Friday, 6 October 2017

Dustbusters: Adeptus Mechanicus vs Thousand Sons

10010 0100110 10010110-ight!
It's All-Skype Fight Night!

Polish up your King Tut headgear -  I, Stylus will be taking the Thousand Sons out for their inaugural battle!

And polish everything else you've got - I, Kraken, command the might of the Machine God and therefore need a lot of grease!


Maelstrom of War: Tactical Escalation - simple enough: six objectives and you must hold as many objective cards as the current turn number. I can't remember if you're allowed to discard objectives  - we didn't, so either that was plain careless or we were supremely confident in our ability to catch 'em all.

Also, you pick a type of Tactical Objective - if you secure one of these, you get a bonus point, and if you end with game with more of these secured than your opponent managed of their type, you get another bonus.

Kraken picked the AdMech-specific type. I went with Purge, which sounds Chaos-y (and a little clinical).

In addition, there are the usual First Blood, Slay the Warlord and Linbreaker rules, and our standing house rule: objectives that would have been impossible to achieve from the start of the game may be discarded (good luck trying to Master the Warp, robot-dudes).

We do decide to roll-off for the first turn, rather than using the current rules. Whoever finishes deploying first gets a +1 bonus, but we won't know in advance who is going first as you might otherwise do.


Change We Can Believe In - Thousand Sons

My selection is somewhat limited, but damn it's nice to have an army that isn't entirely proxies. By chance (or was it Just As Planned?), I can legitimately draft in some of my Age of Sigmar models, so my Rubric Marines are joined by Tzaangor and Chaos Spawn, who hopped through a Realmgate to be here.

Filling out the Troop choices are a mob of Chaos Cultists, who are only in this army because I wanted to convert a batch with Acolyte heads (see future updates for when they're finished).

I need to maximise my points, so my Exalted Sorcerer on Disc gets promoted to Ahriman. My Age of Sigmer Tzeentch Sorcerer gets to be a regular Exalted Sorcerer (clearly in an advanced state of FleshChange).

Rounding out the the army is big bird himself - the breathtaking cool Heldrake. Neither the Heldrake nor Cultists are totally finished yet, but they are Three Colours Legal (my favourite Krzysztof Kieślowski film).

  • HQ 1 - Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch, Black Staff of Ahriman, Inferno bolt pistol, Frag & Krak Grenades
    Warlord: Unholy Fortitude
    Psychic powers: Warptime, Death Hex, Weaver of Fates
  • HQ 2 - Exalted Sorcerer, Force Stave, Inferno bolt pistol, Frag & Krak Grenades
    Psychic powers: Prescience, Diabolic Strength 
  • Troops 1 - 10 x Rubric Marines, Force Stave, Warpflame pistol, 6 x Inferno boltguns, 2 x Warpflamers, 1 x Soulreaper Cannon, 1 x Icon of Flame
  • Troops 2 - 10 x Tzaangor, Tzaangor blades, Instrument of Chaos
  • Troops 3 - 20 x Chaos Cultists, Shotgun, Autoguns, Heavy Stubber, Flamer
  • Fast Attack - 3 x Chaos Spawn, Hideous mutations
  • Flyer - Heldrake, Baleflamer, Heldrake claws
999pts - Battalion detachment, 6 CPs

Nothing Else Matters - Adeptus Mechanicus, Forge World Metalica

For a hill men would kill. Why? They do not know!

What a joy to see the old Space Crusade models out in force! I mean, not so much joy as would accompany a real, fully-painted army, but all the same - fond memories. 

