My bogtrotting Druids hit the boards last night for their first outing among The Dudley Darklords. Stu, a familiar face from my rare ventures onto the tournament circuit, was good enough to line up his Highborn Covenant and deliver the first in what I expect to be a long line of defeats.
That’s not pessimism, you understand – it’s an acknowledgement of the learning process. I am not one of those people who can pick up an army and Know, immediately, how it delivers the beats: I am one of those people who derives knowledge from trial and error. The important thing is that the games are interesting and that I feel involved in the process of defeat; games where I don’t get to do anything but take casualties and suffer analysis paralysis inflict sufficient damage on morale for learning to be impossible. Fortunately, Stu guarantees an interesting game.
In the first of our three throw-downs, Stu threw down Gorten, some Gun Mages, Boomhowler and his smelly trolls, Madeleine Corbeaux, Thor Steinhammer and some other bits and bobs that didn’t turn out to be fantastically important, as the game was rather short. It started all right: first blood to me, with an early Mannikin sacrifice and Shadow Pack screening me from Stu’s guns and another Mannikin molesting one of Boomhowler’s boys.
As Stu closed in and started shooting at me over the hill, I picked off a few Gun Mages and Trolls with Mannikin sprays and Druid bolts, and – by teleporting the Sentry Stone onto the hill – was able to put a Mannikin behind the Gun Mage Officer ready to nobble him if he tried anything.
Finally, I sent the Pureblood forward to scrap one of Stu’s lights that was trying some sort of sneaky round-the-houses business, and the Feral ran in to engage Madelyn and Boomhowler. I’d been planning to put Dog Pile on Madelyn via Laris and charge instead, but Dog Pile missed and I figured embedding my heavies in his line was better than hanging around at the back.
Alas, moving the beasts up enabled Stu’s list to do exactly what it wanted to do: use Madelyn’s Espionage ability to move Gorten forward for free so that he could move again, drag Kaya across the board until she was within five inches of himself, the Gun Mages and the other Blaster, and drop her DEF into the bargain. Click, click, boom. One Fury available to transfer. That’s all she wrote.
Wot I learned: umm, a lot about how a decent Gorten Highborn list works, and that Kaya’s battlegroup needs quite a precise activation order to get the most efficiency out of Dog Pile, Spirit Shift and the Pureblood’s Ghostly warp effect.
On to game two! This time Stu brought a Durgen list which lacked any real counters to Stealth barring Durgen’s AOEs. Apparently this was in the cause of a fairer fight. I remain unconvinced given the presence of Nyss Hunters and a doom-bringing combination of Reinholdt, Dougal McNaile and Taryn the Gun Mage whose name I am not inclined to remember, let alone spell.
Game two lasted even less time than game one on account of a chronic misdeployment; thinking “ooh, Circle like trees”, I decided to advance through a wood and see what happened. This left Stu’s Nyss free to occupy the midfield, deploy in depth so I’d kill maybe three or four and then be counter-charged by the rest, and me with no real way to get out of the corner I’d put myself into.
I don’t really need to learn how to deploy badly – I have five years of experience at doing that. Stu was gracious enough to allow a mulligan, on the grounds that I wouldn’t really learn how my army worked if what it was basically doing was “get bogged down by bad deployment and lose without doing anything”.
Wot I learned: Just because you have Pathfinder doesn’t mean you automatically love trees. Stu also expressed the opinion that I was being too conservative with my Druids; that their wealth of offensive capabilities and the ability to hide themselves from some incoming fire in smoke made them more of a front-line unit than a follow-the-beasts unit. If I wanted cover, I had the Mannikins to make it for me. What the hell, said I – I’d been running them in the backline for two games to no avail, so why not take some advice and see what happened?
In game three I set up to advance through the open midfield and spread out a bit more, on the grounds that Circle armies are not supposed to be enveloped in the way that I had been in the first game. Between Shadow Pack and Vortex Cloud, Stu could only score direct hits on the Mannikins, although Artillerist let him guide his deviations from shots that auto-missed due to Stealth and place them where they could still blow chunks out of the Feral Warpwolf.
Spreading out to the extent that I did, and moving the Druids up front, seemed to work – the Druids blasted some Nyss with extraordinarily jammy rolls, and the Sentry Stone teleported itself upfield to provide a point from which the Mannikins could spray along Stu’s line, killing Taryn (the jam! the jam!) and most of the Forge Guard.
I’ve just realised none of Stu’s units took Massive Casualties checks. I’m not sure if they have to or if it’d made a difference, but still.
Laris then ran up so I could drop Dog Pile on Durgen, just to get it out there; I figured I’d rip the guts out of Stu’s infantry on this turn, pulling them back with Kaya’s feat, and then see what I could do about finishing Durgen off later. Not my best plan, as it transpired that neither of my heavies had the threat range to reach their targets (Lanyssa and Cylena) and had to settle for ripping up some infantry and then pulling back. On his turn Stu finished off the Druids and Laris, and left me with three models against half his army, including all those Weapon Masters. It didn’t go well. I sent the beasts out to tie up as many of his models as I could, but their lack of Reach came back to bite me in the botwot as there were still lanes for the Nyss to reach Kaya.
Stu’s dice were not kind to him, and it took him a few turns longer than it ought to have to finish Kaya off (long enough for the Pureblood to throw the Driller at Dougal and kill him, scrobble Cylena, and then rip a good chunk out of the Driller when it came back in for another go). Nevertheless, between the Nyss’ own attacks and Primed blowing them up in Kaya’s face every time she tried to extricate herself from them, the Wildborne eventually went down.
Wot I learned: Forced Evolution belongs on Laris until one of the heavies actually needs it – a DEF17 arc node with a POW14 bite is not to be sneezed at. Druids of Orboros are much more toolboxy than I’d thought and the ‘hang back and Counter Magic’ plays that I’d seen previous Circle opponents using and consequently copied off them are not plays that use the pieces to their full potential. They certainly have a lot of that; everything in the list does and I think it’s quite a nice little build, or at least it will be when I get the hang of using it to manage the clumps of infantry that most Warmachine lists are able to out-activate me with at these point levels, not being tied to taking multiple beasts.
A bloodless loss, a mulligan, and a tabling, but in the third game I’d given Stu a bloody nose and made him think more than he’d had to in either of the previous games, which shows I’m putting up more effective resistance. Like I said: I expect to be thrashed, a lot, while I’m learning; there are fundamental capabilities to Warmahordes success which I know exist but have trouble with executing, especially given that I prefer low activation count armies to stop me blocking myself in with my own chaff. I enjoy the list that much that I’m going to give it another whirl next week and not swap in the Tharn Wolf Riders like I’d been planning to.