Monday, 29 October 2012

Biker Army's First Tournament

Yet another great tournament at the weekend. Six games over 2 days is exhausting, but there were a lot of people I knew, it was a pretty relaxed tournament and it was fun.

Usual format, some brief battle reports, and an analysis on how the list performed.

Game 1

Seize Ground, Dawn of War against Orks. Ten Nob Bikers with all the fixings, 10 Nobs in a truck, 20 boyz in a battle wagon and a Dakka Jet. Gulp…..!

The table looked amazing – a ruined city scape, but was just terrible for tournament play – there was hardly any clear ground, it was all ruins and rubble. And of course my opponent rolled warlord traits that gave his biker boss and his squad move through cover……!

So the thinking was that I set up my predators in one corner, hoping he would charge them with the Nob Bikers. Their volume of fire will worry him, and I suspect he will want to silence them ASAP.  I would set up the command squad and the other bikes in the opposite corner, and hope he ran the boyz and the other Nobs at them. I fancied my command squad’s chances against the foot slogging Nobs. Essentially, sacrifice the predators in the hope that this drew the bikers away from the rest of my army, try and kill his other scoring unit (the boyz) and then just run away from the bikers, hoping I can get enough objectives for the win.

It didn’t work. Or at least it did, in that he did charge the predators with the Bikers, and he did go after the other SM Bikes with the foot slogging Nobs, but my Command squad and the other bikes failed to deal with the foot slogging Nobs. A combination of poor dangerous terrain rolls and being overwatched by 5 combi scorchers made the charge some what less than devastating, and the Nobs just ate me….!


Lessons learned – watch out for combi scorchers. Ork Nobs are really tough in a fight (no really!). More importantly however, is that to be effective I need to concentrate my bikes, on a spread out enemy. When I assaulted the Nobs, I should have concentrated all my bikes together to do so, rather than relying on the command squad alone.

Game 2

Tumbling down the rankings, I found myself on the bottom table against a marine army. Cassius, Two tactical squads, 2 devastators, one with missile launchers and the other with plasma cannons, 2 dreadnaughts with TL lazcannons, a Tri Laz predator, and an attack bike. Mission was capture and control, vanguard deployment.

One of the benefits of being on the bottom table is that you tend to be playing against less experienced players. Long story short, I won. It was a narrow win (as this mission tends to be), but a win never the less. My opponent made some mistakes which I was able to exploit, and while my dice abandoned me in the mid game, I was able to get line breaker for the win.

However, although this was a reasonably straightforward game, I started to get an idea of how this list plays, and, more importantly, how it might be improved. More on that later.

Game 3

Still in the bottom third, but moving up. Purge the alien, against space marines once again. Captain with Storm shield, artificer armour and a thunder hammer, 2 Landraiders, 2 tactical squads, a sternguard squad, a Vindicator and a couple of land speeders.

My opponent was a nice guy, and it was a fun game. However, this was his first tournament and he had only been playing for a few months. He had never played a bike army, and was simply overwhelmed by its speed. Another win.

Game 4

So day 2 and I’m mid table. Drawn against a drop podding space wolf list. Five pods in total – one with Logan, Arjac and some Multi Melta Long Fangs, and 4 others with Grey Hunters with Wulvens, and Power fist, combi melta Wolfguard. Seize Ground, 5 objectives, big guns never tire.

Hmmmm…! Those multi meltas will do a number on my predators, and Arjac and Logan together could probably take the command squad. If all his pods come down together and he gets to concentrate his forces, that would be a really tough nut to crack. What I need to do is spread out, tempting him to come down all over the board, so I can then re-concentrate my forces and pick off his grey hunter packs one at a time. One option might be to place the predators away from my bikes and all the objectives, to tempt him into alpha striking them with Logan’s squad. But that would give up first blood, so I decided to keep the predators in reserve, spread out the objectives as much as I could, and then scatter my bike squads all over the table.