  • HQ 1 - Tech Priest Dominus with Omnissian Axe, Volkite Blaster, Macrostubber, Anzion's Pseudogenitor, Warlord Trait: Monitor Malevolus
  • HQ 2 - Techpriest Enginseer with Omnissian Axe, Laspistol and Servo-arm
  • Troops 1 - 10 x Skitarii Rangers - the alpha has a Radium Pistol, one has a Transuranic Arquebus, 2 have Plasma Culvers. The rest have Galvanic Rifles, plus one also bears an Omnispex
  • Troops 2 - 5 x Skitarii Vanguard - the alpha has a Phosphor Blast Pistol, two have arc rifles, the others have radium carbines plus one also bears an enhanced data tether
  • Troops 3 - 3 x Kataphron Destroyers, each with Plasma Culverin and Phosphor Blaster
  • Elites 1 - 6 x Corpuscarii Electro-priests with Electrostatic Gauntlets
  • Elites 2 - 10 x Fulgurite Electro-priests with Electroleech Staves
  • Heavy Support - 1 x Onager Dunecrawler with smoke launchers, a Neutron Laser and Cognis Heavy Stubber
997pts - Battalion detachment, 6 CPs, Metalica Dogma (Relentless March)

Novice to the Adeptus Mechanicus as I am, I wanted a little bit of everything. The Electropriests seem surprisingly tough for men in robes, and could do some horrible damage to anything they manage to engage in combat. Plus they always seemed rubbish in previous editions, and thus probably sold badly, so I'm willing to bet they're decent now. 

The various troops are all good in shooting, either at range or close up, and the HQ choices are both relatively tough and good at keeping the machines alive. The Onager is a no-brainer (although I was very torn when I discovered I'd never manage it and the Kastelan Robots, but they're much pricier), and how delighted I was to discover that having been torn between the Icarus Array and the Massive Death Laser, Stylus had taken a flyer and I'd taken the wrong option. Ah well! 

Overall, the force is a good all-rounder, able to dish damage at range and close up. But they're all on the squishy side, and also fairly specific at which of those two things they can do, so I'll need to get the right stuff to the right place pretty swiftly. Hence Metalica, who can move and keep shooting without as many penalties.


Our battlefield is the dry desert dunes of [insert non-Frank-Herbert planet name here]. Once we've rolled off for Objective Deployment (the tokens above and the shields below), I get the choice of deployment zones, and decide on Search and Destroy. I take the bottom left, Stylus goes top right, and we have to skirt the middle for now.

I stick the biggest guns furthest back, as I'm worried about that Heldrake. I've fought them before, and I do not want them assaulting my heavy guns before I get a chance to shoot them. The assault priests, backed by Vanguard, huddle behind a nearby hut, while everything else goes up along the ruins in the middle of my deployment area. 

I'm concerned that I may have too much infantry and not enough heavy stuff. So I'm going to need to close up (without getting too close) and overwhelm those guns. Still, my Heldrake will be able to get into the backline from the start, so I'm anticipating some mayhem from him.

The Chaos Spawn lead the point of the spear, since they're both durable and expendable. The Tzaangor take the left flank, supported by the Exalted Sorcerer; and the Rubrics have the more shielded right flank, with Ahriman behind them.

The Heldrake goes behind the Tzaangor, ready to swoop ahead, and the Chaos Cultists fill out the middle, stringing back to the rear objective, just in case I need to claim it.

If I can take the first turn, I hope to close up and do enough damage to the guns to weather the return fire.

As it happens, I get first turn, and Stylus fails to steal. Let's take our safeties off, chaps...

Turn 1 - Adeptus Mechanicus

Canticle time! Ad Mech get bonuses each round, with a nice range of boosts to keep you cranking out damage. I start with the obvious Shroudpsalm, so all my guys get cover bonuses even if they aren't in cover. 

Comforted by this, the assault troops move up, with the Kataphrons and Dominus heading towards a nearby objective (no. 6, I think it was). Everyone else sits still. 

And then we open up. The Heldrake gets scuffed by a relatively minor Neutron Laser burn, then the Kataphron Destroyers risk overcharging their Plasma Culverins, safe in the knowledge I can reroll ones thanks to the Dominus. Luckily, this pays off despite the ton of dice I end up rolling. None of mine explode, but the Heldrake bites it immediately. That's a load off my mind! Especially when it crashes into the Tzaangor and kills a couple of them. 

