Oct 13, 2011

Recent Vassal Games and MSU Realization.

Okay, so I’ve gotten in a couple of Vassal games in with myself the last week, and I have to say that it’s been interesting.

I’m always uncertain when setting up the terrain, but I’ve been able to use the NOVA format as a guideline. There are five larger sections (three of which block LoS, but not onto them), the center one being a hill and two being Ruins (which I really just count as Difficult Terrain), and two smaller ones, usually a Difficult Terrain piece and an Impassible piece. It seems to make terrain play an actual role and be something that needs to be worked around, rather than just being there. I’m happy so far, but I’m also not placing them super close together.

Anyway, I said I played two games and I did. Both involved my Tournament List, which may or may not be exactly as I had it before. For reference, here it is:

Emperor’s Champion (Abhor);

Castellan: Storm Bolter, Krak Grenades;

Terminator Command Squad (4): 2 Assault Cannons, Tank Hunters; Drop Pod;

Terminator Squad (5): 2 Assault Cannons, Tank Hunters; Drop Pod;

2x Dreadnought: Multi-Melta, Heavy Flamer, Extra Armor, Smoke; Drop Pod;

6x Crusader Squad (5): Multi-Melta, Bolters, Plasma Gun; Drop Pod;

3x Typhoon;

I had messed with points (dropping my Storm Shield) to get a few Chainfists, and then I decided that I wanted Multi-Meltas on the Dreadnoughts much more.

Anyway, first game was against Marshal Learoth’s Dual-Rock list, and it was Spearhead 5 Objectives. I had faced the list before (several times) but this time I had two major things helping me. One was Multi-Meltas on my Dreadnoughts (this is not to be ignored; it allowed me to take advantage of the second part). Two was some really good luck. Even though I got a ton of stuff on the second turn, one of those things was a Dreadnought, who dropped next to a Land Raider, and promptly exploded it, which then killed a Terminator. Not a whole lot of other exciting stuff happened. The next turn (actually that turn, the Drop Pod list was going first), the surviving Terminators charged the Dreadnought. That’s when I realized that only the TH/SS guy (I had accidentally killed the other) could hurt the Dreadnought. It did not go well, but that was greatly my fault.

Other points of interest include a Multi-Melta Initiate killing the second Land Raider Crusader, my Castellan plus Command Terminators charging and eliminating a entire Cruader Squad after shooting its Rhino and wrecking it. And by the end of T7, all that lived for Learoth’s list was a Crusader Squad w/ Emperor’s Champion holding an objective (their ride was dead, as were both Neophytes and most of the Initiates) and a single Lightning Claw Assault Terminator trying to contest the center objective (I didn’t bother checking to see if he was, since the only difference it made was if I had won 4-1 or 3-1). So that was fun.

Second Game. Against Marshal Learoth’s Mechanized Take-All Comers list (and by the way, to me it seems like you’ve got those two in the wrong order on your website, the Dual-Rock feels much more competitive than the all-comers, not just while playing but also in the trade-off for dropping the second Assault Terminators unit ignore that, I had looked up to see if there were Predators in the Dual-Raider list, saw some in the Take-All Comers, and somehow thought that they were in both or something. So, if you could fit in three Auto/Las Predators along with all of the other stuff, then the order would be wrong :) ). I tried a system that Brent over at Strictly Average thought of. Basically, when you roll to go first, rather than the winner deciding if he goes first or second, he chooses one of three things: the scenario, the deployment, or who goes first. The loser of the roll then selects another one of the three, and the final is decided randomly (I can include a link to the post if this isn’t clear to anyone). Well, Learoth’s list won the roll-off, so I played Kill-Points. I then decided that my list would go second. And it was Dawn of Way deployment.

