Thursday, 24 September 2015

Autumn Invasion Tournament Report


Held at the Croydon Conference Centre, Autumn Invasion was to be one of the biggest Dropzone Commander tournaments yet seen, with fifty-seven players in attendance. As well as the tournament, the event would showcase new releases for Hawk, give an opportunity to speak to the team and pick up a lot of shiny models on their well-stocked retail stand.

My friend Simon and I traveled up via car on both days, which meant we spent far too much time in each other's company and were both knackered from early mornings, hours of driving (worse for Simon as designated driver) and late nights watching trash movies to "prepare."

Having only really played each other (and a handful of games against our Shaltari-playing friend Chris), were we both incredibly hazy on large aspects of the game, and would soon find ourselves outmatched, outplayed and generally outdone by players with a LOT more experience than us.

Arriving and soaking in the atmosphere - drooling over the beautiful studio miniatures, buying as many new toys as we could and consuming as much coffee as we could stand, it was time for the first round.
We have arrived!
New and future releases - the Sappers for the Resistance caught my eye, as well as the double-decker Battle Bus and the immense Big Bertha. General Wade's command tank for UCM is doubly impressive in the flesh
The always impressive UCM fleet - I was pleased to see the huge number of turrets on the Heavy Cruiser (Gunship?) look more sensible in reality
Scourge ships painted for Dropfleet Commander - lovely oil-like finish
Beautiful studio models on display - even better in the flesh!
The Forsaken are out in force!
Targets of Opportunity
Feral Resistance - Seb from Beasts of War (38th overall and Most Sporting)

The first game of the weekend saw a Resistance civil war, as the organised and militant Forsaken clashed with Feral warriors in the streets. Seb was running an interesting list, with M9 Hannibals and M20 Zhukovs in two AT-77 Lifthawks, three AH-19 Cyclones and a squadron of Gun Wagons, an NT-5 Thunderstorm Custom, Barrel Bomber, Freeriders and four Battle Buses in two more NT-1 Kraken Hovercraft, packed with troops. 

After a cagey start where his infantry found an Objective with their first roll, Seb crashed his Barrel Bomber into the ground with a poor "Hit the Deck" roll and it was downhill from there. His Gun Wagons were destroyed by my Cyclones, allowing me to dominate the skies, while his own Gunships were cut down (eventually) by my Gun Wagons. The Thunderstorm was surrounded and brought down by the Freeriders and tanks after they had rolled spectacularly well and destroyed his Rusted Fist formation in the centre of the board. 

The dice abandoned Seb, and my own were on form, leaving his forces scattered and then culled in short order. At the end of Turn Six, I had secured two Objectives off the board and held a third, giving me five Objective Points to Seb's two. Kill Points drove the result up, as I had destroyed over 1,200pts worth of his forces while only losing a smattering of cheap units, leaving it a VICTORY 17-3  for the Resistance. 

A brutal show of firepower from my army as Seb's army was smashed from on high, but this would put me on the top tables for the next game...
The Resistance bulldoze their way through the Feral armour
The Ferals are cleared from the streets
Ground Control
Scourge - Dan from Orbital Bombardment (2nd overall and Best Team)

After the initial violence of the first game fell entirely in my favour, I was rather horrified to see a mission I had never played, against a very capable opponent, with an entirely aerial Scourge army. The trifector of %$£&! The mission would require me to keep my stuff up in the air till the end of the game if I was to have any chance of winning, and that would mean a large chunk of my points would be worthless. Brilliant! 

On the positive side, I recognised Dan from the Orbital Bombardment blog and podcast, and he was a really decent chap. He helped me out with the Scourge units I was unfamiliar with, and the mission parameters that I was unsure about. 

The cat-and-mouse game that defined the early turns turned violent when Dan sacrificed his Reapers, drawing out my Hellhog and my Commander's Lifthawk, which was unfortunately destroyed in the process but lured the Reapers into sight of the Cyclone Gunships. My own AA units were skilfully avoided, allowing his aerial units to run rings around me. 

