Thursday, October 30, 2014

Coherant rage rant/thoughs on games design and balancing

I took a look at the new Iron Gauntlet videos posted on Privateer Press' youtube channel, together with the community's approach to the 2013 and 2014 WTC (when the Americans got involved) and was quite impressed with the production value and seriousness of the whole thing. It made me wonder whether PP really do take their game seriously as a balanced, top-shelf competitive wargame that you could feasibly play for money (the ultimate test of game balance), or whether the company-sponsored big tournament hype with an international invitational event is just marketing hype.

In any case, it brings up some (more) thoughts about game balance and how different companies go about achieving and maintaining it.

The WoW (Blizzard) way - what I believe is the least fun way to balance your game by far. Did you enjoy investing 80 hours in grinding that character? Sweet, because that toon will suck in 4 months time and you'll have to do it again if you want to be competitive in PvP/not get benched in hardmode raids. Blizzard messes with abilities and stats scalings seemingly at random, sometimes fundamentally changing how a class or spec works, for no real reason other than to change things.
I guess it keeps the game fluid (when you aren't in the 1+ year lull between expansions) but it f*cking sucks to have it happen to you, and not all too fun to have it happen to friends you play with often then quit the game or get sidelined.

The DotA (Valve) way - the best way to balance your game IMO, since everyone feels powerful, and feeling powerful is good. As long as you can handle getting totally blown up when you make mistakes, of course. One of the things that was difficult for me to believe (coming from tabletop and card games) when I started following DotA is that there are very, very few "really bad" heroes (ie. the ones that only get picked once in 1000 pro games) - there are probably 2-3 out of ~105 at this stage.

Usually in DotA when something gets nerfed, they leave a hero's strengths and focus on accenting its weaknesses.
For example, Keeper of the Light (aka. Kotl) is a support hero whose is really good early on the in game due to a huge (non-scaling) damage nuke spell he has, and can give your team a big early momentum advantage by setting up ganks and pushing lanes. So much so that at some point, he became an extremely common pick in pro games.
How did Valve nerf him? They reduced his starting HP by a little bit as well as his HP gain.
Since he is easier to kill early on, it is riskier to expose yourself to cast your big light beam, so you are forced to play safer. Thus enemy heroes are less threatened and can level up relatively faster so are in less immediate danger. Boom, systematic balance - hero still feels strong and isn't such a kick in the dick to play against.

And, as the cartoon suggests, when a hero gets buffed, they just get to do what they do better and leave their weaknesses as they are.
For example, Night Stalker is a hero that sucks bad during the day but becomes a fast melee monster at night (day and night cycle every few minutes in the game, with a few abilities to manipulate them). Basically all of Night Stalker's buffs in recent memory have been on improving his strengths at night - giving him access to items that give him total map vision at night, improving his stuns and snares at night, etc. But he still does and always will suck balls during the daytime. That is what Night Stalker is about. He is not a very common pick at present but he does what he does very well and is respected for it.

The LoL (Riot) way - I haven't played LoL, but from what I have seen and heard, the game as a whole is a LOT more forgiving than WM and DotA. Riot's balancing usually focuses on taking what exactly a champion is too good at and reduce the numbers so they aren't as good at it anymore, and the reverse for buffs. Nobody really feels OP for too long, but it is balanced out because neither does your opponent, nobody gets totally stomped for slight mistakes (not by the game, anyway), your nerves are steadier, the learning curve is flatter, the bruises aren't as deep and you sleep better at night.

The PP way?

The Privateer Press way - void.

Basically, they don't do shit in terms of model balance adjustments.

To their credit, they are pretty quick to pump out an errata when there is an actual error that really obviously affects game balance in an extreme way (like the Kaelyssa theme force printed a few months ago that allowed an 18 focus Hydra to one-shot basically anything in the game on the table on Turn 2), or when there is a general rule that is written in a way that causes serious games system malfunction (like Raeks arm-locking Colossals), or when something is just written poorly (ie. Kara Sloan's feat, Explosivo, Witch Hound, Backswing).

Here is a list of actual model balance changes in Mk2 (straight buffs/nerfs), as far as I remember:
  • Gaspy2 has been nerfed 2-3 times - all changes to his feat (changing the returned models from Incorporeal to Ghostly, and then from any models to grunts only). Legit nerf. Still one of the best casters in the game.
  • Rhyas got reach. Legit buff.
  • Taryn di la Rovissi's Shadow Fire ability was changed out of nowhere so that all models ignore the affected model for LoS purposes. Legit buff, but apparently in response to a systematic issue that we haven't seen yet.
  • Armored Shell on the two Khador shell jacks allowing them to stay closed after a trample or slam. Legit buff.
  • Entropic Aura on the Blood Hag was nerfed pre model release because forum rage decreed that denying Hordes warlocks transfers just by having a model standing within 8" was OP as all hell. Legit nerf, because that was indeed total BS.
  • You could argue the change to Side Step (triggering only off enemy models) was a nerf largely aimed at Molik Karn. Not a strong argument, but it has some merit. Likewise the Blackhide Wrastler's animus was 'friendly models' before people found out you could do the Flying Pegasus trick on Molik Karn and the 18pts you spent to do so made it a pretty good deal since Molik was really stupid with Makeda2 before the Side Step change (now just plain stupid).
You could argue that that most recent change to spell/ability targeting for friendly units might be a nerf to units and a buff to warjacks, but really it's just changing one very rare, very douchy negative play experience for another, less rare, less douchy negative play experience, and will have little effect on troop swarms being more efficient than warjacks in the vast majority of instances.

So over the last 4+ years of MkII, we have had SIX instances of targeted model balancing (some of which are arguably to avoid janky rules interpretations rather than actual power shifts).

So why this apprehension to changing models on PP's parts?

It's the GW effect: back in the day, when Warhammer and 40k were taken seriously as a competitive tabletop wargames (1), many people bought GW models on account of their rules above anything else. Then a new edition would come out, and their favourite model/unit/monster/vehicle was very likely to have been nerfed into the ground or even removed entirely from the game (!!!!). Yes, GW practiced the Blizzard way of doing things, except with a much bigger price tag attached and a lot more heartache. Needless to say, if you were one of those people who played WHFB/40k primarily for the game rather than the story or sweet models, you got really pissed off that these game pieces were now invalid and you had to spend another large wad of cash, time and effort to paint new models up. Not much fun, if you didn't like that side of things (2).

Some of the people who were pissed off ended up making a game called Warmachine, and made the solemn promise that they would never do such a thing to their players. To their credit,  every Warmachine model is still tournament legal, and I respect them greatly for sticking to that. In my opinion however, there should be a middle ground between the GW Effect and game balance. We should not be afraid to change things for the better. There is a lot of design space between 'making models obsolete' and 'balance tweaking' (see: the entire MkII process as an example of the latter).

The Counterargument

The strongest argument commonly presented in PP's defense is that they balance the game with new releases - they balance list blocks  rather than models within those lists. For example, a new model might allow a new type of list which would be counter to a current power list or opening up an entirely new playstyle within a given faction - take for example the Sacral Vault being a pretty hard counter to Cryx infantry spam (thereby weakening Cryx in the greater scheme of things) or eMorvahna introducing a highly effective attrition, infantry-based playstyle to Circle (making that faction stronger in multi-list tournament play).

This is the most common perception on balancing in the game and changing the meta, and to be honest I think it can be a valid way of doing thing - if you don't mind having models you paid a decent chunk of money for and spend time assembling and painting sitting on the shelf, gathering dust on account of being underpowered or unfavored in the current meta (3).... and if you don't mind waiting a pretty damn long time for those new things to come out in the first place!
It's been working OK for PP so far, since people keep playing, and sometimes you get 'that' release that solves a problem or advances a strength and you can now make really sweet lists and that keeps you going for a few months.

