Monday, 6 February 2023

Mantis Overboard

All aboard the Ark!

"Five minutes."

The pilot's voice crackled over the voxnet, echoing round the Aquila's cramped holding bay. Captain Nampo looked around at the helmets of his squad mates. His brothers stood in readiness rather than trying to squeeze themselves into seats made for smaller frames, bracing themselves against the low ceiling or trusting in their magnetised boots. 

There was little to be said. It had been months since his rescue from the hellish cult chamber in the marshes and his return to Imperial life. Months spent locked in an altogether different battle, one he felt ill-equipped for. The Administratum was an implacable foe, and none of his many years of combat skill were any use to him. 

Drawbridge was still at war, threatened by a resurgence of Tyranids that was pushing the decimated PDF to its very limits. The Planetary Governor, Titus Belleghast himself, had demanded that the few Mantis Warriors left on the planet were too vital to this war effort to be allowed to leave, and the Administratrum had backed him. 

Officially, they had to check he was who he said he was. That his claims of a renegade assuming his identity were correct. Rrefusing to allow Nampo off-world until such time as a final decision could be wrought from the Inquisition was merely a wise precaution, not that they were able to get such a message through the shadow in the warp at the present time, of course. They were sure he would understand this unfortunate circumstance, and content himself with duty on the front line while he waited. 

Nampo knew where his duty lay quite well. Hence arranging the loan of this Aquila through his friends amongst the last remaining regiment of Hagan Lampreys on-world, and hence the entirely unofficial visit they were about to pay the Governor's private cruiser. 

If the Administratum thought he would quietly wait while a treacherous imposter stole his command and put it to who knew what vile uses, they were sorely mistaken. 

"One minute," said the vox, and he adjusted his sword. He could wait that long, but his patience was at an end. 

There's a Mantis Warrior narrative campaign that's been strung out for over a year now, and I'm determined to get it to a head before 2024 happens. Captain Nampo is finally looking to get off Drawbridge with the last few loyalists he can muster, and what better way to do that than borrow the Planetary Governor's private cruiser?

Pootle and I, Kraken, both quite fancied the look of the new Boarding Action game. Small, tactical, limited options for power building - what's not to like! Even better, I've got terrain that can proxy the rather expensive albeit lovely new kit. So hopping straight over the 'blow your hobby budget' step of the pre-game prep, we went straight to picking armies. 

Mantis Warriors

I really like the look of the boarding action rules. Stripped down in terms of relics, stratagems and warlord traits. It didn't take long to pull a list together out of Kraken's forces. First up is Captain Nampo himself, this time clothed in Gravis Armour.

He's supported by two squads of Assault Intercessors. I'm WYSIWYGing Kraken's collection as far as I can, so one sergeant has a Plasma Pistol and Power Sword, the other has a Power Fist.

I've not had a chance to use Kraken's (relatively) new Terminators yet, and they too are perfect for this kind of game, which is so reminiscent of Space Hulk. Contrary to the pic above, one has a Heavy Flamer (it's magnetised), one has a pair of Lightning Claws and the Sergeant has a Chainfist and Volkite Blaster.

Lastly I've exactly the right amount of points to add in a unit of Scouts. Not the most terrifying unit perhaps, but might be useful to sit on an objective and draw someone forwards to deal with them.

The one personalisation detail for Boarding Actions is to pick a special ability for my warlord. I'm tempted by the special weapon to boost his Power Fist to damage 3 (and damage 4 when the Assault Doctrine hits) but I decide to go for Expert Breacher as it'll mean he can open doors during the movement phase rather than right at the end of the phase. I'm not sure, but it's possible this could be incredibly useful in getting the jump on my enemy.

Security Detail

Who's this guarding the cruiser? Adeptus Custodes? What kind of a pleasure barge is this, packed with silent sisters and hulking terminators in black plate?

Representing the Emperor's Chosen, I've got a Shield-Captain with his signature Castellan Axe, the warlord bonus giving it +1 strength and damage. That makes it pretty damn lethal in shooting or in combat, and is definitely the stand-out option for this list. 

Elsewhere, some Sagittarii (shooting probably isn't the best choice for these corridors, but I was feeling bad about the signature weapon), a pair of Allarus Terminators (effectively characters without actually being characters) and then a team each of Vigilators and Witch Seekers, whose flamers ought to be pretty nasty in these close confines. 

Emperor's Chosen can do Rendax as their special stance, but it's not much use to me here, there are no vehicles or monsters. Calistus, Conservai and Kaptaris is what I'm packing - run in, do extra actions to secure stuff, beat them up in combat being my broad remit here. 

Everybody has their Misericordia, just in case

Terrain and Mission

As mentioned, I managed to proxy the terrain using the stuff I got from Dungeons and Lasers a couple of years back. By some strange happenstance, the walls and doors I've got were almost precisely enough to mimic the layout I was after. Prescience from Archon, or were GW's playtesters using it on the sly before the official scenery was available? I think we should be told. 

