After Action Report: “Knights, Knights, and Not a Dragon in Sight”

NOVA Open 2018, a cornerstone of the Warhammer calendar has come and gone. Field of Fire Gaming was able to make our inaugural journey to this outstanding event. Here is my (Dernicus) report! I managed to play in the Trios as well as the GT. There were Knights on almost every table. The sheer talent in the hobby was astounding. When not rolling dice I was roaming the halls or hanging out with my fellow gamers. I even tossed a bid in on several of the charity auctions and managed to make it up to the Charity Lounge more than once. It was a rollercoaster of a weekend and I’m only just recovering from it days later. But rest assured, we’ll be back again next year. Now, for the rundown.

Day 1: Real Space Raid – The Dark-kin Take to the 40k Trios

Bleary eyed but raring to go, our first event was the 40k Trios team event. Knowing full well that theme and appearance are major factors, we chose to combine the forces of Commorragh and took the field. A force of Kabal sporting Ravagers and Wraith fighters; a lightning quick group of Wyches; and an army of misshapen Coven abominations. I took control of the Coven army, with wracks, grotesques, and talos. Mind you, I had never played Dark Eldar prior. I had dabbled with Eldar once before earlier this year. The army was relatively straightforward, with a strong assault element and redundancy built-in. In fact, I can venture to say that the list was very strong. In the Trios format, each round was played as a 2v2 or a 1v1. Each player only playing alone once. We were assigned the team name “contemptuous”. It couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Game 1 vs Dark Angels, Blood Angels, and Aeldari

For the first game we paired up against a father and his two sons. I took my Covens with the Kabal list and matched up with the sons fielding the Emperor’s Angels. Our Wyche player, none other than the Wyche King of Tennessee, faced their Eldar player. This was both mine, and my partner’s first game of Druhkari, but we planned to make it a game. Our opponents had a Blood Angel smashcaptain, a big squad of sanguinary guard, several squads of scouts, and several squads of devastators. Our side of the table included a grotesque bomb, a cadre of talos, a pair of ravagers, and a slew of troops. After a bloody game, including a throw down midfield between Blood Angels and Talos, the agents of the dark city rose victorious.

Combined, our team scored 35-20. With a break for lunch we set up for theme judging. The story we weaved, of a joint raid on realspace by all forces of the Dark City, under the remnant of a supernova, impressed the judges. Along with our common paint scheme and army composition, we stood ready to face the next rounds of battle.

Game 2 vs Custodes, Space Marines, Knights, and Guard

With a win under our belts, we squared up against a combined force of the Imperium. It was my turn to stand alone, faced with an army of Adeptus Custodes and Ultramarines. I was able to bring to bear the full might of the Prophets of Flesh, a horrifying force of 9 Talos, 13 Grotesques, 15 Scourges, and associated Wracks. My opponent stood with 3 Custodes Shield Captains on Dawneagle Jetbikes, several squads of Guardians, a large unit of Alluras Terminators, a dreadnought, and several squads of space marine tactical marines. With so much 2+ and 3+ on the board, I knew I would need to levy the full weight of the Coven’s against targets and try to wipe them out in quick succession.

He was able to position across the board, reserving the terminators and a guardian squad, forcing me to open up a flank or be spread too thin to overcome the T5 2+/4++ arrayed before me. My initial move was to position among the center terrain, poised to make a turn 2 assault (including the Power from Pain reroll). To both our surprises, my opponent sent the only shield captain without a 3++ into my forward Grotesques unit, thinking he could damage the monsters into ineffectiveness. Instead, he killed one and the remaining 7 swooped in with rerolling wounds to chop down the golden champion into a bloody mist. The game continued on in similar, bloody fashion, culminating with Talos pincering the remaining captains as they fled on their last wounds.

Another win, putting us as 2-0 and in the top running out of the 40 teams.

