Sunday, 28 July 2013

Micromanaging the Apocalypse

Or GM-ing a test game of Apoc to see what works

So today opportunity presented itself for a quick test game of Apoc. Far sooner than I anticipated, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. With the short notice nature of the game not many people could attend, and we ended up with just three players, playing roughly 7000 points per side. Classic Chaos versus Imperials match up.

Unnatural Disasters

We firstly eliminated some options from the table. We didn't have the spare daemons for a warp rift, nor did we want the LOS block it would bring. I do think we could do the Zombie Apocalypse game, as we have a load of Z-company zombies from when we ran the Get to the Choppa scenario. However I'm trying to keep things simple for now. And one of the gamers had played some apoc on Saturday and found that after he'd pissed off an inquisitor there wasn't much left on either team come turn 5...

That left three, and the random roll gave us the Seismic Table.

Now this was quite a fun little table. The first turn it created a line of dangerous terrain, but unluckily for the Imperial side the effected units had Move Through Cover so ignored it. In the second turn, it did far better, destroying two Bastions, knocking a point of armour off the third, and obliterating the skyshield landing pad (along with a dread, half a vanguard squad, and forced a plaguemarine squad to bail out fast) Turn three it took some more armour points off the last surviving Bastion. As we only ended up having time for a short game this was all it could do, so even if we'd allowed Exterminatus to be a possibility, it wouldn't have got out of hand. Course, if we'd managed to get through the turns a little quicker and get to the turn 5 I had envisaged, then the chances of anything surviving this far would have been unlikely in the extreme...

Finest Hour

These allowed for some fun little tricks, although the idea of making a warlord particularly epic for a short spell didn't really happen. Most of the finest hours were more strategic in nature. They do also make the calling warlord something of a target, and I will admit to falling at fault here in advising the Imperial side - my first thought had been to throw everything at the finest hour daemon prince, but in the end I suggested throwing a couple squads of Legion of the Damned at Abaddon. Get the Warmaster point and PREVENT him from calling his finest hour. Sadly it was not to be. His terminator bodyguard was wiped out, and the daemon prince was taken down to 2 wounds. Shows the my old guard way to be true, if you want something to die throw statistically twice as much as you need to kill at it - just to be sure.


I thought the scoring system was good. It was fairly even at the end of session 1, though at the end of session 2 chaos were firmly in control and took the lead. Of course with the Imperials having the last turn they had the opportunity to sneak the win with objectives now being worth 3 points a pop. The imperial side got close, but with some tenacious plague marines holding out against everything that could be thrown at them, and one chaos held objective too far from ANYTHING that could get there, they couldn't capture the 5 they needed. The alternative route was killing Abaddon and the super heavy, but with Abaddon locked in combat the two squads that charged him were a forlorn hope... a forlorn hope that was made irrelevent by the epic fail of the match.

Epic Fail of the Match

Two vanguard veterans, both armed with power fists, having survived their timely intervention that destroyed one super heavy, took stock in the lee of a building. A crackle of communication came through from their leader... they were being ordered into an all out attack. Using every ounce of power their jetpacks could give them, they burned till their fuel cells ran dry. They soared across the battlefield, covering several times the normal safe jump distance. Despite a rough landing for one, they survived and found themselves sat on an objective, taking control of it from the enemy Baneblade. Seeing the Baneblade was already the worse for wear, they charged up to it and with an epic feat of strength, managed to TOSS the baneblade!!! Sadly as the two heroes were high fiving each other it got dark... funny, there wasn't meant to be an eclipse today...

As the chaos forces surveyed the wreckage of their super heavy that had once been guarding the objective, they wondered what had killed it... and why whoever killed it hadn't taken control of the objective as the battle reached it's zenith... and what the hell was that yellow foot doing sticking out beneath the wreckage of the baneblade?

Divine Intervention

In this game, the divine intervention was easy to keep track of - the requirements for both sides were the same. However, the Imperial side didn't reach the threshold to call on the Emperors assistance till the final turn. By then the fearless and Furious Charge were fairly meaningless. It does look like a fun mechanic, and as long as you keep track of things that die as they happen, and know in advance what the threshold is, there is no reason why this cannot work in a non-GM game.

Strength D

We didn't have that many strength D weapons around, so the OP nature of this weapon didn't really come into it. I'll have to leave that test for another time.

Super Heavies

Something I like about this, is the super heavies keep on ticking till they are dead. It makes things a lot easier not having to balance different coloured dice on different guns to represent different effects. Plus with the new damage results you won't get one lucky melta shot 666ing your arse to death in one hit, which is a bit of a relief.