Things generally went quite smoothly in the first few turns for Learoth’s list. /sarcasm First a Rhino (carrying the Emperor’s Champion) got Immobilized trying to move through Difficult Terrain to shield the side of a Predator (on the first turn). Then, when the Drop Pods started coming down, only one Typhoon got a chance to shoot for the entire game and it was immobilized, the Predators generally did poorly (though one did Shake and Destroy the Multi-Melta on my second Dreadnought, which was annoying as I was trying to use that Multi-Melta). I will say this though, that single Assault Terminator Squad with Land Raider Crusader was MVP of the entire army, probably the entire game. Together they scored about 7 kill points (3 Drop Pods, Dreadnought, Castellan, Terminator Command Squad, and I think a Crusader Squad) and one of the Terminators survived the game, refusing me the chance to table the list. The Land Raider Crusader just refused to die, the first shots against it were from Multi-Meltas on the Dreadnoughts, and they both Glanced. After the first shots, they were also both gone (at different times), plus more Multi-Melta Shots (from a stranded Crusader Squad), plus some Assault Cannon shots (which scored two Penetrating hits and a Glance), plus more than one round of assault from a Dreadnought. Do you know how it finally died? Weapon Destroyed (its Multi-Melta), Weapon Destroyed (its TL Assault Cannon), Immobilized, Weapon Destroyed (Hurricane Bolter), Weapon Destroyed (Hurricane Bolter), and a final Immobilized or Weapon Destroyed result, which wrecked it. Not a single Wrecked or Explodes result rolled, despite a half-dozen penetrating hits, most of which were AP1. And it was Turn 6 when it did die (first half of the turn). Of course, the Dreadnought who finished it off went and then killed three of the Assault Terminators (just as they finished off my Command Squad).

The MVP for my army has to have been the Crusader Squad with the Emperor’s Champion in it. They dropped down to tackle the other Emperor’s Champion plus Squad (plus Rhino). They destroyed the Rhino’s Storm Bolter, and then were promptly charged. Because of sloppy model placement on my part, and the fact that they were on the wrong side of the Rhino and that they were a little distance away, the enemy Emperor’s Champion was unable to benefit from the charge. For several turns, the small, five-man squad with Champion whittled down the larger, Close Combat squad, winning combat every turn and every turn causing more Fearless casualties, until the enemy Champion finally killed the friendly Champion (but not before being the last one alive in the squad) and later finished off the remaining two Initiates (yes, the 5-man outlasted the 9-man, I can’t believe it either). The Emperor’s Champion later died (second half of Turn 7) when he got charged by 5 Terminators, but only after killing three. I am really impressed at how deadly the Emperor’s Champion is to Terminators (much earlier game against the Dual-Rock list my Emperor’s Champion tallied up I think 7 of the 10 Assault Terminators, but I can’t remember if he survived or not).

Last interesting thing that happened was when the Crusader Squad with the Marshal had just eliminated a Crusader Squad and was sitting on the hill in the center. Three turns of three Typhoons plus some extra casualties from a couple of Crusader Squads along with four Drop Pod Storm Bolters and all 10 models finally bit the dust. If the LRC and Assault Terminators were MVP, then this squad came in second, pulling 3 kill points by itself (well, the Marshal did) and it had the opportunity to get a few Drop Pods under its belt had the Meltagun survived a bit longer. Final score of the second game: Drop Pod list Victory, 15 out of 16 Kill Points to 11 out of 24.

And, of course, there were the Storm Bolters on the Drop Pods. They rarely did anything, and most shots missed, or failed to wound, but they did some fun stuff. Notably they Shook a Typhoon, and destroyed a Lascannon on a Predator (rear armor shots FTW). Oh, and they took out the final wound of the Marshal in the second game after I had exhausted all of my other shooting on him. Overall, both games were much fun, and I look forward to being able to play actual games and putting up actual Battle-Reports.

Now then, as for a more general analysis of what I have learned. One is that it is very easy to take advantage of the Drop Pod Assault rules by putting them in your opponent’s face and using your opponent’s own units to limit where the Drop Pod can scatter to (if you’ve got multiple that you want in or near the same place, you can block movement to your squads, so you don’t even have to worry about a counter-assault half the time). So with that advantage, nearly all of my Drop Pods have landed on target, and I can’t remember any that scattered too far away to be unable to do what I wanted them to.

