Wow. What a fantastic weekend.
There is a lot to be said for a weekend of 40K games, beers and general hobby chat but when you add sunny Gibraltar in to the mix, it becomes something very special.
To be fair, Fingers and I went out to the Rock with very low expectations. This was to be our first foray in the Tournament scene since we both returned to the hobby a couple of years ago and understanding the level of opponents we were to face out there, the standard would be very high. This is not your typical tournament though, far from it. The emphasis of No Retreat is the hobby aesthetic, and boy……it did not disappoint.
The standard of army painting in this event is absolutely unreal. Entries are by application only and the lads at SN have the unenviable task of selecting 40 odd amazing armies out of 120 odd applications. My pal Fingers sits right among the elite when it comes to painting miniatures, I on the other hand am an impatient painter and not anywhere near the required level for this tournament (I am still learning!), so I had my army commission painted. Where this tournament really stands out from the pack though are the gaming tables and when you look at other tournaments (*cough* London GT *cough*) you realise that the investment in quality scenery really pays off. Credit to the SN guys here for an immense job.
The other part of the tournament that is so appealing is the emphasis on mono builds and a set of list restrictions that prohibit soup, to an extent. My view is that this promotes skill and strategy over the ability to gain a mathematical advantage in list building which I am absolutely all for. It also makes armies so much more thematic in the unit selections and you start to see things you wouldn’t normally see under ITC or ETC conditions. In this sense, you would definitely consider this a ‘friendly’ tournament but believe me, when the dice start to roll everyone wants to win…..
Which army to take was a very interesting decision. I think some armies are better suited to mono faction builds than others but I fancied something a little different and as it happens I was already collecting Death Guard having picked up the Dark Imperium box (for the Ultramarines) and been hugely taken with the model range. I still believe, at the time of writing, that the Death Guard codex is right up there with the best codexes GW has released this edition from a thematic standpoint. The Big FAQ may have nerfed some of the spammy DG lists but there are still some strong choices in that codex in my view. When it is all said and done I find the Death Guard great fun to play, whatever way I choose to run them and when you are playing 5 games in two days at 2000 points, that counts for a lot.
In summary I took a pre-FAQ Battalion;
HQ1 – Daemon Prince w/ Wings – 2x Malefic Talon – Suppurating Plate – Warlord (Arch Contaminator) (Miasma of Pestilence)
HQ2 – Daemon Prince w/Wings – 2x Malefic Talon (Putrescent Vitality)
TR1 – Chaos Cultists (Mark of Nurgle) x 20 – Autoguns
TR2- Plague Marines 3x Boltgun 2x Blight Launcher 1x Plaguesword
TR3- Plague Marines 3x Boltgun 2x Blight Launcher 1x Plaguesword
TR4- Plague Marines 2x Boltgun 2x Blight Launcher 1x Plasma Gun Champion
TR5- Plague Marines 2x Boltgun 2x Blight Launcher 1x Plasma Gun Champion
TR6- Plague Marines 2x Boltgun 2x Blight Launcher 1x Plasma Gun Champion
EL1 – Noxious Blightbringer (Fugaris Helm)
EL2 – Foul Blightspawn
FA1 – Myphitic Blightbaulers X 3
HS1 – Plagueburst Crawler (Plaguespitters/Stubber)
HS2 – Plagueburst Crawler (Plaguespitters/Stubber)
HS3 – Plagueburst Crawler (Entropy Cannon/Stubber)
(2000 Points) (5 CP – 1 CP paid for two relics)
Lots of synergy in this list but no surprises in that it relies on a combination of resilience, mobility and those blight launchers staying in re-roll wound range of the Warlord, while the Crawlers advanced up the flanks for protection and putting those auto hitting spitters to good use, they were quite frankly incredible throughout. It was a good list and I’d had some practice with it leading up to the tournament so I was feeling quietly confident despite more than a little nervous apprehension. My main fear was that I knew my list and what it could do very well but being a very inexperienced tournament player I had very limited knowledge of other armies capabilities….
Game 1 – Andi Needham – Aeldari Craftworlds (Alaitoc)
Primary – Retrieval Mission Secondary – Deadlock
This turned out to be the only game in the tournament where I had first turn. With 14 drops I probably had more than most so the odds were I’d be going second more often than not.