Game 3 vs Guard, Blood Angels, Aeldari, Ynnari, and Drukhari

For the final round we stood across the table from our friends at Warp Charged Gaming. Sporting a bristling list of Smashcaptains, Eldar jet fighters, grotesques, and even the avatar of death, the Yncarn it/her/himself. In this last round I was paired with our Wyche player, while our Kabal player took the field for his first solo game of Dark Eldar. Against our doubles, the guys from WCG brought a combined Guard, Blood Angels, and Alaitoc Eldar. Their list included a Smash Captain, Mephiston, a Battalion of Guard sporting the infamous Kurzov’s Aquila, a bomb of Guardians, and a pair of nimble Jet Fighters. No novice players, we immediately could see that this would be an uphill battle as our opponents deployed their forces.

With too much distance for us to cover in the initial turn, we made for a possible turn 2 push. Relying on the Power from Pain benefits in later turns, we hoped to capitalize on our opponents moving to engage our forces. A foolhardy attempt to force their hand, we charged a raider full of wyches into their forward scouts. This left an opening to deal a deadly blow in return which even caused some heated discussions among all players involved. In the end, our enemy was able to maintain their screen, leveling the full brunt of their weapons into our forces turn after turn. Even still, our team, including our singles player, only lost the round by a mere 5 points.

Conclusions

We placed 3rd overall, which was an astonishing considering two of us had never played the Codex before. The level of hobbymanship present was amazing. Teams had video displays playing their forces story, entire tables of displayboards, and brilliantly painted armies. With a 3rd round win, and a handful more work into our display we could have possibly pulled out a win. Alas, for a first showing, we did great and we’re already looking forward to next year. Congrats to the team from Team Warhammered for taking a commanding lead and be warned, as Team Contemptuous is gunning for the title next year!

Now on to the Grand Tournament, Single’s event!

Day 2: The Golden Host Makes its First Move

At the NOVA Open GT, players are initially paired up for four rounds of random swiss pairings. Afterwich, those with similar records were grouped into brackets of 16. The final 4 rounds were played within those brackets, with a champion of each. At 8 rounds total, played over 3 days, the GT is unique in both scope and scale. Couple that with 3 games already played in the Trios event, this was truly a marathon of 40k! A great feature for the event was the custom set of mission and secondary objective cards given to each player at the beginning of the event. These helped each player keep track of chosen Secondary Objectives, as well as the placement of the primary objectives in each round.

For this event, I chose to bring my own variant of “The List”. I brought a force of House Raven Imperial Knights, a battalion of Cadians, and a trio of Assassins. The concept being the assassins would hary the flanks/backfield while my two assault knights ran forward and the guard would hold my own backfield. Painted in Custodes Gold and Red, my Castelan stood proud alongside a Knight Atrapos and a Knight Galant. I wanted something hard hitting, yet simple enough to play in 8 rounds of competition. Designed to take on opponents big and small, I was ready to fight!

Game 1 vs Conlin’s Tau

My first opponent brought a cadre of T’au from three different Septs: T’au, Bork’han, and Sa’cea. Sporting multiple squads of infantry, a riptide, a Y’vahra, a Ghostkeel, and a number of characters. Our field of battle was Dawn of War, with a bonus to holding the objective (out of 6) in your opponents deployment zone. He chose to array his forces with the larger suites holding one corner, a large contingent of troops holding the center, and another flanking unit of infantry holding the other end. My retort was to place my assault knights front and center, with the Castellan positioning to pressure my initial assault. With the pieces set, I was ready, poised even, to strike a crippling blow to the Sept forces.

Alas, the best laid plans of Knights and genetically-augmented-hitmen and all that. Needless to say, the failure of my forces initial assault left them wide open for the substantial firepower of the xenos scum. The Atrapos fell first. Even with the vaunted Rotate Ion Shields stratagem, the knight could not withstand the onslaught. Soon after, the Galant fell, as did the assassins. With only the guard and the Castellan to hold. My opponent used the terrain well, along with his suit’s maneuverability to great effect and cutoff lines of fire. In the end I faced defeat, 10-25.

