Spartan’s 40k Summer Cup Game 1: Harlequin Barrel Roll Academy Vs Laffan’s Tyranid Bio-Luftewaffe

The Surrey Spartans have started a new 40k Cup, using the Premier League model for group stages and competition. As ever I couldn’t miss a chance to 1a) play competitively 1b) as my poncey dancing space elves. The entry limitations were 1,250pts, Combined Arms Detachments and Formations allowed, Lords of War allowed but no allies. Poncey space elves were a go!

So what did I spend my 1,250pts on? I could have gone with a regular Force Organisation list. I had plenty of points to through about, so I could have got a fairly fantastic list of all singing, all dancing space elves. I could have even got my ‘quins into the Cegrogach’s Jest formation, getting the normal Rising Crescendo special rule as well as being able to reroll Invulnerable Saves failures of a ‘1’. I even ran up a couple of lists to test the idea.

But I’ve recently come into position of fourteen Harlequin Skyweavers and three Voidweavers. My Harlequins have missed out on these amazing pieces of kit – my ‘quins have definitely suffered without two wound jetbikes and all the toys they have access to! And there’s the fancy Falchou’s Blade formation that gives me reroll-able jink saves…

And so I give you Falchou’s Fury!

Falchou’s First Blade  

3 Skyweavers (1x Haywire Cannon, 2x Shuriken Cannon, 3x Star Bolas).

2 Skyweavers (1x Haywire Cannon, 1x Shuriken Cannon, 2x Star Bolas).

1 Voidweaver (1 Haywire Cannon, 2x Shuriken Cannon).

Falchou’s Second Blade

2 Skyweavers (1x Haywire Cannon, 1x Shuriken Cannon, 2x Star Bolas).

2 Skyweavers (1x Haywire Cannon, 1x Shuriken Cannon, 2x Star Bolas).

1 Voidweaver (1 Haywire Cannon, 2x Shuriken Cannon).

Falchou’s Third Blade

2 Skyweavers (1x Haywire Cannon, 1x Shuriken Cannon, 2x Star Bolas).

2 Skyweavers (1x Haywire Cannon, 1x Shuriken Cannon, 2x Star Bolas).

1 Voidweaver (1 Haywire Cannon, 2x Shuriken Cannon).

The Heroes Path

Solitaire (Cegrogach’s Rose, Harelquin’s Caress, Haywire Grenade).

Shadowseer (Mask of Secrets, Hallucinogenic Grenade Launcher, Force Staff, Psyker Level 2).

Deathjester (Haywire Grenades, Shrieker Cannon).

 

I’ve committed pretty hard to the jetbike plan. The jink save, with reroll, is statistically almost as good as a 2+ save and ignores AP. For things that ignore cover saves I’ve got the natural 5+ invulnerable or the once per game 4+ Mirage Launchers. This gives me a surprising amount of survivability in a world where power armour is becoming increasingly flimsy.

My plan is to zip about the battlefield claiming objectives and generally avoid any kind of committed engagement. 40k is a game won by strategic action now, not just total annihilation, and if I can choose my fights – or where I don’t fight – I will be able to claim objectives as and when it is safe or convenient. I have nine Haywire Cannons and two dudes on foot with Haywire Grenades, as well as my Solitaire’s Caress, to deal with vehicles which is a surprisingly impressive anti-armour ability.

How do I deal with gargantuan creatures? I run my Solitaire at it and pray for 6’s. Failing that I have plenty of machine guns that can, with more prayer-powered 6’s, be AP2 which should also help. Yup, that’s more prayer than I’d like to depend on but I’ll give my dice a full Jacuzzi-spa treatment before the games and hope it helps!

Game 1: Falchou’s Fury, AKA Harlequin Barrel Academy Vs Laffan’s Bio-Luftewaffe.

My first opponent in the group stage was Mr John Laffan, someone I hadn’t had much interaction with at the club. This is mostly due to my poor social skills, I’m sure, and was apprehensive about our first game because I knew nothing about him or his list, besides that he was playing Tyranids.

I figured I could deal with a swarm of little things pretty well and some big chunky things quite well, on the basis that Tyranid invulnerable saves aren’t all that (un-sourced opinion, poorly researched and likely to be incorrect). I sincerely hoped he didn’t bring many fliers as my anti-air ability involved yet another set of prayers and/or sacrifices.

