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Events and Battle Reports
Counter Offensive 2
Introduction <> Space Marines <> Orks and Tyranids <> Imperial Guard <> Necrons
Witch Hunters <> Dark Eldar <> Space Wolves <> Rampage in Rockville

Counter Offensive 2: Witch Hunters  by Ken Lacy
Well, the Counter Offensive weekend was a great deal of fun, particularly as I got a chance to use my Sisters of Battle for the very first time. Wow, they rock! After having played with primarily my Slann army (using Tau rules) for over two years, it was a bit of a shock to play with a list that's a good deal more forgiving, resilient, accurate, and mobile. Mechanized Tau are mobile, of course -- even static "shooty" Tau are surprisingly mobile, especially for a SAFH. But Sisters of Battle are CRAZY mobile, and in 4th edition, that makes a world of difference.

That said, I'm glad that I played Tau for a few years first, before switching to Sisters. Playing Tau, particularly when you play as competitively as I do, I learned the value of never making mistakes. The times I lost with Tau, it was almost always because I had made some rather glaring tactical or strategic mistake -- during deployment, movement, or occasionally shooting. Rarely was it simply bad dice (although occasionally even that happens. This is a game with dice, after all).

Sisters of Battle require a similar care and patience, and conservative game-play. They are an army that will sustain shocking losses over the course of a game, so you want to make sure that the losses are always worth it. You don't want to make a lot of mistakes with Sisters, or you will lose, and lose badly.

That said, here are seven things I learned over the weekend.

1. Read your codex and accompanying FAQ! I managed to make me an illegal list (the one posted here), because I had Sisters squads of 9 in Rhinos. The minimum squad size for a Troops choice of Sisters of Battle is 10. There were a few other things that FAQ changed, too. Thanks to Chris Robinson for pointing it out! 

1b. At any rate, a little jiggering of points around (basically, I shrank the Celestials and Dominions by one and put the Canonesses in with them), a few now-less-useful wargear items (purity seals on Seraphim) to swap out, and I was ready to go. 

2. Use your Faith Points. Never hoard them. Always, always use them. 

2b. That said, be sure to use them WISELY, and have an ample supply to start the game.  My 2000-point list starts with 11 points of Faith. In six games, I only ran out once -- and that was in a game where I made a number of bad mistakes, starting with the mistake of trying to hoard the Faith Points...

3. HQs, Troops, and Heavies are the heart-and-soul of the Sisters army. HQs for beaucoup Faith Points, of course -- Canonesses all the way. And Heavies for crazy support fire; Retributors are amazing, and Exorcists put the Fear of the Emperor into everything, particularly the more 133+ it is. 

3b. But the Troop Choices of Sisters of Battle are really the workhorses of the army.  Celestials, Dominions, and Seraphim are cute extras, with tasks they can accomplish on their own (mainly tank-hunting) but it's the Sisters of Battle that really, point for point, consistently did the most damage in my list.

4. Books rock. The Book of St. Lucius is simply an amazing investment, and one that I know I would not have appreciated if I hadn't played Tau so much the years prior. Litanies of Faith -- 'nuf said. And the Liber Heresius makes taking an Inquisitor totally worth it. I might experiment with the Emperor's Tarot (on an allied Inquisitor) in the future, but of the two, the Liber Heresius is by far the superior option. Of course, I'm firm believer in the importance of terrain, so that's not a huge surprise.

5. Seraphim *should* be more effective than I found them. The combination of Veteran Sister and Hit-and-Run *should* be very nasty. But with just the one squad, I found that I frequently was using the Seraphim purely in a supporting role. Maybe with two squads, they come more into their own.

6. Assassins are fun, but they really don't do a heck of a lot, particularly not in 4th Edition, and especially not against good players (of whom I played a plethora this Counter Offensive weekend). I brought a Callidus, mostly because I had a nifty model to use, but she really didn't do much. Finding a way to shoehorn another unit of Sisters of Battle into the list would do wonders. Wonders, I tell you.

7. Sisters of Battle are VERY compact. All my infantry occupy just a single Chessex case, and the five vehicles a small gun-case -- my entire army fits comfortably into a gym-bag, with plenty enough room for two changes of clothes and toiletries besides.  This is by far the most compact army I've ever played with, and for someone who regularly uses public transportation (I live near New York City), this is a huge, huge plus.

The matriarch of local preceptory of the Order of the Sacred Rose cast a rather skeptical look at her erstwhile junior 'colleague'. Canoness Commander Foxxy Cleopatra of the Swinging Order of Sisters was not only most shockingly young, but sported an almost sinfully gaudy array of colors as livery, which only highlighted the bright colors of her power armor and her decidedly unorthodox haircut... and yet she looked positively tame compared to the units under her command. And it might have just been young Cleopatra's dialect of Imperial Gothic, but to the matriarch is seemed an appalling mish-mash of informalities and colloquialisms held together by a total disregard for the conventions of proper grammar and seasoned with a complete lack of honorifics.

However, she mentally chided herself, these were matters of propriety and motif best suited to studied debate amongst the Order's Sisters Dialogous. The (...sigh...) Swinging Order of Sisters, and their young Canoness, seemed commendably battle-tested, and she could find no fault with the state of their gear, nor the quality of their battle litanies. The Emperor moves in mysterious ways, and when faced with the threat of an invading Necron menace, she was going to be glad for the help, and no two ways about it. As proud as the matriarch was of the quality of the local PDF, and the preceptory's detachment of elite veterans, nothing stiffened the back of a small force like that, better than a generous helping of Orders Militant!

This little battle was a 2-on-2 megabattle pitting the Necron forces under Kenton Kilgore and Rob van Pelt-Cathcart against the Witch-hunter armies of Ken Lacy and Pat Eibel.  After a full day of Counter-Offensive gaming, we piled into the spacious and well-equipped Eibel basement and came up with the nefarious details: 1000 points apiece, to fit into a single 2000-point force organization chart apiece. The Necron Overlords cackled a great deal, and eventually came up with:
  • Kenton: Lord w/ Orb and Veil, two units of 15 Warriors, one of 14 Warriors.
  • Rob: Lord w/ Orb, Destroyer Body, and Phase Shifter; two units of 15 Warriors; 9 Immortals
Fiendishly simple, and with 85 Necrons on the table, that would be no less than 64 Necrons that would have to be dropped before Phase Out occurred. Eek!

Frontin' fools: Rob (left) and Kenton (right)

The allied Witch Hunters were a bit more limited by the model selection, but after much hemming and hawing threw out the following:

  • Ken: Cheap Canoness, two units of Sisters (flamers galore) in Rhinos, two units of heavy bolter Retributors (10 models each), Exorcist
  • Pat: Pricey Canoness w/ Celestials (meltas) in multi-melta Immolator, two units of Storm Troopers in Chimeras (one w/ grenades, one w/ meltaguns), Allied IG platoon (Command w/ lascannon, two squads w/ missile launchers), Leman Russ
Keepin' it real!
Keepin' it real! Pat (left) and Ken (right) represent 

This accomplished, we threw a mass of 'industrial' and Necromunda terrain on the table, randomly scattered all of it 3d6 inches, then rolled for mission: Seek & Destroy (Alpha).

Immediately, this was going to be an uphill fight for the Necrons: they started the game with a total of six scoring units, whereas the Witch Hunters had no less than TWELVE. Twice as many. But the Necrons were quite game, and thus we rolled for sides and deployed our units.

The Necrons ended up deployed relatively conservatively, spreading out in a large mass hiding in and behind a number of buildings and other terrain in the middle of their deployment zone. They were spread out in large part because of the Leman Russ, of course. 

