Saturday, September 24, 2011

Attack of the Parenthesis: eGaspy vs pIrusk

Random puppy pic to start the post off right.
The forces of Cryx and Khador clashed again today, "today" being Thursday despite what the post date says.  After a brief school induced hiatus, eGaspy was on the prowl again, menacing the noble sons and daughters of the Motherland.  EV did a preemptive list post over on his blog in what appears to be a wine-induced blogging frenzy, though the lack of dates makes it hard to be sure.  Considering his list didn't change from the last game, I'll just leave the link for you to follow at your whim.

My list was a bit more involved.  Despite having a couple days to figure out what I wanted to play, I didn't really get going on the list until last night (Wednesday, despite what the post date will say).  I came up with an eSorscha list that featured a bonded Devastator and Freezing Grip spam (as much as you can spam a 4 Focus spell with a 6 Focus caster).  It wasn't a bad list, but it was smushed together with less than the usual amount of thought.  Fast forward (or rewind depending on how you look at it) to this (Thursday) morning and I get a flash of inspiration where I do all my best thinking: on the john.  (Looks like there's a special going on parenthesis tonight so you might as well get to like them.)  I was flipping through the Khador book when I wondered if Superiority added to DEF.  Turns out it does, so a few moments later I had a pIrusk list together that was much tighter than the eSorscha list I was going to run.  With that teaser burning in your eyes, the list:

35+6 points, 33 models

Kommandant Irusk  +6 points
* Black Ivan  10 points
* War Dog  1 point

Doom Reavers  6 points
* Greylord Escort  2 points
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich  2 points
Widowmaker Marksman  2 points
Widowmakers  4 points
10 Winter Guard Infantry  6 points
* Winter Guard Officer & Standard  2 points
* 3 Winter Guard Rocketeers  3 points
Winter Guard Mortar Crew  3 points

After my recent forays into smaller lists it was pleasant to have lots of boots on the table.  Though I've been trying to get away from the WGI Deathstar of late, pIrusk is so geared towards infantry that I couldn't leave them in the case.  Plus never using something is just as bad as always using something (Ask my poor MoW Kovnik about that.  We'll get 'em next time buddy).  The basic idea here is...pretty basic.  Black Ivan + Superiority = DEF 14 ARM 20.  Add plenty of infantry, a dash of pie plate, fill with man's best friend, and voila! a list that builds itself. 

We rolled for scenario before setting up terrain (for once) and came up with No Man's Land, the hold-the-strip-in-the-middle scenario that I lost in spectacular brain-fart fashion previously.  In a move no one would expect, I vowed to myself to not lose the game by leaving the zone without realizing it this time.  If I was going to lose this time it would be because I got killed!  Or at least Thrown, Slammed, or Pushed out of the zone.  I won the roll to start placing terrain.  Determined to change things up, I put a building in the middle of the board, thus foiling EV's plan to once again center the table with a forest.  Though I had my suspicions before, this time around he confessed to his tendencies.  We ended up with a somewhat sparse (for us) outlay.

My plan with deployment was a modified old favorite: the refused flank.  The WGI almost have to be deployed in the center because the unit is so big, so I decided to overload one side with my Advanced Deployers after I saw EV's non-AD setup.  I thought about putting the Doomies up against the Bane Thralls for a clash of Weapon Masters, but instead decided to send them into the Mech Thralls which they should cut down with little resistance.  After a spate of book consulting for rules about buildings with multiple levels (I was particularly curious about AoEs in those buildings, which we had to house rule as we couldn't find anything in the book) I put the Widowmakers on the same flank.  Between them and the Mortar I figured on turning the path to the right of the center building into a shooting gallery.  The center would no doubt turn into a big scrum before long, so I wanted to have guns in place in case things went awry.  EV went with a standard Bane-Bile-Mech line.

Turn 1

Boring first turn is boring.  Iron Flesh on the Winter Guard, Superiority on Ivan, everyone goes forward.  The only bit of trickery I pulled here was to keep the Doom Reavers far enough back to avoid a potential charge from the MechThralls.  (EV had already started his turn when I took the following pic, hence the forward Bloat Thrall).

Khador turn one.

EV's half of the turn was slightly more interactive as he arced Parasite on to the WGI.  While high DEF is what keeps the lads safe, it never hurts to have some padding for the inevitable templates.  Parasite represented a significant loss of armor to them, but there was nothing for it other than to soldier on. 
Cryx and debuffs go together like "She said she was 18" and "Can you blame me?"

