[Event Report] ArmadaCon 28 – Home Town Heroism, procedural megadungeons, and gross capitalism

They say that wizards can never go home.

Fortunately, as a card-carrying storygamer Swine I reject the shackles of class-based character generation, and can go where I damn well please, so I went back to Plymouth to attend ArmadaCon’s twenty-eighth instalment and do a spot of mega-dungeoning.

M’colleagues on the board have spent some time beefing up the gaming side of the convention, and politely asked if I wouldn’t mind hosting ‘something’ in the games-and-dealers room for the three-day weekend. Obviously my first idea was a through-the-ages Vampire chronicle (Dark Ages on day one, Victorian Age on day two, Final Nights on day three), but then m’colleagues pointed out that they had no idea how many gamers would be turning up, also that gamers buy day tickets rather than signing up for the whole weekend, and that putting an awful lot of work into something might leave me sitting around weeping into my Cappadocian clanbook. (I bought a copy of the first edition – which is actually for the game’s second edition – on the Sunday. It sits next to the Giovanni one on my shelf, feeling awkward about the future.)

Instead, I fished out my Tarot cards, Otherworld adventurer models, A1 sheets of graph paper and a motley assortment of monsters (mostly undead, a few North Star gnolls, and some Fireforge historicals to use as hierlings) and prepared to play some Fuckin’ D&D.

What this means in real money is that I had ten set-piece encounters and twelve PCs statted out, but the routes from set-piece to set-piece would be determined by Tarot flips, as would treasure and traps. Players could drop in and out, taking over existing characters or having a new one turn up trapped under a rock fall or something, and I would be quite chipper about killing PCs off since it’s a con game and that shit don’t matter. There was a story – something, something, expedition, something something vast tomb complex below a suspiciously Cappadocian hillside, something something midnight howls, panicking henchmen, people falling down wells and crevasses – but I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it. Mostly, the story was there to get people into play and justify the random appearances and disappearances of new characters.

Although I didn’t actually get to start until after lunchtime on both days (the sessions were down for a 10 a/m kickoff, but most of the folks in the hotel were there for the panels and regular fixtures, not for the games), I did end up running on both days (not originally in the playbook). Play was slow (they did eventually fill one A1 sheet with mapped tunnels) but entertaining, especially on the Sunday when a critical mass of about six players was achieved throughout the proceedings.

Final scores: 8/12 PCs dead, 2/12 PCs resurrected thanks to The Shop On The Borderlands‘ sponsored wandering wizard encounter, 4/12 PCs returned to surface via wishing well, 3/10 set piece encounters actually used, 3/10 sheets of graph paper covered in horrible scrawls, 3 requests to keep going regardless of time and only 1 player feeling it wasn’t his cup of tea.

That’s not bad. Next time I’ll tie it into the charitable causes side of the event and allow PCs to buy themselves back from the dead by bunging a few quid to St. Luke’s Hospice, which I wish I’d thought of at the start of the weekend rather than ten minutes after the doors closed on Sunday.

Currently playing…

It was World of Warcraft, for about a month. Legion isn’t rubbish. The new Demon Hunter class is suitably entertaining. Gold is easy enough to come by that I haven’t actually had to pay for the second month at all (the subscription was wrangled with an in-game token). As we move into the first patch the novelty is beginning to wear off and I am no longer spending six hours at a time “catatonically staring at a monitor” as one wacky bastard of a commentator has it.

At the present moment in time it’s Blood Bowl (PC version), because a new edition of Blood Bowl (tabletop version) is out just in time for my birthday and there’s talk of a Corehammer tournament early in the new year. Sadly my beloved Necromantic team hasn’t made the cut for the first batch of re-releases, but the Nurgle louts have, so I’m currently learning why Disturbing Presence is hilarious and why nobody needs two Beastmen with Leader. Assuming the Nurgle lads get some new models, I’ll finally make good on that insistent Nurgly itch I’ve have for a couple of years now, without doing something stupid like a whole new 40K army.

I have vague itches towards the World of Darkness and will probably muster the Dark Ages group for another one-off or two shortly after Christmas. These episodic ‘tales from Constantinople’ take a bit of adjusting-to, since I’m used to running an ongoing weekly or fortnightly campaign and can afford to have loose ends dangling between sessions. When it might be months between times, events must be more contained and discrete, and I’m still learning how to pace them and make them feel important while still maintaining the proper quotients of vampirism and player agency.

I also have vague itches towards Warhammer. No, not Age of Sigmar, stop that, back that truck right up. I mean Sixth Edition, the Silver Age of Warhammer, the one I and m’colleagues actually enjoyed playing. More on this as details emerge – at the moment it’s taking the form of “actually acquiring a Black Coach and redoing the movement trays and finishing the display army like I said I would two years ago.” Actual gameplay is being negotiated with the learnéd Dr. Shiny and something may occur in that vein before the year is out.

Currently reading…

The odd couple of Eddisons I hadn’t finished. Styrbiorn is excellent – austere and restrained in a way quite distinct from the lavish prose of his Zimiamvia novels. His extended obituary to one Philip Sidney Nairn, which I read purely for completism’s sake, is quietly moving and offers a glimpse of the late Empire and the standards for being a decent chap therein, but is of little direct consequence. I also started Diary of a Drug Fiend, which is a delightfully rambling little confessional but not hugely compelling, which is why it’s only ‘started’.

Currently hobbying…

You wish. The learned Dr. Shiny will be carrying out much of my miniature painting in the future, in return for the free practice of my trade upon the manuscript for his novel. I hate painting, Shiny’s good at it, I like editing and Shiny needs some done. You see how this works?

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon II – Dead and Breakfast

Anyone interested in a convention report covering five versions of the same RPG scenario, with no pictures of the actual content (because I was too busy running the games to faff around with any of that Instagramming-pictures-of-your-dinner nonsense), plus a single insanely casual game of Hordes vs. Warmachine?

Also, an obnoxiously British gatorman and his friend.

I hope so, ’cause that’s what you’re getting.

I have to confess that despite having forty days on the clock, I didn’t actually achieve everything on my to-do list. The models didn’t have much more paint on them than in that last post, the last player character model was actually bought five minutes after the first demo session ended, the scenario wasn’t tested and the Mammoth is still in bits. The maps, however, looked smashing, mostly because I had nothing to do with them other than describing what I wanted to Robin and then leaving well alone for a few days.

The scenario itself was pretty straightforward: the PCs had been captured by Skorne and offered their freedom if they agreed to help the Skorne out in attacking a Khadoran border fortress, by delaying or destroying the reinforcements on their way to the fort and then meeting up with the Skorne to support the attack. Each of the PCs had a paragraph or so of motivational notes designed to thicken the plot and encourage arguments, betrayals and contrariness. Most of the NPCs were entry-level mooks, but the commanders of the Skorne assault and Khadoran defence were statted out like proper characters with about 50 XP sunk into them – in other words, they’d mulch any single PC who tried to take them on.

Only one group out of five stuck by the Skorne, honoured the arrangement and helped Razaak the Undying seize the fortress and claim his prize. One group attempted to betray him, got caught out, and managed to escape their bonds in time to backstab him during the attack. Another group fragmented, ended up killing both major NPCs and founded a petty mercenary kingdom in the deep Khadoran tundra. Yet another switched sides and agreed to work with the Khadorans, earning themselves a contract with the Greylords Covenant, and the last lot were going to play it straight but lost their cool in the heat of battle and decided to slaughter Razaak and his army before they were halfway across the field. (In retrospect, naming him ‘the Undying’ was asking for trouble…) I’m proud to say that at least one PC was taken out in single combat with the Undying in each session, though, and that – exactly as planned – every group had some internal tension over whose side they were on.

