[40K Battle Report] Wulfruna Burns

High above the Black Planet, so far out that it’s barely in orbit at all, there spins an industry-blighted little rock which the human colonists below have dubbed ‘Wulfruna’. Centuries of overzeal, embezzlement, mismanagement and general neglect by Imperial executives have left the moon classified as ‘Dubious Extremis’ for tithing purposes and largely ignored until the defence lasers on the Black Planet’s surface need testing, but that doesn’t mean nobody cares. Long before the Imperium ever got its claws on the place, Wulfruna was a battlefield on which the War in Heaven raged; webway gates and dolmen portals dot the land between the abandoned and decrepit Imperial bastions, and every so often, the dwellers in Commoragh or the inheritors of the Charnovokh dynasty find reason to open their dread portals and raid. The objective is always the same; valueless in itself, Wulfruna is a place where many pathways meet, and the moon affords access not just into the webway or the parasitic parallel structures of the Necrons, but onto the Black Planet itself…

In another bout of the swift, on-the-button, up-to-the-minute, cutting-edge-style reporting you’ve doubtless come to expect from me, I’ve sat down to play some sixth edition 40K a mere month or two after release. I’m on the ball, me, not to mention the wire and the button. In my defence, this lassitude has largely been down to the matter of dragging large cases around my workplace all day if I’m to get a game in of an evening. I’m quite reluctant to do this (the dragging, that is, not the gaming) and so not many large-scale 28mm games get played these days. However, since I was going up to Wolverhampton to see friends, colleagues and Vampire players Ben and Jess, and since Ben had secured a second-hand Necron motor pool for me, it seemed like the Right Time to pack the rest of the metal mickies (and one metal Michaela) and play a rematch of our last game, in which Tekeshi v1.0 ended up on the wrong end of a huskblade…

Ben’s played a few more games of sixth edition than yr. faithful reporter (all of three) and so could tell me what dice to roll to decide on things like deployment and mission and suchlike. He’s also taken inspiration from a suave, charming and bearded Frugal blogger of his acquaintance and built himself a folding table with gaffer tape. Being a canny sort, he’s improved on the design by making his out of cheap, ultra-lightweight ceiling insulation, and he claims he’ll be avoiding the easily dinted relief surface as well. Here he is consulting the rulebook while I marvel at his ingenuity.

Given that I’d come up to collect my shiny new toys, it would be rather churlish of me not to put them in the army list, and so I ended up running the sort of thing which would disgrace a Tourneyhammer blog and which I wouldn’t necessarily have taken under ordinary circumstances. I did want to try out a few concepts, particularly the idea of a Royal Court that sticks together as a token melee presence (commandeering the Ghost Ark so they have a means to deliver themselves forward) and a version of Tekeshi (v2.0, as it were) geared out to have fun in challenges. Still no invulnerable save, as I recall reading somewhere that characters with 2+ saves and personal transport vehicles might not need them…

HQ

Overlord Tekeshi – warscythe, mindshackle scarabs, sempiternal weave, phylactery
Catacomb Command Barge – tesla cannon
Royal Court – 4 Necron Lords – warscythe, sempiternal weave

Troops

4 x 10 Necron Warriors
1 Ghost Ark (attached to the unpainted squad, who deploy outside it so the Court can mount up)

Elites

Triarch Stalker

Fast Attack

4 Tomb Blades – twin-linked Gauss blaster

5 Tomb Blades – twin-linked Tesla carbine

Heavy Support

Annihilation Barge – Tesla cannon

Ben was paring back his usual 2000 point list (he basically dropped all his Fast Attack, which isn’t properly built or painted anyway), which was built for fifth edition and relies heavily on the now-abolished capacity to charge out of a Webway portal, do lots of damage in melee, and either lock itself into combat so you can’t shoot anything much on your turn, or present you with so many targets that focused fire goes out of the window. Now that he can’t do that, he’s relying more on devastating short-ranged shooting from his elite infantry and a couple of nasty combat presences to distract reprisals. He claims not to be convinced that the list is capable of doing this, and that it might need a bit of a re-tooling for the brave new universe of sixth edition.

