Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rallypoint 2013 - Preamble

Due to the absolute total lack of exciting Gatorman news, outside two Minion players getting crushed pretty badly at the WTC in Europe (which I assume is a function of the team format whereby the most logical strategy is to throw your crappiest faction at their Cryx/Legion list so that you can win your other 4 matchups, rather than a reflection of the actual players), I am again writing about a tournament that I am attending. Riveting to excess.

Rallypoint is a two-day tournament. Two-day tournaments are pretty common around these parts for two reasons:

1) Two days means more games

And more game supposedly means more reason to travel for out-of-towners since wargamers love to have sleepovers at their friends' houses. I don't particularly buy into this, but it seems to be the mindset amongst frequent tournament travelers.

To me, more days means more expenses and not that much a gain in gaming enjoyment. Especially if I do badly in the first few rounds, I am stuck hanging around with no hope for a prize or epeen or much desire to play after having already played a bunch of games but stick around anyway usually because I don't want to deprive other people who might want to play the opportunity or because I made travel arrangements or whatever. If I do happen to do well, I'd still rather be doing well in 4 rounds than in 7. Plus I like tournaments where first undefeated player wins. Less hassle.

For me, Warmachine is to the mind like sex is to the body - an enjoyable, healthy pursuit that results from challenging a worthy opponent in a safe environment with a good knowledge of dice risk statistics and no Cryxian spiky bits. It is a great thing to indulge in on a regular basis, practice at and get better, try new things, etc. But there is only a certain amount I can take within a given period, and at this stage of my life I prefer to focus on quality over quantity. 4 bouts per weekend is sufficient.

2) The legacy of WHFB

Warhammer Fantasy Battles is a cute hobby game. It's not a competitive game in itself, nor has it ever really been, largely because of the steep lack of balance both within and between armies as well as the lack of rules clarity due to slack errata, loose terminology, and a general apathy towards the whole competitive mindset. However, it has been shaped into a competitive game by the WHFB community with the addition of a complex tournament meta game featuring soft-scores like sportsmanship, painting and comp (army build) scores, a slew of "official/unofficial" errata, and a game/tournament points system to determine the 'winner' of each battle to make up for the lack of clear in-built victory conditions outside tabling your opponent. It is quite admirable what the WHFB community has achieved given what they had to work with on the ground floor.

As a result of all this, WHFB games take freaking ages and therefore the tournaments take freaking ages. And Warmachine, being the much younger game with a smaller (but rapidly growing!) following, has traditionally had to tack on to the bigger WHFB tournaments in NZ. I don't think this is actually the case for Rallypoint, but it has been the case for most large tabletop gaming tournaments on the calendar. Fortunately this seems to be changing. We've already had a handful of 1-day tournaments in Auckland that have had great attendance and worked out very well, so hopefully more will come.

Anyhow, Rallypoint:
  • 2 lists, 50pt Steamroller with all the standard restrictions
  • Deathclock, no specialists, and Kill Box all the time
  • 7 rounds over 2 days (have to leave Auckland at 6:30am each morning QQ)
  • Held in Hamiltron, City of the Future (a city I quite like)
  • Divide and Conquer, meaning you MUST play each list 3 times.
  • Cryxnoob Dave will be attending, meaning I potentially have to deal with another Cryx player using lists that auto-beat me worse than Rask auto-beats Ret (1).
  • No painting requirements - makes zero difference to me, but I always appreciate the opportunity for people who don't really like painting to participate.
  • Pizza party at the TO's place at the end of Day 1 - great initiative, but one which I will have to miss out on due to the aforementioned travel requirements.

This is a Gray Wolf. Wolves are sweet and take like 30
mins to kill their prey. Nothing romantic about it.
Just like Warmachine Gators. Kinda.

Barnabas vs Maelok in Divide & Conquer

I will be taking Rask (SURPRISE!) and probably Barnabas. Maybe Maelok. Many Gator players seem to have mega hard-ons for Maelok and his many fleshy holes but I don't really understand why.