Imagine my emotions when I saw not one but two winged Hive Tyrants, three other monstrous flyers, thirty flapping Gargoyles and a score of spore mines! He was at least as manoeuvrable as I was, and with his formation bonus of Without Number on a 4+ on most of his units he had a lot of potential attrition as well. Things were not off to the greatest of starts, but I reassured myself that the only thing my list hard countered was large-ish squads of poorly armed and armoured dudes. I was probably going to be okay against his Gargoyles at least.

This wasn’t that reassuring for me so I’ll move swiftly on to the game.

We were playing Lost Contact so would one objective card on the first turn and then one for each objective held at the beginning of each subsequent turn. My mobility would be an advantage, but equally his mobility would be an advantage too. He also had objective secured on the Gargoyles, giving him the edge there. My advantage was that the Gargoyles were pretty crap in combat and I could jink whenever I needed to for some anti-devourer endurance. The fliers couldn’t claim objectives, but I had nothing to deal with them. My plethora of Haywire Cannons were next to wasted and my Solitaire was going to be next to useless until something big landed, or some Gargoyles got too close – and when 19” is too close, that’s not all that unlikely!

Deployment

John deployed first and spread his three Gargoyle units across his deployment zone, covering the board pretty effectively. Our objectives were mainly strung out across the centre of the board, with one in open ground near his deployment zone and one in similarly open ground near mine. He placed a flying Hive Tyrant on each flank and both Heavy Venom Cannon Harpies on my left, while the Hive Hag with four Haywire missiles and a nasty breath weapon (I’m unsure of the proper name, apologies) went on my far right. In reserve he held sixteen spore mines, two clusters of five and one of six, and five super-spore mines (again, I’m unsure of what these are actually called).

I’ll note now that the gargoyles, small spore mine clusters and three of the super-spores all effectively had Without Number – when they were destroyed, John could put them into ongoing reserves on a 4+. Every time they were destroyed. So while they weren’t the most phenomenal of troops, he potentially had a massive attrition advantage over me.

I deployed my Skyweavers in a convex crescent on my far left flank, placing the Voidweavers inside the curve. My Hero’s Path took up residency in the church on the left flank, making the most of their Stealth & Shrouded bonuses while they waiting for an ideal time to strike. The flank I abandoned held an objective in a ruined building but if I had deployed on that side his Heavy Venom Cannon Fliers would have been in range straight away, while at least this way the second Tyrant, far right Gargoyles and the Hag would be spending a turn getting into range before becoming effective. I also hoped to wreck the first two units of Gargoyles quic

kly, lowering the amount of small arms fire that threatened my Skyweavers. Sure, a reroll-able 4+ save was nice but not having to make any was preferable!

I rolled Shards of Light and Mirror of Minds for my psychic powers. John only used three – one that lowered my BS and Initiative by D3, one that gave two things Feel No Pain and Psychic Scream.

Turn One

I failed to steal the initiative but wasn’t too upset, as it meant I would be free to assault in my first turn. Skyweavers have three attacks each at Initiative 6, with an extra one on the charge; I was fairly confident that I could annihilate a full unit of space-bats if I got three or more of my bikes into base contact. John moved fairly aggressively forward, not responding to my jibes or goading about his Tyrants refusing to land and assault my sci-fi ballerinas. He made a very fair case that my Solitaire was terrifying. I did not, however, refrain from teasing him further.

He fired some long range bio-artillery at me, but after my synchronized barrel rolling only a single Skyweaver fell to the floor in a flaming wreck. My Heroes came under fire, specifically the Solitaire, but he passed all of his cover saves – much to the Hive Tyrant’s angst. Reluctantly John passed me the tape measure.

In my first turn the Skyweavers gunned their engines and their speakers, blaring Dragonforce across the battlefield as the accelerated out towards and into the Tyranid line. This is usually a bad idea but with all of his scary things in the air I was happy to get up in the Gargoyles’ grill. After a quick reminder my Solitaire couldn’t assault as he’d infiltrated, the Heroes took respite in the church with both the Death Jester and the Shadowseer jumping up into the tower for LOS while the Solitaire lurked around the base of the building.