Next, focussed fire from the Electropriests, Vanguard, Dominus and even some spare shots from the Kataphrons wipe out the Chaos Spawn fairly handily. In the general jubilation, I entirely forget to fire the Ranger squad, but let's be honest, anything else would have been rubbing Stylus's nose in it at this point.

Objectives secured: First Blood (1)

Turn 1 - Thousand Sons

Aaah! My hell turkey is down, and now I'm feeling my goose may be cooked.

Despair not, I've still got enough units left on the table to answer back. I start by drawing the objective card Kingslayer, which may come in handy but isn't immediately relevant.

In my Movement phase, all three infantry units move towards the bottleneck (I hadn't quite realised what a Tatooine-esque canyon this is). The Exalted Sorcerer nestles among the meat-shield of the Cultists and Ahriman hangs back behind the Rubrics.

I enjoy a very good Psychic phase (although it does begin with having to use a Command Point to stop Ahriman getting Perils of the Warp). The Rubrics get Boon of Tzeentch (invulnerable saves of 3++ baby!), and Prescience, and then I Warptime them even closer, so they have eyes on all of Kraken's units. As a final note, I Smite off a Fulgurite Electropriest.

In the Shooting phase, the Cultists open up with the Autoguns - and with the low toughness of the Corpuscarii Electro-priests, I actually manage to gun down a couple of them. The Rubrics join in and split their fire: Bolters against the Corpuscarii Electro-priests, Warpflamers and Reaper Autocannon against the Kataphron Destroyers.

I'm fairly successful, and wipe out the whole unit of Corpuscarii, despite their numerous saves. The Kataphron lose two of their number as well, so that's some vengeance for the Heldrake. In hindsight, I should probably have put everything into the Electro-priests - rather than struggle against the higher toughness of the Kataphron (and also because ... as you will see .... Electro-priests are definitely best dealt with at range).

Assault phase, and my Tzaangors swarm around the Fulgurite Electro-priests. I'm torn about which direction to take the Rubrics (they're a long charge away from the Tech Priest Dominus and last Kataphron), but I opt for the easier charge against the Vanguard, and make it in.

The Tzaangor pull down three of the Electro-priests (their Fanatical Devotion is really keeping them in there) and get mown down in return - mortal wounds are flying around from the electroleech staves, and by the time the electricity stops flowing, there aren't even any models left to flee.

Somewhat unnerved by this display, the Rubrics underperform against the Vanguard, taking down two of them for no losses in return.

The the Morale phase, Kraken uses a Stratagem to keep his murderous Electro-priests untouched, the Vanguard lose another model, the Kataphron Destroyer is fine.

I also start enjoying my Warlord trait - every time either of us use a strategem, I have a one-in-six chance of getting a CP back. And here's one right now!

I don't get any objectives, but I've taken a chunk out of the AdMech's troops, and my best unit is poised to drive into the enemy stronghold. It's all to play for.

Objectives secured: 0

Turn 2 - Adeptus Mechanicus

New Canticle, and this time it's the close-combat booster Chant of the Remorseless Fist. I can reroll 1s in melee for now, and I think I'm going to need the extra power. 

The shooters open up first, however, and I pour everything I've got into the Cultists. It's a massacre - high strength, good accuracy weapons against shoddy fodder, and by the time the dust settles, there's not many left. Elsewhere, my Transuranic sniper clips a wound off the Exalted Sorcerer. 

The Fulgurite Priests crash into the Rubric Marines, backed by the Dominus and also hopeful with the knowledge that the radioactive Vanguard are reducing their toughness. It's a massacre! The Electrostaves generate an absolute bundle of mortal wounds that rip a great hole in the Rubrics, and the Omnissian Axe of the Dominus is enough to finish the job. Only the Sorcerer is left, but he legs it in the Morale phase. 

As do all but one of the Cultists. So close!

