Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Battle Report 133- Ambush! White Scars vs Tyranids

For this week's battle report, I was playing my White Scars against Bert's Tyranids in the Ambush scenario. I would be the defender, trying to push my White Scars convoy through the Tyranid lines. 

This was my first attempt at one of the new narrative scenarios from the rulebook, so would be interested to see how it went.

My 2000 pts army consisted of:
Battalion Detachment
Captain- Relic Blade, The Armour Indomitus, Master-crafted Bolter (C)
Librarian- Force Sword, Veil of Time, Psychic Fortress (L1)
Librarian- Terminator Armour, Storm Bolter, Force Stave, Might of Heroes, Psychic Scourge (L2)
10 Tactical Marines- Bolters, Heavy Bolter, Flamer (TS1)
Rhino- 2 Storm Bolters (R1)
10 Tactical Marines- Heavy Bolter, Meltagun, Bolters (TS2)
Rhino- 2 Storm Bolters (R2)
10 Tactical Marines- Bolters, Plasma Gun, Power Fist (TS3)
Rhino- 2 Storm Bolters (R3)
5 Devastator Squad- 4 Grav Cannons, Armorium Cherub (DS)
Razorback- Twin Assault Cannons, Storm Bolter (Rz)
10 Sternguard Veterans- 10 Storm Bolters (SV)
Land Raider Crusader- Twin Assault Cannon, Two Hurricane Bolters (LR)
6 Scout Bikers- Twin Bolters, Shotguns (SB)
Attack Bike- Heavy Bolter, Twin Bolter (AB)

I went for a thematic force for the game, a convoy of transport vehicles led by a unit of Scout Bikers and an Attack Bike.
I armed the Sternguard with Storm Bolters to give me more shots. This should hopefully help me mow through the smaller Tyranid beasties that might impede my path of escape. I also had some heavy hitters to strike at the bigger beasties.

My plan was to go straight down the line, trying to punch through the Tyranid ranks and escape the battlefield.

Bert's army consisted of:
Broodlord (B)
Hive Tyrant- Wings, Monstrous Scything Talons, Biovore, Adrenal Glands (HT1)
Hive Tyrant- Wings, Monstrous Scything Talons, Biovore, Adrenal Glands (HT2)
Hive Tyrant- Wings, Monstrous Scything Talons, Biovore, Adrenal Glands (HT3)
13 Genestealers (G)
10 Termagants (T1)
10 Termagants (T2)
10 Termagants (T3)
10 Termagants (T4)
10 Termagants (T5)
3 Ripper Swarms (R1)
3 Ripper Swarms (R2)
3 Ripper Swarms (R3)
4 Zoanthropes (Z1)
4 Zoanthropes (Z2)
6 Hive Guard (HG)
Biovore (B1)
Biovore (B2)
Biovore (B3)
Neurothrope (N1)
Neurothrope (N2)
Venomthrope (V)

Huh, not what I was really expecting. Lots of small units that I should get through easily, but a lot of big threats and a lot of psychic powers. He was using the Leviathan army.

With no objectives, it was down to deployment. I deployed my army in a column first, the fast moving Bike units and Attack Bike at the front, with the Rhinos and Razorback in the centre and the slower moving Land Raider at the back.

Bert then deployed. To the left of my convoy, he put three Ripper Swarms, while the Genestealers and Broodlord went to the right of the convoy. The rest of the Tyranid forces set up in my path, the Termagants shielding the Biovores and Zoanthropes.

For the scenario, Bert had the first turn and I could not seize the initiative. Night Fighting would be in effect for turn 1.


The Genestealers led the charge, advancing on the nearest White Scars transport vehicles, accompanied by the Broodlord, while the Termagants advanced on the main line.

The flying Hive Tyrants moved up towards the White Scars convoy. The Ripper swarm also moved up on the transports.

In the psychic phase, a Neurothrope cast Smite, killing one of the Scout Bikers. The nearby Zoanthropes cast Smite, causing 5 wounds and killing another two Bikers. Two of the Hive Tyrants cast Smite, killing off the rest of the unit. One of the Hive Tyrants then cast Catalyst on itself.

In the shooting phase, the Hive Guard targeted the closest Rhino and the Attack Bike. Two shots hit the Rhino, but failed to wound. They also managed to take two wounds from the Attack Bike. Bert neglected to shoot with the rest of the army.

In the charge phase, the Ripper Swarms charged a Rhino, taking one wound from overwatch, but they made their 6+ armour save. The Genestealer squad charged the other two Rhinos, two dying to overwatch fire. The Broodlord also charged a Rhino.

