To explain the title of this post, there is a tactic known in fantasy as the death star approach. You sink a huge amount of army points into one unkillable unit, and let it go. It'll annihalate most things it touches, and the best an opponent can do is try to avoid it and kill the rest of the army. Even then, the sheer amount of points in the death star might make victory impossible.
Dan was running a 3000 point vampire counts force with a unit of grave guard loaded with characters as his death star. 1500 of his army was in this one unit. Actually, he said that at the end of the game - given I'd killed his regen granting BSB it's possible it was higher at the start.
I too had a loaded unit, though only about 900 points worth. The unit itself was a simple 200 points, the characters in it (380 point Karl Franz, plus an Arch Lector and BSB adding the bulk of the points.)
I set up in the same way I had last week, (it's the same army list btw) with my archers screening my units. Wanting to wait till he had his knights down before Icommitted my flagellents, I ended up with a slight variation. My archers did their job wonderfully, screening my units and drawing a charge from the advancing ghouls. So they fled straight through the unit behind them. But as detachments don't cause panic checks, the unit was fine. The ghouls failed the charge, and were thus in my charge range. I like this tactic. As it is the grave guard death star, van halled forward, presented a more interesting target. They tried to get the charge in by van halling once more (amazing how manouverable vampire counts can be) but luckily mannfred miscast, losing hte spell. To add insult to injury for Dan, he then tried with the bound item with the spell. On a roll of a 1 it can't be used again, he rolled a 1. That cut his manouverability down somewhat. Having blocked his magic phase quite successfully this turn (in no small part due to the horrendous miscast) I was feeling quite optimistic.
The two big units clashed in the centre. Charging my knights in as well for the support may not have been the best idea, as the unit positioning left my Arch Lector out of base contact. Thus when the vampire lord issued a challenge, I decided to accept witha lowly champion. The vampire lord won convincingly, and with the various combat resolution the vampires won this one. I had a break test for the knights (the spearmen were unbreakable due to the arch lectors prayer) and they fled - I'm beginning to see a pattern to nobility over the past two weeks :oS On the bright side Dan alligned the units to get more combatents in - putting my arch lector in the fight.
On my left flank the Vargulf had charged my swordsmen. They held against it in the first turn, and Static Combat Resolution was most definitely in my favour. With three ranks, a standard and outnumbering, it would have to wound with every attack it had to score a draw. THus it was suffering from undead combat resolution, and lost a couple of wounds. The detachment charged in and drew another wound, and combat resolution finished it off.
Over on the right flank the other swordsmen and their detachment fought with the ghouls and the corpse cart. They dragged them down, but the detachment was left annoyingly blocking my own unit. Dan did me a big favour - he charged the detachment in the flank. They of course fled, and though they only rolled double 1 - it was enough to put them in the friendly unit, which means you move them right through the unit to the other side. And as detachments don't cause panic checks, no problem - the charging skeletons failed their charge and were now in my charge range.
The flagellents charged the knights and brought one down, but were no match for them. Happily they kept them busy for a few rounds. A unit of knights were positioned to charge the flank and hopefully tip the combat in my favour. But they failed their fear test at a critical juncture. Byt he time I had chance to do it again the flagellents were gone, and while they may do some damage, I didn't rate their chances, particularly in a protracted fight, as they were armed with great weapons.
Back to the main event. The vampire Lord issued a challenge again, and this time the arch lector stepped up. Don't you just love Van Horstmans speculum. This vicar was now hitting at WS7, S5, I7, and had 4A. He was also T5. The vampire Lord found himself reduced to just 2A at I4, S4, WS 4, and a T of 4. With the magic items, the good vicar was also at +1 S and had always strikes first. Sadly, he was relying on my dice rolls. I should have brought him down. I didn't. The combat lasted several rounds of below par rolling, before Dan eventually killed my priest. Dan wasn't particularly lucky, he was about average. But if I'd rolled about average, the fight wouldn't have lasted long enough for Dans averageness to come into it. Then it would have been "Oh Mannfred..."
Mannfred, with the Vampire Lord keeping me from challenging him, had kept himself busy eating the unit in front of him. They held out a long time before eventually the last 4 or 5 failed a break test at LD 5 - fleeing taking the emporer with them in the rush. They were subsequently run down.
The newly released grave guard managed to get their vanhal mojo working again, and promptly slaughtered most of my left flank swordsmen unit.
While I was confident I had enough to win the right flank, with that Death Star still wandering around I knew I couldn't pick up enough points to win. As long as it was slugging out in the middle between the two power units I felt i had a chance - I'd even been moving my now useless screening units into positions where they could claim table quarters if push came to shove. With the collapse of the centre, and the loss of a lot of points worth of characters, it was over. I conceded defeat.
Dan remembered late on that Mannfred gets extra power dice for each wound he causes, so my magic defence could have been overwhelmed. But at the same time I'd have loved to have got my Arch Lector into a challenge against Mannfred. If I'd rolled better and killed his Lord, he'd have done anything he could to avoid that. A unit Champion would have been easy pickings, and my Emporer had already killed his BSB through base to base attacks. He'd have been coming for him, and if he'd killed him... well then I imagine it would have been all over for the Vampire Army. I could have done with getting my Arch Lector into a challenge on the first turn when his hatred would still have worked - I chose to charge the knights in and this left him out in the cold. Given the knights managed to do sweet FA (well, two of them managed to die) before running away, I wish I'd left it to the spearmen. That was my mistake. The putting detachments in front of a unit as bait and a screen was an interesting idea, and I liked the way it worked. It does leave you with less support, as after the first turn they end up behind you. Regaining position could be a bitch.
A good win for Dan. And oh how I wished I'd brought the steam tank list to plough into that grave guard and see what happens.
I have another 3000 point list in mind for next week, my last chance to playtest before the tournament. Hopefully will get an interesting match up.
Burning Eye Commission- Terminator Librarian
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