Friday, January 20, 2017

Exploring the Current Thousand Sons - Third Iteration

What excites me about the current Thousand Sons is that it packs a punch while still being flavorful, with its over-reliance on magic, it's single-mindedness automata, and how battlefield tactics slant towards deception. Did I mention it's really flavorful? Change agents, that's what we are.
Before I go on, I'd like to share my personal criteria for my Thousand Sons army lists. Just because ...:
  1. Must be built on a core of Rubric marines. As far as possible, each Rubric unit must be "favored" (a concept that no longer has rules at the squad level) with 9 models or multiples of 9.
  2. No Cultists, or them new-fangled beasty cultist wannabe things.
  3. No Daemons. I spent a few years before this book came out fielding a Thousand Sons army with a daemon allied detachment (1 Lord of Change and a pack of Pink Horrors). It was a really strong list, but I really do prefer no daemons at all, if possible (on another note, a Tzeentch daemons list looks quite stupidly strong). Daemon engines are exempted (because I do really like the Defiler and Heldrake models).
  4. No Magnus. Because I don't know why he would bother playing in my house or local store (I just got over justifying to myself why Ahriman would bother to do the same, and that took me a few years of deep earnest conversations with myself).
  5. No non-Tzeentch/non-Thousand Sons allies (though I might just allow a Shadowsword, because my ancient Armorcast one is begging to be Tzeentched up - but definitely no Knights of any persuasion).
So in the first game I had with the current book (it was really new then), I fielded the list that could be deployed fastest as we were rushing - Ahriman, Exalted Sorcerer, 5 Occult Terminators in Land Raider, squad of 8 Rubric marines (couldn't go 9 because they had to share their transport with the 2 lead sorcerers), squad of 9 Rubric marines on foot, Heldrake and a Land Raider.

That army faced a White Scars army that had 3 Land Raiders, a couple of Razorbacks, assault termies and Drop Pod-borne Astartes. With the help of some nasty Heretech spells which made easy work of the loyalist armor, the White Scars were almost wiped out for minimal Thousand Sons losses.

In my second game, I decided to try a funny list that uses the Astral Grimoire - Ahriman, Exalted Sorcerer, Sorcerer, a squad of 18 Rubric marines, 5 Occult Terminators in Land Raider, Heldrake, Las-Pred.

This army faced a Death Watch army with a scary Watchmaster, a squad of Deathwatch vets, a Deathwatch bike squad, a Deathwatch ven Dread, 3 Ultramarines Tactical squads in Drop Pods, 3 Ultramarines Terminator squads and an Ultramarine Land Speeder. Lucky for me it was a Kill Points game - the only survivors from the loyalists was the Watchmaster (who killed Ahriman and his sorcerers) and the Drop Pods. Thousand Sons were left with 4 Rubric marines, 1 Terminator, the Heldrake and the Land Raider.

Iteration No.3
This iteration of my Thousand Sons army expands on the first list. Rhinos are still invaluable, even after millennia of service on both sides of the divide. And especially so for my slow and purposeful Rubricae. And the fact that Ahriman can cast his witchfire spells from the handy top hatch hasn't gone amiss. So 1 of the Land Raiders had to go.

Another change from the previous lists is that I finally got around to assembling my Occult Terminators (I had been using my old converted Rubric Terminators as nicely painted proxies), and just had to put in the really nicely casted soulreaper autocannon and helfyer missile rack. What's another 50 points between friends?

Thousand Sons War Cabal (1850 points):
Ahriman, Arch-Sorcerer of the Thousand Sons
Sobek Sekmet, Exalted Sorcerer - mastery level 3, Seer's Bane
5 Scarab Occult Terminators - soulreaper autocannon, helfyre missile rack
Land Raider - dozer blades
8 Thousand Sons marines
Rhino - dozer blades
9 Thousand Sons marines
Rhino - dozer blades
Predator - lascannons, dozer blades

This time I faced a Ravenwing army that's just fresh from being awarded Best Loyalist Army in a recent local tourney. It had something like:

Chaplain on bike - mace of redemption
6 Ravenwing Black Knights (commmand squad) - apothecary, standard bearer
6 Ravenwing Black Knights
6 Ravenwing bikes - 2 meltaguns, sgt w powerfist
6 Ravenwing bikes - 2 meltaguns, sgt w powerfist
6 Ravenwing bikes - 2 gravguns (don't remember if the sgt had a powefist)
2 Ravenwing attack bikes - multimelta
2 Ravenwing attack bikes - multimelta
Ravenwing Land Speeder Typhoon
Ravenwing Land Speeder Typhoon
Ravenwing Land Speeder Typhoon
Ravenwing Dark Shroud

It's actually not too different from my own Ravenwing army. We rolled Spoils of War, Night Fight is on, and Thousand Sons got first turn.

The battle was fought over a desolate landscape, with blown-out ruins, sparse dead forests and hills. It was perfect country for speed and manouver.

The scenario specified Hammer & Anvil deployment, and the Ravewing amassed in 2 flanks - on my right flank, the stronger wing of  their army anchored amidst some ruins, while on my left flank they took advantage of a craggy hill.

Having far less units to deploy, I decided to take advantage of the width-wise deployment (which meant that my 2 flanks are not far apart), and spread my army, using cover just in case he seized the initiative - Terminators in their Land Raider on the left flank behind the wrecked Rhino, Rubric squad in their Rhino behind the ruins in the center, the Predator on the main avenue and next to a ruin facing down the loyalist bikers, and Ahriman and Sekmet with their Rubricae in their Rhino behind the Predator.

As was predicted, the loyalists scouted forwards to close the range, the squad with the gravguns to the fore, while their long-range missile Land Speeders hung around the back center of the field, ready to lend support for either flank.

Turn 1
The battle began quietly enough as my Predator turned left and sped towards the center of the Thousand Sons' line.

As the Rhino in the center lurched forwards onto the main thoroughfare, its top hatch opened to reveal Asthmus the aspiring sorcerer, who unleashed a cascading Breathe of Chaos spell on the lead Ravenwing bike squad, nearly wiping it out. The Rhino bearing Lord Ahriman also advanced slightly, the Arch-Sorcerer casting deadly Psychic Shrieks from his Rhino's fire point, which finished his aspiring sorcerer's job, and severely damaging another squad.

Then, both Rhinos retreated rearwards, keeping a safe distance from surviving loyalist meltaguns (shooting phase flat out moves - my opponent accused me of "Eldar cheese!").

On the left flank, the Land Raider advanced slightly and pivoted, its assault ramps hitting the ground hard as elite Scarab Occult Terminators disembarked from its bowels. The Scarab Occult Sorcerer loosed his Psychic Shriek attacks on the nearest Ravenwing bike squad, felling a couple of loyalist bikers, then his squad's autocannon and missiles, combined with the Land Raider's weapons, opened up on the Land Speeders in the rear, but thanks to the cover of night and some inhuman jinking manouvers, only 1 Land Speeder was glanced.

In response, the Ravewing line surged forwards. The attack bikes on my left flank opened fire on the Land Raider, but were too far to gain optimal effectiveness. Nevertheless, they did manage to score 1 glancing hit.

The surviving bikers opened fire and charged the Occult Terminators. The Terminators' overwatch fire felled one of the bikers, even as the impact of Ravenwing bikes on Terminator armor killed one of the Terminators. The Occult Sorcerer bellowed a challenge which was dutifully accepted by the powerfist wielding veteran sergeant, who was duly slain by a combination of the sorcerer's hatred and high-strength stave. The other Occult Terminators put to the sword the other bikers, and the lone survivor only just managed to escape with his life, speeding to a crook behind the hill for safety.

On the right flank and center, the Ravenwing line barreled forwards, now led by the Black Knights at the tip of the advance. Ravenwing shooting was ineffective as most of their guns were not in range, and the missile-bearing Land Speeders were jinking and could not aim their weapons to effect.

Turn 2
The Heldrake failed to appear, which was much regretted, as the Ravenwing mass in the center offered the juiciest of targets.

Asthmus' Rhino advanced towards the leading Black Knights. Once again emerging from the Rhino's top hatch, his Breathe of Chaos spell obliterated 4 of the proud elite bikers. Lord Ahriman followed up with multiple Psychic Shriek attacks but failed to wound the surviving Knights. Then Asthmus' Rhino went flat out forwards towards the right of the Sons' flank (it really looked like a drive-by shooting), while Ahriman's Rhino fell back once again. 

On the left, the Occult Terminators advanced towards the nearest Attack Bikes, while their Sorcerer unleashed Psychic Shriek on the Ravenwing Command squad in the center, to no effect. Inferno bolter and heavy weapons fire from the terminators wounded one of the Attack Bikes before the Terminators' charge finished them off.

The Land Raider and Predator, which by now had manouvered to the Sons' left flank, focused their fire on the Land Speeders, destroying one, and forcing another to jink.

Intent on revenge, Ravenwing bikers on the right flank sped up towards Asthmus' Rhino, even as the 2 surviving Black Knights approached that Rhino from the other side. Melta fire made easy work of the Rhino, blowing it apart, the blast killing 1 of the Rubricae inside. The Knights opened up with their Talons, easily felling another 4 Rubricae, before charging in to wipe out Asthmus and his squad in a flurry of Corvus hammer attacks (this was a really bad series of saving throws - didn't roll a single save for Asthmus' squad).

The Chaplain and his Command Squad peeled off from the center and headed toward the Occult Terminators, guns blazing before charging in. The Scarab Occult Sorcerer locked in mortal combat with the Chaplain in a deadly challenge, both champions wounding the other. The Knights of the Command squad felled one of the Occult Terminators. 

Turn 3
With a Banshee wail, the Heldrake roared onto the battlefield, its deadly unearthly fire wiping out the Ravenwing bike squad on the Sons' right flank, partially avenging Asthmus and his Rubricae.

On the left flank, the Land Raider pivoted and opened fire on a Land Speeder, damaging it despite the pilot's wild jinking.

Meanwhile, both the Predator and Ahriman's Rhino fell back to fulfill a Hold the Line order.

In the on-going melee between the Ravenwing Command squad and the Occult Terminators, the Sorcerer killed the Chaplain with his glowing force stave. And thanks to the blessing of Tzeentch, the rending Corvus Hammers could not get past the Terminators' ward saves.

The Ravenwing are fast running out of men. The 2 surviving Black Knights on the right flank came around the ruin there to close with Ahriman's Rhino. The Dark Shroud peeled off from close support of the Command squad, which was still in melee, to execute a risky manouver amongst the center ruins to capture an objective.

On the left flank, the 2 surviving attack bikes closed with the Land Raider and opened fire with multimeltas at point-blank range. Tzeentch was smiling on this Land Raider as it was only stunned with 2 hull points remaining.

The 2 surviving Land Speeders also fired at the Land Raider, to no effect.

In the melee between the Ravenwing Command squad and the Occult Terminators, the challenge now was between the Black Knight champion and the Scarab Occult Sorcerer, a duel which ended in neither side getting past the other's armor. However, another Occult Terminator was hewn by the flailing Corvus hammers.

Turn 4
With a quiet suddenness, the Heldrake banked sharply to port and attacked the Dark Shroud with a Vector Strike that left the skimmer immobilized. 

Ahriman's Rhino sped forwards towards the ruin in the center where the Dark Shroud sat damaged, the Arch-Sorcerer's repeated Psychic Shrieks finally slaying the last 2 Black Knights on the right.

The Predator pivoted and let loose its lascannons on the grounded Dark Shroud blowing it up in a fiery explosion (I needed that to happen to seize an objective - one of the downsides of not having ObSec Rubrics in this detachment).

Meanwhile, the Land Raider snap-fired all guns into the oncoming attack bikes, destroying one, and wounding the other.

The drawn-out melee continued, with both champions failing to wound one another. But the last surviving Occult Terminator finally succumbed to the repeated rending Corvus attacks.

The last surviving Ravenwing attack bike approached even nearer to its Land Raider target, but missed its mark (ikr, point-blank range, and you miss. All those years of dedication, prayer and training ...). The Land Speeders kept up their fire at the same target, and managed to score a glancing hit despite the Land Raider's thick hide.

Sensing his moment of glory, the last surviving Ravenwing biker from the very first charge decided to lend a hand to his Command squad, who had been locked in combat with the Occult Terminators for some time now. Redlining his engine, he sped headlong into the lone surviving enemy Terminator, killing the vile champion in the impact. Expecting congratulatory prayers, the biker was much chastised by the Black Knight champion, for the champion had intended to capture the enemy sorcerer alive (it was an objective my opponent had been holding onto for awhile, hoping to score it with the Sorcerer).

Turn 5
The marauding Heldrake descended rapidly into hover mode and skimmed forwards over the battlefield. The Land Raider advanced towards the right flank, climbing over the battlefield debris, and nearly throwing a track (thank God for dozer blades, what a great investment). The tank opened fire on one of the Land Speeders, but once again the loyalist skimmer was able to avoid the incoming shots. Meanwhile, the Heldrake went flat out into enemy territory, capturing an objective. 

Ahriman's Rhino moved forwards in the left flank, and the Rubric squad with the 2 attached Sorcerers disembarked, advancing on foot towards the Ravenwing Command squad. While his deadly magicks killed the last remaining Attack Bike, the Arch-Sorcerer's Psychic Shrieks were unable to harm the loyalist Command squad Knights. Sekmet the Exalted Sorcerer cast Invisibility onto himself, his Lord and the accompanying Rubricae.

As the Rubricae advanced, they opened fire on the Ravenwing Comand squad with their inferno bolters, Sekmet also calling in a fiery blast due to his being a Lord of the Silver Tower. The Predator joined in the concentrated firepower into the elite loyalist bikers, but after the dust settled, none of the loyalists were harmed.

The Ravenwing Command squad took the bait and roared towards Ahriman's squad at breakneck speed, Plasma Talons rapid-firing, but unable to draw a bead on most of the Invisible Rubricae,  killing just one.

Meanwhile, the Ravenwing Land Speeders switched targets and fired their krak missiles at the hovering Heldrake, but the Daemon-engine was able to easily jink out of harm's way.

Then in a final act of desperation, the proud Black Knights of the Ravenwing Command squad charged into the Invisible Rubricae, their bikes' impact killing 1 Rubricae. Sekmet the Exalted Sorcerer challenged the champion and weilding his Seer's Bane, easily hewed the Black Knight champion and the entire Ravenwing Command squad in one graceful sweep of the possessed daemon weapon.

And with that last deadly strike, Tzeentch truimphs again!

The Thousand Sons won the battle 10-6, including First Blood, Slay the Warlord and Linebreaker. As was expected, the Thousand Sons are not very adept at scoring objectives, given the small number of units in the army, and the fact that in this detachment, they don't have ObSec. In retrospect, it was a good call to give each squad a transport vehicle. Rhinos ftw!

Consistent with the first 2 battles, the enemy was severely punished. The Ravenwing was left with only 1 bike and 2 Land Speeders surviving. The Thousand Sons lost squad Asthmus and their Rhino, though the Land Raider was 1 hull point away from being wrecked. The Land Raider performed well as a fire magnet, to be sure.

The Scarab Occult Terminators were really tough, and while I only managed to use their new ranged weapons twice before being locked into combat for all eternity, I think 50 points for 2 krak and 4 S5 AP3 rending shots on a super-tough fearless Terminator platform is pretty good. And the 2+/3++ (thanks to Force being a blessing) saves are just amazing.

