Monday, September 22, 2014

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Skorne

Turns out that Ceramic Cafe has re-opened. I didn't feel like doing anything too ambitious so I tried to keep it simple. Here's the result:

It was supposed to be bright red. Seems watering down ceramic paints as if they were acrylic paints is not such a good idea. Oh well.

After my last game against Skorne I modified my list a bit:
-Black Ivan
Nyss Hunters
Koldun Lord
Widowmaker Marksman

I opted for the Decimator because I thought he could be useful for holding zones: he should be able to put damage on heavies while keeping them up to 12 inches away. I added the Juggernaut cos I figured I needed at least two armour crackers against Skorne, and chose it over the Spriggan because, well, I felt like taking him for a spin. Also the Spriggan is not painted. The Nyss are still the only infantry that I own other than the mechanics. I'm trying to play without my "focus crutches" (Sylyss and the Koldun Lord), so I decided to take Kell and the Widowmaker Marksman for solo removal, but at the last minute I suffered a moment of weakness and swapped the Koldun Lord back in.

His list was:
Makeda 3
-Molik Karn
-Basilisk Krea
Paingiver Beast Handlers
Some kind of shooty unit with a UA (it had two banners)
A medium-base solo

So Lady Thanos is the leader of the Skorne huh? And they like wearing red? Who does that remind me of? This list was quite different from the last one; at least my Nyss had something to shoot at this time. I ask about Karn and it turns out his threat range is 13 inches. So much for my "cunning" plan with the Decimator.

He won the roll off and chose to go first. I deployed Harkevich opposite my zone (which had a very inviting looking forest on the side) with Widowmaker and Decimator. Ivan was pretty much in the center, looking to walk up a hill. The Juggernaut was to the left, eying a cozy looking corner of the other zone protected by a wall, with the Koldun Lord standing behind him. The Nyss are far on my left.

Round 1
He does some shuffling and repositioning and stuff, but later laments that he didn't move up far enough, basically giving me the zones.

Harkevich puts Fortune on the Decimator, and of course escort on himself. Koldun Lord doesn't move and just uses power booster. Everything else runs.

Round 2
He moves some of his infantry into the zone, but spaces them out so there's only around five actually in it. I think he killed Cylena this turn with a CRA. His heavies move toward Harkevich.

Three focus to the Decimator, one to Ivan, two upkeeps. The Nyss walk up and shoot his infantry on one side. I wasn't really thinking about it, but ended up clearing the zone. The Juggernaut (who I carelessly ran out of Harkevich's control area) gets focus from the Koldun Lord again and runs into his designated corner. The Marksman shoots a Paingiver, which I feel very happy about until I realize they are a unit and not solos, so he has plenty more. Dammit. I move Black Ivan to shield the objective on my side. I'd love to get a shot at the Agonizer but it's well hidden, so I consider shooting at the objective on his side, but I decided my more immediate concern was taking down his heavies, so instead I shoot at Karn and do something crazy like 13 damage (this was after he made me re-roll the attack). The Decimator shoots at Karn but against DEF 12 I decide to boost the attack rolls as I really want to push him back as much possible, so I only do about 3 or 4 damage total. Harkevich just runs over to the far right of the zone to be safe.

My opponent then tells me I've just scored two points. Nice!
How the hell is Khador so much farther up the board?

Round 3
Karn suddenly changes direction and charges (and kills) the Juggernaut, with Makeda's help, who uses Karn's animus to move back to safety afterwards. One of Makeda's Guardians moves into my zone, while the other heads towards my Nyss. The Gladiator runs into my zone, the Krea into his. The Agonizer also jams my zone while denying me focus allocation. His infantry kill a few Nyss. I don't score this turn.
You can't see Harkevich, but he's still hiding in the corner like the big manly man that he is.

OK, so I can't give out any focus. This is not good. Not a surprise, but not good. With the Juggernaut gone, I'm thinking going for a scenario win is probably a good idea. I drop escort; he's pretty close now. The Marksman shoots something, I don't remember what. Harkevich walks up to get Black Ivan back in his control area (I really need to pay attention to the whole "control area" thing), feats, and shoots at the Agonizer, boosting the attack roll. He shield-guards it with the Guardian and it kills her (I think I boosted damage). I cast Broadsides and between Harkevich and the Decimator I put the wretched thing out of it's misery. Black Ivan takes the shot against Molik Karn and does like 3 damage.