Outside of Cryx, where mass Undead and recursion mechanics are very useful, I don't feel there is a  faction matchup where Maelok is better overall than Barnabas. Sure, there are lists like Bart/Galleon or Xerxis Cetrati Wall or super grindy lists like eMorvahna where Maelok is better at getting past the frontline to maximize your attacks and assassinate but since I will have to play each list at least 3 times, I'm going for broad application. I think the one thing that would bring Maelok up to Barnabas level consistently would be being able to put Malediction on a warbeast rather than just on himself. That gives a DEF/ARM debuff to my army without getting my caster killed next turn. Give that to Terminus as well, I wouldn't mind.

Basically, the number of good match-ups is about the same, maybe even a little bit in Maelok's favour - but in my experience Maelok has more bad matchups than Barnabas
I think Maelok was the operative choice in the past against Skorne, Protectorate and Trolls due to his ability to get some serious damage on support pieces and subsequently jam, but now Rask is just so much better at playing that game that it puts Maelok out of contention, at least in my book.

Assuming I play Barnabas, the lists will pretty much be the same as Choptober, except I will probably take my buddies Wrong Eye + Snapjaw in the Rask list instead of the 3rd Posse for a little more punch and matchup/scenario flexibility. There is always the question of the Totem Hunter, whether I put him with Rask to have some more assassination potential or whether I put him with Barnabas for some more "ranged" threat. First world Gator problems.

As far as expectations, I'll be perfectly happy to be in the top half of the field. Being in the bottom half would probably not make me want to come back for the second day even though I would have to anyway, so my travel buddies would have to listen to me bitch and moan for an hour and a half on the way down. Please let me win for their sakes.


(1) I mean, look at this shit! This is a borderline crime against human decency:

Wraith Witch Deneghra
- Deathripper
- Nightwretch
- Skarlock Thrall
Max Bane Knights
Max Blackbanes
Max Nyss Hunters
Max Blood Witches + UA
Min McThralls
Double Necrosurgeon
Warwitch Siren

How is this legal in Western society? People have been castrated and excommunicated for less.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Choptober 2013 - The Results

Game 1 - Joel w/ Butcher3 - Destruction

Butcher Unleashed (*4pts)
* Beast-09 (11pts)
* War dog (1pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
Iron Fang Pikemen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Black Dragon Officer & Standard (2pts)
Lady Aiyana & Master Holt (4pts)
Alexia, Mistress of the Witchfire (4pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Koldun Lord (2pts)
Madelyn Corbeau, Ordic Courtesan (2pts)
Ogrun Bokur (3pts)
Orin Midwinter, Rogue Inquisitor (2pts)

Iron Fang Kovnik (2pts)

As you can see, it is a true WM list as there are a crapload of Mercs and only one jack. I chose to play Rask (his other list was Old Witch with Kayazy but I was pretty sure he was going to play Butcher3).

Not only was the scenario Destruction, but there was a large Gargossal-sized Menofix obstruction right in the middle of the zone. A clusterf*ck of epic proportions. Joel deployed the Nyss on my left flank, the IFP on the right, and clustered everything else in the middle. I think he went first and just ran everything up, which I also did and popped my feat, so I would charge the Nyss next turn. He responded by running the Nyss directly away, mini-feating with the IFP and jamming them on the right side of the zone in Shield Wall, and throwing literally every other model in the list in a huge clump around Butcher directly behind the Menofix, with the exception of Beast 09 and an Argus who were a bit further up and bait.

For my turn, I ran a couple of Dirge Gators into the Nyss, pulled the exposed Argus out of a charge lane to Beast 09 with a Swamp Horror, thought about Vengeance but figured there was no way he would clear Butcher from that mess so I killed the Argus, then killed Beast 09 with 3 Fury-ed Posse and moved Rask behind a wall, leaving him 1/4" inch outside the killbox. No way I could get killed there, right? The Posse to my right also managed to roll amazing and kill 4 of the ARM 22 IFP.

At this point, I have a full Posse with Dirge of Mists jammed up to the left of the Menofix, and a full Posse jammed up on the right side of the Menofix, and 4 large based objectives. I'm thinking there is no way anyone can chew through all that stuff and get to Rask (who is also behind a Swamp Gobber cloud).

Nobody except Butcher3 apparently. Because after Vengeance, a Madelyn move, 2 Flashing Blades, a charge and a short Energizer move, Butcher3 is now in front of Rask with Silence of Death up and 2-shots him (one of which is his initial attack). Didn't even need the feat. I felt like a deer in headlights for an hour afterwards.

Almost enough to make me wish
I was still playing Khador. Almost.

So basically, I got completely steamrolled. It was a non-game/done deal once I triggered that Vengeance and saw what was actually going to happen, and Joel pulled it off perfectly. In retropect, without the Vengeance move, I would have only lost 5 Posse to a single Flashing Blade (5 Posse for 1 focus - seems fair), leaving Butcher in a position to get shot by Rask and killed by a Fury-ed Swamp Horror or Posse, after my Wrastler would have taken care of that Bokur. Nevertheless, I think Butcher3 is a really bad matchup for Gators since ARM 18, 8 Box meatwalls are almost meaningless and Impending Doom can make it all happen easily. Butcher2 can deal that much damage, but only in one area a turn. Will need to practice against it a bit more - other than staying way back or avoiding triggering out-of-activation moves, multiple staggered spaced-out meatwalls are one way to go.

Joel thinks I should have played Barnabas instead, but I think without Rask's gun and Fury, Butcher can just walk/charge forward each turn, Flashing Blade once to kill 5 gators, then camp 4/5 focus and be pretty much unkillable the whole game - on a scenario like Destruction, that pretty much means I will eventually lose on CPs over 7+ rounds or something. I really dislike Destruction as I feel it jams up the table a ton with 4 ARM20 large bases AND it takes way too damn long to score (minimum 3 turns if playing by yourself)

Game 2 - Damian w/ Trolls - Process of Elimination

Points: 46/50
Borka Kegslayer (*5pts)
* Dire Troll Mauler (9pts)
Krielstone Bearer and 5 Stone Scribes (4pts)
* Krielstone Stone Scribe Elder (1pts)
Trollkin Champions (Leader and 4 Grunts) (10pts)
* Skaldi Bonehammer (3pts)
Trollkin Fennblades (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Trollkin Fennblade Officer & Drummer (2pts)
Trollkin Long Riders (Leader and 4 Grunts) (11pts)
Fell Caller Hero (3pts)

As you can see, this is 4pts under, but I really don't remember what else was on the table. Maybe he just played 4 pts down by accident? I chose to play Rask again (the other list was eDoomshaper with a few heavies) and went second. Damian is a super nice guy so the game was going to be a good time in any event.

Basically this was just a giant grindfest, as games tend to be against Trolls - really long, and not too eventful. I even went under 20 minutes on Deathclock, which is very rare for me. I elected to not use my feat on turn one, meaning I took a couple of Fennblade charges on the chin without too much trouble, which were mostly wiped out by Gatormans (not much luck on tough rolls at this stage) before putting up Inhospitable Ground and my feat, leaving Champs, Borka and Long Riders just outside range to do anything meaningful. After that, stuff just grinded into each other, and it's not easy to beat Gators in the grind game.

I really wanted a scenario win to get CPs, but it was not to be. On my left were the Champs, including Skaldi who made no less than 4 tough rolls during the game, and on the right was Horthol, who did the same.

My reaction when my opponent makes 8 consecutive tough rolls on two models.
I retaliated by killing the Keg Carrier. Death to fun and happiness! Borka, seeing his army slowly disintegrate, decided to take matters into his own hands and kill a clump of Posse with the Vengeance move + Rage + many bought attacks. He then died to a Furied Swamp Horror after getting shot by a Paralysis Bolt. I did finally manage to kill Horthol that turn with 3 Gatorman Posse, giving me a single CP. Skaldi I think survived to the end - I hate that guy.

Game 3 - Nick w/ Trolls - Into the Breach

Hunters Grim (*4pts)
* Troll Impaler (5pts)
* Dire Troll Bomber (10pts)
* Dire Troll Bomber (10pts)
* Trollkin Runebearer (2pts)
Krielstone Bearer and 5 Stone Scribes (4pts)
* Krielstone Stone Scribe Elder (1pts)
Pyg Burrowers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Sons of Bragg (6pts)
Trollkin Scattergunners (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Trollkin Scattergunner Officer & Drummer (2pts)

Another game vs Trolls - sweet. I deployed my entire army in front of the zone, except for my Wrastler and one unit of Posse over by the 'dominate only' flag to my right (I had a forest directly in front of my deployment so had to split hard). He did mostly the same, with a Bomber and Sons of Bragg over by the flag.

I think I went first and just ran stuff up as you do. The Burrowers burrowed right in the middle of the table. On my second turn, I ran 2 units of Posse with Dirge of Mists to encircle the zone and put up Inhospitable Ground and my feat, which means he could not do much and his feat would go to waste. The Burrowers popped up and shuffled up a bit, getting two shots on Rask which missed, and the Scattergunners got a few sprays on Rask by targetting the Burrowers, which also did nothing.

Then I did what Fury-ed Gators do and blow up heavies and grind into Trolls and eventually managed to dominate the zone twice for 4CPs before killing Grim, now with no transfers as all his beasts were dead, with 2 Fury-ed Posse. I lost 13 or so Gatormans over the course of the battle, 4 to the Sons of Bragg, who are actually not bad at all. Mortality was a pretty big deal in denying tough and debuffing the Posse into killable-range.

Game 4 - Daryl w/ eLich - Outflank

PS - Daryl runs a sweet little business named Universal Battlegrounds, producing laser-cut gaming apparatus like terrain, templates and very legible tokens - check it out!

The standard eLich list, without Daragh:

Lich Lord Asphyxious (*6pts)
* Deathripper (4pts)
* Nightwretch (4pts)
Bane Knights (Leader and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
Bane Thralls (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Bane Thrall Officer & Standard (3pts)
Bile Thralls (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
Satyxis Blood Witches (Leader and 5 Grunts) (4pts)
* Satyxis Blood Hag (2pts)
The Withershadow Combine (5pts)
Bane Lord Tartarus (4pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Machine Wraith (1pts)
Saxon Orrik (2pts)
Warwitch Siren (2pts)

I hate Banes so much. One type of Bane gives you -2 ARM just for hanging around, the other Bane ignores free strikes and has Vengeance. Then there is the ÜberBane, who is hard as hell to kill and makes all his Banes faster and more accurate. It doesn't matter who they are - what matters is their plan, which is to
blow up Gators/heavies/my sanity.
Basically, this list was terrifying, and my only hope was to kill Tartarus and hope that the Banes miss the 7s needed to hit Dirged Posse. If there's anything you can be certain about with Gators against eLich, it's that you will never ever ever ever ever kill him as long as the Lich player knows the ropes, which Daryl certainly did, keeping Hellbound up and teleporting back behind clouds every turn. So many layers of defense on top of that 15/16 stat line and 18 health boxes. He is also +6 WJ - seems fair. With this in mind I opted for Barnabas to give my Posse a chance at living... longer.

This ended up being my lengthiest game of the day, with ~30 secs left on my opponent's clock and about ~17mins on mine. I opted to push for the left zone, since the Witches were deployed there (yay living models) and Gaspy was on the other side. I dedicated Pendrake, a Posse and a Wrastler to contest the right zone. One piece of terrain I should mention since it made a big difference to the game was a very large L-shaped wall ruin in the middle of the left zone, which we ruled as impassable but didn't block LOS.

First turn we both ran up (this is still Warmachine). His second turn he jammed Banes up into the zones (Thralls left, Knights right) and managed to Excarnate one of my Gators, leading to a Bile Thrall purge over a heap of Posse, both my heavies and a Totem Hunter. Keeping track of that many Corrosion effects is a good way to clock out a Gator player, since nothing really dies to Corrosion. The Witches also used their minifeat to run through the aforementioned über-wall and get firmly in my face and laugh at my lack of magic weapons.
I used my turn to feat and knock down most stuff on the table outside Lich and the Bane Knights, which then led to triggering some Warpath moves by killing a couple of Bane Thralls (who would just get up again next turn because Cryx). I managed to kill 5 of the 6 Biles with a Spitter AoE, and clearing the way to kill Tartarus and the last Bile with a Wrastler charge (yay Warpath). As for the Knights, I opted to just run into them since killing 2 or 3 Vengeance weapon masters leads to 5 dead Posse before said weapon-masters even activate. DO NOT DO IT.

On his turn, he managed to kill only a few Gatormans on both sides due to some pretty low dice rolls, and walk the Witches into my guys. Gorman also Black Oiled the Wrastler, who then got charged by the Withershadow and a Bane, leaving him on 4 boxes or so. Totally worthwhile trade for Tartarus.
I responded by killing a few more Thralls with Posse and Totem Hunter, a good chunk of Knights (7?), and all Witches but the UA with 2 Posse, Barnabas and a Croak Hunter (yes, they did something). Barnabas also healed the Wrastler for two, who with his mighty MAT of 2 managed to kill a Bane and a Withershadow member. Hordes FTW. He then died next turn to Saxon Orrick, but not before I had the chance to shoot him in the back with a Spitter and kill another Bane and damage another Withershadow member.

Then it was time for the Lich feat turn, which managed to leave my Spitter on a few boxes, kill all Posse in the right-side zone but one (who also survived a Machine Wraith charge, but then died to Corrossion next turn, living long enough to deny 2CPs), and generally turn what looked to be total domination on my part into a real game.

At this stage, Daryl's clock is getting really low and it is just a dance for CPs. Since I then scored first, I am technically ahead but we basically go back and forth clearing our zones while sticking something in the opponent's zone for a round (on his end, that was the very last Bane Thrall hiding behind the über-wall that made 2 tough rolls vs my Totem Hunter, finally dying to a Croak Hunter's javelin, and a Nightwretch that died to Barnabas's cleaver - on my end that was Pendrake and some remaining Gatormans).

Finally, I managed to contest his zone with my last 2 Gatormans, using Pathfinder to get past the huge area of Hellbound, and kill a contesting Machine Wraith placed 6.95" behind Barnabas. Had I not been in Cleaver range (my only magic weapon outside the now-dead Pendrake's sword), the game would have come down to needing an 8 to hit with a boosted Flesh Eater (or an 8 on 2d6 with a reroll, not sure which is more reliable). Boosted 7s on multiple Cleaver attacks are much more reliable. 5CPs to 4CPs on an extremely close game.


In the end, I chipmunked my way to 3rd place after the crushing defeat I suffered in round 1. And I got a mug, my 4th WM tournament mug:

All my opponents were super sporting, but I gave my best Sports vote to Chris Baker (Best Sports 2013), as is my 2013 Steamroller resolution, despite him not actually playing in the tournament. Cheers Dave for another excellent tournament, and the mug (this time for an actual placing and not for my sweet blog). Also not having to face Circle 3 times in a row was a bonus.
Daily rant: tough is a stupid spam mechanic and PP should feel bad that it has gotten to the point it has. I don't use the buzz term 'lazy design' often (or ever), but if it should be applied anywhere, it should be here. The WM/H games system allows for so much more depth in the realm of defensive tech than "there is an entirely unmodifiable 1/3 chance that this model survives absolutely any attack you can throw at her- unless you brought anti-healing or tough tech that you as a Gators/Ret/Many-Other-Factions player don't actually have in any respectable quantity, you should just play Cryx lolz - with love, Jason Soles". They would never stand for this kind of crap in DotA.

I also feel bad when opponents feel they have to apologize to me for making so many tough rolls that I start openly weeping in front of them.

How I would change the lists:

I think Barnabas with 3 Posses is the way to go at 50pts, without exception. I am not super thrilled with Pendrake and Croaks, but I can say that having access to a couple of ranged attacks made a big deal when it came to controlling zones. Pendrake would have done a lot more in a Hordes matchup, or if there were any heavies on the table at all. If his bow was magical, he would be total money.
The Spitter actually did very well in the last game since there were nice clumps of stuff to shoot, so still unsure whether he is better than a Horror in that list or not. He probably is.

Rask with 3 Posse did great primarily because I played Trolls twice, and Posse with Fury win against Trolls. Otherwise I felt a little cluttered in the deployment. Still undecided whether WE + Snapjaw is better overall than a 3rd Posse in the list - definitely a great sideboard option if that becomes the standard next year (hope it does - the less skew in the game and the more situational models we can use, the better).

All I can say is, I am glad I did not play Garryth 4 games in a row.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Choptober 2013 - The Lists

As mentioned in my previous post, the next tournament I will be attending is a one-day event held on the first Saturday of October named 'Choptober'. The name really makes no sense, and should instead have been called something cool like 'Alpha Strike' or 'BattleLust X'. But alas. If you want to hear about it from the viewpoint of a man struggling to contain his excitement, see here.

Basically it is a 1-day, 50pt, 2 list, 4-round Steamroller event that has been split into two completely unrelated pools - the upper pool (where I have been placed) and the loser pool (where Ian Hart, arguably the best WM/H player in NZ, has been placed). The placings were determined by the NZ Rankings HQ, which are more a measure of tournament attendance than they are actual game aptitude, but it is the best data available (I think I am 30th or something, good enough for the winner's bracket).

The lists:

Having recently acquired Pendrake and a third Posse, I wanted to try these out. I also wanted to try using Croak Hunters for once, because it's not really fair to hate on them as much as I do without giving them a fair shot. So I don't feel either list is really optimal but it's a nice opportunity to try them out.

Bloody Barnabas (*6pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Blackhide Wrastler (9pts)
* Ironback Spitter (8pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Croak Hunter (2pts)
Croak Hunter (2pts)
Professor Victor Pendrake (2pts)
Totem Hunter (3pts)

The standard Barnabas 35pt list with an extra Posse, Pendrake and two Croaks. This is almost a legit pop 'n' drop assassination against living enemy warcasters! Almost. I also think if I am matched up against Circle 3 times in a row by scheming TOs, this list will have some game against anything but eBaldur stone-spam.

I used to take a full unit of Trog Ambushers (8pts) with Barnabas, until it dawned on me that for 1 more point, I could have another unit of Gators. This is the mind of the Gator player - take all the Gators.
I think 3 Posse is the best way to run Barnabas and Maelok since they suck at cracking ARM anyway so you might as well just max out your Posse advantage. Following on that train of though, I feel I'd be better off with a Swamp Horror instead of a Spitter (so many reach initials) and a Witch Doctor + Feralgeist instead of the Croaks to give me a fighting chance against (Cryx) infantry swarm.

Maelok was a close contender for this second list, but ultimately I have given up on winning the Cryx matchup in a two-list format and feel Barnabas is a better rounded option to deal with Mercs/Legion/Circle and the like.

Rask (*6pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Blackhide Wrastler (9pts)
* Swamp Horror (8pts)
Bog Trog Ambushers (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew (Leader and 1 Grunt) (1pts)
Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)

This is basically my standard Rask list except with an extra Posse replacing WE + Snapjaw. I think it is probably worse in the matchups it is intended since you lose hitting power and a really long-range POW 20 Snapjaw missile, along with some utility from Wrong Eye's spells (esp against Skorne and Trolls). We will see how it goes.
I've considered not taking Bog Trogs with Rask to free up points for another heavy but for 5 pts they basically take assassination off the table (great support) and have done really good work for me late game with fury (MAT 8 POW 14s + reach + CMA = business).

You can find out how badly I do next week! This is probably the most exciting thing to happen to Gators since January 2013, the date of Rask's release. Yep, it's been that long, and still no Shamblers (not that I would really play them any way other than a Rask meatshield).

Until then, here is a video of Croatia's greatest contemporary punk rock band doing their thing: