Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tactical discussion for Dark Eldar at BoLSGamesCon

Hey there folks, how's it going?  Today I want to talk about tactics, as it pertains to winning in a competitive setting, namely:  a tournament.  lol... wow that was a kind of bland start.  But I don't want to start over, so...

As you may or may not know, I'll be attending BoLSGamesCon in Austin this year, for my third year running.  I expect it to be extremely fun, but with the expectation that I won't end up doing as well as I had done previous years (7th overall, then 6th overall + Best Sport, respectively), since I'm fairly new to my army and let's face it- Dark Eldar have a tough time getting 'full points' in a super competitive game using pure battle points- they're just so damn easy to kill.

Despite my own misgivings about tournaments using Battle Points to determine the overall winner, I'm going to this tournament, and as such, need to turn my attention to how I can win in the parameters given.

So what I want to do here today is to go over a mission primer that they've released, look at what my nightmare matchup would be, and how I would approach the game, from a competitive perspective.  This is my first time trying this so hopefully it works well.  Note that I'll be using rudimentary graphics as an aid- they'll just be a little later on.

Alright, here's my list that I'll be taking:

Dark Eldar (Kabal of the Awesome Sauce):

Baron Sathonyx

7x Incubi // Raider w/ Flickerfield, Grisly Trophies, Aether Sail

19x Hellions w/ Helliarch
5x Warriors w/ Blaster // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons, Grisly Trophies
5x Warriors w/ Blaster // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons
5x Warriors w/ Blaster // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons
3x Wracks // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons, Grisly Trophies

6x Reaver Jetbikes w/ 2x Heat Lances
6x Reaver Jetbikes w/ 2x Heat Lances
3x Beastmasters, 4x Razorwing Flocks, 5x Khymerae

Ravager w/ Flickerfield
Ravager w/ Flickerfield
Ravager w/ Flickerfield

(you can see how my 1850 version did at the Bugeater GT w/ NOVA format here)

And here's the 'nightmare list' I promised- it's my own Guard list, I'll explain the nightmare in a moment:

Company Command Squad w/ 4x Plasma Guns, Plasma Pistol, Astropath // Chimera
Company Command Squad w/ 4x Plasma Guns, Plasma Pistol  // Chimera

Platoon Command Squad w/ 4x Flamers // Chimera
Infantry Squad w/ Commissar
Infantry Squad
Special Weapons Squad w/ 3x Flamers
Special Weapons Squad w/ 3x Flamers

10x Veterans w/ 3x Melta // Chimera
10x Veterans w/ 3x Melta // Chimera
10x Veterans w/ 3x Melta


3x Hydra Squadron
2x Hydra Squadron
2x Hydra Squadron

I'm assuming you can see why this list is a nightmare for a Dark Eldar player- those Hydras are 100% brutal to Skimmers who want their cover saves.  The volume of fire is about on par with the other IG lists... this isn't the time to talk about how awesome my IG are though.  It's a scary list for any Dark Eldar player to face.

We're going to assume that this is Day 2, and both armies are doing very well- this is near the top table.  We can assume that the Guard player knows what he's doing- he won't make any enormous mistakes that will cost him the game by their own merit.

Here's the mission (literally- JWolf says it'll be there on day 2):

WARGamesCon Primer Mission 2

Deployment: Spearhead
Random Game Length

Primary: (13 points) Capture and Control. No points for ties.

Secondary: (10 points) Annihilation. Full points for more than 3 Kill Points over the opponent. Half points for 1 or 2 Kill points more. No points for ties.

Tertiary: (7 points) Modified Seize Ground (5 Objectives) Place one Objective in the center of the board and one objective in each unoccupied table quarter. The objectives in the unoccupied quarters should be 18” from the player’s long table edge and 12” from the side edge. The objectives placed for Capture and Control are the other 2 objectives for the tertiary. Full points for one objective more than the opponent. 4 points for ties.

Initial thoughts, after seeing the list I (as the Dark Eldar player) have to beat, using this scenario:

Frankly:  yikes.  This mission is full of tough things for any sort of top table match, but particularly for Dark Eldar.
  • All the objectives on the table are nice, though the Guard actually have more scoring units than our Dark Eldar list
  • Both armies are nearly matched for kill points, though the IG actually have good armor vs. Dark Eldar shooting, as opposed to the paper airplanes the DE have.
  • Hydras need to go away, but it's a little tough to engineer something like that
  • My one enormous advantage is in close combat, which will be tough to ensure will even happen
  • Speed is my other advantage, though those troop-carrying Vendettas are going to be outflanking, and just as fast as any of my tanks
Simply put though, this IG list will generally beat the Dark Eldar list in an 'old-fashioned' slugfest of a match, trading blows.  Knowing that coming into the game is a boon then- Dark Eldar will need to do something unstandard (if that's a word) in order to win.

Let's assume that the terrain is 'good'- one LoS-blocking piece in the middle, good area terrain in each quarter- the other two years had good terrain, so I'm assuming this year will be the same.

So, we roll to see who goes first.  We'll cover both perspectives, but first let's assume we win the roll, since we're most likely to, with the Baron's +1 to help us.

Do we want to go first?

Hm, it's a quandary- how much of this list could we shut down on turn 1, with reasonable expectations?

The answer is this:  not much.  There just aren't enough Dark Lances in the army to stunlock all the Hydras, and still have enough for the Vendettas.  It would have to be one or the other.  As a Guard player, I know that I would generally want to put my Vendettas in outflank if faced with 2nd turn, and as a DE player, that's what I would expect of my opponent- and I wouldn't necessarily want Vendettas where I can't see them.

So I think the answer is an emphatic 'yes', we want to go first- Vendettas in reserve are Vendettas not shooting for the first turn at least.  If they start on the Board, then I'll have a great chance to bring them down Turn 1.

We have first turn then, let's figure out how to proceed.

I think the key here is that the mission is Spearhead.

This means that the 'parking lot' is going to be pretty crammed, and the IG player would likely place his Hydras far on either flank, like so:

The red boxes are the Hydras in their quarter, trying to get past the LoS-blocking Terrain for a good view on the DE quarter.  As you can see, their LoS isn't really hindered- even the presence of a hill wouldn't be of much help.
So, the Hydras are going to be the main concern here- sure, the Multi-lasers will do what they can, but compared the the Hydras, the lasers aren't of much import.

Here's what I'd expect the guard player's deployment to look like, even knowing they were going second and could react to my deployment:

Red are Hydras, Green are Chimeras.  The Vendettas are in reserve with a mix of Veterans and Flamer squads, and both Infantry Squads are in reserve to pick up the objectives on the top two quarters, along with the Platoon Command in their chimera, just in case.

Since the IG player knows I won't be able to get side armor shots on his hydras to the far right, and he also knows I can't get to them for a couple turns, he's leaving them (temporarily) unsupported (i.e. he can bring in Vendettas + Veterans to help support later).  The top Hydras can give up side shots from Ravagers, and as such, the Hydras are deployed behind the more 'expendable' Chimeras.  This setup makes it very hard for the Dark Eldar to get any sort of shot off that won't either be against AV12 or in cover, both good things for the IG player.

Note:  I realize that I'm projecting how the IG would deploy, when they may just deploy totally different.  However, if you take first turn, you need to give thought to how you think the enemy will deploy, and that's what this step isReally, any other deployment than this would be unexpected from a good IG player- he's getting maximum effect from his 72" range, and is making it really hard for me to meaningfully damage his firepower on turn 1.  He knows that if he can hold me off for a turn or two, the Vendettas will arrive and start knocking my airplanes out of the sky left and right.  
  • One variation would be to castle way deep in his corner, but for him to win the mission, he would be in a terrible situation to take objectives, and I could just hide behind the big piece of terrain to avoid being shot at until the game ended- my mobility would end up doing wonders for me :-p
  • He could also have his Chimeras deploy far to the right, but that would enable me to deploy myself out of his own range.
  • One other variation would be for him to use his Blob as 'bubblewrap' around his top group of tanks, which would allow him an extra turn of shooting before I could assault his tanks/guys, which wouldn't be a terrible choice.