After this excitement, the rest of the game was defined by my own forces getting dragged down slowly while his positioned for the last turn Ground Control. Misjudging a few point values, I ended with units in all four quarters, but did not dominate any of them. Losing my own infantry while Dan's scored double points when holding a building was especially brutal.

Losing on Objective Points and by a medium margin of Kill Points, the result was a LOSS 16 - 4. Ouch.

Great game against a really great opponent, Dan would go on to finish Second overall, so well done for that! Next time I will consider where my forces finish - not too spread out but concentrating to achieve the victory conditions. I will have some better AA then too!
Lifthawks move to cut down the swarms of Minders
The insane speed of the Scourge forces the Resistance to shift to face their left flank
The Gunships move in to take advantage of the Commander's sacrifice
Secure the Flanks
Shaltari - Rob from Edinburgh (14th overall)

Game Three would be against the dreaded Shaltari, but this time instead of the hated Caimans, a large number of walkers and striders were arrayed against me. Looking at the opposing force I had a good idea of what to do, and did not feel my lack of AA would hurt too much. In this, I was wrong. 

Rob was a very sound player, countering my moves well to ensure my force did not really escape my quarter to threaten his Focal Point. For the Objectives, he ignored his own and threw his own infantry into the central building and my own Objective - and swiftly slaughtered my infantry in CQB. My infantry and Hellhog were dealt with quickly, leaving just the tanks to try and hold my Focal Point. Highlights of the game include my Alexander trying to take his Focal Point and being destroyed in one turn by some excellent rolling from the Tarantulas, while my massive Cyclone squadron destroyed both the Jaguars in two turns. His Firedrake retreated after being wounded badly by the Gun Wagons, but soon recovered with some Repair cards and caused havoc. 

Unfortunately, I could not threaten his Focal Point or recover the lost Objectives (though I did stop them escaping the board), and he had managed to score more Kill Points as well. The game was another LOSS 16 - 4

Rob was a solid player, who knew his army well and was gracious when correcting my mistakes with Shaltari rules. Overall the game was set as soon as the Firstborn got onto my home Objective and slaughtered the Veterans, and there was little I could do to recover. 

Bunker Assault
Scourge - Alex from Orbital Bombardment (33rd overall)

The first game of the second day was drawn against another aerial Scourge army - &%$£! Fortunately (I guess) he was also down in the low tables, so the game would hopefully be a little more relaxed than before. Alex also had a lot more ground-based units of skimmers, which would hopefully give me something to shoot at. 

This was one of the most interesting games of the tournament, as it went down to the wire on the last turn. Moving across the board in the early turns, neither of our forces committed anything except his Destroyers into a building next to the Bunker - I had one turn to bring down the building and obliterate them before they entered the Bunker and would be impossible to root out. In this, I failed, only scoring twenty four of the thirty damage points needed to finish it. Damn! 

The rest of the game, before the mad dash for the Focal Points at the end, was a massive firefight on the left flank between most of Alex's offensive and my own Commander, Gun Wagons and Cyclones, with the Freeriders added for good measure. Having moved at incredible speed down the flank, Alex then played two cards which would make his skimmer squadron and gunship squadron almost impossible to hit - not something I needed at the same time! 

This excellent combination caused havoc, but by the end the Resistance endured and had brought down the Scourge attack, at the cost of my Commander. The finale of the game saw unit reposition to try and hold the Focal Points, and near the end I was in the lead! We then remembered that the Desolator, as a Commander, can contribute its value towards the Focal Point. It moved over the scrum in the centre of the board and the Scourge carried the day. 

After the dust settled, the Resistance has scored more Kill Points, but lost on Objective Points by one. A LOSS 11 - 9 for the Forsaken. 

