Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New caster throwdown: pButcher vs eSkarre

Took some searching, but this will work.
The arms race hit its logical conclusion today as two new challengers entered the field of battle.  I got to experience eSkarre's Great Rack for the first time.  Now I get to experience the struggle to refrain from filling this battle report with bad jokes.  I'm going with this relatively tame picture and stopping there.  The Motherland sent pButcher to meet the undead menace.  I tried working out a couple Strakhov lists, but I kept reaching for pieces I don't have (I'm looking at you, Great Bears and Reach jacks.)  There was plenty of learning going on in this game as I got used to a new, if straight-forward, caster while EV did the same and also fielded a unit that was new to me at least, and I think to EV as well considering that we both were checking the cards and occasionally scratching our heads.  Despite these uncertainties we had another good game, if a little more lopsided than the last one, but I should really let the report speak for itself.  We went with a little less terrain this time.  I won the roll to go first and deferred, a little trick I had forgotten about but was reminded of over at the PP forums.  I'm using iBodger's email function for the lists this time, so the format is a bit different than what I usually do by hand, but this way is much easier and still plenty readable.

Lists and Deployment

Skarre, Queen of the Broken Coast  +6 points
* Deathjack  12 points
* Reaper  7 points

6 Bile Thralls  5 points
10 Mechanithralls  5 points
10 Mechanithralls  5 points
Necrosurgeon & Stitch Thralls  2 points
Withershadow Combine  5 points

Cryx deployment.
Fairly typical Cryx list here.  Lots of McThralls and some Bile Thralls.  The Withershadow Combine is the new unit that gave us some fits as you'll see.  Deployment was pretty basic, no doubt because I'd made EV go first.  McThralls flanking his squishier bits, with the Deathjack out front.  I was surprised that it had Advanced Deployment, but I came to learn/remember that it has most every ability in the game.

The Butcher of Khardov  +6 points
* Juggernaut 7 points
* Kodiak  8 points
* War Dog  1 point

Doom Reavers  6 points
* Greylord Escort  2 points
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich  2 points
Manhunter  2 points
Widowmakers  4 points
10 Winter Guard Infantry  6 points
* Winter Guard Officer & Standard  2 points
* Winter Guard Rocketeer  1 point

I wanted a big melee punch this time, so I packed in all the melee love I could.  Initially I had a Devastator instead of the Juggernaut and max Rocketeers, but then I got concerned about having to get up close to do my damage, so I swapped the Devastator for a Juggy and dropped two Rocketeers so I could add in some Widowmakers.  The WGI refuse to be excluded from any list with an Iron Flesh caster, plus I don't have Iron Fangs or Kayazy, let alone Men-o-War, so I can't put up much of a fight against them.

Khador deployment.
 The Widowmakers are in the left building with the Manhuntress a little out of frame to the left.  I wanted to put the Doomies on the left flank as well, but between Abomination and the Widowmaker's lack of Fearless that didn't seem like a great idea.  The WGI and just strung out in a line in front of Orsus and the jacks.  Despite my best intentions I forgot another model, this time the Wardog, so Sorscha is again a place holder.  I planned to deviate from my normal refused flank strategy and go with a horns of the bull approach.  The WGI would advance and occupy the woods while the Doomies turned one flank and the Widowmakers/Manhuntress held the other.

Turn 1

Boring first turns are boring.  EV advanced and threw out upkeeps.  I did the same, putting Fury on the Juggy mostly because I could, and also got in a little action.  Some McThralls got a little close to the Widowmakers.

This is what happens when you get too close.
Not much going on other than that.  EV skewed slightly away from the Doomies, which is understandable.  I tucked the Manhuntress behind some woods to wait for an opportunity to strike.

End of turn 1.
Turn 2

Not much going on for EV in turn 2.  I blame his near-total lack of shooting.  One squad of McThralls peeled off towards the Doomies in a set of double lines, no doubt intended to draw me into a charge that would set up a counter-Purge.  In the middle the other group of McThralls did much the same thing, this time opening a path for a Bile Thrall to advance through later.  When I asked about how the Stitch Thralls worked, EV started cursing some move he'd forgotten to make, though I'm not sure exactly what the mistake was.  I was a bit surprised when he sent his jacks around the woods to the left, putting them on the extreme flank and keeping them well away from my army.  I told myself it was because the Manhuntress wrecked his Ironclad in the last game, though I'm sure he had other reasons.
Cryx turn 2.
With the McThralls lined up in shooting gallery formation in the center, I took some potshots at them.  Between the Widowmakers and the Winter Guard I cleared out the lot of them and took out a Stitch Thrall as well.  I wanted to send a rocket into the Necrosurgeon, but the woods just did block my LoS.