Breathe of Chaos, even coming from a lowly aspiring sorcerer, is insanely good. Especially against the Ravenwing, who can survive most shooting pretty well.

This game is the first time I didn't forget to re-rolls 1's To Hit, and the first time I used Lord of the Silver Tower (though 3+ re-rolling jink saves kinda made that moot). It's also the first time I saw the Seer's Bane really used to full effect - it is one deadly piece of accursed kit!

I noticed that in all 3 battles thus far, my Thousand Sons faced only their loyalist erstwhile brethren - White Scars, Deathwatch, Ultramarines, Dark Angels. It would be interesting to see how they would fair against xenos (Eldar and Tau are going to be really tough, I expect) and other Chaos forces, though I would love to face a Space Wolves force!

As always, the Thousand Sons' truimph was with a combination of deadly magicks, manouver and close assault.

Totally looking forward to the next one.

Keep them dice rolling ...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's 2017! Omigosh, when did that happen?

Time ... just flies. Really fast.

Thank God I managed to make time couple nights back for a game with my Thousand Sons. I used a funky experimental list that's quite scary for myself - not so much for my opponents:

Thousand Sons War Cabal
Exalted Sorcerer Sekmet, w ML3 Astral Grimoire and Seer's Bane
Sorcerer Soreth, w ML2 and Mark of Tzeentch
5 Scarab Occult Terminators, w heavy warpflamer
    in a Land Raider dedicated transport
18 Rubric Marines
Predator - tri-las

1850 pts

It's got 12+d6 warp charge dice and is a tiny army at 1850 points. I frankly had no idea how to use this list, but the thought of 18 Rubric Marines plus 3 high powered sorcerers (not including the Aspiring Sorcerer in the squad itself) flying around like jump infantry is really cool.

My opponent fielded a Deathwatch + Ultramarines list. I think he had:

10 Deathwatch marines
5 Deathwatch bikes
Deathwatch Venerable Dreadnought
3 five-man Tactical squads in 3 drop pods
3 five-man Terminator squads
Land Speeder Typhoon

He was quite shocked to find that he actually outnumbered me - apparently that doesn't happen too often.

Lucky for me, we rolled Purge the Alien, and I had precious few Kill Points to give away.

The game ended in a 9-6 win for the Thousand Sons. Some thoughts and highlights:

  • It was quite amusing to bubble-wrap my Predator with a horde of Rubrics, a job normally left to cultists and other such undesirables. In any case, I didn't do a good job with it and the Predator was alpha-striked by drop pod borne marines.
  • 18 Rubrics plus 3 independent character sorcerers are deadly! That squad wiped out 2 Tactical squads and 2 Terminator squads in close combat (it helps that the Exalted Sorcerer has Seer's Bane), plus another Tactical squad and Terminator squad with magic and shooting.
  • On the other hand, even this big squad is no match in close combat with uber-cc specialists like the Watchmaster.
  • My excitement with the heavy warpflamer has waned considerably after my opponent learnt not to close with the Occult Terminators. Time to find the extra points for the soulreaper autocannon.
The game went to maximum turns, which turned out to be a bad thing for Ahriman, who was slain in close combat by the Watchmaster in the very last assault phase. He was very lucky to last that long. Thousand Sons scored Linebreaker, while the loyalist scum scored First Blood and Slay the Warlord.

By the end of the game, the Thousand Sons were left with only 4 Rubrics, 1 Occult Terminator, the Land Raider, and the Heldrake. I lost every single sorcerer.

The loyalist scum only had the Watchmaster and 3 Drop Pods left on the table.

It was bloody game indeed. Khorne is pleased.

While this list was fun to play, I don't think it would have done very well in a Maelstrom or most objective-based mission. There's simply not enough flexibility and not enough units.

But hey, at least Khorne is cool with it.