Game 2 vs Cameron’s Tallarn Guard

I took the first round defeat in kind and resolved to do better in my next round. Across the field stood a large armored force of Tallarn including half a dozen Leman Russ, a pair of Basilisks, and several squads of infantry. We squared off on Hammer and Anvil and the bonus for the round was to control the opponent’s placed objective (the other 4 were fixed). Despite my opponent having significantly more drops, he managed to finish deploying first through clever uses of the Tallarn outflank stratagem as well as transports. I had deployed my two assault knights on the edge of my deployment and in going 2nd, I waited for what I assumed would be a repeat of the first round. Only this time, my opponent did not quite kill the Gallant he’d focused on, leaving it at 7 wounds. My retort was to charge forward.

The ensuing turns saw my knights tearing through battle tank after battle tank, whilst taking almost nothing in return fire. The Gallant lived, near immortal after its initial damage, thanks to Rotate Ion Shields and Blessing’s of the Omnissiah. My opponent could do nothing to stem the destruction that was my Atrapos, Gallant, and Castellan as the titans rained fire across his forces, nearly tabling him by turn 6. Victory was mine, 39-5.

 

Game 3 vs Bill’s AdMech/Guard/Blood Angels

Now this was a refreshing game all around. My opponent brought to bear Cawl and a battalion of Kastelan Robots, Onager Dunecrawlers, and Skitarii Infiltrators, along with a standard Guard CP Battery, and a small team of Smash Captains and scouts. This list intrigued me as I hold AdMech dear to my heart. I have been collected the faction(s) since their release in 6th edition. Hell, I own a dozen painted Kastelan Robots even! So to see them in competitive play was awesome. It also meant I knew something of what was to come. I knew that The Wrath of Mars was going to be an issue for my knights if the Robots or those Infiltrators got in range. With 3 smash captains I was in for a tough match. Vanguard Strike didn’t help matters as it limited how I could leverage the center LOS blocking terrain.

I was able to secure first turn, but thanks to a forward deployment of scouts and his skitarii troops, my Gallant and Atrapos weren’t able to do much besides take out chaff and stand before the storm. The Castellan and Vindicare both failed to make a significant impact on their targets either. My opponent “dropped anchor” switching the Robot’s Protocols to double shooting and let loose the full fury of Mars. In a single volley of emotionless automaton fire my knight was reduced to slag. A pair of Smash captains moved to make short work of the Gallant, fighting a combined 4 times! Though, not before the Gallant made it’s revenge, crushing the Angel’s Wings Captain! It was several grueling turns of ordinance exchanged both ways but in the end, Mars prevailed. Another loss in my tally, 19-29.

End of Day 2: Wins-1, Losses-2

The end of Day 2 could have been better, but I still had one more game to go. If I did well enough, I could shoot for a middle bracket. All three of my opponents had great looking armies and were certainly a challenge to play against. That night, we ventured out to a steakhouse to try Bison burgers with several friends both new and old. That evening I visited the Charity Lounge for a short while. Eventually we ended up hanging out with friends into the wee hours of the morning.

Day 3: The Choosing, then Showdown

Game 4 vs Phil (aka The Glacial Geek)’s Dark Angels

Another army true to my core, the 1st Legion stood before me brimming with ancient plasma weaponry. His list featured Azrael, Sammael, a host of Primaris Hellblasters, as well as a Darkshroud, scouts, and devastators. Our deployment was Search and Destroy, with no bonus objectives. I was able to secure first turn, hoping to capitalize on his deployment early as those Hellblasters were going to hurt. He was surprised when my Atropos ripped up the field, a staggering 22″ in one turn thanks to Flanking Speed. Both it and the Gallant made their moves after the Castellan softened up his forces at ranged.