Spending the weekend running the same scenario allowed me to directly compare the playstyles to which I was exposed – the hardcore roleplayers who went back to try and negotiate with Razaak, the competitive Warmachiners who poked at the edges of the scenario and looked for ways to break it, the first-time roleplayers who took my advice about using everything on the character sheet to heart, and the one group who spent at least sixty of their hundred and eighty minutes coming up with increasingly elaborate plans to delay the Khadorans, blame the Skorne, switch sides and get everyone killed. (To be fair, it worked!) It also meant that I could run it in my sleep by Sunday morning, which is good, since that’s essentially what I ended up doing.

It’s my own fault really; myself and my roommate Charles both conked out early on the Saturday night, woke up at 2 a/m and said “fuck going back to sleep, let’s hit the Iron Arena.” The result was a leisurely game ‘twixt my Skorne and Charles’ Retribution – it had to be leisurely since neither of us could count reliably and one of us had lost the tape measure, resulting in a lot of bodged measurements with spray templates and widgets. It was… well, it was a delightful bloodbath. Praetorians fell like teardrops in the face of the Retribution’s firepower, and elves baked to a crisp beneath the shells of the Incendiarii. Charles’ feat turn saw my entire battlegroup slammed halfway back to the table edge and flat on their backs; mine saw a prized character myrmidon downed and the last Praetorians cutting swathes through the Houseguard infantry. Charles called it after that – with one battered warjack, five infantry models and a warcaster on fire, it wasn’t quite clear how the elves could punch through forty-eight wounds of Cataphract infantry to reach Makeda and avenge their dead.

Charles’ conservative, control-heavy, let-them-come-to-you-and-perish-before-your-awesome-firepower playstyle doesn’t transfer to roleplaying games, though. In the absence of players for the last demo session, we joined the Epic campaign on the other side of the hall, and… well, by the first round of the second combat Charles’ Stormsmith/Storm Sorceress was an unconscious heap in the corner, blacked out from racking up twice the recommended number of fatigue points and badly hurt from bouncing a blighted Nyss just far enough back for it to counter-charge her. I’m glad to say my Monster Hunter fared a little better… at least he managed to cut up a Nyss Sorceress before rocks fell and everyone died, quite literally. Last job for the day was to retrieve Charles’ entry to the Golden Thrall painting contest (shortlisted for the Single Miniature trophy) and crawl off for a curry and a well deserved kip.

Here’s the thing about SmogCon. It’s bloody expensive (I wouldn’t have been able to go if I hadn’t been splitting the room and food costs) even if you aren’t buying back into Privateer Press’ games in order to attend – but every time I go I remember that there’s more to PP games than tedious 50 point Steamroller tournaments where every millimetre counts and the army lists are built to win the games before they start.

One-day tournaments attract a particular kind of player. SmogCon attracts everyone. If you play anything produced by Privateer Press you’ll be able to play it there, and given that it runs non-stop from 9 on the Friday to 5 on the Sunday, you’ll be able to play a lot of it. Going to SmogCon is a breath of fresh air (as it were), and it turns me from embittered ragequitter to born-again fanboy every time.

 

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: At The End Of The Road, He Calls Everyone Home…

Let’s start with an admission.

I played eleven games of Warmahordes over two days and lost ten of them.

Weirdly enough, this doesn’t bother me as much as it might. It’s all in the expectations. I went to the Winter Warmup thinking I might win something; I went to SmogCon thinking I’d probably win nothing, but that if I got to catch up with everyone I know from previous clubs/the tournament circuit, and play a shitload of Warmahordes, and try out the IKRPG at last, and take home some swag from the SmogPit, I’d be basically happy.

I managed to miss Russ entirely, and I didn’t get to play many of the Darklords in the end, and I did end up dropping from the Con on the Saturday night. Turns out that sleeping on the floor of the drawing room, for about three hours, after a twenty-two hour day, renders you quite vulnerable to chronic sleepiness and con-plague; since I need to be awake and in possession of a working voicebox to do my job, I decided to bail and sleep off the side-effects rather than drag myself through a painful Sunday.

Apart from that, though, mission accomplished. My second three-day con ever, and the first where I’d be doing anything more stressful than host a panel or two and spend the rest of the weekend in my hotel room writing, surfacing for dinner and the occasional round of Mijnlieff, and I bloody loved it.

I rolled up to the venue at about two p/m on the Friday, ‘fresh’ from a four-day depressive funk, about three hours’ sleep since Thursday morning, and a six-hour marking session as I tried to cram in all the work I should have done instead of sitting around in my dressing gown, feeling near-fatally miserable and playing Hearthstone. Took me a while to find the Mandolay Hotel, as I’d come in on the ‘wrong’ side of Guildford; fortunately, I stumbled on foppish Nick Topham and the lovely Adrienne and they informed me that no, I hadn’t walked up that sodding great hill for nothing.

Anyway, I got in and, lacking any of that tedious ‘hotel room’ business to deal with, threw myself straight into the SmogPit; a run of tables open for casual gaming all weekend, with every game played accumulating points that could be exchanged for Valuable Prizes, or for Mr. Chom’s Mystery Boxes. I had my eye on the nifty Iron Arena template sets, and set myself two missions: earn 25 Pit points to get some templates, and play on some of the special scenario tables.

The undoubted highlight of my first day in the Pit was FINALLY getting to play the ‘Smoke on the Water’ scenario from Escalation… but I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s run through the first day’s Pit results:

  1. 35 points vs. Jay’s Trollbloods. Lost after an Earthborn Trampled and Goaded through difficult terrain to nab Ossyran, who’d moved upfield to try and Chronophage Cannon the aforementioned Earthborn and missed.
  2. 35 points vs. … someone… with a Cygnar army. I conceded this one after horribly botching my second turn, effectively denying my army a turn of shooting and thus the opportunity to do anything before being massacred. Wouldn’t normally have done that, but my opponent was also playing in Hydra later in the night so I figured we might well draw each other again and get a proper game in.
  3. 35 points vs. Darklord Dave P.’s shiny new Convergence of Cyriss. A player I’ve never beaten, and an army I still haven’t figured out, but a game I played surprisingly well, only just failing an assassination run on Syntherion, who was left on two boxes by the time Ossyran’s feat turn was over. I regret nothing – the closest I’ve ever come to beating Dave, and it was marvellous catching up with him.
  4. 35 points vs. Benj’s Menoth – SMOKE ON THE WATER, and a Battle Box game ’cause we were killing time between Hydra registration and the actual event. My notes start to become indecipherable at this point… “fucked up – nearly lost, ate 2 frees, nearly won”… I think this is something to do with poor movement of Kaelyssa or one of her ‘jacks, against a knocked-together eFeora force (which isn’t, technically speaking, a Battle Box, but whatever).

And then it was Hydra time! Y’know, the event for which I put together this whole Retribution project in the first place, since my Mercenaries would be virtually unplayable in the format. 35 points, same list with a random caster from a pool of 5, running from 2100 to 0300 (or ‘whenever we’re done’, as foppish Topham put it).

First round: I drew Ossyran (who I’d been playing all day…) against Khador, with the new Super Epic Mega Plus Butcher – the one with the two Arguses (Arguii?). I lost this one ’cause I gimped my activation order on a turn in which Ossyran was engaged by Fenris but somehow (due to high DEF, I think) still alive. I moved my Dawnguard on the basis that I could CRA into melee, which of course I can’t: one of those things you don’t know if you started out playing Cryx and don’t know a Combined Ranged Attack from a Massive Casualties Check. I also learned that you can’t Combine charge and non-charge attacks, having made some decisions involving Houseguard Halberdiers on the understanding that you could. Had I just had Ossyran swing his sword and kill Fenris, I’d have been in a reasonable position to just shoot the Butcher’s army out from under him and then stay out of his way until I could win on scenario or something.

