Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ashes in the mouth: pButcher vs pDeneghra

Click for inspiration.
Hot on the heels of messing up my plan to keep things simple, I went back to the well this week resolved, again, to keep my plans simple.  My list was mostly unchanged from last week except that I swapped out the Bombardiers (and Rocketeer) for the Doomies + UA.  After the WGI melee fiasco I was content to let them do their thing: receive Iron Flesh, be annoying to hit, shoot things up real nice.  The Doomies were penciled in for Storm Blade duty.  While I'd have to rely on the so-called "expected value" to kill ARM 20 with a P+S 12 (13?) Weaponmaster attack, thanks to cleave Berserk I'd hopefully get plenty of swings at hitting the average.  Losing the Bombardiers' templates would make hunting Eiryss and the Gun Mages a little trickier, but frankly Eiryss hasn't been much of a problem and the Gun Mages should fold to a volley of sprays or perhaps a nice Trample.  Stryker would bear watching, but most casters do, and having learned my lesson about War Dog positioning last game I was determined not to get caught out by the same brain fart again.  If I was going to lose by making stupid mistakes, at least they'd be new ones.

There were surprises all around when I arrived at EV's place.  We were playing on his birthday, for which I had procured (against my better judgement) the Black 13th for him.  This may or may not have been a surprise, though hopefully I didn't telegraph my punch too much there, but he had one in store for me.  First was a choice of lists much like I gave him a few games ago.  I ended up with everyone's favorite (and by everyone I mean no one), Dirty D.  This was actually a bit of good news as the alternative was Gaspy, but either way it meant my tiny bit of pregaming was for naught.  This was a good lesson in itself though that, consciously or not, I shouldn't be building my lists with a particular faction in mind.  Before more rambling, EV's list:

35+5 points, 35 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
Bloat Thrall  2 points
10 Mechanithralls  5 points
Withershadow Combine  5 points

Saw these in a parking lot.  Big fan.
Ah, the old Cryx horde list.  I'd managed to forget how much I don't like it.  There are so many threats it's all but impossible to account for them all, and allowing even a single Bile Thrall through can spell disaster.  I had no idea how I'd clear out all that infantry with just Ivan's bombard.  Fortunately the Doomies are great for infantry clearing, so I had to hope they'd be eager to flex their newly painted muscles.  At least EV is still lacking the Bane Thrall UA (which was my other main idea for his birthday, but since I'd been facing off against Cygnar lately I figured the Black 13th would see more use) and resistant to the idea of Tartarus, so I'd only have to deal with Stealthed Weaponmasters who reduce my armor.  Only.

After winning the terrain roll I threw out another surprise: a forest in the center.  EV promptly laid another forest next to it and the rest fell into place.  We went with a bit more terrain than last time, and dispersed more as well.  I think we're falling into a bit of a trap though, in that we're basically setting up our own half of the board now.  This isn't exactly what happens, as there's nothing to stop me from putting terrain on EV's side, but it's effectively what happens.  Maybe next time I'll throw a wrench in and try to gum up EV's zone with terrain...

EV won the first player roll and elected to go with it.  He altered his usual Cryx setup a bit by putting the Banes in the middle and moving the "support" (Biles, Fatty, Withershadow, arc nodes, caster, Skarlock) to the left flank.  McThralls were still on the right.  I put the Winter Guard on the right and my battlegroup on the left.  The Kodiak ended up closest to the center since it has Pathfinder, so the woods wouldn't be as much of an issue for it as for Ivan.  The Manhuntress was deployed because of the same logic.  I had a vague plan of sending my infantry between the buildings and swinging my jacks through the center and flanking with them.  The MechThralls were going to come through the buildings, and I was reasonably sure the Banes would too.  The Biles would all but have to go wherever my infantry was as they'd be ineffective against jacks.  Since we'd rolled up the "hold the center line" scenario I didn't have to worry about objectives, so I would just advance everything forward, put stuff in the zone, and trust in my armor to keep me there while my axes swept the zone clear.

Turn 1

The first turn went as usual.  EV ran everything.  I ran most of my stuff, pausing only to put Iron Flesh on the Winter Guard and take a speculative shot with Ivan at one of the bonejacks, which was just out of range.  The only somewhat tactical move I made was to send a Doomie on the extreme right flank to contest the alley.  If anything wanted to come around the side of the building it'd either have to kill the Reaver first or suffer Weaponmaster Free Strikes.

Turn one.
Turn 2

I had learned a bunch of lessons about using the Doomies before painting them, mostly about Spell Ward and how to make best use of it.  When EV started arcing sprays into them, I realized I had forgotten all of those lessons.

Reminder the first.
When the icky mist had cleared, I was down three Reavers.  I had forgotten that while you can't target the Doomies with spells, you can target something behind them (LoS permitting of course).  They're also very capable of being affected by spells.  This is why I'd taken to lining them up shoulder to shoulder in games past instead of spreading them out to avoid templates like I did this game.  Lessons remembered that I can hopefully apply in future games.

Reminder the second.
Next the McThralls charged in to the remains of the Doomies, but did no damage.  One of the thralls in particular came from way downtown to engage the Greylord Escort, yet another reminder of past lessons learned: Cryx is fast.