It worked like a dream. Luckily I got first turn and was able to turbo boost my bikes all over the board for a 4+ cover save. He brought Logan and Co down with some grey hunters to try and kill the command squad, and another squad of grey hunters down beside another of my bike squads. A combination of the captain’s artificer armour, cover saves, storm shields and feel no pain, allowed the command squad to shrug off most of the fire, and the other bike squad did like wise. In my turn 2 all three predators came in, as did one of the storm talons. The predators came on, on the other side of the board, with clear fields of fire to three of the five objectives. One of the plasma bike squads was close by. The command squad ran away from Logan and co, combining with 2 other squads to wipe out the isolated grey hunter squad.

In my opponent’s turn 2, what he should have done is pod the other 2 grey hunter squads in beside Logan & co to support them. There were three objectives, reasonably close together, that he could have pretty much controlled. I would have really, struggled to take down 3 packs of grey hunters and Logan’s squad, if they had all been supporting each other. However, he podded in beside the predators well away from his other squads. I think a melta gun took out one of the predators, but I really wasn’t too bothered about that, as his squads were now way out of position. The other squads shot at my bikes but didn’t do much damage.

In my turn 3 I wiped out one of the grey hunter squads over by the predators (Stormtalons are really good at taking out squads in the open), and repositioned my other bikes, taking a few plasma shots at Logan’s squad. I lined up the command squad to assault the grey hunter squad that was supporting Logan & Co. It would most likely die from a counter charge from Logan and Arjac, but I would be happy to sacrifice that squad to take out his last scoring unit. A combination of a Plasma bike squad, 2 hovering Stormtalons, and the predators, wiped out the other Grey Hunter Squad over by the predators.

It was pretty much game over at this point. My opponent shot some stuff, but all he could really do was brace himself for the charge from my command squad – which I duly did, wiping out the grey hunters. In his turn Logan and Arjac counter charged the command squad, but over the space of 2 turns I managed to kill both of them, although Arjac  killed my captain with the last swing of his hammer.

Win to me. I really enjoyed this game. It involved a bit of strategic thought at the outset, and it all came together as planned. Very satisfying.

Game 5

Now on table 4, so it’s getting harder. Playing marines (again!). Librarian, 2 dreadnaughts in pods (one an iron clad), 3 tactical squads (one in a pod), a devastator squad, a Thunder Fire Cannon, a vindicator, and a squad of assault terminators. Five objectives, worth one VP each, and double VPs for kill the warlord. I had first turn.

Another tricky one. I needed to be able to deal with the dread pods coming down first turn, and then the terminator assault squad as the librarian was running with Gate of Infinity and there were locator beacons on the pods. So if I didn’t kill the dreads when they came down, next turn he will gate the terminators right into my teeth, and I’ll have to deal with all of them! After a bit of thought I decided to keep the predators on the table to try and dakka down the terminators before he could gate them forward. I used the bikes to bubble wrap the predators, but keeping the melta squad behind the preds so it could go either side, depending on where he brought in his dreads. He deploys one tactical squad all by itself on an objective, over on the right with the vindicator. The terminators are front and centre ready to be gated over once the pods come down, the other tactical squad is on the objective on the left, along with the devastators and the Thunder fire cannon.

In my first turn I moved the bikes around, turbo-boosting them so they all got a 4+ cover save. I also put a bunch of wounds onto his terminators with the predators, and he fails 3 saves, killing three of them leaving just the librarian and two left.

In his turn 1 he brings down both dreads just to the left of my predators. They shoot, and kill a few bikes, but not enough to make a difference.

In my turn 2 one of the storm talons came on. I need to kill the dreads this turn, but I’m also worried about the Vindicator. I suspect he put the tactical squad out on the right by itself as bait to tempt me to send the command squad after it, hoping he could then shell the Command Squad with the Vindicator. It would however be good to kill that squad, reducing his scoring units by one.

After a bit of thought I decided to take the bait and sent the Command Squad and a Plasma squad over to the right to deal with the tactical squad. However, I also sent the Stormtalon after the vindicator, gambling that I can take it out before it gets a chance to pulp the Command Squad (I can get everything into side armour). I also line up the melta bike squad on the Ironclad Dread, and the other Plasma bike squad into the rear armour of the normal dread. The predators draw a bead on the Libby and the remaining terminators.

