Saturday, December 20, 2008

2005 Liber Animus - Death Guard

Last year I received an invite from Kane Tucker, a prominent Melbourne gamer to attend the inaugural Liber Animus event. It was held in March 2004 but being only a single day event, it was hard to justify the expense of a trip across the Tasman. However, I indicated to Kane that if it were expanded to two days, I’d love to be involved in future events. So I was very pleased to get an email extending an invitation to LAII.

Kane and his sidekick, Ratboy have set up Liber with a definite aim in mind. The intention was to attract the top echelon of 40k hobbyists from across Australasia to participate in a tournament. The emphasis was on participants’ all round hobby skills – Gameplay, Painting, Army Construction and Sportsmanship.

Warlords Richard Dagger, Hagen Kerr and myself travelled across Friday for the event. We had booked a motel in Ringwood with the other out-of-staters and assorted Victorians. Being both old and fragile I crashed out at around 11.30pm.

For the event I took my Death Guard army that won last year’s New Zealand Grand Tournament. As I do before any tournament I set myself some targets. Here they were to finish in the Top 10 Overall and to place in the top half for Sports.

Walking into the hall the first thing that struck me was the amount of terrain on the 20 tables. Each had 150-200% of the normal GT table. The terrain was also of an extremely high quality – certainly, as a whole, the best I have seen at a tournament.

As I do before any tournament I set myself some targets. Here they were to finish in the Top 10 Overall and to place in the top half for Sports.

Game 1 – Tony Perkins (Thousand Sons) – Behind Enemy Lines

The first round was a Grudge Match. Tony was a great guy when we met at last year’s Australian GT and what better to kick off the tournament than Nurgle versus Tzeentch.

Game involved getting scoring units into the two corners on your opponent’s side of the table. The key point in the game was my shooting of Tony’s Rhino – spilling out its contents for other units to target and blocking a defile between the terrain. This set off a chain of events which allowed me to dictate the game. Tony was forced to try and take his Land Raider through a forest and it was immobilised. This meant I could then focus on taking down his 9 Termies as they were the second biggest threat.

In the end I managed to get three scoring units into the scoring zones for the win.

Game 2 – Ramon Saheed (Dark Angels) – Storm or Hold

Up against the LA I “Bloodthirster” (Highest Battle Points). Ramon was using a borrowed (Mike Consto?) Dark Angels army. In it were two predators, a vindicator, an AC dread, two single AC landspeeders and a LC razorback. This was backed up by several Las/plas squads and some termies.

The mission gave you the choice to storm the enemy trenches or hold your own. I felt that Ramon had too much firepower for me to storm all his trenches so we both held. The key moment in the battle was probably the preliminary bombardment. My battle plan was built around a strike on one flank by my rhino squad, daemons and one squad of nurglings. Unfortunately the bombardment resulted in 3 of my marines dying and on the first turn the other four were vapourised when a vindicator shell deviated onto them.

Ramon was able to reduce two of my trenches to half on the last turn giving him the win.

Game 3 – Leigh Tresidder (Black Templar) – Spy

Leigh had an excellent BT army composed of four 14-15 man squads, two dreads, a whirlwind and two Crusaders.

Spy involved inserting your spy into an enemy unit and then getting him off your board edge.

The key game moment s were the death of the BT spy caught by a squad of pursuing Plaguemarines and the death of the Nurgle spy “Blowvius” (The Fly on the Wall). He was caught three inches from safety when he was charged and killed by 14 BT Marines, the Emperor’s Champ and the Marshall.

Another hard fought game that ended in a draw.

After three rounds of Liber I had had three very good games against excellent opponents. I didn’t feel I was playing as well as I could but that had to be put in context of the quality of the opposition.

The Battle of the Ditch II – Leigh Avery (Space Marine) – Take and Hold Omega

After three 2000 point games I was absolutely knackered and this game is a bit of a blur. At one stage I fell asleep at the table making an armour save. Leigh’s army was excellent, totally mechanised and strongly themed.

The Death Guard took a lot of damage early but managed to pull it back in the later turns. Managed to move some high scoring units into objective zone to hold centre.

Day 2

Game 4 – Dave Atkins (Iron Warriors) – Hero

Dave has been dominating the Vic circuit lately so I was keen to test myself against him. I had said to Kane earlier in the week that playing him would be a highlight. In this tournament he was using a new IW army, heavy as you would expect on Heavy Support. However, the army was extremely well constructed with backing from large infantry units rather than the standard small lasplas squads.

I was a bit uncomfortable with this mission. It has a high randomness quotient to it meaning that the game could be won or lost by series of factors outside your control. I personally think it crossed the boundary of balance for it to be a good tournament mission. That said, Dave and I experienced no adverse or positive effects. However it would have been a shame if we had.

For me the key points in this game were deployment and two combats. Dave had 4 HS choices – Pred, Basilisk (no indirect), a dread and a Vindicator. Of these the last one was the biggest threat. I felt Dave erred in placing this early (towards one flank) as it allowed me to cram the other flank. I’ll be interested to hear Dave’s thoughts but I think I would have placed it last of my HS choices. Its placement meant it had to redeploy to affect the battle as both heroes were on the other flank.

The first of the combats that impacted was one on the central hill. One of my 14 man squads had captured it to hinder Dave’s redeployment of armour. It was then stormed by a 17 man squad plus hero with another squad in fire support. My guys held and they received reinforcements next turn from the plaguebearers. However the 28 wounds of Nurglings I wanted to add to the mix failed their difficult terrain move and my squad and plaguebearers were cut down. This left Dave with a passage into my deployment zone.