Like shooting undead fish in a barrel.

I took the bait on the right flank and charged the Doom Reavers into the Mechthralls, or I tried to at least.  When my first guy came up just barely in Reach range I knew I was in trouble, and after further charging madmen formed a nice conga line just begging for a Purge I decided to get a little sneaky.  I charged the remaining Doomie and the Greylord Escort towards Kovnik Joe to make sure that at least some of the squad would survive.  The one Doomie in melee range swung and missed, then prepared to eat a big pile of bile.  The rest of the army got in each others way a bit, threatening to cause an Iron Dwarf-esque traffic jam.  I also moved the Manhuntress towards the center and away from the approaching jacks.
Khador turn 2.

Turn 3

In a move that surprised no one, EV sent in a Bile Thrall to spew all manner of nastiness across my poor Doomies.  What surprised me was how effective it was.  Effective for me at least.  In true undead fashion, EV cared little for the McThralls in the blast zone and purged across four of his own troops while managing to hit only two of mine.  All of his models died, while only one of mine did.  A very nice trade for me.
This Purge blew up in EV's face. 
That was all the action for EV.  He advanced his jacks, kept the Withershadow Combine behind them, and moved Skarre into the woods.  He left the Bile Thralls in the familiar fire base arrangement, keeping them out of harm's way while still allowing him to split one off to Purge somewhere.  I'll also comment on the crappy photos here.  I realized I didn't have macro mode on sometime during the game, but after looking at these on a big screen that change didn't really do anything.  Many of these pictures are blurry and of generally poor quality for reasons I'm unaware of.  Hopefully they do their illustrating job anyway.
Cryx turn 3.

With a new lease on life, the Doomies charged again.  This time the results were more in line with what I expected.  I wanted to spray the McThrall hiding behind the wall, but again LoS said no.  An effective charge anyway, and my Doomies were spread out enough that I figured I could keep at least some of them through the inevitable second Purge.

Shakycam = blood bath.
In the center I spied a golden opportunity to send a rocket into the Bile Thralls, so I hopped on it.  One rocket (and one blunderbuss) later, three Thralls were reduced to a pile of disgusting goo.

He's a rocket man.

The rest of the army bungled it's way towards the leftish flank.  I tried to get a CRA off on the Reaper, but ended up with a single Winter Guard in range.  The Widowmakers plinked a couple points off the Reaper while the Manhuntress moved back a bit to stay out of the reach of the jacks.  I tried to keep the WGI spread out enough that the inevitable Purge would do minimal damage.

Khador turn 3.
Turn 4

With only one Bile Thrall left, one of the Doomies or WGI would escape the Purge.  No doubt realizing he could strand the Doom Reavers on the right flank away from the action, EV sent the Bile Thrall into the Winter Guard.  This Purge went much better for him, killing three troopers, though I'm sure he hoped for more.  Both of his Purges came up just short on multiple models, which was very nice for me.

By fire filth be purged!

The jacks came rolling in on the left flank, though they too came up short.  The Reaper just had range, with Reach, to clip one Winter Guard, who died a very messy death.

Back with the Doomies, EV tried to charge the Escort only to see his McThrall cut down by a free strike.  It was a gamble against bad odds, but a good one.  Had he killed the Escort then I would have had to be more careful with positioning the Doomies.  The remaining Thrall took revenge on the free striker.

Charge of the Mechanithrall brigade.
I missed a shot of the end of the Cryx phase, but that was most of the action.  I had some hard choices to make in the center, so I started with the Doomies.  They made short work of the remaining McThrall.
Bad odds for that McThrall.
Back in the action, I sent the Kodiak into the Reaper after I activated the Butcher and cast Full Throttle.  My intention was to throw the Reaper into one of these juicy targets: Deathjack, Skarre, Withershadow.  Unfortunately the Kodiak was too powerful for its own good and destroyed the Reaper before getting the chance to throw it anywhere.

Gone too soon.
Skarre had been running around with...Admonition?  A spell that let her move 3" when one of my models moved to within 6" of her.  I lined up a nice little WGI firing squad to pump a CRA into her but got a bit too close, allowing her to shuffle further back into the woods where she was safe from being shot in the face.  The Widowmakers plinked away on the Deathjack.  At this point I'm pretty happy.  All the McThralls are dead, a jack is down, most of my infantry is alive, and my jacks are completely unharmed.  Granted DJ is real, real close to my troops, but I've been underwhelmed by its performance in the past and the Motherland plates on the armor good and thick.