This is the pivotal turn. If all goes according to plan I will cripple his army, and after that, it will simply be mopping up.

It starts well. The Predators kill the Librarian and the terminators for First Blood and Kill the Warlord, netting me 3 VPs and the Stormtalon kills the Vindicator, but then it all goes horribly wrong. All 4 melta guns (all in melta range) either fail to hit, or fail to penetrate the Ironclad. In addition, a melta gun (in melta range) plus 3 rapid firing plasma guns (and remember they were all into the rear armour) do nothing to the other dread. This leaves my bikes horribly exposed to charging dreadnaughts … which will not end well.

I’m dumbfounded. The chances against that level of fail must be huge!  

I’m reeling after such a reversal of fortune, but it gets worse. His dreads proceed to pulp the 2 bikes squads, assisted by the Tac Squad which pods in on his turn 2. I succeed in breaking away from one of the combats, only to fall back too far, and run off the board. On the right flank his tac squad Dakka’s down the plasma bike squad (aided by me rolling 4 ones in a row for armour saves!).

So at the beginning of my turn 3 I have one attack bike (all that remains of the Plasma Bike Squad) and (some of) the Command Squad over on the right flank facing down a Tactical Squad, a Predator, 2 Stormtalons, and one bike squad still locked with a Dread. Not looking good.

Long story short, my Command Squad kills the Tac Squad on the right (leaving only the Captain alive after taking some shots from the dev. squad), he kills the remaining attack bike, and while the bike squad locked with the Dread eventually kill it with the Sergeants Melta Bomb, they are dakkaed down by the Tac squad that podded in to support the dreads.

On the last turn of the game I have 2 Stormtalons and my captain left. However, I have 2 VPs from killng his Librarian, and one more because I took First Blood. He holds 3 objectives and has line breaker, so he’s winning 4 – 3. However, due to a lucky warlord trait, my Captain is a scoring unit. So I hide him behind a wall on the objective out of LOS, 4-4. I then hover my Stormtalons and draw a bead on the marines holding the centre objective …. and kill them all! I’m now ahead by 4 points to three!

In his turn he kills both my Stormtalons, leaving me with one model on the board … but still winning 4 – 3!

This was one of the narrowest victories I’ve every had. A win – while one model short of being tabled!

Game 6

Now on table 3 against marines again. Biker Captain with a squad of bikes, 2 foot slogging tac squads, 2 Stormtalons, 3 Trilaz predators, and three Dreadnaughts with autocannons and assault cannons. Kill points.

Man, but that’s a lot of shooting!

I give him first turn, wanting to be able to react to his deployment. He deploys front and centre, with the tac squads on the right. There’s a ruin over to the right of my deployment zone, which is just out of range of 2 of the tri laz predators. However, there is not enough room to deploy everything there.

After a bit of thought I decide to deploy the predators, the Command squad and one Plasma Squad in the ruin, keeping the rest in reserve. The idea was to weather his fire first turn and then blast one of the tac squads with the predators, while turbo boosting the bikes up the right flank. By doing that they would have a 4+ cover save, and be out of range of most of his shooting (the assault cannons on the Dreads at least) for a turn. Turn 2 they should be in range to assault the (hopefully) weakened tac squd. If the rest of the army comes in on turn 2 (!) I could then hopefully boost the bikes across to threaten his left flank, with the Command squad pressing in from the right.

The first part worked, in that in his turn one all he did was blow a heavy bolter off a predator, and on my turn one the Preds weakened the tac squad. But on his turn 2 both his Stormtalons came on and, combined with the rest of his army, blew away both the Command Squad and the Plasma squad that had turboed down the right flank. I was a bit surprised by this TBH. All tournament the Command Squad had been a rock, soaking up so much fire. But my saving rolls were a disaster (not helped by forgetting to roll FNP saves, something I consistently forgot all weekend!), and he did bring a lot of fire power to bare.

