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Monday, November 9, 2015

11/7/15: Steamroller and MERCs Game!


So last Saturday I got to play in a Steamroller tournament for Warmachine/Hordes. I hadn't played in a while but luckily I've had practice with friends every time we played together. Lately I had been having the most fun with my Trollbloods using my newest version of my Doomshaper list, so I decided to bring the old blueskins to test my luck. My luck was absolutely terrible...

And just to clarify, it was simply luck that kept me from getting wins. Not how I played, or my opponent getting the best of me, just really crappy rolls at the worst times. All my opponents unanimously agreed that I had the win, if it weren't for my terrible rolls.

First game deployment against pSkarre

Sorry I didn't take many pics, I was concentrating on the game (timers give me heart palpitations). My opponent used his pSkarre list. When he saw my lists he didn't even look at it all and assumed it was pDoomshaper's theme list Runes of War, which is huge in the Meta and tournament scene. I, of course, told him it wasn't, which garnered a shocking look. I personally don't like net lists, not for the lack of originality but simply because every Meta is prepared to see it. What I like about mine is that it acts completely different than the Runes list with a similar build, and people simply don't see it coming. My friend Monty once told me that no one has ever mentioned seeing or playing my list before, and it hasn't lost... until now.

Well the game was going smooth on turn one. He pushed all his infantry to screen his army with his caster way in the back. I proceeded to trample through them and goad for 16" straight to the caster with Mulg. I had 3 attacks left, and if I hit then one more for the affinity, with boosted attack rolls from Wild Aggression. With a MAT 7 against DEF 16 I only needed 9s on 3 dice, and his armor was a mere 15 or so (no focus since he didn't think I'd be anywhere near him top of turn 2) with my STR 20. All I needed was one hit to pretty much seal the deal and get an extra attack in case. My first roll was three 1s. I quickly just got over it and rolled again, and again, and missed every one of them. Meaning I lost out on the affinity attack as well. I know that it's not impossible for that to happen, but man it stings. 

Well, this tactic of surprise assassinations really doubles down on the attempt, leaving my caster in the open and getting him killed immediately after. After the game he said that I should have had it, and that he's never seen the list before nor expected it to be that aggressive, which makes me somewhat proud that I can make an original list that disrupts a seasoned veteran's plans.

Wold War and Failure Number Two

So in comes the second round. I'm upset since I knew I should have had the last one, but I get over it for another chance at redemption. This time I'm paired up with Circle, particularly the Wold War theme list for Bradigus. I've read on it once, and it seemed like it was a powerful combination of abilities and denial. Naturally I played a lot more defensively than usual with my Mulg list. Although I knew of certain aspects of the list I had never once seen it in action so I didn't know what its strengths and weaknesses were. I still thought that perhaps my usual tactic should work, but this time I didn't opt for the turn two assassination as the slow moving army was slightly out of range for it.

Top of turn Three

We both had similar armies in terms of strategy, with high armored beasts going straight for the jugular. I decided that since his whole army is a battlegroup I'd try to stretch his resources thin by keeping my Champions very far away in the opposite zone. They can operate on their own effectively and contest or score a zone, and if he decides to dedicate any efforts to it his caster will have to stay within range for his control, either forcing him to keep everyone in range or abandon the zone. He slowly approached my army while I kept my beasts on the right. Once he was in range I had Mulg trample over near the caster, kill a shifting stone for Goad, then got right in range of Bradigus.

This is what it looked like when I stormed in

With Mulg having 4 fury left and the Affinity I had it. Bradigus only had 2 fury stored, so two attacks were going to get transferred. This left 3 attacks on ARM 16 (?) to do damage, which is plenty enough with STR 20. This leaves on average a total of 10 damage per attack. Three attacks getting through mean 30 damage on average, about twice his HP. The plan seemed solid, with plenty of redundancy for damage. And I only needed sevens to hit with free boosted attacks.

The first two he takes without transferring, leaving him down to 3 HP. He was forced to transfer the next two hits. On the last Affinity attack I rolled a 5 on three dice.


Needless to say I lost immediately after that.

I just couldn't believe it. It happened again. Lousy rolls killing solid strategy and ruining my list's potential. My list is still effective once you know what it does, it's just a lot harder to run the gimmick once they're ready for it. And I've beaten people before who knew what it did, especially in Kill Box where there's not many places to hide.

Anyway, with my Spirit thoroughly crippled I got the bye on the third round. With the bye I got the opportunity to play the TO George in a game of Mercs, the high point of my day...

I brought my lovable FCC House 9 models while he used his USCR. I know how USCR works, as well as the fact that the Behemoth is near auto-take for most people (personally I'd attempt not using him simply because it's expected that you would). High armor is a problem for FCC without a Black Ops member, which is the situation I found myself in. I knew that my mobility was key to attaining a victory, and utilizing the FCC's corporate ability (in Mercs 1.0, not 1.9) to bypass his Suppression and Overwatch lanes. I used the Boomer, House Leader, Chem Engineer, Pack Rat and House Member and he used all but the Booster in his force. The picture above was at the bottom of turn 2, but it's similar to where everyone was deployed short of moving up the board. I set up the board with plenty of terrain and made sure it was asymmetrical in elevation to make things interesting. The amount of terrain surprised him as he's used to a lot less terrain, but I feel like the game is not nearly as interesting if there are huge lanes of fire, and the right abilities tend to just overtake the game if you have less terrain, so I built it a lot like an Infinity table. The rules state to ensure there are no open lanes from deployment zone to deployment zone - which is interesting as a lot of the official maps do just that - and I made it diagonal, which is a common thing in Infinity that really makes things interesting.

