A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to go to DieCon 13 in Collinsville, IL (in the greater St. Louis area) to attend the Gateway Grand Tournament there. I’d gone two years ago, so I was looking forward to going back and playing in a large event. Well, I didn’t quite get a large event. Apparently, there’d been some cock-ups with marketing and getting the word out, and they only managed to get 14 players, mostly locals. I think I was one of the few people who’d traveled more than an hour to get there. A bit disheartening, to be sure, especially considering that they had around 20 tables worth of terrain set up, but I still managed to get 5 good games in over two days, so I won’t complain too much.
Once again, I brought my Tau. Unlike 2011, when I was pretty much playing with a handicap by taking Tau, this time I was playing one of the stronger codexes in the game. My list was a 2000-point variation of the list I’d made with my fellow hosts on Preferred Enemies. The main changes were changing one mounted 6-man Fire Warrior squad for a 12-man squad on foot, and adding a trio of dual missile pod Crisis Suits with a Puretide Engram Chip on the squad leader. It (and smaller versions) had proven solid in testing, so I felt confident that I would be able to handle most of what was thrown at me. The list was specifically made to handle AirCron, but with enough shooting versatility that it wasn’t limited to just being anti-air.
The tournament itself followed the Bay Area Open model – all three book missions from 5th edition on the table simultaneously, each worth 8 victory points if won and 4 if tied. 2 points were awarded for each of the normal secondary objectives. A couple of missions also used alternate scoring units (Fast Attack and Heavy Support) like 6th Edition’s Scouring and Big Guns missions. Deployment was always Dawn of War or Vanguard Strike – the tables were set up in such a way that Hammer and Anvil wouldn’t work terribly well.
My matches went as follows:
- Imperial Guard: We don’t have many IG players in our immediate area, so this was a bit of a great unknown. He was running a mix of foot platoons and mounted melta vets, with one Medusa, one Manticore, and one Leman Russ Executioner for heavy firepower, and a Vendetta for air support. He also had a set of Sabre Platforms thrown into the mix as well. His deployment was surprisingly piecemeal – he left the Manticore and Leman Russ off the board – and that gave me the time to pick apart his armor. The Sabres didn’t give me too much trouble in this game, either, so I downplayed them in my mind. By the end, I had him down to just one or two units remaining and won a solid win.
- Imperial Guard/Space Marines: Another IG list, but this one couldn’t have been more different. He went very heavy on the Forge World artillery, with 3 units of 4 twin-linked lascannon Sabre Platforms and 3 units of 3 Heavy Quad Cannons (or, for the old-schoolers out there, Thudd Guns). His command squad was in a Chimera, as was a unit of Veterans. He rounded out the list with a Vulture with its 20-shot cannon, and an allied contingent of thunder hammer/storm shield Terminators led by a Librarian (along with a few Sniper Scouts). He managed to get the first turn and pounded me into the dust. My infantry, even in cover, couldn’t stand up to the cannon barrage (especially with his orders that forced me to re-roll successful cover saves), and the Sabres picked apart anything heavier. He even managed to kill a Riptide with a nova-charged shield by catching it just inside the Librarian’s Null Zone, forcing me to re-roll the invulnerable saves, whereupon I proceeded to roll 5 ones. The Artillery rules just made it all but impossible to wound his gunner crews, and my lack of useful assault capability meant I couldn’t rush them off the board. I was all but tabled in this game, and he went on to go undefeated and take 1st place.
- Eldar/Dark Eldar: This game was interesting, because he was fielding something I hadn’t yet seen used in games – Beastmasters. He had a large pack of them and their beasts, along with two Eldar Farseers on jetbikes and Baron Sathonyx, as a massive fast-rushing assault unit. He charged at my Ethereal and his entourage of Fire Warriors, but thanks to being Stubborn and having 4+ armor, I was able to hold him for 3 rounds of combat. He won on his turn, leaving me free to pick apart his force with firepower. Eventually, only Razorwing Flocks were left (due to their high number of wounds), and their low leadership caused them to run away. The rest of his army – Wyches in a venom, and Dire Avengers in (pre-update) Wave Serpents – were easy pickings. The only unit that was otherwise an issue was his Fire Dragons, located behind an Aegis Line and with the Exarch manning the quad gun. With his Crack Shot ability, he was ignoring cover, but he wasn’t able to do a lot of damage before I started pressing in on all sides with my Riptides and Kroot. Again, a solid win in this round for me.
- Necrons/Tau: This list was the acid test for my list: 4 Night Scythes with 5 Warriors each, 3 Annihilation Barges, and a Destroyer Lord accompanied by 2 units of 6 Wraiths – a standard AirCron-style tournament list. He tried mixing it up with a bit of Tau – a Cadre Fireblade, 12 Fire Warriors, a Sky Ray, and a Riptide. However, between dice, deployment, and delivery, I had the upper hand for most of the game. The Sky Ray died first turn. The Riptide never managed to do much of anything – he failed the Nova Charge 3 times in the game, and his large blast from the Ion Accelerator got hot at least twice. Even the Wraiths didn’t perform as well as he needed – I managed to funnel them into a kill zone with enough overlapping bubbles of Supporting Fire that they only managed one round of assault against the Riptide I’d thrown in the way to delay them. The Riptide died, but by their next assault phase only 3 Wraiths were left between 2 units, neither of which survived Overwatch when they next tried assaulting. The flyers were trickier, but even being down one Riptide I had the tools to deal with them, and by the end I had him down to just a handful of models on the table while half of my army was still standing.
- Tau: The final match, and it was against nearly a mirror match – but the differences between the lists defined the game. Instead of tanks, he’d thrown his points into an über-Commander, equipped much like The Guide concept I’d been playing with. Iridium Armor, a Drone Controller, a Puretide Engram Chip, a Command and Control Node, and a Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite made him a tough, successful helper – that he then dropped into a unit of Broadsides and Missile Drones. He would just sit back and make all of them twin-linked and ignore cover. We both knew that whoever got the first turn would take the day, and that’s just how it played out. The alpha strike he put out crippled my army, and it never recovered. By the end, I was tabled on turn 6, and the win propelled him into 2nd place.
In the end, I went 3-2. Considering that I lost to the top two players, I don’t consider that a bad result at all. If I’d managed to get first turn in game 5, it’s very possible that I might have made 2nd place. In the end, I took fifth, missing fourth place by one victory point. Hopefully, next year they can get the word out to more players, because I’m definitely interested in going back for a third go at the event!