Thursday, February 20, 2014

The (Khadoran) Empire Strikes Back

My games club held 50-point Steamroller 2014 Warmahordes event earlier this month. I was still building up to my first 50-point list when I heard about this, so I hurriedly finished it (there was some blue-tack involved...) and picked up a couple of other models to be able to field a second 50-point list (which was not essential, but I decided to go for it anyway). I didn't get a chance to play either list before the event, so this was literally my first time playing 50 points, my first time playing with a turn clock, and my first time playing with Strakhov (as well as several of my other units as well).

I was so stressed out I don't think I had a coherent thought all day; I made tons of mistakes, never had any sort of battle plan, and never really had any goals more ambitious than to walk my jacks up and hit stuff. My opponents were all great guys and it was fun, but exhausting; I don't think I'll be taking part in any more events (at least not anything with a turn clock) until I have a much better grasp on the game.

Anyway, I took photos when I remembered, and I'll try to recount the games as best I can. For those who have read my previous battle reports you'll know that I don't want infantry for the time being as I find it quicker and easier to buy/assemble/paint/learn to use warjacks, so for now my lists are warjack-heavy, and I'll adjust as I go along. My two lists were:

Sorscha (prime)
- War Dog
- Spriggan
- Black Ivan
Man-O-War Kovnik
- Decimator
- Berserker
Koldun Lord
- Juggernaut
Battle Mechanics (max)
- Battle Mechanic Officer UA
Kell Bailoch

The idea with this list was to have Sorscha run the spriggan for maximum effect, while having the option of staying back behind Black Ivan. I didn't really have a very strong reason for giving the Decimator to the Man-O-War and the Juggernaut to the Koldun Lord, I just thought it would be interesting to try to have both the Man-O-War's Drive and the Koldun Lord's power booster on the Decimator at the same time, or to have the option of running the Juggernaut up and getting two extra attacks against something.

- Destroyer
- Torch
- Sylys Wyshnalyrr
Man-O-War Kovnik
- Spriggan
- Berserker
Koldun Lord
- Juggernaut
Battle Mechanics (max)
- Battle Mechanic Officer UA
Widowmaker Marksman

I picked Strakhov because he has one of the least unlikeable Khador warcaster models, and he seemed decent enough with Superiority and the ability to give people +4 speed (with Khador jacks this is a big deal).

So on paper Torch looks really good; two good attacks plus a spray while in combat, with additional attacks hitting automatically? Plus pathfinder when he charges? The problem is that unlike in 40K, you still need to roll to hit with spray templates, and with RAT 4 you're not going to be hitting infantry, but with POW 12, you're not going to be hurting jacks. I'm not saying it's useless, just not nearly as good as I had initially hoped. To be honest, I was hoping to use Torch with the Man-O-War Kovnik and get tons of boosted initial attacks, until I finally realized you can't jack-marshal character warjacks. Dammit.

Anyway, I gave Strakhov the destroyer so he could hide behind it far from the front lines (meaning of course that I couldn't use his feat...) and because they don't use too much focus. The Man-O-War got the Spriggan so he could boost it's shooting attacks (and of course the Berserker cos that guy needs boosted attack rolls), while the Koldun Lord again could potentially go off on his own with the Juggernaut and give it two extra attacks. And since I couldn't take Kell again, I took the Widowmaker Marksman instead.

Game 1
My first opponent had a really nicely painted Circle army. I took my Strakhov list to give it a try, he picked his Kromac list:

- Ghetorix
- Warpwolf Stalker
- Pureblood Warpwolf
- Gorax
- Druid Wilder
Shifting Stones
- Stone keeper
Shifting Stones
Blackclad Wayfarer
Swamp Gobbers

He was a really nice guy, when he heard this was my first time playing with fifty points he asked if I wanted to use the turn clock or not. I did not realize at the time that it was not in fact meant to be optional, and I said I would prefer not to. He still used the clock on his turns. He also allowed me to take back several moves when I realized I had done things in the wrong order, and even reminded me to take photos at the start of turns.

He actually had lots of really bad dice rolls while I was rolling quite well. I assured him that this was a good thing; by getting his bad luck out of the way early while playing someone he was sure to beat anyway, he would then have good luck when he needed it against better players. I think he ended up doing quite well overall, so clearly I was right.

Anyway, I think I won the roll-off and chose to go first (I did not realize that I would only have a 7 inch deployment zone this way). The scenario was #9: Incursion, with three flags of which one disappears. I placed my jack marshalls on one side and Strakhov on the other, completely forgetting I had been planning to cast Superiority on either the Spriggan or the Berserker. He deployed his entire force more-or-less centrally. During advanced deployment I placed my Widowmaker in the rough terrain. I don't remember if deployed one unit of stones out in front or if he teleported them there in his first turn.
I split my force as usual.

