Monday, October 31, 2011

Expect the Unexpected: pButcher vs eStryker

You already know what their chief weapons are.
The lead-up to today's game begins last night.  (Bad form to start with the parenthesis so soon, but it happens.  Standard time caveat applies: today is relative to when I'm writing [Thursday] and not necessarily when this gets posted, which might be a few days.)  Wednesday night is the traditional "I need to figure out what I'm playing tomorrow" time, when I become enamored with some particular combination that can pull of some wacky trick that needs just the right situation and even then may not work right.  This is when I come up with half-baked Harkevich lists that are based around having a Marauder knock something over.  These are great flights of fancy that never realize their potential.  Last night I decided to go the other way and build a list that was no trickery and all ass-kickery.  The poster boy for this approach is good ole' Orsus, who has been waiting patiently for a shot at the table since he's been painted, and no sane man denies the Butcher his desires.  After some wrangling I came up with the following list:

35+6 points, 23 models

The Butcher of Khardov  +6 points
* Black Ivan  10 points
* Kodiak  8 points
* War Dog  1 point

Koldun Lord  2 points
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich  2 points
3 Man-O-War Bombardiers  7 points
Manhunter  2 points
10 Winter Guard Infantry  6 points
* Winter Guard Officer & Standard  2 points
* 1 Winter Guard Rocketeer  1 point

Despite what I said above, there is a bit of a "trick" to this list, if you can call Full Throttle a trick.  Since all of the Kodiak's attacks are melee attacks, even throws, Full Throttle will boost them all.  The idea was to use this to throw something into something else, then shoot those things up with the Bombardiers and/or charge/shoot with Black Ivan.  The melee Black Ivan is extra intriguing because of the claw, which gives an extra damage die on a crit.  I don't have the number handy, but I could reasonably expect 4 attacks to crit 1-2 times, and those crits would be "boosted" for free.  The rest of the list is WGI, and we all know what they do by now (though I did have a special trick in mind for them).  Originally I had the MoW Kovnik in the list, but I had taken the model out of my case to make room for the Butcher himself so I had to improvise.  (More on model storage in a future post.)  It was an easy fix: out goes the Kovnik, in comes the Manhuntress and a Rocketeer.  I wanted to bring the Doomies since they're painted, but I also wanted to give the Bombardiers one more shot at redemption before I relegated them to "Nice, but not as good as the alternatives" pile. 

EV fielded basically the same list as the last game, except he swapped the last light out for a Hunter.  Here's the list because I'm feeling generous:

35+6 points, 22 models

Lord Commander Stryker  +6 points
* Stormclad  10 points
* Squire  2 points

Journeyman Warcaster  3 points
* Hunter  6 points

Arcane Tempest Gun Mages  6 points
* Gun Mage Officer  2 points
Eiryss, Mage Hunter of Ios  3 points
Stormblades  5 points
* Stormblade Officer & Standard  3 points
Stormsmith Stormcaller  1 point

I've played against the Hunter before and not liked it, so I was expecting more of the same.  Speaking of more of the same, I still haven't found a good answer to the super armored Stormblades, short of using a jack or a big CRA or some other huge hammer that should be pointed at a harder target.  On the flip side, EV seems to have come to terms with the Iron Fleshed Winter Guard, so in the battle of rock units I'm looking at an uphill climb.

Normally I glaze right over terrain setup, but this time it gets a little more love.  I've detailed the process EV and I use before, so if this is a repeat then apologies, but it's especially relevant for this game.  We dice off and the winner starts.  This has been a "will there be a center forest" roll in the past, but EV has moved away from planting trees in the middle and I have no particular love for it.  This time I won the roll and put a building dead center.  EV put the hill that I hate to the right of the building, still on the center line, to which I responded with a center feature, to which EV responded in kind.  I called it there, and EV exercised his option for a final piece on his side of the table.  Out battle field ended up like this:

Fat Tire?  Not equal to the hype, but then I'm not a beer guy.

Though I didn't think about it at the time, this is really a great setup.  Terrain on my half of the table mostly gets in the way and funnels my approach in a predictable manner, so having a wide open avenue towards EV's forces is a boon.  During the post-game we talked about it a bit and came to the conclusion that the only terrain that matters in 95% of our games is within ~6" of the center, which is where the magic happens.

(I stalled out at this point a few days ago, so from here on the tone of the post is probably going to change)

I won the roll to go first and took the opportunity.  Deferring first player hasn't worked so well for me lately, so I thought I'd try the other side and see how it went.  I used my favorite deployment method of the refused flank.  This isn't as powerful of a technique when setting up first, since you can't cut off your opponent's flank units when they haven't been deployed, but I like keeping things pulled in close and figured I'd be able to make this happen even going first.  Since I was going for a straight-forward list, I deployed in the same vein.  Winter Guard up front to tie things down, heavy hitters behind to clean up the remains.  I put the Kodiak in the middle since it has Pathfinder, but since the hill isn't rough terrain it didn't really matter.  EV put his Storm Smith Zone Holder way out on the flank, but otherwise went to the middle.  I considered sending the Manhuntress after the Storm Smith, but I figured we'd both be in the zone so having the one guy alone on the flank wouldn't matter.  If I had to worry about getting him clear of the zone I'd probably already cleared out EV's army anyway.

Turn 1

My first turn was standard running.  Iron Flesh went on the WGI.  EV took a shot at Ivan but didn't do any damage.

Hit, but no damage.
EV also put up Arcane Shield and Deflection. 

Turn one.
Turn 2

With most of EV's army hiding behind the hill, I decided to do damage to the only thing in range: the Hunter.  First up was the Winter Guard, who did a decent job with a CRA.  Next Black Ivan piled in and landed a Bombard shot.

Piling on.
The result?  One fairly damaged Hunter.  The gun was still working, which was unfortunate, but I'd taken out the cortex, so at least EV couldn't boost damage against my easy-to-hit jacks.

Not bad for two attacks.

That was about it for me.  I tried to hide the Manhuntress from Eiryss, who was sniffing around the building, as best I could. As usual I'd forgotten to activate Joe before the Winter Guard, so they were Tough instead of boosting.

Khador turn two.
Turns out I didn't hide her well enough as Eiryss popped around the corner and settled the score from the previous game when the Manhuntress cut her down.

Not hidden well enough.  Next time elf...
Next the Gun Mages dropped their CRA AoE on the Winter Guard and Tough came in handy.  This was another case of EV pointing out an ability, me reading the card, and then promptly forgetting about it.  As I would find out over the course of this game, the combination of CRA and an AoE template is a nasty thing, especially when your infantry rely on not getting hit instead of soaking up damage.  Fortunately only one Winter Guard was hurt by this first assault, and he passed his Tough check.

Sometimes forgetting to use Joe before the WGI works out.
In a puzzling move, EV popped his feat.  To be fair he jammed himself up a bit by not moving the Stormclad out of the way, but I don't know that it mattered too much.  What made his feat turn so effective last game was that the Storm Blades got to charge, attack, advance, and attack again.  The pain was large.  This time around the Storm Blades ran, then advanced (from the feat), then got the odd attack where they made contact.  The Winter Guard on his ass from his Tough check was killed, but that was the only casualty.  It would have been a different story had the Stormclad made it in, but I don't think it would have been that different.

A not-so-intimidating charge.
That was about all of EV's units.  The Hunter took a shot at Orsus, who was fairly hanging out in the breeze, but didn't make a dent.  After the reaming I took on Stryker's feat turn last game, I felt pretty good after his feat this game.  I also started formulating a crazy plan for retribution.

Cygnar turn two.