Another thing is really about the MSU philosophy. I had heard this before defending the high-number of Kill Points, and it was abundantly clear in the second game. High-number of Kill Points (even when nearly half of them are Drop Pods and will die half the time you get a penetrating hit), does not equate to a disadvantage in Kill-Point missions. You do have that problem, but it is balanced by the number of units you have. I could target each unit at something else, and could thus kill my opponent before they were able to take advantage of their (on average) better units. Since they had fewer units than I did, they were unable to actually kill all of my Drop Pods or Crusader Squads. Both of them are dangerous units to my opponent, but I’ve got six of them (ten Drop Pods). Now, what I mean in particular here, has been sort of mentioned before, but not clearly. Basically, if you don’t kill a Crusader Squad, then their Multi-Melta can and will cause some damage; if you do kill it, it only constitutes about 7% of my firepower, so I’m not really hurt or hampered. For Drop Pods it’s a very similar thing. They are really nice to have on the table as they keep my units safe from charges and from shooting, but if you blow them up, so what. It isn’t like they are my only scoring units, or important for my plan, or really needed at all; they are just handy. And when you shoot them, you aren’t shooting the things that can actually kill you. When you couple that with the efficiency that my units can achieve in killing the enemy units (by not wasting shots on something that is already dead) and my extra available Kill Points were irrelevant, if not an advantage for me.

Now, some notes about my Tournament list in general. I like the Multi-Meltas in the Crusader Squads. There are times that I would have really liked a Bolter instead, but it would not have made much, if any, difference. Further, I don’t think that there is any place where the extra 60 points from my Heavy Weapons would have been any great use. Maybe making a Dreadnought Venerable (and Tank Hunter), giving my Castellan some actual weapons (Combi-Melta or Power Weapon and Storm Shield) or handing out some Chainfists and going to a Marshal? But would those really help me as much as the Multi-Meltas? Not as far as I can see. Also, the Multi-Meltas on the Dreadnoughts are phenomenally good to have. Marshal Learoth’s Drop Pod list is able to get away without them because all of the Crusader Squads can do pretty much the same things, but I like having the extra overall range (Plasma Guns, Multi-Meltas) and, if I didn’t have that change, I wouldn’t really be running my own list.

Okay, so I got in a third game (against the Templarbubble list) today, and I noticed something. What happens is that I generally get a larger half of my list on turn 2, which drops down and does damage, and then most of the rest comes down turn 3. With all of the Drop Pods, models, and melta, all at once, my opponent can't really get out from where he is. He's got turn 1 and turn 2 if he goes first to get into position. That's it. A couple of Rhinos went for an objective, but they got de-meched by my Typhoons and did basically nothing (well, they kill a Dreadnought which prevented me from finishing off the Assault Terminators, and they absorbed a few turns of firing from one of my Typhoons, but they really didn't impact the game). Vehicles died like nobody's business, the Assault Terminators got clogged in and were unable to have any real impact, and the greatest benefit the Predators provided was killing a couple of Drop Pods and then being the first ones to take my firepower.

It's probably a combination of my inexperience with the list (I can do the Drop Pod one, but those Rhino-based ones are beyond me), and I very well could have played it wrong, and it could be affected by some subconscious urge for my favorite list to win (that urge is a real danger when you play against yourself). It could also have to do simply with the strategy of using Drop Pods being a better strategy than is used by the lists I've faced thus-far, and that could be affected by a number of different factors (focus on being able to get off the first shots, cheaper Drop Pods allowing for more points spent elsewhere, or maybe it's just harder to develop a strategy to use against Drop Pod armies). It could also have to do with the lists themselves; I tried to make my list as competitive as possible (for what it is, a shooty-Drop Pod instead of Defensive Drop Pod), but I've been playing against lists that are mostly Casual ones (Templarbubble excepted, but it was unable to use it's strategy to any effect). Lots of possibilities, and I won't be able to trim them down until I either play quite a few more games against a multitude of different lists or I get some games in against an actual opponent.

I also noticed that, when it got down to it, the enemy lists were unable to target my Typhoons. They were just too far away and protected by concealing Drop Pods and more dangerous units. It may be that this will change as I start to face more competitive lists, but I did find it interesting.

That’s really all I have. If there are any questions I will be happy to answer them as best I can, and I hope to get a Vassal game against Marshal Learoth’s PotMS list.