The second combat was between my Hero, Lord and termies versus Dave’s Lord and termies. My guys had swept into them after killing an Obliterator. I was very hopeful of cutting them down. My Lord was matched versus Dave’s Lord and with the benefit of hitting on 3+ I did five wounds – uncharitably Dave made all five 5+ saves. I’m pretty sure I said “Goodness Gracious”. :? To add insult my lord was then wounded taking him down to a single wound. However it was critical as it allowed Dave to bring a new squad in to tie up my free termies and add wounds to outnumbering.

In the end we both managed to wound one another’s Hero but time ran out at the end of Turn 4. I think we were both happy with the drawn result. Certainly Dave played more aggressive than I thought he would and this contributed to an excellent game. :-D

Game 5 – Scott Pearce (Necrons) – Black Box

The mission was a variant of Thunderhawk Down – but being hit was far far worse. Scott’s army was again very well composed. I was a bit nervous re the two Lords but to be fair he only ran three Destroyers…so it balanced out.

The plane hit turn three. I had moved troops into the entanglement zone betting that while I would be “pinned” for a turn control of space was critical.

The key moment in the battle was the failure by the Necrons of two morale checks, one due to combat and one to shooting. Both fell back and one never recovered. By the end of the game I had the Necrons about 5-10 models from phasing out but crucially outnumbered them 4-1 in the objective zone.

One funny aside in the game was the part the Heavy Destroyers played. One made 3 WBB rolls meaning at the end of the game I was trying to kill it for the fourth time. Another had four shots at my Defiler failing to either hit or glance on the first three. Scott was pretty happy when he destroyed it on the last turn.

So I finished with two wins, two good draws and a good loss (battle points wise). I had had five very good and hard fought games. All my opponents were extremely pleasant to play….and all tested my army to the extreme. Before each game we spent five minutes going through terrain, die rolls etc and it was great that there were absolutely no problems as a result. I had three instances where we needed clarification of mission rules and these were all agreed amicably. This really made the tournie for me as there is always potential for dispute/regional variance when different groups meet. Certainly I never felt at any stage that there was anything “gamey” going on in any of my battles. Thanks Tony, Ramon, Leigh, David and Scott (and Leigh Avery). At the end we had to pick our best opponent of the weekend and this was definitely a difficult one – nice conundrum.

After the fourth round the Painting scores were posted and I was really pleased to see the Death Guard had caught the judges’ eye. There were some beautifully painted armies there, my two favourites being Troy’s Ultramarines (best army I’ve seen in the flesh – White Dwarf pictures didn’t do it justice) and Michael Boles’ Sisters (I want to know who you sold your soul to to paint that well).

Given Troy’s Painting and Battle scores I thought it would have to be very difficult for anyone to catch him. As we sat down for the prizes I was hopeful of making the cut in the “Harlequin” and perhaps breaking the Top 10.

Kane did a great job with the speeches, setting the right tone. The countdown from 40 mixed with the blister prizes was excellent.

I survived the cut to Top 10 (yay Target One achieved) and was extremely chuffed to pick up 3rd Place Best Army. Started to get nervous as the places counted down! To be called up as one of the Top 3 was certainly better than I assumed. Certainly was surprised to jump past Brodie to claim the coveted “Commissar” for 2nd Overall.

Well done to Troy on his win. I felt his Ultramarines were clearly the best army there and he backed it up with a great battle score and sports. A well deserved “Warmaster” and from my viewpoint I was extremely happy to finish second behind such a deserved winner. Also well done to Brodie, I thought his result was a fantastic effort.

When it came to actual results I finished 4 points behind Troy. Where I managed to make up some points was on Sports scoring where I was one of the eight who finished with the top mark of 65. This was extremely important for me as I was determined that my opponents would have a good time over the weekend and it looks like I achieved that. Thanks Tony, Ramon, Leigh, David and Scott, you were great opponents.

My army performed okay over the weekend. It was largely set up for New Zealand gaming conditions and I felt it was a little underpowered compared to those I faced (that may be a jaundiced view though) . It certainly lacked the “firepower/ability to hurt” when compared to a lot of armies at the event. The other thing was that it was constructed expecting to see at least a few missions with “Escalation”. What I didn’t realise is that escalation/reserve missions are very rarely played in Victoria. I spoke to quite a few guys about it and the general feeling was that if you buy something you shouldn’t be handicapped from using it. This also explained why missions with deep strike and infiltration are popular. I can see why people go vehicle/toy-heavy if you know that you will always use them. However I think that firstly it possibly unbalances the game to always allow everything and secondly it makes it less tactically challenging. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on this.

Finally a few thank yous. Firstly, to Troy for his generosity in forgoing his prize. As a result my Chaos Battle Force was promoted to a Space Marine army. Thanks. I’m going to have two excited sons tonight . Secondly to Leigh Avery who gave us lifts to and from the venue . You were great Leigh…really appreciate it. Great to catch up with the SA guys as well as the Melbourne boys – you really made us feel welcome.

Thanks to the Thugs – Drew, Mark, Dan and especially Big Red. You got through a power of work and made the event run smoothly. And to Kane and Rat – thanks for inviting us over. You guys ran a fantastic event and really welcomed us in. I was a bit nervous before the event as I had really built it up to Hagen and Richard and I wanted them to enjoy their first jaunt to play in Melbourne. I can tell you that it greatly exceeded my already high expectations. I’d love to be invited back.

And cheers Hagen and Richard. You were great traveling companions. I had an excellent time in no small part due to you both.

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