Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blindwater at 25pts for the Journeyman League

Due to a hectic schedule, I didn't manage to get in any 15pt games in the Journeyman League. Sad, but what do you do? My plans for 15pts involved adding a pair of Croak Hunters, which would give me a bit more credible pop-and-drop threat.

At 25, I've run the following:
Bloody B
5-strong Gatorman Posse
Croak Hunter

I ran up against the following:
Gun Mages
-Marshalled Charger

I ended up winning; I was worried as my initial engagement with his jacks did precious little damage, and the turn I didn't have Iron Flesh on the posse was the turn I lost a few. We both had some 'bleh' dice, though mine rebounded in the end and I managed to pull it out, or more like I managed to kill his stuff that could boost. Grandpa Turtle beat Stryker within 2 boxes of death, and then the Snapper finished him off. I lost the bulk of the posse, but managed to deliver the Wrastler into his Ironclad while the posse worked the Lancer over.

Thoughts on the List

Barnabas and Order of Activation
Oh, this is very much a learning curve. He's usually the first to activate, as you're going to want swamp pits (either to slow the other guy down, or deny shooting) or you'll be using your feat as setup/denial.

This means you'll be going without Iron Flesh for a turn, as you're going to do the setup (and you'd have to drop IF off your posse) with Barnabas, thus giving the other guy a chance to hit your DEF12-13 gators. I mean, Barnabas can walk up and mug something with his axe to put it up, but at that point I'd be doing it on myself.

Since he IS activating first, you'll want to leave him space to move it on up. I made the mistake of bricking up off the bat, then realized Barnabas would want to move up and put Swamp Pits in useful places.

I also think that the threat of putting jacks into shallow water is overestimated by the opponent. Can you do it? Of course. However, Swamp Pit's stipulations about not going over bases (and being completely within his control area) mean you'll have to be close, and you probably want a throw target in there (IE: a feralgeist, or something). I think what gets people all worked up is the notion that you theoretically COULD render a jack inert; that's one hell of a setback as they're not getting use out of it for a couple of turns (gotta reactivate it, then gotta get it back into the fight).

The Wrastler
'Rise' is hilarious against folks that have knockdown spells like Stryker's Earthquake. It IS very nice to be able to have infantry 'shake effect' (especially when you wanted that charge...) and it'll let you have more fury on your beasts for the killin'. That aside, I'm often a bit cautious with this guy, as I need him to crack heavy armor.

The Spitter

Come on. You NEED a bloody ranged attack in this army. In a pinch, he can do melee, though MAT5 is kinda limiting. As others have noted, AoEs on a warbeast are friggin' sweet, as I can boost damage rolls at will. Grandpa* gets honorable mention during Stryker's feat turn; he had a wonderful shot lined up against gun mages (HA! I don't care about your ARM, you gonna MELT!)...which he promptly whiffed. It proceeded to scatter onto Stryker, Strangeways and the Squire. My opponent and I were both amused. This would've been cooler if it weren't feat turn, but Corrosion is Corrosion.

The Snapper
This guy was more an animus-bot than anything else. Spiny Growth on high-ARM/high-DEF targets is very nice; this is something I knew. It's also very beneficial on heavies, because I can't afford to take/run that many of them.

The Posse
Iron Flesh + Dirge of Mists = STUPID TOUGH, especially with an elevation bonus. PS13 attacks aren't bad against infantry and the occasional light warjack, but now I understand people's concerns about killing heavy armor with gators: you're gonna need a Wrastler or Parasite. Against infantry? Come on. Re-rolling attack rolls, MAT7, multiple attacks? Yeah, I think they've got this. Reach and medium bases make them a pain to bypass, and of course ARM16, 8 hit boxes, and Unyielding just sweeten the pot.

The Croak Hunter
This guy didn't do much aside from draw fire. Gorman walked over to distract him (which is valuable in and of itself) as the Hunter was jogging off to the side, taking a wide flanking path. Comically, Gorman and the Hunter spent the entire game whiffing at each other; when you need an 8 to hit and you have only one swing and you can't boost, well...yeah. It was the slap-fight of the game. Gorman managed to land one hit, but his PS6-7ish pointy object isn't that scary against ARM14 with hit boxes.

A shooty-heavy army versus Barnabas is admittedly a rough matchup, though I was still worried about his feat turn and heavy hitters. I got a bit lucky on the dice in the middle. I also chucked the posse up there to jam up his jacks, and I think that ended up being prudent as I was able to move the Wrastler into position to KO the Ironclad. Once it and the Lancer went down, it was all over but the crying, as gun mages won't take a couple of Gatormen and a couple fresh heavies. I've only used Barnabas himself in melee once, and that was against a Legion warpack (ate a shredder, got some Iron Flesh) in the battle box part.

And the next decision: do I want to switch 'locks, or keep rocking Barnabas? My Calaban is mostly painted, and Maelok is almost fully assembled.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Blindwater Battle Box

We've got a Journeyman League underway locally, and I decided to indulge my faction ADD, and grabbed some Gatormen.  Frankly, I already have a posse and some various other minions from playing Legion, so this was more of a 'grab battle box and go' kind of decision.

We've polished off our battlebox week, and some games have given me a perspective on said box.

Bloody Barnabas
At the battle box level, you're not getting everything out of Bloody B that you otherwise could.

He has a certain amount of damage output, what with the two PS14 attacks (one with Reach and Blood Boon) and a PS12.  His defensive stats are so-so; DEF13 is pretty easy to hit without a boost, and ARM17 (even with unyielding) isn't THAT hefty when a warnoun is gently tapping you.  Counter-charge looks counterintuitive, but you can use it to get some free movement against non-reach enemies (...of which there are plenty in the battle box; just make sure you aren't opening yourself up for abuse this turn).

Spell List
A whopping 6 fury nets you four spells.  The Flesh Eater is a so-so spell; you might use it to finish off a wounded target but it's not going to get a ton of use in a battle box game.  A couple times, I'd considered trying it as a potential finisher on pop-and-drop, but two of them leave you without any fury and one is only so-so with a boosted damage roll.

Bloody B is the only target for Iron Flesh, and it pushes him from a so-so DEF13 to a very respectable DEF16.  If he's got a little fury on him, Iron Flesh plus a transfer target might let him survive a run that doesn't knock him down.

Swamp Pit is still the moneymaker.  Shallow water can slow people down, and you can deny the enemy shooting.  The latter is pretty important.

Warpath is neat, but outside of a Legion battle box you are unlikely to get off more than one good move out of it.  Once you get to a 25-35 point game, I expect it to be very useful.

Hey, it's knockdown that's useless in a mirror match.  At this points level it's hard to hide casters at all, and you don't have enough ranged power in the battle box to make a viable drop-and-pop happen on an undamaged caster.

On the other hand, this can be a valuable setup/denial feat at this points level.  Knocking down the other guy's army means he's got to spend fury/focus to stand up and do anything.  It's a resource game; if you can't close the gap in another way you can limit their ability to react.

The Warbeasts
With the Blindwater box, you get both of the heavies in the gator stable: Blackhide Wrastler and Ironback Spitter.  In a way, it reminds me of the Khador box.

He's reasonably durable, he can hit pretty hard, and you get a sick animus with a pair of open fists.  Snacking is a bonus, but by and large this guy is either going to be your assassin, or be the one KOing an enemy heavy.  As you've got a pair of models that can throw, you can abuse the Rise animus, or just use it for the simple 'death roll the other guy and get up' maneuver.

Basically, if you're going after a high-DEF target, consider a boosted attack roll plus a Death Roll, get that one boosted PS17 in on them and then rip them apart without having to roll to hit.  Or, hell, if Barnabas hasn't activated, you might as well make it a sure thing with a Death roll and let Barnabas use Rise on the Wrastler to at least make the other guy roll to hit you.

Ironback Spitter
Ok, this guy's sculpt screams 'GET OFFA MA LAWN!' (at least, in conjunction with the 'ornery' animus it does).  You're losing speed, MAT, and ARM over the spitter.  You keep the open fists, but lose some POW off the fists and your main attack is a PS15 instead of 17. 

So, what's this guy got?  A gun, and Bloody B means you can fire without retaliation.  RNG12 means you can generally take shots without being in charge range, and a RAT5, POW14 boostable is very workable.  In a pinch, a good scatter with boosted damage roll can ding up a caster and make the other guy play a little more conservatively.  In a pinch, a volley of PS15s from the bite aren't bad, and you can always throw/slam.

Putting it Together
This box reminds me a bit of the Khador box: you've got a reasonably well-defended caster, a shooty heavy, and a punchy heavy.  You lose some of the speed for a slower game that can deny shooting.  Your lock's defense is a bit one-dimensional (if they can get to you while you don't have Iron Flesh up, you're reliant on ARM17/19, whereas Sorscha is reliant on a high DEF score), but your feat is nice for slowing an enemy army or setting them up for death.  You have a solid threat-range enhancer (two-handed throw + Rise), too.

Most of my games have involved using Swamp Pits to shoot at the other guy (thus forcing him to close with me) and trying to KO heavy hitters.  In mangled metal/tooth 'n' claw I can't afford to ignore anything that can KO my heavies in short order.  Boosted POW14s can ding up lights, or soften up heavies.

The other threat is of course slamming warjacks into Swamp Pits.  Turn off one or more warjacks when there's just a caster available to reactivate them?  Yeah, no one likes that.  It takes some work to set up (given that Swamp Pit can't go over any bases and must be wholly within BB's control area) but the mere threat of it apparently draws cries of 'CHEESE!' from those who are not imaginative enough to work around it.

The one thing I havent' gotten off yet is the throw-rise-kill assassination run. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Vyros NQ Tier

First, I'd like to offer a quick apology to readers; my posting was somewhat interrupted by a barrage of work-related travel, then travel-related illness that forced me on something of a hiatus.

That aside, I decided I'd paint up some of my Retribution, and try to make my favorite borderline-psychotic elf work in a theme list: Dawnlord Vyros.  Everyone's favorite flanking caster got himself a new theme list in No Quarter #35.

The Tiers
The Limits
Non-character warjacks with field dependent.
Small-based Dawnguard units; any Houseguard units.
Arcanist solos, Dawnguard solos, and Houseguard solos.

Tier 1
Obey the aforementioned limits
FA of non-character Dawnguard units/solos goes up by 1

Tier 2
Battlegroup has 2+ heavies
Point cost of heavies in the battlegroup goes down by 1

Tier 3
2+ units
For every two units you have, one heavy in the battlegroup gets Advance Move

Tier 4
the army has 4+ warjacks
Each jack in the battlegroup gets 1 focus at the start of Control Phase 1

On the Benefits/Restrictions
For me, Tier 3 is the money.  Tier one is so-so; given the subsequent restrictions (and lack of extra unit attachments) I don't see redundancy in the units as a major benefit.  As we have all of zero Houseguard solos and two Dawnguard solos, I'm not sure I see a benefit there, either.  Scyirs are somewhat questionable with Vyros, as heavies belong in his battlegroup and lights still like the benefit.  At best, they're a guided MAT10 weaponmaster missile that fires through your Dawnguard lines.  Thanes are useful for feat turn and as flankers, but I'm not sure I'd want to take 3 in the army.

Tier two, however, is pretty easy to get to.  Vyros likes warjacks, and he's gonna like cheaper heavies even more.  Seven point Manticores are hard to argue with, and I can live with 8pt Hydras a bit more.  The Phoenix at 9 is still nice, since you're probably not going to use the arc node and frankly, a 360 front arc + reach can be a liability to a canny opponent, as you kind of lose the benefit of free strikes.

Tier 3 is where we start making money.  Advance move on heavies is nice, and with access to Houseguard units (and the 2pt Heavy Rifle Team) we can reasonably get advance move on a couple of heavies as low as 35pts.  Any of our heavies can use this: Manticores can put suppressive fire just outside the enemy DZ, Hydras can fuel up and move into the mid-line on turn 2, and a Phoenix can get in there and be ready for a devastating charge or a nasty Combustion even faster.

Tier 4 is bound to be nicer for larger games, as you'll be able to push your jacks up faster and still crank out your upkeeps on turn one.