  1. I hate my life. Just lost a huge ass comment to a blogger error. :'(

    I'll come back tonight and try to repost it again. *sigh*

  2. Isn't this the second time you've recently lost most/all of a comment? From now on, make a point before posting comments to copy the whole thing, just in case. ;)

  3. You're telling me. I guess I am going to have to start doing that, cause its getting rather irritating. The first time was because there is an invisible character limit for comments on my blog, but they don't give you a counter to track how close you're getting. So it got cut in half. :(

    Anyway, hopefully I remember everything I was saying before. What I do remember is going to be a little shorter than before as well. Its going to be in list form, cause that is just easier for me.

    1) I won't accuse you of not playing hard with both lists, because I assume you are. However, this isn't chess where both sides are equal. As much as you would it to be even, there will be sub-conscious bias in play (as you mention). Its unavoidable and may affect in-game play, though it might not have been the case this time around.

    Because of this, I would recommend using some of your own lists to play against as well. That way you're equally invested in the success of both lists and you'll minimize the bias you get. While I think its still important to play other player's lists (hell, I'm going to have to learn how to use Vassal so I can try), if you want to eliminate that element, that is the way to do it. Otherwise, actually playing a person helps too. Might have to get my ass in gear and learn how to use the program so I can get some games in with ya. ;)

    2) I've tried very hard to explain, unsuccessfully, that it doesn't matter how many Kill Points you have if your opponent can't kill you. Not only is it incredibly difficult to kill MEQ as it is, you take several turns from your opponent. Then you have to take the attrition factor into play. You spoke a little bit about this. Because I have so many units that can deal a good deal of damage, the enemy will be taking losses assuming average rolls. That cuts down on their ability to kill you even further. And nothing in our army is a big enough a threat to kill by itself, but they are all dangerous if left alone. But if they do die, who cares? I have several other exact same units. The fact of the matter is that I have more "dangerous" units than my opponent does, through shear numbers. The sum is greater than the whole.

    People need to think of MSU like ants. While other insects might be infinitely stronger and larger, there is no way they'll be able to kill enough of them before being dragged down. Each ant is dangerous by itself, but not so much so that it attracts special attention.

    3) I think you're beginning to see why I've noted for about 2 years that our drop pods are amazing. I even wrote a huge article on how to use the DDP where I pretty much spelled out these benefits, but still there players who naysay. ;) The ability to manipulate the board, coupled with the ability to abuse MSU, is huge. Its difficult to learn the army, but once you do, you'll be incredibly hard to beat. Unless you're playing one of two armies.

    Dark Eldar have the advantage because they can do MSU and have fast skimmers, but not unbeatable. Then there is Grey Knights with Warp Quake. If you see that psychic power on the board, its pretty much game over for the manipulation strategy. A clever GK opponent can project nearly a full board of "Mishap Zones" by turn two. That would be one of the few times you'd want to go first.

    I think I forgot some of the stuff I wrote before, but oh well. I'll re-comment if I remember them. ;)

  4. Okay, so I think there's a character limit for the comments, because Blogger simply wouldn't post mine, so I'm going to try two different comments.

    Using a list form is so handy. Easy to write in, easy to read, so awesomesauce.

    1) I've played Chess with myself, and I tend to prefer the black pieces more than the white pieces. Guess which side tends to win more? But I do think that I wasn't quite playing the lists to the best of their ability, mostly because the games are for me to better learn how my list performs and how to use it, so I concentrate on that rather on using the other lists. Now this doesn't have a huge impact (except against the Templarbubble list, which probably needs a rematch), but it does mean that I can't use the outcomes as a perfect representation of what will happen against an actual opponent (though I can't think of anything I was doing wrong with the first two lists, so I may not be too far off).

    And I don't think that using my own lists will make much difference, maybe in that I made them and thus I am more familiar with them. But my tournament list is still my favorite (and a little part of me wants to believe that it's also the best I can bring forward), and I will still want it to win.

    2)I've read several places that the higher available Kill Points in MSU armies doesn't equate to a hindrance in Kill Point games, and that it's because of having so many different units which can do damage, but I had never seen it explained. I had been under the impression that even though MSU had more units, larger units would do more damage and, combined with the lower durability that MSU generally has, would have an easier time claiming kill points (basically, MSU doesn't roll over and die to a lower Kill-Point army in 1/3 of the games, but is still at a disadvantage). But I've found that unless there is a huge difference in damage output (such as Terminators to Marines) there isn't a notable difference in how effective a unit is at killing other units. With Vehicles and a large number of Multi-Meltas this is compounded by there being little difference between Land Raiders and Rhinos when it comes to killing them. For my list in particular, the Crusader Squads could (half the time) kill a Rhino or a Land Speeder, the Dreadnoughts could be counted on to kill or badly damage any unit they targeted (Multi-Melta on Vehicles, Heavy Flamer plus charge on Infantry), and very little could stand against two Assault Cannons and three Storm Bolters (especially after the assault). Who cares that there are only 5 bodies? Twice as many bodies in the squad won't make it twice as likely to kill something.