The Decimator slams the Gladiator out of the zone for free thanks to the feat, doing a few points of damage I think with the free shot but none with the slam. I was hoping to slam it far enough to put some damage on the objective (which would have given me an extra damage dice too), but it only moved an inch. That turned out to be a big deal later (FORESHADOWING!). The Koldun Lord gives Black Ivan a point of focus, which it seems the crying baby elephant can't prevent since it's "given" not "allocated". Ivan declares a charge against Karn, but I decide to take my free shot against the remaining Guardian since I think it's going to be blocking my Nyss from threatening Makeda or Karn soon. At ARM 20, I decide to go all in on killing it and spend my focus point on boosting the damage roll. I do 4 damage. Dammit. Then Ivan misses his charge attack. Double dammit. Finally the Nyss move up and kill all the rest of his infantry unit, barring the flag bearer (who doesn't have a gun, so that's OK). I score another control point for dominating my zone, putting me at 3.
In case you're wondering, the Gladiator normally walks backwards to protect his face. From axes.

Round 4
Makeda charges Ivan, her remaining Guardian charges my Nyss. I made a mistake last turn and aimed with them all, as a result only two are actually in the zone and the Guardian is able to kill them both. However, he forgot to feat before making his first attack; he feats and takes a Fury point from the death of the second Nyss. He has a spell up that gives everything boosted attack rolls when attacking anything in Makeda's melee range, so when he rolls snake-eyes with his first attack against Ivan I Dodge him just out of her range, while still being about half a millimeter in the zone.

This is quite a stroke of bad luck for him, but he really pulls out a pro play here. Makeda kills the Koldun Lord with a spell, which allows him to make a short move with Makeda, who moves back up to Ivan. She also gets a point of Fury back thanks to the feat. She makes one attack and camps one Fury. Now a buffed Molik Karn makes a ton of P&S 15 weapon-master attacks with free boosted damage rolls, does quite well for damage, and kills Ivan off despite the +3 ARM. Ouch. At one point he actually missed an attack roll, but Karn has an ability that lets him boost a roll after he rolls it, allowing him to throw another dice and prevent the Dodge.

Now the buffed Gladiator charges the Decimator. Remember how he only got slammed an inch? Well, because he was getting a free charge he charged sideways to try to make up the three inches for the damage boost, meaning he was no longer between the Decimator and the objective. he rolled quite well for damage but couldn't knock out any systems. The Krea then ran into my zone, and his medium-base solo ran towards the Nyss. At the end of the turn he scores his first point for dominating his zone.
Notice the second wreck marker? Sigh.

At this point I'm in trouble. The Decimator can probably kill the Gladiator (probably), but that won't let me score. I can bulldoze the Krea out of the zone and score one point, but that leaves Harkevich wide open to a Karn in the face. I can just run away, but then Karn eats the Decimator and I'm just delaying the inevitable. Plus it's getting late and food has become part of the equation. So I go for the only plan I can think of that has the slightest chance of success; at least we'll finish quickly one way or the other. Unfortunately according to my calculations I need to roll 14 on three dice, so it's not what you'd call a sure thing.

So I need to use Beat-Back to push both Warbeasts out of the zone. By my calculations it will take at least five hits, leaving me with just one focus left. So I drop Fortune and allocate one focus to the Decimator. I activate the Marksman and take a shot at the objective. I'm at dice minus 6, I figure I have decent odds of doing more than one point of damage if I roll rather than use Sniper, which would give me better odds of taking it out later, so I roll... a 6. Sigh.

Then I realise that I forgot to count Harkevich's initial attack when calculating how much focus I need - I only need 4 focus to make 5 attacks! So I cheekily ask my opponent if it's OK if I can retroactively allocate him another point. I regret doing that -I'm trying to move away from this beginner's mentality- but in the heat of the moment I got carried away, and he said it was OK, so gave the Decimator a second focus point.

Harkevich charges the Krea and beats it out of the zone, then the Gladiator suffers the same fate (and is Staggered to boot). That will get me my fourth point. Now I need to destroy the objective to win. No longer engaged, the Decimator charges the objective; I wasn't sure he'd make it, but it turns out to be just a smidgen over 7 inches away. At straight dice with an extra attack, I need to roll 15 on five dice. I roll 12. I concede.
Harkevich knocks back multiple monsters many times his size, but to no avail.