Even with two Knights in his lines turn one, my opponent kept his composure and showed me full well what my favored Legion could dish. Nearly vaporizing the Gallant I was put aback by the damage 18 Hellblasters in rapid fire range, rerolling all Hits and 1’s to would could do. Needless to say I quickly resolved to focus that threat down as best I could. I doubt any of my forces could handle focus fire of that magnitude. Boy was I right, as both the Gallant and Atrapos were slagged eventually, lessening the pressure some. I played up the range advantage of the Castellan, but could only do so much.

It came down to the final turns, with Ravenwing speeders in my lines causing havoc. A lucky Advance on my Castellan put it closer to Azrael, the death of which swung the game in my favor on the last turn. Another victory, 30-24 and putting my group record to 2-2.

Game 5 (Bracket 9) vs Markus’s Custodes, Guard, Knights

Markus brought the Emperor’s Chosen to the field in style, sporting Guardians and Vertus Praetors in spades. Also, there were a trio of Armiger Halverins, and another battery of Cadians to power it all. I knew something of the power in those hurricane bolters and Halverin cannons, but felt relatively confident. I figured if I could take down the Halverins at ranged and engage the jetbikes in melee I could prevail. With Dawn of War and no bonus objectives, my plan felt simple enough. He reserved his bike units and otherwise spread his Halverins across the board. I turtled in one terrain piece and placed the Knights opposite that and in the center. Finishing deployment first I was able to roll first turn and he failed to seize.

With my opening advances I engaged a lone squad of Guardians and a Shield Captain after my Castellan annihilated two of his three Halverins. A lucky Oathbreaker missile roll removed his Kurzov’s Aquila from the board as well. From there I kept the pressure on, with both assault knights forcing him to drop a unit of bikes in his back field. My Eversor was able to charge into his guard, chasing down his warlord in the process. At one point he dropped his other unit of bikes in my backfield. The Castellan turned its attention back to make short work of them. Yet again my gallant was able to Crush an important character with his Paragon Gauntlet. Decisive victory was mine, 40-13.

Game 6 vs Conor’s Ynnari, Alaitoc, and Covens

Faced again with Warped Charged Gaming, I was in for a fight. Conor brought a mix of Aeldari, combining Soul Burst with Agents of Vect and Craftworld buffs. After tasting defeat in the Trios against the guys from WCG, I had a bit more on the line. This mission was also on Search and Destroy, with no bonus objectives. He brought the Yncarne, two guardian bombs, and a whopping 14 Grotesques, all threats individually. Combined with Doom and Soulburst, this was not going to be an easy fight. I was again graced with first turn, he failed to seize.

Initially I moved my Atrapos and Gallant in a pincer motion to capture his Grotesques. I was trying to force his hand with the Guardians, as at long-range I had the advantage. The 4++ Covens proved troublesome, which meant my gamble was to be tested. His response was savage, stripping all but one of my Gallant’s wounds with Soulbursted Guardians. In the subsequent Shooting phase it fell leaving the Atrapos exposed. This is where the game shifted back, my titan surviving his shooting. With death abound, my opponent had the Yncarne teleporting all over the field. However, this would be its downfall as he put it into combat with my Atrapos whilst I had command points. I was able to interrupt and strike it down with it’s Atrapos Lascutter, dealing a monstrous 18 damage! A bloody tit-for-tat came down to the wire, but victory was mine, 31-29!

End of Day 3 Win-4 Loss-2 (Bracket 2-0)

Finishing off the day I had 2 wins under my belt, meaning I was still in contention for bracket champion. I held no illusions it would be easy after the opponents I’d faced. Despite the need for focus, I again spent a good deal out with my fellow attendees, once more taking to the Charity Lounge and ending the night well into the morning. In my explorations I watched some of the “glowpacolypse” game (well, as much as i could see in the dark). In the Lounge I had a blast listening to Mike Brandt and his band while the night away. I’ll say this much, these NOVA attendees sure knew how to party! That said, we still had one more day to go.