Turn 3

I started my turn by letting Iron Flesh expire.  Why on earth would I do this?  A couple reasons.  First, I had read up on orders and discovered that I couldn't use Bob & Weave (an order) on the same turn I charged (also an order).  This doesn't really matter in this situation as I couldn't charge with the Winter Guard because of the movement penalty from Iron Flesh, but it does matter because when I learned about the orders interaction I started looking at my options.  One of these options is Fury, which when combined with Bear's Strength (from Kovnik Joe) and pButcher's feat means the Winter Guard are P+S 15 (I believe) with 3 dice for damage, four if you charge.  And they can CMA.  Needless to say I was taken by this idea, so when I saw a (bad) opportunity to use it I sprung my trap.

The only problem was that I sprayed every single WGI out of melee with my first attack with the unit (a spray from the standard bearer).  I ended up clearing out almost the entire unit, so I guess I can't be too cross, but considering I took down Iron Flesh and put up the DEF-decreasing Fury so that the WGI would be melee beasts and then did nothing but shoot with them wasn't great.  Plus it made them DEF 13 instead of 17.  Nice idea though.

Right results, wrong reasons.
The Bombardiers split up to join the fray.  One got real close to Eiryss and got her with an AoE.  Another charged a Storm Blade and cut him up.  The final one shot at the Gun Mages, missed, then deviated further into the unit and hit more models as a result.  Good turn for the otherwise disappointing Bombardiers.

Bombs away!
And that was that.  I moved the Kodiak way to the flank for some reason, perhaps to finish off the Hunter, or more likely to block LoS to the Butcher.  Despite botching my own feat turn in response to EV botching his feat turn, I was in a good position.  The Storm Blades were down to a single member, the Gun Mages had taken heavy losses, Eiryss was dead, and the Hunter was still very damaged.  In return I'd lost a Winter Guard and the Manhuntress.  A good position to be in.

Khador turn three.
EV got started by sending Stryker in to cut some guys up.  With the WGI defenses down I figured I'd lose the guys easily, and I did, but Stryker ended up with no Focus, which was an unexpected bonus.  Of course he had Deflection and Arcane Shield up, which made him a plenty tough nut, but one that I felt capable of dealing with.

The Stormclad joined the fight and killed a Bombardier.

Big robot kills little guy-who-looks-like-a-robot.
Then there was more AoE.  I really got to not like these guys by the end of the game.  I can only imagine what the Black 13th is like.  Judging by how much complaining I see about them, I don't want to find out.

Who decided an AoE CRA was a good idea?
So that good position I was in?  Not so much now.  The WGI were mostly dead, my jacks were off on the flank not doing much of anything, and my line was strung out across the board.  When EV moved his remaining Storm Blade, I started in on another plan...

Cygnar turn three.
Turn 4

With the Storm Blade hanging out right next to Stryker, I fired up Full Throttle and sent in the Kodiak.  Unfortunately I had to forgo attacking the Storm Blade so it would be alive to throw at Stryker.  I landed the throw, double handed of course, on the Storm Blade and promptly missed Stryker.  So much for my plan.

Strike one.
The Winter Guard pushed on with their assignment of pumping a CRA into Stryker.  They hit just fine, but did only 6 damage despite having four members contributing.  Those stacking ARM buffs are a pain.

Plink plink plink.
The Rocketeer was more successful, blowing up a pair of Gun Mages with his shot.

Go go Rocketeer!
Curious about the Bombardier's melee abilities, I charged them into the Stormclad.  One got off a critical, so they ended up with three hits total, though only two were charge attacks.  The results were satisfactory considering the Stormclad was pristine before the charge.

Rev those chainsaws.
With the Kodiak blocking his charge lane, Ivan had little choice beyond shooting Stryker, so he did.  Orsus also shot his Blunderbuss to no effect.  I thought he had a Hand Cannon, but alas this was not so.  Joe had also shot his Hand Cannon earlier.  The end result was that I did some good damage to Stryker, but he lived on.

Close but no cigar.
In retrospect I don't think I put Full Throttle up, not that it mattered anyway.  In further retrospect I should have Slammed the Storm Blade and taken my chances with the dice on distance instead of doing the Throw and flubbing the roll to hit Stryker.  Coleman was perilously close to Orsus, but I had a couple of layers between the two and wasn't too worried about it.  It was definitely crunch time though.

Khador turn four.
One of those lines of defense, the Winter Guard, got gunned down by yet another ATGM CRA AoE (yay acronyms).  I really should have seen that one coming.

Hate those Gun Mages.
I still had the War Dog though, plus a number of incidental bodies waiting to throw free strikes should Stryker charge.  That's exactly what happened, but the route didn't give me any free strikes.  The War Dog failed me twice here.  I thought it was positioned to keep Stryker out of combat with Orsus, which wasn't the case.  I also thought I'd be able to counter-charge Stryker when he used Velocity to line up his charge and, hopefully, tie him up away from Orsus.  Turns out when you don't use Velocity you don't move twice, so the War Dog got to attack Stryker when he finished his charge, which was also when he was within (Reach) melee range of the Butcher.  The Dog didn't kill Stryker.

Before all this happened, EV used Stryker's ability to boost his strength.  He went with two dice of boosting and ended up with a P+S of 26(!).  This meant he would take two dice of damage, unmodified by armor and the like.  Since Stryker was on 8 boxes, this could have been the game, and an 8 is close enough to expected value on two dice to be interesting.  (Of course I need a 9 to hit Stryker with the thrown Storm Blade on three dice, just below expected value, and got nothing, so expected the unexpected).  EV rolled something low, two or three perhaps, well short of eight, and the charge was on.  Orsus was factory-fresh, but against a P+S 26 on the charge it didn't matter.

The Butcher gets chopped.
This was another game that I thought I had in the bag, only to lose it all in a rather unexpected way.  I did learn a couple good lessons though.  First was the War Dog: don't keep it too close to your caster.  If I'd had a little more room between Orsus and the pup things might have worked out for me.  Second is that Gun Mages suck.  That CRA AoE seems tailored to taking out Iron Fleshed Winter Guard.  Finally, I learned that Stryker is a bad, bad man.  I've been having issues getting through his thick armor field lately, so to get past it only to get smacked down with ease was disheartening.  I knew he could be a big nasty beatstick, but didn't think he'd be able to deal with the Butcher as easily as he did.

Despite my intentions to keep things simple, I got my feet tangled and tripped myself at a crucial moment.  While the idea of the melee monster WGI is appealing, there's a time and a place for it.  Neither was right when I engaged that tactic.  I also didn't get any use out of Full Throttle, which was the one trick I was looking to use in this game.  My jacks were disorganized throughout and while I got boned on dice with the Throw (9 on 3 dice should be a slam dunk), I should have gone with the better option (Slam) instead.

On the plus side the Bombardiers did well this time out, killing Eiryss and some Gun Mages plus putting a big hurt on the Stormclad.  Their overall value is still questionable though.  At 7 points for three, they're awful expensive and fiddly.  They had a bit of a best case scenario in this game where they could shoot at low ARM targets and use their chainsaws on a jack that can take a hit and potentially survive for another crit-induced attack.  In the end they just don't seem like difference makers, and for 7 points I can have the Doomies with a point left over.  I really want to like Man-o-Wars, and perhaps I will when I get the Shock Troopers together, but for now the Bombardiers are a prime candidate for sending to the painted booth.  The new Paint the Target should be up in the next day or two, so the final call will wait until then, but considering that I want to paint some heavy infantry and that I won't really miss the Bombardiers on the table I may end up painting them regardless of what this month's Target is.


  1. Great write-up! Winter Guard Infantry are normally P+S 8, so they're P+S 14 under Fury (+3 damage) and Bear's Strength (+3 strength).

  2. That's the number I was looking for. I generally write without having my books/cards in easy reach, so I'm guesstimating most of the time. The idea is really intriguing for me so I'm bound to try it again. Hopefully next time it's circumstances that take better (read: any) advantage of the buffs in play.