Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The end of the league, or third time's the charm.

This past weekend marked the final event for my LGS’s warmahordes league. I’ve been preparing for the conclusive confrontation by having my shock troopers and Kovnik painted, reading up on tactics, and reviewing the rules. Normally we’d be playing on the first Sunday of each month, but this time the date was pushed back. I called the LGS Saturday to confirm my wife’s mimic miniature figures would be ready when we finished the league the next day. Jason, the league organizer, got on the line and sounded perplexed. It turns out I misremembered the date. The event was Saturday, not Sunday, and I had already missed the first game. I hobbled around my apartment on a recently sprained ankle—furiously putting newly painted models into my case, getting my kit together, and cleaning up. A friend ran me up to the store where I barely made the afternoon’s second game.

Jason paired me with Corbin; one of the league’s more experienced players. We sat down and discussed options. I mentioned that I could field up to 50 points—though I’d never played at that level before. It turned out that he hadn’t either…but he wanted to see that much tooth and scale on the table. So we started grabbing models. Right off I had issues. I had forgotten 1 of my shock troopers. My Kovnik’s axe arm broke off in transport—which about broke my heart. Between the mix up with the date, the broken model, and general chaos, I was completely out of sorts when we threw down.

My List:

Butcher Heart of Darkness, +6

Marauder -7

Marauder -7

Kodiak -8

Decimator -9

MOW Shock Troopers -8 (Using the injured Kovnik as the unit leader)

4 man hunters -8

Yuri the axe -3

Widow makers -4

Widow maker marksman -2

Corbin’s list:


Blackhide Wrastler

Ironback Spitter

Bull Snapper

Full Gatorman Posse

Full Gatorman Posse

Gatorman Witch Doctor

Totem Hunter

Wrong Eye and Snapjaw

Bull Snapper

I’m familiar with Maelok. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting gators for a while and the zombie voodoo saurian was the reason why. He’s a strong warlock with good attrition and assassination tech. I looked at the table and couldn’t figure out which one of us had an advantage. There were two pieces of terrain—a rock outcropping half way up the left side and a small enclosed position half way up the right side. It was an open killing field—which would have been nice if my bombardiers had come in. Alas, they are in the painting goddess’s capable hands. I should have asked for a little more terrain but all I could think about was getting down to business.

Corbin won the roll and opted to go second. I deployed my shock troopers and war caster in the center of the board with the MOW slightly to the right. Corbin deployed a posse directly across from the Butcher. He put Maelok and the snapper behind the spitter and wrastler on the right. Then he placed Wrong eye and the other snapper behind Snapjaw and the second posse on the left. The totem hunter took the far left—ready to flank my line. Following this, I advance deployed the rest of my army. The jacks formed a flying ‘V’ with the Kodiak and Decimator ahead of the two marauders on the wings—all in front of the butcher. The widow makers and marksman deployed on the right flank—slightly ahead and to the right of the shock troopers. Yuri and his hunters deployed on the far left. My plan was to bum rush my jacks into a caster kill while my left flank carved through his support and the right flank stalled his advance.

Turn 1, I ran forward while casting fury on the Kodiak. I wanted to put iron flesh on the widow makers, but I was out of range. My left flank spread out anticipating a counter charge. Corbin advanced slowly while casting death pact on the right hand posse.

Turn 2, I up kept fury and allocated 3 focus to the decimator. I advanced a little bit. One of my man huntresses charged over the outcrop and killed the totem hunter—go pathfinder. Butcher moved slightly right and forward in order to cast iron flesh on the WM. The widow makers advanced into a bating position and stripped 4 points off the wrastler’s spirit with the help of the marksman. The shock troopers moved to the side and forward getting into shield wall. They angled to countercharge anything that went for the WM. The decimator moved forward, called a shot on the nearest left hand posse member, but was out of range. Corbin took this opportunity to engage my front line. In retrospect I should have kept advancing since he had a longer threat range than I did, but at the time I hoped to bate him into exposing his battle group before an assassination run. The right hand posse charged the widow makers and two MOW, managing to kill 1 WM and slightly damage 1 shock trooper. The spitter took a shot at 1 of the unengaged troopers—doing a point of damage to 1 MOW and corroding 3 with the blast. The left posse charged my decimator and managed to destroy the cannon while removing about half its boxes. Both battle groups advanced slightly. The witch doctor turned the left posse undead. I think we were both a little distracted by the size of the game. I had to remind him a couple times that he could boost attacks with war beasts. The decimator isn’t a living creature, so the left hand posse never should have been able to charge it.

I started turn 3 with some challenges. I wasn’t sure what order to activate my jacks to maximize their threat potential. I was concerned about Maelok’s respawn-assassination™ trick. I knew that I had to kill that left hand posse or things would be…difficult. I could have spent a good 20 minutes thinking out my turn. However, after 3 minutes of decision paralysis, I decided that I needed to act. This was one of those moments where the perfect was going to be the enemy of the good if I let it. The corrosion expired on 2 of the shock troopers and plinked the unit leader for 1. I checked butcher’s control area and up kept the spells on the Kodiak and the MW. There was no way I could catch my battle group with the Butcher’s feat and get the right flank as well. I also couldn’t get him into the thick of things without a major assassination hitting me next turn. I Activated Butcher, took cover behind the Kodiak, popped his feat, and cast full throttle. The Decimator trampled over 2 posse, killing them, and based up with the witch doctor. I should have given it a focus to buy an attack, but like I said I didn’t want to stand around for a half hour working out the perfect turn. One of the marauders combo slammed a poor poor gator into one of its friends, rolling max damage and knocking the other gator down but not killing it. The other Marauder killed its closest gator but wasn’t able to slam it far enough to finish the remaining KDed posse. The Kodiak was blocked by the right Marauder so moved to block line of sight and charge lanes. I backed the WM out of combat, losing the marksman and another trooper to free strikes. The 2 surviving WM failed their command check and proceeded to moon the gators. The shock troopers walked into combat with the right hand posse, killed 2 gators, and remained in shield wall. The man hunter gang set up to counter charge WE&SJ.

On Corbin’s turn, Maelok’s snapper frenzied on the spitter, rolling massive damage but leaving all its spirals active. The spitter took a shot at Butcher but missed—deviating over a marauder where it did no damage. Maelok advanced, resurrected a gator from each posse, and popped feat. Wrong Eye and Snapjaw submerged. The wrastler tried to get in range to use its animus on the knocked down gator, but was just out of range. Both posse charged and swung for lethal on the butcher.

Game 1, Maelok.

I love reading pro battle reports. They make it look easy. Unfortunately, reading only gets you so far. This match was a classic example of how theory does not trade with experience on a one-for-one basis. I’ve read hundreds of Maelok battle reports. I absolutely knew what he was capable of—in theory. In practice, I don’t have the experience to judge distances and assess threat ranges to the degree required to evade his assassination. You could argue that Corbin couldn’t have made that assassination run without having first made the illegal charge on the decimator—and you’d be right. That being said, Corbin out played me. I think he deserved to win.

Things I learned:

1. 50 points is big, like really big. After playing games like 40k and FOW, the model count of a 50 point army seems very small. The challenge is that there are a lot more individual decisions and tactics to work through with warmachine than with those products. This means that while the count may be significantly less, the complexity of play is often greater. I could have done better if I hadn’t been so rushed. Even so, I think keeping the games smaller will help me brush up on the basics—which I clearly need.

2. Speaking of being rushed, that did not go well. I usually have my game together, bag packed, rules read, accessories selected well before I have to leave the apartment. Rushing through the process really shook my focus. I’m going to push myself toward an informal death clock going forward. This game highlighted my need to develop better focus and prioritization. Basically, I need to start playing under pressure.

3. I need to get used to the idea of peace trading. Most of the time I’m not going to get off the alpha strike—that’s just the reality of SPD 4. I should have been pushing my shock troopers and man hunters up the field every turn. I jockeyed for position and lost the initiative. Warmachine is unusual in that the guy who plays defensively or obsesses over placement too much is usually setting himself up for failure. I need to practice preparing to receive a charge as much as setting up a charge of my own.

4. Widow makers go-in-freaking-cover! I put them exactly as far as they could get from where they needed to be—which was on the outcrop sniping. Granted, facing an all-multi-wound force they aren’t going to be as effective as I’d like; but they could have done so much more. I flat out derped that one.

5. MOW take charges, they don’t make charges.

6. If I keep playing the man hunters as a single unit, it may be time to look at doom reavers or some cut-throats.

I finished the league in first place. I’ll write up my reflections on the combined experience later—but this was fun. I learned a lot, won some swag, and got to play some great games against fantastic people. The league was intended to help the newer players build up our armies—which worked well in my case. The coming months are going to feature a couple low point tournaments. For the first time in forever I have a consistent warmahordes outlook. Life is good. Now, if the store would start an adults night with a bourbon bar I’d be in heaven. Perhaps that’s something to suggest wink-wink Nudge-nudge.

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