After shaking hands, I glance at the table and suddenly realise that the Nyss might just be in range of the objective. We play it out real quick like, just to see if I actually had a chance or not. Only one Nyss is in range to shoot at it (at least without taking a free strike from a MAT 8 model). He's at dice minus 8. He rolls... 11 on two dice, destroying the objective.

I just don't know what to make of that. My opponent was talking afterwards as if he had lost, but I had already conceded - besides, he allowed me to shift a focus after activating, so that's not exactly kosher. I also don't think it's fair to say "if I hadn't conceded I would have won"; it's a little outside of the scope of this kind of discussion, but I won with a very lucky roll, if I hadn't conceded I would have been moving differently, I would have activated models in a different order, overall I would have physically picked up and thrown the dice differently, in other words there's no reason to believe I would have rolled the same result. But as a wise lion once said, "You can never be told what would have happened".

That was actually the most interesting game I've played so far. Lots of small decisions had large effects, positioning was a huge deal, and lots of movement tricks (at least compared to my games so far) were happening on both sides. Ivan dodging and Makeda following with that slick move was very cool and a turning point in the game. My failing to focus on the Guardian with Black Ivan's shooting left my Nyss in a poor position to help out later. His sideways charge with the Gladiator opened the path to the objective and also put him close enough to the Krea for Harkevich to knock them both out of the zone.

He had some bad dice at times, while I had pretty good dice overall, with a couple of really good rolls. We both made a number of mistakes. He failed to get into the zones early, and positioned the Gladiator poorly at the end. He should have thrown the Decimator away or something instead of trying to crack it at ARM 23, and sending in the Agonizer to hold the zone was probably not a good idea overall. I was careless with the Nyss; if I had jammed more into the zone he wouldn't have scored there, I would have been putting pressure on Makeda and in position to potentially kill his Paingivers, and also possibly in range to attack the objective. If I had focused on either killing the Guardian or killing Karn with Ivan on the feat turn, I would have done more good than not killing either. Or perhaps I should have tried to put some damage on the objective instead, that would have changed things a bit (although he actually complained about it getting in his way later, so maybe not killing it wasn't a bad idea at the time). I forgot to advance-deploy the Koldun Lord, and in retrospect I probably should have positioned him across from the infantry (admittedly I was under the vague impression at the time that he only had one or two Paingivers). I was very careless and kept leaving my Warjacks out of Harkevich's control area. I didn't think much about where my Koldun Lord was standing, I might have had some vague idea of putting him somewhere where he could move up and spray something, but in retrospect I should have kept him well back and as protected as possible, or at least toed the hill for the def bonus. When I moved Harkevich over to catch Ivan in the feat, I unthinkingly moved him within  around 13 inches of Molik Karn. Luckily he was facing the wrong way, or else it could have been a shorter game. And of course my complete brainless moment when I forgot to count Harkevich's initial attack.

As far as models go, the Decimator didn't play quite the way I wanted, but I wouldn't have been able to clear the zone without his Broadside shot, and like that I can use him while keeping him a safe distance away. Being able to reach out and hit almost anything without paying to boost with Black Ivan is very useful, though I didn't actually manage to do any damage that mattered this game (other than forcing him to heal a point or two). I just don't know if he's worth taking with other casters though. The Nyss were consistent with their shooting, this was one of the few games where they did good work for me. In theory the Juggernaut died without doing anything, but in practice it helped keep him busy on that side of the board, and a Spriggan's death would have been a bigger blow. The Marksman really didn't end up contributing, next time I want a sniper I'll probably take Kell for the second shot. Ultimately the Koldun Lord didn't count for much other than getting the Juggernaut into place then getting Ivan killed, but the fact is I need that extra focus on the first turn if I want to run three Warjacks, and having the option of an extra focus is kind of a big deal with that Agonizer running around.

While Escort was dropped early, it helped me get into a good position, which is a big deal. Broadsides and the feat kept me in the game that turn when the Agonizer did his thing, and Beat-Back is what psuedo-won it for me. So while Harkevich is not the power caster that he initially appeared to be to my inexperienced eyes, he does seem to be able to get me out of some bad situations.

