This past Sunday was the first session in my FLGS’s crossroads of courage campaign. Since most of the players are new, the T.O. kept the minimum points down to 15. If you and your opponent wanted to raise the bar that was up to you. “Weeks” are actually months for us—so week 2 will be played in January. I am talking to the T.O. about moving to a rumble format since I feel that better fits the community’s skill level and resource count. He seems open to the idea.
I spent the previous night organizing my models and equipment. Measuring sticks—check. Focus/fury tokens—check. Objective markers—check. Models and cards—check. I had the T.O. review my gear just to be careful before riding over. I was hopped up for this game—new caster, new campaign, real scenarios—I wanted this session badly.
· Holden Courage
I got to the event early. I was not sure when we would begin; so spent my first hour clearing out one of those green felt 4x4s with a diagonal gravel road. The table started not just cluttered but brimming with terrain. By the time I was done, it looked like a proper abandoned manufacturing center. From my perspective, the left side of the board had a castle rampart, complete with gate and guard tower, running the length of the table. If you got behind the wall, you could climb it using a pile of rubble on the far side while the gate was closer to my deployment zone. The center of the board featured a fortified position in each deployment zone and a central crater field. On the right, 3 large block buildings ran the length of the far side--forming a beautiful ruined city-scape for anyone with the means and motive to grab some elevation. This would funnel attackers into a central killing field if they chose to go head-to-head while providing strategic advantages to those willing to break to the sides. Note, I should have paid more attention to my own design theory but at the time I just wanted a pretty war zone.
It turned out only one other person had shown up—near-holiday gaming attendance being what it is. I had talked to him about other systems and pickup games before but this would be our first time going head-to-head. He admitted straight up that this was a demo/learning game for him—which was fine what with this being my first time playing Zerkova I.
· Holden Courage
We spent a couple minutes familiarizing ourselves with the scenario and each other’s abilities. I am ashamed to admit that I am not as familiar with convergence as I should be. I looked at their original release specs, saw that they required precise positioning/turn order, and ran screaming. We took our time since we were only going to get one game in and the store closed in 4 hours. He went Sewer. I went with Reapers.
The blizzard scenario is an odd duck. It is essentially a caster kill game with random LOS distance (3d6 inches rolled at the beginning of every turn) and 3 flare markers placed by each player before deployment. Anything within 4 inches of a flare loses stealth, concealment, and is fair game for LOS regardless of the blizzard roll. I think Mike had a better plan. I set up a lit field where I estimated we would make contact. My hope was that with Zerkova’s cloud wall, spells, and the decimator’s gun, I could get some decent shooting done turn 2. I didn’t want a poor range roll to stop me. Mike set up an interlocking field of illumination with mine—turning the center of the board into a giant spotlight. There was nowhere to hide around the 24-inch mark. At the time I explained the scenario conditions and assumed that he had some Rube Goldberg plan in mind. Note to self, give professional programmers more credit for planning in future.
1. I lost the starting roll. Mike decided to go second. I deployed in 2 cohorts. Zerkova set up as far to the left as I could get her between the castle wall and the far-right ruins. She had the decimator on her left and the juggernaut on her right. Rorsh, Brine, and Holden went as far right as I could get them in that central band. Without any major ranged presence, there was no point in working for an elevated view. Plus, I was pretty sure my start of turn blizzard roll would fail me even if I stuck Rorsh and CO. on a roof somewhere. Caster kill was not just the scenario win condition; if I could get-er-done by turn 3 I would earn a bonus point. I hoped Rorsh could flank the enemy battlegroup and take out the forge master turn 2 or 3. Mike set up his vectors facing my jacks with his caster almost against his board edge. The attunement servitors were as far forward as he could get them in front of the vectors.
2. Turn 1, Zerkova casts watcher. She walks forward and drops a small cloud wall. Everything else runs forward. Mike puts Hot-Shot on the modulator and Reconstruct on the cipher. He moves the servitors up at speed while his battlegroup barely advances.
3. I do some quick measuring and find that Mike’s cautious movement means there is almost no way for me to get to his caster by turn 3—well played sir, well played. Zerkova upkeeps watcher and allocates 1 focus to the decimator. The juggernaut runs forward again. The decimator walks forward, misses its first shot, and blasts a servitor into scrap with its second. Zerkova walks forward and tries to hex blast a second servitor into its component parts. While we are reviewing the card it turns out that this model came with the MKII documentation (facepalm.) The store has updated cards so after a little delay to resleve the new materials, Zerkova finishes blasting the servitor. I leave her on 1 focus. Rorsh and Brine run forward. Holden tags the third servitor wiping the unit. Galvanizer moves base-to-base behind the Cipher. The Cipher lobs a blast template at Zerkova. It misses doing no damage. His Holden takes a shot at the Kommander and misses as well. The modulator takes 2 boosted shots at Zerkova for 6 damage total after she spends a focus to over boost her power field.