Second round: Garryth. Oh poop. Against Lich Lord Asphyxious. Oh poop poop. Arguably the best warcaster in the game against arguably the worst. And yet, and yet… this was the game I managed to win. With Bane Knights carpet-bombed by Stormfall Archers, dying of Fire on their own turns and thus not getting to Vengeance, with Bile Thralls Combustioned off the field (though this did mean the poor Phoenix got rear-charged by the Withershadow Combine and turned into a Harrower), and with Halberdiers dying in droves to Venom and Nightwretch blasts, the game was a rather tense pile-up until Garryth was able to leap forward, drill Asphyxious with two bullets, feat to prevent him spending his eleven focus to teleport away, and then chase him down to plug two more shots in his face and finish the job.

Stewart… didn’t take it well. He had my usual face – the “what the fuck, I had that in the bag, I hate this game” face, and much like myself he needed a good five minutes to pull himself together and apologise for his graceless behaviour. All was of course forgiven; I’ve been there and done that too many times in the last eight years, and that is Garryth’s game, really; lose, lose, lose and then seize on the chance for a crafty last-minute win.

Also, apropos of nothing, I miss Cryx.

Third round: Kaelyssa, vs. Paul F.’s Legion of Everblight with Rhyas at the helm. A somewhat overambitious assassination attempt on a camped-up Rhyas with Rapport upkept left Kaelyssa too far forward, and gave Paul a textbook ‘walk in and whack’ Rhyas kill. The PGs who’d taken over from Foppish asked if I’d be dropping, given that I couldn’t win anything and it was well after one o’clock by now. I said words to the event of “sod that, Hydra’s what I built this army to play!” and pressed on…

Fourth and final round: Ravyn, vs. a nice bloke called Luke running eKreoss. Tackling Menoth in timed turns is always difficult; working out what you’re actually allowed to do takes up precious doing-things time, especially at two in the bloody morning. Despite that, I managed to dismantle the army pretty well, shooting up Exemplars and reducing Kreoss to his battlegroup and support elements. Unfortunately, I bodged up the activation order again – what should have been a “shoot the screen, CRA the caster, charge in with the Phoenix to finish” became a “charge the screen, charge the caster, try for dodgy Flank run” – once again, I failed to implement the Blood Bowler’s Lessons (“Greed Ain’t Good”, “Safety First” and “Don’t Roll Dice Unless You Need To”). In my defence, it was two a/m and I’d not slept in twenty-four hours.

After a quick chat with Corehammer‘s Neil (the rest of the lads were off at Ill Blood in London), I found a quiet corner in which to doze and did so fitfully, awakening at 0530 to the sound of the night manager watching Takeshi’s Castle. Lacking the gumption to attempt further sleepage, and gasping for a cuppa, I essayed forth to the SmogPit once again – many of the chaps were still awake, most notably Jimmy ‘GStar’ Stark, who’d been running the Pit since midnight and who was still in a fit state to throw down on the Smoke on the Water table again. Day two went no better than day one…

  1. 35 points vs. Jimmy and his Trollbloods – Smoke On The Water again, and my fifth game and fifth opponent, earning heap big bonus points. This was a loooong game for two insomniacs, neither of whom had really had any rest in two days. My one fatal mistake was putting my Dawnguard in the middle of the barge rather than toward the back; to get them into the action they had to move forward toward Boris the Night Troll, who kept them locked down in melee with Warders for most of the game. With Grissel standing behind walls or elevated on walkways, under the protection of the Krielstone, I just couldn’t land a kill shot on her, although I did, to my glee, manage to Force Hammer/Telekinesis a Dire Troll off the side of the barge.
  2. 35 points vs. Alex and his Retribution, in the Beer Barrel Bash! scenario. A fun one on paper, with a tent that handed out Fearless/Tough/Stumbling Drunk/Hyper-Aggressive if Dominated, and barrels that needed to be moved back to the deployment zone or destroyed in order to score control points. Alas, this was a non-game in which Alex had the perfect list to remove two barrels on cue and score full points for the third. Might have been more fun if Garryth hadn’t had to spend the whole game hiding out of the effective range of Alex’s Mage Hunters, too, or if I’d managed to hit his Kaelyssa with my Eiryss.
  3. And finally, needing to earn three more Pit points, I opted for a 50 pointer against Paul G’s. Privateers. A huge infantry swarm with a Colossal. In 50 points. Was I mad? After the Winter Warmup, had I not learned that this was a game I’d hate?
    I didn’t. The Galleon is much less scary when it doesn’t have Dougal hiding behind it (he’s not welcome in Captain Shae’s Theme Force, you see), and the infantry swarm stayed sufficiently bunched up for a few key Star Falls on their back line and a run of Halberdier stabbings up front. My Banshee drew the Colossal’s tender affections and my Phoenix, on the other flank, had free reign to hot-swap Death Sentence between Pirate units as needed. Garryth had a route to plant two shots on Shae… and alas, didn’t quite manage it. The only piece I had left with which to land the kill was the flanking Eiryss, who’d run around the side of Paul’s army two turns ago for that express purpose… and who I’d forgotten to move for two turns. Bugger, blast and damnation.

With 25 points under my belt and the template set in my pocket, I hied me onwards to the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game demo. I’d been itching to give this game a go for a while, but not being made of money I couldn’t justify dropping £45 on it sight-unseen. Long-suffering demo-GM Lewis D put on an outstanding show. While I’ll be making another post down the line (here or on COREHAMMER) in which I actually review the IKRPG, I’d like to take the time to thank Lewis for one of the best RPG sessions I’ve had the privilege of playing in, and for convincing me that the game was not only worth a shot but potentially a better route into the Iron Kingdoms for yours truly than the wargame is.. I would also like to apologise to my fellow players for ze outrageous Llaelese accent, and for deciding that my logical course of action was OBVIOUSLY “convert to Thamarism and take over the antagonist’s cult”. I’d actually like to play my character in that group again – being the token evil teammate’s always had a certain appeal to me, and the chaps were outrageously good sports.

Now, I’d registered for the Scalpel tournament on Saturday night, but at this stage, the thought of playing any more Retribution made me want to throw up. There was the prospect of Malifaux, but it’d involve a trek down to the other SmogCon site, and I haven’t so much as glanced at the M2E rules for my Gremlins. There was Mr. Chom’s SmogPit BattleBox tournament, but… well… I stopped off behind the Pit desk for an hour’s nap, and Chom – despite instructions – woke me after registering people for the mini-tournament, not before.

Under the circumstances, and with the option of a half-hour walk, an hour’s train ride, and a night’s sleep in my own bed, I decided that might as well be the end of the road.

[WM/H] Road To SmogCon: List Review and Game Reports!

After a poor showing at the Winter Warmup and a lukewarm finish to the Clapham Wargamers’ Guild league (the latter due to ill health and parlous finances), it’s time to have a look at my Retribution; what I have, how it’s done, and how it might be expanded in future.

First up, a reminder of the list:

[random warcaster] – pool comprises Garryth, Ravyn, Ossyran, Rahn and Kaelyssa
– Phoenix
– Sylys Wyshnylarr

10 Dawnguard Invictors + Officer & Standard
10 Houseguard Halberdiers + Officer & Standard + Soulless Escort
Stormfall Archers

Arcanist

The Casters

Garryth I have only used once (damn that not-getting-to-club-ness) and botched a few rules in that game. Nonetheless, I did manage to learn a few things; Garryth demands to be played forward, and it’s probably worth moving him into key (i.e. Dominatable) areas and camping focus unless there’s a very good reason not to do that.