Yes, keep your eye on that leader with the shotgun. He may be important later on.

Killing that Rubric Sorcerer gets me an objective, although the other one I've drawn is to capture one that Ahriman happens to be standing on at the moment, so that will have to wait.

Objectives secured: Witch Hunter (1)

Turn 2 - Thousand Sons

Right. So I have three models left on the table. This could be one of the shortest debuts I've ever played.

As my card, I draw Overwhelming Firepower, which is also a Purge category, and so has the potential for double points. Although I'm not sure that two Bolt Pistols and a Shotgun is going to overwhelm much. I also get Defend Objective 4, which I'm currently sitting on, but I have no intention of staying there.

With desperate measures required (and no troops to hide behind anyway), Ahriman and the Exalted Sorcerer race up towards the canyon.

The Cultist Champion doesn't bother to move, because I have plans for him at the end of the Movement phase. I play an amazing wonderful Stratagem: Tide of Traitors. For a mere two Command Points, you can remove a unit of Cultists and reintroduce them on any table edge at their full starting strength. Boom - twenty Cultists suddenly reappear in the AdMech's back lines.

Eep! In my alarm, I forget all the extra rules I was trying to learn earlier, and overlook a strategem I could have played to shoot them immediately. Curses!

Ordinarily I wouldn't be so excited about cannon fodder, but this puts me back in the game!

Chaos is everywhere, baby.

A mixed bag for the Psychic phase: Ahriman crucially gets Boon of Tzeentch (not being made of dust, his invulnerable save is actually worse than regular Rubrics), but not Diabolic Strength, or Warptime (to move him within smiting distance of the Tech Priest Dominus).

Death hex does remove the Invulnerable save from Electro-priests (crucial, as it's now up to 3++), and I end by Smiting off a couple of them - anything's better than facing them in close combat!

In the shooting phase, the Cultists open up on the Fulgurite Electro-priests and wipe them out, though the remaining Vanguard makes his save against the Heavy Stubber.

Straight to charges! The warlords clash as Ahriman closes up with the Tech Priest Dominus, suffering a wound on Overwatch. The Exalted Sorcerer has to spend a Command Point to re-roll his dismal charge, but succeeds in getting in against both Vanguard Alpha and Tech Priest Dominus.

Ahriman hits well with his Black Staff, but the Tech Priest's save keeps him alive on two wounds. The Exalted Sorcerer also fails to get past his save, but kills the last Vanguard with a backhand.

That wasn't so bad. I'd feel better if the Tech Priest was dead, but at least I'm off to the races with the Objective points!

Objectives secured: Overwhelming Firepower + Tactical Priority (2)

Turn 3 - Adeptus Mechanicus

Suddenly, it's not looking so clever for me. I do still have the upper hand in terms of shooting and numbers, but only just. I'm also running behind on victory points, and being told to go and get Objective 6 isn't really encouraging me.

A new canticle, first - and it's a gamble, with Litany of the Electromancer. The slim hope I have of inflicting electric mortal wounds on the two Sorcerers is instantly dashed, but still worth a go, I thought. 

Then the Dominus runs off, so that I can focus fire on Ahriman. Stupidly, however, I decide to move the Onager towards the Cultists, and that means it can't shoot the big man. Instead, it vaporises a cultist, but it's small beans compared to what could have been. 

Luckily, the Kataphron Destroyer, newly repaired to full health by the Dominus (who also patches himself back up to full health), lands some good plasma shots. In this, he is joined by all the special weapons in the Ranger squad. Enough sneak through Ahriman's armour that he's toast, which is a nice bonus. 

Ahriman chose this moment to roll particularly junky for all his saves, before remembering an urgent dental appointment elsewhere.

A couple more cultists are mown down (again) by Galvanic Rifle fire, but I'm not liking the look of how many are left, nor how close they are. 

Objectives secured: Slay the Warlord (1)

Turn 3 - Thousand Sons

Ahriman! Another turn of fate and I'm left with a wounded Sorcerer and a handful of Cultists. However, I do draw Behind Enemy Lines, which is where my entire army is placed, and Secure Objective 4 (shut up, commanders, I'm not going back for Objective 4!).

I move up my Exalted Sorcerer for Round 2 against the Tech Priest, and my Cultists edge past the towering Dunecrawler to threaten the Rangers (having been reassured by Kraken that they are nowhere near as frightening as the Electro-priests).

In my Psychic phase, the number of casts has been reduced to two, and Diabolic Strength fails to go off again. But I do manage to Smite off three of the wounds the Tech Priest has just recovered.

In shooting, the Cultists gun down five Rangers, and then everyone charges in. The Cultists do indeed beat up a couple more of the Rangers, for minimal loss. And then the Exalted Sorcerer's force staff finally hits home and kills the Tech Priest Dominus!

Nope, not quite - he takes damage but doesn't quite die, thanks to his excellent armour save. Hang on in there, you adorable metal freak.

Sadly, my Rangers are not so tough, and the casualties they've taken cause the rest of them to flee.

The odds are evening! (as long as you consider a Dunercrawler to the equal of Cultists). And with three more objectives secured this turn, I'm actually in the lead. But I've got to survive at least two more game turns, and I think wiping me out is Kraken's best bet.

Objectives secured: Behind Enemy Lines (1)

Turn 4 - Adeptus Mechanicus

Hmm. My back is rather against the wall at this point, so I have to use what I've got. I chance rolling a Canticle rather than choosing one, as there's a chance I'd get one I've already taken then, but I end up with a useless Incantation of the Iron Soul to help me reroll all the Morale tests I won't be taking.

The Kataphron rolls off to grab Objective 6 for some much-needed points, but then whiffs his shooting to little effect. Unloading his giant pistol into the Sorcerer's face nets the wizard a wound, and between them, the previously unused Enginseer and his large robo-friend duff up a few cultists in shooting and then close combat. Sadly, both of them take a wound in the process.

The deadly duel between the Dominus and the Sorcerer finally comes to its end, as we realise that Stylus has been forgetting his Death to the False Emperor rule all this time. Remembering how much he hates me, the Sorcerer just about survives the hits I inflict, and then topples the Dominus with a well-placed staff jab.

Now I remember - yes, Death to the False Emperor came into save me, churning out six hits. The durability of both these heroes was quite impressive - invulnerable saves all round.

Objectives secured: Secure Objective 6 (1); Slay the Warlord (1) and Kingslayer (1) to Stylus

Turn 4 - Thousand Sons

Still alive, still alive! The Dunecrawler is a brute, but it is thankfully not optimised for dealing with large numbers of weak troops.

For objectives, I draw Mission Critical Objective (which turns out to be the very one I'm sat on); Supremacy, for which I don't have enough units to make happen; and Psychological Warfare (which is impossible, as Kraken has nothing else to flee).

A rotten Psychic phase, as my Exalted Sorcerer fails to cast Diabolic Strength on himself, and I have to spend my last Command Point to stop Smite from triggering Perils of the Warp - and even then, it doesn't go off.

Having to do things the old-fashion way, I charge my Sorcerer into the Techpriest Enginseer and make short work of him. The Cultists consolidate into the Dunecrawler, figuring its better to be kicked at than lasered.

Objectives secured: Mission Critical Objective - #2 (1)

Turn 5 - Adeptus Mechanicus

This is going to the wire. Luckily, Adeptus Mechanicus types like wire. 

Humming the canticle 'Benediction of the Omnissiah' to maximise my shooting, I retreat the Onager towards Objective 3, which I'm currently tasked with capturing. It's a long shot, but staying in combat isn't going to do me any favours. 

The Kataphron whiffs his plasma shot, but kills a couple of cultists with his rapid firing Phosphor Blaster. I don't like the look of that Sorcerer, but there's nothing I can do about him. 