IMG-20160506-WA0000

In my shooting phase, John clarified/let slip that if I caused even a single wound on his fliers they would have to take a Grounding test – potentially crashing to the ground on a roll of 1 or 2 at the end of the phase, and taking a Strength 9 hit into the bargain! This would mean I’d be able to assault them in that turn. While daunting, they were far scarier in the air than on the ground so my Voidweavers span round to bring all their guns to bear on the fliers. Between the three of them they got a wound on each of the fliers. Half my Skyweavers and the Death Jester fired on the left-most unit of Gargoyles, tearing seven of them apart in a hail of flechettes and lightning. The haywire blast was surprisingly effective against the poorly armoured things – worth noting for the future.

The other Skyweavers withheld their fire, leaving their assault options open while they stared at the fluttering monstrosities above. John passed both checks so the gamble had failed, although I’d gotten them to jink so wasn’t a complete failure. I instead assaulted the central unit of Gargoyles, my largest squad of three Skyweavers making it into base while the jetbike who had lost his buddy soaked and jinked the stand and shoot response, but failed to cover the distance.

The Gargoyles died in assault, three having died to longer ranged shooting earlier. The Skyweavers cavorted and wheeled their way back towards John deployment zone, baiting him backwards and threatening Behind Enemy Lines. Both our psychic phases had been fairly uneventful, so I haven’t mentioned them – except that I Blinded John’s Warlord, which was nice but he was still twin linked.

Turn 2

IMG-20160506-WA0002

All of John’s spore mines arrived. All of them, covering the battlefield like a rash that cut off huge swathes of it with their threat range. Fortunately they couldn’t assault this turn so I was safe…for now. John flapped his much diminished left-hand Gargoyle unit around the church to challenge the objective my Heroes were claiming. Everything else swung round towards my bikes clustered on the left hand side of the battlefield.

John’s psychic phase saw the first or many Psychic Screams from his secondary Hive Tyrant, which apparently wasn’t loud enough to drown out the thrash metal my Harlequins were playing. In the shooting phase his Warlord managed to get the one wound required to kill my Warlord through instant death, even though he was blinded and my Shadowseer was nearly invisible. There was a Vector Strike from one of the Harpies but no one died. I also jinked everything else that was shot at me – except the Hive Hag’s template weapon. At S6 this presented a massive threat to my entire army, but the Harlequins normal dancing Invulnerable save kept them alive.

IMG-20160506-WA0001

And then the second Harpy shot, having not actually jinked last turn. Plot twist and a half! I finally failed a jink re-roll and the penetrating hit blew one of the Voidweavers apart in a prismatic explosion. John had once again ignored my taunts and refused to land, so it was on to my second turn.

I spread my bikes out in a wide curve, looking to eliminate as many of the spore mines as possible. They ignored cover and so they had to go. I scythed through most of the little one and made sure I was as spread out as possible to avoid being templated again. The right most squad of Gargoyles was also wiped out, but I didn’t get any wounds on the fliers – much to my annoyance. My Death Jester also failed to kill the last three Gargoyles lurking in the shadow of the church, leaving one looking somewhat lost and confused.

My Solitaire through his Haywire grenade at one of the super-spores and took a wound off it out of spite. He had very few options, trapped by the church, but if he was going to die then I wasn’t going to let John say he hadn’t caused a wound on something!

My assault phase was pretty lacking – the only remaining Gargoyle squad was out of sight (although retrospectively the Death Jester probably could have managed it) and I had to wait for the other one to re-arrive next turn, having passed its Without Number check.

IMG-20160506-WA0004

Turn 3

John’s fliers had a graceless round of trying to make some very sharp turns, leaving them much more spread out than before. One of the Harpies even landed! Too far from my stuff for me to get to in one turn, and too far from the objectives to be useful to me. At this stage, I had first blood and John had Slay the Warlord plus one Secure objective card, putting me one behind. I felt a lot further behind with all the big bugs roaming the skies, only compounded by the returning Gargoyles landing in my deployment zone.

The Psychic phase opened up with Psychic scream failing, although this was no massive loss to John  as only two jetbikes would have been in range. Importantly though his Warlord rolled a Perils of the Warp casting his –D3 BS power on my Death Jester. Despite the Shadow in the Warp it brought, the Chaos gods were unkind and punished the insectile hubris of the Hive Mind – John  rolled a 1! The Tyrant narrowly avoided being dragged into the warp but did suffer a wound as it desperately wrestled it’s psyche back from the warp. He then failed its Grounded check, suffering a second wound on impact. As it clicked and clattered to its feet it turned to see that it had fallen inside a whirlwind of colour and music; the eye of my Harlequins’ storm!