Andi’s list was wraith heavy, with a couple of wave serpents and a couple of hemlocks, no rangers or guardians to speak of. It was a very friendly Aeldari list to be fair considering some of the shenanigans he could have opted for.
I opted to put one of the primary markers fairly central on the board which would be a clear target for the advancing mass of plague marines and one in my deployment zone which would be held by one or perhaps two plagueburst crawlers which are notoriously hard to shift. I used pretty much that same tactic the entire tournament and it worked pretty well.
As all No Retreat missions use Dawn of War deployment a screen was pretty much an auto take. I deployed largely the same way in all of my games and that was to have the cultist screen at 12″ and the rest deployed in close formation 3″ behind it. Pretty obvious but also pretty effective.
I deployed a PBC on the primary objective in my deployment zone
In this game I advanced everything, including the cultists, first turn using the Noxious Blightbringer to get some nice 10″+ moves off on the Plague Marines which put the 10 blight launchers in range of pretty much anything. The blight haulers followed as did my Warlord DP to provide a bit of -1 protection. My shooting phase was a bit of a whiff, I only took a few wounds off a wave serpent, that -1 damage really hurting those rolls. I did however draw some very handy maelstrom cards and secured first strike to put me on 4 points at the end of my first turn.
In his first turn I was very surprised to see him max his Hemlocks movement to behind my lines, clearly looking for Warlord straight away. You’d probably look at it and say it was a gamble and if it had worked it would have removed a significant buffing unit but fortunately for me he only took 5 wounds off my Warlord DP with some jammy disgustingly resilient rolls on my part. Very little else died and he didn’t secure first strike.
My second turn was decisive and probably won me the game, pretty much everything that could have gone well, went very well. One of those turns where the dice gods decide they like you! The Hemlocks were both destroyed by a combination of smite, spitters and charging DP’s, the Plague Marines killed one Wraithlord and put the other down to four wounds with some mortar assistance. Generally, a lot died in this shooting phase and added to that I also drew supremacy and overwhelming firepower which meant I took a very healthy maelstrom lead that turn.
From that point onwards I was ahead of the game and Andi didn’t really have the models on the board to be able to respond. At the end of the game I was sat on three of the four primary objectives and had a substantial maelstrom lead. The tertiary was drawn as he had linebreaker, I had first strike and neither Warlord was killed but I won both Primary and Secondary.
Highlight: Warlord DP tearing 6 wounds off a Hemlock turn two and destroying it.
Death Guard victory
Game 2 – Dan Buchanan (Hellstorm Wargaming) – Drukhari (Pre-Codex)
Primary – No Mercy Secondary – Cleanse and Capture
Oh how different this game would be if it was replayed post codex release! To be honest, this game was very well suited to me as it was essentially kill points and he didn’t really have much in the way of long guns. Dan fielded several venoms, some wyches, a tantalus and a few units of reavers, led by Lileth Hesperax. I have maximum respect for anyone who fields Lileth, having read her fluff myself it is awesome and I wish we would see her more often on the field.
Dan had first turn and as you’d expect moved everything he had up the board to get in to range. This suited me down to the ground as I didn’t have to move or advance to get in to firing range in my shooting phase and he wasn’t in charge range with any of his units at that point. His shooting phase was underwhelming but he did remove a large part of the cultist screen and a chipped away at a couple of units of plague marines. I paid 2CP to have the cultists auto-pass morale denying him first strike. Overall, I got away lightly.
I pretty much didn’t move a model in my first turn, I didn’t really feel that I needed to. I just kept everything stationary and unloaded all the firepower I could in to the units that were immediately threatening my lines. It was a pretty devastating volley and I got very lucky with the blight launchers which between them destroyed four venoms, the bolters were all in 18″ rapid fire range so they swept up the troops inside. The spitters took a heavy toll on the reavers and the mortars went to work on the Tantalus. The Entropy Cannons whiffed (again) but overall the shooting phase was excellent for me and put me at a significant advantage.
