Thursday, 21 July 2011

Initial Thoughts on an Apocalyptic Scenario: Hold the Line!

Gunfire deafening the men, shells scooping new holes out of the landscape, steel and death in every direction: all the fun of Warhammer 40K! I have recently returned to working on a trench board. I have a little work to do on two others, but this one is the least advanced. Once complete, I shall have twelve feet of trench (each board is 4' by 2'), and I want to do something to mark this event. What better than an Apocalypse battle? Here is my thinking thus far.

The three boards will be manned mainly by infantry. The central board has two turret emplacements, in which I mean to mount Vanquishers for their AT capabilities. There is also a central bunker on this board, where I will probably locate my command unit. I think that there's scope for some special rules (perhaps based around the Imperial Guard's "Orders" system) for so long as this bunker remains intact. Given it will be the focus of a lot of enemy heavy firepower. I intend to have a 12' by 6' table, with assorted Imperial bunkers, razor-wire nests, ruins, shell blasted woods and so on filling in a lot of space. I'll decide details closer to the time. I'm a great fan of scenery, so I'll have to get someone to twist my arm and remind me that in Apocalypse too much scenery impedes the flow of the game greatly.

Am I getting ahead of myself? What do I want to see? Well, I'd like to recreate the sort of thing one saw in the Great War: an assault by elite men (and tanks) on a heavily-defended trench-line, with both sides supported by copious artillery resources. As Baldrick would put it: "Boom, boom, boom." Lots of explosions, deformable terrain, plastic (and resin and metal) carnage. So let's grab some books and peer at 'em, eh?

The Apocalypse book suggests 8' wide battlefields, which I assume is because all GW employees are gargantuan behemoths as tall as fully-armoured Space Marines. Those of us of more modest height can cope with about 6'. So that comes to about 7,000-8,000 points on either side. Now onto Strategic Assets: Obstacles: yes, Tunnels: quite possibly. I have modelled tunnels onto the trench boards. Now, the command bunker: we want this to have longevity, so Supreme Headquarters and Shield Generator are both good choices. Anti-Plant Barrage could be a good idea for the attacker, if I can't restrain my terrain-planting instincts! Blind Barrage, Orbital Bombardment, Precision Strike and Scheduled Bombardment are all great choices to represent the firing of heavy artillery from off the table. How about Apocalypse Reload? Anything good in there? The Lord Castellan's Supreme Command is a possibility, and the Imperial Shield Infantry Company, with its predilection for calling down fire on itself, is all but a certainty. The Strongholds, Defence Line and On My Coordinates! assets. It's worth noting that the LCSS and ISIC include strategic assets in the purchase price of the formations.

So here we have a broad range of assets to choose from. There are also rules in one of the Imperial Armour books for off-table artillery fire, but we can look into that later on. If we say 8,000 points and 3-4 players a side, we'll have a nice speedy game, and one of each side's players can even serve as a C-in-C without being too distracted. I think we're getting an idea now of how to mesh things together. If we pop Creed and his merry men in and around the central command bunker, an ISIC in the trench-line proper, then we can spend the 4 points on buying 12' of Defence Lines or Obstacles. We'll blur the lines here, and give the IG another 8' of razor-wire, but allow them only a single bunker. So there's the defender dealt with. Broadly speaking.

What about the attacker? Well, he gets 4 points to spend on Strategic Assets, and he should want to soften up the defender and advance across No-Man's Land taking the smallest number of casualties. So Blind Barrage and Scheduled Bombardment are the two obvious choices. We'll leave the other two spots open so he and his sub-commanders can flavour their army, be it Tyranids or Marines, Dark Eldar or Orks. Let's sum up.

7,000 points

Imperial Shield Infantry Company (modified to reflect current IG codex)
Lord Castellan's Supreme Command
Strategic Assets:
Defence Lines (12')
Razor-wire (4' covering frontage of the central trench board, and 4' available for deployment elsewhere)

8,000 points
Strategic Assets:
Blind Barrage
Scheduled Bombardment
2 more assets may be selected

Appearance of the Table:
While a moon-surface is visually appealing, it is a nightmare to drive vehicles across. In defence of the players' sanity, let's say there can only be 4 craters or so (the contents of one GW box), scattered across the table. We should have a wood (say 12" by 12") located either at the edge of the board or centrally. It should be at least 18" from the trench-line for reasons of basic common sense. Then again, the Imperium is suffused with idiots, so if you fancy saying they have an officer dumb enough to build a trench that is right near handy cover for any attackers, I really can't gainsay you! ;-) A piece of high ground should stretch along part of the table. It will serve to give cover to one flank of the attackers and it even sits thematically with the defenders deploying behind it in a reverse slope position: one that protects them from direct fire enemy weaponry. We have a small wood, a few craters, and a hill or two, all of which should provide a little cover for both sides without making it a hair-tearing experience for a 'gamer to move his models. A few more things can be added here and there, but this seems a pretty good basis for an initial layout.

I shall return to this by and by, dear reader. Until next time!

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