Tuesday, 19 March 2013

During the War...

Welcome wargamers once again to my sporadic textual emission.

Today, for a change, I will talk about something other than wargaming, but which is still military in nature.

What I am going to talk about is in no way intended to belittle anybody, merely point out a difference that I perceive from my personal point of view. I will be talking about the differences between equally valid experiences, and the effects that those differing experiences have on those who come after.

I am from what is essentially a military family. My great grandfathers on both sides served in the army fighting for Britain and Cyprus respectively, my grandad on my dad's side served in the British army for twenty five years. My dad and my uncle are both Navy men, and my male cousins in Cyprus have all done their national service. It is really with my generation that this tradition of military service has ceased in our family. I remember considering joining up when I was in my mid teens, and my granddad advised against it.

What I have come to believe recently is that, to me at least, there seems to be a line. Before the line, are people like me, who could all have the conversation that began 'what did your grandad/dad do in the war', 'The War' being the Second World War. After the line are those folks whose grandparents were too young to have served, even if they lived through the war as children, who have their own unique stories to tell.

To me, it feels like people who grew up being able to have that conversation about their grandparents share a bond that seems less present amongst those who aren't able to have that same discussion. Watching parades on TV and seeing the World War II veterans march (or roll) past has a different meaning when your grandparents served during the conflict.

I'm not implying that this makes everyone else 'less' in some way, just that I personally see a distinction, like people who like marmite and people who have a sense of taste. The half dozen people who like Jedward and everyone else in the world. It's like the kind of bond that people have through an experience that their family members lived through. I guess you could compare it to meeting people who are complete strangers, until you find out that they too are wargamers, and then they don't seem like strangers anymore.

I know there have been other conflicts since the Second World War, but none in my mind that have the same lasting impact. It shaped the world as we know it today, and it's events reverberate down the decades that have followed. It was a different kind of conflict from anything that went before or after, a unique few years in this races shared history that separated entire peoples, and tied others together forever.

It is my feeling that when there are no veterans of the Second World War left, it will truly be the end of an era. When there are no people left who even remember being told about the war by their grandparents, the world will have lost something of the sense of connection, the gravity of that experience, that it can never regain, however many books we read or films we watch. We can all show respect for those involved, but the personal connection carries something different.

War in any situation is a tragic thing, and I'm sure the vast majority of right minded people would prefer it to be avoided in all but the most dire of circumstances, but I also realise that sometimes it is unavoidable. At these times, it is the experiences of the common soldier, sailor or airman that are passed down through the generations to their decendants, and I think having had that living connection affects the way we view the world.

When we see in the news about things like War Memorials being vandalised, it makes me sad and angry and sick all at once, but it also makes me think that people who can commit that kind of despicable act are unlikely to have had the kind of personal connection to the War and the people who served in it that I have. I'm not saying for a second that if your granddad didn't fight in the war you're going to go out and vandalise a memorial, just that I can't see from my biased viewpoint how anyone who has that connection could even contemplate such a thing, because it would be so massively disrespectful to the things that members of their own family fought and possibly died for.

I think it's fantastic when I meet someone younger than myself who doesn't have that connection, but talks and feels like they do, and this gives me a kind of hope that, for all the bad things that came from that horrendous conflict, the good things that came from it like the sense of cameraderie, of the good side of national pride, and tremendous respect for the people actually fought on our behalf.

I also like to see programs on TV that show old service people who fought on opposite sides during the war meet decades after the war ended, and who bear one another no ill feeling. It reinforces the idea that the common soldiery were simply there to do a job, and were not themselves responsible for the actions of their overall commanders. They were just two people wearing different uniforms and speaking a different language, but with many things in common with each other that allows them to empathise. In another life, they might have been great friends. This is not always going to be the case though, because war is war, and some people never get over it.

In my mind this allows people of whatever country to take a certain pride in the actions of their own family members when all those family members did was show courage in the field, and look after themselves and their mates in some of the most unbearable situations a person could ever have to survive. Some things are impossible for a person to live through and not be profoundly affected by their experience, and the way that this affects them can colour the view of that experience held by their families.

I am very fortunate indeed. My granddad survived everything the war had to throw at him and came out in one piece. I am fortunate because I got to enjoy and benefit from having a grandparent like him that, molded by his experience, was a courageous, pragmatic man that saw the job that needed to be done and got on with it. You might call it a sense of righteousness, or fighting spirit, but it probably isn't even that complicated. I think he just had a simple idea of what was right and what was wrong, and saw it as his duty to look after those around him. I think his experience made him grateful to be alive and grateful for what he had to show for it - his family. I hope it has made me think about things the same way.