In Drukhari turn two I was charged by a disembarked wych blob which tied up several marine units for two turns, his reavers tied up one of the PBC’s. This was a much better turn for Dan as he took a chunk out of my left flank including one of the PBC’s with the tantalus. Generally though there were too many servants of the plague god on the field and the damage that turn was nowhere near what was required and in my second shooting phase I cleared another large chunk of wyches, bikes and the remaining venom.
Again, by virtue of a very jammy shooting phase or two I’d destroyed too much of Dan’s army for him to be able to mount a fightback, he fought on admirably for another turn before calling it when my warlord daemon prince killed Lileth and I’d destroyed the Tantalus with mortar fire.
Highlight: Lileth took on both Daemon Princes, killing one before being killed herself by by my warlord. An epic effort. Well done her.
Death Guard Victory
Game 3 – Mikey Herbert – (Hellstorm Wargaming) – Blood Ravens
Primary – The Relic Secondary – Kill Confirmed
What. An. Epic. Game. Unbelievable Jeff. Undisputed favourite game of the tournament for me and played with an absolute boss in Mikey Herbert. I went in to this game on bit of a high as I had already exceeded expectations by winning a couple of games. I had earmarked this particular mission before the tournament as a problem as The Relic is not one I tend to do well on in practice. Couple with that is that I had no deep strike or advance (scout) element to my list, whereas Mikey did.
Mikey had a very good list. A couple of assault cannon razorbacks, a stormtalon, a twin storm cannon leviathan, scouts, a redemptor dreadnought and the man himself, Gabriel Angelos. It was a stunning looking army.
Again, I didn’t have first turn and right away Mikey was able to use his advance move to scout on to the Relic. He would hold it for the entire game and I was never really able to threaten it as he protected it very well and retreated right back to his board edge. In his shooting phase he did take some good casualties – the leviathan doing some great work battering a plagueburst crawler down to four wounds, which was then finished off by assault cannon fire from the talon. Several plague marines were killed by assorted small arms fire but the blight launchers largely survived and passed morale, fortunately. It was good solid first turn, not crippling but definitely the strongest I had received so far.
In this game the Foul Blightspawn earned his points back five-fold at least and that started from turn 1. I moved him and put him within 9″ of the talon which he proceed to melt out of the sky in one turn with five auto hitting shots benefiting from the arch contaminator trait significantly there. I then focus all my remaining fire on the Leviathan removing him with the very last available Blight Launcher shot, which was massive. I couldn’t have that thing causing any more carnage!
We traded tit for that until Turn 4 when things started to get very tight indeed and none more so when my warlord daemon prince spotted Gabriel Angelos open and decided to charge him, probably not the most tactically smart decision but it is what the prince would have done (do you see him running away from that fight? I don’t either). The prince waded in with his seven attacks and wounded with six of them. Mikey then made five out of six saves! Gabriel Angelos then readied his great daemon hammer Godsplitter and smashed the prince in the face killing him outright. A great moment (not for me) but you can’t help but love the cinema of that! That gave Mikey warlord as well as another kill point which sent him 3 points clear of me leading in to Turn 5.
Turn 5 and by now the Relic is on Mikey’s board edge. I have my other daemon prince, flanked by a plagueburst crawler bombing down the left flank trying to get in range to at least challenge the primary. The foul blightspawn destroys Gabriel Angelos in a shower of foetid filth, who is promptly butchered by the redemptor dread. The blight haulers destroy one of the assault cannon razorbacks and at the end of turn 5 I am now losing the Primary, Secondary and drawing on Tertiary. If the game ends now, I will lose comprehensively.
Fortunately for me, Mikey was generous enough to roll a four and the game continues for another turn. Nurgle was smiling on me today for sure!
In Turn 6 Mikey didn’t do a terrific amount of damage as most of his army was either locked or couldn’t see any targets, I’d hidden units to prevent the loss of further kill points. His librarian killed the noxious blightbringer meaning he was now two points ahead on the secondary. Going in to my turn 6 it was still all to play for.
I moved the plagueburst crawler and the daemon prince down the left flank, in to linbreaker territory to secure the win on the tertiary. The game was definitely ending at Turn 6 so I was guaranteed that at least as we both had warlord and first strike but he had no unit in my deployment zone.