I guess the stones had advanced deployment.
Round 1
Having forgotten to put Strakhov close enough to cast Superiority on one of my marshalled jacks, I cast it on Torch instead, and ran him too far forwards; even though I knew it would be the death of him, I just couldn't resist the urge to run 12 inches. The rest of the army also ran forwards. In his turn he advanced, using stones to teleport each other to my amusement.
He's a lot closer to those flags than I am...

Round 2
My opponent had explained to me at the start of the game how shifting stones worked, and the idea of him teleporting warbeasts wherever he wanted was quite scary. So when I saw two stones -one from each unit- in a line, I couldn't resist; I moved Torch up and flamed them to death. Haha, safe! And all it cost was my shiny new warjack! After he killed Torch with his wolf with the big sword (henceforth known as "Choppy"), he shot some stuff with the weird laser shrimp stones and I think got a point for controlling the central flag.
Alas, poor Torch, nothing left but a bright white circle of rough terrain.

Round 3
I cleared out his laser shrimps from the right flag with my warjacks, but the druid was still contesting. I think I ran my Man-O-War mechanic officer up to him to try to attack him next turn. I had decided at this point that the best thing the rest of the mechanics could do was to die for their country while contesting the central flag. I was careless and didn't move them close enough (there's no excuse, I just wasn't thinking straight); only one of them was actually close enough to contest. I think he had a spell up that stopped me from casting spells in his control area (like that's not broken at all), so I moved some stuff around and... um... yeah, I have no idea why the Destroyer doesn't seem to have moved. I might have been going for the aiming bonus and shot at some random model for some reason. I think the Juggernaut did some damage to one of his warbeasts.
Stuff happens.

In his turn "Choppy" frenzied and killed one of his laser shrimps on my left flank, then I guess he moved the rest to protect it from my charge, and also killed Sylys and put a few points of damage on Strakhov. He obligingly killed off most of my mechanics, but one of them refused to die for the Motherland. The traitor! WHEN THE MOTHERLAND TELLS YOU TO DIE, A TRUE SON OF KHADOR BLOODY WELL DIES! I was very disappointed about that. Regardless, he had cleared his flag enough to get another control point. I actually think he threw my Juggernaut at my Spriggan, then charged one of his warbeasts forwards, as well as moving some other stuff (like the shifting stones) up to contest.

Round 4
I was determined to have that bloody mechanic die patriotically, so I charged him into the warbeast before him. Needless to say it survived his "onslaught". My jacks on the right did their job and killed everything, with a little help from the Kovnik's glorious MAT 8 4-dice P&S 15 charge. I love that guy. I believe I actually scored a control point this turn. Finally Karchev killed the two laser shrimps shielding "Choppy" with his cinder bomb, then the Destroyer charged and did some damage.
Strakhov actually did something useful! Yay!

In my opponent's turn he obligingly killed the last mechanic. As happy as that made me, it triggered a spell that allowed "Choppy" to move around the Destroyer before activating, meaning he had a clear charge lane at Strakhov. 'Nuff said.
My, that's a lot of tokens!

Game 2
Since we had an odd number of players, each round one player would not play and count it as a win. So I won! Yay! Ish.

Game 3
My opponent in this game was playing Retribution. By this point I had realized that the turn clock wasn't supposed to be optional, so this was the first time I played with it. It quickly became very stressful! Between that and forgetting to take photos I don't remember the details of this game very well. The mission was #1: Destruction.

I decided to give Strakhov another chance, while he was running:

Adeptus Rahn
- Banshee
- Chimera
- Sylys (wait, if that's Sylys over there, then who's this guy standing next to me?)
Houseguard Thane
Sentinels (10)
- UA
Mage Hunter Strike Force (6)
- Eiryss
Halberdiers (10)
- UA
- Soulless escort
Battle mages (5)

This time I lost the roll-off. He chose to go second, so I was stuck with the tiny deployment area again. It was starting to dawn on me at this point that Khador jacks' low speed is a problem when it means you have to run two turns just to be able to contest objectives before the other side can start scoring, which leaves you wide open to attack.

Anyway, I put Strakhov on the right this time, the jack marshals on the left, and split my mechanics between the two with the Officer in the center. The Widowmaker hid behind a house. He put stuff in the center.

Round 1 & 2
Again I forgot about Superiority and ended up casting it on Torch. I also cast Occultation on Strakhov to give him stealth, in the hopes I could do stuff with him without being too scared of getting shot. We both advanced, with the Berserker trying to flank around the left. He quickly put a stop to that with his Sentinels. Seriously, four infantry (less than half the unit) wrecked a heavy warjack in a single turn? So much for the rumors of Khador jacks being resilient. I think the rest of the unit destroyed an objective.

Torch moved up and I believe destroyed an objective, but completely failed to do anything at all with his flamethrower, and took more damage than I expected in return from a handful of crossbow-wielding elves. The widowmaker took pot shots at mage hunters (he probably killed two or three over the course of the game), and most of my support units didn't do very much (might have been the time limit). In his turn he destroyed my Juggernaut and damaged my Spriggan with the Halberdiers and Sentinels.
I guess both objectives were destroyed by now.
Round... 3?
Torch continued to disappoint. My mechanics finally did something, repairing a bit of damage on the Spriggan. Rather than getting three melee attacks, I decided to trample up - if I could kill the Sentinels in front of the Spriggan I might be able to keep some distance from the ones that had killed the Berserker, perhaps even blocking them with something, meaning the Spriggan might actually survive. The trample hit 4 Sentinels and 2 Halberdiers I think, killing four of the six. However I ended up taking free strikes from three (or maybe it was five?) Sentinels, which of course ignore the shield and ended up killing him anyway. Sigh. I was now down three warjacks. At this point I was getting frustrated; my Jacks were not doing well, he had tons of infantry just blocking everything, and all his infantry seemed to keep getting extra dice. So I decided to try something risky; I charged Strakhov at some of the remaining Mage Hunters, using Sprint to move him even farther forwards and hopefully in a position where there was a chance at an assassination... if my opponent didn't move his caster away of course. Yes, I knew he was almost certainly going to die, but it didn't look like there was really anything much I could do this game anyway.
Too many white circles...
Round whatever, the last one
He finished off the destroyer, then used his Arcanists to pull Strakhov in a zigzag towards one of his warjacks; it was like playing pinball. Which was rather pointless because Strakhov died before the warjack even had a chance to charge. But at least it was funny, and that's the best kind of death a Warcaster could possibly ask for.
Strakhov, bounced around so fast his tokens couldn't even keep up.

Game 4
My last opponent was playing Menoth. It was another great-looking fully painted army, which is always nice. I was glad to be back to Sorscha; while playing Strakhov I was really missing Sorscha's mobility. The scenario was #8: Rally Point. My opponent was running:

Epic Feora
- Judicator
- Reckoner
- Vanquisher
Temple Flameguard (max)
- UA
Holy Zealots (max)
- UA

He won the roll-off and decided to go second. I was really getting sick of this 7 inch deployment malarkey. Splitting my army up hadn't been working too well, and between the forest on one side and the house on the other, putting everyone together in the middle seemed like the obvious choice. Going for my zone seemed like a safer bet, so naturally I decided to do the stupid thing and commit all my forces to taking his zone. Seeing him predeploy the Colossal opposite my zone pretty much cemented my decision. To that end I put Kell over on my left where he could contest the zone while taking advantage of the house for cover. His army was pretty much spread out across the center of his deployment area.

Round 1
I ran everything up the center, with Kell moving up to the house. He ran up and spread his infantry out.
All together now... except you Kell, you go hide behind a house or something.

Round 2
Moving everything forwards, I think I took some shots at some infantry, but probably didn't do very much damage. I decided to peel off the Decimator in case he was needed to contest the left zone; at the very least he would serve as a distraction for the Judicator. The mechanics sorta split up again to stay close to all the warjacks.

I'm not really sure why he didn't move the Judicator forwards very much; I figured he was worried about being charged and couldn't get the charge off himself with his own infantry in the way, but in retrospect I'm not sure that makes much sense, so I'm thinking now that he was just focussed on all the stuff happening on the other side and kept running out of time before getting around to the Judicator.

Anyway, he made the Zealots invulnerable to non-magical damage then used some other unit to buff their attacks and used them to destroy my objective and my Berserker. Damn, once again a unit of infantry has surprised me with their damage output. Also; once again my Berserker was killed off without doing a damned thing (that's happened to me in at least three games now, and I think I've only used him in five games altogether...). I think he also killed some mechanics with the Judicator, although that might have happened later.

When his turn ended he announced that he had gained one point for the objective and one for controlling my zone. To which I informed him that he had not controlled the zone because of Kell. Turns out he literally couldn't see Kell because the house completely blocked the model from his view. I feel guilty about that - I honestly hadn't been trying to hide him or anything, it just didn't occur to me he actually couldn't see the model. Anyway, we removed the top of the house so he would be able to see him in the future.