Day 4: The Battle Comes to a Close

Game 7 vs Shaun’s Ravenguard

A bit worse for wear, but ready to play, I walked up to my first table of the day against Shaun’s mostly Primaris Ravenguard. Now, again, I felt I was aware of what to expect, having theorycrafted plenty with Ravenguard Aggressors and Hellblasters. His list included a Chaplain Dreadnought, a pair of Whirlwind Sicarius, and 3 Devastator squads. The ubiquitous Chapter Ancient was present to let his big guys get a last hurrah, and the expected Aggressors were there to dish out some hurt. On Hammer and Anvil, with holding both Center Objectives for a bonus, I should have been all set. We did have some discussions as my list in BCP turned out to be out-of-order with that I provided to him and the judges, but it was easy enough to settle (a difference of warlords and relics).

My opponent was very technically minded and the game was played with precision. In hindsight, the “L-shaped” center terrain pieces were taller than I was used to and I should have noted as such. I mistakenly moved much like my 2nd game vs the Tallarn when I should have used the terrain to hide my first movements. Instead, my Gallant was forced to take a staggering amount of heavy weapons fire, followed by Aggressor/Dreadnought/Captain melee. Even with nearly all my stratagems, he fell with almost no response save the screen he charged on my turn. The Atrapos did not fare much better. With the melee threats neutralized, he was able to fire on my guard and eventually my Castellan came into range. I finally felt defeat in the bracket.

Game 8 vs Cary’s Crimson *cough* Imperial *cough* Fists

Taking my loss a bit hard as I thought on my errors, the next game was testing my resolve. He brought devastators, a pair of Whirlwind Scorpius, a Thunderfire Cannon, a Leviathan Dreadnought, and characters to support. My nievity towards Astartes Forgeworld units was showing as the amount of artillery in place would be my undoing. It wasn’t helping my sanity that our last deployment was my least favorite: Vanguard Strike. To his credit, my opponent chose to tactically distract me, placing his 3 scout squads deep on my flank opposite his forces. I devoted the Gallant and eventually the Eversor as well to clearing them out. This was my critical error as it meant my Atrapos was unsupported and that his gun line was basically free to fire at will.

And fire it did, laying barrage after barrage into my Guard and Knights. The Atrapos once again managed to cut down a threat, this time the Leviathan, before being brought low. Unfortunately, the damage was too much and the Castellan was unable to fully kill any of its targets. That, coupled with the Gallant failing to make it up the field in time to open a whole in his lines, my last commander fell on his turn 6.

Closing Thoughts: Final Record 4-4 (6-5 in NOVA all together)

While our placement in the Trios was better than my placement in the GT, I had a blast in both. Ironically I faced more Astartes than I expected, especially as many Primaris marines. None of the lists felt anything less than genuine builds, with interesting combinations all around. My opponents were strong competition and I can truthfully say that every game was fun every single day. In both events, my lists felt like they performed admirably and could have gone even further with more practice. I appreciated all the compliments on their paint jobs, a feeling I’ll never get used to and reactions I never truly expect to receive compared to such skill out there.

There were no logistical issues that were apparent in the event, with smooth round transitions and an overall feel of a well ran event. This being my first NOVA, I was thoroughly impressed with just about every aspect I can think of and now know why it is so highly regarded. Being a charity event, NOVA Open 2018 raised up to $100k over the whole convention towards the numerous causes championed by NOVA each year.

As with the convention, all things come to a close but let me leave you with these few words. Without a doubt, spending those 4 days, surrounded by all aspects of the hobby(s) we share, it was well worth it. I didn’t sleep much, because I always had someone to hang out with, or something new to see. That is what made this event so much more than just a tournament, or a convention. The people. Be it the event staff, the hundreds of attendees, or just myself, it was the people who made this event awesome. I am rapt with anticipation over what changes might come from the results of NOVA, as Jordan brought up some interesting results in our last article. I for one welcome the change and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Don’t do paperwork, play with your dice!