Deployment. Necrons spread out to mitigate the Leman Russ

The Witch Hunters capitalized on this by setting up almost entirely on the right half of the board, with the two tanks (Russ, Exorcist) and a unit of Retributors anchoring the left, a unit of (dismounted) Stormtroopers and all the allied Guard in the center, backed by a stationary Chimera, and four mobile units (Stormtroopers + Canoness, Celestials + Canoness, two Sisters squads) on the right flank, prepared to go barreling across the board and smashing into the Necron left. The right flank had been chosen because it had great LOS to most of the other deployment zone. One lone unit of Retributors set up well to the left of all this, but in a very nicely fortified position with decent LOS.

Witch Hunters deploy
Witch Hunters deploy, putting the bulk of their forces on their right

Turn 1
The Necrons won the roll-off, and opted to go first. They began by Veiling one Lord, all the Immortals, and the second Lord across the table, just next to the very surprised Leman Russ. They had decent protection from the firepower of the Stormtroopers and IG allies in this position, and proceeded to blow up the Russ and shoot up the nearest unit of Retributors. All five units of Necron Warriors moved up slowly in terrain.

Necrons Lords and Immortals teleport to the attack
Witch Hunters return fire on the Necron Lords and Immortals

The Witch Hunters responded by blowing away all the Immortals and both Necron Lords.  The Exorcist managed to get LOS, and combined with the firepower of two Divinely Guided units of Retributors, the Immortals were simply vaporized! On the right flank, four Witch-Hunter transports raced forward and deposited two units of Sisters onto the Necron left flank. After a burst of flame and Divine Guidance, backed up by the ranged firepower of Imperial Guard support units, a over half of a Necron Warrior unit was gone!

Turn 2
Two Necron Lords had fallen, both stood back up again (as well as a number of Warriors across the field). The Lord with the Veil promptly teleported across the table to safety -- and to ferry some more Warriors across. The other Lord charged into a unit of Retributors, and by the Hand of the Emperor was thoroughly beat down for his troubles.

Not pausing to savor that sweet victory, the Witch Hunters proceeded to wipe out the damaged Warrior squad -- the few survivors that stood up again joined another unit. The Sisters on the right flank re-embarked, and their Rhinos trundled ever deeper into the Necron left flank.

Sisters attack
Sisters (left) move in on the Necron position

Turn 3
The Destroyer Lord did not rise again, to the relief of the Retributors, but the other Necron Lord still had tricks up his metal sleeves. He and fourteen Warriors Veiled behind the vehicles on the Witch-hunter right flank, managing to blow up a Rhino full of Sisters in the process (leaving them entangled). Another unit of Necrons (19 strong, with reinforcements) immobilized a nearby Chimera with a flurry of rapid-fire shooting.

Necrons attack
Kenton's Lord teleports a mass of Warriors behind the Sisters' vehicles

The Witch-Hunter right flank, faced with this mass of Necrons in their midst, unloaded in their entirety. Backed by the furious firepower of nearby Guardsmen, hit by multiple Divinely Guided flamers, blasted by Exorcist missiles, and riddled with meltagun (and Multimelta) fire, the Necrons and the Lord were dropped to a And there was much (Witch-Hunter) rejoicing!  Elsewhere, the Necron right flank was finally moving into range, and took a few pot-shots from Retributors as they moved up.

Turn 4
The resilient Necron Lord rose again to Veil away! And as the Necron right flank moved ponderously into range, a number of Retributors (on the left) were lost to gauss-rifle fire.

With just three units of Necrons left facing them, the Witch Hunters chose to vent their fury on the unit closest to their lines, not coincidentally also the most exposed (and out of terrain). A unit of 15 Warriors was reduced to a mere two, although five subsequently stood up again the turn after.

Turn 5
The surviving Necron Lord veiled back across once more, this time blasting the right-most unit of Retributors with fifteen rapid-firing Necron Warriors. The survivors fled in disarray, but stopped just short of the board-edge. The Necrons could be heard gnashing their metal teeth in frustration.