Rahn I have also only used once (ditto) and while I misplayed the game, I did feel that he was able to cut the mustard without a swarm of Battle Mages backing him up. There’s a lot he can do on his feat turn in and of himself, with Sylys and a resilient arc node and an Arcanist to place the latter where it needs to be.

Ravyn and I have a complex relationship, though we’re on our third or fourth date now, which is an improvement on my partnerships with either of the chaps. In both the two league games, Ravyn did a lot without doing a lot; placing down Veils of Mists to protect me and help me reposition, buffin’ the shootin’ like it’s goin’ out of fashion, and threatening to murder everything with Vortex of Destruction even though she never actually touched anyone with the sharp end of Hellebore. I’ve seen her jump out and butcher half a unit at the end of a game, but I think she’s more subtle than I’ve been giving her credit for being.

Ossyran I am very comfortable with, although I’m still settling into the niceties of his rules after one loss and two wins. I think he’s the caster most suited to my collection; the Quickened Halberdiers, Shatter Stormed Invictors and Admonitioned Phoenix are devices which I’m comfortable with deploying (although I do need to speed up the resolution of AOE attacks, they’re such a flippin’ time sink – I miss just saying “Purge, POW12 auto hit, take it off or take Corrosion” and having that be my clearance strategy).

And finally, there’s Kaelyssa… who I can’t figure out like I can either of the 6-focus casters in the middle. She and Garryth are in an awkward “does this, does that, but where’s the win button?” pickle and if either of them turn out to be my dud for SmogCon I won’t be too sad (though I’ll cry tears of blood if I have to leave Ossyran out). I’ve won games with her, but mostly through accidental stuff like good matchups and fluke hits from Halberdiers.

The odd duck in the room has proven to be new arrival Issyria, who… well, I’ll talk though her in her own post, since I am very conflicted. Suffice to say that I may try and grab her before or even at SmogCon and might run her through Scalpel as the ultimate learning process. We shall see.

The Battlegroup and Arcanist

The Phoenix has proved to be an excellent toolbox as single ‘jacks go, although even with the Arcanist it’s struggled to take down other heavies (four straight-dice rolls could be enough but have often ended up failing me). The two things I’m still struggling with remembering are the gun (although I have fired it a few times now!) and power attacks, especially for slamming something into a key target and then arcing a spell into it.

Talking of the Arcanist, I concede that he has definitely made the list run more smoothly, even if it’s just been providing the focus for the Phoenix to run or boost a gunshot, although he has frequently found himself left behind if it’s had an ambitious turn. I almost wonder if two of them, one running and the other activating, might not guarantee that one’s in the right place at the right time, and whether that might not be a better buy than the Soulless I don’t really know how to use.

Sylys, meanwhile, is just always always always useful; there isn’t a single caster I’ve run with who hasn’t appreciated the free upkeep spell and the extra efficiency from Arcane Secrets. Best two points I’ve ever spent. The hard part would be choosing which caster to run without him in a Character-restricted environment.

The Units

The Halberdiers have rapidly become my favourite infantry unit – they have everything they need to be good chaff and with their unit attachment they become quite a serious threat even off the charge. I’ve had one or two issues with them, though. Deep-deploying clusters of Halberdiers and support pieces rapidly become AOE bait, and a few blasts on Halberdiers have clipped high-DEF stuff sheltering among them, and it’s occasionally been difficult working out whether to fan them out (to control lanes with their Reach and have the depth to charge the rearmost ones into whatever engages or murders the front ones) or cluster them up (to ensure high ARM engaging things that I want engaged and get mileage out of Team Effort).

I’m somewhat less enamoured of the Invictors. In principle, they’re brilliant; in practice, I’ve had trouble making them work. They’re slow, they have middling range, they tend to get snarled up with the Stormfalls and rear Halberdiers, creating big clusters of AOE or Trample bait. They may work better as a flanking force, with the Phoenix deployed centrally to support them with spells and Flank (or for them to help the Phoenix with Flank charges to disengage it) but then I worry that their lack of SPD will betray them; not all my casters can necessarily get them moving. I haven’t also been able to get much legwork out of Extended Fire; either they’ve lacked sufficient targets for it to be worth using or I’ve been running them as a flank or second line unit, waiting for a kill-shot that never comes.

The Stormfall Archers, though, them’s brilliant. Well. Not quite brilliant. Brilliant would involve them hitting reliably; standing still and Sniping’s pretty good but if they want to use either of their fancy shot types they often have to move into range, and RAT 5 just doesn’t cut sufficient mustard a lot of the time. I’m also having trouble with placing them; they occupy the same sort of range band as the Invictors and so they want to be in the same space a lot of the time. I’ll have to experiment with flanking the Archers, sending them out on their own, or with co-ordinating the two units across the battle-line rather than matching them up 1:1 against particular targets.

The Soulless, meanwhile, has seen one game and done next to nothing in it. I’m still thinking about which unit I want him in, or whether to just bite the bullet and take a second Arcanist instead. Putting him in the Halberdiers will help with clearing upkeep nonsense off them, but they tend to be so close to the enemy that -5″ on the range of enemy spells isn’t really that big a deal. Putting him in the Invictors might help them continue performing (or underperforming) but it leaves the Halberdiers prone to any Crippling Grasp that comes their way. I ‘unno.

The Future

I already own a Vyre heavy myrmidon chassis, which is going to be a Banshee/Sphinx magnetised wonderbunny as soon as I can find my sodding magnets. Commentary on the Banshee will be reserved for when I haven’t denied myself an assassination opportunity with it (by slamming the target out of range of my entire army), lost its primary weapon to a free strike which it wouldn’t have taken if I’d just been patient and trampled instead of trying for a charge, or lost it turn one to a Colossal focusing all its pernicious attentions on the poor thing.

Having watched some far better players at work during the Winter Warmup, I conclude that I need to be getting my buns into the scenario control zones sooner, especially if not running Ossyran. What’s needed is something that Advance Deploys, is quite hard to wipe out, and can ideally put some threat out on turn one. Some species of Mage Hunter, in other words, and I can only really afford/be bothered to paint one unit. That means Strike Force or Infiltrators, with Commander Eiryss as an option for either or the Officer for the Strike Force. I currently lean toward the Strike Force; they have two Unit Attachment options and thus can be fielded as Advance Deployed, Pathfinding shooters in two lists at tournament level, and I generally like my Retribution units to have guns rather than not have them (the Halberdiers are an honourable exception because they’re just so damn pretty).

The Houseguard Thane would also help matters in that regard. As mentioned in the previous post, I’ve evaluated him purely on the obvious synergy (with the Riflemen) and not on the ramifications of scenario play (a 14″ run or 11″ Shield Wall with most casters, jumping to an obscene 18″ and 13″ with Ossyran, plus Fearlessness, plus another gun that’s not FA:C). That was a mistake. I’m also seeing more and more the viability of solos in scenario play; while a unit needs to have half its strength in the zone (thus affecting the wide footprint and base for threat projection that makes infantry good in this game), a solo just needs to plant its own base therein, and the Thane’s essentially supportive nature means he can probably be parked on a flag and left to his own devices provided a Halberdier’s within his CMD range.

Solos also make me think thoughts about Battle Mages. I could go for the unit here, but truth be told I’m more into a handful of solos; two Magisters and two Artificers. For starters, the above comments about solos seem perfectly suited to midfield support pieces like Battle Mages; for mains, I need something else for Rahn’s feat turn besides the man himself; for pudding, oh tasty tasty pudding, I’m very tempted indeed by Rahn’s No Quarter Theme Force, “Fires From On High”, for 50 point games. Advance Deployment on my slow Stormfalls, Sylys and Houseguard Halberdiers in-theme, a discount on the Phoenix and, crucially, a requirement to take something I’ve been looking at for a while.