The last action of the game was to make a difficult decision. On the one hand I had a 9″ charge with one CP left to assault the unit that held the relic. One the other I had the redemptor on two wounds in easy charge range of the prince that would in all likelihood secured the secondary for the overall draw. A tough one but I played the percentage game and went for the secondary so I charged in to the redemptor and killed it to win the secondary by a point!
The game ended with the loss of the primary but I won secondary and tertiary to end the game. What a game it was and one I won’t forget anytime soon.
Highlight: The great moment when Gabriel Angelos battered my daemon prince with Godsplitter for having the gall to charge him. It was so dismissive it was hilarious.
Game 4 – James Otero (Siege Studios) – Chaos Iron Warriors
Primary – Front Line Warfare Secondary – Tactical Escalation
This game I was pitted against James Otero’s Iron Warriors, one of the most visually stunning and intimidating looking lists you are likely to see. James was fielding three huge defilers, a daemon prince, a chaos lord on dark abeyant, havocs and those forge world bolter emplacements along with a leviathan dread with the grav load out. Needless to say I didn’t fancy my chances looking at all that firepower, not forgetting it was all mark of Slaanesh for that Endless Cacophony goodness.
James had first turn and, as expected, proceeded to obliterate all three of the Myphitic Blight Haulers in his first turn as well as a plague marine squad and most of the cultists. Again, in order to stop a warp timed defiler reaching my important stuff turn one, I paid the 2CP to auto pass morale to keep protected. It was a pretty devastating turn and I wasn’t rolling well at that point either, plus I was about to make a fairly horrible decision in my turn.
James had castled his havocs and quad bolters on a rooftop overlooking most of the battlefield but there was a huge piece of line of sight blocking terrain on this table which I could use to my advantage. Great for the PB mortars which don’t require line of sight. I felt I had to try and disrupt that rather than hide and ignore it so I moved three units of plague marines and a daemon prince, with the assistance of the blightbringer towards that castle and on to open ground.
My first turn was average, I scored first blood by falling back and destroying the defiler that had charged the cultists and I focus fired on the leviathan, killing that too. I didn’t draw particularly great cards and came away with one or two points and first strike.
James’ turn 2 was pretty devastating to the plague marines out in the open. That was a big mistake, he killed all but four of those three squads, 11 guys lost! His defilers moved round my right flank with the daemon prince close by, casting warptime on himself to get in easy charge range of the plagueburst crawler on that side. He made almost all of his charges and successfully wiped the remaining cultists and took four wounds off the crawler. Overall though I took some heavy losses on T2 because of an error I had made exposing the plague marines without cover but it wasn’t critical.
My turn 2 I retreated back to the safety of cover with pretty much everything left of the decimated left flank. This left nothing in line of sight of the havocs and quad bolter castle, they would have to move to find a target now. On the right flank the foul blightspawn did some great work against the now disengaged defiler taking a few wounds from it, after which I charged my warlord daemon prince in to the engaged defiler and killed it. My other daemon prince engaged his Iron Warriors counter-part and took a couple of wounds from both smite and attacks, and took a few wounds himself for his trouble.
Until this point I had felt that I was behind in the game. I feel that Turn 3 was where momentum started to swing back to me with some very fortunate resilience rolls and some outrageous overwatch! I was always ahead in this game in the secondary from early on and got fairly lucky with the draw. The problem was that James was controlling three of the four primary objectives and was set to engage the units controlling the fourth in T3. In addition, he had linebreaker at that point.
The point where I felt the game really turned was his charge phase in T3. His dark lord on abeyant charged my Foul Blightspawn who basically proceeded to melt it on overwatch. On the way in I rolled 5 hits and 4 wounds, of which he failed three. Very lucky but very important for me at the time as I was starting to get overloaded down that side. From then it was a question of keeping out of line of sight and using the plague burst mortars to target the units controlling objectives and those in search of linebreaker which I did do successfully. After a couple of rounds of combat my daemon prince killed his and the PBC’s killed his remaining defiler as they were not tied up at that point.
Turn 4 and 5 the PBC’s just did their thing. They sat still and fire volleys at the cultists holding the primary objectives. I then held two objectives to his one and had a commanding secondary lead.
