Friday, August 26, 2011

Enter the Terminus

EV inquired about a game yesterday and after a few messages we set one up for this (Thursday) morning.  He gave me the option of an old caster or a new one, and the choice was an easy one.  My first thought was to bring a new caster myself, but Harkevich is still unprimed and I just can't make a Strakhov list that I like with the models I have.  Instead I resolved to take a new approach to an old caster.  Attrition is my favorite strategy, so I went with an assassination mindset.  A rushy pVlad list was my first thought, but I've run that before (and recently).  Next up was the caster I had intended to learn first when I started Warmachine: pSorscha.  Stalwart of the battlebox, pSorscha is definitely an assassination caster and, for me, trickier to use than her epic form.  She has to get close(ish) to use her spells, but doesn't really want to get her own hands dirty.  I haven't really used her since my first few games when I was still learning basic concepts like keeping your caster out of easy reach, activation order, what all the pieces do, the rules, things like that.  Thus while pSorscha isn't really a new caster to me, this would be my first game with her where I felt comfortable with the game in general.

Lists and Deployment

I wanted to do a list centered around knock down/stationary/freezing targets and then swarming them with melee, but the realities of my collection made a compromise necessary.  The result was still built around the aforementioned status effects but incorporated some big shells as well as a melee punch.

35+5 points, 19 models

Kommander Sorscha  +5 points
* Black Ivan  10 points
* Kodiak  8 points
* War Dog  1 point

Doom Reavers  6 points
* Greylord Escort  2 points
Greylord Ternion  4 points
Koldun Lord  2 points
Manhunter  2 points
Widowmaker Marksman  2 points
Winter Guard Mortar Crew  3 points

Greylords for Ice Cage and sprays, Doomies and Manhuntress (who lost an arm en route) for melee punch, Black Ivan and a mortar for ranged punch, and a Kodiak as a problem solver.  An intense debate lead to the Wardog and Marksman instead of a second mortar.

I didn't know what caster EV would field, only that it would be a new one.  Since he had recently painted eGaspy I figured he would be my opponent.  I even started building the list I figured EV would run: Gaspy, Cankerworm, Deathjack, Bane Thralls, Tartarus.  Imagine my surprise when I found not Gaspy but Terminus waiting for me.  Terminus and a whole bunch of friends to be exact.

35+4 points, 40 models

Lich Lord Terminus  +4 points
* Deathjack  12 points

2x Bloat Thrall  2 points each
10 Mechanithralls  5 points
* 1 Brute Thrall  1 point
10 Mechanithralls  5 points
* 1 Brute Thrall  1 point
Necrosurgeon & Stitch Thralls  2 points
10 Revenant Crew  9 points

Twice the number of boots on the table compared to my army, plus plenty of recycling with the Revenants and Necrosurgeon.  Terminus is a byword for tough casters on the podcasts I listen to, but targets are somewhat less tough when on their butt or frozen in place.  I also had plenty of templates and sprays for the infantry, though that would only be a temporary solution.  Though it would take a hard fight, I felt victory was possible.  Then I saw the scenario we rolled, the first in the book which is far enough away for me not to get up and check, which involved six zones in the middle of the table.  The yellow d4s denote the corners of the zones in the pictures that follow.  To win you had to control two zones on your half and one on your opponent's half with the usual conditions: entire unit completely within the zone, non-inert jack, warrior with half a brain.  Considering the amount of troops EV had and the amount of artillery/backline support pieces I had, the climb uphill to victory looked a little steeper.

I took the first step by winning the roll to go first, which I deferred to EV.  He deployed in a central brick and I responded in kind, as best I could with jacks, a mortar, and a handful of Greylords.  DJ showed a bit ahead of the Cryx lines and off to a flank, while the Doomies setup in front of the Khador brick with the Manhuntress and Marksman on opposite flanks.

Battle lines are drawn.
Central forests are very common for us and I've sent troops into them with great success before, so the Doomies would make for the woods while the rest of the force supported them.  The flank solos were tasked with taking out the Bloat Thralls quickly while the Mortar and Ivan would pound whatever Sorscha affected with her spells.  I figured EV would split around the forest, so I deployed my big guns in such a way as to hopefully cover both avenues.  Considering the new models on the table, we took a bit of time examining cards.  Once I established that I had to kill the Revenant officer to stop them from spawning, if only for a turn, I took a look for the offending model.  EV was kind enough to point it out...

Operation hide behind the big guy.

...right behind Terminus.  So much for sniping the officer.  These first two shots are kinda blurry as I continue to struggle with the camera, while the iPhone camera works great, but once I turned off macro mode and turned on auto-flash things got better.  You'll see in a moment. 

