There would be somewhere in the region of 50 players fighting it out to be crowned king of the North East of England.
The scoring for the Gauntlet tournament works as follows. Points can be collected in three areas; gaming, painting and army selection.
Three games are played in one day, with a maximum of 30 points available per game. The highest score possible from gaming is therefore 90 points.
There are 54 points up for grabs in the painting category. Although the exact method for calculating scores was never made public, I understand that marks were awarded for highlights, washes, drybrushes, basing, unit markings, conversions and originality.
Each army was judged before the tournament on the basis of the army list and supporting background material. 36 points were possible. Troop choices were encouraged, while too many Heavy Support or HQ units were frowned upon. Armies with a coherent background and the squads to match were rewarded while min-maxed armies, with lots of duplicate squads lost points.
The overall best points score available was therefore 180 points, although this would clearly be very difficult to achieve. I knew I wouldn't win best painted army this year even though I had won it in the last two. My army was very rushed by my standards, and I knew I had cut corners in some places. Besides, predominately black armies rarely win best painted awards. Aside from all that, I had played Morris in a test game and his Ultramarines were absolutely awesome. They were heavily converted and beautifully painted. To be honest they blew my army away and I strongly believed he would get the best painted nod this year.
In regards to the actual army list and battles themselves, I knew I was in better shape than previous years. The Chaos list in general is stronger than the Daemonhunters and Imperial Guard list by some distance, and I had the opportunity to play some test games and tweak my list. Having won only one game in 2003, and two games in 2004 it seemed logical to go one better in 2005. My objective in this tournament was therefore to win all three games I played in.
A tall order indeed, as I knew it would give me a shot of winning the whole tournament, but I felt confident and relaxed this time around.
All three games on the day would be Gamma level cleanse missions.
There were seven different outcomes for each game, depending on the final victory point tallies. It wasn't just about winning, it was about how much you won by. This little table sums it up:
- You massacred 'im (+1001 or more victory points) 30 points
- Decisive victory (+501 to +1000 victory points) 25 points
- Marginal victory (+201 to +500 victory points) 20 points
- Draw (-200 to +200 victory points) 15 points
- Marginal loss (-201 to -500 victory points) 10 points
- Decisive loss (-501 to -1000 victory points) 5 points
- Massacred (-1001 or less victory points) 0 points
The obvious choice of which army to take was my Exigators (having taken Imperial Guard and Daemonhunters in the past). The problem was that the tournament was only four weeks away and I had an entire army to finish. My solution was to run a painting blog on lone pilgrim (and simultaneously on Dakka Dakka) to get the bulk of my army battle ready.
Once I had some idea of the models I had available I sat down with the Chaos Codex and began to write up some army lists. All three games would use a gamma level cleanse mission, so I knew I was guaranteed to be able to utilise deep strike and infiltrate. I also knew the mission objective was to capture table quarters.
My first list was an all-infiltrating infantry army. I would always deploy second after my opponent, which in theory gave me the ability to pick off juicy targets once I had seen my opponent's deployment. It also meant I could begin the game having already captured two quarters with infiltrating squads.
The list contained a souped-up character killing Lord and a pack of Furies for counter charge duties, a couple of las/plas squads and heavy bolter Havocs to provide a firebase, and two Obliterators dropping in to claim the enemy starting quarter. I thought this was a strong list for the mission so I played a few test games to try it out.
The list was a disaster. The all-infiltrating aspect of the army failed miserably to provide me with any sort of tactical advantage. My opponents all had at least one set of infiltrating troops themselves and that meant a dice off to see who set up their infiltrators first. If my opponent won (which they invariably did - the gits!) they could steal some prime terrain, and pretty much that entire table quarter, denying them to me. Even if they lost the roll and I got first deployment, their own infiltrators would pick the other free table quarter and severely cramp the rest of my deployment.
My tactical advantage was eroded further by not having any units starting with regular deployment. With no 'pushback' unit my enemies could deploy right up to the edge of their deployment zone with impunity. In my test games with this army I was defeated before I began the game.
The only plus points were the Obliterators and the Furies. The Obliterators killed two Defilers, a Hammerhead and a Chaos Lord in their first three games, and the Furies were a real nuisance, locking units in combat with their speed and wearing them down with a flurry of attacks. In one game they took out an entire Havoc squad on the turn they charged. Nasty.
Nevertheless I had to have a rethink.
My second version of the list dropped the Lord for a Daemon Prince, saving me a few points. The Prince had Daemonic Stature and would therefore have to start on the table, but he was still well equipped to take on enemy characters and Daemonic Speed was faster and cheaper than Daemonic Flight. I dropped infiltrate from a las/plas squad so that I had a pushback unit and this also saved me some points. I dropped a las/plas unit and with those extra points I managed to squeeze in a six man assault equipped squad.
I still struggled in my games, though. The Daemon Prince was a points sink. In order to prevent him from being shot to pieces early in the game I had to hide him away, but that meant he struggled to see any action at all. Additionally I just wasn't coming across the powerful characters I had been expecting.
The main problem I had was the size of my army. I had few men overall, and each squad was small, meaning it was easy to drop them below half strength to prevent them from taking table quarters. The assault squad was especially vulnerable consisting of only six men; it either got blown off the table before it made combat or it was so severely depleted that it couldn't hurt anything when it got there.
On a more positive note the Obliterators continued to impress, often winning me a load of points by occupying a table quarter, and the Furies always seemed to make their points back in enemy kills. I especially valued their ability to disrupt the enemy due to their unpredictability and their speed.
Back to the drawing board again.
With the tournament on the horizon this would have to be my final list for good or ill. I reduced my infiltrators still further, down to just three squads, saving me points. I also shaved nearly forty points from my Daemon Prince. He would now get spanked by enemy characters, but he could still do some damage to MEQ squads (Marine or EQuivalents) and maybe vehicles. With the savings, I padded out the assault squad to eight members.
- Chaos Lord Ferocitor - Mark of Chaos Undivided, Daemonic Stature, Daemonic Speed, 2 Close combat weapons, Frag grenades
- 2 single Obliterators
- Squad Infractis – 8 Chaos Marines, Mark of Chaos Undivided, Infiltrate, Bolt pistols and Close combat weapons, Aspiring Champion with Power fist
- Squad Profuge - 5 Chaos Marines, Mark of Chaos Undivided, Infiltrate, Bolt guns, Plasma gun, Lascannon
- Squad Abraxar - 5 Chaos Marines, Mark of Chaos Undivided, Bolt guns, Missile Launcher
- Squad Krall - 5 Chaos Marines, Mark of Chaos Undivided, Bolt guns, Plasma gun, Lascannon
- 8 Furies
- Squad Imber - 6 Havocs, Mark of Chaos Undivided, Infiltrate, Bolt guns, 4 Heavy Bolters
My final test games were much more satisfactory. The Exigators now seemed much more balanced and optimized, with each unit having a clearly defined role and the whole army having several solutions to different enemy formations and tactics. The Daemon Prince died more often but he generally won more points back than he cost, and he was a cheap non-scoring unit anyway. My assault squad now always achieved combat and had the numbers to cause some casualties. The Havocs were devastating against light infantry and light vehicles, while the Obliterators continued to shine. The Furies always seemed to appear in the nick of time and overwhelm the enemy.
Another good point of the list was it's composition (which was marked for the tournament). It had a cheap HQ, one Elite pick, four Troop choices, one Fast Attack squad and one Heavy Support unit. I had at over 40% of my points in Troop choices and that was more than double the number of points than I had in any other category.
Now all I had to do was test the army in the heat of a competitive tournament.