This was another amazing game and turned out to be a testament to the resilience of the Plagueburst Crawlers, which really won the game for me.
Death Guard victory
Game 5 – Toby Meadows – (Hellstorm Wargaming) – Grey Knights
Primary – Secure and Control Secondary – Targets of Opportunity
OK. So to this point I was three wins and a draw. I was playing Toby, who had won all four of his games to this point. I used to play Grey Knights many moons ago so I kind of knew what to expect. He was fielding a really awesome list, featuring two dreadknights, one of which was a grandmaster, a stormraven gunship, Lord Kaldor Draigo and a bunch of strike squads with lots of falchions.
I deployed really poorly and made a mistake that probably didn’t cost me the game but it certainly accelerated the defeat. Basically I didn’t allow enough of a gap between my cultist screen and my plague marines in the second line, so he was able to consolidate in to most of my units using some clever base manipulation.
First turn in this game would have been critical and as it happens I didn’t have it. I could have corrected the problem but I was too late. Toby dropped in 9″ away and proceeded to blast away a large portion of my screen and several plague marines. I could not make a save in his shooting phase and I proceeded to lose A LOT of my infantry and two blight haulers. What really hurt in the turn though was the charge sub-phase – with First to the Fray he made charges with 7 out of the 9 units he declared at 9″ or more with two of those at 10+. Incredible. The writing was on the wall from the minute that happened as I just had no answer to the combat power of Kaldor and two nemesis dreadknights in my lines, who destroyed my whole cultist screen and consolidated in to other key shooting units., tying them up.
I knew I had to have a pretty strong shooting phase in retaliation if I was to stand a chance here. I fell back from all the units I could which pinned me back almost to my board edge, if I was engaged again then there would be no escape. As it happens I had the whiff to end all whiffs with Toby making almost every invulnerable save possible on his dreadknights, I barely damaged anything, even the foul blightspawn which I’d wagered would give the stormraven a problem, didn’t even take a wound from it. I really bad phase and to be honest it was game over.
In his turn 2 it was a massacre, the dreadknights, strike squads and Draigo ran riot in my lines killing a huge amount of stuff in the turn. Again, my saves were abysmal but by then it was inconsequential. I was well beaten and called it at the end of his turn. I had barely anything left alive and it would definitely have been a tabling, so I thought I’d save us some time!
I did learn a lot from this game though. They say you learn more from defeats than victories and this was one hell of a pasting so it was still a good experience.
Toby was humble in victory but played very well indeed. Yes, he rolled incredibly well – but really I deployed poorly and deserved the defeat as I made some major tactical errors. Well played Sir!
Grey Knights Victory
I was pretty delighted with my overall placing of 10th out of 48 but I was disappointed not to have chalked up any points in my last game so that kind of left a slightly bitter aftertaste. Laurence from Tabletop Tactics claimed the overall tournament with his Ulthwe, with Toby finishing second, so all credit to him.
I was really pleased with how the list performed, the MVP’s for me were the Crawlers for their resilience – they were alive at the end of the game more often than not sitting on objectives. It is an interesting one because I made the decision to add the Crawlers over Mortarion at the last minute and it turned out to be absolutely the right call. I cannot recommend them highly enough for their points cost. I’d also recommend spitters over cannons every time, the cannons did almost nothing for me all tournament.
The Foul Blightspawn was also consistently underestimated and did some real damage to some unsuspecting foes, I’ll definitely look at adding another to the list. It goes to show just how powerful auto hitting units can be in this meta ignoring all those -1 modifiers that are all over the place at the moment. The -3 AP and flat 3 damage is really strong and well worth saving a CP for shots for this guy as he can be game changing, especially now you get 5CP for a battalion.
Overall the experience was absolutely fantastic and all credit to the SN Team for hosting an incredible event, I cannot speak highly enough of the commitment to the 40k aesthetic and the time/energy these guys must have put in to creating those tables, honestly works of art. If you are someone that is looking to experience a 40k tournament, I’d highly recommend you make it this one.
I wasn’t able to go to No Retreat 7 but I will definitely be applying for No Retreat 8 with my one true love, the Space Wolves. For Russ!
Maybe see you there?
Nurgle’s blessings to you all.