After Action Report: The Bloody Dawn After Warzone Atlanta 2018

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Once more we’re back again from another Warzone Atlanta GT. This was the third year Dernicus has attended, out of the four years it has been held in the concrete jungle of deep Georgia. We talked about his road last year in a couple of articles here and here. Not to mention the technical analysis both before and after last year, as well as this year’s review of what to expect and [how things ended up]. As a quick refresher, Warzone Atlanta is a two day GT made up of 5 rounds. Everyone brings 2000pt lists with a max of 3 detachments, using Battleforged Rules. Lists are presubmitted and screened by staff and the community (this year’s). Warzone Atlanta includes equal parts Battle Points, Paint Score, and Sportsmanship into their overall rankings. Without further adieu, let’s see what Dernicus brought this year, and how it did.

THE List, with a twist

For this event, Dernicus brought along a Meta staple: Imperial Knights, with Astra Militarum. First, he brought a Brigade of completely-loyal-with-no-questions Cadians. The Detachment served as his troops, primary source of command points, and provider of low str, high volume fire. Next he brought a tried and tested Knight Dominus Castellan of <House Raven>. With it’s absurde array of long ranged firepower and the Order of Champions and Blessing of the Omnissiah stratagems, he was hard pressed NOT to bring it. Finally, he included a detachment of Imperial Knights from <House Mortan> with a Crusader and a pair of Armiger Warglaives. The decision came as the meta appears to continue favoring “-X to Hit” armies such as Eldar and Nurgle, and the Slayer of Shadows stratagem can make short work in those cases. Also, the House Trait giving a bonus to Hit in Close Combat would prove useful for the Warglaives in their role.

It brought command points, bodies, and plenty of guns to the table, but did it perform as intended?

March to war

 

Game 1: Steve Bewely (Drukhari)

For the first match, Dernicus faced a pillar of the 40k community. Steve Bewely has been playing the game for several decades, a host of experience that showed in the command of his forces. For this event, he brought a force of Drukhari, build from all three subfactions: Kabal of the Black Heart, Prophets of Flesh, and Cult of the Cursed Blade. The list lacked the overload of Haywire we might have expected, but it made up for it in anti-infantry and speed. Our mission was Progressive Objectives (Primary) and Marked for Death (Secondary). Dernicus selected Steve’s lone Talos, Scourge unit, and one of the Ravagers as his Marked targets. Steve selected three infantry units. Thanks to transports, despite on paper having comparable unit counts, Steve finished first and retained 1st turn.

Dernicus took advantage of Fortified Positions to blunt the Dark Kin’s assault, still losing large portions of his forward infantry units and a Scout Sentinel. However, the aggressive push put Steve’s forward elements in striking range for the counterstrike. Dernicus was unable to draw out the Agent’s of Vect sooner and was unable to Order of Champions his Castellan. However, despite not having the powerful rerolls he was able to unleash the Knight’s fury. Two Raiders, a Ravager, and a Venom all fell to shooting. The Warglaives followed up, charging into the disembarked Kalabites.

It was a vicious, bloody struggle, but time got away from us. In the end, both sets of Marked for Death targets lay in the sands, and Primary points remained tied. In the end it was Steve securing Linebreaker with his Hellions and the unfortunate Warlord death that took the day. Game 1: Loss (12-16)

 

Game 2: Eric Swing (Knights + Guard)

Next up, Dernicus squared off with Eric and his own spin on THE List. It had a trio of <House Taranis> Knights (a Castellan, Crusader, and Gallant), 32 loyal Cadians, and some Tempestus Scions. With Knights that wouldn’t die, and elite squads deepstriking, this would be tricky. For the mission, we played 6 objectives and standard Kill Points. Each objective could be “dug” to generate immediate VPs but at the chance of removing the objective if a die rolled is equal to or less than the current turn. Dernicus was able to secure first turn this round.

With first turn it was imperative that Dernicus inflicted maximum damage. Two infantry squads took the small arms fire while the Castellan went into the Gallant and enemy Castellan. However, Eric made a LOT of 3++ saves on his Castellan and the Gallant lived (barely). Dernicus had reserved his Crusader with Sally Forth, which would be a major loss of firepower. Eric was able to make his Gallant act at full wounds and get into combat, while the Castellan and Crusader hurled fire down range. Turn 2 Dernicus brought his Crusader in, threatening Eric’s backfield. As there were still Tempestus off the board Dernicus held his Cadian’s back to cover the field. Another unfortunate event was a 1 and a pair of 2s rolled when “Digging” the objectives he was holding, removing them.

The remaining turns saw both sides trade blow for blow, until nearly all of Eric’s forces dead save his Tempestus characters and Castellan clinging to its last wounds; Dernicus had his Castellan and nearly all of the guard, but saw infantry too far back to impact the game. The game ended there on Turn 5, Eric holding 3 objectives to our none. Had the game gone on, it likely would have resulted in Eric being tabled. But alas, it is a dice game after all. Game 2: Loss (14-21).

 

Game 3: Andrew H (AdMech)

One of defining features of Warzone is their Bounty Board. In it, as the name would imply, players could put “Bounties” on their friends (or rivals). It so happened that the next matchup would be against one such Bounty: Andrew from the Dangli Boys podcast. He brought to the table a force of Stygies and Mars AdMech with Kataphrons, Kastelans, and a horde of infantry. The Bounty was to win the roll to go first, give Andrew the first turn, and then defeat him. A tall order, especially in a mission with High Value Targets (basically Marked for Death) and a Relic. Furthermore, the table we rolled was Front-Line Assault. But Dernicus was not afraid and won the first turn roll. He gave it to his opponent and prepared for the Wrath of Mars.

Not unsurprisingly Andrew let loose the fury of the Omnissiah. He chose the Armigers and two infantry squads as his HVTs (the latter Dernicus hid in buildings on opposite ends of the board). Anchoring both units of Robots and moving forward with his Dragoons he was all set to devastate the Cadian lines. But, in his surprise at being given first turn he failed to activate Wrath of Mars. Also, with some timely saves and Go to Ground Dernicus managed to lose only one Armiger and a handful of guardsmen. In return, his Castellan and Crusader swept aside both Kastelan units, both Breacher units, and the Dragoon unit.

With much of the teeth in Andrew’s army blunted, the remainder of the game proceeded in favor of Dernicus. The final follower of Mars falling on turn 4. Game 3: Win (26-4). This was the first game of the “Group” stage. Dernicus was placed in Group 8, based on points earned (as best we can tell). The rest of the event would be against the other 7 players in this “Group”, but not as a traditional Bracket.

 

Game 4: Justin (Knights)

Starting Day 2, Dernicus faced Justin’s force of Imperial Knights from <House Hawkshroud>. His list included a Warden, two Paladins, and two Gallants. Our mission was Normalized Kill Points and Table Quarters. The table looked primed for Imperial troops bunkering down in the structures all over the board. But, alas, that would not be so as the terrain features had no means of placing models inside them and an announcement made at the beginning forbade any sort of terrain deconstruction. As such, the game instead would be the most epic of cat-and-mouse ever.

Justin won the roll to go first and used it to advance his Gallants forward and reposition his Paladins. Dernicus once again tried to Sally Forth in an attempt to engage the firing Knights and threaten backfield table quarters. In his opening volley, Justin was unable to kill any of Dernicus’s units, but did force an expensive Rotate Ion Shields on his Castellan. In response, Dernicus charged both Gallants with Warglaives. This, along with taking salvos from the Castellan. Neither Gallant fell, though heavily wounded and instead both Warglaives were in ruins. Turn 2 saw the wounded Gallants shuffle towards the Cadian elements meant to slow their advance as the Paladins continued to lob shells into the Dominus chassis. Dernicus brought his Crusader in, severely wounding one of the Paladins but failing to make the 9″ charge.

All the while Guardsmen died and skirted the buildings, hoping to remain unseen (to some success).

In the end, the game went on to turn 6, which gave Justin the last turn of shooting he needed to reduce the Cadian’s numbers which were contesting the table quarters. Game 4: Loss (7-21).

 

Game 5: Ftgt Evan (Blood Angels + Knights)

Finishing the day, Dernicus would be paired against none other than Evan of Facing the Grey Tide. You may have read Evan’s recount of the match here, and if you haven’t you should take a look as he’s a great player and we love seeing his articles and podcast. For Warzone, Evan brought a force of Blood Angels and a lone <House Taranis> Gallant. The Blood Angels had a Smash Cpt., Mephiston, a pair of Sicarians, and quite a few Primaris marines. For the final match we squared off with 4 objectives of varying worth and Warzone Kill Points.