Hyperion. Yes, I’m looking at the eighty pound eighteen point Colossal and thinking “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. There’s also my oft-noted difficulty with large numbers of actors; sinking 20% of the available points into one model should help me with managing the amount of stuff on the board. There’s the imminent emergence of Issyria, who is (as we shall see, and as has been said) pretty much tailor-made for Hyperion. There’s also the small matter that I could continue my Warcraft-themed aesthetic by painting it up as the Dark Animus. I don’t usually go much on big, expensive centrepiece models, but if it were to see play in every 50 point game and help me overcome the difficulties I have in playing such games (“here’s 35 points of stuff, which I know I can handle, plus Hyperion”)… that might actually be worth the investment.

At the moment, I’ve set Hyperion as my pledge reward for keeping all my Nerd Year’s Resolutions. Some of these are, typically, under negotiation, mostly the ones that involve buying or doing new stuff rather than the ones that are actual restrictions. At the moment, here’s the pledge-list:

  1. I will start up and run an in-house WFRP game which will run for at least six sessions.
  2. I will build/repair and paint/restore at least 2400 points of Vampire Counts, with at least 500 points of totally new stuff.
  3. I will build a viable Good force and Moria battlefield for the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and make Hark blog about them.
  4. I will paint and base a 50 point Retribution army by the end of March, and then purchase no more.
  5. I will lay hands on two starter sets plus kit for Freebooter’s Fate and run at least four demonstration games.
  6. I will not transfer more than two WoW characters during the entire year.
  7. I may build new Magic decks but I will not buy new Magic decks; they must be based on cards within the collection or obtained through drafts/boosters.
  8. I will do all of this on a budget of no more than £300, plus whatever is earned from selling unwanted goods.

Stand by all that and I can buy Hyperion at the end of the year. WFRP might stand for Warhammer Fantasy Role Play or Weird Fantasy Role Playing, depending on how ambitious I’m feeling; the Lord of the Rings might be nudged sideways and be called ‘Hark’s responsibility’. About time one of my co-authors did something around here.

[WM/H] And The Hammer Came Down: A Bad Seeds Report

I’ve been playing Magnus the Warlord week in, week out for the Slow Grow League up at Dark Sphere, and doing quite well, troubling the top three despite a second week in which I lost the ability to gauge threat ranges, charge lanes or indeed anything that might keep Magnus alive for more than two turns.

Continue reading “[WM/H] And The Hammer Came Down: A Bad Seeds Report”

[WM/H] Fun, Quick & Dirty II – Event Report

Intro – Dun, Fick & QWERTY

Those of you who endure my company on a regular basis will know that I was a bit worried about this ‘un. I haven’t exactly conducted myself with grace, dignity and sportsmanship at previous Warmachine events and was starting to wonder if something had changed since 2008 (the last time I remember making it through with a smile on my face). Fun, Quick and Dirty II was in many ways my last chance; I was sorely considering hanging up my away pass and becoming a garage gamer if I couldn’t manage to behave like a civilised human being at this ‘un.

I was doubly concerned since, no matter what happened, I’d resolved to go into this with a new faction. Only able to come up with one Cryx list I was really interested in playing, it was either going to be Khador or Circle, and I’d been hedging my bets for weeks, waiting to see if the Circle I’m sure I bought were ever going to turn up. As a result I’d only had four games with each faction and didn’t really have any meaningful idea what I’d be doing. Couple that with my usual ‘scenario? Sounds like too much hard work to me’ routine and victories seemed unlikely. I was going in expecting to lose – almost wanting to, actually. Anything to avoid my usual bad-karma-for-big-wins routine whereby I do too well early on, end up with a strength of schedule I don’t really deserve, and find myself encountering people who are flat-out better than me. They don’t get a challenge and I don’t get a chance. I had no intention of throwing any games, mind; I was just hoping for a couple of stonkings early in the day rather than a run of them towards the end when I was all tired and cross.

In the end it turned out to be Khador I’d be disgracing at the event, with three lists: the good, the dodgy, and the one made up of whatever I hadn’t used up the Field Allowance for. Bear in mind that my Khador collection predates Warmachine: Apotheosis and has received one – one! – new model, plus the Nyss Hunters parachuted in to make up the numbers.

First list: Tech Tech Tech

Vladimir, The Dark Prince (*5pts)
* Devastator (9pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
* Koldun Kapitan Valachev (2pts)
Greylord Ternion (Leader and 2 Grunts) (4pts)

Second list: Freeze, motherlicker!

Kommander Sorscha (*5pts)
* Destroyer (9pts)
Iron Fang Pikemen (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
* Iron Fang Pikemen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Widowmakers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (4pts)
Man-o-war Kovnik (3pts)
Manhunter (2pts)

Third list: BUTCHER STRONGEST ONE THERE IS

The Butcher of Khardov (*6pts)
* Juggernaut (7pts)
* Marauder (7pts)
Greylord Ternion (Leader and 2 Grunts) (4pts)
Kossite Woodsmen (Leader and 5 Grunts) (4pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Manhunter (2pts)

Game One – James Boosey, Khador

Epic Sorscha
* Spriggan
Great Bears of Gallowswood
Doom Reavers
Widowmakers
Reinholdt

Well, Operation ‘Lose The First Game’ looked to be off to a flying start. I’d never met James before but I’d been sneaky and looked him up on Rankings HQ a few days ago, when the draws were declared, and he seemed to be made of respectable stuff. The spellproof front line of Weapon Masters and the amount of advance deploying stuff in James’ list meant the scenario control zone was pretty much his, and Sorscha would contribute a lot more to the battle from arm’s length than the poor ol’ Butcher. My best bet, I figured, would be to drive the Big Red Battlegroup right up James’ nose, clearing the Doom Reavers out of the way with trusty Kossite firepower. To accomplish that I’d need to draw them off toward a board edge, and the Manhunter/Gorman tag team drew the short straw, deployed to make a run around James’ flank and get his attention.

James, going first, was able to fan out and gobble most of the scenario control area. Spiteful little devil that I am, I responded by sending the Manhunter on his mission of murder, chopping the outermost Doom Reaver into a fine paste. The rest of Team Butcher ground slowly upfield, with Iron Flesh and smoke clouds aplenty going up.

The Manhunter suffered the expected fate, as several Fellblade-toting headcases waddled up to Reave his Doom. On the other side the Great Bears hunkered up and made base-to-base noises, and the rest of the army hunkered down in midfield, taking a few potshots at the Juggernaut in an effort to expose its cortex.

I kept grinding forward – Gorman lobbed an Acid Bomb over the three Doom Reavers who’d scrobbled my Manhunter, and the Kossites edged onto the field, taking potshots at some Widowmakers that probably didn’t achieve anything and then ducking back into cover with Reform. I forget, if I’m honest. Clouds again, Iron Flesh stayed up. I kept the jacks back largely to keep the Butcher safe while he was lumbering along at four inches per turn, and because I wanted James’ army coming towards said Butcher rather than hanging around out of my threat range.

Reinholdt squinted down his peeper-scope, determined that the distance was favourable, and politely suggested popping Sorscha’s feat and sending the Spriggan forth to batter my two jacks into dust once they’d been softened up a bit more by the Widowmakers. James took that suggestion and ran with it, drawing the Great Bears back to protect Sorscha.

The one downside to this brilliant plan is that it meant the Butcher – even with Iron Flesh up – was able to feat, waddle forward the whole two inches permitted to him, and scrap the Spriggan in a couple of blows, with Gorman’s Rust bomb sealing the deal. The Greylords chopped up a Doom Reaver, and the Kossites failed to hit the one Widowmaker they could reach.

Sorscha pulled back to the nearest flag and enabled the Widowmakers to score a control point while they shot up four Kossites. The last Doom Reaver bagged himself a Greylord, while the Great Bears were sent forth to carve up the Butcher, unleashing exactly six shades of hell in his general direction.

Alas, like James’ dice, this wasn’t quite enough – Iron Flesh kept quite a few sevens from connecting – and they actually failed to so much as hit him, let alone scratch his paintwork remotely. The Butcher evidently took their failure as a sign of weakness and gave them the appropriate treatment for all sons of Khador who fail in their duty, while Gorman tossed another acid bomb onto the last Doom Reaver, and the surviving Greylord and Kossites botched their attacks on James’ Widowmakers.

James’ Widowmakers showed no such reluctance, capping my remaining infantry but not managing to land hits on Gorman or the Butcher. Sorscha whipped her quad-iron out to finish the job, scored her last control point, and left the Butcher scowling ineffectively from atop his pile of smoking ruined warjacks.

A loss, then, but a loss by scenario and with bog-all from either army left on the board, so the best kind! James went on to take third place, and very well deserved it was too; he played a tight game and was clearly in this to learn tricks and fiddles from players of a somewhat higher calibre than my bad self. More to the point, I’d managed to lose without being a total pushover, which is pretty much exactly what I’d been hoping for…

Game Two – Kira Chapman, Circle Orboros

Epic Kaya
* Laris
* Warpwolf Stalker
* Shadowhorn Satyr
* Argus
Druid Wilder

Kira poses a unique set of challenges for the unwary gamer – for starters, it’s easy to spend so much time prostrating yourself before her glorious-looking army that you forget to actually deploy your own, and for seconds, she’s significant-othered with my arch-nemesis Stanford, who made it quite clear that anyone beating her – particularly anyone from our club beating her – would be invited to step outside. And then step back inside again.

With that in mind, I decided to take the Sorscha list – the one I am, all things considered, a bit crap with. Kira selected Kaya the Moonhunter, a warlock I myself am passingly familiar with, although you’d never bloody guess it from the number of times I had to ask what she did and didn’t have to force her beasts for.

While these points of data formed a beautiful line, I opted for the ‘ruthless little ratbag’ approach, setting up where I could quickly get Widowmakers and Manhunter into cover (turn one) and blockade the central gap with Shield Walled Iron Fangs (turn two). Not that it’d matter much against Circle, who go where they bally well want, but it’d look good and it sounded very tactical.

I went first and successfully executed part one of the plan, with Sorscha sweeping up with a Rush of Wind and a War Fog… or something like that anyway. Kira reacted by piling forward and spreading out, putting up Shadow Pack and Forcing some Evolution out of the Shadowhorn.

The charge that followed was rather exciting and seemingly impossible to photograph; I made three attempts and the ensuing crock is about the best of them. Lest it be impossible to discern a thing from what is allegedly an image, let me explain; the Destroyer received Boundless Charge and took a chunk out of the Satyr, while the Iron Fangs piled up, realised Circle beasts are quite hard to hit, and opted for some inefficient Combine Melee Attacks that knocked down and killed Laris as well as blasting a bit more of the Satyr off. The Fangs then used ‘that thing that they do what makes them move and Shield Wall’ (I can never remember what it’s actually called) to surround and pen in the Satyr and tie up Kaya with three ARM 18 bodies.

On the other flank, the Manhunter charged Kira’s Stalker and thumped it a few times, while the Widomakers went for some opportunistic shots on the Druid Wilder (the only Circle model without Stealth). Lurking in cover, the Druid was up to DEF 18 and I expected I’d have to sink the squad’s efforts into killing her. Imagine my shock when the Widowmaker leader blew the hippy tart’s ‘do off with her first shot!

Now trapped outside of Kaya’s control area, the Stalker frenzied, but failed to hit the Manhunter with its wild and furious flailings. Result! Kaya and the Argus did their best to chop up the Iron Fangs, but one survived and Kaya was looking a bit the worse for fury by the time the turn was over. Still, Kira seemed unperturbed; she just said some words like ‘Vitality’ and ‘double handed throw’ and ‘thataway’ and before I quite knew what was what, my single wound Iron Fangs had all gone crunch and the Officer was looking a bit the worse for wear too. I was so shocked I forgot how to take photos!

I’d been intending to Boundless Charge both Kovnik and Destroyer into Kaya but goofed by activating the Iron Fangs first, reforming Shield Wall and failing to impress the Shadowhorn. Out of spite, I Wind Rushed Sorscha onto the hill, feated – provoking a short debate over whether Stealthed models are still in Line of Sight even though they can be seen through to target things behind them – and caught Satyr, Argus and Moonhunter alike, and then charged the Satyr to finish it off. The Destroyer charged the Argus and didn’t quite nobble it, and the Manhunter lopped the Stalker’s Spirit off. That put the kybosh on Kira’s plan to have him kill the Manhunter, Lightning Strike himself, and then teleport back over the board with Kaya’s feat, moving up (from Lightning Strike) to threaten Sorscha, and seeing the warcaster and Weapon Master closing in, she called the game there.

A win – the first one of those I’d seen in a while! – and, at last, what I felt to be a well-timed use of Sorscha’s feat. It could have been set off a turn earlier to help the Iron Fangs and Destroyer with the two beasts on the hill, but that would have denied me the chance to use it on Kaya and soak up her fury on the later turn when she really needed those points to chop up Iron Fangs. Just wish I’d thought to use it before activating the Fangs, though – so well timed, but not perfect.

Let the record show, incidentally, that Kira was inhumanly unlucky with her rolls to hit the Manhunter or the Iron Fangs; while I think I played this one well, some more love from the dice could have kept her in the game a lot longer.

Somewhat concerned at the number of Victory Points I was accumulating, which would see me drifting back into the middle tables, it was with a cautious heart that I made my way to the front and saw another name that I didn’t recognise…

Game Three – Neal Barton, Protectorate of Menoth

Epic Feora
* Vanquisher
* Redeemer (bonded)
* Repenter
* Dervish
Choir of Menoth
Vassal of Menoth

Unfortunately, owing to one of those “hang on I’ve already played him” moments on the next table over, I would never get to find out what my mystery opponent was made of – an emergency swap left me squaring off against Mr. Bandwagon, who’d returned to his godbothering roots and brought a metal heavy epic Feora list. I was a bit queasy about this one – I only had the infantry-heavy Vlad list left and frankly even scatter damage kills Nyss, never mind Fire. The man, the list and the first turn’s movement are all shown here, in a hasty “oh gawd I forgot to take photos” instance that will absolutely not happen again.

I tried to set up in breadth, to consider the scenario objectives, and in depth, to avoid losing all my Nyss in one go. My plan was to use Vlad and Wind Wall to deliver the Devastator and Greylords forward, and let the first wave of Nyss die that the second might avenge them with Weapon Mastery goodness.

It didn’t really work out that way. A hail of Vanquisher shots, Ancillary Attacks and ROF 3 bonded Fire-causing Redeemer shots later, the front rank of Nyss was dead, Valachev and Vlad were both on fire, I wasn’t allowed to shoot any ‘jacks, and I’d dropped my camera, causing a small crack in the bottom of the casing that would come back to haunt me again and again. Nevertheless, everything important was still alive and I still had some tricks up my sleeve…

The Nyss advanced, and Valachev used Zephyr to nudge them around so they could take pot-shots at the Choir and kill a couple, thanks to Signs and Portents. Signs and Portents also helped when the Devastator, powered up with Forced March and Boundless Charge, barnstormed thirteen inches forward, barged the Vanquisher back, pummelled half its boxes off and blew up another Choirboy. I moved the Greylords up too, dropped some clouds since I didn’t have spray range to anything, and… oh.