Again, I stress that this is just a ramble about how I feel, and isn't intended to comment on how anyone else should feel about the subject. Everyone is entitled to their own views and to express them, which is what gives us all the potential to be interesting in our own right. Maybe there is something in my view, maybe it's all in my head, maybe I just miss the old bugger, but if others have an opinion I'd be interested to hear it.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Spirit of the Game?

Greetings once more, fellow wargamers!

I recently took a trip to Warhammer World for a big game with some buddies from the club I used to attend at Leicester University. We planned a pretty huge Warhammer 40,000 clash, as you obviously have to when playing on the tables in the gaming hall at Warhammer World. I mean, how often can you play really large games without having to commandeer someones entire downstairs floor?

The game was set at six thousand points per side, and broke down into me with three thousand points of Dark Angels with the new book, and my co-commander with three thousand points of Blood Angels (though with Lysander thrown in for good measure), versus two brothers each fielding three thousand points of Tyranids. Each player selected their force to fit one Force Organisation Chart, so two FoC's per side.

The armies looked great on the table. The Marines included a quarter of the Deathwing planned for a turn 1 Deathwing Assault, and between us we had four Devastator Squads, Tactical Squads, Ravenwing Bikers, A Nephilim Jetfighter, Assault Marines and most other things you can think of, though neither of us included a single Tank or Dreadnought, given how Monstrous Creatures can shred armour like tin foil.

The Tyranids included the Swarmlord, a second Tyrant, a Harpy, a Mawloc, Trygon Prime, Tervigon, Tyrannofex and two Carnifex with 2+ saves and Regen - nine monstrous creatures in all, plus a roiling, screeching mass of smaller creatures.

The Tyranids won the roll for deployment, and elected to deploy first and take first turn. We had agreed to go with 'Dawn of War' deployment and the 'Purge the Alien' mission because it was appropriate and simple. The Xenos deployed wide across the twelve feet of battlefield we were playing across, and kept both Carnifexes, the Trygon Prime, Mawloc and Harpy all in reserve.

We then deployed the Marines in a harsh refused flank, deploying most of the army on our right opposite the fastest wing of the Tyranid force, and leaving the slower half of the Tyranid army stuck out with a long slog to get into the action. All we had deployed towards the centre of the deployment area to hold up the Nids on that side were a couple of Tactical Squads in Rhinos covered by a Devastator Squad, and I planned to bring on the Nephilim to shoot up their swarms, as they were nigh on defenceless against it with most of their ranged attacks if I avoided Impaler Cannons and the like and kept out of their Deathspitter range.

I deployed my two squads of Ravenwing Bikers as far forward as possible, planning to strike out towards the Nid line, and bring the Deathwing I had selected with shooting galore plus a Master and close combat equipped squad down on their filthy Xenos heads. My first ever Deathwing Assault!

Then came the giant punch in the teeth. The Marines managed to steal the initiative...

Needless to say, I put plan 'Shoot the bugs till they're nothing more than a fine purple mist' into action, Scouting the Ravenwing forward 12", then on turn 1, moving them forward again, then Deepstriking with twenty six Deathwing Terminators and a Company Master right in the face of the Tyranids on that flank. This was on top of about half a company of Marines and two Ravenwing Attack Squadrons with guns trained on them.

Now I'm going to pause and say that if anyone can find anything that specifies when Deepstriking units have to be brought on, other than in the movement phase, please let me know, because I and others have scoured the Rulebook, Codex and FAQ's and couldn't find anything to say I couldn't bring on the Deathwing after moving the Ravenwing bikers on my Turn 1. The only stipulation was that the unit with the Teleport Homer must be on the table at the start of the turn to be used to prevent scattering, and that the roll for reseves (which doesn't apply to Deathwing Assaults anyway), happens at the start of the turn.

This initial assault took down a unit of twelve Gargoyles (netting us an easy 'First Blood'), a couple of Winged Warriors, a unit of Hive Guard and a Tervigon, all but exterminating the Nids far flank, and putting us on four Victory Points off the bat. This is bearing in mind that we now had a truck load of fire power right on their flank, and they had little to throw back at us, so we were poised to simply march up their line, shooting them to bits as we went.

Because the Nids were yet to have a turn, it was bound to look bleak, but one of my opponents turned to me, understandably vexed by the situation and said that, 'though what we had just accomplished was within the rules, he didn't think that going ahead and lannding all those Terminators and Bikers right in their face and ripping a chunk out of their army on Turn 1 was in the spirit of the game'.