Evan won the roll to go first. His skill showed when he used the turn to position for a turn 2 assault rather than expose his elements to early to the Castellan/Crusader/Warglaives. Instead, Evan positioned in several Line of Sight blocking terrain features and instead pressured the Cadian line with his Smash Cpt, Gallant, and Mephiston. His Sicarians tried to focus fire the Crusader, while avoiding LoS of the Castellan as best he could. His plan paid off as a hole was broken in the Cadian lines that allowed the Gallant to charge into a Warglaive and for the Smash Cpt to consolidate into the other, while Mephiston contended with a unit of guard on the far flank. The tone of the game was set as Dernicus tried to remove what threats he could only to have the wounds reopened but more of Evan’s army.

Both sides tore into one another, as the final turn saw a rhino, and a few characters on Evan’s side to a Castellan and Mortar team to Dernicus. But the Blood Angels prevailed, holding deeper set objectives and far surpassing in Kill Points. Game 5: Loss 14-22.

 

Conclusions: Warzone Atlanta (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

Final Record: 1-4, placing 76th Overall, and in Battle Points. 29/33 Painting Score (my theme suffered thanks to my mortars). 43rd in Sportsmanship (with 3 “Favorite Opponent” votes of my 5 opponents). Not the best showing, but honestly they were 5 great games, against 5 great opponents (3 placed 1st or 2nd in their Groups). In fact, 2 of them played on Stream (you can check it out here). So what does it all mean in the end. Lets look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

 

The Good

Warzone Atlanta prides itself on being “the biggest party of the year in 40k”. Having been to 3 of the 4 events thus far I can certainly attest to this. Tableside drink service, catered lunch, bounty boards, the Warzone Experience, all leads to a great atmosphere for sure. It shows in their massive retention numbers each year as the event is made up of primarily previous attendees (given early access in subsequent years). The General Staff and it’s sponsors prize deeply which is always a plus too. Players are encouraged to work up their sportsmanship (a touchy subject in some competitive circles) as it’s a full 1/3rd of the Overall score. BUT this does lead to generally more chill games which is a nice change of pace.

The Bad

Atlanta isn’t cheap and Warzone reflects that in some of the basic costs. To my knowledge WZA has the highest base ticket cost of the GTs. Mind you, they do have a number of amenities such as the catered lunch and relatively spacious venue, but it does factor in. Likewise, short of being local, the cost of room and board is that of a major city and the event’s location in Marietta does add more than a few pennies. Mind you, neither of these points can really be controlled and aren’t that far from total costs of say Adepticon or NOVA.

Finally, we’d like to mention the use of a unique mission packet that seems to be strongly rooted in older editions. Using primarily End of Game objectives, the Warzone Primer was full of varying themes. As a side note, the packet we used in our Warzone Atlanta Prep RTT a few weeks before the event had some troubles itself. The link on the Facebook page was v1.0, the version on the Warzone website (at that time) was v1.5, and the final packet was v1.6. This made prepping a bit arduous. Especially since the Warzone crew elected to modify several base rules (such as Cover) based on their testing. However noble, that does lead to a tricky situation of having to play a different game for different events. Of course, organizing an event of this magnitude, much less creating unique, yet balanced, aspects such as missions has its trials to consider.

The Ugly

Will we be going next year, highly likely. Would we like to see some improvements, sure! Perhaps one method of calculating Kill Points (instead of 3) for starters. Likewise, if points differentials are in play, it might be better to use them to calculate the final score instead of as points within the separate objectives. That way every match is scored on the same final points, but individual matchups scale the same. More testing would help, and Im sure the General Staff is doing just that. Instituting progressive scoring missions would help as well as End of Game + Kill point oriented mission sets favor certain playstyles (either grindy resilient armies or hyper aggressive tabling lists). Including progressive missions allows players to feel like every turn matters, not just the last one.

Not much can be said about the venue, other than perhaps an option to opt out of the lunch (which could bring the cost down). The tables had mostly uniform terrain layouts and we loved the variety for sure, so there’s not much that could be said there either. Support from sponsors and players abound, this was certainly an all inclusive event. We’d love to see it grow even more.

Shout outs to all of my opponents (Steve, Eric, Andrew, Justin, and Evan); the General Staff, Jon Caspian (photography and streaming), and all the attendees for making the event a great time overall. Keep an eye out for Jordan’s breakdown of the final numbers overall and for more 2018 reviews coming out soon!

 

Image Credits: Jon Caspian Media

Don’t do paperwork, play with your dice!