HQ

Archon – huskblade, soul trap, shadowfield, webway portal, combat drugs

Haemonculus Ancient – Casket of Flensing, stinger pistol, flesh gauntlet

Troops

10 Kabalite Warriors – shredder
Raider – dark lance, splinter racks

10 Kabalite Warriors – shredder

Elites

5 Incubi – Klaivex with bloodstone, demiglaives and Onslaught
Venom – flickerfield, 2 splinter cannons

10 Kabalite Trueborn – 2 splinter cannons, 8 shard carbines, Dracon with agoniser

9 Hekatrix Bloodbrides – 3 Wych Weapons, haywire grenades, Syren with power weapon and phantasm grenade launcher
Raider – dark lance, splinter racks

Heavy Support

Ravager – 3 dark lances, nightshield

Talos – chainflails, additional close combat weapon, twin splinter cannons

We rolled up Purge the Alien for our mission – victory points would be scored for eliminating enemy units, being the first to eliminate an enemy unit, eliminating the enemy Warlord, and having anything that didn’t have an armour value in the enemy deployment zone at the end of the game. I’m sure all those conditions have suitably grimdark (TM) names, but I don’t know them. For deployment, we rolled Hammer and Anvil, which suited me fine ’cause I was sat by a short board edge already. For Warlord traits, Ben rolled Night Attacker for his anonymous Archon (“so you can choose to start the game in Night Fighting?” “damn right I’m going to start the game in Night Fighting!”) and I rolled Legendary Fighter for Tekshi (obviously this backup copy was really into her mindshackle scarabs). Oh, and Ben’s Combat Drugs started him off with a free Pain Point on everything that got them, which set him to curses as he’d left his Hellions and Reavers out for this one.

Deployment and terrain looked a bit like this:

I elected to keep the super-nippy Tomb Blades and the Warrior squad I couldn’t find a good deployment position for in reserve. I also elected to deploy quite far forward. I’d like to claim that I was thinking about the off-chance of seizing the initiative, or setting up a cunning “kill these on your turns and sit around in Rapid Fire range on my turn” plan, but the truth is I just can’t gauge threat ranges to save my life any more. Ben kept his Talos, Trueborn (with Haemonculus) and footslogging Warriors in reserve – not being able to assault through the Portal didn’t mean he couldn’t burp out an appalling amount of firepower from reserves that moved through it. Anyway, I failed to seize anything, let alone the initiative, and Ben opened hostilities.

The transports moved up 12″ and disported their cargo, with the Incubi moving into the Archeotech Artefact ruins (which turned out to be BOOBY TRAPPED, but nobody was harmed save the Klaivex’s dignity). The Ravager let rip into Tekeshi’s Chariot (or the Command Barge, as it’s more commonly known) and blew it to kingdom come. Adding insult to injury, I boxcarred Tekeshi’s Pinning check and left her in the open with no phase shifter. In the assault phase, Ben’s Incubi decided to hang around and take photos of the ruins (hurrah for the random charge distance!) while the Archon and Bloodbrides ripped the front Warrior squad to shreds and left themselves standing right in rapid fire range of the rest of the army.

Interesting Rules Intermission – the beginning of each Initiative step in combat with a pile-in move means that high-Initiative close combat troops, especially those with mixed Initiative stats, are much more likely to get more of their dudes into base contact and thus get to make many more attacks and thus wipe their opponents and leave themselves stranded and vulnerable rather than safely locked into combat during the enemy shooting phase. That’s worth remembering.

I opted for a cautious turn in which damn near everything shuffled up six inches, except the Lords, who crept across in preparation to assault some assault elements and pin them down for a turn once the shooting was over. The Annihilation Barge and Triarch Stalker flubbed badly, managing to Shake a Raider between them, and quoth Ben: “so where’s this terrifying Necron shooting phase I’ve heard so much about?” Meanwhile, two Warrior squads and the Ghost Ark opened up on the Bloodbrides, and when the sound and light show ended, all but the Syren and Archon were dead. Quoth I: “that’s where this terrifying Necron shooting phase is.”

Just to put the lid on it, the Stalker did its little War of the Worlds act and atomised the Raider what was creeping around the Bastion, frying seven of the Warriors on board and pinning the rest, which pleased me. To cap it all off, Tekeshi’s Toyboys, as Ben will insist on calling them, assaulted the last Wych and the Archon, and butcherised them both after Ben whiffed his first shadowfield save. Warscythes are great. The Toyboys fanned out to contain the Incubi a bit, in a “if you want the guns you’ll have to come through us” kind of way. Who says I don’t unnerstan’ tic-tacks?