At the time I was quite surprised by this, as I thought I was playing to the fluff and in the way the Dark Angels had been intended to be played, and I tried to argue as gently as possible that this was what the new Dark Angels army was designed to do. I had spent nearly half my points on stuff other than Deathwing and Ravenwing, had no Special Characters and only one HQ. I said it looked bad because they hadn't had a turn to retalliate yet, but he was insistent that with so many Terminators already in their back line, and half their army out of the picture for at least a couple more turns, they stood no chance of taking us down before being shot to pieces.

Because this debate went on for a good quater of an hour, it left something of a bitter taste, and I spent a great deal of time after the game thinking about what he had said.

I concluded that my opponent, who I have great respect for and consider a friend, could not have read either the new Dark Angels Codex, or the White Dwarf battle report that showcased what the army could do, because that would have told him exactly what to expect and it wouldn't have been a surprise. At the same time, it did make me question where we draw the line between what is within the rules and 'sportsman-like' and what is within the rules but not in the spirit of the game? Maybe I should remember that not eveyone keeps up with the latest White Dwarf and online dissection of every new rule, and so doesn't know what to expect when a book changes, so maybe I should have run through the changes in the book, just in case.

This is after all is said and done, a game intended for one side to be victorious over the other in the majority of games, dependant on what victory conditions are used to determine success and failure, but having said that, is it in the spirit of the game for one side to get trounced? We come back to the age old argument between gamer types, and whether we plan a friendly battle or a competitive one, and making sure everyone is on the same page beforehand.

Personally, I didn't think that I had selected a 'power army', unless playing the latest Codex out of the gates automatically quialifies it as a 'power army'. I am certainly not a 'Win At All Costs Player', by virtue of the fact that I play the models I have they way I like to play them, which typically means balanced lists. Plus, I'm just not good enough to be a WAAC player. I don't generally play tournaments, and at the moment I'll be happy to simply win more games than I lose.

So I'll ask the question again. What is the 'spirit of the game'?

I think the answer is simply to play the game we love, and enjoy doing so - us and our opponents. To play the rules (generally speaking) as intended, rather than taking too much advantage of loopholes that allow really nasty selections within the rules, but that might not have been designed with that application in mind.

This definition is my own, and may differ from yours. In fact, I'd like to hear what other players definition of the 'spirit of the game' are, if anyone wants to comment. If anyone has been following my Club 40K League progress, then they will know that I have played three games and lost two of those, one being tabled by the end of turn 3. I know what it is to lose, and how it feels afterwards.

No one wins every game. Not even Ben Curry. Except maybe Marneus Calgar.

Closing statement:

It's just a game. We might win, we might lose, but we should remember we play games for enjoyment. If we don't win this game, we should learn what we can from our defeat, and enjoy being given the opportunity for revenge next time around. We get better at this game by playing against better opponents, which for most of us means losing plenty, but improving our game to the point where beating us gets harder and, less likely. As players, we need to plan for victory, but be prepared for defeat and be able to deal with it constructively to allow us to evolve into better players.

Final note:

The Marines vs Tyranids game ended at the close of turn two due to the time such big affairs take to play. I wish I had enjoyed it a little more than I did. The Victory Points ended up being 7 - 6 to the Marines. Just as I expected, hardly a white wash after the Tyranids got their chance to fight back.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Warhammer 40,000 Club League - Game 3 Result

Greetings once again wargaming junkies. This time around I present my conclusions following my third League game of five, and with only two games left to play, with some outstanding results I could still place joint second! Yeah, not gonna happen...

Just as a reminder, I am using Imperial Guard in this 1000 point fixed list League. I am pleased to report my first win so far, scoring maximum points against Nick's Dark Eldar. I try not to talk about dice, because as I have said before, I think they balance out over time, and we can't ever be sure of what they'll do, but I guess this game redressed the balance of the first couple somewhat.

I should also say that with hindsight, I benefitted from a scenario that suited my Imperial Guard and really didn't suit the Dark Eldar. We rolled up Hammer and Anvil deployment, which didn't really have an effect on the game, and Purge the Alien, which had a huge impact on how we played.
So how did it go on the night?

Initially, knowing what was in my opponents list, I decided on a targetting priority as follows, in decending order of threat potential: Raiders carrying units, Reaver Jetbikes (the unit included two Blasters), Infantry, Razorwing.

My thinking was that Raider mounted units were fast and packed either lots of firepower or close combat ability (for either Wyches and Succubus or Warriors respectively), Reavers were very fast and a threat to armour, but weren't troops and were few in number, Infantry were slower but still a threat, particularly if scoring units, and finally the Razorwing, which had good firepower, but started in reserve and had no ability to contest objectives other than shooting my plucky Guardsmen off them.