My Death Jester bit the dust in John’s shooting phase, but again all but one jetbike dodged the incoming bio-hailstorm. The assault phase saw another tumbleweed charge headlong across the map, distantly echoed by two super-spores which drifted into my Solitaire only to explode harmlessly, and then it was my go.

My Solitaire initiated his Blitz. John only nodded and gazed woefully at his Warlord, communicating his sad and final farewell to his Warlord through the telepathic link they shared. I wasn’t so sure he should have been so laconic, but it did only have two wounds left and I had all sorts of ways that the number ‘6’ would be bad for the beast. My jetbikes formed an inward-facing crescent aiming their guns as many bugs as possible and the Voidweavers coasted forwards to maintain line of sight.

The Hive Tyrant was wiped out under a blizzard of shuriken fire, sliced to ribbons by a thousand flechette rounds. I scored Witch Hunter and Assassin, and had slain John’s Warlord into the bargain! My Solitaire filed a complaint with the orchestrator of this dance (me) as he had ‘wasted’ his Blitz, but after I’d failed to hurt the Hag-carrier thing (which was now out of Haywire missiles) he was still in range of the returned squad of Gargoyles.

He did horrible things to most of them. The survivors couldn’t cover the four inch gap he’d left in their formation and were out of Synapse range. They tried to flee, but faced with the Solitaire’s Initiative of 10 they literally had no hope of escape. He did horrible things to the rest of them.

Turn 4

The recently re-deceased Gargoyles came back for more, the plucky little bystyrds landing almost exactly where their still warm previous incarnations lay eviscerated. The lonely Gargoyle in the church passed its Instinctive Behaviour test. The second Harpy landed next to its twin and they began lumbering into artillery positions in the ruined building on the right of my deployment zone.

The remaining Tyrant completed the wide turn it started in Turn 3 and was nicely placed behind seven of my nine remaining jetbikes (I haven’t tracked when they were lost well, apologies there. I need to write these up sooner after the event!). The spore-mines floated towards their targets, now dangerously close despite their tragic assault distance restraints. I lost another jetbike and a half between the psychic and shooting barrage of the Hive mind, but the cover saves were becoming harder and harder for John to overcome as his fire power became more and more reduced.

My Solitaire finally met his end under a hail of various bio-weaponry. “Extreme Prejudice” doesn’t begin to cover it.

A few spore mines assaulted my bikes and failed to explode anything except themselves. A second Voidweaver went down to an assault by a super-spore, and another tear was shed. It barely had time to dry on the blood-encrusted dirt before my fourth turn began.

I didn’t achieve much in my turn, mainly sweeping the board for mines. One batch didn’t make it back so that was nice. I missed everything at the fliers, or failed to wound. At this stage I had claimed two more Secure Objectives (both the same one fortuitously) and John hadn’t pulled anything he could take as his remaining Tyrant and the Hive-Hag thing were flying, and his Harpies were cowering behind a ruined building. Despite their powerful weapons, getting through the barrel rolls was difficult and only having one shot each made it significantly less likely they’d land anything meaningful. I was in the lead significantly at this stage, so John had his work cut out for him.

Turn 5

I didn’t realise quite how limited John’s options were at this point, selfishly restricting my tactical sense to what I could achieve, and what his stuff could threaten. The answer to the latter was “everything threatens everything” so when I looked at the table all I saw was massive red warning triangles above all his units. In retrospect, he could see he was behind on points and despite me only have about eleven wounds and one vehicle on the table my jink save was reliable enough that it was going to cause him problems.

Which is why, for the fifth turn running, he did not land his remaining Tyrant and instead flew it into range for another volley of heavy devourer shots and a Psychic Scream. He also brought his Hive-Hag thing (I may correct this when I learn its real name but no promises) out of the sky to claim an objective spot, although it didn’t score him any points.

The psychic phase began with a powerful déjà vu – his Tyrant rolled a Perils of the Warp giving itself Feel No Pain! This time the Chaos gods were less aggressive in the assault and only took a wound off the beast, not prevented by Feel No Pain thankfully, and like its brother-Tyrant this one crashed to the ground under the psychic feedback. Although the impact didn’t wound it the beast was left surrounded by the remains of Falchou’s Fury.

I lost a single jetbike to John’s shooting and the play passed to me. I drew three new objectives – Big Game Hunter, Ascendency and a Secure Objective. My Skyweaver’s all banked their bikes to face the suddenly very alone Hive Tyrant and my Voidweaver coasted away slightly so all three of its guns were on target. Things looked grim for the Hive’s champion, but thanks to some poor To Wound rolls from me I did a lone pathetic wound to the creature.

Howling for blood and victory, I declared charges with my seven remaining Skyweavers. The Tyrants stand and shoot reaction missed, which is fair enough since it was literally being assaulted from all sides! Despite being Fleet, only four Skyweavers made it into combat; a lone jebike that had suffered over a dozen spore mine explosions and my squad of three, as yet unharmed.

I had sixteen attacks but without Zephyr Blades I needed some luck to get through the T6, 3+ save and 5+ Feel No Pain protected Tyrant. I managed a single sad wound. In response the Tyrant crushed a bike with two successful wounds. My Skyweavers held and chose not to Hit & Run – I couldn’t let the beast escape!

We rolled to determine Turn 6. It was tense, as if the game ended I won but if it continued John had a chance to wipe me out or even catch up – my bloodlust had pulled me off of two objective markers, taking below two for Ascendency and off of the Secure Objective target. Masterful strategy! The dice fell…and the game continued!

Turn 6

John’s movement at this point was just the re-re-returned squad of Gargoyles who flapped over to harass my unengaged Skyweavers. John pulled a Secure objective but nothing was close enough to it for him to take advantage. However, if he destroyed my remaining jetbikes and vehicle he would wipe me of the board – and I only had six bikes left! He also had a left over Objective from an earlier turn to destroy a unit with shooting, but D3 if he managed to kill three.

It was a tall order, and the bio-artillery had lost most of its sting; a single jetbike tumbled to the ground and he scored a lonely one point. In combat, despite the Tyrant only having a single wound left, I failed to kill it and he crushed a jetbike in return. My Skyweavers broke – half what I wanted, as they were planning to Hit & Run anyway – and there was a very short but very tense moment as we rolled to see if my Skyweavers escaped. They did and the Hive Tyrant was suddenly once again very alone in the middle of nowhere.

My fleeing Skyweavers rallied (all part of the plan) and I moved the others and my Voidweaver into place to claim Ascendancy and my Secure Objective. They were also all in range of the Hive Tyrant which finally succumb to a death by a thousand cuts, giving me Big Game Hunter.

We rolled for Turn Seven but the dice came up too low – the game was over! The Sci-fi Space Ballet had danced and dazzled its way to a 12-7 victory!

Aftermath

I thoroughly enjoyed play John – he was a friendly, knowledgeable and sporting opponent and a fantastic example of what a 40k player should be. His list was rich in lore and character but still competitive in spirit, and he played a very good game. I learned a lot about Flying Monstrous Creatures and the new Synapse rules, which was definitely a plus, and had a lot of fun. SO thanks to Mr Laffan for the game!

I have learned – or been reminded – that although template or ‘Ignores Cover’ weapons do get around my impressive jinking ability I do still have a 5+ invulnerable and a one-phase-per-game 4+ invulnerable on everything. The Mirage Launchers especially saved my spandex clad warriors in a couple of tight spots. However, I should still respect these weapons and not take too many risks.

Also important to note was that jinking continuously means my firepower is often much less intimidating that people expect, but picked up a lot late game when he couldn’t force all my units to jink every turn. This odd interaction is quite nice, but depends on those jink saves working; if I lose too many Skyweavers too fast I will probably hit like a wet sponge from Turn 4 onwards!

Another surprise was my combat power. Three I6 attacks per Skyweaver is monstrous, and with a 24” potential charge range along with bonuses for fleet they can definitely threaten a lot of things surprisingly fast. I am really sad I didn’t get any Zephyr Blades! Finally, I must remember all my dudes have Star Bolas! Half a dozen S6 AP2 templates could have really torn into that last Tyrant a turn or two earlier. I will have to remember to play with all my toys in the next game!

I hope you enjoyed my report, and they’ll be more to come – the Cup is set to play out over three months or so. If every game I play is half as enjoyable as this one was I am sincerely looking forward to it!

 

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