Close inspection of the board revealed not only the clear charge lane the Dervish has on Vlad, but also my brain, sitting where I dropped it. Loading the Devastator up and casting Boundless Charge as well as Signs and Portents had left me without enough to cast Blood of Kings and get Vlad stuck in, or even protected from the inevitable reprisals down that lane that I’d for some reason left wide open. I put it down to getting carried away with all the tech in the list, and forgetting the basics of Warmahordes tactics in a rush of options and enthusiasm.

Some Nyss got shot, Feora feated, the Dervish got loaded up with three focus and Incite and something that Vassals do, and that was very much the end of that. Shame really. I’d been chatting to Stanford about this and we’d agreed that it’s one thing to be outplayed, another to be outrolled, and quite another to suffer a bout of the Stupid Virus and essentially give a game away. A game between two well-matched and entertaining people can sometimes be cut brutally short by something dumb like this, and it’s mistakes of this nature that can really spoil someone’s day if too many are made on the trot.

Still! Back down the tables to relative safety I went, and there was time for a godlike sandwich and a carrot cake as well. Chom reckons that FQD will be essentially a bake sale with demonstration games in the corner by 2014. He’s probably right. Over lunch, I decided to drop the Sorscha list and see if I could win games with the other two.

Game Four – Shaun Price, Cryx

Goreshade the Bastard
* Slayer
Warwitch Siren
Bane Lord Tartarus
6 Bane Knights
6 Bane Thralls
* Officer and Standard

*sigh*

It was bound to happen, sooner or later. Five years of accumulated karma from prancing about debuffing and dodging and not playing the game properly were bound to revenge themselves on me one day. I’d already been thinking “play Butcher and save Vlad for the last game” and when I saw Shaun’s list I felt vindicated. I’m not ashamed to admit that my plan here was to throw the Butcher list (which I wasn’t too keen on) to the wolves and save the Vlad list, which I actually liked, for a game where I thought I’d stand the slightest chance of making a meaningful impact. Plus I’d dropped the camera last round and broken the exact chunk of casing which holds the battery slot shut.

At least I got to go first. Not that I particularly wanted to get within threat range of this lot, but whatever. I’d decided to put the Kossites on the board at the start, like I’d originally planned, so that they could have Fury and maybe hurt something at some point, ever. The Butcher had Iron Flesh on himself and everything else ran up or threw clouds, except Gorman, who bolted across the line to maybe debuff the Slayer at some point. The batteries fell out of my camera.

It seemed neither of us really wanted to commit; Shaun edged forward to cement his defence of my objective and seemed content to creep toward his. I moved the Kossites up, potshotted a Bane Knight, and Reformed back so Vengeance wouldn’t net him any free kills. You want to kill my Kossites, you can do it in your activation like everyone else!

He did. He also tore the cortex and left arm off the Juggernaut, and then sent the Slayer after a Greylord, killed it, and leapt back into his own lines via Soul Gate. I would later discover, to my cost, that it was slightly more than seven inches away…

The surviving Kossites and Greylords proved unable to kill the Bane Knights tying my Juggernaut down, meaning that it had to waste its Full Throttle on carving up Banes instead of charging forward; this left the Marauder out on its own, to charge and fall just short of the Slayer. I missed Boundless Charge already. At least Gorman nobbled a Knight or two with his acid bomb. The batteries fell out of my camera again.

Shaun moved up and scrapped the Marauder with his Bane Thralls, while Tartarus killed the last Kossite and made a new Bane Knight who joined in some ineffectual attacks on the Butcher and some rather more effectual ones on the Juggernaut. The camera was feeling the pressure and so was I.

The Butcher did what he does to the remaning Bane Knights; Gorman Black Oiled Tartarus so that even a knackered Juggernaut could sort him out; the last Greylord piled into Shaun’s objective largely to give him something else to kill. Camera continued to be disappointed. Despite having sorted out Bane Lord Scary and the Knights Who Say ‘Vengeance’, I still had no real plans for actually winning this game; doom seemed to be impending.

There followed a complicated turn in which six Bane Thralls appeared from the ether, scrapped a Juggernaut, killed a Greylord, and failed to land a blow on Gorman, either when charging or when he risked a freestrike to escape, and were then shortly sent back whence they’d come by a combination of acid bombs and a very big axe. The Slayer may have helped scrap the Juggernaut; I forget. Those other Banes were trapped in my objective zone when Shaun timed out on his turn for the second time in the game.

While the surviving Thralls crept around the wreck markers in their path and the Officer charged Gorman into post-alchemist paste, Shaun sent the Deathwalker in to debuff the Butcher a bit, flung an ineffective Hex Blast in his general direction, and finished by dispatching the Slayer in to rip a good sixteen or so health out of him. Many lesser warcasters would be cringing from that little lot, but the Butcher’s tough as boiled bootstraps and cares not for such trivialities as almost being dead. Plus, I had a cunning plan, and Shaun knew it. I picked up the batteries, then picked up the tape measure, and got stuck in.

See, the thing about the Butcher’s base is, it’s quite big, and the thing about his weapon is, it’s got Reach. The combination of these two factors meant he could walk around inside the Slayer’s melee range and still just about reach Goreshade with the business end of Lola. Three focus, nine dice and a Deathwalker substitution later, and that’s all she wrote. I had, rather unexpectedly, won.

I’m not sure I deserved to, with one model left on the board and all, but given that I’d gone into the game with no idea quite how my list was going to stop his, I wasn’t complaining. Shaun took it on the chin marvellously and netted my vote for the Most Sporting para-prize right there, and I was left with the chance of a hat-trick; one win with each of three lists I’d barely used.

Game Five – Rich Loxam, Cryx

Witch Coven
* Deathripper
* Malice
6 Bile Thralls
Withershadow Combine
Warwitch Siren

Rich who? Never heard of him. Team Octopii? Is that some sort of manga? ETC triumph? Like a bunch of uppity Continentals can play proper Warmachine!

Seriously, Loxam’s reputation preceded him, and I was somewhat confused to find him loitering around the middle tables with the likes of me, but he couldn’t be all that if he’d lost two games already today, could he? Okay, so he was running the Coven, a warcaster option I’d given up on in the Field Test on the grounds that it was just boringly simple to win with, and okay, so one foot wrong would see the expensive infantry constituting over half my list get mercilessly pulped by Bile Thralls, and okay, he could actually possess my beloved Devastator and turn it against the Motherland with one of those upgrade kits I just can’t bring myself to spend money on, but still…

Forgive me if I skip the deployment photos and boring ‘run forward casting buffs’ round – it was quite late when I wrote this one up, and the camera had earned itself a short trip to Bunratty Castle to buy the Bunratty Biscuits. What you need to know is that the Bile Thralls have Stealth and the Deathripper has Infernal Machine, while Vlad has Wind Wall up to keep Malice honest. Not that it did any good.

Loxam’s lips moved, a barrage of muttered calculations emerged, and he decided that the turn two assassination with Puppet Strings and FOC9 was worth going for. While he did Shadow Bind Vlad, he couldn’t quite finish him off, and so in theory I had a lot to work with. Even with Nightfall up, the Nyss could effectively move 10” before shooting thanks to Zephyr, ensuring that I should take out all the Bile Thralls, while the Devastator could barge into Malice and cause it some grief like I’d been planning.

However.

Close inspection of the board revealed not only the Deathripper, gambolling around wild and free to repeat the previous turn’s triple-Stygian-Abyss-pour-le-victoire, as they say in ETC land, but also my brain, sitting where I dropped it. Yes, again.

Loading the Devastator up and casting Signs and Portents meant I couldn’t cast Blood of Kings to protect Vlad, which would have been especially handy since I’d forgotten that making a Deathripper Stationary with three Ice Cages doesn’t actually stop it doing what it’s there to do. Barging it backwards with the Devastator on the way into Malice and wailing on them both would have done, and that was eminently do-able from where the Devastator was, if I’d only thought to feat. I put it down to getting carried away with all the tech in the list, and forgetting the basics of Warmahordes tactics in a rush of options and enthusiasm.

Adding insult to injury, I didn’t even kill all the Biles; thanks to Nightfall, one survived, and it only takes one to Purge and score seven victory points (half the Nyss, plus Valachev… lovely). Shame really. It’s one thing to be outplayed, another to be outrolled, and quite another to suffer a bout of the Stupid Virus and essentially give a game away. I’d had a credible shot at beating a Known player, cut brutally short by something dumb, and it’s mistakes of this nature that can really spoil someone’s day if too many are made on the trot.

Outro: And Uncle Von’s Heart Grew Three Sizes That Day

Fortunately, it didn’t spoil mine. In fact, nothing did.

It’s weird; last year’s FQD put a stick up my jacksie and a foul taste in my mouth, while this year’s, with the same win/loss record, left me with this strange warm and fuzzy feeling that I think you real people call ‘happiness’. It’s possible that sensible amounts of caffeine and water in my system and no booze until after the event helped. It’s possible that the more varied pattern of wins and losses kept me cheerful as I didn’t get borne up by a succession of seal clubbings or dragged down by a run of three terrible match-ups. It’s even possible that it’s not playing Cryx that’s done it (worthy of note: the other tournament I remained in good humour at was the one where I played Trollbloods…). I certainly have some entitlement issues regarding the faction, of the “I can’t believe I’m this crap with them after five years” variety, and going into this ‘un with Khador and having only half an idea what I was doing helped lower my expectations a bit. It’s even possible that I might have just manned up a bit and kept my grumpy thoughts in check after the Live And Let Fly debacle (although I still maintain that was the heatstroke talking).

I managed an untidy 21 of 30 (no matter what Chom says) and considering some of the names in residence and my lack of familiarity with Khador I think that’ll do nicely. I’ll do a full review of my three lists on the blog at some later date; there were definitely errors of judgment in the Vlad and Butcher lists, although the Vlad one could expand very nicely at higher point levels and I’m definitely considering playing the faction again in future.

My thanks to James, Kira, Neal, Shaun and Loxam for five excellent games (shame I dropped my brain every time I took Vlad out of the case), to Tim, Jamie and Christine for a fab event and a giant slab of noms, and to Chom for the lift (even if he is trying to claim my place in the standings, the blackguard). No thanks at all to Hark – I don’t care how many dubious Spanish lagers you’ve had, coming in and collapsing on me at one in the morning the night before a tournament is grounds for justified manslaughter and no jury in the land will convict me.

[WM/H] Live And Let Fly, Games III and IV

Game III – MENOTHS!  MUST KILL MENOTHS!

Evidently the Darklords were beginning to conglomerate – or even congeal – around the middle tables at this juncture, as I drew my second clubmate in a row – John Stanford.  I had no idea that Mr. Stanford would be running the Protectorate (they’re not even his Menoths!), but I have lots of experience against the Protectorate… shouldn’t be too hard… right?

Continue reading “[WM/H] Live And Let Fly, Games III and IV”

[WM/H] Live And Let Fly, Game II

Game two saw me drawn against Tim ‘Flash’ Martin, who I know from the Dudley Darklords but who I had yet to have the pleasure of facing. He was rolling with Circle, so I was naturally eager to see what sort of stuff made my Hordes faction of choice tick at 25 points (since I’m fairly sure that Epic Kaya and two heavies ain’t it).

Continue reading “[WM/H] Live And Let Fly, Game II”

[WM/H] Live And Let Fly, Game I

So, with that bout of the emoes over: on to the nerdy stuff!

My first game was against Alun Davies, a Welshman who fears not the unknown, nor the unholy, nor the after-effects of overusing the word “cracking”.  Alun fielded Grand Exemplar Kreoss (okay, I have lots of experience blowing him up) with a lot of Exemplars – an awful lot.  Full unit of Errants (spellproof! argh!) plus the Errant Seneschal, full unit of Bastions (argh!), and the good old Knights.  Like me, he’d counted his ‘jack points and spent them on one ‘jack; a Crusader for Kreoss to hide behind.  I was running “the bent Deneghra list” (rejigged slightly to include the full unit of Mechanithralls) and promptly began swarming forward.

Continue reading “[WM/H] Live And Let Fly, Game I”

[WM/H] Beasts from the East: "and then Morghoul basically tickled him to death."

The boys at Dice and Decks ran a little battle box tournament last night; myself and Neal as old hands at this Hordesmachine stuff, and the new locals Robbie, Pete, Paul, Martin and Alex who’ve all picked up starter boxes, been learning the rules and wanted to try out some timed games.  Rather than be boring and enter with the Cryx box (for a start, Pete was running Cryx too, and for a finish, I have about four years’ experience with that box and most of the others have about four weeks’), I decided to pack up my new Skorne and see if I could still work a Hordes army worth a damn.

I won all three games quite handily, the first two being quite close, and it turned out Robbie had commissioned a little trophy which I promise I’ll take a picture of when I can lay my paws on a decent camera.


Since the Skorne have been doing such a good job of subjugating the foolish, decadent westerners, they’ve also had their paint jobs kicked back to the top of the queue (a sunny afternoon with no crushing work priorities = the perfect opportunity to recolour all the ropes and straps on the army and get a Cyclops basecoated up and ready to go), so there’ll be photos of them in the pipeline too.

Last time the Skorne were mentioned, I was having trouble with Morghoul; apart from handing out Abuse and Rush to my warbeasts and keeping himself out of trouble with Admonition, he wasn’t really doing much for me.  I am now rather more enamoured of Morghoul than I was, thanks in particular to the first game of the night against Robbie’s lush-looking Cygnar box, in which Morghoul’s melee potential actually bagged me a win.  It turns out that using Admonition to hop him into the back arc of a wounded Stryker, knocking Stryker down with a Cyclops headbutt and then using Morghoul’s highly efficient additional attacks (one fury buys you two, and he’ll always inflict one point of damage if he hits) to bypass Stryker’s respectable, feated-up ARM stat is actually a rather enjoyable experience.

The second game, against young Alex and his Khador box, led me to a new understanding of Pain and Suffering, as well as the conclusion that I shouldn’t even contemplate the new Dark Eldar on account of how there’s enough torture in my faction choices already, thanks.  Playing Morghoul more aggressively essentially means that I can send my warbeasts into melee, beat up an opponent’s ‘jacks, and then use Pain and Suffering to prevent any real retaliation from those ‘jacks, stalling the opponent for a turn and giving me time to finish the job (that is, assuming my Gladiator can actually hit DEF 10 and roll five on two dice, which took rather longer than it should have done).

I’m also learning a lot about fury management and placement.  Two of the games could have been shorter and more efficient if I hadn’t had frenzied warbeasts charging into models I’d been intending to target with something else, thus blocking charge and slam lanes for their more restrained compatriots.  I have been running the battlebox rather hot – seldom is there a turn after the second when I don’t have most of my beasts tanked up on full Fury – and while this has worked to my advantage when an irritable Cyclops is already in melee with something I just want it to hit very hard, it’s put the kybosh on some more complex approaches.  I think a few more battlebox games in which I concentrate on heat management (it’s okay for the Titan to run hot if it’s going to slam anyway; it’s okay for the Cyclopes to run hot if they’re already in position) are in order: I want to get these mechanics down pat before I start introducing management crutches like Beast Handlers.

ADDITIONAL: Morghoul’s Tier list would appear to have absolutely everything I want to add to my Skorne army in it. What fortunate circumstance be this! Clearly I need to chase up my second-hand Skorne book and secure more such knowledge…