No functioning doors, sadly. We kept track of what was open or not using that highly reliable method beloved of all boomers, our minds. 

The most vanilla scenario I could find (I didn't want to confuse our minds, they were already full of doors) was Deck Sweepers. 5 points for holding at least one objective, 5 points for holding more, 15 points per objective held at the end of the game. 

There was the option of the underdog (me, by five points) using a central deployment zone, that was the only variant rule in play, and I didn't take it. Some of the doors and the objective placement wasn't quite kosher, the way the modular walls tiled out didn't let me quite match everything. And I took photos before correcting the LoS blocking wall on the centre right (on below maps), but otherwise I was pretty pleased at what I could manage here!


I'm defending, Pootle is attacking. 

I stick the Assault Intercessors on the entry areas to the left and right (Power Sword on the left opposite the Witchseekers, Power Fist on the other side where damage 2 will be more useful). Captain Nampo goes with the Terminators left of centre and I use the Scouts forward deployment ability to get them into the same room as the Intercessors on the right to avoid any risk of being shot up early.

My guys spread out across the upper reaches. The Witchseekers use their pre-game move to prepare a wall of fire over the right-hand side, the Shield Captain accompanies the Vigilators in the middle and the Sagittarii take on the left with one of the Allarus. The other one is in deep strike, ready to hit where I need support most. 

Mantis Warriors: Turn 1

My starting plan is to play it safe as I really could do with waiting until turn 3 and the Assault Doctine before trying to get into combat with the Custodes. Accordingly the two units on my right circle around but leave the door firmly closed.

On the left, the Intercessors hug the wall to try to minimise the risk of Witchseekers running round the corner and barbequing them. Captain Nampo heads to the corner pf the room ready to use his Expert Breacher skill when the time is right on either of the doors in that corner.

Custodes: Turn 1

I don't want to open any doors, I'm scared. 

Instead, I use the extra movement from Calistus to sprint my right side forwards, hugging cover, and bring the Shield Captain and his Sword Sisters up, but keep coy about which way I might go. Only the Witch Seekers break out, moving round the wall and setting overwatch just in case there might be boarders on the ship. 

Sprint through this, you buggers

Mantis Warriors: Turn 2

So here's a thing. I don't want to face the big scary Custodes until next turn, but over on the left there's just a puny unit of Witchseekers. And an objective! All I've got to do is run through fire...

Fortunately overwatch only drops one of the Intercessors and the remaining four mulch the Witchseekers to neither of our surprise.

Nampo opens the door to the central hall and moves to his right to let he Terminator brethren move through as well (they set overwatch to discourage the Vigilators). I don't want to get too far into the room as Kraken could easily charge through if I push onto the objective.

On my right, the Intercessors and Scouts dance around once more, but this time open both doors so they're ready for action next turn.

Custodes: Turn 2

Hmm. Running forwards into that pack of Terminators (and their flamer) doesn't really appeal, so the Shield Captain and Vigilators part ways, opening doors to the sides instead of straight ahead. The Captain can now go round to threaten the left side, the Vigilators can spring out and attack anyone on the central objective next turn instead. 

I'm into my next fighting style, Conservai, and can advance and still perform actions. But instead, the Sagittarii sprint down that tight central corridor towards the objective at its end, not quite reaching it, then set overwatch. That's not going to help a lot, only one of them can shoot along that narrow passage! But it's better than nothing. Their supporting Allarus opens his door and hides beside it, biding his time. 

Not so his twin, who teleports in behind the Intercessors on the left. His shooting kills the nearest marine, lengthening his charge just enough that I fail it even with a reroll. Blast!

Two turns in, and nobody has any objectives yet...

Mantis Warriors: Turn 3

Here's the Assault Doctrine! The three surviving Intercessors on my left head over the deal with the Allarus Custodian (or try to at least). They only manage to knock a brace of wounds off and I expect them to die to the counterstroke, however I roll well on the saves and only lose one.

You can't charge someone you can't see in Boarding Actions, which is tactically interesting. Mantis Warriors can advance and charge of course, but I'll need a 6" advance to get the Terminators able to see the Vigilators. I roll speculatively and am rewarded with a all the pips! Nampo follows up to sit on the objective. Kraken interrupts combat with the Vigilators who do manage to kill two of the Terminators, but, again surprising neither of us, the Terminators make short work of the sword-wielding sisters.

The Sagitarii are properly scary, but if I can tie them up in combat that should be a result. The Intercessors sprint out of their room and jump on the Sagitarii. This is where a buffed up Power Fist suddenly becomes interesting against three-wound Terminator-alikes. Especially when Kraken is rolling saves, and down go two of the Custodes! The Chainswords fail to scratch the last fellow, but I'm very happy with that.

Nampo is left hanging around in the central hall...expecting visitors shortly...

Custodes: Turn 3

Wow - it's certainly kicking off now. 

The Shield Captain wades into the Terminators, shooting as he approaches. That signature weapon proves absolutely clutch - between shots fired and axes swung, the rest of the Terminators die before they can respond, and we're looking at a Warlord Duel in the middle next turn. 

The battered Sagittarium falls back on to his corridor objective, leaving all the heavy lifting to his Allarus support. And what support! After nailing a couple of scouts as he drives by, he butchers all but one of the Assault Intercessors, leaving the Sergeant wounded and taking the objective off the Scouts all by himself. 

Alas, his wounded pal is out-matched by his Intercessors, and my last hope of taking the left flank fall with him. 

Mantis Warriors: Turn 4

I've only got seven models left on the board, but that's more than twice what Kraken has. So this'll be easy right? Not necessarily, as the core of my plan involves the Scouts killing the Allarus in close combat. First off, the pair of Intercessors on my left perform the action to secure the lefthand objective so it'll stay mine for the rest of the game. Nampo moves to the far corner of the room, opening the door for his Intercessor mates to charge through next turn.

The lone Intercessor Sergeant on the right falls back from the Allarus, and then charges right back in again. His four attacks only manage to generate one hit with his Power Fist, though Kraken does fail the save, so the Scouts (having unloaded their guns to no effect) then also charge in to remove the last wound and win the day! Except that they don't. Kraken interrupts combat once more and the Allarus sweeps the puny Scouts aside with hardly any effort.

Custodes: Turn 4

That pesky Mantis Sergeant might think he's out-manouvered me, but seeing as I score points for the objective at the start of the turn, I can just walk the Sagittarium back down the corridor, fall back with the Allarus and mow the wounded chappie down with an interesting variety of shots. It goes to the wire, rerolls being spent like loose change, but I bring him down. Right flank to me!

The Warlords get on with what they came here for, a proper barny do. Both whack a good six wounds off each other, but neither fall, which leaves me rather nervous about the next turn. 

Neck and neck so far!

Mantis Warriors: Turn 5

This is where we discover something very interesting: Nampo can fall back and charge, like any good White Scar successor, but the Shield Captain is standing annoyingly close to the door and the Intercessors cannot get past him to charge onto the objective in the hall. Ooops.

With Nampo going first in combat, he pummels the Shield Captain to death, but the Mantis Warriors are left too far away from the objective.

Custodes: Turn 5

There's nothing more to do - I just spread out on the objectives along my side, and hum a soothing hymn to the Emperor. My Warlord is down, but he's denied that objective to the enemy, which means I'm going to win at the last minute!

Final Score: 55:35 to the Adeptus Custodes

"You will stand down, Mantis Warrior!" boomed the voice of the last Custodian. 

"Regrettably, I cannot. You will instead surrender this vessel to my command," Nampo suggested politely. His boarding team was a spent force, lying stunned or paralysed where the hulking warriors had left them. He hadn't expected Custodes. And in black armour! Who were they?

"In the name of the Throne, will you listen to me? Stand down! There is more at stake here than you realise!"

"Your commanding officer is incapacitated," Nampo replied, checking through the grenades remaining in his belt pouches. Enough? He couldn't be sure. In these cramped corridors and against the enemy's superior armour, close combat was almost a certainty, and he was already badly wounded. 

"I am not well acquainted with the precise relationships between our respective ranks, but it is my belief I am your superior here. If you are willing to talk, call a ceasefire and let us do so in the open." 

"This is our ship. Your attack has failed. Surrender, and I promise you an open discussion," the Custodes shouted back. "Otherwise, I shall take the rest of you into custody myself." 

Nampo considered the options. If he fell here, his brothers on board the Millstone of Guilt would be lost to him. Better to bide his time. Gritting his teeth, he laid his weapons on the grilled metal floor. 

"Very well," he said, and stepped out from behind the bulkhead, hoping he could trust in the black-armoured warrior's words. 

Locker Room

That was great fun. I don't think I've ever agonised about the tactical ramifications of door opening so much before!

Absolutely! I don't think Nampo's door-opening trait was as useful as I thought it might be, however I do think it was a good one to try and I'd do it again. I feel sure that getting the hang of manoeuvring around is critical. We realised that I'd tried to be a bit too cute in pulling Nampo back, hoping that the Shield Cap would fail his charge. He did need to be within an inch to open the door for his comrades, but if he'd been a little farther into the room then the Intercessors would have been able to use their advance and charge to get onto the objective, which would have been a draw in the end. So close!

These stripped back rules are great. Common sense rules about who gets removed first, line of sight in tight corridors and the few strategems on offer all appeal to me. How to manage your bottlenecks, and when to risk springing out of cover are really in the spotlight. Here's hoping the raft of strats on their way in with the next books add to this rather than smothering it in cheese, as occasionally happens. 

Really good fun to try out the rules, and I completely agree with you on the simplified rules. Once again we got a pretty close game out of it too (and I didn't even manage to get Nampo killed). Thanks and see you again for the next episode soon I hope.


  1. Sounds like a fun battle. Roll on minimalhammer!

  2. Ooohh I wasn’t interested in boarding action before this game.