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Analyzing a New Way to Play (Part 5)
Slaughter at the
The third thing I noticed—and how could anyone miss?—is that the game designers heavily favored the Orks by 1) giving their “Produktion Line” the ability to bring more Dreds, Killa Kans, and even Stompas (!) into the battle; and 2) allowing Orks (even the aforementioned Stompas) to alleviate their mobility problems by using “The Tellyportas.” Alas for the Orkses, the tellyportas bit them on their green bottoms when a Farseer used one to teleport under the “Minepig,” claiming this objective.
Despite all this, it was an enjoyable read, much better than the tiresome “Exterminatus!” battle report, between the Imperium and Chaos, earlier in the book. I must say, though, that I would have been happier with one less battle report and more datasheets: if I’m an Eldar player, I want to know what that Scorpion grav-tank does and how much it would cost me!
Page 186 has this curious statement:
The number of assets a player can use and how or when they are selected will be determined by the mission being played. If you are playing the Apocalypse mission, for example, then each side may pick one strategic asset per player in the larger team, and may receive extra assets if their side has less points than their opponents (see page 22).“…will be determined by the mission being played. If you are playing the Apocalypse mission…”—well, what other missions are there in Apocalypse? I’ve been all through this book and haven’t found any other missions. Oh, well. Let’s just shake our heads at what seems, to me, to be another GW editing error, and press on.
Important things to remember:
You pick assets before deployment, but you usually don’t reveal them until later. Unlike the strategems in Codex: Cities of Death, the strategic assets you’re using usually need not be told to your opponent(s) until later on in the game: the description for each asset will tell you when you have to announce it. This is to prevent those cheesedicks you’re playing against—errr, I mean, your Noble Competitors—from unfairly countering your way-cool strategic asset by picking a nullifying asset or by altering their deployment.There are four types of strategic assets; I’ll cover each below.
If I’m reading Ambush correctly, it can shut down a Flank Marching army PDQ (Pretty Damn Quickly). Like the old “Overwatch” from 2nd Edition 40K, Ambush is played at the end of an opponent’s Movement Phase, inflicting hits on every model in an enemy unit that came on from Strategic Reserves, and hitting every model of EVERY unit coming in on a Flank March that turn.
These hits are considered to be inflicted by Snipers, so they wound each model (regardless of Toughness) on a 4+, are AP 3 (sayonara, Space Marine!), and Pin (yeah, yeah, big deal). If, before a game, I suspected the other guy was going to Flank March, I would take this and put a major hurt on his dudes that try to sneak up on me. If I were going to Flank March and I thought the other guy was going to use this, I’d put lots of vehicles, which are less vulnerable to Sniper weapons, in my Flank Marching force.
Careful Planning is another goodie, allowing one to start bringing in Strategic Reserves on Turn 1, and finishing on Turn 2. As I write this, I’ve played all of one Apocalypse game (so take my opinion for what it’s worth), but it seems that time is a bigger factor in these games than in regular 40K games. The sooner you can get your guys on the board and where they need to be, the better. Use this asset with Flank March, and you’re cooking with gas.
Camouflage works best for armies with poor Armor Saves and/or lots of vehicles. I don’t see Space Marines or Necrons much needing a one-time, 5+ cover save. Imperial Guard, as one might expect, could benefit immensely from this.
Flank March is another of my favorites, especially if you play assault-happy armies like Tyranids or Orks; or if you need to get up-close-and-personal really quick with uber-shooty armies like Tau, IG, and Eldar, who would otherwise do target practice on your guys as they spend all day slogging across a big-ass Apocalypse board. There’s very little not to like about being able to come into the other guy’s deployment zone from the side or even from behind. If you’re worried about your opponent Flank Marching you, you can take the Ambush asset, or place your units along the board edges of your deployment zone, preventing enemy units from moving onto the board in the first place.
Given that Apocalypse is all about taking objectives, Hold at All Costs is another sweet asset. Take this and a unit of 20 Necron Warriors (for example), and your opponent has to destroy/break all 20 to keep you from holding that objective; without this asset, he’d have to kill 11. Unless he’s got a lot of super-heavy-type weapons, that’s going to be difficult.
Recon, methinks, works best for Tyranids and Orks, who want to move through difficult terrain (so as to avoid or get cover saves against enemy fire) as quickly as possible. Nids in particular should take this: roll 3d6 for difficult terrain checks, re-roll poor rolls, and take the highest two? Sweet.
Strategic Redeployment is perfect for getting one’s self out of a tight spot. Say you play Imperial Guard and your Ork opponent has just Flank Marched his ladz right into one side of your carefully constructed gun line. Abandon those Guardsmen in close combat to their fate, use this asset to redeploy the rest of your guys (and their very lovely tanks) very far away, and continue with your previous plan to blast the Orks from a safe distance.
Alternatively, you can use this as a last-ditch effort to grab objectives near the end of a game. Zip all the way across the board and plant your guys where they need to be to secure victory for yourself.
Sure, your units can’t shoot or assault on the turn that they use this asset, but sometimes it’s worth it to give up one turn of action to get the heck out of Dodge City when the [poop] hits the fan. And how else are you going to get a Leman Russ from one end of the table to the other?
If you find yourself wondering why your opponent is dedicating so much effort into getting a specific objective, it could be because he’s used the Vital Objective asset, which makes one objective (chosen by the person who took the asset) to be worth two. The beauty of it is that you need not inform your opponent beforehand which objective you place is the vital one, nor need you place it anywhere but in your own deployment zone. Put one where you can easily park a fat, nigh-unkillable unit (perhaps in conjunction with Hold at All Costs) on top of it and chuckle to yourself. Be really devious and throw all kinds of guys at another objective to fool your opponent into thinking that that one is “the good one.”
Vortex Grenade! The second-most badass wargear card from 2nd Edition returns (the most badass? “Virus Outbreak”). The vortex grenade, for those of you who started playing in 1998 or later, is like a small black hole that moves around the board, seemingly with a mind of its own. Page 187 has all the rules and such, including how it moves, and what it does to various targets, etc., etc., but suffice to say, a vortex grenade is not something you want dropped onto your guys (and especially not on your uber-expensive super-heavy tank).
Tunnels allows one to put 4-9 markers on the field and work with Strategic Reserves to allow units of your infantry to come on to the board from where the markers are located. Don’t confuse Tunnels with Deep Striking: troops that come on can move (and then shoot—but cannot assault) on the turn they arrive. Tunnels is a good way to get hordes of your guys across the table PDQ, but some of the details are tricky: pay close attention to the description on page 188, because there are a number of things one is and is not permitted to do when using Tunnels.
In contrast, Bunkers, Minefields, and Obstacles are straightforward and seem to be just like their equivalents in regular Warhammer 40K games. I’ve liked bunkers since the rules for them first came out in the wild-and-woolly 2nd Edition days, and obstacles, done correctly, don’t suck, either. I’ve never been that impressed with minefields, however, and Apocalypse doesn’t do anything to change my opinion. Moreover, while previous rules for minefields have gone out of their way to explain how minefields affect the more unusual unit types (such as jump infantry) in the game, the description in Apocalypse does not. Ah, well.
Front Line Assets
There are only four Front Line Assets, but they’re all used, directly or indirectly, to keep your guys alive or to help them fight. Disruptor Beacon has a 50% chance of forcing enemy troops coming in nearby from Strategic Reserves (e.g., Flank Marchers) to come in from a different location, picked by the player who owns the beacon. “I’m sorry, did your Orks think they were going to sneak up behind my Guardsmen? No, they’re not: they’re going to come on the board in front of my guys—48" in front of my guys. I hope they enjoy their walk through my heavy bolter fire.”
The Null Field Generator is a must to take against Eldar and Chaos and any Zoanthrope-heavy Tyranid list. Any model—note that includes your own—who tries to use a psychic power within 36" of the null field generator will have that power negated on a 2+ on d6. In addition, daemons can’t come onto the board within 12" of the generator. Keembobo!
The Shield Generator reminds me of the device the Gungans mounted on those pseudo-dinosaurs (or whatever they were) and brought to battle against the Droids at the end of The Phantom Menace. Non-vehicle models within 12" of the generator get a 4+ Invulnerable Save and vehicles automatically count as Obscured—provided, just like in the movie, the enemy doesn’t get too close and slip inside the shield. Phantom Menace may have sucked, but that ground battle was pretty cool, I must admit. Although, why Jar-Jar couldn’t have caught a few shots to the head during said battle still escapes me….
The other Front Line Assets are obviously pieces of equipment, but how does one model the Supreme Headquarters? Maybe as an old-style radio from the 1930’s, so that your army can receive a “fireside chat” from their commander-in-chief? Maybe as a computer terminal, sending and receiving data? I don’t know. All I do know is that taking this gives all of your units (their words, not mine) a bunch of special abilities: “Counter-Attack, Fearless, Night Vision/Acute Senses, Tank Hunters.” I’m jazzed about the idea of fielding heaps of tank-hunting Dreadnoughts that can see well at night—after all, the description for this asset doesn’t limit it to infantry. I’m sure you can think of several other “units” you own that can benefit from Supreme Headquarters.
If Anti-Plant removes cover, Blind Barrage creates it, albeit only for a turn. While the intent is to drop it in front of your troops so they can advance without being shot it, it’s much more devious to drop it directly in front of those static, shooty armies to block off part or all of their shooting for a turn. It will also work on more mobile shooty armies (Tau and Eldar with lots of grav tanks, Dark Eldar), forcing them to try to maneuver around your smoke curtain if they want to fire that turn, and hopefully putting them out of position in subsequent turns.
Jammers are only meaningful if you’re playing with two or more people on a side, as it prevents them, the players, from communicating with each other during deployment. If you’re playing against folks who coordinate their every action and plan everything out ahead of time, as I’ve known some players to do, this asset will not work as well as you might hope. Also of limited use is Long Range Ack-Ack, applicable only to flyers. If your opponent(s) didn’t bring any birds to the battle, there’s no point taking this asset.
Orbital Bombardment is, of course, meant to kill hordes of scrubs at once—if you’re not taking it during a game against Orks and/or Tyranids, I can only shake my head incredulously and demand, “What’s WRONG with you?” Depending on your rolls, OB can be good against vehicles, but even given the size of the “Unlucky Charm” template, you’re unlikely to hit more than one or two tanks, unless they’re really bunched together.
If you’re playing Marines (Chaos or Loyal), Necrons, Dark Eldar, or anything else with BS 4, Precision Strike is probably not the best choice; if you play Guard, Tau, or Eldar, it’s golden for getting rid of any enemy unit you want to kill, kill, KILL! Despite the craptastic BS of Orks and Nids, it’s not as useful for them because these armies tend to have fewer guns and usually don’t rely on shooting.
Scheduled Bombardment is for gamblers: if you can guess where your opponent will set up the units you want taken down, then it will probably work fine for you. If, on the other hand, your opponent sets up little to nothing in his deployment zone and Flank Marches into yours, SB will be of little to no value to you.
Finally, if your opponent is fond of playing “Hero-hammer” by bringing lots of special characters and ampped up Barney Badasses, you can turn the tables on him by taking Surgical Raids, which lands a free S 5, AP 2 hit on each of them after deployment but before the game starts. Surgical Raids can also target single vehicles, though most have tough enough Side Armor to deal. You’re probably not going to kill any of these uber-characters or take out any supa-killy-tanks-o’-death, but you can probably slap a Wound on the former, and maybe you’ll get lucky with the latter. Note that Surgical Raids affect only those units on the table: anyone in Strategic Reserves (such as those very vulnerable flyers) is not affected.
More useful is the “Allies Matrix,” which displays, in an easy-to-read format, which armies are more likely to ally with: for example, Imperial Guard will always be willing to hang with Space Marines, less so inclined with Eldar, and not at all with Orks. This table is really here just to appease the fluff-mongers who understandably recoil in horror at the thought of Chaos Marines and Loyal Marines fighting on the same side.
For those of you not so strict on the fluff, or who (like me) tend to think of Apocalypse games as being similar to pre-season, exhibition games played in professional sports, this table is interesting but not essential. As I discussed at the beginning of this series, the game designers have repeatedly emphasized that Apocalypse has an “anything-goes” attitude, and you really shouldn’t worry too much about the implausibility of your pal’s Tyranids working side-by-side with your Ultramarines and your girlfriend’s Dark Eldar. That is, of course, assuming anyone still plays Dark Eldar….
Posted March 2008. Apocalypse images are copyright 2007 by Games Workshop and are used for review purposes.
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