I did plan to keep my Infantry squads separate rather than combining them, so that if an enemy unit did get to assault them, I would be in a positon to shoot them down when they hopefully ended up standing around in the open after killing my unit. When we rolled up the Purge the Alien mission, I immediately changed my mind and combined them, offering just a single Victory point instead of three. My opponent won the roll off for deployment and elected to deploy first, taking the first turn.
I'm happy that I deployed better than I have previously. keeping all my infantry close together with comprehensive overlapping fields of fire, and close to my Officers to allow flexibility with my orders. I also kept them a little further back than the deployment zone edge to make sure it would take more time for the enemy to close.

Looking down at my infantry, I realised that a building to my centre left would completely block line of sight from my units where I had deployed them centre right of my deployment zone to the enemy Raiders and Jetbikes if they decided to use this as a stepping stone to assault my units from the left flank on their second turn. With that in mind, I deployed both my Tanks and the Chimera mounted Veterans on that flank, on the edge of the table to protect their rear armour and facing the gap that the enemy would move to if they assaulted down that flank. The Chimera went in between the Demolisher and Leman Russ to shield it's weaker side armour.

Though I failed to steal the initiative, the game went pretty well for me, with the Dark Eldar being forced to approach me because I had far more long range shooting available, so they couldn't just sit back. This meant they had to run the gauntlet of my guns to close the gap and assault as quickly as they could because close combat was the safest place to be!

Turn 1 saw my Lascannons slaughtered by Turbo Boosting Reavers using Caltrops and blades, scoring First Blood. Nick decided to ignore the Command Squad and go for the Lascannons, believing them to be a bigger threat to the Raiders and Razorwing, though the Command Squad would have given up an extra VP for Slay the Warlord. The Raiders approached more cautiously, using the building to shield them from the vehicles while they engaged the infantry.

The next few turns saw the Reavers shot down in short order by my big Infantry Squad under 'Fire on my Target!' orders to reduce the effectiveness of their 3+ cover save, and the Wyches dismount and fire a Blast Pistol at the Chimera hoping to force the Veterans out so they could be assaulted, but failing to pop it, as did the Dark Lance on the Wariors Raider that also had a go. This left the Wyches very exposed and they were shot to pieces, along with the Succubus Warlord, by Heavy Flamer fire from the Chimera and the Infantry Squads Autocannons.

The Razorwing failed to appear and support it's twisted bretheren, leaving the Tanks free to move around the building and bring their big guns to bear, resulting in the Raider mounted Warriors transport being shot out from under them and many of them being shot up by fire from the Infantry after they were pinned. The Warriors however blew up the Demolisher in retaliation by double 6ing it with their Dark Lance, before they were finally killed off by the Leman Russ Battle Cannon.

The Razorwing arrived on turn 4, just in time to see the Warriors vanish in a spray of blood and shrapnel, and the Wyches Raider finally gave up it's Victory Point after first being deprived of it's Disintegrator and then being immobilised in the previous two turns, being annihilated by the Veterans Melta Guns, for the Veterans to be shredded in turn by the Vengeful Razorwing. The next two turns saw me lose the Chimera and around half my Infantry Squad to the Splinter Cannon and an assortment of missiles from the Razorwing, before it's minimum move finally brought it within range of the Infantry Squad.

The Autocannons had failed to hit the Razorwing so far, but the Colonel ordered the unit to 'Bring it Down!', making all their guns twin-linked, resulting in a hit from a Melta Gun which penetrated and rolled up a 4 for damage, boosted to a 6 for AP1, blasting the flyer out of the sky and ending the game by 'wipe out'.

In conclusion, I think I played the game ok, but luck was mainly on my side as well, with shooting and with the mission, and against my opponent, again with the mission and failing to bring the Razorwing on till turn 4. The only area I would suggest my opponent made an error was in trying to pop the Chimera so allow the Wyches to assault the Veterans, instead of just assaulting the Infantry while he still had a full squad. Because it went wrong, his Wyches and Succubus were left horribly exposed and they paid for it. I think it was the threat of Overwatch fire from nearly thirty Guardsmen in Rapid Fire Range.

Given all the various factors, like terrain and victory conditions in particular, I don't think my opponent had much in the way of options. At the moment, I'll take league points where I can find them. I forgot to order 'Incoming!' again, but at least I got to shoot with my Snipers this time. Two more games to go...

Thanks for reading.