Fairly standard otherwise, excepting the MechThralls.  EV has taken to sending a handful of them forward as bait so that when I send my unit in for the glorious charge he can respond with the rest of the unit and mop up my victorious troops.  Unfortunately for him I have long since grown wise to this tactic...
Cryx turn one.

Turn 2

Turn two began with a barrage, as so many great military operations have.  First up was the Mortar who missed the Bile Thrall it was aiming at, but did ding a bonejack on the scatter.

This picture almost makes it look like my army is fully painted.

Ivan joined the fun and did much better, taking out a few Biles.  I suspect that the Focus had something to do with the improved aim, but am awaiting the study results before stating anything definitive.
Black Ivan: getting it done since about a month ago.

On the right flank I took an optimistic shot with the Marksman, figuring I was out of range.  When it turned out that the Thrall was close enough to be shot the rest was inevitable, and soon there was one less shambly menace on the table.  After that it was time to give EV a bit of his own medicine.  I sent a lone Doomie ambling (not charging) into the two remaining MechThralls and cut them down like so much undead wheat.

Turn about: it's fair play.

In the middle I had a bit of a brain cramp.  During setup I had neglected to put the Rocketeers in their proper place (the front line), so I had to pay more attention than usual to them in the initial moving-up part of the game.  This wrinkle makes it more shameful that I didn't realize I could (and should) shoot them at the Fatty Thrall until after I had already moved the squad.  The result was that I could only shoot two of the rockets at the pile of pus, leaving it battered but standing.  The remaining rocket did kill another Bile Thrall though, which is what I intended before realizing I could shoot the Bloat Thrall.

The field of missed opportunities.

Little extra to recap here since most of my units did something effective enough to be photographed this turn.  Kovnik Joe made the WGI Tough, Irusk cast Inhospitable Ground, the War Dog frolicked along.
Khador turn two.

EV got started by killing the lone Doomie with a second wave of Mechanithralls.

The inevitable reprisal.

Then ole' Fatty McArbuckle made me curse not killing him when I had the chance.  Fortunately only a single Winter Guard was killed, but unfortunately it was a Rocketeer who didn't have anyone close enough to hand his rockets to.

That poor son of Khador would be alive if I'd been thinking clearly in my turn.

That was it for the action.  Gaspy dropped a ton of cloud effects (you know how he roll).  The green marker on the left side of the building is where he threw his weapon to, putting up a big circle of "If you die here I get to keep your soul."  The Bane Thralls ran behind the forest like the elite troops they are while the Withershadow, Cankerworm, and Gaspy himself stayed back in the middle of EV's line.

Cryx turn two.
Turn 3

Of the many, many things I hate about Cryx their abundance of spellcasters is among the foremost.  It often seems that half of EV's army can cast spells.  Not just magic shotgun sprays or Ice Cages, but full-fledged spells like a warcaster has, and often the exact spells that said caster has.  (Not even going to mention arc nodes).  When I have a chance to kill one of the many casters I like to capitalize on it, which I did at the top of turn three when the Widowmakers sniped the Skarlock right off the table.  The fact that EV had cut off the Widowmakers' LoS to most of the board had nothing to do with it...

One less undead wizard in the world.  You can thank me via check or cash, your choice.

The clouds were blocking up Ivan's avenues as well.  I wasn't sure what I would do with him until I remembered that Superiority increased Speed as well, allowing him to shuffle around the edge of the cloud and drop a Bombard shell on a Bile Thrall.  I was hoping to take out some Withershadow as well, but had to settle for a tick of damage to one of them.

Ivan is so wonderful I may never field a regular Destroyer again.

In the center the Winter Guard finished off the Bloat Thrall.  Both rockets didn't finish the job, so I had to repurpose the CRA that was meant for the bonejack.  Killing one thing dead before moving on to the next target is something I've been working on lately.  It galled me to devote so many resources to the Fat Thrall, but if it didn't die I'd be catching a pie plate with a handful of Winter Guard, and that's a bad time.

CRA: for when that Fatty absolutely has to die.