Rather helpfully, Ben started his second turn by whiffing two out of three Reserve rolls, pulling his transports back to pick up the footsloggers as they arrived, and downed a grand total of sod-all with his shooting, while his Incubi crept through the ruins, looking to take advantage of Fleet and take a long-shot charge at the unpainted Warriors cowering behind the Toyboys. After the run roll and the charge roll, they were about .25″ short, but since .25″ is not a real distance that’s ever likely to come up in the rules, and since the game would likely be quite dull if Ben was just taking off a combat unit every turn and running his reserves up the board, I let him make the assault. Naturally the Incubi pulped the Warriors and consolidated six inches towards Tekeshi. Much more interesting.

Interesting Rules Intermission: so, this edition, we’re mainly ripping mechanics off of… Warmachine! All this talk about charging in straight lines or running, and having a one-inch zone of control around models, is all very familiar territory to me. Not, I hasten to point out, that I think this is a bad thing. Indeed, I rather like 40K’s version, which strips out the whole ‘free strike’ thing and allows models to pile in during their Initiative step, which tends to result in more models being involved in a fight, which results in more dynamic fights given that 40K allows you to stand up for yourself no matter whose turn it is. All of this also means fights will be over more quickly, which is kind of an advantage in a game with this kind of model count. On the subject of charges and assaults, I’m very fond of Overwatch, despite it not doing me much good in this game – it’s a nice little touch which makes charging forward to hit people with honking great space guns quite a risky proposition, and that feels appropriately sci-fi-ish to me. I also like the pre-measuring, for the same reason – in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, you’d hope some bugger had invented a range finder…

Unlike Ben, I can roll 3+ to bring things on from reserve. The Tomb Blade squads turbo-boosted up each side, both to give Ben’s reserves a game to get into when they arrived, and to take a ‘pray for sixes’ approach to Tesla-ing the Raider and Gaussing the Ravager. The Warriors waddled on and lined up on the Incubi, the other Warriors embarked on the Ghost Ark (which edged forward out of Tekeshi’s way) and my assorted HQ pieces closed in on the Incubi. They’d had their fun, now it was time to dispose of them… and between the two Warrior squads and the Ghost Ark, four out of five Incubi were well and truly disposed of. The Annihilation Barge scored eight Tesla destructor hits on the Raider, and managed to… stun it… but it did zap four Warriors with the arcing lightning, so that was all right. The Stalker reached out and touched the Venom, frying it in mid-air, and Tekeshi mopped up the last Incubus in combat, or rather made him mop himself up by playing “stop hitting yourself” via her mindshackle scarabs.

Interesting Rules Intermission – we spent some time trying to work out exactly how Tekeshi’s scarabs would interact with the challenge rules, after I explained that I’d taken them because the Internet suggested they made her kick arse in challenges. The basic principle seems to be ‘charge with Tekeshi, make sure there’s only one model in base contact, issue the challenge ‘before any blows are struck’ and then trigger the scarabs, which also happens ‘before any blows are struck’. Ben spent a few minutes working out how to get around it – charging on your turn and setting up the models in base to base so that you can control who she’s engaging and force her to randomise who she scarabises.

Ben’s Trueborn and Haemonculus ran out of excuses and wandered onto the far right flank, bunkering up beside the Ravager. The Warriors in the middle ducked and covered into the bastion, trying to hide their fragile, Victory-Point-constituting bodies behind some good honest walls rather than brittle tinfoil with an engine strapped to it (no, as it happens I don’t think much of Raiders). The Ravager immobilised my Triarch Stalker, and the surviving Raider finished it off (all right, maybe I do think something of Raiders), while the Trueborn and Warriors blasted two Gauss-Blades off the face of the battlefield. I think this was the part where we realised how close the game actually was, in terms of Victory Points…

The above image will have to do for my third turn as well, as things were becoming sufficiently tense that photography took a back seat. The Ghost Ark restored a Warrior and dropped off their cargo, then drifted over to pick up Tekeshi and her Toyboys (taking advantage of the sixth edition rules for independent characters and embarking) who would otherwise be out of the game for the duration. Technically they had to take a difficult terrain test, but I’d already moved them by the time we remembered, and couldn’t remember where they’d been, so Ben let me off. The Tomb Blades and Barge closed in; the Barge glanced Ben’s Raider to death with more Tesla fire, the Tesla Blades mopped up four Warriors, and the Gauss Blades flubbed badly off the jinking Ravager. Meanwhile, the various Necron Warriors lagging in midfield opened up on the contents of the Bastion with so many shots that no amount of Going to Ground would save their Dark Eldar counterparts.