Khador turn 4.
Turn 5

I learned a lot this turn.  First I learned that DJ doesn't charge for free, which I assumed it did.  The Kodiak took a real good beating but was still mostly functional.  Then the Withershadow Combine came in and fixed that whole functional thing.  I hoped they were out of range, but sadly they were not, even after climbing over a wreck marker.  I also learned that they don't make a jack out of a wreck marker, but instead make a new jack from one they kill in melee.  All this meant that I went from being on the good side of a 2 on 1 jack advantage to being on the bad side, with my other jack real close by.  Not so good.  We weren't sure whether the new Seether could activate or not.  Nothing pointed to either yes or no, so we went with the old standby: roll a d6.  The roll said it could, but either EV decided not to or just forgot about it.

This is not happiness.
Adding to the hit parade, Skarre dropped a Blood Rain on the Winter Guard.  EV tried this before but doomed himself to failure.  You might be wondering how he did that.  One of eSkarre's abilities is that her battlegroup can choose to boost after rolling, Hordes-style.  (I learned that you have to allocate focus first, so she isn't totally in the Hordes mold, but that is irrelevant to this situation).  In a previous turn EV had cast Blood Rain at the Winter Guard but missed.  He considered for a moment, then said "I'll let it go.  It's not like it can scatter anywhere useless."  Of course he then scattered in such a way that he missed every tightly-bunched model.  This time he hit though and killed three valiant sons of Khador as a result.

Raining blood, from a lacerated sky.  Have I used that line before?  Better yet, do I care if I have?
Things have gone from pretty good to kinda scary in the course of half a turn.  The Doomies are at least a turn away, the Winter Guard are running low on bodies, there are now two Cryx jacks in my face, and there's a jack factory behind them hoping to make more.  Not happy at all.

Cryx turn 5.
Confronted with a pile of trouble on my doorstep, the only thing to do was try to smash it to tiny pieces.  I sent the Juggy into the squishier of the two targets, the newly arrived Seether, and pulled off a Crit Freeze.  I was all set to pick it up and toss it into one of the juicy targets arrayed before me (still Skarre, DJ, and Withershadow.)  EV burst my bubble though when he pointed out that a) I didn't have any focus on the Juggernaut and b) power attacks replace your initial attacks, one of which I had already taken.  Since I had cast Full Throttle I checked the spell, hoping I could do power attacks for free.  Some power attacks were free, slam and trample, but no throw.  Not even a headbutt.  Instead I contended myself with fisting the Seether.  Kovnik Joe took a Handcannon shot at the Deathjack to no effect, but more importantly he did his boosted attack rolls speech.  Thus it fell to the Winter Guard to save the day, as it so often does.  The remaining members sprayed their little hearts out, desperate to kill a member of the Combine and forestall the appearance of a third Cryx jack.  It took every one of them, along with the noble sacrifice of one Khadoran who got sprayed in the back by his unit leader, but in the end I managed to finish one of the Withershadow off.  I also took the other two down to a couple boxes and did a lot of unexpected spray damage to the Seether.  Grapeshot: it can even hurt jacks.

Disaster averted?
The Widowmakers plinked away at some jack or other, the Doomies raced towards the action, and the Manhuntress hoped against hope to draw a jack out of the melee. 

Khador turn 5.
Turn 6

Running low on pieces, this turn went pretty quick.  DJ and the Seether tore into the Juggernaut, but it survived the onslaught.  During that attack I learned that the Seether sucks, like a mini-Deathjack.  At least it was autonomous and so it couldn't get focus, which is probably what saved the Juggy.  The Withershadow did one of their dirty tricks, stripping Iron Flesh off the Winter Guard and doing a point of damage to the Butcher in the process.  Skarre moved up to the edge of the wood so she could throw another Blood Rain which killed two WGI outright and left another covered in nasty goo.  Of note, EV let Admonition expire to have more focus on hand for the Blood Rain and DJ.

Cryx turn 6.
I could hardly believe my luck as my half of the turn started.  EV had moved Skarre to the edge of the wood, which would allow me to shoot at and charge her.  Furthermore, he had let the spell the could move her back to safety expire.  Seeing my opportunity, I set about making the magic happen.  I shuffled the Widowmakers out of the ruins to get LoS on Skarre.  They didn't do much, but they did a little.  There was a single WGI blocking Butcher's charge lane, but fortunately it expired from Corrosion at the beginning of the turn.  Another noble sacrifice for the good of the Motherland.  Another WGI was in the way, so I charged it into the Withershadow.  Or I would have if they had passed the leadership check caused by the Deathjack.  Instead they failed and fled.  DJ cut one down with a free strike while the other ran away, clearing the charge lane in the process.  Wishing that I could pop a feat without activating my caster, I declared the Butcher's charge.  The distance was close, but in the end I made it with a bit to spare.  I only needed a 7 to hit, but I boosted the first attack anyway.  I wanted that 5 die damage roll, but Orsus swung wide in his blood frenzy.  The second and third attacks hit home though, Lola drank her fill, and Skarre hit the dirt.