Super Heavy Walkers

Now a query did come up with this one. SH Walkers are treated as walkers in all respects, which means they can pivot in the shooting phase. Not an issue with a walker, it pivots, shoots, job done. It assaults what it shot. However with a super heavy walker, if it pivots to shoot one target, can it then pivot around and shoot something else? I was dubious about this - I felt that as a Baneblade declared all it's shooting and then resolved them all technically simultaneously, then the super heavy walker should also resolve it's fire simultaneously - ie, while facing in the same direction. However the players made the case that the Super Heavy Walker in question, the new Khorne monstrosity, had an upper torso that looked quite a bit more mobile than it's belly gun. Not liking the idea of an abuse of rules where you could fire a big gun at one target then turn to shoot something else to protect (relatively) vulnerable rear armour, I ruled that while they could engage different targets in different directions, the vehicle facing would end up towards whatever the belly gun shot at. I'll look into this a little more to see if I can get anything clearer on it before the next game.

Orbital Strike

This was the biggest bone of contention in the game. One of the players was absolutely adamant I was wrong in this ruling and argued the point forcefully, to the point that the other two players accepted my ruling and carried on gaming while we continued to debate the point. As GM, I forced my way on this one. This solution won't be available in every game, so we will need to investigate it further.

Basically, it comes down to the strategic asset, orbital bombardment. It states that "a friendly warlord makes a shooting attack with the following profile" which is for an apocalyptic mega blast with infinite range and a juicy str D centre. The background is that he calls upon a ship in orbit to take a shot at a target he nominates.

Now there were a few points of contention here. First, LOS. Is it required? It doesn't say it's required. However if you can nominate any unit on the board, why bother mention a warlord making a shooting attack? Why give an unlimited range? Why not just say "pick a target unit on the board" if you can shoot anywhere? My rationale behind this is that the ship in orbit can't exactly tell what the biggest threat to the tactical situation is on the ground. They require the commander on the ground to give the order to blast the living shit out of the corner of grid 7 to prevent a flank being overrun.

However, once we had agreed to use a warlords LOS there was then the issue of scatter. I believed the warlord chose the target, but the firing was done by some lackey on a cruiser miles above the surface - why would they use his BS to modify the scatter? I used the older rules from the Space Marine Codex and the Guard codex to back me up here - the models that can call down bombardments don't get to modify the scatter by their BS. It isn't them shooting, they are just saying roughly where to shoot. And this is where we came to the disagreement. It doesn't say anywhere in the asset that it doesn't use the warlords BS for scatter - he is firing therefore he get's to modify. It's as if the gun is being fired by him. Now under read as written I think my friend has a point, but under read as intended I think it is ridiculous. To illustrate my point, a warlord using read as written can not only modify the scatter, he could potentially fire UNDER scenery - killing the enemy he can see hiding under a skyshield landing pad, while leaving the troops on top unscathed. Now please do tell me how in the hell a battleship in orbit is supposed to pull off that particular trick shot?

Anyway, we eagerly await an FAQ on that one, as I don't think either of us is going to convince the other on this one. Any thoughts anyone?

And Finally

Just scrolling through some apocalyptic pictures to break up this essay a little, I found this beautiful model...

However, there's just something about that pose... I want to get one, and convert it so the hands are on the hips...

Then the pelvic thruuuuuust....

Sunday, 14 July 2013

It's the Apocalypse. Again.

The question is though, have the problems that have developed over two editions of core rules advancing been fixed with this new release?

Firstly, let's recap the problems with apoc, both from conception and that had been introduced by sixth ed.
  • Super Heavies get crew shaken out of the game too easily
  • Strength D does everything, is an auto choice on titans, and dominates a game
  • Sixth Ed mysterious objectives, when combined with Apoc only weapon effects, can cause stacking problems - for example, I remember a unit trying to charge a unit on an objective through difficult terrain that due to a weapon effect was one less dice for difficult terrain, and objective effect was half range. Meaning roll two, take the highest away, then halve the result and you get your assault distance.
  • Flank March is an auto win - though this is less effective if you play the 6th ed rule that you can't assault when arriving from reserve
  • The "late" game objective grab - you spend 2 turns blowing the shit out of each other then rush for objectives turn 3 and can sneak a win.
  • Tank Lagaars - Apoc battlefields can become tank lagaars, where rows upon rows of rhinos and other transports stop EVERYTHING from getting anywhere, including titans and Baneblades 
So, has the new apoc corrected these problems? Let's see...

First up, the Super heavies taken a shaken result and being useless. Yes, they have most DEFINITELY fixed this one.

Super Heavy vehicles, whilst they will lose hull points for every penetrating or glancing hits they take, only really have to worry about explode results. Explode results will have them losing several hull points at once. All other damage results (weapon destroyed, immobilised, stunned and shaken) are IGNORED by super heavies. Yes, you read that right, ignored. You take the hull point off, but when they roll for penetration if they don't get an explode, you just shrug it off. Even if they do get an explode, unless it takes away your last hull point, your baneblade will be firing away at full effect until it's dead. This I like! It also eliminates an annoying situation that once cropped up. After much shooting I had finally gotten rid of one of the weapons on my opponents titan, only for a tech priest to walk up and fix it. At the time I remember saying "What'd he do, climb the titan and get his servitors to form a pyramid to pass the arm back up to him?!?" Now that situation was rules legal, so I had to let it go, but it always troubled me. Now it is a none issue - the arm won't come off in the first place, you're gonna have to kill the thing.

Next I'm going to answer the question on mysterious objectives, well they are officially in. The tank gun effect that caused problems is now out though. I guess the rules for that gun were not written with 6th ed in mind. It is now a simple dangerous terrain test and no lasting movement effect. In all honesty, leaving a marker with a number that was a range of effect for the difficult and dangerous terrain was always a bad idea in a game like apocalypse anyway. Far better to have visible effects or no effect at all in a game with so much going on, it got forgotten half the time anyway.

How about the auto win that was flank march? Well I'm not 100% on this one yet, the strategic asset card seems to be saying you use it with one formation - so not the whole army it was before. I'll have to check but if there is now a limit on it, I'd say this asset had now been balanced out.

Next we have the late game objective grab. I am pleased to say I think they have solved this one. For starters, objectives are scoring at all stages. They are more valuable late game, so holding them late game is still vital. However you can score points from them at the end of every session. You can also score points for killing enemy super heavies and accomplishing other bonus activities. On the flip side, you can spend your accrued points on those strategic assets. With the scores in constant flux, we should see some interesting games, as those that look like winning perhaps spend points to batter then enemy, then get outmanouvered and the game brought back to the wire... This all sounds like good fun to me.

Finally, on the upside, we have the issue with tank lagaars. Well, I think that should be less of a problem. As yet another new advantage of Super Heavies is the ability to literally kick the shit out of anything that get's in your way. If a Baneblade rams a smaller tank, it rolls a die. On a 1, it's a normal ram. On a 2-5, it adds D6 to the str of the ram. On a 6, it just bashes the enemy out of the way - it scatters and explodes. Combined with an improvement to Str D weapons that I shall soon be discussing, I am expecting to see far more tanks explode than merely be hull point chewed to bits. This should hopefully clear some much needed room in the apocalyptic battlefields in future.

Other good news... well there's some fun stuff that your warlord can do, known as his finest hour. He takes his chance to shine and becomes a bit uber, but if he fluffs it the enemy get bonus points for his humiliation. I can foresee this being quite fun and characterful.

In these epic struggles we can seek divine intervention - again this looks fun and characterful. We also have the planet taking a part in the game - as the titanic struggles cause the planet to tear itself asunder or the dead to return to haunt the living, or some inquisitor to think "Frak it, let's just nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure" there are now various tables that can put massively destructive forces into place. Some of the highlights are dead models coming back to life and attacking the living, an entire tile being destroyed and becoming impassible, to every model on the table taking a Str 10 hit... Again, I can see this game being far more destructive, and see less of the model snarl ups I have seen in the past. It does look like a lot of fun. Plus with the player currently picking the targets for these random events (randomly selected player) being known as the Master of Disaster, I would like to see ANYONE try to say that title without being like a boxing ringmaster introducing Apollo Creed...

 Which does of course bring me back to that point I have been putting off. Str D. It is still the best gun in the game, and in fact has been made better. Now you don't even get an invulnerable save. If shot at a vehicle, on a 1 it takes a penetrating hit, on a 2+ it's dead. The only ones who care from that point are super heavies, as a 6 would see them losing more hull points than a mere 2+ The gun has much the same effect on infantry. On a 1 it misses, on a 2+ it's taking quite a few wounds. On a 6 it's taking a lot of wounds. Characters may get lucky and survive a 2+, but the 6 will kill anything short of a bio-titan.

So, with Str D still the king of guns, have they given them a points costing on a titan? Sadly, no. The titan is a flat cost whichever weapons it takes. So, let's see, do I take the Str D 2 shot, the Str D 3 shot, or the Str 6 Heavy 15? Let's be honest here, that vulkan mega bolter is never seeing the light of day. Which is a shame as I like that gun, I think it looks awesome.

I'm also slightly disgruntled that the Reaver titan, despite having been made better (as all super heavies have) and having it's guns improved (well, the Str D ones, but I never see Reavers without them) is the same points cost as before, whilst my Stompa has jumped up to 770 points. The Fortress of Arrogance has jumped up to close to a 1000 points. I guess Games Workshop wants to thank those who have spent so much money in Forgeworld, but come on guys, I've spent enough to buy a Reaver on having MANY other super heavies, cut me some slack too eh?

All in all, I'd say the new apoc looks to be a good fix of the problems that have cropped up during the transition through from 4th ed to 6th ed. The power of strength D I am apprehensive about, but while I have had my own ideas in the past for how to temper these guns (irrelevant now and need to be completely rewritten) I will have a few test games first and see how things play out. It's possible that the very playing surface will be deadly enough that the titans can't keep up, plus it'd be funny to see one fall down a hole in the world. So all in all, looks good, and looking forward to getting some games in.