Thursday, 26 May 2011

24/5/2011: The Horus Heresy

Now you get to see me wax lyrical about the Horus Heresy.

I played the game once again against Dave. I was playing the Imperium and he was playing the Traitors; this may seem odd as Chaos is my army when I'm playing 40K, but Dave is a villain through and through and will rarely pick the good guys by choice. As it was the first time we'd given the game a run-through knowing all the rules to it (or at least that was the plan,) I figured we'd stick to the Brother vs Brother scenario for this. Turns out this was one of my better moves, because I still had to refer to the rulebook almost as often as if I'd picked up the game for the first time, only this time looking for the finer points of the rules I hadn't got a clue about and were by their very nature hard to find. Unfortunately for me, it was all downhill from there...

It didn't start out too well for Dave either as he failed 7 out of his 12 corruption draws. He drew enough to force a co-existence battle between the forces on Spaceport Damocles, but all else got wiped out quite quickly. His bombing fared better, taking out one of the Titans in the area surrounding the Spaceport Primus and breaching the factory occupied by the Fabricator General. He then used his starting orders to shore up Angron's defences around Primus, which was to sew the seeds for the pace of the game. There was no way he was going to lose that ferocious Primarch...

Apart from the coexistence battles, we were playing it cagey for the first couple of initiatives. I moved a few units including Jaghatai Khan and the Fabricator General into position to attack Angron on the next refresh phase, and brought a couple of tank legions on from the far West side of the board. Dave piled on the reinforcements for Mortarion, who was occupying Eternity Wall Spaceport with his Nurgle-infested units, and patiently waited for the refresh phase where the activation markers would disappear.

As soon as they did, Dave took the offensive. Using Vicillitudes of Chaos, I'd managed to divide a significant amount of Angron's forces, but Dave was undaunted by this and went straight for Jaghatai Khan. The fury of the Khornate forces plus the subsequent bombardment resulted in Khan being left out on his own, though Angron had 4 wound counters by the time they had finished. Dave then had a lucky draw of Order Cards and found two Drop Pod orders. He proceeded to slam down 5 units of Chaos Space Marines and a Thunderhawk right on top of the meagre forces that defended Lion's Gate Spaceport. As soon as the change of initiative phase kicked in, they found themselves in battle; the stacking rule wasn't going to save them since any coexistence fights take precedence, and obviously they never stood a chance. Worse, that very cleverly-timed move had landed Dave's initiative marker right on top of the Spaceport Victory square, and as by then he controlled all 4 spaceports, this effectively gave the game to him.

So, what would I do differently next time? Well, if luck were not a factor, I might consider moving some more units in defence of Lion's Gate Spaceport. Thinking about it, I've got a Titan and the Blood Angels in easy reach, plus Sanguinius, so moving an effective defence force there is not a problem and would certainly have caused Dave some problems achieving a Spaceport Victory. In of itself this is a good strategy anyway. Angron and Mortarion have control of 2 Spaceports at the beginning of the game, the other two depend on the results of the corruption draw and in this case Damocles would have to be abandoned but there's not much that could happen to Lion's Gate that you couldn't do anything about.

However, I made one very careless move in this instance which I believe cost me the whole game. I used Vilissitudes of Chaos to separate a Titan and a Chaos Warband from the main force at Primus - and then used an Assault order to attack the Titan with the Fabricator General and the White Scars in the fortification on the other side of the Spaceport. Instead of doing that, I should have gone straight for Angron; there's little chance his forces would have survived that kind of assault and would have given me the Spaceport, so even if Dave had taken Lion's Gate in that fashion, it wouldn't have cost me the game straight away. I guess in a way I'm still playing 40K - that is to say, reacting to the situation without considering the big picture. I really ought to know better because that doesn't do me much good in 40K either.

What do I think of the game itself? Very good, actually. I come from knowing the finer points of the story anyway having been in to the Games Workshop hobby for nearly half of my life, and I don't know if anybody else would care about the game if they weren't already in to 40K. That being said, it's a refreshing change, because apart from the similar theme absolutely nothing connects the two games. There's the completely different scale of it for a start. If you had, say, a Tank Legion, a unit of Space Marines and two Imperial Armies, and attacked a force, a game of 40K would represent at the most a tenth of what is going on with ONE of them. Moving and Attacking is out of the window; rare are the times when you can do both. The card combat system can feel like a game in itself, and the events - instances which would only happen in 40K as a house rule or expansion - lend an uncontrollable nature to the game that makes it feel all the more like you're fighting a desperate battle against the elements as much as your enemy. It's taken a while to get my head around it though. If you've never played a war game before, I wouldn't necessarily make this your first one.

So, Dave's re-written history and taken Holy Terra for Horus. Funnily enough, in some of the background material you can buy, a prediction was made as to what might happen if Horus would have won. It would pretty much mean the end of Humanity... but as Humanity has now spent the last 10,000 years fighting a war it cannot hope to win, and is kept alive purely because of it's tenacious refusal to lie down and die, burning itself out in the Horus Heresy might not have been such a bad way to go.

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