So I attended the Battle for Salvation this weekend, and performed well again. I seem to do well here every year, and with the intensely competitive field it's always a good opportunity for me to tick a little internal box that "yes, I can still play this game."
More important than that, the BFS is always an incredibly awesome social time ... and I love connecting and re-connecting with some of the coolest people in the hobby.
Long and short:
Performed well, had fun, tied for Best Sportsmanship (tied for most Favorite Opponent votes while maxing sports score), won 2nd-to-1, and won Battlemaster. I actually took home the Battlemaster award, as it was the highest "prestige" of the three; the other 2 went subsequently to other players who performed well themselves in those categories.
Here is my army list:
The list was built with a couple of things in mind
1) I didn't want to borrow or proxy any models, so I didn't roll with a squad of Guardian Jetbikes. Hence, 6 avengers in one squad, and 8 hunters.
2) I wanted the tools to be able to fight anyone, while understanding as a result my list was not going to be maxed out in firepower, or use Tau trickeration as an ally, etc. It was still a very strong list, as would be evinced by the results of the tournament.
3) I wanted it to look nice. This was perhaps most proven by the final round, where multiple comments of "at least the top table is between two gorgeous armies" were made ... winning!
Here are my round recaps ... I went into each feeling outgunned if I went toe to toe. Quick note - all my games finished well ahead of time being called. All but my last Round finished an hour ahead. This is 2000 points and 3 hour rounds.
Round 1 - Against Tau
My opponent was a cheery, more casual player, or so he said ;) ... he was actually, but his list was plenty mean
Trick Commander (this was about to become a major theme)
2 Riptides w/ Ion Accels
2x2 Missile Broadsides w/ Missile Drone
3 Crisis Suits w/ Missiles
Several 8-man Fire Warrior Squads
2 Pathfinder Squads (About 6 pathfinders)
Very large Sniper Drone unit (This thing was a pain in the butt, surprisingly)
He elected to go first, as the mission was First Blood / Kill Points more or less. I was able to deploy my army hiding behind the Land Raider and a Hill. The Land Raider was often key for this. There was some gamble here, as Ion Accels / etc. might have a chance to kill it. They did not succeed.
I then rolled forward w/ the raider and got the hunters out and jaws'ed a Riptide. The Serpents played it cagey for another turn, not wanting to expose themselves to the withering fire of the Broadsides. So they shot some potshots off at one Broadside unit while keeping the other more than 42" away.
Swooping Hawks would end up more or less managing all his troops (this is what they do, and they do it expertly). The Lone Wolf used the Land Raider as a "hide me" way to get into his army and eventually punk his trick commander and crisis team. The Serpents moved forward into the thick of it on Turn 3 when we agreed it'd be unsporting to just sit behind the hill and claim everything with the Land Raider after I eliminated his Riptides and any ability he had to deal with it.
I also made my opponent a Lavender Bittered Gin & Tonic. Full cocktail mode for this event. I ended up tabling him, and earning 20 BP.
Another Tau player. This one had a pair of riptides, a maxed out 6 drone missile broadside unit, a Trick Commander (theme), Tigurius, 4 Centurions w/ Grav, some scouts and a bunch of Kroot, and a Sniper Drone unit. It was also Big Guns Never Tire, which was problematic ... he had a LOT of heavy support units, and a lot of scoring units.
I did what would become a theme, and is a big deal ... and used Swooping Hawks to kill his troops while playing it cagey with the serpents, and largely prevented his centurions and missile broadsides from ever firing very much at anything they wanted to. Eventually I was able to crack his army open the "Safe" way, and got him to over-extend his centurions trying to get LOS to me, which exposed them to a charge from the Lone Wolf, who hid in center. He attached Tigurius early on to a Riptide for buffs like Perfect Timing, which was a gamble. He had his trick commander w/ the Centurions or Missile tides as he saw fit. I was able to hide the Rune Priest but use the Riptide's height to draw LOS and Jaws him without exposing myself to much return fire, and he failed Hood and the I test. 50/50 on both. REgardless, this left Tigurius exposed ... and I threw a bunch of serpent shields into him. My opponent wasn't able to get lucky with his Riptide shots (only one shot and one max damage result on a Serpent isn't great odds, even at Ordnance AP2), and I was able to keep his missile tides and centurions from bringing their firepower to bear. I tabled him at the cost of 0 points. I think this was the point where I realized I might be able to do fairly well, as my opponent (Bryan Hayzler) is a good player who did well at NOVA, and I had been able to use maneuver and placement to out muscle a much more muscular army .. i.e., if I'd just tried to outshoot him I'd have lost badly. 20 more BP.
And more Tau, but this time with Space Wolf primary. This was Matt Cerino, of the Stomping Grounds store and gaming club. He had 50 drop wolves, with 3 or so Rune Priests, backed up by some Kroot and a Trick Commander with a Burst Tide, plus a Skyray. It was the Relic, and he misjudged that I was able to use the LAnd Raider deployed "Battlewagon style" to get troops onto the Relic on Turn 1. HE gave me first turn when he won that roll (I did not win a "Go first" roll all day). So, I was able to get the relic, and pass it down off the top of the building (you pick up the relic at the end of the movement phase you touch it, and can pass it at the end ... as the player whose turn it was, I was able to decide which to do first, RAW yada yada) into the waiting hands of the look-out-sir'able Rune Priest. I then used the Wave Serpents to shield the Land RAider from any possible drop melta (he had a drop melta squad).
Cerino's drop of 30 wolves were unable to do a lot of meaningful damage to me, and were not able to get at the Rune Priest holding the relic. He also immobilized his Skyray in a position that made using his Seekers difficult, so they remained unused (see later). I then hopped in the LAnd RAider, and the game became "kill all his scoring units and stay in the Raider to win). I got most of my Avengers out, and was able to kill 29 of the 30 wolves on Top 2 shooting phase, thanks in part again to the Lone Wolf (who had been right near the action for this very reason, right alongside the land raider). Since Cerino'd dropped close enough to use rapid fire, the Lone Wolf was able to charge the surviving squad and gank its rune priest / etc.
Matt played hard from here, and made a game of it, but ultimately I was able to destroy most of his army and win the game 20-0. I give him credit, because it was such a nasty situation to be in after Turn 2 top, it's hard to imagine easily recovering ... but he really hung in there. The game cracked ultimately when the Farseer snuck up and Puppet Mastered the Skyray into firing all its weapons (including 6 seekers and 2 markers) into his last Wolf troop unit and rune priest, which had been otherwise on an objective and out of LOS of my army. 20BP, and #1 Seed in Bracket 1 are the result here.
My first game against NOT Tau-something-or-other. Chaos Marines / Chaos Daemons ... well, there weren't any marines but whatever.
Black Legion primary, with 2 Tzeentch CSM Daemon Princes kitted in power armor, level 3 powers, and toting various new wargear. The Warlord was Eternal w/ the uber Sword. He had 4 x 10 cultists ... 3 with a flamer, 1 w/ an autogun and flamer. He had a pair of Heldrakes. His Daemon ally was Fateweaver, a Tzeentch DP w/ Power Armor and Level 3 / exalted gift (grimoire), and 10 plaguebearers.
I made him go first. He flew off the board with all but Fateweaver (3 DP's), and had heldrakes / cultists / plaguebearers in reserve. He grimoire'd Fatey before he left the board. I shot at fateweaver b/c why not, and did 0 damage to the 2+ re-rollable. I focused on being safe from the next turn arrivals regardless.
Turn 2 saw 0 Heldrakes, and a cultist squad, and the plaguebearers. The Hawks went to work killing these. Eventually his Plaguebearer survivors would charge my hawks, and lose over numerous turns in combat (not all that surprising mathematically, b/c of the swings in losses for any lost round on the part of the bearers). The Hawks over the course of the game survived just fine, and annihilated all his troops. On turn 2 I got him to burn his Fatey re-roll on one of his other Daemon Princes, and then poured fire into Fateweaver until he grounded. Thereafter, my Lone Wolf charged and stuck him in combat, where he would remain until the Grimoire carrier died, and then Fatey died.
Wave Serpents got beat up by vectors and flamers from the Heldrakes, but then would just fly under them and shoot them in the tailpipe. Since he put the Grimoire on Fatey, I had no trouble using Serpents to put tons of wounds on his other princes. Game ended when we called it, probably would have led to a tabling but we just rolled an extra turn of fire on his surviving prince and heldrake, didn't kill them, and called it at that. 20BP, and advance to the Semi-Finals, and guarantee myself at least 4th place / a 4-2 record. Cool!