And that was pretty much game over there and then. I tried to fight back but that one turn of shooting crippled my army. I ended up getting tabled.

In retrospect, I lost the game on deployment. I should have taken first turn, set up everything and rushed it all across the board at full speed… and prayed! If the melta guns had survived, I would have done some damage.

So I went 4-2, coming 10th our of about 30. Interesting to note that the 2 guys who beat me came first and second (Orks first). I was also pretty please that I got quite a few nominations for best army.

Thoughts on the army

I really enjoyed playing this army. It does however have serious limitations. The first is fragility. Other than the Command squad, the bikes die just like other marines. While the 1+ toughness is helpful, the stuff that kills marines (plasma, melta, lazcannons and missile launchers), kill bikes. You need to take good care of the bikes.

In practice what this means is you need to think very carefully before committing to the attack. You can’t afford to take risks. Don’t commit to half chances – be sure when you do commit, you do so with overwhelming force so you kill your target, and then get away before the retaliation gets there. To do this you need to isolate elements of your opponent’s army, and deal with each element one at a time. This is easier said than done. It depends very much on your opponents deployment. If they concentrate their force (for example in my last game, when all that fire power was concentrated in one place) your tactical options are limited. But if you can some how get your opponent to split his forces (like in Game 4 against the podding space wolves), it can work very well.

I guess the secret is patience – you need to bide your time, wait for, or create the opportunity, and then exploit it.

As for the list, some things worked and some things didn’t.

·         The Command Squad. I was surprised how well this worked. The captain was great at tanking saves for the squad, passing AP2 saves on to his (Storm) shield bearers using Look our Sir. The power fist and lightening claw worked well, giving him options against PA troops, but not leaving him embarrassed against 2+ saves. The Storm Shield guys died every game, but they increased the over all survivability of the squad dramatically. The guys with the lances also worked. With the bike’s speed I don’t think I took a charge all weekend, so they got to use their lances a lot. Also having the axes made them much more flexible in subsequent round of combat. The only down side was that using the Squad as your hammer puts the Captain in harms way too readily, risking Slay the Warlord. Maybe another HQ as Warlord who’s job it is to hang back?
·         Bike Squads. Mixed feelings about these. The ability to have (in effect) 4 special weapons (combi on the sarg. 2 specials, and the Multi Melta attack bike) can be devastating. Combine that with their speed, and they are very handy scoring units. The problem however is that to get the benefit of the special weapons you need to put them in harms way, which can dramatically deplete your scoring units. Perhaps running 2 full squads, which can combat squad down to 2 scoring units, and 2 special weapons units?
·         Stormtalons. I quite liked how these guys worked. The turret mounted Assault Cannon make them much more flexible than flyers with fixed weapons. Also, being able to go into Hover Strike mode helps later in the game when you really need to kill stuff, and you’re not too bothered about them being blown out the sky.
·         Predators. These were a big let down. Perhaps it was because I only played marines, but they just didn’t kill stuff (other than in my 5th game when they took out the terminators, but that was more my opponents horrible saving throws!).

However, the biggest weakness in the list is if the opponent keeps their army more or less together. Then you have little option but to either keep away and try and grab objectives (which is a very valid tactic in objective games), or charge the gun line, and the bikes are just not survivable enough to do that.

I’m beginning to think the way to go is to take a couple of frightening things in drop pods. If I take a pod for the Command Squad, I can take 2 others that will come in first turn. If I drop the Stormtalons and the Predators I could take an Ironclad in one, and some Sternguard plus Lysander in the other. Alternatively I could take 2 ironclads, and (perhaps) keep a Stormtalon. So, if my opponent sticks together the Ironclad and the Sternguard come down and give them something to worry about until the bikes get there. If they spread out to avoid the “alpha strike” then my bikes can isolate the units and gang up on them one by one.

An alternative might be to take 2 Captains, and 2 Command Squads – that would certainly be more survivable.


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