In the fourth turn, the Talos finally showed up and zapped a few Warriors, the Trueborn utterly toasted the Gauss-toting Tomb Blades, and the Ravager lanced the main gun off the Annihilation Barge in a shower of sparks. For my part, I pulled the Tomb Blades into Ben’s deployment zone to chase the Linebreaker Victory Point, glanced a Hull Point off the Ravager with the Annihilation Barge and another with the foremost Warriors, and brought the Ark up fast, closing the distance; if I could get Tekeshi and co. into the Trueborn I was fairly confident that I’d nail the Haemonculus and do something with that Warlord trait.

 Interesting Rules Intermission – I remain strong in my belief that Warlord traits are the first thing I’d house-rule around my way. Your Warlord traits represent both your senior HQ’s personality and their tactical style, and it’s sort of awkward to take the kind of ownership of one’s gaming experience that I try to take, i.e. stringing things together into a coherent and extended narrative, when that narrative’s central character changes randomly with every new instalment. Of course, I have a workaround for it – all those Tekeshi backups have very different attitudes, and they don’t necessarily share one another’s experiences – but I’d still like to at least keep the first one I rolled over a run of games.

Once again, Ben’s Ravager flubbed its shooting, this time doing naught to the Annihilation Barge but scratch the metalwork a bit. The Talos likewise flubbed all over the advancing Necron Warriors, and the Trueborn stripped another six Necrons clean off the board with another arrestingly brutal volley.

The Ghost Ark raised a Necron Warrior and gave itself a glancing hit in the process (not sure I like that trade, to be honest), and the Tomb Blades tried to find a sweet spot between their 24″ range and the 18″ range on the super-shooty Trueborn before giving up and settling down to take potshots at the Ravager instead. Tekeshi and the Toyboys disembarked to make their assault run on the Trueborn, and the Ghost Ark lined up for a broadside on the Ravager. One hull point left. One six in the right place was all I’d need…

The Barge whiffed its shot on the Ravager.
The Blades whiffed their shots on the Ravager.
The Ark whiffed its shots on the Ravager.
The Warriors whiffed their shots on the Ravager.
Tekeshi and the Toyboys ran one lousy inch and their charge came up an inch short. This was bad. I had every faith that those Trueborn would point, click and delete Tekeshi and co. in one round of shooting and bag Ben three Victory Points on the spot.

Good job it was turn 5, really. The Random Game Length roll came up a 2, and that was game over!

Necron Victory Points
Linebreaker – 1
Slay The Warlord – 1
Units destroyed – 5

Dark Eldar Victory Points
First Blood – 1
Units destroyed – 4

Victory to the Necrons!

Not that it necessarily felt like one. Much like the last game, I felt that the tide had definitely turned towards the end, and once again it was only the arbitrary mechanics that had ‘won’ me this one. I could certainly have played a much safer game towards the end, leaving Tekeshi safely in the backfield and ferrying disposable Warriors up to the front lines instead; in a context where safe, secure, boring wins matter, I’d obviously have done that, but since this wasn’t such a context, what’s the point? Anyway, it was only a run of sub-par dice that stopped me taking a creditable crack at a 10-5 win (1 point for the Trueborn, 1 for the Haemonculus, and another 1 for Tekeshi’s Warlord trait if she managed to win a challenge), although to be fair it’s only a run of sub-par dice in Ben’s second turn that let me keep up the tempo that I did anyway.

We did spend quarter of an hour rolling out Ben’s next turn, just seeing how many ifs and buts would have to fall into line for Ben to take out Tekeshi and snatch back the win. Given that there was still a Casket of Flensing to drop (for which Ben rolled AP1 during our test run… un-nerving!), a vicious shooting phase from the Trueborn (I wasn’t that worried about Overwatch, as the Toyboys seemed pretty good at shrugging off small arms fire, but the full torrent at BS4 would be rather more concerning), and a round of shooting plus a decent charge from the Talos (our test run saw the Talos avoid mindshackling itself, then fail to kill Tekeshi, but manage to break her and run her down), I’m not entirely sure I’d have come through that with my dignity intact.

