Monday, 24 December 2012

Back on the Wagon

Well, it's the start of a new year (almost) so I thought I'd get back into the gaming.  After the last UK Masters and the release of the huge based warjacks and warbeasts I really had no motivation to play; playing without the full range of models just seemed... dull.  Also I'm not a huge fan of the colossals and gargantuans.  Yes, they look good, but I feel they represent a very real economic barrier for players.

Built by Orks!
Since I'm currently suffering very badly from some sort of apocalyptic plague, I can't sleep due to my incessant coughing.  As I can't sleep, I've been doing a bit of painting to help pass the time and the Mercenaries are starting to look more and more painted, much to my satisfaction.  I've decided on the Mercenaries over the Trollbloods mainly due to how I view the two factions:  the Trollbloods are a reactive force - they wait for you to punch them in the face and then bearmaul you.  The Mercenaries are tricky, but are proactive.  I can dictate the way I want the game to go in a more controlled fashion.

With the Galleon out next month, I thought I'd get as much of my army painted as possible, and pick up any units I'm missing - such as Kayazy for my Four Star Syndicate lists, and Forge Guard for my Highborn Covenant.  I'm not a fan of painting units, but I may as well get on with it, it's not like the progress regresses if I stop for a while.

I'm going to have to test out the Galleon with a few different casters over the next couple of months, but I was thinking Constance, pMagnus, and MacBain(!!!) as my trio of choice for now.  Of course, I'll just have to try out everyone and see.  I'm pretty spoiled for choice however, as everyone likes the Galleon in Mercenaries.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Ship of the Line

I have now had a game testing out the Galleon and discovered it is a wonderfully flexible model. Even if it is locked down it can do something every turn.  It also has excellent synergy with Renegades and their obliterator rockets.  I tried it out in a tier 4 Most Wanted (pMagnus) themed force and found that pMagnus does some nifty things with it but the loss of his feat is rather harsh.

The Galleon gives Mercenaries the heavy hitting power they have lacked (outside the Rhulic casters) and it has drag.  You can't go wrong with drag.  Having placed so many eggs in one basket however, I wouldn't leave home without some sort of mechanik or damage mitigating abilities.  I think Dirty Meg will be making more appearances in my Mercenaries lists, and I will have to try out the Galleon with MacBain(!) since he brings Failsafe.  Temper Metal was a very powerful lifesaver in the game I had against Jim last night, with such a large damage grid, every point of damage you prevent increases the lifespan of your colossal.

Having seen the Mercenary colossal in action however, Jim and I discussed at length the impact other colossals are going to have on the game.  The Galleon was a horror to take down, what is a Conquest with its swarm of mechaniks going to be like?  Also, a single colossal cannot take down another colossal in a single turn without some ludicrous dice or some serious buffing, so even if you get the alpha strike, you're likely to be in for some serious pain in return.  This does give me some hope for the Mountain King, since it has enough power and fury to destroy a colossal, especially with the amount of buffing Trollbloods can bring.

Whilst colossals are difficult to kill in one go, they aren't as immune to damage as people seem to think.  Jim's Woldguardian pretty much scrapped the right grid of my Galleon, and a Woldguardian is not exactly a damage-dealing powerhouse like a Warpwolf Stalker with primal on it.  It's very much a case of eggs in one basket, as once you lose your hideously expensive model, you're in for a rough ride.

Now, with the colossals, what will happen to our precious battle engines?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Halls of the Mountain King

Yes, spoilers.  They have arrived and the crowd let out a resounding "meh".  I will admit to being a little disappointed with the Mountain King, but even so it's got two fists that duplicate Mulg's hitting power, and we all know that Mulg ruins just about anything he gets into punching range.  Amuck is a pretty awesome animus for a gargantuan that wants to use sweep.  I was hoping that the Mountain King had more cool things to it, but it's a very bare-bones sort of model.  I AM a bit miffed it doesn't have some sort of regeneration ability though, I mean, it's a troll warbeast right?!

It does make me look back and forth between my Mercenaries and the Trollbloods, the Galleon just does more than the Mountain King.  I'm just not sure I can really get the best mileage out of the Galleon like I do with warbeasts.  The Galleon does come with the great ability to just murder infantry though by spamming AoE templates everywhere.  Both are still nothing on the Stormwall however, which seems to take the prize as being utterly uberlicious.  I will try out both the Mountain King and the Galleon on Vassal and see how it goes, since whichever I enjoy more is likely to determine what I collect for the next year.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Steaming Vegetables

I thought I'd give a mention to, a website run by Rich Loxam and a couple more of the lads down south - I'm sorry that I can't name more, I just don't know who else runs it.  Mat Hart has a number of very useful modeling articles (I'm a particular fan of the hats one) and they occasionally stream Vassal games.

Originally I wasn't such a fan of streaming Vassal, but it's surprisingly watchable with their commentary going.  Generally I view streaming footage is reserved for real-time events, especially things like e-sports where micro-seconds matter.  The idea of using it for a turn based game made me cringe a little inside when I first heard about it, but I would really recommend watching one of the Steamforged Vassal games, for the banter if nothing else.

More interesting information is coming out of Lock'n'Load.  Such information as Greylord outriders, a light cavalry unit, and the first battle engine warlock - 3Lylyth on a sleigh pulled by ulk.  Try hiding her out of LoS...  Lost Hemisphere has a more concise list of what was revealed here:

Friday, 1 June 2012

Design, Design, Design

So, after playing around with a couple of the basic templates I came up with this almost mono-chrome layout that I actually rather like.  It speaks to the minimalist in me.  I'm removing unnecessary widgets and the like, and generally streamlining the blog.  I've even removed that rather irritating navbar at the top of the page - it was annoyingly well hidden in the blog's code.

I'm going to try to do more stylish posts using such cunning things as "graphics" and "pictures"; I hear both are all the rage to have on articles these days.  Whilst I my camera is AWOL (I think my sister has it) I'm sure I can do sneaky things with Vassal and the like.

Colossal Design Issues

Having now immersed myself in web design, I can frankly say that the blog has a terrible layout/design.  It's something I'll have to do some work on the layout if I maintain it.

In better news however, Colossals spoilers abound!  The book is rather light on new models - in fact there's only a legendary warcaster and a colossal for each faction except Mercenaries, who get a new Rhulic warcaster and eAlexia (and the Galleon colossal of course) in their entry.  There is also an Ashlynn resculpt.  At long last.

As a Mercenary player (once in a blue moon anyway) I am cannot overstate my joy at the Galleon being at roughly the same P+S as the other colossals (19 and 21 depending on which side the Galleon is whacking things with).  Granted it's still 1 less than the other colossals with the harpoon arm but at long last Mercenaries have broken through the P+S 17 glass ceiling.  Also, Ashlynn resculpt.  Did I mention that?

I'm very curious about General Ossram and the Rhulic options he brings.  His themed force is really quite nice, allowing for the full Rhulic options that a normal Searforge list would offer and there are some nice additional benefits such as trenches being available.  I'm tempted to test out a force made up of mostly Rhulic heavies on Vassal.

However, all this Mercenary goodness comes at a price, so I'll have to prioritize Mercenaries or Trollbloods over the next year, I'm pretty sure I can't afford to pick up both a Galleon and a Mountain King (or two).

Monday, 28 May 2012

UK Masters 2012 Postscript: Day Two Game Reports

Game Five: Calandra vs Fiona the Black
Opponent: Rich Loxam
Scenario: Diversion
Artifice: Radial Scenario
Result: Win

Amongst Warmachine and Hordes players, Rich Loxam is a true gentleman.

My MVP in this game was easily the Axer.  I do not know how exactly it happened but that Axer did incredible things.  It destroyed a Nomad and Rocinante, it also killed a bunch of Boomhowler & Co, but that was after a couple of turns of utter fail against the Trollkin.  It did everything the Earthborn could not (before the Earthborn died horribly because it couldn't hit anything other than 4+ Tough Trollkin models).

Eventually I managed to score a scenario point just before dice down through the ingenious use of my Feralgeist and a rushed Impaler.  This did put Calandra in a drastically vulnerable position, something I was gravely concerned about, but with dice down potentially coming (there were a LOT of players standing around at this point, always a sign of impending dice down) it was a risk that I felt I had to make.  Luckily for me Rich wasn't quite within assassination range with Fiona - I had forgotten that Fiona's weapon has Grievous Wounds, and Fiona had to take a free strike from the Axer on her way in.  As I mentioned above, my MVP pulled through once again and all was happiness and sunshine in the land of trolls.

I thought I might have to drop out of the tournament about halfway through this game, as my ribs were really hurting and speaking was getting difficult at times, but it seemed to sort itself out by the end of the game.

Game Six: eDoomshaper vs Garryth
Opponent: David Flynn
Scenario: Incursion
Artifice: None
Result: Win

David also needs to work on his movement.  Badly.  Models cannot move through other models, and if I had my PG shirt on there would have been words.  However, after calling him on it a few times as a player, you just feel like such a douchebag and you can feel the enjoyment of the game starting to drain so I just let it go and got on with the game.

I was definitely on the back foot for a good part of the game, since many of my models were stuck in a forest on my side of the board, and David was butchering my heavies with his Sentinels.  Eventually however, the strength of my warbeasts began to shine through, as my Mauler and Axer managed to kill pretty much all the Sentinels near the end of the game (granted I didn't have much of a battlegroup left at this point).

On the right flank my Bog Trogs and Bomber were clearing up the board, though I missed out on a control point early on by forgetting my Refuge movement (BLARG!).  That combo was really awesome, they cleared out an incredible amount of David's army there.

Eventually Garryth was forced to commit himself in an attempt to take down the Dire Troll Mauler, but at ARM 20 it pretty much shrugged off all his attacks.  The following turn the Mauler with Wild Aggression ate Garryth.

Game Seven: pDoomshaper vs eVayl
Opponent: Steven McConnachie
Scenario: A Flag Too Far
Artifice: Reinforcements
Result: Win

I didn't realise I'd played Steven before until he mentioned it, and I remembered I'd played him at one of the Livingston tournaments, where he took a very unusual eLylyth list filled with Blighted Ogrun Warspears.  Clearly Steven's invested in making more robust lists.

This is probably the game where I played my best, and pDoomshaper is probably a horrific match-up for eVayl.  She has a lot of upkeeps and relies heavily on three key spells: Admonition, Refuge, and Obliteration.  I made a mistake early on that very nearly cost me the game by not putting Banishing Ward on pDoomshaper as soon as I could, as once I had eVayl on the backfoot she promptly dropped some Obliterations on pDoomshaper.  Needless to say, next turn I put Banishing Ward up.

Eventually Steven conceded once I'd killed all his warbeasts except a Ravagore and had a possessed Angelius of my own running around (it did horrific things to a Ravagore).  I can see why eVayl is regarded as such a powerful caster now, but I think I found a hard counter for her.

My last game appears to have been entered wrongly into the final standings, which places me somewhere in the top 20 - as I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, I *think* I'm 18th.  Overall, quite happy with my performance.  I'm ecstatic that I didn't have to play Cryx once during the tournament - unlike Matt Oakley who had to play against eDeneghra four times.

UK Masters 2012 Postscript: Day One Game Reports

Game One: eDoomshaper vs pVlad
Opponent: Jay Taylor
Scenario: Bunkers
Artifice: Reinforcements
Result: Win

Jay's list was a pVlad themed force.  With 13 Berserkers.  This, I was not expecting.  However Jay did put pVlad too close to a table edge and I ambushed him with 4 of my Bog Trogs.  Unfortunately I rolled two sets of snake eyes so he didn't die instant.  I did force Jay to commit a number of Berserkers into defending his zone simply by running my Feralgeist up there.  With his lack of magical weapons there wasn't a lot he could do to get rid of it.

After several turns of beating up Berserkers in my zone, I managed to clear out enough of a space for Rök to be able to charge pVlad in the back, taking down the Dark Prince with Wild Aggression combined with Primal.

Game Two: Calandra vs eStryker
Opponent: Dan Holt
Scenario: Close Quarters
Artifice: Kill Box
Result: Win

Dan needs to work on his movement.  Bendy tape measures will get him in trouble if I'm PG'ing.  Not that it hugely mattered, he was pretty badly hammering my list for most of the game.  I was killing off all his Stormblades (and there were a lot of those) and doing a lot of damage to his warjacks but I wasn't killing them.  Dan on the other hand was happily killing my warbeasts.  However, he brought eStryker and Ol' Rowdy forward in an effort to set up for the kill next turn and I pulled out one of my better tricks of the tournament.

The Runebearer hit Ol' Rowdy with a Befuddle, moving the warjack away from eStryker and allowing Calandra herself to hit eStryker with a Force Blow.  I missed the first attack roll but used Fate-Blessed to get the re-roll (that ability borders on over-powered) and rolled massive damage.  That put eStryker on the ground, so I shot him with the War Wagon's giant cannon.

Game Three: pDoomshaper vs eLylyth
Opponent: Tony Moore
Scenario: Demolition
Artifice: Interactive Objective
Result: Loss

Tony is the only person where the new Shield Guard ruling came into effect, for which he gets rated as my worst opponent; which isn't really saying much, he was still fun to play.  I have come to the conclusion that almost no Legion players are actually aware that Ravagore shots have dual damage types (fire and corrosion).  Having conversed with a number of Legion players they were adamant that the Ravagore shot was fire only - if you are a Legion player, the Ravagore has dual elemental damage, please look at your card.  This meant that they totally ignored the Slag Troll in my Calandra list and took eLylyth anyway.

Still, all my support in my list got hammered very quickly and I was very unlucky with deviations on the War Wagon so the bajillion Striders I was fighting survived an awfully long time.  However, eLylyth went for an assassination run against pDoomshaper while my feat was up and I managed to get her down to two health and her last fury when Tony bought a shot.  So I rolled that dice and... it was a one.  That was tragic in the extreme, but them's the breaks.

Then pDoomshaper did his best impression of an arrow-filled hedgehog.

Game Four: pDoomshaper vs eKrueger
Opponent: Ross Silvers
Scenario: Destruction
Artifice: Interactive Objective
Result: Loss

I play against Ross a lot, so I was pretty gutted I was drawn against him.  He also knows my pDoomshaper list very well.  Normally I'd have expected him to pull out eKaya, but she got absolutely hammered in our last outting, and I was still fairly surprised that he opted for eKrueger.

The basics of the game were that I went for the assassination run early, and if it were a friendly game I'm pretty sure I'd have got it but this is the Masters, so I wasn't willing to ask Ross if I could move my War Wagon a bit further so that it could shoot his Celestial Fulcrum instead of the druid standing next to eKrueger.  So it missed, which meant eKrueger wasn't knocked down when Mulg arrived and it all sort of went downhill from there.  I then pretty much spent the game trolling (forum-style) eKrueger and knocking him down over and over again.  Unfortunately I had no follow-up at any time.  Ah well, next time Silvers, next time!

So I finished day one with two wins and two losses.  My two losses were pretty close though so I wasn't overly fussed.

UK Masters 2012 Postscript: Part One

This year's UK Masters was a great deal more fun than last year's one.  I went in with two goals in mind: win more than half my games, and just have fun.  There's no point in getting stressed about moving little metal men around a table, and I think the change in attitude really increased my enjoyment.

Overall I finished on 5 wins, 2 losses; and all my games were really quite enjoyable.  Unfortunately my last game was erroneously entered as a loss and so my final standing is a bit of a mystery.  I believe I'm 18th (*much* better than last year's 61st) since that's where Steven McConnachie (my last opponent) placed.  I think the majority of the Scottish players are in the top half of the table.

I'm really quite surprised as how many tricks Calandra has.  In her games I made massive use of Befuddle, Force Blow, and her Fate-Blessed ability.  Between those three abilities I could pull assassinations or surprise attacks out of nowhere.  I also discovered pDoomshaper is almost a hard counter against eVayl.  That made me very happy indeed.

My three lists were as follows:

+Dire Troll Mauler
+Troll Axer
+Troll Axer
+Troll Bouncer

KSB (min) + UA
Janissa Stonetide
Troll Whelps

War Wagon

Trollkin Runeshapers
Trollkin Scouts
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew

+Dire Troll Mauler
+Dire Troll Bomber
+Troll Axer
+Troll Axer
+Trollkin Runebearer

KSB (min) + UA
Troll Whelps

Bog Trog Ambushers

Trollkin Runeshapers
Trollkin Scouts
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew

+Earthborn Dire Troll
+Dire Troll Bomber
+Troll Axer
+Troll Impaler
+Slag Troll
+Trollkin Runebearer

KSB (min) + UA
Troll Whelps

War Wagon

Nyss Hunters (max)

I also think I bruised or cracked a rib on the Friday night when I attempted to elbow drop Alasdair but he sat up thinking I wasn't about to land on him.  This meant my ribs landed on his shoulder and now it's extremely painful when lying down or having to tense that part of my torso (like when I put on the handbrake in the jeep).  I will have to plot a suitable revenge.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

UK Masters: Paired Off

The first round pairings are up on the Warhammer Forums for perusal by all and sundry.  Pete made a handy table and then turned it into a graphic (you can't see me gritting my teeth at this, but trust me, I'm totally gritting my teeth).  So in time honored fashion, I am re-posting the very same image.  Go me.

I'm up against Jay Taylor, who I believe was playing Cygnar last year.  I did some sneaky research on RHQ but it doesn't really tell me much.  I'm quite happy to be playing against Khador though, so it's all happiness and sunshine for me.  Not so for Riki, who is probably going to end up playing against Barnabus and unshootable horde.  Or Alasdair who is playing against Cryx (AHHHH, sweet, sweet justice).

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Warmachine/Hordes UK Masters 2012 Tickets

They're on sale now, the system has recovered from dying horribly as soon as the system went live at 6:30pm.  I have my ticket, Ross picked up tickets for himself, Jim, and I think Ricki.  So that's 4 of us at least.  Oh look, 32 tickets are left; there were 91 left when I started writing this blog post.

I've had to revise my lists lately, so I'm taking pDoomshaper and Calandra so far, but I still need to tweak the Calandra list a bit to see what it's missing and figure out how it works in scenario play.  As for my final list, it's got to be something that lets me easily deal with Cryx infantry spam lists.  They cause me a great deal of unnecessary trouble, so having a setup that easily obliterates them and remains useful against other types of armies is what I'm looking for.  I keep glancing at Grim Angus but I know he just doesn't work with me, there's a strange sense of Skornergy when I put him down on the table, a natural animosity between us.  This, in turn, makes me glance at pMadrak once again, with Horthol and a Hero on the feat turn...  There's some serious infantry clearing potential, I just need to figure out how to round out the list and stop pMadrak from dying horribly after he's done snaking his way through an opponent's army.  Also, he hates tough and there are a lot of ways to get around his feat.  Choices, choices, and so little time to do the testing I need.

I finally managed to pick up my new Battlefoam 432 (?) carrying case, it's the middle-sized case they do I believe.  Once again, I got it off Shae Konnit / Gav - I have to say, he's been a great find.  It's fantastic being able to store multiple army lists of Trollbloods in a single case. No longer do I have to lug around additional boxes or plastic bags with extra foam trays, I have moved into the lap of wargaming luxury (if only the rest of my life would follow suit).  I can fit all four of my heavies in the bottom tray along with all my lights and some obnoxiously tall solos, and I haven't even used half of the middle and top trays.  So far I'm over the moon with my purchase.

Having said all that, this is most likely my last year in the UK if my emigration plans go ahead, so I wouldn't mind being a PG.  I'm pretty sure I'm one of the top rules people in the UK for this game - I know how that sounds (like I'm a bit of a twat) - so I wouldn't mind helping out.  If any of the Scottish players end up without a ticket I may just bow out and referee instead.

As a side note, after this UK Masters, I probably won't be updating the blog.  Work has become increasingly busy and I have a lot to do before going to Canada, so unfortunately the blog is getting pushed further and further back as my priorities shift.  I'm sure there'll be a few more posts but it's almost time to turn out the lights and close up the shop.

Thursday, 8 March 2012


I have a mostly assemble War Wagon sitting on my desk at the moment, and it's slowly getting painted.  Painting is actually going a lot faster than I thought it would since the War Wagon appears to be about 90% metal, so a quick series of drybrushing, highlighting, and washing seems to do the job nicely.  I do wish I had an airbrush though.  Painting the War Wagon makes me want to field a massive cavalry force of some sort, maybe with Borka or eGrissel.  I do have enough PG points to fill out my minimum unit of them, so that's something on the books in the future.  It's quite cool putting it all together with my painted stuff and seeing how it all looks - I'm aiming for intimidating.

The Tartan Brawl is this weekend and my e-mail has been bombarded with a seemingly endless series of lists - a number of which are missing their reinforcements or do not have the sender's real name.  I haven't decided on which scenarios to utilize, but it's quite likely I will go for a radial, a flank, and an interactive objective scenarios.  Luckily I also have tomorrow off so I can run around collecting the last bits and pieces for prize support (hello Wooden Spoon!).  I wonder how Wickes will feel about selling me a single brick...

Thanks to Ricki and Ross I have also discovered that the UK Masters this year is a week earlier than normal.  This is due to some randomness about the Queen's Jubilee.  Tickets should go on sale near the end of this month, so we'll have to keep an eagle eye out for when they go on sale and purchase ALL OF THEM.  Or at least enough for 4 of us (maybe 5 if Martin Casey chooses to defend his Mercenaries title).  If we're one ticket short, I think I could probably referee instead and earn a bajillion PG points.  It's really a win/win for me.  Unless we don't get a hotel, when it will blow goats.

In preparation for the UK Masters, I think I'll create a scenario document since I have expanded my understanding of the various scenarios with some actual practice.  We've discussed it up here and the mental image of the Glasgow players consulting a flow chart before every game is an image that makes me chortle just a little bit inside.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Military Standards

I've actually played some Vassal games over the last couple of days - rather than just lurking and making fun of everyone - and I'm finding two things:  I'm getting very tired of weapon master infantry in large numbers; and that SR2012 scenarios with interactive objectives need a serious amount of ranged options.

The first is just a reflection of how Warmachine interacts with Hordes for the most part, but it would be nice to have some better options for getting rid of them.  As much as I looooove utilizing low POW blast damage and all, I'm really starting to feel like the Trollbloods are missing out on the options that involve shooting the weapon masters before they arrive in my lines.  Regardless, testing continues.  Maybe I just need a Bomber and to boost like crazy...

The second came up while I was trying to play Guidons against Mike Davies on Vassal.  I found that I couldn't prevent him from scoring without taking some ludicrously stupid risks with my models since he went first and started the scoring race before me.  I think simply making the earliest interaction with the objectives start on the second player's second turn (when scoring normally starts) would prevent this.  By moving the interaction back a turn, the first player has already moved to protect their own objective, while the second player now gets a chance to protect theirs without getting horribly tanked on the first player's third turn.  Of course none of this changes how the scenarios are currently played, so for now, be prepared to do some madly suicidal attacks in order to prevent your opponent from scoring.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tanks for the Memories

I was looking at my Mercenaries since I'm in something of a painting mood lately (even if most of my paints dried up) and I keep thinking I'll go for the street cred at this year's UK Masters.  Then I look at this and throw that idea straight out the window.  I want my tank.

Luckily I know Shae Konnit (or as I know him: Gav) who can supply me with my Warmachine/Hordes needs!  Whilst his online store does leave a lot to be desired, a quick e-mail to Gav can usually net you what you're after at a very reasonable price.  It's where I'm getting my awesometastic War Wagon from.

There's been a lot of interest in eMagnus on the Mercenaries forums, with an additional inspection focused on the Bad Seeds themed force.  I tend to play that list primarily as an assassination list, but a lot of other people have been saying they've been using it in more of an attrition style.  Maybe it's time I try it out with the attrition in mind, as I'm trying to teach myself to do with the Trollbloods.  Unfortunately a lot of the games I've played with it were without time limits, but I'm pretty sure I could fairly easily score a control point or two in a normal timed game.

With less than 20 games to squeeze in before the UK Masters, I really need to decide what to bring.  I wrote down my 3 planned Mercenary lists and then realised just how many models I'd need to get, and that made me a sad panda.  I think I'd need 3 more boxes of Steelhead Halberdiers, 2 min unit boxes of Steelhead Heavy Cavalry, another box of Sword Knights, the list goes on and on.  It's a pretty big order when it comes down to it, not even my PG points could cover all of that.  I don't think my soul would survive having to paint all that either.

On the other hand, the Trollbloods have the benefit of having a larger amount of overlap between my lists.  Reinforcements are also quite simple: Burrowers, Fell Caller, 1 point option of choice.  Nice and easy.  For my choice of warlocks, I was thinking pDoomshaper, Grim Angus and Jarl Skuld.  I think I've worked out a Jarl list I'm happy to test but I think I'll need to play around with other things for Grim Angus' list.  Given my terrible record against Cryx, I should probably cater some sort of list to counter the issues I typically have playing against them.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Improving Your Game - Part 5 (Board Control)

Board control is an interesting concept and can be achieved in a number of ways.  This can by through having dangerous models or by moving models around or limiting enemy movement.

Certain models exude danger: the Deathjack, Mulg, Beast-09.  You'll notice that these are mostly large models that have a big presence when you put them on the table.  They're designed this way and most players can instantly identify the threat something like Mulg will bring to the table.  This presence is further enhanced by the model's rules.  Everyone knows that the Deathjack or Mulg or a Warpwolf Stalker can ruin just about any single model in the game, so you don't want to put your models on the receiving end of their attacks.  Now we're seeing where the board control comes in.

When you put down a model, it exerts a certain radius of 'threat'.  Anything entering this 'threat' becomes a valid target.  The more threatening or destructive a model is, the more board control it exerts on your opponent.  No one in their right mind will place a caster within 14" of Mulg with eDoomshaper unless they can absolutely guarantee (and I really mean guarantee) their caster cannot be attacked/killed.  So utilizing this theory of threat you effectively control the board within your model's threat range.

What happens when multiple competing threat ranges overlap?  So my Mulg+eDoomshaper combo can threaten 14", but your Molik Karn+eMakeda can go 15", that's when I surrender the board control to my opponent unless I can nullify their assault.  Whomever has the longer threat range is exerting more board control on that area of the board than their opponent.  Certain factors such as attack power come into play here too though, my ARM 21 Mulg is going to laugh at your POW 10 infantry even though they exert a larger threat range.  Because I effectively nullify your assault, that part of the board is really mine.

Certain feats and abilities change the way board control works.  eDeneghra's feat instantly drops your opponent's board control to nothing as long as they can't move, so you now control the entire board except where models are physically placed and their respective melee ranges.  This harkens back to the idea that threat range is the greatest factor for board control.  Look at the way Pygmy Burrowers works, because my Burrowers nullify your threat by digging and do horrific damage when they surface, they exert a good degree board control.

It's worth talking about abilities that literally effect the board: things like suppressing fire or pillars of salt.  These are usually templates that either stop your opponent moving through or limit where they can move.  You are in effect channeling your opponent's army in a more direct fashion than using threat range by saying "you may not move here" with your templates.  Of course this is cancelled if the opponent can ignore whatever type of template you put down but you get the idea on how it works.

So what can you do with board control?  Well, the first thing you can do if you have more board control than your opponent is dictate where combat will happen.  Denial casters typically support this sort of play, though some casters enter a sub-genre of denial most people would call control: casters such as Rahn or eKrueger fit into this category.  Once you can dictate where combat will happen, it becomes a matter of when it will happen.  Once you control the where and the when then you pretty much have the game in the bag unless the dice let you down.

Booking Face

I've been glancing at this blog's traffic and noticed a vast increase of views received from Facebook.  I'm very curious to find out who's made a link to the Steamworks on Facebook, please feel free to make a comment to let me know who you are.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Bigger = Better?

Plenty of spoilers this weekend from TempleCon - namely the big colossals reveal for Warmachine.  My first thought on the reveal was time to give up on the Mercs.  I find the Mercenaries have some serious issues with heavy armour, discovering that there will be heavy armour models with massive damage grids really didn't do it for me.  However, the two fully-painted/assembled colossals we've seen so far look awesome: the Conquest for Khador, and the Stormwall for Cygnar.  We can also see artwork for the Judicator (Protectorate), Kraken (Cryx), Hyperion (Retribution), and the Galleon (Mercenaries).  If you hadn't already guessed, colossals are on the same size base as a battle engine (110mm).

Important spoilers about colossals:

  • Colossals are warjacks
  • They have Reach
  • Colossals have two new power attacks - one is a thresher attack in the left or right arc, the other is a slam that does not require the 3" movement first

Colossals is also the name of the next Warmachine book, which will only have 1 new warcaster for Mercenaries (General Osram, a Rhulic caster); everyone else is getting new epic warcasters.  What we know so far is that eVyros, e2Kreoss, and e2Vlad are all mounted, whilst e2Nemo comes with an assistant, Stormchaser Adept Finch.  I wonder if we'll see e2Magnus...

I will admit to being utterly flabbergasted that Jamie P won the TempleCon Masters, though I will give him my begrudging congratulations.  Personally I was utterly mystified by Will Pagani's choice of pBaldur t4 but I can only shrug, they were the ones at the top tables, I was busying being on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  The 3 list/4 round format does interest me however, and it's one that I'd like to utilize in the future for some of my events.

Even with the colossals reveal, I can't help but stare at my Mercenaries and have visions of glory if I got a decent standing with them at the UK Masters this year.  I'd have to buy a ton of infantry models though, something I'm quite resistant to when I could just run my current lists.  And the idea of Magnus running a Galleon... mmmm...  If only he had Incite instead of Calamity.  Actually I'd have to buy too much stuff to bring Mercenaries to the UK Masters - I think I'd run eMagnus (Bad Seeds), Gorten (Highborn), and Damiano (Steelheads) if I had to choose.

Having taken almost 6 months to paint Mulg, I can't even comprehend the amount of time I'm going to need to paint the Trollblood colossal.  It's like some sort of uberMulg.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Road Works & Improving Your Game - Part 4 (Know Thy Enemy)

Acting much like one of the Ten Commandments, 'know thy enemy' is vitally important in Warmachine and Hordes.  There's a lot of things that will ruin your day simply because you didn't know they existed.   Just look at spells like Rampager or Domination, or eHaley's feat.

A friend of mine - Colin - and I were chatting about this series of articles just after I'd published the first one (I actually wrote all of these in the same day, but chose to space them out over several days) and he said "Always ask for your opponent's cards."  I agree with this and feel the need to emphasize this point: ALWAYS ASK FOR THE CARDS.  Once, Jim went off in a giant nerdrage when he killed Colin's Farilor only to discover that the standard bearer was the one who brings mage static to the Legionnaires.  This could have been avoided by having a quick glance at Domination.  Of course now Jim will never, ever, forget that the standard bearer is the one with mage static, which neatly segues (pronounced SEG-WAYS) into the next paragraph.

If you don't instantly gather a vital piece of information whilst glancing through your opponent's cards, be sure to remember what surprised you.  Store that little gem of information and ensure that no one will ever be able to catch you out with it again.  I'm never going to forget that pVayl can cast Rampager on my warbeasts immediately on turn two, so I can guard against by simply having Banishing Ward up earlier than usual.  Sure it cost me the game in the last UK Masters but it's never going to happen again.  I took my mistake and learned from it, in doing so I have removed a vital tool from any pVayl player's arsenal.

Having an academic knowledge of what something does only takes you so far, until you experience it you're likely either to fail to comprehend the threat or misunderstand it.  When the unexpected happens, be sure to remember it and file that information away.  Uniting academic knowledge with practical application is science at its finest.

So what have we learned from this series of posts so far:
  1. Space is important.
  2. Know threat ranges.
  3. Everything in your list should have an easily identified purpose.
  4. Know what enemy models do.
  5. Learn from your mistakes.

These are the basic concepts required to improving your game.  There are more advanced concepts, but those will be explored in later blog posts.  I think the next one will concentrate on board control.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Road Works & Improving Your Game - Part 3 (List Composition)

We're now into part 3 of this series of articles, where I'm going to talk about list composition and the virtues of knowing your enemy.

List composition is perhaps THE deciding factor in the majority of number of games.  If your list has parts that doesn't work, then you're doomed.  Certainly your opponent may commit some horrible blunder and hand you the game, but generally if your list is terrible then things are going to go badly.

So what constitutes a good list?  Well that's a complex question to answer, the simplest answer is a list that works.  Quite simply you want to build a list that either supports your caster or one that your caster supports.  Everything in your list should have a function or easily stated objective.  The mistake that I often see in new players is that they take units that serve no purpose or are completely unsupported by the rest of the list.  Now, nearly every unit and model in the game can be supported in some way, this is not to say that certain things do not suck.  Don't think that just because you brought some sort of buff that a terrible unit will magically become better.  It will become better but a really solid unit with the same buff will become an amazing unit instead of a merely 'Not Bad' one.

As part of list building, we return back to asking yourself how serious are you about the game?  Are you a hardcore Steamroller tournament player?  Do you just like to have the odd fun game once a month and don't care whether you win?  Do you only play with models you like the look of?

Seeing as most people who are reading this article are more likely wanting to branch into Steamroller games or are already participating in them, they no doubt want to bring the most brutal list they can possibly envisage.  Just remember, no one turns up to a tournament for the wooden spoon.  So, looking at the SR2012 document I can see that most scenarios involve two zones at varying distances apart.  This means you have to bring an army that can function in two parts to at least hold two zones.  Look at your army and ask yourself 'how can I contest two zones with what I have here?'  If you can't figure that out, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

Once you've figured out how you're going to control two zones, now you're going to need to bring something to deal with heavy armour since fighting against heavy armour with POW 10 weapons sucks goats.  What models in your army do this well?  For Hordes, it's warbeasts, for Warmachine it's weapon master infantry.  Why not warjacks?  There are numerous and lengthy debates on this but it boils down to fury being better than focus.  I'm sure someone somewhere is spitting out their tea at such a comment but this isn't really the place for a continuation of the debate, feel free to reopen one of the bajillion threads about it on the Privateer Press forums instead.  Regardless, the big question you should be asking yourself is whether you have brought enough to deal with all the enemy's high armour models.

There are certain lists that build themselves organically, mostly the horribly effective themed forces such as eKaya.  Most factions have a couple of lists that just form around a caster naturally and so your list building is pretty much done for you.  Other lists are discovered through blood, sweat, and tears.  I didn't build my pDoomshaper list overnight.  I've tweaked that list to its current state over two years of game play and it's still a work in progress.

To go back to an earlier statement on this post, every model/unit in your list should have a purpose.  This is usually linked directly to the style of play the caster was designed for: assassination, attrition, or denial.  For example, if your list is based around assassination, then you want models/units that facilitate your assassination run or at least set up other models/units for that run.  There's no point bringing Man'o'War Shocktroopers in your Strakhov list when Uhlans are much more in line with his style of play.

All this writing about list building moves into the realm of 'net-decking', where someone merely lifts a list from a tournament write-up or find it on a forum somewhere.  With the exception of those lists that build themselves, just don't go there.  Let's use Jim's UK Masters 2010 eKrueger list as an example.  Jim did horrible, horrible things with that list despite what the terrible Boosted Damage interview afterwards may make things look like.  Armies were crushed by that list.  After that UK Masters, a number of people tried out the list and discovered it did not work for them and then complained bitterly on the various forums about it.  The list worked for Jim.  Don't expect a list to achieve similar results in your hands as it did in the original author's hands.

So, having utilized Jim as another example, it's time to bring in Barry for comparison.  Once again, I'm sorry Barry.  Barry likes Errants and calls them his tarpit unit.  He's not been getting great results with them as a tarpit unit though so he should be looking at them as something else: a ranged unit with hunter?  Weapon master infantry?  Whatever he thinks they should be doing, they aren't doing that at the moment.  The same goes for his Bastions, they aren't achieving the results he's looking for.  Are the results he's getting with these units a consequence of listening to other peoples' opinions or his own experiments?

I believe Barry is picking the wrong units for the playstyle he wants to achieve, so it's an issue right at the list building stage.  This in turn amplifies any mistakes he makes during a game, costing him games that should have been a lot closer and making him look worse than he perhaps is.

Building on every model/unit in your list should have a purpose, all the objectives you set out for your models should suit your playstyle.  Taking units that don't naturally perform for you will only lead to what appear to be embarrassingly awful decision making during a game.  However, it's up to you to find what works for you.

Now, there's more to list building than that, but it's really for more advanced play and I'll cover common techniques at advanced play in another blog post at some point in the future.  I was going to include 'Knowing Your Enemy' in this article, but this article just kept growing so I've decided to separate the two.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Road Works & Improving Your Game - Part 2 (Threat Ranges)

So at the end of part 1 I informed everyone of the importance of space around your caster.  You are no doubt  attempting to spread your models out away from your casters more now.  Of course you don't want to be too far away or else your army will lose the benefits of your caster.  You don't want to be too close to the enemy or they can still threaten your caster.

A natural progression from the idea of space is threat ranges.  It is vital to know how far the enemy can threaten you.  I repeat: IT IS *VITAL* TO KNOW HOW FAR THE ENEMY CAN THREATEN YOU.  In almost every game I play against Jim he asks 'how far is Mulg's threat range?'  It's 11" + Goad range Jim, I've told you at least 19 times now.  It is important that he asks me this question however, as Mulg is a dangerous model and knowing the range of his attacks helps Jim decide how to position his army or which models to expose.  At the start of each game you should be looking at the enemy models and working out their threat ranges.

Once you have a grasp of your opponent's threat ranges you can start to formulate tactics towards dealing with their models.  Does the opponent out-threat you?  How will you deal with that?  Do you out-threat your opponent?  What will you attack first?

The idea of threat ranges intrinsically affects the way lists are constructed.  My Trollbloods are almost never going to out-threat my opponent, so I have to construct my list to include parts that will absorb or nullify my opponent's threat range.  Just look at my pDoomshaper list from a few posts ago: it contains a Bouncer for the Bump animus and Shield Guard, Janissa is there to provide a handy wall to block non-Reach models, and I included Whelps because they can be spawned in charge lanes.  The list looks at my threat range, assumes that it will be shorter than my opponent's threat ranges, and then brings the tools to help nullify that disadvantage.

Conversely, an eKaya list will almost always out-threat the opponent and so there are almost no defensive models in her lists except for the Skinwalkers required by her themed force.  Why are there none of these defensive models?  Well, she doesn't need them as she will be attacking first and aiming to eliminate the key figures in her opponent's army before they can be utilized.

So, let's now combine the ideas of space and threat range.  The amount of space that your army, rather than your caster, needs is usually based on threat range.  Most good players will attempt to maneuver their armies so that they are outside the enemy's threat range but within their own.  There are a variety of techniques to achieving this; such as using a denial feat or simply having faster models.  If you are on the short end of the threat stick however you need to be capable of dealing with your opponent's assault.  Regardless of which end of the spectrum you are, always be aware of just how far models can threaten your caster.  The height of embarrassment in this game is losing your caster so that you snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  That and the turn 2 caster kill...

If we examine general list composition, armies that are going for increased threat ranges typically have smaller model counts, as they attempt to apply maximum pressure to tactically vital parts of the opponent's army; and buffs that increase threat range are usually only for a few models.  Armies made to absorb charges however, tend to be larger model counts, having a degree of redundancy to account for models lost during play.

Having covered the idea of threat range, part 3 is about list composition and knowing your enemy.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Road Works & Improving Your Game - Part 1 (Space)

For some reason there is no parking on my street this week as there are road works happening on the main road.  Why this has caused the parking in my tiny cull-de-sac to be suspended is a bit beyond me, and I am somewhat wroth about the measly single day of warning that we received.  However, I have already moved my car across the street to a spot that seems ripe for it to get stolen, so at least I won't get a parking ticket or have my vehicle removed by... whoever...  the council I guess.  Normal car thieves are another matter.

I've been watching a lot of Day[9] tv lately.  For those of you who don't know he's a Starcraft 2 commentator - probably the most popular one outside Korea - but he does a daily webcast about helping people improve their Starcraft 2 playing skills.  Having a small background in e-sports (I hear Jim sniggering at the very idea of e-sports) it's interesting to see the depth that the game can provide and how different strategies can rotate around each other.  It's very similar with Warmachine and Hordes except there's no benefit (yet) to having an immensely fast playing speed and the game doesn't get patches (errata) as often.

So, taking a page from Day[9], how do you become a better Warmachine and Hordes player?  Well, firstly you should decide how far into the game you're willing to go.  What type of army build are you planning?  What is your preferred style of play?  Have you read up on the latest Steamroller documents?  Most importantly, are you aware of the important errata?

I'd originally written a lengthy document of differences required between infantry swarm lists and infantry-light lists, but it ended up being somewhat bloated and lopsided due to my personal distaste of infantry swarms.  Not a good place to start when trying to instruct other people who to improve their game.  So we'll start where I started.

Now I was taught how to play by Jim Lawrence, and for a brief period of time early in my wargaming career, he was my sole opponent for reasons neither of us really could comprehend.  Jim frequently places very highly in the national tournaments and he's fairly well known in the tournament circuit, so he's a good pivoting point for this topic.  Early on I adopted the stance of thinking 'what makes Jim good at this game?' and I'd sit and analyse what he did whilst sticking all my own choices under a microscope.  Just open up my early blog posts from 2008 (has it really been 4 years?) and you can laugh at my horrible, horrible mistakes.

Those horrible, horrible mistakes deserve to be analysed but are less important than 'what did Jim do to win?'  Early on, Jim would just horribly kill my caster with something I'd never seen before, rather typical of a more experienced player teaching a new player.  Unlike most people I did not go off in a huff, which is generally an important part of improving your game.  What these games quickly taught me was that there are some basic concepts that really have to applied as much as possible.

Unfortunately I'm going to have to utilize Barry Kelly as a contrast to Jim now - sorry Barry.  Barry has been having a hard time of Warmachine and Hordes lately and been losing a lot of games.  He certainly has the wish to improve but appears to be failing to put it into action.  This is mainly down to Barry's lack of understanding of the basics whilst attempt to utilize advanced play.

The most fundamental basic of the game is keeping your caster safe.  Since my first UK Masters - where I did extremely well - I have the bad habit of leaving my warlock totally exposed and in the middle of nowhere simple because so many people would trigger Protective Fit back then.  This is stupid because everyone now just ignores or nullifies Protective Fit and then my warlock dies horribly.  It's only recently I broke out of this habit through conscious effort and analysis but that's for a later blog post - back to Barry and Jim.

Now let's discuss how Barry and Jim use this concept.  Typically Jim's caster is miles away but in some position central to the board.  He has a solid grasp of just how far models can go to threaten or even attack his caster at most times.  He doesn't crowd his caster in with friendly models and typically gives them room to move if they must go somewhere.

Barry on the other hand doesn't grasp how threatening enemy models are and frequently has late game problems once his army has become porous.  When attempting to move in for the kill Barry will put his caster well within comfortable range of enemy figures or crowds his own models.  A more advanced concept for protecting your caster is that the DEF of nearby models will almost certainly effect your caster.  If the surrounding models have a lower DEF than the caster, their mere presence increases how vulnerable your caster is.

So, what do we learn from this comparison?  Jim keeps his caster back and leaves space around them; Barry brings his caster forward and crowds them with friendly models in an attempt to protect them.  So space around your caster is vital, as is knowing just how much space to have between your caster and any threatening enemy models.  Space around your caster is important!

Think about how much space is needed around your caster when you move them.  Can something get to them?  Do they have enough room to move without activating other models first?  Be aware of the concept of negative space, where you've crowded in too many models into too small an area.  Models in proximity have an immediate effect on one another, whether it be through accidentally dropping DEF values or simply getting in the way.  Think about the space you need.

Since this article seems to be expanding much faster than I expected, I'm going to divide it into separate parts until I've covered as much as I'm comfortable with.  Thus concludes part 1.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Morton's Fork

I really should get back into the habit of updating this blog and keeping abreast of all the various WM/H events in the UK.  Unfortunately I'm not much in the writing mood these days - nor in the painting one either it seems - so I haven't been logging my various games or what I've learned through them.

Tonight I had a 50 point game against Barry and his Protectorate troops, I pulled out my usual pDoomshaper list since that had a War Wagon in it and I said it was going to tank him horribly.  Also I did not have time to repack my case before heading to the club as I'd arrived home later than expected.  So it was either Doomshaper (either one) or my Borka list designed for maximum rage inducement (could that be rage induction?).  Seeing as the eDoomshaper list doesn't have a War Wagon, it wasn't much of a choice in picking pDoomshaper.

I recently had a discussion with Jim while we worked where I mentioned that I need to train myself to play an attrition game.  Typically I get bored of the current situation on the board or attempt to dive down my opponent's throat when there's no real need to do anything.  Tonight's game was the first one where I attempted this new playstyle and unfortunately Barry got a massive tanking.

Adopting attrition tactics was a bit unusual for me as I mentioned before and forces you to adapt to the weaknesses in your opponent's army.  I looked at what Barry had put down and saw the following important pieces of information:

  • Menite warjacks have no pathfinder or any way to get it (besides Amon.)
  • Most of his infantry did not have Reach
  • Errants have pea-shooters.
  • Most of the rest of the army lacked pathfinder and would rely on the Piper.

The Covenant also made an appearance and there wasn't any way I could really do anything to it, so I just ignored it and operated on the assumption that Protectorate models can't be knocked down or made stationary.  I couldn't tell you if forcing Janissa back with the no spells option on the Covenant would have worked since then I would have just dropped that giant knockdown template in the middle of Barry's army and taken my sweet time dismantling it piece by immobile piece.

There are certain key concepts that I'm working out with the new playstyle at the moment:
  • If you don't have to move forward, don't.
  • Only attack your opponent with little or no repercussions.
  • Present your opponent with horrible, horrible choices.
  • Mock everything they hold dear and crush their spirit!

That was also my first taste of SR2012 and I rather like the addition of Kill Box to the standard scenarios, I haven't tried the other Artifices yet, but I'll give feedback on those once they've been tried.