily advance the Titan until turn 2-3 when it would stride forth into the middle of the enemy
- Swoop in with the Thuuderhawks and land the Devesators for lots of mutually-supporting engagements and crossfires
- Have the Terminators on hand to open up a second front or support as needed
- Use the Land Speeders as zippy harassing units that could swoop in on objectives in the later turns
As Si says: "SR5 and the mobility does make the army great fun to use though, as YOU get to decide when, where and what happens in the game."
So, how did it go?
Game 1 - Mark Preston's Black Legion
Mark Preston! By way of cool coincidence we'd already played each other at the Club Challenge, where Mark had been using his Dark Angels pretending to be just regular Space Marines. Mark was borrowing some beautiful Black Legion that were surprisingly Daemon-free. However, that didn't stop my regular anti-Chaos strategy of exterminating the closest units to prevent Daemon-bombing. Turn three 0-2 defeat.
Game 2 - Matt Otter's Orks
Orks - the army I'm most familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. However, I made a fatal mistake of sending in a Dev Thudnerhawk to engage a large Boyz formation spread over two objectives - effectively committing suicide. I should have simply landed to contest objectives and drag out the inevitable another turn. I did however spectacularly set fire to his Gargant and destroy it - the one time I achieved Break Their Spirit. Some sort of loss for me, but it was technically a by so I got the points for a 2-0 turn three victory.
Game 3 - Matt Arnold's Space Marines
Aha! Some Blood Angels pretending to be just regular Space Marines. I just need to play some Black Templars and White Scars now...
Turn one went very well with Matt teleporting his Terminators immediately and pushing forward with his Warhound. I focussed everything on a counter assault and wiped out both, feeling very confident I'd eliminated his main threat units. However, I had over-committed and his counter-counter assault broke my Reaver, and not even the Deathwing teleporting into ruins straight on top of his Blitz could stop this being another turn three 0-2 defeat.
Game 4 - Kevin Bott's Biel Tann
Against received wisdom I avoided drop-podding anything in. Though it would protect the incoming units from the horrific Eldar AA I wanted some maneuverability to counter the Eldar's insanely fast marching jetbikes. I focussed on breaking Kev's Revenants to deny him their awesome firepower and also allow me to air assault without running the gauntlet of their AA.
Turn three held some appalling activation rolls for Kevin, and the normally hyper-maneuverable Eldar were unable to perform their regular objective-grabbing marches, letting me win turn four 2-0.
Game 5 - Andy Harris' Biel Tann
Apparently the worst Eldar list to have ever graced the planet. Buoyed up by the success of mounting the Devs in Thunderhawks rather than the Strike Cruiser I did it once more. Very dangerous as Andy had Nightwings and a Vampire. After two largely bloodless turns of maneuvering for an all-out air assault Andy masterfully broke my Reaver before I could use it as a fire base for air assault Devs. Instead I used the Devs instead to cause Andy a lot of difficult decisions in where to press me in order to get objectives.
No-one had won on objectives by turn four, so it went to victory points which Andy had easily more than the 150 difference with the annihilation of my prized Terminators.
So, five great games and not that shabby a performance - one win, one drawn, one bi and two losses. Yes! A win! And the points for painting catapulted me up to nine of fifteen. With the bonus points for attending the GT, and playing different armies that also starts to lift me away from the bottom spots on the 2009 Championship.
But best of all, my Dark Angels got the Judge's Choice painting trophy.
In the aftermath, the plan was fairly solid. It falls down if the opponent anticipates the all-out assault and dig in with overwatch.
The only let-down was the Strike Cruiser. Rather than lazily bombard the deployment zone turn I experimented with clustering my objectives and plotting a turn 3 bombardment to place Blast Markers before I began my air assault. It did work, but was quite a gamble. 200 points is a lot to pay for the one attack, and not once did I use it for drop-podding. I think I'll drop it at 3000 in favour of some Scouts or Speeders to give me an additional formation on the ground to get objectives and support the handful of ground formation that aren't flying or teleporting in.
So, all in all a great event. I particularly enjoyed attending the Epic UK Annual General Meeting which was almost drowned out by the David Bowie tribute act in a pirate hat we were sharing the venue with. The best way to judge whether an event's been enjoyable for me is whether I want to play another game that week, and start painting my next army as soon as I get home, and this was very definitely one of them. Many thanks to all the Epic UK organisation and efforts. And thanks to all five opponents for five brain-sweating games (and not defeating me in the humiliating fashion I was expecting).