Turn 1

The first turn was boring as usual.  The Cryx forces moved straight ahead while the Khadorans did as well.  The Doom Reavers entered the forest followed by the Manhuntress who was looking for a charge lane to the Bloat Thrall in the next turn.  The Marksman tried to shoot his Fatty Thrall but was short on range.

End of turn 1.
Turn 2

With both forces advancing at the run a clash was quick to appear.  Fatty Arbuckle on the left got things going by shooting at the Doomie on the edge of the woods and deviating into the middle of the unit.  One died, but another was too Tough to succumb to what vileness the Thrall shot. 
A nasty way to die.
The other Bloat Thrall took an exploratory shot that didn't work out as well as the first.  The Revenants couldn't see the Doomies to charge in, so they ran into the woods and stopped in cleave range instead.  The Deathjack hid from the Marksman around a corner.
Cryx turn 2.
Of course DJ wasn't the Marksman's target, the Bloat Thrall was.  A single shot was all it took to pop the balloon.  The resulting explosion took out a pair of MechThralls and knocked another down after its Tough roll.
One shot, three kills.
In the center the Doomies spread their feet and got to swinging.  When the body parts stopped falling six Revenants had been killed (temporarily) and another knocked down.  The Greylord Escort might also have put a point of damage on Terminus.
To the left of the woods a lone brave Greylord stepped up and unleashed his magical shotgun.  I was hoping to clear out the MechThrall by the d4 especially to clear up a charge lane for the Manhuntress, but it passed its Tough roll and stayed in the way.
Gogo magic shotgun.
I moved my Kodiak, and the Greylord for that matter, before I wanted to and was worried that I gummed up the works for the mortar.  Arcing Fire took care of that concern though and the shell took care of three MechThralls including the on I wanted to get with the spray.  Unfortunately I didn't account properly for the Doomie and his base, so my lane was not clear after all.

Death from afar. 
On the right flank Sorscha tried to scatter a Tempest into DJ but had no luck.  The Koldun Lord gave Black Ivan a focus, which he used to take a potshot at DJ which connected.  Needing a 7 to hit, I decided to boost the attack roll to make sure I got to roll some damage dice, but was kicking myself for it when I ended up with a paltry two damage inflicted.

Two damage is better than no damage.
The Kodiak shifted over to try and screen the Greylord and use the knocked down MechThrall to dodge some charges as well.  The Manhuntress moved away from what was sure to be a swirling melee in the center and hid behind a wall to avoid incoming charges while await her chance to strike down the Fatty Thrall.  The stout Khadorans had sent many abominations back to the grave they crawled out of, but plenty of them would be back in the turn to come.
Khador turn 2.
Turn 3

Action was immediate as Terminus loaded himself up with a cleave spell and jumped into the Doomies.  He killed three, but a handful of Tough rolls and a missed attack meant that the job was harder than it should have been and cost Terminus a bit of foucs.
Terminus: "rawr rawr, imma dragon. sorta."
 On the left I didn't hide the Manhuntress well enough which lead to a short, messy death for her. 
Another stunning performance by the Manhuntress.
 The other MechThralls did a number on the Kodiak, tearing one of its fists off but leaving the jack standing.  Turns out the MechThrall that was knocked down wasn't such an impediment to the rest of the unit.  On the right flank DJ and the other MechThrall unit advanced a little too close for comfort.  The scenario conditions kicked in during the end of EV's turn, but I didn't control the required zones and so the game continued.

Cryx turn three.
 For some reason I didn't get any action shots of my half of the turn.  I blame all the action for distracting me from chronicling.  In the center the remaining Doom Reaver cut a bloody swathe all around him, slaying everything within range.  On the right flank Sorscha gave two focus to Black Ivan before rolling out and dropping a Tempest into the cluster of MechThralls and DJ.  It occurs to me now that she could have fired her Hand Cannon as well.  Black Ivan had to charge to make it into melee with DJ and did less damage than I'd hoped, resulting in a damaged but still functional, and now annoyed, Deathjack.  Plus a bunch of MechThrall buddies.  On the other flank the mortar popped the other Bloat Thrall, which also took out the Necrosurgeon.  The Greylords advanced and sprayed their way to glory while the Kodiak squished another MechThrall, all but clearing the flank between them.  EV didn't control the needed zones, so on to turn four.
Khador turn three.
 Turn 4

