Thursday, October 6, 2011

That's no moon, that's a Deathstar: eSorscha vs. pDenny

I love Legos, but this one never appealed to me.
I've been on a bit of a losing streak lately, especially the epic pasting I got myself into last time out, so for this game I brought out the big guns.  Again.  This time I took a slightly different approach though.  Reasoning that Sorscha learned a valuable lesson in her last fight, this time around eSorscha hit the table.  Infantry was the appetizer, main dish, side dish, and dessert.  As a result the list fell into place with little effort.  The only real hangup was in the after dinner coffee phase of what jack to bring.  Black Ivan was my first choice (I really love that guy), but if Ivan was my only jack I wouldn't be able to use eSorscha's bond.  Remembering how well that bond has worked in the past I couldn't leave it unused.  Beast 09 is the obvious choice for Sorscha, but since I don't have the Beast I had to cast further afield.  The Devastator is a nearly perfect fit for the bond since it's such a tough nut to crack, so I plugged it in to the list and got the following result:

35+6 points, 32 models

Forward Kommander Sorscha  +6 points
* Devastator  9 points
* War Dog  1 point

Doom Reavers  6 points
* Greylord Escort  2 points
Greylord Ternion  4 points
Koldun Lord  2 points
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich  2 points
Manhunter  2 points
Widowmaker Marksman  2 points
10 Winter Guard Infantry  6 points
* Winter Guard Officer & Standard  2 points
* 3 Winter Guard Rocketeers  3 points

Lots of boots on the table.  The Ternion is there mostly to drop clouds and gum up that famous Cryx shooting, while the Koldun gives the Devastator the single Focus it'll need to run and allow Sorscha to hoard her Focus.  Taking a bit of advice from the PP forums, I planned to use the Doomies like they act in the fluff: barely restrained lunatics dying to cleave something in two.  I had a wild dream of sucking most of the Banes into the Devastator, then clumping them up with Bulldoze and Rain of Deathing them to...death, but something like that would take some magical circumstances.

As in the last game, EV took mostly the same list.  The arrival of the Deluge prompted him to make a single swap, with the following result:

35+6 points, 36 models

Warwitch Deneghra  +5 points
* Cankerworm  5 points
* 2x Nightwretch  4 points each
* Skarlock Thrall  2 points

10 Bane Thralls  8 points
6 Bile Thralls  5 points
10 Mechanithralls  5 points
Withershadow Combine  5 points
Gorman di Wulfe, 2 points

EV was looking at two targets to swap for Gorman, either the Fatty Thrall or the Skarlock.  Were I to find myself in his shoes, I'd keep the Bloat Thrall and ditch the Skarlock.  The Skarlock is a fine piece and has a place in the list, but for me the Bloat Thrall's threat range and generous blast area win out over the added utility of the Skarlock, especially in a list that already has the Withershadow Combine.

I won the roll the see if there would be a central forest, so the middle featured a bit of industrial decoration.  EV responded by placing a forest as close the center as possible, so with that settled I followed suit and we went from no forest in the middle to a double wood center.  In a clear breach of protocol we forgot to roll for scenario until after terrain was placed.  The result was Mosh Pit, similar to the objective missions we've had recently but a bit more smashy as there's no scoring, only last man, woman, zombie, or robot standing.  Hot on the heels of my so-called victory in the "will there be wood" roll, I also won the roll to go first.  Keeping things different, I accepted the first turn.

Initial deployment.

My basic idea in deployment was to put the Devastator in the middle to hold the zone, then clobber everything else.  The idea of advancing through difficult terrain (the water) was less appealing than you might think, so I skewed heavy to the right.  EV employed the standard wing deployment but a bit off center, probably in response to my own right-heavy deployment.  I put the Doomies on the wing with the Banes mostly to try and clear them out early, per the screaming lunatics plan discussed above, but also because I wanted a showdown of the two melee units.  The Doomies could mulch the MechThralls easy enough, but the Banes would be a tougher nut to crack.  The Widowmaker Marksman is just out of frame to the left.  I learned my lesson with him last time and put him on the side that wasn't entirely Stealthed so he'd have something to shoot at.  The Cankerworm is hiding behind the door in the middle building.

Turn 1

Exciting as always, turn one was the running turn for me.  To avoid any kind of targeting shenanigans that would allow EV to spray the Doom Reavers, I set said Reavers up in the penalty kick wall formation to screen the troops behind them, blocking LoS and keeping everyone safe behind their Spell Warding.  The Greylords dropped lots of clouds to jack up some DEF against all that shooting I was about to face.  Iron Flesh went on the WGI to no one's surprise.  I tried out the new PP tokens this game.  They're about what I expected.  I like not having to sort through the entire pile of Gale Force 9 cogs to find the proper spell effect tokens, but beyond that there isn't much difference.

Khador turn one.
EV had some action in his turn.  He channeled...Venom?  The spray spell, whatever it's called, at the Manhuntress.  He missed at the time, though during the next turn we realized that the Manhuntress shouldn't have gotten a concealment bonus because sprays are amazing and ignore things like that.  She would have been hit, but alas the moment had already passed.

Manhuntress lucks out.
Not much to report beyond that.  Since Deneghra doesn't have any buffs there was just lots of running.  The undead in Warmachine are far too fast for comfort.

Cryx turn one.
Turn 2

It took some creative thinking in terms of who activated when, but my efforts yielded some tasty fruits.  The Doomies charged the Banes and Biles, while others took a step back to clear charge lanes and form a second wave.  I sent a pair of Reavers into each unit to make sure the job got done, but in each case the first madman on the scene did all the work.  I botched the placement of the UA, who is also the unit leader for command radius purposes, but we'll cover that in a bit.

The part of casualty marker is being played in this report by cuddly teddy bears.
On the other side of the board the Marksman got to shooting and popped a single MechThrall.

One shot, one kill.
While the Manhuntress makes an attractive cruise missile I've been trying to use her in a more prudent manner, hoping that she sticks around past the initial charge.  When activating her this turn my first impulse was to bring her back into the woods a bit to avoid future sprays.  After a bit of deliberation, and a bit of prompting from EV, I got back to my roots and declared a charge.  The charge attack missed, but the second axe hit home and did some decent damage.  Had both hit she could have easily ripped the arc node off or wrecked the whole thing, but as it was she just did some decent damage and then waited for the inevitable reprisal.

She gets an A for effort at least.
Earlier in the turn the WGI sent some rockets out.  One hit home on the same bonejack the Manhuntress charged and did a bit of damage, while the two the went towards the Banes scattered into obscurity.  The WGI in general hung back a bit to see how the first wave fared before jumping into the fray.  I tried to tuck the Devastator behind cover as much as possible to help boost it's sorry DEF.  More all but meaningless clouds from the Greylords and another turn was complete.

Khador turn two.
The Manhuntress didn't have to wait long for her doom.  First she got used though, used like some poor plaything of a mechanical revenant that wants to spray nasty venom on some psychos, but can't because they're protected from magic by the force of their rage.  More and more, Warmachine is a game of angles, and I missed one that allowed EV to spray the Manhuntress and hit the Doomies.  He didn't kill any of the targets (though it took a Tough check to save one of the Doomies), but an ensuing melee attack from the other bonejack took care of the Manhuntress.

A deadly combination of attacks.
The Withershadow Combine charged the centermost Reavers and...didn't do much.  In a fine display of dicehate, EV whiffed with most (possibly all) the attacks.  Any attacks that hit either didn't wound or were Toughed out.  Realizing that the Combine would be in a bad, bad place, he then sent in some Bane Thralls but didn't do any better.  The final tally: 5 attacks on 2 targets resulting in a single Knocked Down Reaver.  I'm no mind reader, but I'll go out on a limb and say that EV was none too happy with this performance.

I think I made three separate Tough rolls for the one Doomie.  Tough little blighter.
On the right flank the rest of the Banes charged the rest of the forward Doomies.  This time things went better (or worse depending on your perspective) and the four Thralls took out the pair of Reavers.