    What people need to realize is not simply that MSU has so many sufficient units, it's that larger squads aren't sufficiently more deadly to be worth their points. I said that my Crusader Squads were each only about 7% of my offensive output, and that's because I didn't count Bolters. Bolters (and Storm Bolters or any other weapon that isn't high Strength or doesn't ignore armor) are not effective weapons. Sure, they'll do some damage, but it will only be about as many wounds as the Special/Heavy Weapons do and it will only be against Infantry. Sure, they ignore the armor of things like Ork Boyz, but then there are so many Boyz that unless you have a LOT of Bolters you just don't make a real impact.

  5. 3)I had heard how awesome they are, but I hadn't realized most of the why. I had even read that article, but a few things still eluded me (most of which I have included in the post above). My impression was that the Distraction units would land out in the open, away from anything important, and begin attacking the enemy to either draw their attention or do a bunch of damage; then the Crusader Squads would land all across the board, claiming objectives, hiding behind their Drop Pods, and slowing down the enemy once he got to them. What the Distraction units end up doing for me is dropping amidst the enemy and taking out prime targets (Land Raiders and Predators, and other big stuff are my favorites), then drawing fire (though usually not enough could be brought to kill them), before continuing to deal damage (so both of the options that I had thought); the Crusader Squads claimed far off objectives and any extras came down near the enemy so that they can box them in and use their Plasma Guns (and Multi-Meltas) and who knows, they might even be able to claim one of the enemy objectives (as what happened in both the first and the third game). I was also under the impression that blocking with the Drop Pods was when you placed them between two pieces of terrain to slow the enemy down, not when you bring down several Drop Pods all in a line and preventing access to entire sections of the board until they're destroyed. You should really get some Battle Reports of you using the DDP List so that you can further explain not only how it's meant to work, but also how it actually performs on the table-top (Black Templars 102 guide would be a good place for that kind of Battle Report).

    I don't think I should have a terrible time with Dark Eldar, Algesan seems to be able to take care of them with his list, and all of my units has a weapon which can (fairly) reliably de-mech them the turn I come down, though moving Flat Out somewhat negates this and I'm not exactly mobile to go catch them should they escape me, nor do I have the range to reach out and touch them. But once I remove their transport advantage, then they are very similar to my guys, but worse...and don't have BS2 Drop Pod Storm Bolters to Immobilize Predators.

    The Grey Knight issue is a different problem entirely as it sounds. And I don't really have an answer to it. As it stands I'll lose a third of my units before they can do anything, and then another third will be placed far away, and just one third isn't much to work with (maybe if it's the perfect third, just maybe). All I can think of to counter that is to deploy outside of my Drop Pods and run over to him, that way I'd lose a third of my Drop Pods, but not the units inside. Still, that isn't a great option.

    Two main reasons that I haven't played a Vassal Game with anyone yet is 1) I would want to find a Vassal Etiquette article or something or else I'd be in a constant state of paranoia that I'd be making mistakes (no I can't think of any in particular, but I'd still be terrified that I was making them, I'm just insecure like that) and 2) I heard that it was recommended to use Skype or some similar program to talk rather than using the chat feature. The first one I could probably get over, and I really haven't made any searches, but the second I agree with. It would be nice for me to just say what I'm doing while I'm doing it, rather than typing it in and doing it. Plus, there's no chance my opponent will use chat-speak and be hard to understand (well, it's possible, but I can trust that it won't happen).

    By the way, a great article for how to use Vassal can be found here:


    You probably don't need Vassal as much as I do, but you can take advantage of it if you want some pictures to explain anything in your Blog or 101 Guide (I just need to take some screen-shots, and perhaps I can get a Battle-Report up).