Terminus got up to his usual tricks, jump and cleave, killing many Greylords and half the mortar team.  The MechThralls finished the Kodiak and the rest of the Greylords while the Revenants killed the last Doomie to completely collapse my left flank.
That Terminus is a bad man...dragon...thing.
The other MechThralls and DJ fell upon the now over-extended Black Ivan.  DJ ripped off Ivan's cannon before a MechThrall swung and missed.  Ivan dodged out of the mess and Bulldozed his way to freedom.  Down to five pieces I sure didn't control enough zones to win, but I did spot a chance for victory.
Cryx turn four.
The nice thing about not having my models left is that you don't have to worry so much about order of activation.  Sorscha loaded up Ivan with as much focus as he could hold, then moved in and popped her feat.  She then pumped a boosted POW 12 Hand Cannon into Terminus.  Despite the internet's assertion otherwise, this boosted POW 12 did not kill a caster.  With Terminus frozen in place, the remaining mortar crewman charged in waving his axe to little effect.  The Marksman shot a random MechThrall.  Then it was time for Ivan's charge to glory.  Sorscha had cast Boundless Charge on him previously, allowing him to arrive at Terminus with a full load of focus.  Good thing too, because it took all of it to get the job done.  It came down to the last swing, where I elected to roll the attack in hopes of getting a crit.  Double fives to hit followed by three dice for the Crit: Brutal Damage did exactly enough damage to box Terminus and win the game.
End of game.
24 hour post-script:  As EV mentions in the comments below, the turning point of this game was the MechThralls attacking Black Ivan.  The crush of recycled bodies was too much for my tiny, for me at least, force to cope with.  Even though most of my army was well-suited to clearing out swathes of infantry with sprays and templates, the fact that they would come back almost as quick as I put them down was too much to overcome.  That MechThrall attack saved my bacon though by letting Ivan Dodge out of combat, Bulldozing the Thralls that surrounded him, and allowing me to turn position him for a charge to glory.  I could have done something similar with just Sorscha as you can move a long way with Wind Rush and Boundless Charge, but it's very possible I would have arrived at the target without enough Focus to finish the job.  A win is a win and I'll certainly take this one, but this one comes with a bit of an asterisk.

Further post-script:  Forgot to mention this was my first time fielding a character jack.  Black Ivan is well worth the extra point over the standard Destroyer, especially since he won me the game.  Despite years of GW conditioning that named characters are a sometimes food, I'm slowly coming around to their greater frequency in Warmachine.  Considering I've faced the Deathjack at least half a dozen times, and the Cankerworm another handful as well, I think I've built up enough gamer karma to field some of my own for a while.  Now the trick will be holding out for the two player box so I can use the Destroyer in there as my Black Ivan base.  A related trick will be not heading directly for the closest Beast 09/Torch dispensary.  Just looking at the stat line, I've always thought the Great Bears are overrated.  After seeing how much difference a point here or there can make, I'm more eager than ever to lay hands on them and see what they can do for myself.


  1. Boosted POW 12 do kill casters. It, generally, takes a number of them.

  2. An unfortunate end to an otherwise good game for me. I just plain got greedy trying to total Black Ivan with the McThralls. The Deathjack was well up to the task by itself, and had I just parked the McThralls there I would have had the game well in hand. A definite learning experience.

    I have put together an eGaspy list I'm happy with, so any time you're up for it I'll try fielding him for the first time. I'm happy with the way my new list interacts with my miniatures, so maybe this time I'll but up a bit more of a fight than I did with pGaspy.

    Looking forward to the Deathwing vs. Blood Angels throw down. School permitting, of course.

  3. This game was a good example of why I want to get away from the Winter Guard, at least for a while. I was flooded with opponents and didn't have any good response for them. If the Winter Guard had been on the table it would have been too easy to just put them in the line of advance, shoot/spray things down, and dodge any retaliating strikes. They're so good that I can get away with playing bad, or at least not as well as I want to. I got lucky here when you triggered Dodge. Without that I probably get tabled, and you'd certainly have won easily on scenario conditions.

    As for the list, PP has yet to kill troop spam as an effective approach. The MechThralls are so cheap that you can take a ton of them and still have lots of points left, and those Revenants are even worse. That said, your army was basically two separate parts: Terminus and everything else. If you had a caster that meshed with the troops, and I imagine that any flavor of Gaspy will do that, then I'll be looking at uphill battles for a while.

    Re: Blood Angels, some very rough sketching at work (without any books handy for points) turned up some results that I wasn't expecting. Turns out I have more mech capability than I thought. Not sure I want to go that direction, but it's interesting to see what you can come up with when you get away from your usual list.

  4. "Sorscha loaded up Ivan with as much focus as he could hold, then moved in and popped her feat. She then pumped a boosted POW 12 Hand Cannon into Terminus. Despite the internet's assertion otherwise, this boosted POW 12 did not kill a caster."

    As I've read the trope, two of them result in a dead caster. I've never seen a claim that one would do it.