That's all I've got, though, and now it's going to be a race to see if I can grab some more objectives before the game finishes. 

Objectives secured: 0

Turn 5 - Thousand Sons

I don't know how I'm still in it, but I'm still in it. I think we both forget to draw objective cards this turn, but with what we've got left on the table, it's probably moot.

My Sorcerer once again fails to cast Diabolic Strength (Tzeentch must not approve of such Khornite brute directness), but the warp is with me when I Smite the last Kataphron - three mortal wounds and he is gone!

Flushed with the success of having chased off a Dunecrawler, the last raggedy Cultists open fire and take off a wound. They then charge in, losing a couple to Overwatch, but the combat is a whiff on both sides.

I change my mind about sending in the Sorcerer after them. He's the only one who has a chance of damaging the vehicle, but with one wound remaining, I fear he might go down to a lucky kick. Better to hang back and Smite, waiting for Diabolic Strength to actually work.

Time to see if we continue. At least I'm rolling, so Kraken can't use his last Command Point to prolong the game.

And one a roll of a 1 - the game ends!

Objectives secured: Linebreaker (1), Mission Priorities (1)

Final total: 8 vs 4 VPs - a win for Thousand Sons!

Repair Bay / Change Room

Damn! I'm all new to this, but that game is going to take some beating. I thought I was staring down the barrel of a humiliating defeat, not a nail-biting finale.

Yup, that table turned hard and fast once it got going. My initial confidence quickly paled once the Cultists came back, but all the same, it could have gone either way for a long time.

I was taking a pasting in the first half, but the whole game seem to hinge on Turn 2, when the Dunecrawler failed to hit a single Cultist - without a lone survivor, I wouldn't have been able to resurrect the whole unit and go back on the offensive.

Are Command Points/Strategems new to 8th Edition? Because, for my money, they're the best thing about the game. A nice mix of resource management and hidden aces that adds a new dimension to play.

They are! I'm loving them too, although I need more experience to get the most out of them. It's very easy to get overwhelmed with options and miss some crackers. 

As for my debut army: my poor Heldrake didn't get out of the traps, but I'll accept the flattery of it being a priority target. In fact, once it was dead, a lot of Kraken's heavy artillery was a bit redundant anyway.

The Spawn did exactly what I wanted, and soaked up bullets on the front line. I was happy with how the Rubrics did - they're very durable (unless you get hit in the face with a buckload of mortal wounds) and kick out a good amount of anti-infantry firepower.

The two Sorcerers did very well. I don't like playing armies without Psykers, but to have such dominance in the Psychic phase gave me some excellent options, especially with the new spells in the Dark Hereticus discipline. The drawback is I spend one-third of my Command Points avoiding Perils of the Warp results, but it's a price worth paying.

I'd second that. Sitting still and being smitten isn't much fun in a psychic phase. Still, getting free bonuses with the Canticles makes up for it, and the Ad Mech army is a nice mix of interesting stuff to play as. Good looking too - damn it, I may still succumb to them in time, although I have other priorities first. 

The Tzaangor underperformed - that may have been my fault for putting good melee troops against outstanding melee troops, but I'm not convinced by them as cheap, disposable infantry.

Which brings me to the MVPs - the humble Cultists. These guys were just brilliant - destroying two units, and having a hand in a couple more. The Tide of Traitors stratagem is outstanding, and makes a large unit of Cultists a great option (even if they haven't taken casualties, they can be used to deepstrike in). For a unit that only exists in the army because I liked the look of them, I can see them becoming a mainstay).

For me, the MVPs were the combo of Fulgurites, who hit like a wrecking ball, and the toughness-reducing Vanguard. Their shooting options are nicely close ranged, and if they can't really lay out the damage themselves in close combat, just being there makes it a lot easier for other people to hurt the target. They'd be well-supported by pistol troops, too, like those Siccarans with Flechette pistols. But that's for another time!

Exciting stuff, great game. Roll on 41st Millennium! 

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