The Genestealers struck at the Rhino, only managing to wound it four times. The Broodlord was unable to do any damage to the transport vehicle. The Rippers did a single wound, but the damage was saved.

The Rhinos attempted to grind the Tyranids beneath their tracks in reply, but failed to do any damage.


The Terminator Librarian disembarked from the Land Raider, hoping to use his sacrifice to buy his brothers time to escape. The rest of the convoy moved towards the main Tyranid lines, the Rhinos falling back from combat.

In the psychic phase, the Librarian cast Might of Heroes on himself, then cast Smite, killing one Genestealer.

In the shooting phase, the Land Raider fired at the Genestealers. Its Hurricane Bolters killed 6 of the squad. The Twin Assault Cannons fired, but poor rolling only saw two fall. The Librarian fired his Storm Bolter at the squad, finishing them off.

The Rhino fired its Storm Bolters at the Ripper Swarm, hitting twice (with 8 shots!) and wounding once. Once again, they made their 6+ armour save.

The Attack Bike fired on the Zoanthropes, but failed to do any damage. Finally, the Razorback fired at the Broodlord, only hitting twice, but managing to do a single wound.

The Librarian charged the Broodlord, hoping to slay the beast in combat. He hit with all three of his attacks, but failed to roll a single wound (despite only needing a 3+!). He was easily cut down by the Broodlord in reply.

The Attack Bike charged the Termagants. Both sides struck at one another, but failed to do any damage.

At the end of turn 1, things were not going well for the White Scars. They had managed to kill one unit of Genestealers, but there were many Tyranids left (and plenty of Smite!).


The Rippers and Broodlord moved up on the transports once more. The flying Hive Tyrants closed the circle around the White Scars lines, while the rest of the Tyranid line stayed in place to block their escape.

In the psychic phase, the Venomthrope cast Smite, killing the Attack Bike. The Zoanthropes cast Smite, putting four wounds on a Rhino. The second unit of Zoanthropes targeted the wounded Rhino, putting another four wounds on it with Smite.

One of the Hive Tyrants then cast Smite, finishing off the Rhino and blowing it up. The explosion put three wounds on the offending Hive Tyrant, one wound on another Hive Tyrant and put two wounds on the Razorback. Three of the squad perished in the explosion, disembarking into the ruins.

The other psykers both cast Smite, wounding the Razorback another 3 times in total.

In the shooting phase, the Hive Tyrant targeted the Tactical Squad, wounding them 6 times, but only killing one of the squad in cover.
Another Hive Tyrant fired on the Rhino, wounding it three times, but only one got through the armour. The third Hive Tyrant fired at the Rhino, wounding it five times, but its armour saves all the damage.

The Hive Guard fired at the Razorback, destroying it and killing two of the squad inside. I chose to take the Devastator Sergeant and Librarian to leave me with the four Grav Cannons, who moved into the central ruins.

The Biovores fired at the damaged Rhino, but all failed to hit. Bert used two command point to fire with the Hive Guard once more and the squad destroyed another Rhino. Fortunately, none of the Marines died. The four squads gathered in the ruins, ready to make their final stand.

One of the Hive Tyrants charged the Tactical Squad on the right of the ruins, suffering no hits from overwatch. The second Hive Tyrant charged, taking one wound from overwatch fire. Another Hive Tyrant, Rippers and the Broodlord charged the last Rhino.

In the fight phase, the Hive Tyrants struck at the Tactical Squads, killing three from one squad and two from the other. The third Hive Tyrant destroyed the Rhino, killing three of the squad inside.

The Tactical Squad struck back, but failed to do any damage. The Tactical squad from the Rhino targeted the Broodlord, killing him with the squad's Power Fist.

The Marines held firm, passing all their morale tests.


The game was essentially over at this point. There was no way I could get a single squad off the board, never mind half my army (which was already dead).

The Captain led the Sternguard Veterans up to the closest Hive Tyrant. He knew the day was lost, but wanted to inflict as much damage as possible to the Hive Mind forces. The Tactical Marines fell back from combat.

The Sternguard fired on the Hive Tyrant, causing a great 14 wounds, but only four got past the armour. The Captain did a single wound with his Master-crafted Bolter, but the damage was saved.

The Land Raider fired its Hurricane Bolters at the Ripper Squad, killing all three of the squad. The Assault Cannon fired at the wounded Hive Tyrant, but only did a single wound.

The Grav Cannon Devastators fired at the Hive Tyrant, wounding it seven times. Bert failed four saves, using a command point re-roll and failing to make another save. I rolled for my 4D3 damage and promptly rolled four 1's! Just how my luck had been going.