The Doomies cleared out a bunch of MechThralls, but I missed a picture of it.  Sprays and Berserk are great infantry clearers.  Inhospitable Ground made it's first appearance.  Kovnik Joe made the WGI Tough as I expected to start taking heavy fire in the center.  I was pretty happy at this stage.  The MechThralls were all but finished with small cost to the Doomies.  The Bane Thralls were dithering around behind the woods, so they were unlikely to peek-a-boo the WGI in any devastating way.  The Bloat Thrall was dead along with most of the Bile Thralls, and I had a firm grasp on the center.

Khador turn three.

Remember all those good feelings I mentioned just now?  They were gone real quick once Gaspy moved in and dropped some pain.  Turns out he has some crazy AoE that gets stronger the more people it hits.  When you have a cluster of Winter Guard together to CRA something it gets obscene quick.  Fortunately I'd gone with Tough instead of boosted attack rolls, so a handful of troopers survived.

Did I mention Gaspy gets souls for all these victims?  Because he does.

Survived long enough to get some sort of nastiness (it's best not to think exactly what kind) when a Bile Thrall came forward to Purge.

Hate that Purge.

Then to cap things off the bonejack came up and dropped another template on the remnants of my Winter Guard.  Those days when I thought I had a firm grip on the center were long forgotten by this point.  I can only imagine the carnage if Tough hadn't been up.

The pain, when does it stop?

The silver lining this turn was with the Doomies.  EV swamped the forward trooper and smacked him pretty good, but the UA survived and the Thralls were all bunched up for some cleaves or a spray.

At least this one is going my way.

The tables had been turned with a vengeance.  The center (which was also my left flank) had disintegrated like so much toilet paper after a refrito and jalapeno bender.  Irusk had been swaddled in a warm, soft, fluffy blanket of Khadoran flesh moments before, but was now left with his ass perilously close to the wind.  The Withershadow Combine was a short hop away from turning my lone jack into some Cryx jack, plus they had stripped Iron Flesh off the WGI at the beginning of this turn of hurty pain.  (There was also the prospect of an eGaspy with something like 12 Focus to face in the next turn, but the mind can only process so much horror before it simply shuts down to protect itself).  At least the Bane Thralls were still loitering instead of joining the slaughter.

Cryx turn three.

Turn 4

Who's your buddy when you're feeling glum?  Black Ivan.  Realizing the threat before him, Ivan took the big load of Focus that Irusk gave him and turned it into a trio of pulped Cryxians.  I would have been happy with killing just one of them, as it would keep them from turning Ivan against me, but the dice were kind enough to do away with them all.

Ivan to the rescue!

Knowing I would be taking another pounding in EV's half of the turn and that I needed to do some damage of my own, I popped Irusk's feat and got to trying to shoot my way out of trouble.  I started with the bonejack on the right.  It died in a satisfying manner.

CRAs turn marginal marksmen (WGI) into engines of doom.

Then I tried to do the same to the other bonejack, which didn't work out so well.  The Doomies massacred the MechThralls, though it was a close thing.  The isolated Doomie (partially in frame ont he extreme right) whiffed on his Thrall. which necessitated the Escort spraying it down.  Lucky for the Motherland his aim was better than the frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic.  The Cankerworm was a little too close to Ivan for comfort, but I had faith in his DEF 14 bad self since it would only take a single miss for him to dance to freedom.  I hadn't done as much damage as I wanted, but I would have 4+ Tough in EV's part of the turn, which would (hopefully) help me weather the inevitable poopstorm that is the result of a nasty cater (eGaspy) with a mountain of Focus (double digits = mountain).  The scenario was a non-factor at this stage.  The Doomies were in the zone on one flank and not leaving without some serious encouragement, while the Banes were in the zone on the other flank and not getting into the fight without even more seriouser encouragement.  A fight to the death then.  Or undeath as the case may be.

Khador turn four.

EV started his turn by trying to repeat his bonejack success of the previous turn.  Despite having another handy cluster of Winter Guard to hammer with a template, he only managed to kill a single one.  Of course that single one was the standard bearer which would be unfortunate if I needed to spray the Banes to a second death.  One problem at a time though.

Less destructive than previous templates.

That was about it for EV's turn.  The Cankerworm did charge into Ivan and got a few licks in.  It did a disturbing amount of damage before finally obliging my plans and missing an attack, allowing Ivan to retreat to safety.  The Banes remained parked in the woods.  I guess they were camping or having a picnic or something.  Some clouds appeared, I saw an opening, and that was about it.

Cryx turn four.

Turn 5

Having determined that this game was going to be decided by a caster kill, I set about killing a caster.  I threw everything I had into my bid for victory.  Ivan chipped in, as did Kovnik Joe.  I sent in three pairs of Winter Guard to CRA Gaspy back (again) to the afterlife, yet still the Lich Lord lived.  (Or whatever he does instead of living.  Unliving I guess)  Casting about for more resources, I found that Irusk's gun is ROF 2, so I trundled the man forward to finish the job.  Two shots later (one fully boosted, the other only half boosted) Gaspy still stood.

At this point EV had a realization: he had mistaken a soul token for a Focus counter, so Gaspy had taken more damage than we thought.  He had five boxes left before this realization and had taken either four or five damaging attacks.  Neither of us was sure which it was.  EV was ready to forfeit for what he called cheating (I saw it as a simple mistake.  Cheating requires intent, which would preclude owning up to the mistake).  I was pretty sure it had been four damaging attacks and didn't want to take the game on such an unsatisfying note (for both of us), so I insisted we carry on.  Irusk had taken a small ding from the Withershadow when they stripped Iron Flesh, while Gaspy was on his last box, so I had a chance if EV took his swing and missed as I did.

Khador turn five.

EV surprised me by bringing Gaspy into melee.  While pGaspy is capable (to a point) in melee, thanks largely to Sustained Attack, eGaspy strikes me as less able to swing his weapon.  I'm sticking by that impression after this demonstration.  Gaspy came in with a full load of Focus, plus a bit more for soul(s), and got the job done but by the smallest margin.  It came down to the last attack, bought with the last Focus, and the roll was just enough to finish off Irusk.  I thought the Banes cheered as the noble Khadoran went down, but that may have been the wind.

I hear dice cursed a lot, and do a fair bit of it myself.  The dice have turned on me of late, or at least returned to normalcy.  I blame talking about how hot my dice were while playing Uncharted Seas, when I could roll many 6s in a row.  I'm not blaming the dice now as they were pretty much as expected (or as I imagine mortals expect their dice to behave) and had their ups and downs for both of us.  That said, a brief interlude.

I like sports, which you may have gathered from my occasional foray into hockey talk and the Capitals logo that I use as an avatar.  People who cover sports love to boil an entire game down to a single pitch, play, penalty, or other appropriate moment.  They would have you believe that the whole contest was of little import compared to that one essential part of it, the keystone, the lynchpin around which everything revolves.  A hockey game is an hour long (regulation, no overtime) but the majority of it is irrelevant compared to the power play in the last minute of the game.  Never mind that the team, both teams even, had the bulk of that hour to score goals in.  All that matters, according to some most nearly all a disturbing number of reporters, is that final minute.  How ridiculous is that?

This game hinged on a collection of dice rolls.  Had I done a single extra point of damage in my half of turn five, the following reconstruction of the turn and how many times Gaspy had been hit wouldn't have mattered as I would have, at worst, done exactly enough damage to kill him instead of leaving him alive with a single box.  Had EV done a single less point of damage (that is the most awkward phrase I've ever written) then Irusk probably would have lived and I probably would have finished Gaspy off in the next turn.  Either one of those options would have changed the outcome of the game.

But that's not how things worked out.  I had five turns of opportunity to do that extra point of damage, but it didn't happen.  EV had plenty of chances to roll one less damage, but that didn't happen either.  It's easy to pick out a single part of a larger whole and call it the pivotal moment that decided the whole contest, but that's misleading at best.  This game, like all others, was built up of individual moments, movements, rolls, all building on each other.  None of them are unique and beautiful snowflakes because all of them are unique and beautiful snowflakes.  At the end of the game I came up a point short while EV did as much as required and not a drop more.  Thus the cookie crumbles.

On a more upbeat note, our games have been getting better of late.  The Winter Guard dominated for a long stretch which wasn't good for either of us.  The last couple have been nail-biters though (if you indulge in such filthy habits) and have served to recharge batteries that had, perhaps, begun to flag.  Few things stoke my desire to get back to the table more than a narrow loss, and with EV seeming to settle in to a list that he's satisfied with (and that can give the vaunted Deathstar all it can handle and then some) that's also very effective, I have high hopes for a general elevation of competition.  With reinforcements on the way (though still weeks from arrival), Warmachine stocks are on the rise.

(This post is far too long and it's far too late for a proper editing pass (not that I've had one of those in a while), plus it's a bit sillier than I've skewed of late, so apologies and all that)

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