Dance with Death

Kill Team Eremoi had descended by drop pod to the surface of Harena 09-3 in a furious sandstorm. Three squads fanned out across the landscape, looking for signs of the imperial research outpost from which the distress signal had come.

When Harena had first been colonized two centuries earlier, it had been a verdant world of opportunity. Now the planet had been stripped of all native life by some mysterious force.

As they searched, Squad Beta encountered the first signs of human habitation southeast of the drop site: the ruined walls of a sprawling research facility, a floor where the sand had been blown clear, occasionally a laboratory almost intact. The wreckage of the imperial installation rose ghostlike from the blinding sand that whipped around them.

The squad also began to find amidst the ruins the corpses of colonists marked with the foul sigils of chaos. Hideous brands scarred their limbs, their hands still clutched cruel improvised weapons, and unspeakable litanies written on parchment fluttered upon repellent standards. No evidence could be found of how they had died. It was clear they had not lain in the sand for long.

As Squad Beta pushed farther into the ruined laboratory complex, there suddenly appeared, as if from nowhere, a small host of gaudily clad yet fearsome warriors wearing golden masks and bearing bizarre xenos weaponry. The Eremoi had little time to take positions or issue orders, for no sooner had the strange figures appeared than they charged with astonishing speed and lethal grace into the ranks of the Astartes.


Will and I played a game last evening that pitted my Eremoi Dark Angels against an all new team of Harlequins he’s working on. We played Recover Intelligence.

I took a Scout sniper Leader, a Combat specialist Reiver Sergeant, a Demolitions missile launcher Scout, a Heavy specialist toting a heavy bolter, and three Tactical Marines.

Will’s list consisted of six Players, all with the harlequin’s caress. Two wielded fusion pistols, two bore neuro disruptors, and two carried shuriken pistols. His specialists were Combat, Veteran, and Zealot.

Will formed his troupe into a Flying V formation at the edge of his deployment zone.

I spread my forces out to avoid being locked up by a single Player.

Will advanced his Veteran into position for an easy first turn charge, then won the initiative and fired off charges at my tacticals with his foremost units still in the deployment zone. My troops retreated to the board edge, and Will failed both charges, one by only a single inch. He moved his models close, eager to get to grips with me. Will then charged one of my Tactical Marines with his advanced veteran. Having already retreated, my soldier could do nothing as the enemy descended upon him with blinding speed. Will charged my Reiver with his Zealot, but the Reiver retreated and caused that charge to fail as well. Will moved his remaining two Harlequins onto one of my objectives, threatening an early points lead.

I moved one of my Tactical Marines onto my other objective, readied the three shooters hiding behind the broken wall, and countercharged one of the players who had failed his charge and stood in the midst of my team. A Tactical Marine stood within two inches, and thus could not fail his roll, but the Reiver needed a four and was forced to reroll when he managed only a three.

During shooting my three ready models focus fired on the exposed harlequin who had failed his charge. The sniper and the Scout firing the missile launcher did not bring him down, but the heavy bolter took him out of action. Will took a potshot at the marine holding my objective with a neuro disruptor but missed at long range. The Tactical Marine securing my objective rapid fired in response and knocked the Harlequin out of action. Succeeding on my first two injury rolls got the Astartes off to a great start.

In the fight phase the Player who had successfully charged my Tactical Marine managed only a couple of hits, then failed his wound rolls, leaving my Tactical Marine standing. I had two marines fighting in the Hammer of Wrath portion of the phase and knew that I could gain a decisive advantage is I could take out a third member of Will’s team. The Tactical Marine failed to hit but my Combat Reiver, dropping five dice on the Harlequin, scored three wounds. Will failed a save and I was back on the injury roll. I missed the roll but used my last command point to try again. A four came up and Will lost his third Player, putting his troupe down to half strength. Still, the point tally at the end of Round 1 was 2-1 Harlequins.

In the second round I won the initiative.

I charged two players with an unengaged Tactical Marine, sacrificing him to lock them up and prevent them from shooting or charging.

I then charged his engaged Player, granting me priority in the fight phase. My third Tactical marine remained on my objective, but the three shooters advanced on the center objective.

No shooting was possible, so we advanced straight to close combat. Will employed Decisive Strike to attempt to seize the initiative, but I contested and won the roll-off.

Though I won the roll, Will was intelligently keeping Death Denied offline, which shut down one of my primary strategies. I had intended to use the tactic to grant my soldiers an opportunity to swing back at the somewhat fragile Harlequins even after falling to their hail of attacks.

My Tactical did no damage to the two Harlequins holding the objective, and my Reiver whiffed on his attacks. Fighting back, Will’s two Harlequins managed only a flesh wound on my Tactical. Slashing at the other Tactical Marine, the Player that had just withstood the Reiver’s onslaught scored five hits on my Tac, but missed all his wound rolls. The score at the end of Round 2 was 5-4 Astartes.

We began Round 3, but when I seized the other two objectives we called the game. The score could not have been better for the Harlequins than 13-6 after the third frame.

Will and I had some good discussion about what led to the outcome. Certainly the dice played a role, but the Harlequins’ vulnerabilities also had a lot to do with it. They are a very strong team, probably one of the strongest, and I wouldn’t expect Astartes to win the majority of the time.

Still, a few tactical decisions worked well. First, I used retreat to keep Harlequin charges at about thirteen inches. Though some rolls will certainly succeed, the odds were in my favor.

Second, I spaced my units so that I could countercharge engaged enemies. Harlequins are at their most dangerous when you don’t get a chance to swing. That’s when they steamroll you. Countercharging (usually) guarantees you’ll have a chance to take one of the attackers out of your midst.

Third, force them to make saves. The missile launcher, heavy bolter, and my Reiver Sergeant all put a lot of dice into the Harlequins. When I have more such models finished I’ll employ them.

Overall it was a fun game in which we learned a lot on both sides. I’m sure it won’t be long before the Harlequins leave me mangled on the sands of Harena 09-3.

I really enjoyed seeing Will’s new models, which look great. The color scheme is highly effective, I think. Leave him a comment and let him know if you think, as I do, that he’s leveled up with these!


I hope you enjoyed the tidbit of fluff at the top of the post. That was Will’s idea. I’ll try to incorporate these narrative elements into my battle reports from now on, developing an ongoing story as seen from the tabletop.

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