The Captain and Sternguard Veterans charged the Hive Tyrant, hoping to finish off the beast where their firepower had failed. The White Scars Captain did one mortal wound on the charge with his warlord trait.

He then struck at the Tyranid beast, doing two wounds. The Hive Tyrant failed both saves (even with another command point re-roll) and the beast took three wounds.

Bert used two Command Points to interrupt with the Hive Tyrant, who struck at the Sternguard. For once his rolling failed him and he did a single hit that failed to wound.

The Sternguard struck back, wounding the Hive Tyrant five times, but only one got through and the Tyrant survived.

The Captain's shoulders sunk. They had failed to slay the Tyranids' link to the Hive Mind. He and his battle brothers resigned themselves to their fate as the xeonos threat moved in.
End of the game.

After-Battle Thoughts
I hesitate to even call that a game (or a battle). It was a pretty one-sided affair from the start and not really what I was looking for from the scenario. 

I think this game shows the importance of discussing your armies before the game with your opponent, when you are playing these types of unbalanced games. Bert had the potential to do 10D3 mortal wounds per turn with just the Smite attacks in his army. This was before you factored in the other psychic powers that could do mortal wounds (which he did not use) and mortal wounds from other elements of the Tyranid army. 
I understand why the mortal wound mechanic is in the game, but Smite spam is such an obnoxious and un-fun way to play the game if you are the opponent. I don't think it requires much skill to use, other than the ability to roll above a 5 on 2D6. Bert didn't really need a shooting or assault phase in this game, his psychic phase was enough for him to win the game on its own.

Note, this game was played a while back before the new beta rules on Smite were introduced. I debated whether to write it up, but figured I would (I quite liked the pictures). 

What I dislike about the mortal wounds and Smite mechanic is that it removes almost all interaction between the players. In this game, I had to remove my unit of Scout Bikers from the board before I had even rolled a single die, as well as losing a lot of wounds from other units. With no interaction or ability to defend against that much Smite, it does not make for a fun game. 

Smite is one of the more powerful psychic powers in the game, and the ability to cast it multiple times per turn is simply too powerful in my opinion. I had hoped this would be a fun, narrative game to write up, but that was simply not the case. I could have played on past turn 2. I had no hope of winning any more, but a last stand with my infantry in the ruins in the centre of the board could have been a nice visual. However, turns 3 and 4 would have just been those units getting removed with Smite attacks and little gameplay, so I didn't see the point in continuing. 

I was in a bit of a bad mood after this game to be honest. It takes me about an hour to travel to and from the gaming club in Oxford and the game was over in about as long. It was over at the end of my first turn to be honest, but I thought I'd at least stick around for two turns. To me, that is not really a good investment of my time and doesn't make for an enjoyable evening. 

Still, let's see what I can salvage from the game. I deployed my forces in a very thematic way; the Scout Bikers ranging ahead of the convoy to scope out any trouble, then a convoy of Rhinos and the Razorback, with the mighty Land Raider bringing up the rear. 

I probably should have put the Land Raider at the front of the convoy. It could have soaked up the Smite attacks from the Nids, then allowed me to deploy the Sternguard to try and take out the Zoanthropes and other psychic creatures. My Librarian could also have given them a bit of defense with the psychic shield power. This may have allowed the Scout Bikers to survive and go after some more threats with their advance and shoot/assault stratagem. 

I've now played two games against "Smite Spam" armies and they have both been absolutely miserable experiences. I think in the future, if I see my opponent's army list and it is Smite spam, I won't even bother deploying my army. It'll just save time and the result is likely to be the same anyway.

Sorry if this game was not what you were hoping for and was a short report this week. Unfortunately, that is the way it goes sometimes. I might try the Ambush scenario again, but next time will probably swap lists beforehand to make sure it will be a better game. 


  1. Hard luck Mike, smite spam is a terrible thing but the new beta rules do reign it in somewhat. I second the notion of discussing armies with your opponent before the game as it can often leave to mismatches that do nothing but leave a poor tastes in the mouth afterwards. When you have traveled so far the experience, it is all the worse :(

    1. I have found that smite spam isn't too much of a problem for some armies. Horde armies tend to do well against smite simply because the closest model is likely to be some cheap infantry. Losing a handful of gaunts/orks/guardsmen is a lot less painful than half a tactical squad.

    2. Yeah, it doesn't hurt horde armies that much, but will punish smaller, elite armies. I know my Biker armies and Deathwatch hate going up against it.

    3. Did you talk about the game with your opponent afterwards Michael?

    4. Yeah, we had a chat about expectations for the game. He tends to ask players now what kind of list they want to face when arranging a game.

  2. I think this illustrates the importance of discussing a narrative game with your opponent beforehand. Trying to do one as a 'pick up game' is fraught with problems.