I was very pleased with my play this game.  I still made a couple mental errors in order of activation, but I did manage to get everything in my list onto the table.  More to the point, I exploited the game mechanics better than I have in the past.  The Doomies were about to be in a bad way, but thanks to picking the right (failing) charge lanes and also charging a friendly (and well out of range) model I managed to salvage the situation.  In the first turn I peeled a couple Mechthralls away to get at the Stitch Thrall behind them.  I think I did a pretty good job of spotting most of the traps EV laid for me, and simple Khadoran hardiness saw me through the traps I stepped into.  The WGI again punched well above their weight, which is good because the Manhuntress did absolutely nothing and the Widowmakers were underwhelming.  Orsus proved to be the melee maniac he's advertised to be, falling just short of taking out Skarre with a single blow.  Going into the game I was concerned that his desire to get into melee wouldn't play well with my desire to keep him alive, but it all worked out just fine.

EV had talked about this list leading up to the game, calling it an eSkarre list.  Doing the little bit of research I could on Battle College, combined with some dirty tricks I remembered being discussed when Mk. 2 hit, I was expecting a Satyxis Raider list that centered on damaging my caster by hitting my jacks.  Obviously that isn't what EV brought, and further discussing taught me that he would have to damage my jacks to damage my caster, not just hit them.  With these expectations dashed, I wasn't sure what the trick to the list was.  The jacks did a good job of softening up my jacks for the Withershadow Combine, but Skarre didn't really add anything to the combo, and beyond that it was a regular Cryx list of McThralls and Bile Thralls.  When I asked EV what his list was supposed to do, he said it was just the Withershadow combo and that he ran it with eSkarre because she's a nasty caster.  Based on this one game I'd much rather face her than pDenny or pGaspy, but I get the feeling that she's far more capable than she was in this game.  Had EV popped his feat during his last turn the game probably would have ended much differently, and he mused on that in our post game chat.  In the end he took a couple shots to the mouth in the first few turns, losing all his McThralls and doing little in return.  His Purges came up just short twice, and he made a couple mental errors.  Despite all this he still gave me a scare at the end when the Withershadow joined the fight.  I won't attribute it to system particulars, but our last couple 40k games have been complete routs, while our last couple Warmachine games have been mostly taut affairs and enjoyable for both of us.  I'm not ready to put my 40k armies back in mothballs, but for the time being they'll be shifting from gaming projects, where I work on stuff so I can put it on the table, to hobby projects where the objective is to paint things I like instead of just things that will be effective on the table.  Of course now I'm inching closer and closer to doing a Warstore order for Wrath and any of a number of diverse, interesting, and perhaps compelling pieces.  Also waiting, impatiently, for the arrival of the Warmachine big box and its delicious cargo of plastic Shocktroopers.  I won't mind laying hands on some Protectorate models either, but that's a whole new project to add to an already long list.


  1. Grats on the win, looked like a fun game

  2. I still can't believe I got greedy and didn't cast Perdition / pop my feat on the last turn! Oh, well. Lesson learned at the business end of Lola.

    All in all it was a fun game, and not the usual rout I face at the hands of your Winterguard Deathstar. I'm really pleased with the Deathjack & the Withershadow Combine's performance. About all I'd change in the army are the Mechanithralls, as without some buffs / debuffs they just don't quite cut it. But what to change them to? Back to the drawing board.

  3. The jack factory part of the list worked well, it just didn't seem to synergize with the rest of your list much. This game notwithstanding, Mechthralls are usually effective and they're certainly cheap for what you get. Perhaps you could swap in a Bloat Thrall or something with a longer threat range. The Winter Guard can sit outside a Bile Thrall's range and be sure of getting the first volley, but something like a Bloat Thrall wouldn't let me sit back and pick my fights.

    The core is solid enough though. It would have been a tight affair if you had stayed back in the woods and turned the Juggy against me. I guess I could have hoped the Doomies could charge and wreck the Seether, then hope that Butcher could take down DJ (I wonder just how possible that is...) and survive the Skarre charge that would follow. Not a happy proposition there.