Sunday, October 30, 2016

Winter is coming

              I associate winter with stark beauty.  It is the season of cold nights and hot apple sider.  It smells like smoke and the dusty burnt sugar of oncoming snow.  There is peace in the quiet after a winter storm—when all is muffled—pure—consumed by frosty fallen crystal.  I revel in winter’s crisp bite.  It calls to me as others yearn for the dog days of summer and the burgeoning weeks of new-spring.

              Winter has its dark side too.  Just as I find solace in its terrible glory, it saps my will to strive—leaving me careless of whether to rule in hell or serve in heaven— as long as I can delay the battle for another day.  Summer prompts me to walk for miles across sun-warmed beeches.  Spring bids me seek its promised greenery.  Fall—winter’s prodigal sibling—calls me to walk in woods aflame with the golden corpses of seasons past.  Ah, but winter pulls me into myself.  The circle constricts to the memory of those lost—paths not taken—old regrets and poignant joy.  I leave holiday parties to walk into a cave of bitter sweet remembrance.  Who am I to decline an offer of food or drink?  The goals of brighter days seem as passing as Autumn leaves.   I want to seek, strive, not to yield but Winter weighs me down with cold complacence.

              Winter is the season of cutting.  I search for the trivial—the less valued—the things that fell short of expectation.  I throw away the dross.  It will not make me happy but I will take cold pleasure in an office stripped of extraneous distraction.  I find comfort in the prospect of a new year unfettered by detritus.  I am boisterous and introspective by turns—good company for a few hours before cold night settles o’er my thoughts.

              Here in the soon to be 70-degree warmth of a Maryland autumn I have heard winter’s heralds.  The crunch of leaves—pumpkin bounty—gift trees and holiday schedules sing the coming change.  Hot tea and closed windows quietly proliferate.  Burnt sugar and smoke is in the air—waiting for shortened days and wind-blown nights.  Winter is coming.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A correction and thoughts on a changing game state

              It has been brought to my attention that I made a significant oversight in my list construction commentary regarding my last journeyman league session.  It turns out that Man-o-War demolition corps do not in fact have combined melee attack.  My apologies to anyone I may have misled.  Credit to Esper for the catch.

              This highlights one of the personal challenges I face dealing with the edition shift and dynamic updates.  This being my third iteration of warmahordes, I have a lot of outdated model profiles rattling around en la cabesa.  For example, MAT 8 was a lot more prevalent in MKI than now a days.  I have to constantly pulse check not only what has changed between MKII and MKIII but what has changed since MKI as well.  Add to this the fact that my first impressions of 3rd Ed came from the unofficial official spoilers and—well—Fury maybe not so smart as he think he is.

              This particular mistake points out how easy it is to screw up a game—even when you have the cards for reference.  My opponents were holding my cards and did not notice the error either—which is no mark against them—it is not their job to fact check my assumptions.  Apparently I assumed that since bombardiers have CRA and shock troopers have CMA, demolition corps get CMA too…right?  This was entirely my fault and does not seem to have arisen from any source material—I just got this one dead wrong.

From my limited experience on the field of honor and reading multiple forums, honest misunderstandings are a bigger issue than in previous editions—partly for the reasons I have mentioned—and partly because war room, battle college, dynamically updated text, and the physical cards do not always agree.  I cannot “read” my cards or war room (which does not work with the iPhone’s voice over function.)  So I end up defaulting to Battle College when I need to reference unit abilities.  This is an imperfect solution but one that generally gets the job done.

              While PP has said that they will make every effort not to muck with published material unless absolutely necessary, I worry that this sort of floating oversight problem may become more of an issue as theme forces alter balance levels and PP seeks to correct the game state.  A certain amount of post-release-editing was bound to happen what with the sheer number of models and rules requiring consideration.  I have been happy with this edition’s design choices in broad strokes—so I am inclined to cut Privateer press some slack—Skorne’s

 upcoming rewrite notwithstanding.  That being said, when I hear people asking if a physical card differs from war room it makes me wonder how much dynamic updating is going to take place every six months and how that frequency will affect the community.

              A final thought regarding demolition corps.  If I have this right, Hammer boys are P+S 16 with critical freeze.  Apparently an increase of one point, the loss of critical freeze and -2 power nets shock troopers combined melee attack, shield wall, higher armor, and a limited ranged option.  This does not feel equitable—doubly so since apparently demolition corps are the only Man-o-War unit not to have a combined attack skill.  I am going to continue playing them—if nothing else the models are awesome—but I am unimpressed.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Big red hits the table, or the first rounds of journeyman Khador

              Last month I entered a 50 point journeyman league.  As my experience in the new edition could at best be called “limited”, I wanted a way to ease into the new environment.


My LGS has been around for decades but has only been doing minis for about 15 years.  The local wargaming population has ebbed and flowed due to venue changes, varying store choices, and market pressures.  I have bopped in and out of the community at different points dating back to MKI.  No matter how many stores or game systems I part ways with, I always seem to end up across the table at this store.

              We had so many inexperienced players that September’s

 installment started with 8 of us playing a massive 4-4 box set battle using the trial by fire scenario.  The thought was that we could read the rules together and learn from everyone else’s questions—and since half the table had played 0 games in MKIII that sounded better than having a couple of us constantly answering global shout outs.  I took the new Khador battle box.  I teamed up with 2 more Khador players and legion to face down Circle,, Menoth, and Trolls.  Half of the field had the new battle boxes while the other half ran alternate casters with jacks/beasts totaling 0 points based on WJ/WB.  We laid out 4 circular felt scoring zones, went over deployment basics, and started the destruction.

              The game quickly devolved into 2 2-2 games with the menoth and Cryx players facing down the legion player and my red wall.  I am not going to cover every detail of this contest since there were a lot of talk-through-turns and takebacks as we were working through our options.  My observations follow:

·       Moderate cost beet stick heavies like the juggernaut and crusader are the gold standard for this environment.  They are not threatened by many lights and multipurpose heavies but are capable of one-rounding almost anything.

·       Trial by fire comes down to who can piece trade in such a way as to leave enough scoring models that their opponent cannot clear the board.  Against some factions that is not difficult, but against any battle group with two heavies and a decent combat light Khador has to draw first blood or run out of models with which to get work done.  Kozlov looks like a scenario monster on paper but in this game he needed to start off looking for the assassination.

·       Gone are the days when battle box games boiled down to everyone using some small variation on the same rule sets.  Hordes plus a new crop of casters means that you really really have to read the rules and know your cards in advance.  For example, managing fury—a key element of hordes list strategy—was a challenge for this group.  Since all the casters/locs have their own unique abilities, there is a small but noticeable knowledge bar to minimally competent play.

·       I was not impressed with Kozlov in this arena.  Granted, it was an informal very non-standard setup.  However, he just did not seem to push the scenario.  He was always an accuracy, damage, or movement buff away from getting work done.  Some of that is my fault —I need to remember slams are a thing—but his toolbox struggled for relevance with just a battle box to work with.

·       If you have a strategy in mind, premeasuring makes turns fly by.  If you do not know what to do then premeasuring induces decision catatonia—see my previous note on knowing your models rules in advance.


My side “won” so I earned a destroyer point.  I learned a lot which in retrospect was what I needed.  I feel bad that several of the new players spent so much time waiting for the rest of us to take our turns but I think if they were paying attention there was a lot to be gained from the experience.


       October’s league featured a 25 point installment.  The Menoth and Legion players returned and we picked up a Skorne player.  The store employee who played circle last month while running the event graciously stepped down this time so that the rest of us could fight a round-robin.  Games were 1 hour long using the trial by fire scenario.

       I looked at my options for 50 points and 25 points with an eye toward having some fun using models that would not normally get table time.  I ended up playing 2 points down so that I could play a better 50 point list in November.


My list:


My painting goddess just finished the hammer boys.  At P+S 16, MAT 7, and CMA, they looked like great targets for fury.  They are somewhat durable.  They do not need much support.  I added the scouts because I needed something to defer infantry plus, they are just a good all round unit even outside the sniper boat.

              My first opponent was an acquaintance from previous league play.  She loves painting and sometimes comes out to test her masterpieces on the field of honor.  We took our time walking through setup and turn priority to make sure we had the basics down.  She won the roll and opted to go second.


Jess’s legion:

·       Seraph

·       Blighted Nyss Shepherd

·       Strider Deathstalker


I played the same side of the same board for all my games for everyone’s convenience.  Trial by fire makes a lot of the board irrelevant unless you care about elevation or you are bogged down without pathfinder.  From my perspective, the deployment zones directly opposite the scoring circle were clear of terrain.  I had a small forest ahead and to the right and a ruined building foundation slightly ahead and to the left.  They created a virtual funnel toward the center point.  My opponent (again from my perspective) had a multi floor ruin ahead and to the right but was otherwise untroubled with terrain—not that either of us lacked for pathfinder.

1.       I deployed my army in an iron wall across the funnel gap intending to power walk my way to the objective.  From left to right I had the decimator, juggernaut, and demolition corps with Kozlov slightly behind his jacks.  Jess deployed her beasts centrally with her caster and sheperd bringing up the rear.  The widowmakers advance deployed into the right hand forest while the deathstalker climbed into the building for maximum field of fire.

2.       Round 1, Kozlov casts tactical supremacy on the decimator and fury on the juggernaut.  He pops feat and the iron wall advances at best speed toward the coveted scoring circle.  The widowmakers check range and advance ahead and to the left to be able to cover the zone and rush to contest if required.  Legion advances at my force with the seraph roosting at the top of the nearby building.

3.       I premeasure and decide my best bet is to toe the zone with my Man-o-Wars.  My jacks should be able to deal with the two melee beasts and then the game is essentially over.  I very carefully put my jacks outside carnivean charge range on the edge of the zone.  The widowmakers consolidate their field of fire and square up their line.  I remember thinking to myself “they’re defense 14, they’ll be fine.”  The seraph advances to the front building edge and converts 3 of Khador’s finest into piles of ash.  The deathstalker shoots the last one and pings a Man-o-War.  The Carnivean walks forward and breaths on 2 demolition corps—setting them on fire.  It maxes out on fury to use spiny growth.  The raek walks forward to cover the carnivean with its countercharge bubble.

4.       I let tactical supremacy expire, allocate 2 focus to the juggernaut, and check my ranges—all of them this time.  The juggernaut charges the carnivean.  The reak countercharges the juggernaut doing trivial damage.  The juggernaut drops the carnivean—taking 14 points of damage from spiny growth in the process.  The decimator has no valid targets due to range and cheaty cheaty legion stealth.  Kozlov walks onto the zone in expectation of domination!  My Man-o-Wars take this opportunity to charge the raek and save the day…defense what?  They CMA twice (2&3 each) and miss both swings.  @@######!  This is our last round, so Jess opens fire with everything she has.  She cannot clear me from the zone but if she can kill off the demolition corps she will win on points.  We spend a couple seconds discussing whether the seraph is out of control and whether it has to frenzy or not.  In the end, rather than draw out the turn  based on a rules question that she would have fixed earlier anyway, we agree to let her ret-con the deployment and she ends up killing all but one man-o-war.  Damaged, on fire, and surrounded, he endures to win me the game.


It was nice starting off with someone willing to walk through turns systematically.  I made some mistakes especially not reviewing what the seraph can do in this edition.  That being said, I learn best when stomped by the none-too-gentle boot of experience.


My next opponent was Josh with Menoth:

·       Initiate Tristan Durant

·       Vanquisher

·       Choir of Menothh


This was exactly the kind of list I feared.  Protectorate jacks are almost as tuff as Khador’s, cheaper, and benefit from fantastic synergy.  Three heavies and a solid light with extra focus from the journeyman is a tuff nut to crack.


1.       I won the roll and picked second turn.  Josh deployed in what he called the wedge of sadness.  I think it should have been called the hope breaker.  Tristan set up on the left behind the vanquisher.  The crusader, castigator, and repenter deployed from left-to-right with the castigator leading the charge.  Caster and choir took up supporting spots behind the wedge of sadness ™.  I deployed in the same manner as the first game hoping that Josh’s lack of long range fire would let me push the zone with my widowmakers.

2.       We do the normal bum’s rush to a very slow rendition of chariots of fire.  Tristan puts fortify on the vanquisher.  I put fury on the juggernaut and tactical supremacy on the decimator.

3.       Menoth steps into the circle.  He does not have much range to do anything so plays conservatively.  Jacks move to take best advantage of fortify.  The decimator moves up and blows the repenter’s flail off.  It steps back out of charge range with tactical supremacy to remain relevant in future piece trading.  Widowmakers work 4 boxes toward stripping the crusader of its mace.  I should have worked on the repenter with these shots as it was already heavily damaged.  Man-o-Wars move up with one model contesting the zone hoping that my jacks will be able to counter attack and start the attrition war.

4.       The vanquisher hits my juggernaut with a flame belcher shot and manages to set Kozlov on fire.  The castigator and repenter move into the zone and remove the contesting demolition corps.  We discuss popping or not popping feat until I point out that with my caster on fire he is never going to get a better chance to go for straight damage.  Malekus moves up, pops feat, and uses open fire on the repenter  to finish off another Man-o-War.  He goes to 2 control points.  I look at the board and realize that I need to get in the game.  Kozlov takes boosted fire damage leaving him on half health.  The clock is running out.  I allocate max focus to my jacks, let tactical supremacy expire, and do a bunch of measuring.  The juggernaut walks over and removes the castigator.  Widowmakers take shots at the repenter doing minimal damage.  The game is about to end on time when I realize that Malekus is within charge range of the decimator which is loaded with focus…hmm…I cannot say I planned it this way but the alternative is a loss on scenario.  The decimator spends one to charge, spends one to boost to hit and misses.  He buys another attack and misses—again.  Game goes to the protectorate.


This was a fun tactical game.  I felt like I had a better grasp of this force than the legion circus—though I feel like I lost track of scenario conditions on turn 2 which lost me the game.  If I had left the decimator a little farther forward I might have been able to contest and I would have won on points with the castigator down. 


My last game came against Peter with Skorne:

·       Lord Assassin Morghoul

·       Agonizer

·       Mammoth

·       Paingiver Bloodrunners


I had mixed feelings looking at this list.  On the one hand it was not technically legal by journeyman standards (he could not have used the mammoth in the first month and the agonizer would not have brought him up to wj-4 or better.)  The list felt a little shady.  On the other hand, Peter clearly wanted to play the elephant—who was I to deny him?  the list itself looked like something I could handle.  Since I cannot see that well, the size and appearance of a model have no effect on me.  The mammoth was just 56 high arm boxes to kill—less than I was fielding between my two heavies.  This would be my first game with or against a huge base so I figured at the very least I could get a sense of how they work.


1.       I won the roll and opted to go second.  Gigantor started off to the left with the blood runners aiming for a full court press on the zone.  The agonizer and Morghoul held back a little.  I used my standard deployment but switched the widowmakers to the left for some game on the giant snipable target.

2.       First turn everyone charges the zone.  Man, bloodrunners are fast.  If I had single wound infantry out they would be of concern.  The decimator gets tactical supremacy and the juggernaut gets fury…sweet sweet fury.

3.       The mammoth takes a couple shots at my jacks which deviate away into oblivion.  His infantry move up.  Widowmakers snipe out 4 mind boxes.  The decimator blows off 15 boxes from the gargantuan.  I am out of charge range and forget to move into the zone.  He goes to 2 control points.

4.       I do not remember the next 3 turns very well.  It was getting to the end of the session and I had been playing for over three hours straight.  My focus was beginning to suffer.  We had to double check several rules.  By the beginning of my turn 4, the clock was running out, the mammoth was almost dead, half the bloodrunners were gone, Morghoul survived one assassination attempt already, and I was still losing on scenario.  I had to take morghoul down.  I reserved all my focus and charged the high-assassin with Kozlov.  He hit him twice, leaving him on 2 boxes.  The three remaining Man-o-Wars tried to leave combat to finish him off but died to free strikes.  Skorne claims the win.


This was another “learning game.”  My biggest takeaway was that there is a world of difference between discussing piece trading, assassination, attrition, and scenario play in the abstract of the forums and actually melding them into a seamless strategy.  The theory of the game only gets you so far.  Along the same lines, I am used to reading coverage of tournaments where the meta is determined by top tier players who pick lists to deal with national competitive trends.  This means that they often have the exact tool they need to deal with problem match ups.  In these smaller less polished venues you will run into situations where you just have decent tools and they will not always be employed in easily exploited strategies—doubly true since you will often face model combinations ignored by the competition minded.

       This game brought home how unfamiliar I am with the new face of warmahordes.  I used to be familiar with everything—at least in a general sense.  Now, not so much.  It is a brave new world out there filled with new stat lines and abilities.


Things I need to remember next time:

1.       Scenario, Scenario, Scenario.

2.       I need to refresh my memory on power attacks, especially throws and slams.

3.       The feat needs must be popped turn 2 or 3 to get stuck in.  Do not wait till the perfect moment—there is no such animal.

4.       If I am going to lose on scenario I should angle for assassination from the beginning.


That is all for now my red painted Brethren.  You shall hear from me soon.