So, we have first turn.  We even know how our opponent is likely to set up.  Awesome.  Now what?

Well, we look at the way we get points.  I need to contest his own Capture and Control objective, and somehow outscore him in Killpoints.

In order to garner lots of Kill points, I would need to deploy everything near the biggest concentration of KP's:

Hellions and Beasts are as close to the center as possible, while the Ravagers deploy behind a screen of Hellions from one 'side', and Reavers on the other- everything can clump up because there aren't any template weapons nearby for now.

So, my deployment was awesome, clearly.  :-p

Hellions will be clustered (no templates, haha, shocker for a Guard army) so as to provide cover saves for the Ravagers/Raider, and Beasts, and will be themselves in area terrain, right next to the 3-man Wrack unit and the Haemonculus, who are with the Hellions for now, doing their fun little 'token switch' shenanigans to get 2 Pain Tokens on the Hellions- they'll later just hug cover and try to stay on the center objective.

Here's what my turn 1 plans would be:

So, the Hellions jump into cover, threatening the Tankline next turn, no matter where the tanks go- if they move too far up, the Hellions can even threaten the squadron of Hydras.  The Beasts hide behind them, ready to assault any dudes who get out.  The Ravagers... go on the other side of the terrain from the 'Tankline', to try and shut the Hydras to the far right up for a turn, while the Reavers also threaten them.
The plan is fairly complex at this point- since the Ravagers would be inefficient vs. the tankline, they can help support the Reavers, who will turbo their 36" to threaten the Hydras in the turn later.  Simple steps:
  • Reavers turbo, and threaten Hydras
  • Ravagers try to shake/stun a couple of the Hydras, not expecting more
  • On Guard turn 1, they have a quandary:  shoot everything they can into the Reavers, or shoot at the Ravagers?  The Reavers will be in cover (as well as turboed, but Hydras don't care about the turbo), so they'll be tough to take down.  
  • Meanwhile, if they don't do anything to the Hellions, the Hellions will get a Turn 2 charge on the wall of Chimeras with their S5 (because of Furious Charge), and the Baron's S7.  They'll be able to cause some major damage, to say the least- likely killing most of the Chimeras, and getting their killpoints-worth.
  • If the Hellions do their work, the Beasts can come in and clean the guardsmen up, if the Hellions get blown away, as they likely will.
The idea is to give the Guard player too many options- he won't be able to deal with all of them, and I'll inevitably be able to pick up a few Kill Points.

  • If the guys in the Chimeras drive up and use Flamers on the Hellions, well- that's what FNP and the Baron's 2+ save are for- it also means the Beasts get to charge something this turn.
  • If the dudes in the CCS Chimeras shoot their Plasma, I get a 3+ cover save w/ Baron's squad, and if they make me reroll covers, Beasts once again get a good charge, since they'll be out of their ride.
  • If the Hydras decide to wipe out all the Reavers during their turn, the Ravagers will have another turn of shooting Hydras, and will by this time be making a big dent.
  • If the Hydras don't wipe out the Reavers, the Reavers will make an even bigger dent, and force the Guard player to use his flamer squads in the Vendettas to 'manage' the situation, which will let my Venoms from reserves shoot them at will.
The game gets much more complex and unpredictable as we go on- I don't want to give a fake battle report, after all.  I just wanted to show you what I would do, to create a lot of tough choices for the Guard player.  Is it foolproof?  Nope.  Lol, it's just the way I would approach it.

Let's look briefly at how I'd approach it if they got first turn, and took it.

First:  I'd probably say a bad word or two under my breath.

He'd deploy like so:

The Vendettas would turbo into the empty quarters, assuming I actually deployed and didn't hold everything in reserve.  They would keep a Vendetta in Outflank, probably some Melta Vets, as well as the infantry squad and the Flamer unit.
This would obviously be a bad situation.  I realize that many people's first inclination would be:  full reserves! Everything, full reserves!!

Let's look at the situation first though:

  • If I full reserve, he'll just back his Hydras on the far right up and wait for me, with clear lanes of fire to each quarter, easy enough.
  • The Hydras would kill everything I had, piecemeal- who cares about turbo-cover?  Not them.
  • I would have no real hope of getting to his own Capture and Control objective
  • I would have limited fire on the turns I came in- no real way to concentrate fire if only one Ravager comes in every turn.
  • In other words, it would be a slaughterhouse, for 3 turns, probably not 4.  I don't think I could win if I went full reserves.
So, what are the alternatives?  Heh, deploying everything, I guess.

So, it's a little confusing, and sorry- it's getting late, lol.  Mostly, we're trying to get maximum cover saves from the far right hydras (given us by the central terrain).  The Hellions help to give cover from the tankline at the top, and the Beasts are spread out there as well, to keep Meltavets from just popping out of their Vendetta and thinking it's risk-free to shoot the vehicles.

This deployment is a bunker of sorts, and basically making the best of a bad situation.  This way at least, most the of the Vehicles will get cover saves, and there's actually a great prospect of getting out of this turn mostly unscathed.  Sure, some vehicles will go down.  But the Hellions will live, as will the Beasts, and at least a few lance weapons.  It gives us the chance we desperately need.

I'd do about the same plan as if I went first, honestly, and try to use the central terrain to hide from as much incoming firepower as possible, while killing the Vendettas first, as the priority, so as to maximize table/objective control.

One ray of light in this dark situation is that since we get last turn, we get the last say in contesting/holding objectives at the end of the game.

So, we'd have a chance at least.

Great chance?  Heh, not really.

But a chance, in the most nightmarish of scenarios for Dark Eldar.

Wow, that turned into a bigger project than I thought it would.  Hope it helped, I'm going to bed (set to go up in the morning).

Thoughts?  Comments?  TL;DR?


Black Blow Fly said...

Great analytical article !! As a fellow dark eldar player I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. It also helps to provide general insight to their missions.


Black Blow Fly said...

Also I'd like to point out this discussion actually shows why wyches might be a better choice than Incubi - that is haywire grenades are going to hurt parking lot IG . Incubi aren't doing much for you versus IG in my opinion.

Xaereth said...

Thanks :)

As to the Incubi vs. Wyches- I've been playing around with their numbers some. Wyches do better against non-meq squads, and also better against vehicles, while the Incubi do better against the more 'elite' power armor guys.

I'm sure that doesn't come as a surprise to you though :-p

One of the main reasons Incubi exist in my list however, is because I need a way to deal with mass FNP Blood Angel assault squads, and also with Grey Hunter spam- Hellions do well vs. Grey Hunters, but FNP Marines give them a really hard time.

Basically though, I need more games with this list, to gauge how much extra anti-tank I really need. I may end up doing exactly as you say- swap the Incubi out for Wyches w/ Haywires, and taking one squad of warriors out and replacing them with 4x blaster trueborn silliness, since that would help the anti-tank out quite a bit :)

Black Blow Fly said...

Well you've seen my list. I run both Incubi and Wyches. Like you said Incubi are great for removing those tougher units. That said typically the first unit I'll drop is the Incubi if I'm playing a game at less than 2k points. I'm a big fan of Vect but I think the Baron with the Hellions work well for you and they are very versatile.

Beasts are one of the worst nightmares for parking lot IG... they are very fast, can multi charge tanks and have good armor penetration. They will be a big key to defeating IG.

Coming back to Wyches again they are pretty amazing and really cheap for what you get. Mine have taken down assault terminators before through careful application - dark eldar don't fight fair. ; )