Wednesday, 1 November 2017

All Things Bright and Beautiful

So what have I been doing recently?  Writing things.  Lots of things.  Not as many things as Jason Enos though.  I managed to get some testing of the Ito Clan things this week and was quite impressed by the results.  That midline on the table is a such a dangerzone.

I’ve put together a draft of the power structures and organisations of the Jwar Isles.  It’s very interesting to see where individual characters intersect with rules and lore.  For instance, Hagane and Itsunagi went to the same koryu (sword school), which only accepts left-handed students and is also why they both use dual katanas.

The setting timeline is still quite jumbled, but it’s getting there.  The most accurate history comes concerns the Takashi and Ito families; the other factions have fairly abstract event timings.  A lot of recent events have no order to them.  There's also a lot of different sources for the information, from store blurbs to tidbits from the short stories.  Here's Minato Jung's background from Rise of the Kage, combined with his blurb from the store:

A hulking beast of a man. Minato cuts an imposing figure as he strolls across the docks of Ryu casually swinging his most unusual of weapon choice, a message to those that would defy the peace he is entreated to ensure. For long years though Minato was the scourge of many a dock across the Jwar Isles. Nowhere he dropped anchor could truly be considered a safe harbor when he was drinking. Finding himself in a cell awaiting punishment for his latest crime, he was to be shipped to one of the Dragon clan’s labour camps; a fate far worse than execution. The Takashi’s though, upon hearing of his exploits, performed a masterstroke when they offered Minato a position with their guard. His fearsome reputation and background allowed him to quickly rise through the ranks and he now runs his own guards with the same success he used to have for causing trouble.

Although trained in the ways of the Samurai, Minato was always destined to follow his own unique path. A brute of a man, more at home in a water house than the courts. His body tells the stories of countless battles, wearing each scar proudly as a mark of honour to his physical prowess. That is not to say that he is all brawn, a cunning and clever leader, hiding from the Prefecture in plain sight. In battle he wields his trademark anchor, launching it through the air making it appear as light as a Tengu feather. Those unlucky enough to be caught by his attentions sent sprawling, dazed and disorientated.

Okay, what does this tell us about the timeline?  Minato terrorized the docks of a lot of different places until he was captured by the Prefecture.  He was given control of the docks of Ryu and charged with bringing them to order, which he did.  All the time though, he maintained loyalty to the Jung.  There's no mention of the Dragon Wars, which ended a decade ago, but Minato is probably in his late thirties or early forties, so he would have lived through that time period.  He was in Ryu when the Tsunami washed over Takashi clan territory, and probably began to move more openly in support of the Jung in the chaotic period that followed the natural disaster.

As for recent events, the Tsunami is only mentioned in the Prefecture faction description, and a lot of the characters should be grounded in the Dragon War - nearly all the characters in the game were alive during the Dragon Wars, most of them are old enough to be active participants in it.  Once the storyline gets introduced (if it gets introduced) I would expect both events to come to the forefront and have a much larger gravitas on how a lot of characters behave.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Sibling Rivalry

This last wave of releases has been rather unique with the release of two sets of very different Ronin models.  The first set is the Blood Brothers and their servant.  They committed some terrible crime on the mainland and have fled to the Jwar Isles.  Pursuing them are the Sworn Sisters, who are honour bound to hunt down the Blood Brothers and bring them to justice.

The two sets play very differently to each other and tend to avoid working for the same factions, with the exception of the Ito Clan and the Silvermoon Trade Syndicate - those factions have access to both the Blood Brothers and Sworn Sisters.

Blood Brothers
There is a very specific technique to how the Blood Brothers start the game.   At some point on turn 1, Ying-Jian will end up in base-to-base with Baichi and use "Saihai" to get the Blood Brothers moving up the table.  The only time this might not happen is if the scenario is a VIM scenario and the Blood Brothers player feels they can be greedy on turn 1 - it's still a bad play in my opinion though.

After that the Blood Brothers occupy part of the board and form something of an immovable object - they function as MS3, Tireless models with Indomitable (1), so trying to drop their dice pools down requires some serious effort.

The main drawback of the Blood Brothers is their lack of activations - their other drawback is how much they don't like getting shot by ranged attacks.  They're perfectly happy allowing your opponent to flail away at them,  but getting the Blood Brothers to actually do things is quite hard.  You need to build a warband with plenty of models that can do scenario actions and function without support to compensate for the amount of Rice the Blood Brothers eat up.  The factions that do this best are the Jung Pirates and the Silvermoon Trade Syndicate as they both have MS3 profiles that start at a cheap 4 Rice - Kyoaku-Han and Kohanin.  This means you can fill up the warband and still have rice left over for a utility special card or two.

Of the factions that can use the Blood Brothers, the Ito Clan and the Savage Wave probably have the hardest time.  For the Savage Wave it's a problem with filling the rest of the warband with profiles that could function away from the Blood Brothers.  For the Ito Clan it's more of a play style problem; the Ito Clan typically has a smaller warband than the current meta and relies on being incredibly aggressive to reduce the opposing warband's model count.  Being that aggressive is hard work with the Blood Brothers.

In conclusion, use the Blood Brothers to take and hold part of the board, once they're in position they're incredibly hard to shift as long as none of them get shot.  Don't expect them to do scenario actions unless there is literally nothing else for them to do.  Finally, once one falls, things go downhill in a real hurry.

Sworn Sisters
More versatile than the Blood Brothers, the Sworn Sisters are similar in that they work together, but the similarity ends quickly as they don't lose out on function if you don't feel like taking the full trio.  I can see several factions just taking Yanjing for her incredibly powerful ranged attack.

The Sworn Sisters were designed to present their player with a plethora of options every turn, and succeed at that design goal with style.  You can setup some very chess-like traps by leaving one "exposed" and then utilising Bodyguard or Sister's Succour to force your opponent into fighting the Sworn Sister of your choice.  Or you can use Command to bring out full on aggression and take the fight to your opponent.  Or you can use the Sworn Sisters Ki feat and play the activation game.  Don't be fooled by their MS3 stat either, they tend to sit at MS4 in reality as long as at least two of the Sworn Sisters are still on the board.  The skill ceiling for the Sworn Sisters is incredibly high, so expect to continually be caught out by them fairly often.

With the changes to the Golden Sentinels - they are now ludicrously good value at 8 Rice - and Yukio Koshimori, you can now build warbands made up entirely by Imperial models.  It's certainly powerful, and the Silvermoon Trade Syndicate probably works best with them due to the variety of their special cards, but the Ito Clan also does extremely well if you swap a Golden Sentinel for an Ancestor Spirit to help fuel Yukio and the Sworn Sisters.  Control Imperial Ito is actually a thing, you have been warned.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Control Ito

I pulled out my super-dirty control Ito Clan warband last night.  Jim conceded on turn 2 with his Savage Wave after I Controlled the two Oni in his warband.  It's been a *long* time since I've played "control Ito" with Mizuki.  I tuned the warband that I took to my second UK Masters and it seems to work rather well.  Here's the breakdown of what's in it, and what they do.

Control Ito
The Blessed (theme)
Mizuki Ito
Kenzo Ito
Child of Orochi
Child of Orochi
Shimogamo Viper

Dark Secrets (2)

We'll start with the theme bonuses.  Kyou starts with double Ki because he's a shisai.  It's not a big deal since he's pretty Ki efficient simply because of his unique effect, but extra Ki is extra Ki.  The "choose one" benefit of the Blessed is potentially extremely powerful.  Kenzo with Camouflage (2) can avoid a lot of stuff, or improving Kyou's melee weapon strength.  No one really cares or notices the last benefit of the theme, but it can sometimes matter if the board setup is horrific.

Why the two Children of Orochi?  They serve a lot of purposes in the warband.  Mizuki is incredibly greedy for Ki.  Having 5 Ki on turn 1 allows you to begin stocking up on Blessings of Orochi and throw out a cheeky Obey at the end of turn 1.  Controlling an enemy model at the end of turn 1 can literally win you the game, especially in zone scenarios.  For additional synergy with Mizuki, you give her Strong Mind (1) when you use Spiritual Conduit since the latest errata, so dicing off against that Master Monk is just that little bit easier.

They also work well with Kyou, as they can Self-Sacrifice for him if they are close enough.  If something particularly scary comes charging in to Kyou, you can safely go full attack dice and just let a Child of Orochi take the hit.  I wouldn't recommend going overboard with this, you still need models to do scenario actions.  That segues into their final purpose, they can do scenario actions and I don't feel guilty about it.  Orochi cries a little every time you do a scenario action with Kenzo.

Kenzo, Kyou, and Saburo are the melee powerhouses of the warband.  Their job is to get stuff killed.  Kenzo does the most aggressive work, while Kyou serves as the anchor of the warband - it's extremely difficult to drop his melee dice below 2.  Saburo is more of an opportunist but is scary because of his built-in Feint.

The Shimogamo Viper is there because sometimes you just need a Dark Secrets delivery service, or something to knock off an opponent's activation.  Sometimes you just need to kill Aiko.

Mizuki Ito is where the warband really starts to shine though.  She is the engine of the warband and should work towards making your opponent miserable.  On turn 1 you nearly always give her the first Blessing of Orochi so that she can activate Auto-Disengage in emergencies or gain Sixth Sense against opponents with lots of Camouflage.  You should be attempting to get Obey off every turn, and occasionally get more Blessings of Orochi onto your fighting models.  Paralyze should be saved for an enemy model that you want to keep fighting against one of your melee models since models in melee cannot simply remove Held, they have to make the dice roll every time.  Mizuki's real purpose is to make your opponent chew through their own activations so that you can offset the low number of melee models.

Between Obey and Dark Secrets, if you can get a turn where you throw down all 3 control markers you've set yourself up for the win.  3 Control markers is generally the tipping point where the game tends to break.  If you can sustain the Control markers each turn, then the game should quite easily be yours.