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Friday, 3 July 2009

How NOT to play Planetstrike

Okay, first an introduction: As you all know by now, Planetstrike is released in less than 36 hours. Planetstrike, "a game of glorious invasions and desperate last stands" the long-awaited expansion to 40k that has had players drooling in anticipation since even before the awesome new FoC was unveiled. The book is 80 pages, including an Index at the end. It's written by Phil Kelly, so we know it's good already. It features dozens of quotes, and 46 pages of fluff/pictures/introduction. The quotes are nicely interspersed with rules in that ineffable way GW has, and range from Logan Grimnar to Killboss Krog, from Lord Solar Macharius to Archon Melivaq. There are 48 Stratagems, most of which are good.
The most important thing to get across about the book, however, is that this is 'movie 40k', as opposed to '1337 40k' of Apocalypse, or 'Stalingrad 40k' of Cities of Death. This game is to be played purely for fun. You may be thinking that it's a game, and is always for fun, but, let's be honest, not everyone thinks that way. Some of us play to win before to let the opponent have as good a game as us. I always want my opponent to have fun, but I always want to win too. I don't think I ever let it get in the way, but I'm not naive enough to think that's the case universally. Hence, this article. :)
Just before I continue, some questions are doubtless forming for those of you who play Nids, Daemons, Dark Eldar etc, and wondering why on earth you would want to defend the predominantly Imperial structures that adorn our battlefields? For answer, I'll refer to the author himself, who answers this query on page 14...[quote=Planetstrike book, page 14] "The answer is simple. Many of the strongholds used in a Planetsrike are several thousand years old, and have changed hands time and time again...none can deny they are built to last."[/quote]
There is of course, nothing to prevent you expanding on the 6 missions in the book as well, if you feel none of them quite capture the feel you want - why not have a Nid force swamping a tiny, beleaguered garrison, and interrupt with a Planetstrike? There are literally thousands of ways to play, and none of them are 'wrong'. Planetstrike plays the way Apocalypse was supposed to - if it's cool, it should be represented on the table. Rather than risk GW ire by explaining the missions individually, I'll simply name them, and hope you can discern their meaning.
The first mission, the one most often discussed is the 'Planetfall' mission. The most basic, it is the template for the others. The next mission is 'Desperate Assualt', think a beachhead being established. 'Seize and Destroy' is pretty obviously King of the Hill-esque. 'Stranglehold' is interesting...this is the main 'one turn win' mission I've briefly discussed before. 'Forlorn Hope' is exactly as you would expect one to be in a siege, except starting from Orbit. 'Planetquake' is the most compicated, except for the slightly changed Victory Conditions, familiar to anyone who already owns the rulebook... As you can see, the whole gamut of invasion is covered here, and has the range for a basic campaign without even adding a thing. With Planetary Empires out next month, so much the better! :)

Now, to discuss more in depth about the game in general, if that's not to mind-blowing a contradiction in terms. :P
The expanded FoC obviously lends itself to larger games. That's not to say that games cannot be played at 1500-2000, the usual range, but I strongly recommend not playing below 1500, as the Stratagems and initial Firestorm become much more overpowered at this level - Planetstrike games should be moving at such pace, after some games to familiarise yourself with the basics, that even a 3500 point game could be completed in a day without any difficulty.

Another reason for wanting so many points is that the game lends itself to using a LOT of terrain. You'll want to set up an awesome defence line to rival Helm's Deep, or the Emperor's Palace, just because it looks amazing, and obviously this makes it harder for smaller armies to achieve their mission, if it happens to be Planetfall. This also lends itself to a larger board...we're talking 6'x6' here, in order to fit all the defences you want (Tau players in particular will be eager to see as many Force Pylons, Las-mazes and minefields as possible...) There should be no difficulty, though, in playing 3500 points without recourse to the Apocalypse rules - a nice change from regular 40k, where the missions do not work as well beyond 2000 points. I recommend playing between 2k and 3500 in Planetstrike, depending on your collection, available time etc.

One thing you should categorically NOT do in Planetstrike is set up the board in as beardy a way as possible. It's possible, if playing on a 6'x4' board to include as many Gretchin and terrain features as the FoC allows (or even some other armies can achieve this, depending on points) and force Mishaps for 90% of the enemy, if you're not horribly unlucky with the Firestorm - but where's the fun? Killing Marneus Calgar because he teleported into a squirrel is funny, but not during the game, not for the owning player. If winning is so important you don't want the opponent to have a fair crack at winning, then you shouldn't be surprised when your offers for games dry up. In the same vein, please do none of the following:

Play an army entirely composed of Blood Angel Veteran Assault Squads/Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield Terminators/ Crisis Suits with Fusion Blasters/ IG Stormtroopers/Vets with Meltas/ Fire Dragons/ Wraithguard/ anything else with enough Melta/ CC ability (who can Deep Strike Assault) to level ALL of the opponent's buildings on turn one. This means you can win instantly, and again prevents the opponent having any fun.

Take 6 Deathstrikes, all in Reserve, as Defender. Really? You need to win that much?

Pick your stratagems after seeing your opponent's army. It's not cheating, per se, but it's pretty bad form.

Pick mission [I]after[/I] picking armies - this really could backfire catastrophically.

Bring 3 Astropaths, or, more importantly, 3 Officers of the Fleet. When your opponent gets a -3 to Reserves, or, in the case of Seize and Destroy, -5, they aren't going to be having a great game. Especially with the 'Planetary Convocation' asset forcing them to re-roll 6's one turn per game...

Claim that Daemons can't Deep Strike Assault. Obviously, it benefits you - but it's not fluffy, it's not fair, and it's actually not true. If you look at Jump Infantry, for example Space Marine Assault Squads (the example in the PS book) they do not say in their profile they can Deep Strike. They receive this ability because they are Jump Infantry. This is common knowledge. Checking the JI rules, however, does not give them a rule called 'Deep Strike' just the ability to use the DS rules. This is no different to Daemons. Page 13 of the Planetstrike book states "a Space Marine Assault Squad could both shoot its bolt pistols and launch an assault the turn it enters play." :)

Fail to bring enough Craters - innocuous sounding, but you may find you need at least twenty before the game is over - and you'd hate to lose out on a cover save because you ran out, and forgot until the turn after you agreed to treat it as one anyway. Even a single surviving model can be the difference between victory and the firing squad, so bring more craters! :) Spare templates can be used in a pinch.

Spring defensive weapons on the opponent - make sure you are both clear on what is what before the game, if they aren't WYSIWYG.

Finally, a recommendation of something you should do: Pick a mission. Pick a points value. Pick races. Set up terrain. Then write army lists, whether in collaboration ("yeah, I've no problem with you using Shrike and 10 TH/SS Termies, if you let me ignore the 0-1 Zoanthropes restriction") or separately. There's no conceivable way the attacker wouldn't see from orbit where the enemy buildings were, and choose a Landing Zone accordingly. Similarly, it prevents any nasty surprises, as both players know what the other is using, and set boundaries and house rules accordingly. Finally, it speeds the game up, since your strategy will be more coordinated. :)

I know I've probably got something else I planned to add, but I don't know where my notes for the article went, so this was all off the top of my head. Oh, one more thing - I recommend creating a house rules stratagem for Chaos as the attacker that isn't rubbish. I also recommend a Defensive Stratagem for the Tau - expansive though they are, they're probably far better organised in defence than anyone but the Necrons and Eldar.

Thanks for reading.

TKE
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