Last night I hosted two games at my home, both against Quint'Aan (also known as Bill). Bill plays a Chaos Undivided army he has named "The Black Storm", and is something of a legend in the Ottawa area. Known for his obsessive-compulsive gaming prowess and, at the same time, his laid-back demeanor, Bill is one of the first people I ever played 40k against. Lately he's been much more interested in Epic (Games Workshop's game of gigantic scale warfare which uses miniatures much smaller than 40k), but he dipped a toe back into 40k for the purposes of this particular battle.
Before I discuss the games, I'd like to first apologize for the quality of the photos. For some reason my camera goes stupid in my kitchen. I believe it's the lighting or some such, but I just can't seem to get a nice, crisp focus when I want it. The nine shots below are the best of over sixty shots I actually took. A bit of a let down, but you can still get the sense of what was happening on that nice, big, reddish brown table I have spent so much time talking about.
The first of our two games was a 2000 point secure-and-control game at gamma level. Now, I have a few things to explain about my own approach that I'm not exactly proud of: Basically, I took a completely goobed-out mechanized Biel Tan list. The main and over-arching reason I took this list (consisting of five tanks and three vypers) is because I've been going so anti-tank for quite a while now in an effort to try to wean myself off of the powerful Eldar skimmers and refocus my skills on tactics and strategy over simple brute force and near-indestructable armor. The second reason I took this list is because if there's anyone who would know how to disassemble it, bolt by bolt, it'd be Bill. He's an experienced Eldar player and has been for many, many years before I even started playing. He knows every move, every tactic and every approach (save for one, which I describe below).
Having said all this, Bill did not do well. To be honest, his dice rolling was pure garbage... ones and twos over and over again (except when it was time for leadership checks). I did fight awfully hard to stay out of harm's way, but by turn three it was pretty clear that he simply wasn't going to get a foothold. He just resigned himself to getting a king-sized smackdown and, shortly after, conceded. I realized that - just as I have been thinking for a long time - a heavily mechanized Eldar list of any kind is going to be nearly impossible to beat and demands a perfect game from your opponent just to give them a chance. The passing of time did not even slightly affect my memory of how that list works and why it is I left it behind. Bill suggested that we try another game, and I was fine with that; we'd done everything we could with the Biel Tan feeding frenzy and we were both craving something more nourishing.
The second game I played my standard Ulthwe Strike Force list against him, and I got to pick the mission. I chose Seek And Destroy, as it's what my USF force is best at, and again we played at gamma level. Now USF is not like mechanized Biel Tan. Anyone who knows anything about Eldar will tell you this; it's more of a list of things you can't do or have than things you can. You can take no skimmer tanks whatsoever, you must start with half your force in reserve, you cannot take Wraithguard or Wraithlords, you must take a Seer Council, you can only take a single unit of Aspect Warriors (save for Dark Reapers) and if you lose a leadership test for any reason, you retreat off the table, regardless of whether your unit is over half strength or not. The up side? All your Guardians are Black Guardians, and both they and all their vehicles (War Walkers, Vypers) are all BS4. This one small change in the Eldar list makes Ulthwe Strike Force an extremely powerful and potent army, but it takes work and practice to "get the hang of it". I also added Eldrad Ulthran to the Seer Council, boosting its collective points value to roughly 750.
Though I smacked Bill down with a fury in the second game, it was not like the first. Bill half-smirked his way through the first game, shaking his head in resignation and wearing the expression of "I knew this was going to happen from the get-go". With USF, it was a complete surprise. Two full squads of Dark Reapers and three War Walkers, all armed with Star Cannons, unleashed themselves into the Black Storm without mercy. Bolstered by several castings of Guide from the Seer Council, twenty Reaper Launchers (Str5, AP3) and eighteen Star Cannons (Str6, AP2) turned two squads into confetti right from the outset. Bill was so very not expecting that. You see, his own attempts at playing USF a while back were abortive - as they are for many people; the right combination of ingredients in your list and their extremely deliberate usage are vitally important to success and it takes several dismal failures to get the knack.
Bill's reaction wasn't so resigned in the second game. There was some jaw-dropping when he saw what USF - an army you rarely see on the table - could accomplish. Now, I am hoping that a second bloody massacre didn't dampen his spirits too much (as his troops started dying like flies he mumbled about being impatient to get back to playing Epic) because I really enjoyed being able to show Bill something he hadn't seen before. That's not something that happens much when playing against the Quint'Aan... so I will tuck this cool memory away for safe keeping.