Let's try this again....
Let's try this again...Necron Lord teleports over more Warriors, who attack Retributors

With the Light of the Emperor shining on them, the fleeing Retributors held firm -- but still could not fire their heavy bolters. The LOS angles were ghastly, and only a few Exorcist and Retributor pot-shots could be taken at the recently teleported Necron menace -- as a result, only a handful went down, all to stand back up again. On the right flank, the 'mobile' units, badly out of position, raced to lend support to the threatened Witch-hunter left flank.

Turn 6
After all standing back up again, fifteen Necrons trundled around the still-steaming hulk of the Leman Russ to open fire on the hapless Exorcist, which literally fell to pieces. The Lord, detaching from the squad, raced forward to assault the nearby unit of Stormtroopers -- but whiffed badly, and fell to a solid punch in the face from a grim human veteran. This being the final turn, he would not have the opportunity to rise from the 'dead' again. The two units of Necrons on the left, one at half-strength, one still at full-strength, fell well short of the assault on the left-most Retributors, but settled for shooting them up a lot and reducing them below half-strength, too.

In the bottom of the last turn, the Witch Hunter right flank arrived, and with Divinely Guided flame and massed meltagun action, wiped another squad of Necron filth off the face of the planet. And, with that, there were just twenty Necrons left on the table: a half-strength unit of five, and a full-strength unit of fifteen. The Necrons phased out, and the field was left to the much relieved, and very happy, Witch Hunters.

Outcome: Witch Hunters win

Post-Game Analysis
This was a rather overwhelming Witch Hunter victory. While phase-out meant it was an automatic "W" for the Imperial allies, the body-count was also very one-sided: basically, the Witch Hunters had had two units (Retributors) reduced to half-strength, and otherwise lost only three vehicles (a Rhino, a Russ, and an Exorcist). Every other unit finished the game with only a few scratches and maybe a casualty here or there. Indeed, the Stormtroopers and IG allies finished the game without a single casualty at all! The Witch Hunters finished the game with eight out of twelve scoring units intact.

By comparison, the Necrons lost over 3/4 of their army -- thus, they phased out. They had just one intact scoring unit at that time.

What did it was the overwhelming, and overwhelmingly nasty, long-range firepower of the Witch Hunters. With two Divinely Guided Retributor units, and Exorcist, a Russ (though granted, it was blown up right away), two Chimeras, and three IG heavy weapons, the Necrons simply couldn't compete at long ranges. And, when they teleported in to try it up-close, they were unable to compete with the close-range firepower that the Witch Hunters could put out that way.

Unfortunately, the Necrons didn't take two Veils of Darkness. But the mobility and firepower afforded to them by an indestructible Monolith or two could have greatly aided their chances against an army like the Witch Hunters.

Ken was pleasantly surprised that Sisters of Battle perform so well against Necrons, though he suspects that Destroyers and Monoliths would make things a wee bit trickiers.

Pat was sufficiently impressed with the sheer nastiness of short-range Sisters firepower (and faith points) that he's decided to cut way down on the number of guardsmen and Stormtroopers he uses, and max out on Sisters, if possible. 

Rob was quite stoic about the loss, and already coming up with evil schemes to have his revenge. He was also quite rightly confident that a different deployment pattern would have caused the Witch Hunters far more trouble than the one in this game.

And Kenton was left shaking his head in bemusement at how truly evil Sisters of Battle are on the battlefield. He was careful to mention this at least two or three dozen times as he carefully packed away his Warriors -- of which not a single one survived the battle.

Counter Offensive 2
Introduction <> Space Marines <> Orks and Tyranids <> Imperial Guard <> Necrons
Witch Hunters <> Dark Eldar <> Space Wolves <> Rampage in Rockville

Related Pages 
Counter Offensive
Countdown to Counter Offensive 2

© Copyright Ken Lacy, September 2005. Used with permission.


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle