Saturday, August 11, 2012

Last Stand at Vodenhrad

I'm not really 100% sure what "narrative" gaming is, but our little gaming group is giving it a try. This is our first attempt and, boy, was it a real blast. 

We set the scene - beleaguered defenders of the Imperial Guard, holed up in a prepared defense against the onslaught of a mechanized Tau Empire force. Armored transports, heavy tanks and battlesuits would surely mean the death of the poor men - but they would never yield, these defenders of the Imperium. They knew the enemy well. Months of bitter struggle and campaigning had preceeded this day and the Guardsmen would not give that up for no greater good. 

They stood in defiance. They stood in defense of Vodenhrad, along the banks of the Velb River, a vital waypoint in the battle for the continent.

We started the game with uneven points - Tau had 1500, while the Guard had 1250. I wanted the Guardsmen to really get pummeled by the advancing Tau-  at least in the early stages of the battle. So we banned vehicles for the Guard and made all their defenders fearless - it wouldn't seem fitting for stalwart guardsmen to be running away would it?

The Tau had fewer restrictions but we wanted to give ourselves a challenge too. Considering we had to assault a fortified position., we removed the option to take Kroot. Hopefully this would provide a greater challenge - not sure if it worked though, because we also took XV9s and those things are deadly.

Seems unbalanced? It was. 

But game-balance wasn't the point. We wanted to build some drama. And what happens in the end of a Last Stand - either everyone dies or the calvary arrives to save the day. We didn't want the end to be certain death so we allowed the Guard some reinforcements - a Vendetta would be appropriate, some storm troopers, maybe Marbo shows up, and perhaps even Harker...

Then we got to it. We set up the terrain collaboratively. For deployment we chose to deploy on the short-edges instead of the long. 

Tau forces assemble a spearhead with XV9s and Hammerheads at its point. Fire Warriors mount up - their goal - take and hold a key building in the IG deployment zone. A Stealth Team infiltrates to harass the defenders while the force advances. 

To commence battle, Hammerheads train their railgun cannons dead center of the Imperial Guard lines. 

The stunned Guardsmen rush to the defenses. Some men shout commands, others make peace with their maker, while others still check their ammo. Suddenly a railgun round explodes in the midst of the assembled troops. Then another. showering their position with dirt, grit, and bloody guts. The rounds continue. Comrades exchange glances one second, only to be obliterated the next. The ground itself seems to erupt under the heavy fire from Tau hammerhead tanks. Yet the Guardsmen hold.

XV9s leap into the open, only to stumble and buckle under a hailstorm of disciplined lasfire, autocannon shells and flashing psychic powers. Drones go down, but the XV9s return the favor with hot pulse bursts.   Gaurdsmen fall like discarded rag dolls. Some simply slump and die where they crouch. Whole squads extinguish before their commander's very eyes. 

Their only hope - the quad gun. A lowly private rushes to its triggers. A deep rhythmic thudding undercuts the high pitched whine of burstcannons. The quad barrels pump back and forth, its shells hammering into the battlesuits, stalling their advance. 

On the right flank, Guardsmen scramble to form a line amongst the choas of the battle. Sergeants bellow orders to hold, while oncoming fire peppers the defence line. Muzzle flashes pop from the ruins. Dark shadows shift about - a Stealth Team picks off unwise guardsmen. Eyes widen, voices curse as a Devilfish to glide up the flank, unmolested. Until...

Like a cloud burst of lightning, a beam of blue laser annihilates a hammerhead. A Vendetta roars into view. Stormtroopers drop from the skies to wreck another tank with meltagun heatwaves. Tau officers curse their faulty intelligence and scramble to form a defense. Guardsmen cheer as the Vendetta strafes the battlefield. Harker and his boys come on from the right and come to grips with Tau Stealth Suits and Shas'la in a bitter struggle for survival. The field becomes a killing frenzy with both sides suffering horrific losses. 

In a last ditch attempt to take the defenses, Fire Warriors position themselves for a volley and unleash fire from long rifles, more men drop but the ensuing firefight forces the Shas'la to flee. The remaining Battlesuits advance, yet fall to the rallied men of the Imperial Guard. The Tau retreat, leaving only exhausted Guardsmen, lifeless bodies, moaning wounded and smoking ruins. 

Vodenhrad was safe, but the cost was great. 
Cheesy, but I hope you enjoyed it. 

For us, it was a win all round. With precious few gaming sessions per month, I've got the time to develop something with more depth than a pure 40k battle. This game was loosely based around the last scene from Savng Private Ryan - and it seemed to work well despite the unbalanced army lists. 

Narrative seems to work best by simply setting the stage and then playing it out. By adding restrictions to lists and reserves, we are able to create a cast of characters. By collaborative terrain placement, we can build the setting. All that comes next is dice rolling and tactical game play, there were no changed rules during the game and no GM...we just set the stage and let the actors play it out...


Ede said...

That is what I'm talking about. Though it was difficult to always lose in 5th edition, it was nice to create a narrative. You are doing an awesome job with it, I loved it and I'm glad to hear it was a blast. Please more pictures you do an awesome job on your models, show them off a little more.

Tylermenz said...

Nice report, I liked it. I am always a bigger fan of narrative reports (esp. with lots o pictures) rather than just regular competitive ones.

captain arjun said...

THat's how wargaming should be.

nurglete said...

good report and very good pictures, I love are painted as the tau, could you tell me what colors you used?

Anonymous said...

Nice read! Thanks for posting!

Lo-Pan said...

...and as the exhausted Guardsmen took stock of their losses and surveyed the carnage, none noticed the whine of the charging assault weapons on the last surviving XV9 stalking the sub-basement directly below an unwary command squad...

Cobalt Cannon said...

HAHA I was hanging on the edge of my seat like a fan watching the superbowl! I thought it was great to read!

By the way, I saw that the next codex order is, Chaos, Dark Angels, then Tau. Maybe tau for Christmas.