This weekend, I made the trip up to Nottingham again, this time to attend the Warhammer 40,000 Throne of Skulls event. Throne of Skulls has a tournament-like structure, but it is intended to showcase all aspects of the hobby rather than being a hardline Grand Tournament where actually winning is key.
They do this by scoring playing in three categories: actually winning games (which accounts for half your score) and favourite game and favourite army votes, which are awarded by your opponents (you basically pick two favourite games and two favourite armies) and account for a quarter of your score each. Tie breaks are done by the total Power Rating you destroy (yes, this works on Power Levels!), along with the number of times you Slay the Warlord, Linebreak and get First Blood.
The missions themselves are drawn up using the Open War card deck which, I have to say, really, really works and is probably what i will now default to instead of the ‘standard’ missions in the rulebook. Seriously, check them out – agree a points/Power Level, draw a Deployment Zone card, an Objective card and a Ruse card, and you are good to go! Army building and actual play follows Matched Play rules (three detachments maximum).
Here Comes the Death Guard
I went with my Death Guard, and drew up the following list:
Daemon Prince (Blades of Putrefaction, Suppurating Plate, Tainted Regeneration)
Malignant Plaguecaster (Miasma of Pestilence, Curse of the Leper)
Plague Marines x 7 (2 Plague Launchers, Power Fist)
Plague Marines x 7 (Plasma Gun, Meltagun, Power Fist)
Poxwalkers x 20
Bloat-Drone (Flesh Mower)
Lord of War
Scabiethrax the Bloated (Miasma, Curse of the Leper, Plague Wind)
Herald of Nurgle (Miasma)
Plague Bearers x 30
This is not what I originally intended to take, but my Death Guard characters and big block of 20 Plague Marines were still on the painting table, so I had to take what I had. I did not want to ‘spam’ units but, rather, take a variety of units that were representative of the Death Guard and the daemonic allies. The two concessions I made to pumping up the army and making things a bit tougher were the Suppurating Plate on the Daemon Prince (and my main problem with that is that it is what everyone does – though it is just too good to pass up, really…) and adding Scabiethrax, the massive Exalted Great Unclean One from Forge World. He is a tough cookie and, it has to be said, worth every point of his Power Level 30.
Was that a little too much for an event like this? Definitely not!
The vast majority of people took reasonable armies with a tough back bone – so, you would see Astra Militarum with a Baneblade, perhaps, or Marines with an Imperial Knight.
You also saw people who brought their A Games – the three Shadowsword armies, for example, the all Stompa/Morkanaut/Deff Dread armies, or the all Shadow Spectre force. One chap just brought along a Reaver Titan, which seemed like a fun approach (I think the record was him being destroyed in turn two by Eldar…).
Then you had the utter twats.
The one that springs to mind, and I seriously gave thought to walking into Bugman’s and reading my Kindle for a couple of hours if I had drawn him as an opponent, was some twonk who took eight Wyverns, three Earthshaker platforms and a super heavy, with some assorted other units.
My issue here is that this guy had given absolutely no thought as to whether his opponents would enjoy their games. No one at all. He just wanted to blow them off the table, as quickly as possible, for the least amount of effort. Consider, for a moment, what it would be like inside his head – he had taken an army that required no thought, no manoeuvre, just picking targets every turn and rolling a bunch of dice until they were deleted. You might imagine that he thought he was very clever in putting together such a force.
As it happened, he met two or three good players who were switched on enough to shut him down but, honestly, who goes to an event like this with that mindset, eh?
So, how did I do?
Well, I haven’t been playing as much of 8th edition as I probably should, so I was fairly daunted, especially as my first opponent had brought an all-tank Militarum force which included a Baneblade (which I have not faced before!). However, you can rely on the Death Guard to be very forgiving as they absorb huge amounts of firepower.
I placed the Plaguebearers up front, Scabiethrax (he quickly became Scabbie over the weekend) behind them, with Miasma of Pestilence providing further protection – for a total of -3 to be hit on the Plaguebearers and most other things benefiting from Scabbie’s aura which gave them -1 to be hit. Then you had the daemonic saves, followed by Disgustingly Resilient…
It turns out that Guardsmen, even when they are in tanks, cannot shoot straight under those conditions. The Plaguebearers swarmed over the Leman Russ line, while Scabbie just caved in the side of the Baneblade in a single round of combat.
Good game, with a fun opponent – job done!
Next up was an Ork player, going in with a Stompa, three Deff Dreads, two Morkanauts and a couple of characters. This was a tough battle and, while the Deff Dreads were dealt with quickly and I gave the Stompa a right smack in the nose (reduced to something around 15 wounds), this guy was just all over me. Scabbie was popped and the rest of my force was quickly following him.