Ben reckons the turning point of the game was as early as his very first assault move. He took something of a gamble in assaulting my Warriors with his Archon rather than dropping the webway portal, and while it did earn him two Victory Points straight off the bat, it ran counter to his army build’s signature trick, and left the Archon vulnerable to the Necron counter-attack. I’m inclined to agree; when a goodly chunk of your build and tactics revolve around a particular item, deploying that item should probably be the priority. Granted, his unfavourable reserve rolls wouldn’t have let him make the best of it – he does better when the whole bloody army pours out of that portal – but it would have brought his Warriors into the fray properly and they might have been able to clear a spot for the Trueborn in the middle of my army. Ben pointed out that the sheer mass of Necrons meant that surrounding the portal and preventing anything moving through it might have been rather easy for me, and that makes me think dark thoughts about some allies that could provide big or tough squads of combat-capable bodies. Neither Ben nor I are inclined to forming alliances for the sake of power, but a justification for Chaos or Orks is easily crafted. In fact, I have one in the works right now!

For my part, I was quietly impressed with the Necrons’ performance; for a list based around Shiny New Toys it did very well for itself, and while I think it’d have had real trouble with, say, the Razorwing, I’d consider running something similar again. Forty Warriors is probably too many and I’d consider either two tens in transports and twelve on foot or three tens, one transport and some Immortals to round things off. I’m also considering whipping Tekeshi off her Chariot, giving her a Resurrection Orb, and embedding her in the close combat Court. Of one thing I am very sure; the Necrons are greatly improved by the presence of a few bodies that can tie things up in close combat. The Lords, with their excellent Toughness and save, fill the niche well and have some impressive offensive capacity; the Lychguard might be able to do the same job but would, I think, suffer a bit from their comparative lack of punch and lack of a sempiternal weave.

The ghost ark’s engines thrummed beneath her feet as it drifted and turned, presenting a broadside to the eldar vehicles. As they fired, Tekeshi stepped between the flayer beams and saluted the last of the raiders with her scythe. Her new aristocracy descended with her, raising their own weapons and preparing to charge. And yet, even as she singled out the flesh-monger and executed the command that would send her scarabs out to snare his mind and turn his weapons against him, she detected something – some ethereal resonance that hung around the casket in his uppermost hands, a pattern of data corresponding to something she recognised. A process flared into activity within her consciousness, checking, comparing, contrasting… and then she realised. Of course the data was familiar. She contemplated it, with some fraction of her processing power, at every moment of her renewed existence. The eldar, somehow, was carrying her mind.

Of course! The raid on Solace, ten revolutions previously. This iteration of her persona had been uploaded when a previous iteration failed to return from that venture to the surface; her crypteks had confirmed degenerate eldar to have been her opponents, but not the actual fate of her previous self. The backup had floundered for a while, uncertain of how to pursue vengeance, before settling on this hunt, the personal humiliation of eldar commanders in a primitive – but rather satisfying – act of retribution. Tekeshi focused her vision, and allowed her voice to be heard.

“Punitive retribution has been carried out. On presentation of reparation, hostilities may cease. Access to the primary world of this system can be negotiated.” The degenerate giggled, as they so often did, and Tekeshi lamented the frivolities of the flesh as she laid her claws on the nearest of her swains. The statuesque figure hurled what he was carrying at the torturer’s feet – the eldar commander’s head bounced across the sand and rolled to a halt there. The giggling rose in pitch. That probably meant he was listening. Tekeshi considered this, and added, with a kink in her vocal mechanisms, “Alternatively, you could die.”

“If you could kill us, you would, but you haven’t, so you can’t,” the torturer sniggered. “And you’ll be picking sand out of your soldiers for months and months and months.” His voice dropped, into a grating monotone, a poor parody of a necron. “Your empty threat is noted and your proposal accepted. We could fight, if we wanted to, but we don’t, so we won’t. We want to leave. So do you.” His upper arms threw the box to Tekeshi. “And we’ve got what we came for – you’ve killed him for us.”

“Further conflict is unnecessary.”

“We could stay, if we wanted to. But we don’t.”

“Your continued presence would not be tolerated. Your continued existence is… acceptable.” Tekeshi let her shining guardians lift her back onto the hovering ark, and nodded to the torturer. “Honour is satisfied. I counsel that you leave, before you insult me again.”

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