Round 3
I didn't want to have to deal with another round of fire from the Zealots, but couldn't hurt them because of their mini-feat. My opponent had said that another model was going to stop them from being targeted by spells, but then changed his mind and used it to buff their attacks instead, which left them vulnerable to spells. The only question was which one to use... hmm... I know, FREEZING GRIP! "Target model/unit blah blah blah becomes stationary for one round"... take that you inexplicably indestructible jerks! I figured it was better to save her feat and didn't really need the focus on my warjacks just then. I still couldn't hurt them, but they wouldn't be able to attack me either.

Not wanting to get bogged down with infantry again, I ran (or possibly trampled?) my Juggernaut and Spriggan up the right, seeing the potential to get dangerously close to Feora. I completely forgot that the Juggernaut was marshalled to the Koldun Lord, and ran him so far that there would be no way to use power booster on him. Black Ivan took a boosted bombard attack on Feora, but she was standing behind a wall giving her something like defense 17 and he missed, the shot scattering harmlessly away. I think I took a couple of shots with the Decimator at one of his heavies, boosted both attack rolls, and did no damage. I did push it an inch back with beat-back, just for the hell of it.
The Zealots may be frozen, but they're still invulnerable.

In his turn I believe he killed some mechanics with the Judicator, and killed the Spriggan with his heavies. Feora distanced herself from the Juggernaut; my chances of an assassination were not looking good.

Round 4
With the Spriggan dead and the Juggernaut facing two heavies, I decided I needed Black Ivan to even the odds, so I allocated him three focus. I started by moving Sorscha to where she had line of sight to both heavies, and used her feat. She also caught a good number of the remaining zealots and some flameguard. She then cast Boundless Charge on Black Ivan, and probably finished off by killing something with a hand-cannon shot.

Black Ivan then charged for free over the crater left by the Spriggan, and attacked the frozen heavy closest to me. I decided to roll all the attacks anyway in the hopes of getting his critical brutal damage off, and on the first attack I did, giving me four dice of damage... unfortunately those four dice mostly came up ones and twos, and I did something like five damage total. I bought three more attacks and the only double I got was a double one. Ouch. After the most advantageous round of combat I could give him, spending five focus and a feat, Black Ivan failed to do any real damage to a single warjack. Sigh.

I had wanted to use the Koldun Lord's power booster on the Juggernaut, but I couldn't get him close enough, so I used his spray to kill some infantry, killing one of my mechanics in the process. I think the mechanics had already attacked and killed some zealots by this point - turns out there's different ways to fix a problem with a wrench. The Kovnik took a shot with his axe and added to the tally, as did the Decimator. I seem to have moved the Decimator behind some cover for fear of the Judicator; being busy clearing out infantry I didn't want to get charged.

Unfortunately my turn ended before I could even activate the Juggernaut; I really shouldn't have left him till last.
You were such a disappointment Ivan.

In his turn he allocated three focus to the heavy warjack farthest from me (and maybe the rest to the Judicator?), then Feora feated and shuffled some fire around, allocating some more focus. Unfortunately he did this wrong; because he didn't allocate any focus to one warjack at the start he couldn't shake with it, leaving it stationary - he really should have allocated to both and shaken with both, then topped them up with the feat. It didn't really matter though since we ran out of time and had to stop there, meaning he won with a single control point.
Oops, time's up guys, good war, we should do this again sometime.

Final Score: Wins 1 (sort of), Losses 3.

It was an interesting experience, all my opponents were really cool guys and everyone had great painted armies, only a few of which were not completely painted - I think I had the least finished models there. The time limits did create a sense of urgency and stress that I did not enjoy however; I think I'm not ready for competitive play yet. So many times I didn't finish moving models; the dog practically didn't move all of that last game. Overall I was placed at 16th out of 19 players, so not as bad as it could have been - that's probably thanks mainly to picking up a few points for killing warbeasts and shrimp in the first game.

As far as my lists go, I am starting to feel the need for some infantry to stop my jacks from being charged. Neither Torch nor Black Ivan performed as well as I had hoped; I'm not sure whether this was bad dice, bad moves, or me overestimating them because they look good on paper. I just didn't feel as if I could do anything with Strakhov; without mobility or an arc node or some good screening infantry, using his weapons or offensive spells or feat involves putting him in places where I'm not sure I can protect him. While I like his upkeep spells, I don't like that he himself feels... vestigial. In fact after playing with him I'm starting to appreciate Sorscha more: her mobility coupled with some useful anti-infantry spells and a feat that's easier to use just make her more fun to play with. I would like to give Epic Sorscha a go sometime, as she has several of the same or similar spells plus a few more tricks.

Anyway, for the time being I'm planning to stick to my Sorscha list with very few changes. When I have more experience (and time... and money...) I might start optimizing it a bit.