I mean, thinking about it, he spent something like 15 Fury in one turn, while I had crucial turn where I couldn't allocate. He got all the charges off, his Warbeasts all had access to +2 movement and Pathfinder (including a Warbeast that's already SPD 6), meaning he could match or exceed a big part of what Harkevich brings to the table, and his Warbeasts all had access to free charges and were pumping out like 7 high-power attacks each while mine could have (but didn't) put out 4 tops (OK, plus one more medium power attack in the case of the poor Juggernaut). Despite all that I was still in the game thanks to Harkevich's ability to get some work out of his Warjacks without allocating focus and to keep them alive (well, at least one of them alive) for one turn, and of course Beat-Back is proving to be a bit of a big deal. Well, thanks to all that and to a lot of luck.

I've never felt so strapped for focus as I did on that one turn when I could calculate exactly how much focus I needed to stand a pretty decent shot of winning the game, and I thought I was one short. On a different topic, I  take back what I said about Skorne being Khador like: they have a 2 point unit that buffs multiple warbeasts, clearly they are more like Menoth. This game, and a comment my friend made about Warmachine being combo-driven, got me thinking. The way I see it, there's a difference between combos and packages.

Lets start with combos. Consider Cygnar: you can take a Hunter with Arcane Tempest Gun Mages for Snipe or other magic shots, or with Sword Knights for the Pronto move, or with Arlan Strangeways for a fully boosted shot, with a Journeyman for full focus without taxing your Warcaster, or with your Warcaster for whatever he gives it - Kraye for light-cav moves is a notable example. You can do the same with a charger or Cyclone or others, the different combos then have give different jacks more or less advantages - for example the Journeyman gives the Chargers two fully boosted shots, the Gun Mages give the Cyclone magic bullets on all it's shots but don't help the Sentinel or Charger as much, etc. Those same models and others can also help other jacks, such as the Stormclad or Centurion, for different over-all effects. You've also got other available buffs, such as Arcane Shield and so on.

Combos give you a lot of different ways to play the game. Packages do not. While on the surface they may look the same, a package (in this definition) is when you have only a single available or practical combination. Think about the Winter Guard. You have a basic unit and a number of bolt-ons. The Unit Attachment and Weapon Attachments are not combinations, they are optional add-ons to this one unit. The only actual "combination" here is Joe, and he only works for Winter Guard. Yes, in theory this means he can buff four different units, but he's mainly just used with one or two, and if you're taking the Infantry or Rifle Core, you are taking Joe. Full stop. There's no mix-and-match, no variety. It's a package. In practical terms it really just comes down to whether you want the basic Winter Guard Infantry Death Star TM, or the deluxe version with the weapon attachments.

I like combos: they keep the game interesting. I do not like packages: they just complicate your turn. I'm not saying packages don't have legitimate reasons to be in the game; they do, as it creates a risk-reward scenario: a package usually performs much better per point than any non packaged or buffed unit or model, but at the cost of increased vulnerability: take away the squishy buffing model and what's left suddenly under-performs (in theory at least, balance is always a tricky thing). It makes the game more tactical. Yes, combos have the same effect of forcing you to make tactical decisions, while being more interesting and varied, but they are also much harder to design and keep balanced.

So I'm not saying that packages are bad, only that I don't personally like them. Right now the game is already too complicated for me so adding complications that don't make my army more interesting doesn't appeal to me, but also I don't like how... scripted they are. There's no decisions to be made, no creativity. Taking Winter Guard? Take Joe. Playing Menoth? Take Choir. Taking a Hunter? Ooh, who should I take him with? My caster? Do I want to spare the focus? Do I have any battlegroup-only spells that are worth it with him? Gun mages? Are they worth taking in my army on their own merit, and do the magic bullet options make up for the lack of a boosted attack roll? Sword Knights? I'm taking the Journeyman anyway, shall I throw it on him or would that force me to play him too far forwards? So many things to try!

That's why, in recent forum threads, I've argued against Khador getting a choir-like unit, or solos that buff a very limited set of units or models. Having said that, I don't have such a problem with introducing new UAs, since they are actually part of the unit and so don't count in my head as a "fake combo" the way packages do. It's a perception thing more than anything else, although it's still better than something like the Choir; I mean a UA might be an auto-include if you're taking that unit, but the Choir is an auto-include in every army. That's just boring to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment