Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Call to Arms- first Dropzone Tournament

I got my Dropzone stuff a year or more ago, when some well-meaning friends bought me the Resistance starter set to get involved with their games, but as they have actual real lives they are still building their Blotz and 4Ground terrain, so no games occurred... I picked up a few extras at Salute- Salakhan and a lifthawk for him plus some freeriders and the ltd battle bus, got some base colours on them and then just left them in my cabinet to fester.

Until last month when hawk got together with Firestorm and their staff member Callum (the most lackadaisical organiser ever, he called the teams 'A' and '1' so none of us precious flowers felt we were second best...) to organise an escalation campaign- this was perfect as week one was starter set (check) week two was starter and commander (check) and I could build from there. I took the opportunity to get some highlights, shading and detail on the boys, plus a few conversions here and there (Salakhan gained some ablative armour) and came up with a theme of classic tattoos, then as my army grew I added elaborate freehand to each vehicle to distract from the basic paintwork;). The league ended in a tournament that was open to all- Call to Arms, and after getting the last bit of paint on my battle buses and Lifthawk the day before, and taking out my beautiful wife for pizza in exchange for a lift Sunday morning, I was good to go...

My List-

Command: Alexander with lifthawk (AA cannon) & 2 x freeriders (subT).
Vehicle: Gun wagons in Kraken & 6x rocket techs (subT).
Rusted fist: hannibals with lifthawk (AA cannon) & 2 x cyclones.
Troops: 1 x fighters & 2 x veterans in Jacksons with lifthawk (AA cannon).
Troops: 2 x fighters in Buses  (AA guns), in Kraken.
Infiltrators: 3 x freeriders.
Extras: 1x drill. 2 x level 3 commanders.

Game 1 vs Mark- Feral resistance - standard scenario (all buildings hardened)
My first turn, a spectacularly average deployment...

His list highlights- 6 cyclones(!), thunderstorm, sappers& resistance fighters in jacksons&lifthawk, scout atv’s, 2x gun wagon krakens. 

look at all those whirlybirds....

Let's not go near them shall we?

I’ve played only 4(5?) full games prior to this, and 2 of them have been against resistance, so I was happy to be playing someone where I knew what things did, and as a more experienced player he was very friendly and helpful in giving me hints and tips on how to use my own stuff more effectively. (I in turn started playing his game for him which was a little rude, even though I was trying to be helpful!) Both Mark and myself were absolutely dogged with some of the most appalling dice rolling I have ever seen throughout the game, almost as though the two resistance armies hearts just weren’t in it!

The sight of 6 Cyclones put the fear of god into me, and Mark explained that he was playing an experimental list, they certainly looked impressive on the table, especially later when my 2 got involved as well! 

"Yeah I'm pretty sure I've got this.... *gulps*"

The first turns involved us both spreading out and filtering in to the close objectives, with most of the damage coming from Mark smashing my close objective building with everything he had, and despite the hardened building he managed to lay a good 15 points onto it. Turn 2 the jammy git escaped with his close objective in a Jackson after a lucky search roll, whereas my poor fighters from the bus unit were too busy ducking falling masonry to really put their best into searching.  His thunderstorm advanced towards my Alexander who closed his eyes and hoped for the best, but the sandal of death was more concerned with dropping rocks on my troops so he survived unscathed (for now) I quickly got my vet detachment with their fighters in the centre building where they weathered the storm- the hardened buildings made this a VERY different game than it should have been, his demo set up would have ruined me in a normal game but so little damage was done the masonry barely affected gameplay.

tadaa! no Thunderstorm!

Turn three the game took a pretty hefty leap in my direction, as the combined fire from the Alexander, Cyclones and Occupation Veterans in the centre reduced the thunderstorm to scrap, and my Bus mob found their objective and skedaddled. The Cyclone squad of death also ran out of missiles this turn- which was very telling (I talked to mark later and he said he thought the amount of limited shots in play between his cyclones and sappers severely hampered his late game, and in this game it was definitely the case, especially with the scout ATV’s tying up more points into a non-offensive role). I didn’t have it all my own way however as Mark had done an excellent job of reducing the remaining centreline objective building on my side to a very precarious number of wounds, smashing the second bus squad under the masonry in the process, so I daren’t risk taking it despite the monorail I had set up from my close objective building, and he did manage to get a couple of squads into his remaining centre building and shred my gun wagons with a clever sappers blast.

The view from the centre, it's all air baby. 

The last few turns both our abysmal luck held strong, with my vets taking strafing fire from the gun wagons, and the hovercrafts having a pop-gun fight in the open space but very little of consequence dying (think my fighters in the centre building combined their SA fire with the remaining gun truck to drop one cyclone) however we both had a great stroke of luck on objectives- we both found our centre objectives turn 5, and My drill allowed me to palm mine off the table through a jackson, whereas Mark managed to get a similar APC into an undamaged lifthawk which fled the table.

At this point the resistance armies just gave up and called it quits...

The game ended 10-10 with a small difference in Kill points, and I think Mark’s experience being offset by his crazy composition is what gave me the chance to get back in the game. The veterans and the Alexander both put in a sterling job of slagging enemy ground vehicles and buildings for me, (despite the attentions his ATV’s were paying the Alexander) so they get brownie points for sure. A very tight game with a great opponent who unfortunately went on to get the wooden spoon (which was a limited edition double decker, so not a bad prize for a resistance player at all!) 

Game 2 vs Sean- UCM- capture the flanks

His list highlights- 6x rapiers, 2 Scimitars (aka giant laser tanks of death), 2 archangels, troops in light dropships (regular and Praetorians), Eagle gunship, 3 katanas, Ferrum, Kodiak.

My second game was against Sean of Hawk Wargames, he had a lovely crisp painted UCM in pale blue, and although I had played UCM before I hadn’t seen a few of the units in game- notably the Ferrum, the flying missile battery and the horrific laser tanks of infinite death. It was also my first game against fast movers, although I’m not sure they were actually against me as they were uniquely rubbish all game!
We've taken the building!

I learnt what an actual demolition list could do in this game, as turn one he combined his scimitars, katanas, rapiers and eagle and reduced my close objective to 3 damage points left, wiping out one squad of fighters entirely (no masonry hit the other squad whatsoever?) I retaliated in turn two by pounding some alexander shells into his objective wounding some of his troops, and once again dumping my Vets and their attached gophers into the centre building. By the end of turn three both close objectives had been reduced to rubble, taking out my fighters (and their objective, in fairness they could have got out but the warlord would not have liked that...) and almost all Sean’s infantry (one squad in a light dropship was hiding behind the centre tower where I failed to notice it every turn!, and one squad escaped) but not before Sean found his target and scarpered off-table. That turn I fired everything at his CO building, including the dropships, alexander, hannibals, Veterans and even the Jackson’s grenade launchers to take off the final wound! (which got them killed turn 4) but the 5/6 infantry stands inside it made it a prime target.

What building? oops....

During most of this game my Alexander and his scimitars had a straight out stand and shoot party, the Alex jogging about a bit to gain cover and avoid Kodiak shots, Sean had the best of this inflicting 6 dp on the Alex over the game (2 field repairs keeping it in play!) but I managed to erase one of the opposing tanks before withdrawing to the safety of cover. 

As you can see, this firefight is going entirely as planned. Entirely.

From Turn 4 onwards I had a very good game (something Sean prophesied before the game even started) my veterans and the fighters in the centre slagged almost all his ground units bar 3 katanas and a couple of rapiers, making it almost impossible for him to take the focal points, and my cheeky AA on the battle buses kept his drone squads down to a barely threatening number (the buses also provided a wall between the Alexander and the remaining scimitar at one point as it was looking pretty bad for the big guy!). I used my freeriders and cyclones to threaten the remaining ground vehicles forcing them into hiding or back onto their dropships, and resisted the urge to send my drill after the ferrum and used it to solidly claim a focal point. I also managed to drop the eagle on my second attempt after having stern words with my gun wagons.. The vets in the centre finally found their objective, although Sean committed his last Praetorians squad in to stall for time I still managed to drive them off, and eventually monorailed to a building far from his LoS to keep the objective safe for the last turn or so.
"Operation, bus w****** is in progress" 

Turn 6 was mainly about the focal points, I actually landed a lifthawk to deny his rapiers a landing space, as well as spreading out my freeriders and technicals (he managed to drop them on a roof just in range) whilst on the other FP his katanas tried to get in but were finally stopped by a point blank shot from the cyclones. I haven’t mentioned his archangels much so I’ll point out here that they turned up turn 2, then promptly either missed or failed to damage my cyclones every turn until they were eventually shot down in ignominy, I’m pretty sure my commander must have paid them off at some point...

The game ended 5-3 to me (he had one objective off table and the rapiers near a FP, I had both FP for 2 pts each and one objective on table) a solid win with a big difference in KP making it a hefty 16-4 in tournament points to me. I thought I would struggle with the Ferrum and its drones directing Kodiak fire, but Sean’s terrible luck with the Kodiak and my amusingly successful battle bus shooting really nerfed the command detachments effectiveness. The heroes of the day were the Vets (again) for stripping his armour away with a blistering round of shooting in turn 4, although the Alexander vs death star scimitars was a cracking shoot out. Sean was great to play despite a bit of poor luck on his part, and again I picked up an awful lot (demolition is way more important than I ever thought before today). a great opponent and if you ever do get to play him you're guaranteed a great game. 

Game 3 vs Andrew- PHR- scenario- table quarters thing

(Anyone that knows me relatively well will see a pattern in most reports- I start with lots of photo's, many inane, and by the end I'm so excited I take none at all, hence.....)

His list highlights- 6x Helios, Zeus command with a buddy, 2x sirens squads in light dropships, 2 x standard squads/snipers in lights, a lot of walkers (2x Hyperion,2 x Odin,  3x Menchit, 3x Ares, 3x apollo?) in a metric tonne of dropships.

Somehow my 26 Tournament points had conspired to place me on the top table for the last game versus Andrew- a previous winner at the big tournaments. He played a walker heavy list with a respectable 6 helios anti-air skimmers that proved to be the bane of my existence…

I was unsure how to approach this mission, it seemed a difficult fit for my force selection, especially against a PHR force that would ruin anything without countermeasures pretty quickly, and played a cagey first turn, however a badly positioned lifthawk gave him a turn 2 shot at it with his helios, and in one shot he took out the veterans, fighters, their Jackson's and a good 1/5th of my army… In honesty I was almost ready to quit right there, as I couldn’t see me pulling it back against a superior force and a superior player, but Andrew convinced me it’s never over till it’s over, so I got stuck back in.

On Turn 3 an almost certainly suicidal run by my Cyclones with strike masters supported by my hannibals managed to take out 2 walkers and 2 Helios, as well as spreading some damage around other models, and my Freeriders closed in and started chipping away at his flank. Andrews anti-infantry walker single handedly exterminated almost all my remaining troops where they hid in a building, whilst the walkers with him had no trouble blasting the battlebuses apart, though the technicals and hovercraft did survive most of the game under heavy fire, enough to secure a table quarter point for me at least.

In the centre My remaining dropships and Hannibals fought a surprisingly grim battle with the PHR, I chipped individual models out of units here and there (I don't think any of his units ended the game fully intact on the right flank), and my gun wagons also did a sterling job of ending his light dropships, unfortunately every one of them managed a safe landing, freeing up his troops to assault my remaining infantry through a network of multiple monorails… The poor fighters would have struggled against one unit of Sirens, 2 units and some basic infantry was way more than they could handle. his snipers fared less well however, as I ruined the building they took cover in with a barrage of fire from the Alexander and some well-placed sticky mines and the masonry wiped them out.

In the final turn I started to try and consolidate my forces to hold at least one quarter, and score a point of the remaining ones, (I also finally killed the damn Helios that cost me the game with an IED card) but Andrew had played a blinder, his troops swept into the buildings in my quarter and because they were hugely expensive Sirens, and doubled their value in buildings, he swept the board for a 8-3 win. after a scrappy start my 'just kill everything' plan did pay off slightly however, in that our kill points were close enough to deny him and extra TP (and thus not lose me any) for a 15-5 win to Andrew.

I can't blame everything on the Lifthawk loss and bad dice (though my dice were poor), I made some bad choices (including the lifthawk positioning and underestimating Helios speed) and my inexperience with PHR meant I judged a few situations more in my favour than they actually were, The cyclone's suicide run netted me a fair whack of  kill points for me, they certainly wounded enough walkers that it allowed my lifthawk's shaped charges able to finish the job, especially when aided by the free riders. Andrew knows his game, and it showed- as well as being very helpful to me (Andrew played resistance at Invasion so knew my force pretty well) he kept his own troops pretty tight, he didn't commit anything without a solid purpose, and without the extra move on the cyclones I would have struggled to catch him out. He certainly deserved the win, though I do think I could have tried to make it a bit close for him;) I'm not a fan of this scenario and will definitely have to play it a few more times to get the hang of it.

So I finished 7th, which whilst not great is actually much higher than I expected, having lost pretty much every game I'd played to this point... I also won best painted, something I was very chuffed with as I always try to field something that looks good, but never assume anything. This netted me a limited edition hardback rulebook- I had no idea what was special about it but as someone who collects concept art books I am very pleased with it- the extra art is incredible! as mentioned the unfortunate Mark Dodridge took wooden spoon- a classy double decker for a classy player, he took a risk with his list and had a blast, but only for two turns a game it appears;) The winners were Sam Derbyshire in 3rd with PHR, Peter Hillard in Second with UCM (two ferrums list, and got the special ferrum for a prize!(edit- only one ferrum apparently, somehow even that was too much...) and Andrew Page took the win after the convincing slapping he gave me. (couldn't have gone to a nicer bloke)

The Hawk guys were really friendly, brought a lot of shiny toys for dropfleet and even a 3up dropfleet ship (which was covered in guns) everyone was awesome, even the people who had travelled a fair distance to get here:) Looking forward to getting some more games in and if there's another event locally I'm in, will even take a look at Invasion later this year if I can:)

The top three Sam Derbyshire, Peter Hillard and Andrew Page (in reverse order to complicate things), Andrew is on the right, looking smug..

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