So he won the roll off on picking sides and deploying his first model. Naturally he chose the high side and gave me an unsure look, since he's able to deploy on top of the upper right building (which I did on purpose as the roof was fairly open and there were more walls and less open ground on the other deployment side). I assured him that it's okay to deploy on top, even if his models just dominate it is a fair thing to do and something I'd need to practice against anyway. I'm a huge believer in practicing terrible match ups in order to get better, as that makes playing even match ups much simpler.

He proceeded to capitalize on the leader ability by keeping everyone close to his leader, while deploying the sniper and behemoth on the same roof. These are sound tactics, but I believe the redundancy of a sniper and the Behemoth in the exact same vector doesn't create good fire lanes, as there is no crossfire. Granted, should something get in that lane it's gonna have a bad time. But if you simply avoid their lanes and stay out of LOS then you eliminate two models' effectiveness entirely. Being that he deployed the rest of his models in the center lane he limited the crossfire on my left side, making it the best side to approach for me. I love how this game effectively represents a real firefight, almost to the same extent as Infinity. It really does remind me of playing paintball, as the 3x2 table size is a lot like a speedball field, and the same tactics apply.

So I deploy my guys very spread out. On the right I put my Pack Rat and Leader. I do this because the Pack Rat can take a lot of punishment with his Medkits, and the leader may be able to Sweep the field and give the Pack Rat the leader bonus. Unfortunately her Caltrops are useless against a slow opponent like USCR, as there aren't many opportunities to control their movement when they're hardly moving already.

In the middle I deploy my Boomer. Being in the middle helps him react to either side efficiently. His weapon can single handedly control the center and break up clumps, and while loading he can hide out behind some cover. Controlling the center is important as it allows your flanks to aggressively move, but the center doesn't necessarily need to aggressively move at all. Once he's at the 50 (like the 50 yard line, Paintball term!) he's exactly where he needs to be. Moving further up would only be necessary if he's out of range of corner models, at which point he's bounding with his flank.

On the left and most important flank are my House Member and Chem Engineer. I've found this pair to be incredible together in Mercs 1.0, mostly due to the House Member's mobility and the Chem Engineer's MP of 3. The HM can bound with the Chem Engineer while the CE moves and fires and keeps pace. If he lands a hit he does permanent debuffs on the enemy model. If the opportunity presents itself and the way is clear he bounds as well and has a MP 4! That's one speedy flank.

Here we have the Chem Engineer covering the House Member's advance

So the game begins with him moving the majority of his models up the center to the ruined building, placing three of his models within one card of the leader behind cover. His Behemoth and Sniper then advance to near the building roof's edge to prepare to unleash hell. Almost all my models bound to the leader and speedily move up the board, with the House Leader moving up to the side of a building. At this point George notes how fast everyone's moving, but really most are MP 2 which is normal, and the bound makes them move another card. I don't believe he's seen anyone just bound entirely for the first turn, but I know the importance of setting up fire lanes as far forward as possible and most people won't set up suppression/overwatch on the first turn instead of moving. He could have done so with his Behemoth or Sniper, but since I don't move any models until the last activation it's hard to tell how effective it will be. 

The next turn is when it got tricky. He set up overwatch with his Behemoth early on, but I cunningly triggered the shot with my Chem Engineer, with everyone else behind full cover. Being that he's forced to take the shot it caught his group of three models from the rear with no cover and promptly murderized two of them in one swoop! It then managed to miss my CE entirely. He now sees the drawback with having that massive guy and will be more careful with his placement in the future...

It seemed like it would be a good swing in my favor, but over the next few turns he managed to pick off my Leader, then Boomer, then Pack Rat in a fell swoop. The Boomer managed to pick off the remaining model in the clump before dying. What was left was the Chem Engineer and the House Member, who was fully into the enemy side and ready to flank the remaining Sniper and Behemoth. The CE managed to hit the sniper and blood him, along with debuffing him with the Irradiated Ammo, before succumbing to the Behemoth's rain of fire. His sacrifice managed to keep the House Member away from the cross hairs for one crucial round while he managed to dive into the shadow of the building out of LOS from the two enemies. George prepared against the inevitable climb and turned the sniper around to face the HM when he does. The HM won initiative, climbed the building and fired at the Sniper, killing him. The Behemoth had to spend his activation turning around to face the HM. The HM won initiative again in this fight to the last man, moved into the flank of the Behemoth, while managing to be in the back 180 of his arc, and shot at him. The attack certainly wouldn't wound, but it did force an armor break test which he failed, lowering his armor down to a still hefty 3. The Behemoth, however, can't move and shoot, and his movement is now zero, so the nimble House Member danced around to the rear arc, got within short range, and killed the Behemoth. It was a true David vs Goliath battle, and had an epic ending.

The final blow, ending in tremendous fashion

It was truly cinematic, and I had more fun with this game than I did with my previous two for WM/H that day. I really love this game, it boils down to maneuvering and real tactics more than out gaming - although some would disagree with me. It's one of my favorites, and I actually love it more than Infinity (but that game is still awesome). I wish it was more popular, but having two other people to play it is good enough for me. 

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the write up and pics, if you're feeling crazy give MERCs a try, at worse you will end up with awesome models to paint and be about $50 poorer.