Despite the awesome power of the Scourge and their wonderful cards, I felt the Resistance had the upper hand towards the end of the battle, and only the shock intervention of the Desolator carried it back to Alex. Some more AA, as usual, would have helped here. 
The Scourge advance through the city, covered by the remnants of the lost civilisation 
The insidious Scourge pull a bold flanking manoeuvre, catching the Resistance off guard
The struggle for centre increases in violence
Occupation Veterans and Freeriders move in to overwhelm the defenders of the Bunker
The Desolator moves in to secure the Focal Point
Military Installation
UCM - Andrew from Disgruntled Peasants (29th overall)

The last game of the tournament was drawn against... yeah, another Air Cavalry list. UCM with several Eagle Heavy Gunships, the Phoenix, two Seraphim, two Archangels, infantry in Ravens and demolition tanks in Condors soon saw that my beleaguered Resistance were overwhelmed quickly. Recovering his own Objective, the UCM destroyed two buildings (despite being hardened Military Installations!) with my troops in (killing four entire units) and then started hunting down my ground assets and transports. 

This was a bloody mess from the start, with the highlight being a swirling CQB in one of the surviving buildings between several Resistance and UCM units. It ended inconclusively, but not before the UCM recovered the Objective. With three Objectives to my none, and with a significant advantage in Kill Points, it was another LOSS 16 - 4. Eurrghh. 

Andy played well, he knew exactly what he was doing and exacted that plan quickly. I was defeated from the opening move, as my force was simply not equipped to face that much aerial firepower. A very poor draw for the list, I was glad I only lost by three Objective Points!


My first opponent Seb would go on to win Most Sporting and Dan would come Second overall, meaning my tournament experience saw a lot of podium play - good stuff!

Finishing with a big win, a close loss and three big losses, I had only scored 38 Tournament Points and was relegated to the distinct bottom of the results table - 48th out of 56. Ouch! It seems that running minimal AA did not play out, especially given the aerial focus of three of my opponents. I like to think I would have done better if I had drawn any PHR or Resistance opponents, but can only blame my dubious list and playstyle for the results.

As mentioned in my blog post on preparing for the tournament, I knew I would struggle against Scourge and Air-Cav armies, so of course I would spend the majority of the tournament hopelessly overwhelmed by flyers I could not stop.
Looking at the list in hindsight, I now understand why so many Resistance players run the Thunderstorm instead of the M3 Alexander. For similar points (factoring in the Lifthawk), the Thunderstorm is just so much more likely to do something before it is destroyed. There is no doubt it will be destroyed, but at least the Thunderstorm can bring down a building as it goes.

I did not miss the Drill, but perhaps if my list was to include more Technicals it would be a worthwhile investment. Buying loads of Kraken transports is probably not the best use of points.

The Freeriders were... okay, but I doubt I would miss them. They might get the chop in the future, and are an easy source of points for things like Zhukovs or ATVs.

Four Cyclone Gunships is ridiculous. It's a lot of fun, and causes untold havoc when they can all get in range, but ultimately is not worth the points in a game where almost everything can hide in the sky. Maybe in 2,000pts, but not a 1,500pt tournament.

The best way to improve my AA capacity is one of three ways - another unit of Gun Wagons, upgrade the Hannibals to Zhukovs, or fit in some Archangel Pathfinders. Each carry their own pros and cons, but since the next few games will be entirely experimental (with lots of new units and combinations) I will have the opportunity to try them all.

Overall this tournament has shown me I need to get past the Resistance Starter Set and try out some new units, dropping the ubiquitous infantry in Jacksons carried by a Lifthawk and the Hannibals in favour of more Battle Buses, Zhukovs and exotic infantry,

My compatriot Simon finished 35th with his PHR forces, and has learned some valuable lessons from some of the other PHR players present. He did well to change his list during our practise games, trying new units and combinations that paid off in the tournament. I keep hearing that he has finally realised how to use Apollo walkers, and have little idea what that means!
The Warlord's HQ performed with mixed results - the Freeriders were useful in many circumstances, but did not score any remarkable kills aside from the NT-5 Thunderstorm Custom. The M3 Alexander was not used well, and I think only fired three to four times in five games. Time for a Thunderstorm of my own!
The quasi-mandatory Vehicle Detachment of Gun Wagons in an NT-1 Kraken did their job for the most part, though they were slaughtered too early or outmaneuvered in my big losses. I think a second squadron would give me some real punch against the Air Cavalry armies out there
The classic Resistance Band were not the greatest investment this weekend, getting targeted at every opportunity and often seeing their building blown out from under them or slaughtered in CQB. I may add a unit of Berserkers into this formation, to give them a better chance in combat
The second Resistance Band were a solid investment, but I think adding some guns to the Battle Buses will make them more useful. Adding a Support Squad or another Exotic will also improve the usefulness of this formation
The Rusted Fist formation was a lot of points, and though it caused a lot of casualties, the M9 Hannibals were largely wasted and the AH-16 Cyclones a huge investment. They will probably be cut down in numbers or replaced entirely
The Fast Striker J-19 Hellhog caused a few casualties  over the weekend, but was stifled by Scourge skimmers and awesome AA rolls bolstered by "Quick Thinking" cards and the like. I still love using the model and being able to reach those difficult places on the board, so will probably keep him around
The army deployed
Shamelessly stolen from Hawk Simon, thanks for posting thia

Although I took a lot of pictures, this is by no means a finite resource. Check out the Swedish blog for more pictures and commentary!
The Resistance Technical army of doom! Lovely collection, I hope to match it one day with my own horde
Impressively coloured and based Shaltari, featuring a nasty amount of walkers and striders
Garish Scourge with crystals and jungle - this was my opponent's army from Game Four
A drybrushed grey UCM force, these guys look really impressive across the table
A brilliantly converted and painted UCM force - check out the flying Ferrum Drone Base and infantry bases!
A more subdued Shaltari force - this was my opponent in Game Three
Traditional green UCM - I like the details on the Phoenix
Shocking yellow Shaltari - instant dismissal for running three Caimans!
Clean blue UCM
Lovely digital camo on these UCM tanks and flyers
The winter-themed Resistance, emerging from their snow base. Send in the Imperial Walkers!
PHR in black and white
Colourful Shaltari with a lot of ground-based units. Why couldn't I have played this one! 
I love this deep purple Scourge army
Sinister dark Shaltari
Dan's stunning Scourge. I love the blues and pinks, and found it a real pleasure to play against in Game Two. As one onlooker put it, this was one of the best-looking games of the weekend! 
Simon's bone coloured PHR. The victim of my teasing for not being finished, they still look great on the tabletop

There were a lot of really impressive armies out on display, and it was an odd feeling to have to rush through looking at them all! I took a lot of photos, but other sources have even more (and at better quality). I was especially impressed with some of the camouflage patterns on the various UCM forces, the beautiful cohesion (and bases!) of the blue Shaltari force, and the various horrific alien schemes from the Scourge players.

In the end, I won! Hell yeah!


Winning the Painting Competition was really something special -  to meet so many people (from across Europe!) who had seen the army build online was humbling. and to be recognised by the Hawk team themselves just great.

Obviously I need to expand the Mad Max theme and start painting some more crazy vehicles and War Boys! Either that, or paint an entirely new army in time for the Spring Invasion in five months. Difficult choices!

Ultimately I think it would be difficult to win Best Painted again with the same army, so I will need to work on something new, or just add to the Resistance and become a better player - aiming for a better placement instead. I will have to ponder on this, and plan for some more awesome Mad Max conversions.

The tournament itself was run very well, with good timing, atmosphere and some enjoyable spot prizes to liven things up. The overall feel of the tournament was one of the most pleasant I have had the fortune to attend - everything was done in a sporting manner (as far as I could see), judge's decisions were respected and everyone was happy to help the newer players.

One of the best tournament experiences I've had, despite finishing in my lowest placement ever. Big thanks to the Hawk team for all the work they put in, and I will definitely be looking to attend in the future!
My swag - I managed to get the second civilian bus off my friend Simon, and that's Big Bertha the Giant Drill in the blister pack
Thanks for reading,


1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a lot of fun. The army looked great as did many of the others. its very nice when players take pride in the presentation.