Chris Johnson's Tau w/ crazy Centurion gunstar. Trick Commander, Shadowsun, 4 Grav Centurions, Librarian, 2 Riptides (Ion Accel), Hammerhead w/ Longstrike, Skyray, bunches of Kroot, some scouts. He won the roll and made me go first (I won only 1/6 gofirst rolls all tournament, and it was Round 4). I moved so that his Hammerhead wouldn't have much of a shot at the Land Raider, and to put the center blocker in the way of his grav + commander + shadowsun super unit. The biggest key here was I used my Farseer ... moved 6" with serpent, spun, disembarked 6", battle focus fleet ran and puppet mastere'd the skyray into the hammerhead. Didn't roll well enough to kill the Hammerhead, but blew off the Rail Gun and blew all the Seekers, successfully eliminating 2 of the 5 units he had that could kill vehicles.
Eventually he exposed his grav star to take shots at the Land Raider, and killed it. Problem was, he didn't do so with them in cover, so only had the 4+ cover from Shadowsun. He also arguably positioned his unit poorly, such that if I Could get through a couple drones and a centurion or two, the Commander would then be up with SHadowsun closest to him (and hence the target of Look Out Sir rolls, with only T3). This put him in a tough situation where he couldn't look out sir off the commander without putting Instant Death wounds on the 3+ save Shadowsun. It didn't work out well, and eventually he LOS'ed a failed Shuricannon rend onto Shadow, who died. Then the Lone Wolf charged, and killed the Commander, and eventually the Libby and all but 1 Centurion, who ran away and was eventually shot down. This was all in like the first 3 turns, and went downhill from there. I was once again able to use movement and LOS + clever moves like puppet master to take most of a Tau army's crazy ignore-everything firepower out of the game, and won with a tabling and another 20 BP.
Onto the finals, against the one list I didn't want to face all tournament long, but sitting 5-0 with a max possible 100 BP.
Round 6 - Final Round, Top Table, for the Whole Ball of Wax (Sorta)
I knew going into this round from checking Torrent that if I got at least 3 Battle Points, I'd at least win Best General. I also knew I'd been guaranteed 2nd-to-One. I was proud of how I'd done. I also knew it was going to be an extremely difficult match.
My opponent was Matt DeFranza, who had won 3 GT's on the year going into it, and also won Renaissance Man in both the NOVA Open GT and Invitational this year, with a loss in each. Matt's a very good player, this wasn't going to be easy. It was going to be darn near impossible in fact, b/c his list was also a rock to my scissors (IMO) ...
2 Farseers, both with Witness/Ward (to ensure powers, and prevent Misfortune), on Jetbikes, one with a Spear and the other with the Shard of Anaris (ID/Fleshbane in challenges, gives model/unit Fearless)
10 Warlocks on Jetbikes w/ 4 Spears
Baron Sathonyx (Stealth/hit and run for the unit)
5 DE Warriors (To get Sathonyx)
5 x 3 Guardian Jetbikes (this is a key to the list ... no matter how the star does, whether it annihilates your army or just soaks all your fire, if he goes 2nd he has a really good shot to just contest everything and win, since all these units AND the independent characters AND the warlocks can move 48" any time they please, anywhere they want)
2 x 6 Swooping Hawks (and the mission was Scouring, so these added to his formidable # of scoring fast place-wherever-I-want units)
2 Wraithknights (oh, yeah, gotta deal with this too)
He then got Fortune, lots of Protect/Conceal, Misfortune, Prescience, etc.; all the powers he needed and then some
He then won the roll off and chose to go 2nd, in a 5-objective mission
Matt then made his first of two critical mistakes to give me a shot. He deployed his Jetseer behind a hill but still visible if I Could get range; he was relying on the fact he had Night Fight going on to get a 2+ cover save, plus his 3+ armor, and thus be more or less fine against whatever my serpents could bring to bear. He also knew if I wanted to fire them all at him, they'd have to get pretty close with Night Fight, and thus be exposed to a multi-charge and the wraithkinights. All his guardian bikes and hawks were naturally in reserve.
So I sacrificed my Land Raider by moving it up far enough to Searchlight the Jetstar. I also forgot to fire the Raider ... well, can't be perfect. We'd both end up making a lot of mistakes in this game, but also both played brilliantly. Ups and downs. It's on video.
Because of the Searchlight, I was able to unload all of my Serpents at the unbuffed star with only a 3+ save and not having to get them all up real close. Only one was within possible charge range as a result (but remember, he has fleet). I killed 7/10 Warlocks. This was still problematic, as he'd positioned his Farseers out of any possible range of the Runic Weapon emanating from the Raider, so they were going to Fortune up with the remaining still extremely dangerous 6 models, where most of the unit's killy power and all of its "split into three units that move 48" contest power lie. Shit. I also was now close to the Wraith Knights w/ my raider (but this was a bit on purpose, as you'll see).
My gameplan now could actually be something other than "hope he rolls badly," b/c the Star was banged up some. I now had to stay spread out, kill the Wraithknights, survive the star by giving them at most one serpent a turn, and kill all his troops. THen I had to pin or kill at least one or two of the star's contest units (2 farseers, and the warlocks). This meant I still had an enormous task in front of me, and was still "losing."
So Turn 1 bottom he jumps his Knights forward, and blows up the Redeemer w/ 3/4 hits penetrating off the Wraith Cannons. Alright, that's fine. I line up the Rune Priest (Runic axe), the Lone Wolf to charge the closest one if necessary, unload most of my Avengers (and make a huge mistake at this point in where I place them and forgetting to battle focus), and get all my Serpents spread but aimed and within Cannon range of the Knights. I start with Jaws, and get my first luck; with 2 Knights in a row, I have a 1/3 chance to kill one with Jaws outright. And I do. OHKAY. Now I don't have to rely on the charge at all (Though the odds were in my favor with one, due to Knights having no ability to challenge). I start shooting at the other Knight, who isn't in cover, and shuriken fire rapidly disintegrates it. I fling my remaining firepower, which was substantial, at the 2+ re-rollable council, but it of course does nothing. The council also had killed a Serpent on Bottom 1 with a long charge.
I realized at the end of all this that I'd forgotten to battle focus with a couple avenger teams, with the result I had too much of a multi-charge lined up for the Council, inclusive of 2 avenger units, a serpent, and the grey hunters/rune priest. Matt probably would have let me go back and run the ones that could, but I didn't think that was appropriate, and commented as much (again, on vid).
The Rune Priest stopped about 65% of the powers Matt cast all game, starting with 4/6 on Turn 2, inclusive of Protect and Fortune. Cool, all they have is a 3+! All I need to do is force some saves and ... well, crap, I did actually in the multi-charge he pulled off, but he made every single save. Some avengers broke, the Grey Hunters didn't, and so I was forced to charge in on Top 3 with the farseer and 6 more avengers ... and netted about 15-25 wounds total over the 2 combats, to 0 fails. I also failed very few at first, but eventually did, and all but the Lone Wolf (oh, he charged in too, and almost got Baron, but didn't) and Hunters broke or were killed to a man. He then hit and ran away for his turn.
At this point, the best way to summarize the remaining interim turns is that I spent my energy killing all his guardian jetbikes, and 10/12 of his swooping hawks, and his dark eldar warriors. He in turn killed eventually my wolves, one more serpent (so I had 3 left), and 2/5 avenger squads.
Top 5 comes up and here's the situation:
He's split Baron + Fortuneseer off to kill that 2nd Serpent, and each Farseer has a wound on it. The other Farseer w/ the Fearless blade + 1 surviving Warlock have just finished off the Rune Priest (close fight, nearly got it). He has 6 Swooping Hawks hiding on his objective, bunched up, near a single active Hawk of mine, and 2 pinned Hawks, in his backfield. He has 2 swooping hawks in skyleap who are going to land Bottom 5. I have a wounded Lone Wolf near his Shard Seer + Warlock, which is key ... if he can either pin them in combat (no baron) or kill them, he'll lose 2 of the 3 jetbike models he has left, and lose the game no matter what his 2 swooping hawks, fortuneseer, and baron do. HE only has 6 models left in total. I have avenger squads on 2 objectives, and can put a hawk near his backfield objective where his hawks are.
My single hawk moves to that objective, and plants a plasma grenade blast right on top of his 6 hawks; most die, the remainder break off the board. This gives me 1 objective. Serpents finish off his last guardian jetbikes (I think he still had some, which is why I had to shoot at them), and reduce his fortuneseer to 1 wound ... d'oh. Lone Wolf charges, and he has a 17/18 chance to survive after challenging. The Farseer goes first with 2 attacks, and needs to hit, rend, and then the Wolf needs to fail a 3++ ... and that's what happens. D'Oh! Now I need it to go to 6, b/c with the combination of his landing skylept hawks, his 3 mobile jetbike separable units, and baron ... he can contest the objectives I hold, and win on Quarters (due to being able to put surviving points, however few, wherever he wants). If it goes to 6, I'll table him, as he has to put his surviving handful of models right next to all my firepower, and my serpents are free to shoot at them now.
And the game ends on a 1. D'OH!!!
By denying him Objectives, I manage to keep him to only Quarters / Tertiary (he has this at the time as well, though irrelevant), netting a 17-3 loss ... aka the 3 BP I needed to guarantee Best General. So I 'earn' my three category awards, take home a lovely pink foam case and a bunch of other swag, and have yet one more wonderful and memorable BFS behind me.
Huge thanks go out to Ed Miller, Bob Sinnott, and the entire BFS crew for the event.
Additional thanks go out to Matt DeFranza for an awesome last game; he got my Fave Opponent vote, and I believe he gave me his as well.
Great game by all, great tournament by all, and there's my "quick" recap! :D
PS - It bears sharing, there was a point during the event as a whole where a couple of club mates of one of my opponents decided to get involved in the game on a ruling we'd gotten wrong, in a way that ended up being favorable to their club mate. It's admirable to want to get a rule right, and it's understandable to not want your teammate/clubmate harmed by a ruling gotten wrong during game play. That said, if you aren't a shirted judge of the tournament, the MOST you should do (and even this is questionable, b/c you'll give yourself time to plead that the opponent doesn't have) is go and grab a judge, and tell him there's an issue to resolve at a table. It wasn't even a rule my opponent and I were arguing about ... we resolved it (albeit wrongly) and the game had moved on already to the start of the next turn. In the end, the intervention of clubmates changed the outcome of some things, and got the judge to turn back the clock on a game. Didn't have any real bearing on the outcome of the tournament, and I didn't mind getting a rule correct that I'd been unaware was FAQ'ed (in this case, FNP on a Lone Wolf against ID due to Eternal Warrior).
The reason I'm not saying WHICH game, or WHICH club, is they are people I admire greatly and consider to be close personal friends. We talked it out, we got through it, and all is good. For those who were there, please do not go around sharing the details.
The point in sharing here is more a cautionary tale that when you are in a tournament environment, it is good form NOT to involve yourself in a game you are not personally playing in ... especially if one of the players is a club mate / known personal friend. It's a bad look, and less relaxed people could have gotten really upset. No one did really in this case - in fact, that was one of the games I ended up getting a Favorite Opponent vote out of, and I gave my opponent a great sports score as well. The point is, however - just don't do it.
Sometimes it happens that players in a game will ASK for an outside player or observer to look up a rule, or go get a judge, or if they remember what happened that the two players forgot. That's alright, but that doesn't set precedent either ... if someone asks me about a ruling b/c they know I'm a TO, I'll do my best to answer it while caveating I'm not a judge ... but I will not then think I have carte blanche to comment on and involve myself in everything else that happens in their game.
Simply put - getting rules incorrect is never good, and getting them right IS good ... but to avoid complications, hard feelings, fights, and the perception of impropriety ... don't help your buddies out when they're playing a game. It's unfair to the opponent who doesn't have people backing him up, and it's unfair to the outcome of the tournament as a whole - things may be getting wrong on EVERY table, and it's not as if you can ensure every rule gets right every time.
And again ... please, all who may have witnessed and been involved, don't spread this around detail-wise. Things worked out, I didn't really mind that much (I'm a big boy), and the people involved were ALL Close friends of mine who I admire, respect, and look forward to seeing and playing with again.