Downside of the Restrictions
Offhand, you'll notice a couple of things you're NOT gonna get in this list:
Stormfall Archers

Eyriss is your only real answer for upkeep removal.  This could hurt you.  You're otherwise stuck with Soulless for anti-magic duties, which could be passable.  Stormfall Archers are also a bit of a loss, as they're one of our main answers to high-DEF infantry and/or stealth stuff, plus they can do a number on hard targets as well.  I like these guys, what can I say? 

You also lose out on some of our hard-hitting solos and our movement shenanigans, but I've always kinda felt Vyros liked the straightforward approach anyways.

Working the Tier
My experience with the tier is largely at the 35pt level.  I think aiming for T3 is going to maximize your benefit, as it's unrealistic to get to T4.  I want my cheap heavies, and I want my heavies to be able to get up there in a hurry.

1) The Choice of Heavies
Honestly, I'm currently liking a pair of Manticores for my T2 requirement.  Here are some reasons why:
1) Covering fire WAY out there early on
You can help control enemy movement, and with a turn one mobility, you can be 14" across the field, add in a foot-long range for covering fire and you ARE putting it on their doorstep.  If you go first, you can get some great board control against enemy infantry
2) Enemy stealth people don't like covering fire
...if you can't kill them early, you can at least control them somewhat.  One template isn't too hard to get around; two near each other forces a considerable detour
3) The feat can help fuel them
Against enemy infantry lists, it's not going to be too terribly hard to slag a handful of guys during your feat turn, and fuel these things.

Pondering Hydras
On the one hand, you can also push Hydras up to the mid-line, and they can set up shop.  One of them can get two focus from Vyros, one gets one from an Arcanist; you then chuck up Inviolable Resolve and Mobility and you have Hydras at the midline and your infantry buff in play.  Next turn, you can fully fuel them with 3 focus, upkeep, and have a couple left over in case you feel the need to cast Hallowed Avenger.
he Con: this is more of a gimmick in that Stealth still shuts you down.  On the other hand, you can bounce some high-damage shots off enemy targets, and start doing a number on them as they CANNOT hide from you unless they have stealth.

On Phoenixes
I'm hesitant about the phoenix for a few reasons.  On the bright side, combust is a fine way to kill high-DEF enemy infantry, and you still have the Phoenix's lovely PS17 reach weapon.  On the downside, you're still probably never going to use the Arc Node.  Finally, a canny opponent will exploit your 360 front arc to avoid free strikes, and a phoenix has a large area around it where they can do so.  The gun on it is so-so, so pushing up to the midfield early on really only uses this thing's melee and combust capabilities. 

I just think you can get more for less in jacks with this particular tier; I still like the Phoenix and it still has a nasty threat range with reach and mobility.

2) The Units
If we're going to Tier 3, you probably want to grab a pair of Heavy Rifle Teams.  It's 4 points for some armor-piercing shots (still vulnerable to stealth, but frankly, if the enemy is stealth-heavy you just try to grab/hold territory with these guys.  They're 2 bloody points).  Let them run turn one, and set up for shots on turn 2 and later.  Some people take exception to armor piercing as well, and with an effective RAT7 with the binocular grunt, you can make people leery of getting heavies nearby, or even heavy infantry.

So, let's pretend you're gonna take two of these.  Let's pretend you're taking two Manticores as well.  You've spent a total of 6 points after accounting for Vyros' jack points, and if you're shooting for 35 you have a solid 29 points.  Let's be honest, you're gonna take a couple of Arcanists, so you've spent 8 points and have 27 to dump on two more units and any more solos you choose to take.

At this point, you're going to want to decide what you want for a core.  We have movement control, heavy hitters for melee, and anti-heavy gunfire.  I would like a little accurate melee damage.  When it comes to Vyros, I have a soft spot for Invictors.  Expensive?  Yeah.  You get what you pay for, and Vyros doesn't mind a ranged punch.  You have an easier time on the feat turn, and in a pinch if you can get the ranges right, you can mess up even Stealth infantry, as most of them don't like RAT8 tag-teams that re-roll misses.  You have 360 front arcs on heavies, so you can also get the flank bonus out there a bit easier, then you have MAT9 weaponmasters at PS10, which isn't bad.  You ARE dependent on your jacks, though, for this to work.  I would consider a Griffin with them as a flank-bot for them and for Vyros.

On the other hand, you can go for the Houseguard module.  At 9 points, you can get a fully-equipped unit of Halberdiers; they can go up to ARM20 in shieldwall with Inviolable Resolve, and with the minifeat, a pair of them can tag-team something at MAT10.  You get your hitting power, AND any guns behind them still see through 'em.  This brings me to the Riflemen; you have good range (still worrying about stealth...) and with the UA, they're almost tailor-made to go with Halberdiers as they can accurately CRA into melee.

3) Solos & Support
Frankly, take your two arcanists already.  Just do it.  There are currently no Houseguard solos, so forget that.  You have access to a pair of Dawnguard solos: the Scyir, and the Thane.  As you're likely to keep warjacks in Vyros' battlegroup for the benefits (Mobility & Bird's Eye), the Scyir is really just a guided missile.  Then again, it's a MAT10 PS12 weaponmaster guided missile with flank, and if you're rocking Dawnguard, you can fire it through the lines and knock a chunk out of things.  It's no Mage Hunter Assassin, but it'll do some damage and not draw near the fire the MHA does.

The Thane, in my mind, competes with the Griffin.  The Thane is a great flanker:  it can hold down objectives and still contribute, and in a pinch it can throw out a nasty charge at a distance; MAT10 PS14 is on par with the Griffin.  Plus, multi-fire on a POW12 gun is just plain fun; you can mow down infantry or ding up softer targets.  Don't forget you can go for a RAT9 with the aim (fun if someone gets a high-DEF target or a caster within 10") or get a nice scoot 'n' shoot with multi-fire + ride-by attacks.

The Griffin, on the other hand, does two things: VERY long-ranged missile, and flank-bot/distractor.  Start with SPD6, add 3" for a charge, and 2" for reach.  If you fleet, you can get another 2", and with Mobility, that's another 2" still; you have a max threat range of 15" in any direction, but it costs you.  More likely you'll either fleet or mobility, but a Griffin already has MAT8 on the charge with the spear.  Two focus is enough to eke out a 13" threat range with fleet + charge, or you can boost to be sure you hit.  It's also an ARM18 light with reach; if you are benefitting from Bird's Eye you can tie up a LOT of infantry or solos.

Some Sample Lists
List 1: Houseguard Heavy, 35pts
Dawnlord Vyros [-6]
-Manticore [7]
-Manticore [7]
-Griffin [4]
10 Houseguard Halberdiers [7]
-Officer, Standard [2]
-WA: Soulless [1]
6 Houseguard Riflement [5]
-Officer, Standard [2]
Houseguard Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Houseguard Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Arcanist [1]
Arcanist [1]

The Logic: Manticores push up, establish covering fire.  Halberdiers provide a front wall; riflemen and rifle teams abuse Ranked Attacks for all they're worth.  Arcanists do what they do.  Griffin serves as a guided missile/flankbot for Vyros.  Optional: drop the Griffin; trade its delaying tactics/threat range for a full unit of Riflemen and another Soulless.  I like the Griffin, though.

List 2: Invictors Holding the Line
Vyros [-6]
-Manticore [7]
-Manticore [7]
-Griffin [4]
10 Invictors [10]
-Officer, Standard [2]
-WA: Soulless [1]
6 Houseguard Halberdiers [4]
Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Arcanist [1]
Arcanist [1]

Here, we're abusing Halberdiers as a roadblock with Set Defense.  You could again drop the Griffin, and free up points to upgrade the Halberdiers with either the UA or a full-up unit + soulless, but I lean towards the griffin, again.  Your strategy is much the same, except all your troops are capable in melee, and you still have a decent shooting contingent.

This is a tight tier to get the meat out of in 35pts, no lie.  I do feel that there's mileage to get out of T3's Advance Move on heavy jacks, and if you were only going to go with one heavy and some lights, you'd have more options.  Still, I think that guns + advance move on 7pt Manticores open up some fun opportunities for board control.  Just be mindful that you are missing out on Eiryss and Stormfalls, though.