Good examples of this are Butcher3, who basically just Khadors harder (and more reliably) than the other Butchers, giving Khador a strongly thematic and powerful list, or something like the Gator Battle Engine, which IMO seriously ups the Gator game against a lot of the current Cryx BS out there and is available to all Gator, Legion or Circle lists (not that the latter two needed help vs Cryx).

The biggest problem with this approach however is model bloat, and consequentially each faction maintaining its identity and uniqueness within the greater game. Every model released makes it that much harder for the next release to not invalidate something else, and is also an opportunity for something else to sit on the shelf and do nothing. Another downside is that if the new releases fail to stimulate the meta (often they do), "subpar" models remain unused and things remain stale.

Imperfect Balance

Ideally, the most balanced PvP system is the mirror match like Chess, where every player has exactly the same options available to them, and the only difference is really who gets first turn.

Failing that, the best system is a 100% open model pool, where anyone can use anything and has relatively easy access to everything (like the more popular MOBAs, or arguably Fantasy Flight's Living Card Game model). This results in what is currently referred to as 'imperfect balance'.

However, given the army/faction system deeply embedded in the game system of Warmachine, that is not and likely will never be a possibility in Warmahordes, so you have a "packaged" version of imperfect balance instead, where the "best" things at any given time are a group of models (lists) rather than single things - except one where you don't have the benefit of regular patches (ala. PC games) or cycles (ala. Magic the Gathering) to switch the balance around when the meta start solidifying. As a result, you have more or less the same approximate lists on top year in, year out, with boredom and the occasional new super-powered piece as the primary meta shift engine.

The next best thing for Warmahordes is thus to have multiple balanced model pools ("factions"), which are not only balanced against each other for competitive reasons but balanced within themselves for "metagaming" reasons (ie. having fun with building interesting lists).This is hard, and requires A LOT of playtesting over a long period of time to get right, which means it requires a lot of small changes and tweaks over the same period of time. I think this is where PP's "no changes - ever (with a few exceptions)" approach to model balance hurts the metagame.

I've been of the opinion that annual/semiannual "balance" patches MOBA-style would do wonders for the game and meta. The current release cycle is a new book per game every ~16 months or so (4). So having one balance patch in between each release would be huge to keep things fresh. Each patch could have ~2 or so changes per faction and/or some larger systematic changes, together with a set of NQ/War Room cards with the changes to model. It would stimulate the meta and sales quite a bit, and would be a good justification for smaller number of releases by adding new viability to models that either were underpowered during playtesting, or have been excluded from the meta for a long time. They already release errata at this rate, so the timing can't be better!

Some arguments against this -
1) I believe the game is perfectly balanced as is! Yay butterflies and unicorns! (which I would argue is incorrect since perfect balance is never possible in an imperfect balance asymmetrical system. That's kinda the point, and imperfect balance systems are kept balanced and alive in the long term through continuous subtle balance changes which trigger meta opinion shifts).
2) Changes are confusing, the cards I have will be inaccurate. (we are far past this point in MK2 already with all the existing errata. Implementation is not difficult. With War Room and the internet, they have the infrastructure to do it easily so that shouldn't be any bigger a deal than 2 erratas a year.)
3) I believe that PP will mess up the game, I'd rather the devil I know. (even I don't believe they would screw it up given the huge amount of playtest data currently available these days. Lich2 nerfs have been very reasonable so far, for example. And besides, if they destroy the game, you can always just go play something else, or make your own tournament system like Hacksaw did before he started officially contracting for PP!)

The only reason I can think why it is not happening is that PP is terrified of the backlash from changing things people have already "paid for". Nerds get overly defensive about stuff like that. As far as I am concerned, as long as they do not delete models from the game GW-style, they aren't breaking any promises.

TL;DR: In an imperfect balance system, regular small changes must take place in order to maintain interest and actively rotate the meta. New releases are one way to do this, but each game only gets an expansion once every 18 months. In between, PP should make non-release changes in the form of errata/rules changes/balance changes and continuously strive for that unachievable perfection. The journey matters more than the destination.

P.S. - Jaga-Jaga article coming up in a week or so. I've played a bunch of games with her, just waiting for my model to arrive and get painted.


(1)  Mostly out of lack of alternatives, and because they had the largest player base of any board game outside the most competitive, strategically-intensive and balanced tabletop wargame of all time: chess.

(2) Much like a lot of people these days don't like spending hours painting models but are pushed to do so by 'fully-painted only' events! But that's another topic for another rant I will probably not write. 

(3) Keeping in mind that the 'meta' in Warmachine changes really damn slow, like 8-18months type slow.  

(4) Gargantuans came out March 2013, Exigence October 2014.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Minions 2.0 - Episode 2: The Empire Strikes Back

It seems Exigence has turned my Warmachine life upside down - Pigs actually got good models instead of being a joke for the 3rd time in a row, Troll players are somewhat happy with their releases, Legion not so much and I actually feel like writing things in this blog (a feeling that will surely pass once I hit 100 posts :P)

One thing that is always certain though - Skorne will take Minion stuff and do it better. I am of course talking about the new Skorne Aradus bug heavies.

Aradus Soldier - Swamp Horror 2.0

The Aradus Soldier is basically an improved Swamp Horror, with some minor differences. Let's compare the two.
  • Mobility: SPD 3 vs SPD 4, but the Aradus has AD, Pathfinder, and is in Skorne. Huge advantage Aradus.
  • Steadiness: A very important category. Both are Steady. Nil.
  • Power Attacks: 0 open fists vs 3 open fists. Point Horror.
  • Survability: 11/19, 29 boxes vs 10/17, 27 boxes (but access to Spiny Growth). Slight advantage Aradus.
  • Ranged damage reduction:, +4 ARM vs -1 die damage, and the Aradus' Carapace also works against backstrikes which combos great with Reach+Pull weapons. Point Aradus.
  • Melee output - non-Reach weapons: POW18 vs POW16 Critical Catastrophic Damage. Situational, but slight advantage Aradus.
  • Melee ouput - Reach Pull weapons: 2xPOW15 vs 3xPOW12. Situational, but slight advantage Aradus.
  • Animi: "RNG6: warbeast gains Snacking" vs "RNG6: model gets reach". Situational and factional differences, but advantage Horror.
  • PC - Aradus is 9, Horror is 8. Point Horror.

They are very similar in design - both resistant to ranged damage, both have Pull Reach attacks and a hard-hitting non-Reach attack - essentially in terms of combat they do very similar things. The Aradus wins in most categories (it is a point more for a reason) and is generally a better beast. However the Horror does grant Reach to things which is pretty amazing and the critical effect on the beak can wreck huge bases with a little luck.

Aradus Sentinel - Ironback Spitter 2.0

The Aradus Sentinel is basically an improved Ironback Spitter, with some minor differences. Let's compare the two:

  • Mobility: SPD 3 vs SPD 4, but the Aradus has AD, Pathfinder, and is in Skorne. Huge advantage Aradus. If I learned anything from Calaban's Theme Force, it's that ADing Spitters is pretty good.
  • Steadiness: Aradus is Steady. Point Aradus.
  • Power Attacks: Both have 2 open fists, but Aradus is MAT6/STR11. Slight advantage Aradus.
  • Survability: 11/19, 29 boxes vs 10/18, 27 boxes (but access to Spiny Growth). Slight advantage Aradus.
  • Anti-free strike mechanics: +4 ARM against free strikes vs attacker takes d6 damage after free strike). Huge advantage Aradus, especially for a ranged beast who wants to disengage from combat.
  • Ranged damage reduction: +4 ARM vs Girded. Huge advantage Aradus.
  • Melee damage: 2xPOW14 @ MAT6 vs 1xPOW15 + 2xPOW13 @ MAT5.
    Advantage Aradus.
  • Ranged damage: RNG10 POW13 AoE3 Non-typed Poison weapon with Arcing Fire @ RAT5 vs RNG 12 POW14 AoE3 Corrosion-typed Cont:Corrosion @RAT 5. 
    Situationally different, but I think the Aradus will have a significant advantage most of time time due to AD, lack of damage type (it can kill Gorman!) and boosted blast damage vs most models is better than 2/3 chance of auto-plink in the majority of circumstances. Point Aradus.
    Also the weapon is called VENOM BLASTER. That's metal as f*ck.
  • Animi: Swarm vs Ornery.
    Swarm can be useful if you end up getting jammed up and makes it DEF 13 (respectable). I have never cast Ornery in all my years of playing Spitters - as far as I am concerned the Spitter has no animus. Point Aradus.
  • PC: Both 8pts. Nil.
Again, very similar beasts in design - not great in melee, have some free strike protection, some ranged protection, and are primarily about their really good gun. The Aradus Sentinel however, is better in almost every way and clearly a better design. If the Spitter had a really good animus it might be able to compete on some level, but it has no animus.

TL;DR - The Skorne Empire releases Minions 2.1, now extending their improvement of Minion models to heavy warbeasts.

Basically, more reasons to make me sad about Minionhood and make me want to play Skorne who just keep taking Minion stuff and doing it better. I read a good post on some forum a few days ago about Rasheth being the 4-Star of Minions - very accurate!

However I just think about all the baggage playing Skorne entails, with their huge backlog of models and the slippery slope waiting there, and the desire quickly goes away. Plus I hate getting shot :)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jaga-Jaga Theme Force - Voodoo Dolls

With the book now officially out, and 100% confirmed only two Gator releases, I thought I should put up this theme list with some completely hypothetical and untested thoughts, together with some ruthlessly sarcastic analysis:

The list

Beasts = all current beasts
Units = Bog Trog units, Gatorman units
Solos = All current solos but Pendrake, Raluk and Totem Hunter
Battle Engine = Sacral Vault

So it's like Blindwater minus Swamp Gobbers, Pendrake, Totem Hunter, Raluk Moorclaw, and -1 FA on Gatorman stuff. Nothing too exciting there. At least you don't have to pretend like the swamp templates matter.

Tier Bonuses

Tier 1 = Reduce PC of Sacral Vaults by 1 (8pts)

This is neat. They are FA:2 so at most you will save 2 pts. That's a single free Croak Hunter! WOW.
A better way of looking at this is that it gives you the free Feralgeists you need to achieve the Tier 2 bonus.

Tier 2 = 3 or more Undead models/units -> Undead models gets advance move.

Currently there are 3 Undead models available for this list - Boneswarms, Shamblers and Feralgeists. It's not entirely unreasonable to take one of each in this list, especially with Posse being FA:2, you will probably take a unit of Shamblers. And a single Boneswarm isn't terrible for the animus and the fury if you are otherwise running beast light...

This is similar to the Maelok theme Tier 3 bonus, which I used almost exclusively to move Maelok up so that he would be able to Death Pact something and then walk comfortably behind a wall. However this bonus is much better than the Maelok one because it allows all the Swamp Shamblers to get an Advance Move (not the Bokor, as he is not an Undead model). So neato, I guess, especially with the Tier 4 bonus. 

In a scenario like Incursion, it would also help your multiple Feralgeists to rush to the side flags to hopefully get you an early point.

Tier 3 = 2 or more models/units with Magic Ability -> Start with all upkeeps in play

Models with Magic Ability = Shambler Bokor, Gatorman Witch Doctor (I don't think Wrong Eye counts).
This tier is super easy to achieve since you are taking at least one unit of Shamblers for the previous bonus, and Witch Doctors are great with Shamblers because Tough on cheap garbage throwaway models is the height of tactical brilliance.
However the bonus is negligible since Jaga-Jaga only has 2 upkeeps (Escort and Grave Wind) which are very easy to put up and then charge forward if you want to be really aggressive (which with Jaga herself you don't really want to be).

Tier 4 = One or more Sacral Vaults -> 2" extra deployment.

Other than the Advance Move on the one unit of Shamblers, there's no reason to play this tier other than the cheaper Sacral Vaults, so this bonus is almost automatically achieved. Basically it means after your first turn, you should have Shambler grunts at or slightly past the midway point of the table. Cool.

So your list could look something like this:

Voodoo Dolls #1
Points: 50/50
Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer (*5pts)
* Bone Swarm (4pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Blackhide Wrastler (9pts)
Gatorman Bokor and Bog Trog Shamblers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Thrullg / Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)

You could probably drop the heavy for a unit of Posse but with two Vaults you will have a lot of infantry killing already, and a heavy gives Escort purpose.

My initial impressions are bleh. It doesn't seem that playing 2pts up and getting advance move Shamblers is worth giving up a 3rd Posse (or second unit of Shamblers!).

I think the Tier 2 requirements are the downer, since either you take a Boneswarm (a pretty bad model) or you spend points on Feralgeists who are neat models but it is basically just eating up your 2 free points to meet this requirement.

You could change the above list slightly by removing the Boneswarm to get:

Voodoo Dolls #2
Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer (*5pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Blackhide Wrastler (9pts)
Gatorman Bokor and Bog Trog Shamblers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Croak Hunter (2pts)
Croak Hunter (2pts)Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)

Which is probably better than the above. It could be further modified by trading Vault + Wrastler for 5 Posse + Spitter if you only wanted to run a Single Vault (also decent):

Voodoo Dolls #3
Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer (*5pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Ironback Spitter/Swamp Horror (8pts)
Gatorman Bokor and Bog Trog Shamblers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Thrullg / Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts) (you could keep the 2 Croak Hunters from above if you wished by dropping a Geist)
Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)

Alternatively, if you just want to play 2 Posse, 1 Vault and no Totem Hunter/Gobbers, you just take this list at tier 1 and essentially get a free Feralgeist rather than the Blindwater templates (very good deal IMO). I think that's where the list is best to be honest, because at present only having 3 models to fill the Tier 2 requirement to get what the list does best (jamming with tough Shamblers) is a bit of a downer.

If it is ruled that one unit of Shamblers fulfills the Tier 2 requirement by itself (which would mean the rule is horribly written), then the list would have a little more flexibility and be quite a bit better.

TL;DR version:
  • Give up +1 FA on Gatorman Units, Solos and BEs + Totem Hunter
  • Get 2" extra deployment and Advance Move on Shambler grunts
Safe, uninspired theme force that mostly exists just because there is an unwritten rule that every warlock must have a theme force. Not really bad but not really good either.

The main benefit is basically better jamming with one unit of (tough) Shamblers, which also comes with the requirement of 3 undead model/units. 2" extra deployment in general is also neat for melee lists, but you have to meet Tier 2 to get there.

The jam can be pretty sweet if your opponent has no guns or competent infantry clearing or if you're a skilled player and make lots of tough rolls. If you keep the Bokur safe, you can hopefully wrack up some corpse tokens to make more Shamblers. Then you follow up with dual Vaults and get souls and shoot things and laugh and then play another list. I think she just works so well with 3 Posse and the tanky Totem Hunter that light Shambler jam doesn't really make up for it, but we shall see how big an impact the Vault will have.

Goddamn, does War Room eat up your phone battery or what....

All the Gatormans

Here's all my stuff painted as of today (actually 6 something months ago, since no Shamblers):

Click to enlarge
I think I took this picture as an example of the base markings I use to differentiate my 3 Posse units. Just thought I should put it up on here for future reference.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A short article on Piece Trading

 I made this pretty good post on the PP forums a few months back about piece trading and thought I should archive it here. The question posed was "explain piece trading to me". Here is my response:

I think piece-trading is one of the fundamental concepts of Warmachine. It is one of the pillars of an attrition-based strategy.

One of the first things I try to impress upon new players is that some or most their stuff is going to die almost every game (a lot of people have a hard time with this concept because they get emotionally attached to their models and how cool and badass they are supposed to be, and forget their opponent's stuff is also cool and badass). What matters is what you get in exchange for it on the following turn(s). You should always expect stuff to die, but you should likewise always have a plan for what you can get in return for something dying.

For example, as a Blindwater player, good piece trading is how I can beat Runes of War. That's fundamentally what that matchup comes down to for me.
If you as the Troll player lead with the Runeshapers, then I can just kill them with unbuffed Gators (assuming you don't pull out high-skill, uncounterable plays like making lots of tough rolls), and in return I lose a couple of those Gators in exchange for your heavy, and generally don't have to worry about the heavies as much if they are in the back and just exposing themselves to kill a few Gators.
This pushes you to lead with beasts instead and make good use of the walls to mitigate my charges. Because I have longer effective threat ranges on my heavies with Boundless Charge + Reach (not to mention Rask's feat), and they hit really hard with Fury + Rask's amazing gun of wonder, I can probably use one of my heavies a turn to kill one of your heavies and initiate the trading. That heavy will in turn be killed by another of your heavies. Something like this:

Wrastler (+a few extra damage points) kills Mulg -> Earthborn kills Wrastler -> Swamp Horror kills Earthborn -> Mauler kills Swamp Horror -> Furied Gators/Snapjaw kills Mauler -> I have Snapjaw + a lot of Gators and you have Runeshapers that although really good will have trouble dealing with that much ARM and attacks, and Horluk without transfers easily dies to a Gator or two.

Horluk's feat can potentially be a problem of course, that's like the ace in the hole for the Troll player and makes for a real good game.

Doom Reavers are a good example of a piece-trade oriented unit because when used effectively they force a choice - if your opponent ignores them, they get charged by MAT 7 POW 13 reach berserk weapon masters. That is not a sweet for them, and super sweet for you. However, if you opponent uses attacks on killing the Doom Reavers, then they aren't damaging your other stuff. The key to using Doom Reavers effectively is to make sure that choice exists. If you throw them out front and they get shot without consequences, then they accomplish nothing. If they get shot at, and in doing so means your other, potentially more important pieces get where they need to be (all it takes is one Reaver to force command checks and tie up stuff), then that could be worth 6 pts in itself.

Likewise, I've won a lot of games because I was able to just throw a crapload of troops in my opponent's face to stop him getting into a zone. Jamming, as this is called, is basically trading models for control points/board control. It doesn't matter if you give up 25pts of your army in one turn if you can win the game next turn.

In terms of factions, Cryx is really good at the piece-trade game because they can trade cheap garbage for your expensive stuff in almost every list using all their crack-fueled buffs/debuffs and mildly OP troops. That's why it's really important to take out the lynchpin models like Necrosurgeons, the very last Bile Thrall, Tartarus or whatever to reduce the impact of their retaliation OR, more effectively, just shoot them from a distance where they can't really hit back. That's why Cryx doesn't do so well vs ranged factions like Ret, Cygnar or PoM and curbstomps melee-centric factions like Trolls, Skorne, Gators, etc. It basically comes down to piece-trading.


Building up from there, I would expand on the Runes of War matchup by looking at the Nilsson vs Flanzer matchup that took place at the 2013 WTC. This was Maelok with 3 Posse, 3 Croctors, 3 Bull Snappers and WE + Snapjaw vs the standard Runes of War list (with Axer).

Flanzer realized that if he lead with the Runeshapers, as one often does with Runes of War, they will simply get killed by unbuffed Gators and not kill too many of them in return. The heavies might then kill a couple, but by then, Revived Gators would have infiltrated the rear ranks, started killing the Krielstone and probably would have gotten to Doomshaper. This would be quite bad for the Troll board position.

Instead, Flanzer decided to put his heavies up front. He realized that Gators without Rask suck at cracking ARM 19+ really bad and he was rocking ARM 21+ due to walls, Krielstone and animi. No problem. As a result, he was able to cockblock Maelok's feat using Mulg's magic stick as well as the anti-incorporeal aura at a safe distance and just slowly grind the Gators down by throwing them away and plinking them off with Runeshaper AoEs, giving almost nothing up in return.

Despite officially being the (Kanye-approved) Greatest Minion Player of All Time, Rickard was not able to trade the Gators for anything given the board position. Beating on the heavies was a highly unlikely proposition for him, and his only real chance in the matchup was to push aggressively for the assassination, which is really tough given Runes' defensive layers.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Exigence Gatorman releases



Bam. 2 releases. Again. Disappointed. Again, despite my low expectations. Funny how history repeats itself. I am unsure whether to wait a week and hope for more 'legit' spoilers, or to (more realistically) keep crying in my corn flakes.

Both pretty much fully spoiled months ahead, the BEs probably as a result of Tinkerhouse/War Room mistake.
I do like that Battle Engine a lot though. It's probably 1 of the 3 or 4 models I feel Gators needed to feel "complete", or complete enough to be on par with core factions as they currently stand. I think, for me at least, it will see more play than Shamblers once it comes out mid-2015. Enjoy the wait, fellow reptiles!

Exigence Gatorman/Minion spoilers

Updated as I see things on the internets. Everything 100% unconfirmed and just as likely to be trolling. Initial thoughts posted for later amusement.

1. Sacral Vault also works for Legion and Circle. Pig BE works for Trolls and Skorne. Apparently  pretty much as spoiled before.

Because we cannot have nice things by ourselves. I don't mind sharing anyway. But I do love playing stuff that craps on Cryx!

2. Maximus: Doom Reaver with Relentless Charge, Tough and Unyielding SPD 6 MAT 8 DEF 13 ARM 16 PC 2
Works for everyone, but probably not Gators. Because Minions are one faction and all that propaganda.

That is good. Very good. Assuming he also has at least 5 damage boxes, that is a tanky, tanky Reaver. Still can get shot but he can deal a lot of damage.

3. Some light cav solo, likely for Pigs.

I swear to god, if both Pacts don't get a useful beast of some kind....

4. Apparently no Gobber Pirate thingos

Whatever. Gobbers are stupid. I just realized yesterday that the Swamp Gobbers are not actually amphibious. SWAMP. GOBBERS. Might as well rename to Desert Gas Goblins.

5. Apparently none of the promised cross-pact stuff?

Ok things have died down for a while it seems.Hoping for something else.

Pls PP つ ◕_◕ ༽つ GIV WARBIST つ ◕_◕ ༽つ 

Another thingo:

Jaga theme: 
1 - Indeterminate restrictions = reduce point cost of BE by 1
2 - 3+ undead models/units = undead models gain advance move
3 - Two+ models with Magic Ability = friendly models / units can begin the game affected by jaga jaga's upkeeps
4 - 1+ Sacral Vault =  2" extra deployment zone

Unless you get access to some sweet out of faction stuff, this is literally a steaming pile of cat vomit. Unless you get the 3 Posse and everything you would normally bring of course.
Helga theme:
1 - reduced cost of BE by 1
2 - slaughterhouser units, maximus gain AD
3- 2" extra deployment zone
4- +1 to starting roll!

See comment above, but switch out cat for dog vomit (larger area but not as putrid).

Light Cav Pig solo:
Works for everyone in hordes but gators
light cav, pathfinder, camouflage, sniper, RNG 12, POW 7 AP gun.

Stats: SPD8 STR5 MAT6 RAT7 DEF14 ARM14 and CMD8 
Race is Efaarit and he rides a retarded version of a camel.

Works for everyone BUT Gators! Hahahahah!