4. Top of 3, I allocate 2 to the decimator. We do a bunch of measuring and referencing. Zerkova can only use one of her artifacts per spell so there is some question as to how to maximize her damage output. It turns out that I am only going to get one casting at this due to how far back his caster is placed. I figure it is probably better to go for the attrition now since there is no way I can assassinate his caster this turn. Zerkova lets watcher expire. His vectors are never coming in range so might as well save the focus. The Kommander hex blasts reconstruct off the Cipher. She pops feat sitting on 3 focus. The decimator nails the Cipher with 2 boosted dozer shots but I roll terribly and it still has half its boxes left. The juggernaut runs into charging distance of his vectors next turn. The pigs keep running. Holden takes a shot at the Forge master but misses. The forge master’s ability kicks in and starts repairing the cipher. Syntherion advances and casts convection twice at Zerkova, hitting her once for trivial damage after boosted power field and leaving him on 0 camp. The galvanizer does some work on the cipher. The modulator moves up to block the juggernaut from getting any ideas.
5. Top of 4, clobbering time! Zerkova allocates 1 focus to the decimator. She moves into LOS of Syntherion and misses with her first hex blast. Her second boosted casting hits for minimal damage. The decimator boosts and hits with both shots but flubs the damage rolls. Holden takes a shot and misses the forge master. The juggernaut walks up and smashes the modulator down to half its boxes despite not having been allocated any focus beyond powerup. I have one remaining shot at this. We check some non-linear movement options and find that Brine can make it into combat. Rorsh uses diversionary tactics, almost kills Holden (oops), and sends Brine into charge position. Brine activates, Charges, boosts to hit with the gore, and splatters Syntherion. Game-Zerkova or Rorsh? Who gets the credit when you have a lesser warlock/Jr. warcaster?
1. What is this no speed, accuracy, or damage buff nonsense? Zerkova is a lot more about control than directed aggression than I am used to. Part of that came down to Mike holding back. By turn three I wanted to yell “get over here.” I was lucky I brought Rorsh & Brine or Mike could have kept me sprinting after him for another turn. Thank god I had the decimator.
2. Zerkova really does-not-like-to share focus. I mean _really_does_not_like it. Ignoring watcher and ghost walk, her main tech is cloud walls, frost hammer, and hex blast—which in this Meta means hex blast. She can cast HB twice with 2 allocated boosts using her full stack and focus sphere. I picked up Sylys back when I decided on the Kommander. Looks like I need to get him on line pronto.
3. This game highlights the challenge in playing under 35 points in this edition—especially with a non-battlegroup centered caster. Zerkova wants tools to damage and control the field. That means jacks like Ruin, Behemoth, and Conquest. I would like to try her with Hutchuck, gun carriages, and field guns too—maybe a couple Kodiaks when I get them up and running. At 15-points, I do not have the resources to make full use of her toolbox.
4. I really need to get my hands on a conquest. I am not sold on Victor but conquest solves the 4 floating WJ point problem Z1 has with Behemoth and gives her some needed board control. If she bases up with the big guy he can even make P+S 22 watcher attacks for her. I feel the same way about Hutchuck—got to get her some board control options.
5. R&B are not clutch pieces but they sure do have nice reach. I wish Brine had better game against warjacks. Still, that nonlinear 14-inch threat is hard to defend against. I’ll leave them in for now—maybe a gunboar?...hmm.
6. I like playing something other than straight caster kill. The flares added unexpected depth. I cannot wait to try a full on S.R. game at 75 points.
7. Mike might have just got lucky but his plan worked very well. Had my assassination fallen through, I would have been sitting on 0 camp in front of most of his army. There was some difficult terrain and the juggernaut had the modulator locked up but I am pretty sure Syntherion could have gotten the job done on his own. He delayed me long enough to keep me from earning a bonus point and gave himself an extra round of shooting. If I had not popped feat on turn 3, he probably would have taken me out. It does not help that his entire army is built on giant constructs without easy targets for Zerkova’s rod.
Good times were had by all. Next month we will hopefully end up with some more people. Here is hoping.