The only reason I pulled a win here was because I seized two objectives early on(Death Guard are nothing if not great at holding objectives) and then burned my Ruse Card (we all had a Ruse Card which could be used just once over the weekend, which allows you to do something funky) to bring back a unit of Plague Marines who promptly popped up on his back line, mobbed a lone Mek, and stole his objective.
A very narrow win, but a win nonetheless. And if my opponent is reading this (highly unlikely!), you might well have earned a favourite game vote from me, my friend, but texting with whom I presumed is your girlfriend throughout the battle is Not Okay.
Battle the Third
This was one of my favourite battles of the weekend – six objectives on the table, one of which is the key item the armies need (all other objectives are removed once it is found), and I was up against Tyranids.
It has been years since I have fought bugs, and I was looking forward to seeing how they had changed. Grandfather Nurgle smiled on me early and the main objective just happened to be underneath one of my Crawlers. The Bloat-Drones also acquitted themselves nicely, with the Plaguespitters annihilating a six-strong unit of Zoanthropes and the Flesh Mower munching its way through 30 Hormagaunts before zipping around to generally create hassle among the remaining bugs.
The big swing in the game came when the Tyranid player cleverly timed his main assault so that everything nasty hit my line at once – even the Miasma-wreathed Plaguebearers took serious losses as Carnifexes, Gaunts and Genestealers all piled in at once. To cap it off, the Swarmlord dropped right next to Scabbie and charged in.
However… my opponent opted to attack with his Genestealers first, and I used the Counterattack stratagem to turn Scabbie around and clobber the Swarmlord. 24 points of damage later, and a major headache had been removed!
The fight ended up with a Trygon and ‘Stealers assaulting the objective I was holding, and they very nearly broke my defence. However, some tough fighting from Plague Marines and the Plaguecaster (who, unlike in every other battle I played with him, suddenly became good in close combat – and against ‘Stealers at that!) managed to finally beat them back.
My opponent in this battle was one of the greats at the event, and I would happily play him any time. Gold star to you!
And Then Eldar
The first battle on Sunday was against an Eldar force, and I knew I was in for a tough match. I get to the table, and I see all his infantry are Shadow Spectres, his three flyers are Hemlocks, and he has two Farseer Skyrunners.
His first turn was fairly savage, with even the Plaguebearers losing half their number, and things looked bleak. However, I had a turn, and things started to turn round.
This battle was tough – his Shadow Spectres, combined with the Alaitoc Craftworld rules, meant most of his units were at -2 to be hit. However, they are still Eldar, and rather weedy when hit in the face. The Plaguespitter drone annihilated a Spectre unit and then it and the Flesh Mower raced after his warlord and damn near mowed the Farseer down! The Farseer managed to (finally) get away with just three wounds, and the Eldar just pipped me for points (if I had got that Farseer, my own points would have been doubled and I would have got the victory).
First loss of the weekend!
Finally, Blood Angels
I fought Blood Angels in the last battle, and I had already been informed by James that my opponent was officially a Good Guy, as they had just fought. My opponent had been somewhat perturbed by James’ Shield Drones constantly deflecting his attacks – I had a feeling he would enjoy the combination of penalties to hit, Daemonic Invuns, and Disgustingly Resilient!
Right at the start of the battle, two Stormravens swooped behind my army and dropped off Dante and his Sanguinary Guard to raise a bit of hell. Unfortunately, they ran right into Scabbie, who promptly ate Dante.
Mephiston and a squad of Terminators then dropped from the other Stormraven, and went after a Plagueburst Crawler. It sustained some damage (thanks invuns and Resilience!) before pulling back, and then Mephiston was faced with a choice – charge into Scabbie or the badly wounded Herald next to him. He chose the latter.
But forgot about Heroic Intervention.
So, a second Blood Angels hero ended up in Scabbie’s belly!
After that, the Blood Angels were kinda swamped – the Stormravens were shot down, the Vindicator and Redemptor mired in Plaguebearers who they were killing at a rate of 1 per turn, and the Hellblasters holding the far flank were over run by the Drones, when they were not killing themselves with supercharged plasma shots…
My opponent took all of this in his stride, even as he bemoaned Miasma, Scabbie, Invuns, and Resilience, and made this another of my favourite games of the weekend.
I didn’t think I had done all that well overall, as I had lost one game, and among 160 players, you only get the top slots if you win all your battles.
However, as it turned out, only one player had won all his games (Eldar), and he received very few favourite game votes and nothing for favourite army – so, the field was open to several players.
James had won two games but, by virtue of being a Good Egg, managed to scoop the award for Best Tau player. Unbelievably, I managed to get the award for best Chaos player: four wins, accounting for 24 points, 4 Favourite Game votes (another 12 points) and 3 Favourite Army votes for another 9 points – a total of 45!
That was enough to put me in second place, just three points behind the winner of the whole event (if only I had painted my models a bit better!).
All in all, this was a good, fun event, and it looks like we will be going to the next one!