[WM/H] Lyoss Is Burning

Had a cracking game of Warmachine vs. Hordes last night.

Player: Kapt. Von
Faction: The Master Race Skorne
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Lord Arbiter Hexeris (*6pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
* Titan Sentry (9pts)
* Aptimus Marketh (3pts)
Cataphract Incindiarii (Leader and 5 Grunts) (9pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Mortitheurge Willbreaker (2pts)

Player: The Laird Holmes
Faction: Elf Qaeda Retribution of Scyrah
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Adeptis Rahn Shyeel (*6pts)
* Phoenix (10pts)
Dawnguard Sentinels (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
* Banshee (10pts)
* Dawnguard Sentinel Officer & Standard (2pts)
Stormfall Archers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (5pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
House Shyeel Magister (2pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)

Scenario: Mosh Pit
Nice symmetrical terrain layout: the Pit was ringed by a forest, hill and patch of broken ground on each side at 4″ intervals, and contained a couple of obstructions (big rocks) about 60mm in base area, for interest’s sake. Didn’t matter too much apart from giving the Stormfall Archers elevation and encouraging me to split my forces around the obstruction on my side of the board (with Hexeris hiding behind one for a couple of turns, because I don’t have a pair).

Didn’t take pictures. I had a new caster, new measuring tools and a mogul biryani to manage, and the game took a good couple of hours anyway ’cause the Laird Holmes and I are both… shall we say that we both like to think things over? What with one thing and another I didn’t want to slow affairs down any further.

The lists were gentlemanly, with no FA: C doom pieces besides a bit of caster support, no turn two win buttons – and the play focused on piece trading and Getting Shit Done rather than camping arbitrary areas of the table for abstract points. Doesn’t mean we weren’t playing to win, but we were also playing to make a game of it. When travelling to a venue and paying club fees and so on costs you a good £20 a time before the curry is factored in, you don’t want to spend more time setting up and tearing down than you do actually playing the damn game. When I approach a wargame with this in mind, all the Internet babble fades away and I remember why we’re here.

Once again, some poor Retribution player brought Rahn and then had him clipped by an Incendus shot, spending the rest of the game on fire. Titan Sentries are well hard and Lord Arbiter Hexeris is also a bit fierce – although a list with him at the helm is notably slow after one’s had the luxury of the Supreme Archdomina. I missed my Tyrant Commander and would consider trading two Arcuarii out to put him back in. People who say he’s just Black Spot on a stick aren’t trying hard enough – I have a post prepared on this topic but I want to finish painting the model first. I find it amusing that my supposedly backfield, spellslinging, not-getting-involved warlock ended up making a melee caster kill on his first day out, while my allegedly front-line sword-swinging warlock has yet to draw a blade in anger. Doin It Rong, as ever.

This was also the first game where my Praetorians didn’t make a suicidal run across the table, but settled for edging sideways, fanning out and baiting. They still died – well, half of them died, Marketh was running on a full soul count for turns two, three and four – but they mulched some Dawnguard and chewed up a Banshee a bit. On a related note, his Lairdship deserves a brownie point for being the first person to remove one of my Cataphracts, let alone three.

I am also experimenting with spod sticks for the first time. Thus far they are good for getting right in next to the model, but they break the game’s flow while I count and recount inches and screw/unscrew the measuring tools. There are two sets in different colours, so I’m thinking that it might be a decent idea to prepare an odd numbers stick and an even numbers stick to improve flow.

Profitable evening out.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon II – Wrath of Karn

Suicidal drinking game of the week: take a shot every time a Hordes player makes that reference.

Game News:

A semi-triumphant return to Dice and Decks after several years’ absence without leave went well. Very satisfactory to catch up with the chaps who kept me sane during the six bloody awful months in Gloucester; very satisfactory to confront the Laird Holmes* and his Retribution again.

We played two games at 25 points, with lists that looked a little like this:

System: Hordes
Faction: Skorne
Casters: 1/1
Points: 25/25
Supreme Archdomina Makeda (*5pts)
* Molik Karn (11pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 5 Grunts) (3pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)

System: Warmachine
Faction: Retribution of Scyrah
Casters: 1/1
Points: 25/25
Lord Arcanist Ossyan (*6pts)
* Hydra (9pts)
* Hypnos (9pts)
Houseguard Riflemen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Houseguard Riflemen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
Houseguard Thane (2pts)

Terrain was a rough circle with a smallish hillock (elevation), a smallish copse (concealment, rough terrain), a smallish area of broken ground (rough terrain) and a smallish rock (obstruction) on both sides of the table, and a long jagged linear obstacle running across the middle. I quirked an eyebrow but I trust the Laird Holmes’ instincts: rejecting the conventional wisdom in most regards, the Laird’s approach generally works out for the best. Scenario? HARDCORE SCENARIO, because that’s all you need for Warmachine and Hordes**.

The first game was a bit of a wash, because I boldly advanced Mr. Karn upfield and the Laird Holmes didn’t focus fire on eliminating him and left a perfect Side Step route to Ossyan. We discussed the matter briefly and I asked very nicely if I could execute the Molik Missile Run (scenario two) just once, to see what it felt like. It was a very brief non-game, but since we were playing 25 points we could rack ’em up and play again.

This time, the Laird’s rust had been knocked off a bit and he was back on form, eliminating most of the Praetorians (including the Officer) as they ran in to engage his Riflemen, while his battlegroup Void Locked Molik and shot a big chunk off the Gladiator, wreathing it in that “no charging for you mate” aura from Ossyan’s gun. I misdeployed Makeda slightly; she spent rather too much time trucking through Rough Terrain, not being able to Leash anyone anywhere exciting or Stay Death on the Praetorian officer, and Molik ended up out of control range at the top of my third turn.

All of this led to a slightly more interesting game, in which I had to scramble to get Makeda upfield (Engine of Destruction was the only way to get her over the wall) and needed a Paingiver to Enrage Karn, bypassing the “no forcing” restriction and ploughing into Ossyan again. Had the Laird but abandoned Chronomancer and cast Admonition on Ossyan himself, I wouldn’t even have been able to do that, and I’d have had to resort to the old-fashioned solution of smashing up heavy warjacks face to face.

Obviously these are 25 point games, with all the benefits (short, sweet and focused) and drawbacks (imbalanced and prone to abrupt endings) thereof, but I feel surprisingly in control of affairs so far. I am quite taken with the Praetorian Swordsmen, after some initial doubts: Keltarii are the superior choice as jamming infantry but I feel that Road to War and Vengeance stack well, turning the Swordsmen into a fast-moving meat grinder that doesn’t have the small command range and angling problems that the Nihilators present.

The army is built to deliver Molik Karn, and I wonder what it’d do if that wasn’t an option. I have a Titan Sentry built up and I am tempted to play a future friendly with him instead: that would make room for Orin Midwinter in the list, or I could drop the Beast Handlers down to four models and fit in a three point piece like the Tyrant Commander or Marketh. I’d make a straight swap for Tiberion if I didn’t want to build him on a metal Sentry body to offset the weight of the mace and head.

Hobby News:

Everything from the All In One box is built now and has had the liquid green stuff applied to gaps (with intermittent results, but it’s my first go with the product), except for the two Huge-based kits. I think I’m going to sell on Epic Xerxis: I’m not that interested in him as a warlock and it’d allow re-investment into things like actual characters for the IKRPG scenario and some alternative pieces for the Skorne army. Likewise, the second unit of Incendiarii are likely to go: they take up a lot of my finite case space and I’d rather have alternative models (like a wave of Cyclopes for Makeda’s Theme Force, or a unit of Cetrati or Gatormen) than doubling up on the one thing.

RPG News:

Well, the scenario is planned out, in terms of decision trees that set up the encounters. My plan is to pre-set the “maps” and have a general idea of what’s going to be in each encounter, but have different ways into the encounter and different dynamics depending on what the players have decided to do. Player choice will have an impact on how things happen but what things happen will still be set in advance, in order to facilitate my plans.

To-Do List: November

  1. Prime and start painting the army.
  2. Source materials with which to build up the Mammoth’s base.
  3. Purchase Minion models to form the cadre of IKRPG characters.
  4. Prepare maps for IKRPG scenario.
  5. Stat up final versions of PCs, NPCs etc.

* – apparently he owns a parcel of land in Scotland.

** – OK, some of the Steamrollers are all right. The one with the small box in the middle and an objective at each corner works for me, for instance, especially if you pick the objectives carefully to Forge A Narrative and set up terrain around it. It’s the ones with arbitrary flags and abstract zones that I can’t abide.

[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


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] Road to SmogCon: Winter Warmup Tournament Report


I’ve lied to you a bit. This isn’t going to be a conventional ‘report’ in the sense that I talk about what went on in my turns and their turns and what we were thinking and who won and who lost. This is instead going to be a series of reflections on why I came last, why I had two appalling non-games that I didn’t really enjoy, and my awkward relationship with 50 point games and the tournament scene.

The Winter Warmup was pretty much the first event of the year for Cross Gaming Club and the first time I’d played in the shiny new Dark Sphere site on Hercules Road. I was the odd man out in more ways than one; the only Claphamite to put in an appearance, the only player that Press Ganger Tom hadn’t met before; the only one, I suspect, who hadn’t played a fifty point game or a tournament in about a year; and the odd-numbered player who induced the bye.

Fifty points for me means one list, dumping everything I own into it, and hoping like hell. Two lists are impossible when nine points of my collection are FA: C and when I’ve blown money I barely have on the Banshee and the entry fee. Whatever, I’d been laid up with a horrible infection for a week and wanted to do something in the real world before I went back to work. Nonetheless, going single-list in a multi-list tournament is generally a recipe for disaster, given the number of hard counters and bad matchups inherent in the game’s design.

The list/collection I ran with was:

Kaelyssa, Night’s Whisper
– Phoenix
– Banshee
– Sylys Wyshnylarr

10 Dawnguard Invictors with Officer & Standard
10 Houseguard Halberdiers with Officer & Standard
Stormfall Archers
Lady Aiyana and Master Holt

Eiryss, Mage Hunter of Ios

Not bad, but not brilliant, and lacking a really obvious, simple-to-execute win button. A recurring theme during the post-wipeout chit-chat was that I’d bought the wrong caster (some people laboured this point more than others), and in retrospect I agree. I’d probably have been better off running Ossyran, leaving Eiryss at home, and picking up a Houseguard Thane, for reasons which will become clear as we move along. The Banshee was totally new, only built the day before the event. I hadn’t played fifty points or a tournament game in over a year. I was, as a great man… demon… elf… thing… once said, NOT PREPARED.

Round one was against Marcin Garbino, a nice chap who’s played everything under the sun and, unfortunately, had brought a meteor to a gunfight. His Baldur Theme Force (that’s the Stonecleaver, at Tier 4) was entirely occupying the scenario control zone, shown centre, by the end of his first turn, and everything was either ARM Obscene or hiding in one of the two trenches (the black felt bits). Cross use trenches a lot. Cross toss trenches onto the board and put them in the scenario zones. This is not forbidden anywhere in the rules but it definitely made a bad situation worse for me; hitting the Druids on DEF 20 and knowing that they were immune to blast damage was definitely not sexy at all.

I had a vague shot at assassinating Baldur on my second turn, but I gimped it by firing the Banshee first since it had Phantom Hunter on it. That slammed Baldur back, even though he was immune to being knocked down thanks to his feat, and left him out of range for either Kaelyssa or the Phoenix. That was, in essence, game, since there was no way I could crack that wall of DEF/ARM 20+ sitting in the middle racking up control points, and I’d already blown Kaelyssa’s feat on forcing the Woldstalkers to move forward if they wanted to massacre my infantry (and they did). Since I’d moved Kaelyssa up to try for the shots on Baldur, she was hanging out in front of the army, and… it wasn’t really worth going on. I was in a foul mood by the end of this game, and quite prepared to turn around and go home if the prospect of similar non-starters was likely.

Tom and the neighbouring players talked me down, though, and instead Marcin and I went for a walk, since we had an hour to kill. He treated me to an informative if slightly overlong lecture on the merits of Issyria, the Mage Hunter Assassin, and those of the Houseguard Thane in the absence of Riflemen. I have, I think, underestimated the effect of Desperate Pace; I looked at the Thane, saw the obvious synergy with Riflemen (who I don’t own), and wrote him off, instead of considering the advantages of more speed in scenario play. Fair cop, and by the time I’d calmed down a bit, I saw what he was driving at. I also think he was right about taking Ossyran; I’d just nailed the list together the night before and picked the caster who’d let me take everything, but if I’d had a Thane handy I’d have gleefully chucked Eiryss to field him instead. Marcin’s a decent chap, just light-years beyond me as a player, and not the best first-round draw. I like losing my first round game, but I like being able to play in the game at all. Didn’t help that I was well flustered from arriving half an hour late to an event fifteen minutes’ bus ride from my house. I’m just the MOST prepared sometimes.

Exhibit B: Rob Parsons and his Menoth. Tom had politely asked him to go easy on me since I’d had such a shit day so far, and laughed bitterly when he saw that “going nice” involved the Harbinger, the Covenant, the customary ‘jack wall, Visgoth Rhoven and a big unit of Exemplars Errant. A classic ‘Menoth Says No’ list, then, but at least I’ve fought and beaten the Harbinger before, and she’s on that nice big base that makes her easy to shoot.

This one barely moved. Our armies crashed into each other and just stood there for two turns, flailing away. Bottom of turn three, Rob’s left-hand Reckoner and Vanquisher were both badly damaged (the former was on one box and had been for two damn rounds!) and the latter was immobilised ready for more Stormfalling, and I had cleaned out many of the Menite infantry. The Harbinger had been forced to spend most of the game camping focus and avoiding Eiryss, and I was able to weather the feat turn by bunkering up between those two rocks, taking hits on the two myrmidons (who could eat a power 14) and having everyone else shoot at whatever Menites they could see before Kaelyssa’s feat came down. I did manage to layer some damage onto the Harbinger through Martyrdom, as Rob Martyred a lot of Errants and one of Rhoven’s bodyguards at least twice in an effort to make my flanking Dawnguard behave themselves.

The only huge cockup I made involved sinking far too much effort into killing two Exemplar Errants engaging my Banshee so it could be free to charge Rob’s Vanquisher. As well as squandering the activations of Eiryss and Kaelyssa, who could have been locking down a ‘jack with Disruption/Arcantrik Bolt a turn earlier than they did, it meant diverting my Halberdiers’ attention, which mean leaving the Vanquisher on one sodding box on its primary weapon, which meant that when the Banshee was eventually freed, it took a free strike in passing that crippled its own primary weapon, and ended up scrapped by the Vanquisher on the next turn. Should have just trampled and taken my chance on the free strikes, maybe, or wailed on the Exemplars and had Eiryss and Kaelyssa paralyse the Vanquisher for next turn.

I was losing, but I lost through identifiable errors and Rob only scored one control point in the whole game. I did, however, only score two tiebreaker points, as most of Rob’s units had one or two guys left alive, and I hadn’t been able to nail his ‘jacks while he’d trashed both of mine. This was a simpler game, where I could see what went wrong, and I enjoyed it – my brain simply overheated with the combination of timed turns, more actors to handle than usual, and winkling into the “Menoth says NO” rules combinations to work out what I could actually do.

After lunch, round three, and this is where the beast emerged…

Sometimes, good players have bad days, and end up in the bottom of the brackets with the likes of me. Trevor Couper is such a player; he was running on next to no sleep and had, I think, timed out on one of this games and badly misplayed another. I drew him in a complex scenario (so many ways to earn and deny points – my brain hurt just trying to deploy in a way that would manage its impact), and while he was list-locked like me, his list was… simpler, and brutal, and had more direct ways to deploy greater killing power on a broader range of targets. Martial Discipline, twenty tough Weapon Master infantry, a feat that delivered them to the control zones and points quickly with extra ARM (just like the first game) and a Colossal that could point, click and delete one of my myrmidons or units every turn. To cap it all off, I’d misdeployed, giving my Dawnguard the task of keeping the Colossal from racking up all the Control Points in the world, and maybe taking it down with Flank charges (not likely at four dice minus twelve). I’d have been better off putting them in the lines to take down the infantry, and feeding both my myrmidons and the Stormfall Archers at the Colossal.

Despite Trevor point-click-deleting the Banshee, and being in a very strong place at the top of my turn two, I did actually have a way of putting some damage onto Ossrum and maybe securing the game. I just didn’t think of it in time. See, the Dawnguard could, with three or four man CRAs, put damage on the Colossal, as could the Stormfall Archers and the Phoenix. They’d been doing it since turn one, when Extended Fire let them get a few shots in before Trevor’s feat turn. Now, had I thought to slap Backlash onto it ASAP, I’d probably have been able to get nine to twelve damage onto Ossrum and maybe, just maybe, keep Kaelyssa alive long enough to Phantom Hunter her way to the win. Alas, I didn’t think of that until turn two, and after losing most of my Halberdiers and my Banshee and realising that I’d lose either the Dawnguard, the Phoenix or both in the next turn, I just gave up. Dishonourable, strength-of-schedule wrecking, but fuck it, I was having an appalling time in this game and I had no intention of inflicting my grotty side on Trevor any more than was necessary.

I asked for the bye in round four, just to save myself from melting down any further, and spent the round doing two things. Firstly, watching Trevor’s next game, since he’d drawn another Retribution player, and I wanted to see how that would go. The Retribution that rolled up – and I’ve forgotten their owner’s name, alas – were a very different beast to mine, with Ossyran, two units of Mage Hunters (Strike Force with their Officer, Infiltrators with Eiryss). Trevor had the shot at a first turn win, and spent seven minutes of his extended first turn puzzling it out and talking it through. The Colossal could just about inch forward, have range to Ossyran, knock him down with one of its guns by shooting the warjack next to him (and boosting its damage roll to boot), then lay into him with the rest of its guns. If Trevor hadn’t rolled double ones for the number of multi-shots, he’d have won before the game started. As it was, he did roll double ones, and Ossyran lived. The high-DEF infantry fanned out and jammed up the zones, and Trevor settled in for a longer, slower grind. He did eventually win, but by this stage I’d moved on to my second bye-round activity; talking 50 points with Kev Bryant and his hat.

Kev and I had a good old natter about the effect of Colossals on the game, and he re-introduced me to the concept of ‘list poker’. Not playing many multi-list events, or having much of a collection of anything, this hasn’t always been something I’ve thought about, although I’ve always known it existed. Anyway, it’s the pre-game stage where you’re looking at each other’s lists and identifying the potential matches and, if you’ve prepared at all well, identifying the pairings that just won’t work for you and picking the list that can take any of the opponent’s two or three.

Colossals skew this hugely. Being so huge and hard to either kill (so many boxes!) or tie down (so many immunities! can shoot out of melee! though factions with Gorman di Wulfe or unshakeable effects like Death Chill have it so much easier – in related news, I almost miss Cryx…), the Colossal presence demands that one of your lists is capable of dealing with one. Which is fine, except that the Colossal will also have a caster behind it, effectively meaning they have an extra card for list poker, and it’s always an ace. Let me explain.

Say I take Ossyran as my Colossal-smashing caster, with his whole extra-damage-on-ranged-attacks thing going on. Say now that the caster running the enemy Colossal is one who Ossyran struggles to beat, or that the rest of their list hard-counters the stuff in my Ossyran list. Say also that Issyria (for example’s sake) might be a better match for the caster running the Colossal. Do I take the Issyria list, which is just not equipped to handle that giant mass of boxes lumbering across the table, and hope I can score an assassination when I’m losing ten points of my stuff every turn, or do I take the Ossyran list, and focus on negating the impact of the Colossal at the expense of managing the rest of the enemy army and trying to win the game?

It’s doubly hard when the other thirty-odd points are, as they were in Trevor’s list, already quite hard for me to deal with; that’s a lot of weapon masters to pin down and chip through the high ARM on, and a few spoilers in the form of fireproof Tactical Arcanist Corps and the like, and they can all move through one another. And this is before we factor in the prospect of Trevor or whoever maybe having another list to consider. Zugwang, for those who don’t know, is the chess term for a situation in which every possible move is a bad one. That’s kinda how I feel when I see a Colossal in someone’s list. I don’t think they’re too good in and of themselves – they cost twenty points and focusing twenty points onto ten of mine should leave me coming off worse, after all. I do think that they break, or at least skew, the ‘list poker’ stage of gameplay, and that’s awkward.

So. All in all, an unsatisfactory day’s gameplay, in which I either didn’t really get to play at all, or in which I made some significant errors, or both, and for which I was NOT PREPARED. And yet, on balance, I think I had an informative day. Everyone was friendly, despite the rather spiky mood I was in while and after playing Trevor. I think I’ve learned a few things about how I might approach Steamroller 2014, and 50 points, and the prospect of encountering Colossals, assuming that I don’t just sulk in my bunker and refuse to interact with any of them (also a possibility). The day was supposed to be a warm-up and a clue-up for the 2014 season, and to be honest, it did what it said on the tin.

Time’s a-wastin’, word count’s a-creepin’, and I have to be at work soon. Next time, I’ll have some thoughts on my Retribution and where I might go with them post-SmogCon, in the light of the experience I had at the Winter Warmup. For the time being… duty calls.