Not enough Tough rolls on this flank.
Back in the middle, EV was still bent on clearing out the Doom Reavers threatening the Withershadow with choppy death.  EV has gotten pretty sneaky about Purging and front arcs, so it's no longer surprising when he sprays into a melee and hits only my guys.  (To be fair I guess this is what it's like when you engage the Winter Guard and then they spray their way to glory.)  Countless Purges have numbed me to the destruction they cause, but this particular Purge was one to be immortalized.  When the Bile Thrall trundled forward I saw that my two Reavers were in trouble.  I also noticed that EV would be getting a couple of his own pieces in the Purge, namely a Bane and the damaged bonejack.  A handful of remarkable rolls later I've lost one Doomie and the other is on his butt after a successful Tough roll.  (This will be a factor in a minute, but first things first.)  EV lost his Bane and also finished off the bonejack on what I think was boxcars for the damage roll.  Plus the Purging Bile Thrall of course.  I'll trade one of my pieces for three of my opponent's almost always, and if it's during their turn then you can take almost out of that statement. 

I say this a lot, but for real this time: best Purge ever.
On a better note for EV, the Skarlock came forward and put Crippling Grasp on the Devastator.  As I found out over the course of a few minutes this spell:
  • Reduced my jack to SPD 2.
  • Because of the reduced speed, my jack couldn't charge and therefore couldn't benefit from Boundless Charge.
  • It also couldn't do special attacks anymore, so Rain of Death was out of commission.
There were some other effects as well, but those are the most relevant ones.  The grasp was truly Crippling and reinforced my need to find some source of upkeep removal.

Do warjacks have balls?  They'd be a great place to grasp something if you wanted to cripple it.
The MechThralls started moving into the woods, Denny hid behind a building, and I'm not sure the Cankerworm did anything.  This was a pretty brutal turn for EV, made even worse by the fact that the turn was his own.  The Withershadow/Bane performance was demoralizing, but looking at the table at the end of the turn I don't think it would have been enough to sink him.  The Purge though...ouch.  I was caught in the middle of wanting to giggle with glee at how it turned out for me and feeling bad for EV after getting so mishandled by his own dice.  The good news was that the surviving forward Reaver was out of formation, so he wouldn't be able to simply stand up and cleave everything in sight.  I imagine that was small comfort for EV though.

Cryx turn two.

Turn 3

The turn had to start with the Doomies.  The stranded Reaver shook off the Bile residue and stood up, his individual turn over.  The squad leader (not the UA, the actual leader model) charged in to the rescue while the remaining two members heroically ran and hid in the woods.  The charge went well as the Doomie struck down one of the Combine, but the cleave fell short on the second one.  I debated starting with the Bane on both swings but decided that I wanted to kill a characterful, and effective, Combiner more than a single Bane.

Withershadow de-Combined.
In the center some of the Winter Guard formed a modified Flying V to hammer the remaining bonejack.  One rocket and two CRAs later all that was left was a crater.

I love how small based models don't block LoS to medium based models.
Inspired by all that shooting prowess, Sorscha got into the action with her own gun.  I'd never used the Quad-Iron before so I thought I'd give it a go here since Sorscha wasn't going to do much else.  The first McThrall went down easy enough, but the other Thralls were far enough in the woods to be safe from the hail of bullets.

Gun test completed.
Back on the left, the Marksman continued his one man war by taking out another MechThrall.

Just another day at the range.
The Devastator walked back a bit to put some distance between it's crippled ass and the oncoming Thralls.  They may not be that imposing and the Devastator's armor may be thick, but that's no reason to make it easier for them.  The Greylords continued to drop clouds.

The return of random rotation.  Joy.  Khador turn three.
I thought I had taken out all the crowd clearers EV had left when the last bonejack went down, but I found out otherwise the fun way.  A final Bile Thrall came forward and swept the Doom Reavers off the table.

This Purge worked as intended.
That was it for casualties inflicted.  The Banes charged the WGI, but the super high DEF saved them from any hits.  The MechThralls charged the Devastator but failed to do any noticeable damage and ended up Stationary for their troubles.  The Doomies had met their doom and my Devastator was reduced to a place holder, but EV was more or less boned at this point.  The Deathstar was still fully operational and had Greylord backup, not to mention Sorscha herself and her trusty pup.  Meanwhile EV had lost his Bile Thralls and arc nodes, his remaining units were banged up, and everything on the board was well within range of the Winter Guard.

Cryx turn three.
Turn 4

The surprise performer of the game, the Widowmaker Marksman, kicked things off by gunning down the Skarlock.  This guy has been underwhelming in previous games, but this time he really pulled his weight.  It's probably due to a better matchup for him, but regardless of why it happened it was nice to see him being effective.

Moving on to the juicy targets.
I knew I could really gut EV's army this turn, but it would require careful activations.  The Devastator kicked it off by doing a reverse Kool Aid Man, which made a bit of space for the others to work in.  (No free strikes because the Thralls were Stationary.  Thanks warjack bond!)  With no need for Power Booster, the Koldun Lord stepped up and got the first spray in, clearing out a trio of Thralls.

Evil Santa gets his hands dirty.
Next up was Sorscha who popped her feat and then popped some heads.  The Quad-Iron took out a pair of Thralls before running out of range.  It was around this time that I realized I could have gotten in a counter charge with the War Dog in the previous turn, but things had gone just fine without it.

Bang bang, my baby shot them down.
On the right flank a handful of sprays finished the Banes off.  This one took some creative spraying, but the Winter Guard are nothing if not adept at spraying their way out of trouble.

That's a lot of bears.
Back in the center a clutch of Guardsmen got together to deal with the Cankerworm.  A pair of CRAs added a third crater to the jack boneyard.

Got worms?  CRA them away.
The final spray was a bit of a disappointment.  The regular, non-Officer leader sprayed a pair of Thralls and only killed one of them.  Slacker.

Stunt finger provided by EV.
The Greylords dropped more clouds, mostly because they couldn't get close enough to anything to spray.  I had a moment of panic when checking to see if the Devastator was still in the Mosh Pit.  It was a close thing but the whole base was just inside the zone.  We've had enough games end prematurely because one of us forgets where the zone ends.

Khador turn four.
EV got started on his turn by sending in Gorman to Rust the Devastator, then followed up with a charging McThrall.  While figuring out the relative P+S vs ARM scores I realized I could send the dog in.  EV must have bad memories of the dog finishing off a jack because he conceded at that point.

This game goes to show how effective the Winter Guard are, not that anyone really needed a reminder.  That's not really true though because I was looking for a reminder after the WGI got handled pretty well the last time they hit the table.  What this game really shows is how effective the WGI are if you can't break down their buffs.  Bob & Weave probably isn't going anywhere, but Iron Flesh can be stripped like any other upkeep.  EV tried to do this with the Withershadow in turn 3 but was just out of range.  Gorman might have helped with Black Oil, but I don't have my books handy to see exactly how that ability works.

The ironic thing is that EV has a piece that can poke some pretty big holes in the Winter Guard: Fatty Arbuckle, aka the Bloat Thrall.  You can see the psychological scars that guy has inflicted by looking at all the cloud effects to block LoS and how spread out everything was until I realized there wasn't much left that could clear hunks of troops.  The Bile Thralls could have done the job well, but the central forests ensured that they couldn't rush up and Purge all over everyone without getting shot up on the way in.

In the post game jawing EV said that he had to design a list with the WGI Deathstar in mind.  While I think you could get around them to a point with an all-comers sort of list, I do agree that you need to have certain tools in your list to be able to deal with them.  At the same time, I'm compelled to bring sufficient anti-infantry to deal with the undead horde I'm likely to face.  I don't know that either set of "requirements" is such a bad thing.  Considering our "metagame" is effectively the two of us, it would be very easy to go down a particular rabbit hole of list design where we each try and undercut the other, ending up with bizarre builds that do well against their opposite but probably wouldn't get to far out in the wild.  One of these days I'll find a tournament that I can attend and when I do I'll want to have the tools I need to deal with a variety of lists, and also be familiar with them.  Upkeep removal seems like a pretty basic need in most any list, even if it isn't always the easiest thing to get into a list.  Same for anti-infantry, anti-armor, long ranged threats, and melee beatsticks.

Variety is the spice of life they say, and I think that applies to wargaming as well.  I love the idea of running very jack heavy, but I've found that it just doesn't work out like I want it to.  Infantry is too powerful in Warmachine to be countered solely by warmachines, sad as that is to say.  But going all infantry isn't much better as a jack will laugh at the Purging Thrall that strikes fear into the heart of any foot slogger, to say nothing of the cleavetastic Doomies.  The WGI are good at everything, but a good Purge or template will ruin their day real quick, especially if it catches a key piece like the UA or Kovnik Joe.  Everything has a counter and there are few useless units (looking at you Kossite Woodsmen). 

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