    1. We had agreed to the scenario in advance, but hadn't really discussed army composition.

  3. Hey Michael,

    I'm struggling to see a point playing armies that abuse certain aspects of the game and take away the contest between your force and theirs these days. I know it's always been a factor but it seems like with the size of 40k and 30k and all of the combinations you can use to put something down on the table, gamers are bringing more of these exploitation lists to events and club nights than ever.

    It's a real shame and the reason why I can't be arse going to the club nights (which in my case are only 15mins away from my house) and instead prefer to play just the big events to try and groom like minded individuals for games at my place or with a group of similarly disposed hobby/balance forward dudes I regularly play against. It's somewhere you can setup a beautiful narrative like you displayed in this game and it actually play out as an even contest of generals and forces.

    I wonder if the mindset is shifting too where it's ok to 'enjoy' these type of victories that your opponent had, I never have a lot of pride when I totally smash someone in a match because you've generally either built and brought something unbalanced that throws them out, or they've had some terrible luck. All of my favourite battles have been close games where it literally finishes on the final roll of the match for a combat resolution or a run move deciding the game. A friend of mine has told me he's been beaten by the end of the first round 3 times in a row in 40k lately, and he's an excellent general with 3 years in a row taking out the big 30k events overall, his only flaw though is bringing a balanced list that doesn't exploit anything in particular.

    It's happened in 30k too in our area with guys bringing armies that practically take away the first turn and deployment phases as well as controlling your reserves so you end up with a damned if you do and damned if you don't scenario against him. Similarly he has most battles stitched up by turn 2..

    I don't know what the answer is, I think in my games I usually have a bit of back and forth about what I'm bringing to battle and scope what they're bringing so we have our lists locked in advance, a few of the guys that are exploiting combos or spamming harsh shit I've actually pulled out of games against because I don't see a point investing all of the hours painting my shit, and the few hours of game time to have an unenjoyable game. It is a game after all!

    Thanks for the insight and the pictures, I love the old GW style of your battle report diagrams and have enjoyed a few others you've put up. Keep up the great work!


    1. Thanks for your in depth thoughts Jack!
      I'm with you, I much prefer a close game to a one sided smashing. Even if I lose, it can be fun going over the minute tactical decisions and try and see how you could win.

      In a one-sided slaughter, it can be hard to take any lessons, other than "I should have gone first".

  4. If it was a narrative game I'd have just changed the rules on the fly. (If you can kill that Broodlord, you win. If you can make it to an adjacent board edge, we'll call it a draw. If you can hold out for 1 turn in the ruins then you get an air strike/reinforcements etc.). But your game seemed so one sided it probably still wouldn't have been fun.

    1. That's a good idea. Changing the conditions of the game as you see how it progresses.
      I'll keep that in mind for the future!

  5. For Narrative Missions to work, it's really important that both Players be on the same page as far as getting the Armies well matched to each other and to the scenario. Just taking a Matched Play Army and plopping it in is not going to result in a Narrative Game, or at least not a good one. It takes significantly more work from the Players to coordinate, but when it all comes together, it's totally worth it.

    That said, I've never really liked this mission or its variants. It's incredibly hard to get a good game out of it. My general experience has been that, one way or another, it's generally over by Turn 2, with it either being clear that the Defender is stuck, or that they're going to break through. In 8th, I think it really favours the Attacker unless the Defender has Transports with Fly, given that it's no longer possible for ground-bound Vehicles to Tank Shock through blocking Units. It does actually work in smaller-scale Games, tho, like Kill Team or Necromunda, where it's harder to use a small portion of the Attacker's force to lock down a large portion of the Defender's, and conversely, rare for the the Defender to have a bunch of things that can just zoom off the board right away.

    1. I think Ambush is a tough one to balance as ou say. It seems to favour the attacker quite strongly. Makes sense from a narrative perspective, but can make for a rather one-sided game.

    2. The issue is even worse, because if you tweak it to be harder for the Attacker, it then becomes basically an auto-win as the Defender for Armies like Eldar, that can do reasonably well in that role already. I really don't think it's suitable unless both Armies are carefully tailored to it.

  6. That's a great report. Narrative gaming can be really hard because it's supposed to be a story, but you're also playing a game that has random things happen in it, like dice rolls.
    I think that having an objective and building the narrative around it makes life easier. The mission makes for a great story, but I'm not sure about how enjoyable the game would be for one player unless they're REALLY into it. Getting buy in from both players would make things more enjoyable for both.

    1. Thanks Adam! Yeah, narrative games can be a lot of fun, but you do need to agree to a lot of things beforehand to make the game the best.