I guess they got extra movement out of the charge.
Despite the sting of losing half my Doomies, that was all the damage I suffered.  The Fat Thrall was lurking around in the back along with the Banes.  The Biles were flowing into the center, ready to be annoying, but in general things were hanging back which I was fine with.  If I could eat EV's units bit by bit I'd be a happy trooper.

Cryx turn two.
I kicked things off with Ivan.  He took an optimistic shot at a bonejack and connected.  I had assumed I'd miss and hoped to scatter into some infantry, but when the shot reduced the jack to a single 3-box column I was satisfied.  The blast killed a Bile anyway, so mission accomplished.

Ivan shows his worth once again.
With my general lack of templates I wasn't going to be able to clear out the Bile Thralls, so I decided to try and take out as much with the Doomies as I could before they got Purged on.  The pass-blocking Doomie didn't do anything on the flank, but the other two did much better, cutting down two McThralls and taking the other bonejack down to a single 4-box column.  Charging Weaponmasters hurt.  The UA got into the melee action as well and smacked down the Thrall in his face with his staff.  Normally I'd have him spray his way out of trouble, but I didn't want to clip my Doomies and figured he could handle a single McThrall.

Doomies do some reaving.
Then I made a goof.  First I sent the Koldun in to try and Ice Cage the center bonejack.  There was no good reason for this as Ivan had already gone, but I wasn't going to use Power Booster and there was nothing juicy to spray, so I wanted to do something with him.  The Cage didn't land.  Next I moved the WGI up (after activating Joe to boost their attacks) and CRAd the left bonejack to dust.  I also shot down another Bile Thrall, leaving four up and shambling.

Can you spot my mistake here?
That was about it for my turn.  My battlegroup moved up, with the Kodiak just entering the woods after some consideration.  The War Dog took position in front of Orsus, ready to protect and Counter Charge.  The Manhuntress hung around behind the Kodiak, waiting for a chance to strike. 

Khador turn two.
Turn 3

As anticipated, EV started off with the Biles.  He may or may not have anticipated the Counter Charge that took down one of the Biles.

Man's best friend indeed.
Despite the heroics of the War Dog, three Biles still made it through.  All it takes is one of course, and that one made a big mess of my center.  By moving the WGI, and Koldun, up to take potshots, I'd exposed them all to one glorious Purge.  Fortunately the War Dog and a Doomie survived, but the devastation was considerable.

Ah, Purge, how I hate thee.
Next up was more arced sprays.  EV clipped the Doomie UA in typical Cryx fashion by being tricksy and targetting a Winter Guard.  Forunately the Greylord lived, though the successful Tough roll left him on his ass.  Unfortunately the Winter Guard Commander died.  So long Bob & Weave, you will be missed.

Love those arced sprays.
In a bit of a head-scratcher, EV pulled the "alley" McThrall out of combat, allowing a Free Strike.  The results were predictable.

One swing, one hit, one redead corpse.
The rest of the unit fared no better.  Despite having four swings, auto-hitting at that, on the Doomie leader, he made all his Tough rolls and survived.  The Doomie in the building also survived an attack with a Tough roll.  All told I lost no models while EV lost one, all in his turn.  This sort of thing just doesn't happen in Warmachine.

That is one tough Reaver.
The rest of the horde shuffled forward.  The Banes flooded the center while the Withershadow entered the woods.  The Fatty Thrall hung back again, along with Deneghra herself.  I didn't think much of these moves, but EV was quick to explain that he moved the Banes up to hold the zone.  Seemed to me he was just advancing to set up an attack in his next turn, but his explanation made me take a second look, which resulted in my recognizing the shooting gallery that had materialized in front of me.

I managed to forget that the Cankerworm attacked the Kodiak.  It didn't do much damage, which is why it slipped the mind.  Turns out EV had been playing it wrong and its Armor Piercing attack precludes other attacks, or at least other initial attacks.  This makes it significantly less threatening.

Cryx turn three.
At the top of my turn, the Doomie (and UA) shook their Corrosion effects.  That Doomie was not done killing yet.  Speaking of killing, Joe activated before the Winter Guard so his speech would affect them and took an exploratory shot at the remaining bonejack.  That shot ended the age of arc nodes for this game.  Love the Kovnik.

Go Joe!
After that it was a whole bunch of sprays.  It took a bunch of fiddling to not kill the Doomie (who was still thirsty for blood), but in the end I cleared out seven Thralls of various makes.  I ended up with a Winter Guard that had nothing much to do since the rest of his squad had been so effective.  It was a nice problem.

Sprays are so much nicer when you're rolling the dice.
Then the Doomies went, taking out another three Thralls.  Looks like painted models really do perform better.

These guys just love to kill.
In the battlegroup, the War Dog took out another Bane with a regular, non-counter Charge. 

Who's a good dog?  You are, yes you are, such a good dog.
Orsus went next, putting up Full Throttle and attempting to shoot something with his Blunderbuss.  I always think he has a Hand Cannon, which has four extra inches of range, but instead it's the disappointing eight inch Blunderbuss, which didn't have enough oomph to make it to the target.  The Kodiak was already at it's target though, so it didn't have to worry about range.  Everything went to plan up until I found that I couldn't double-handed throw the Cankerworm at the Withershadow since I couldn't see them.  I had to settle for a single-handed throw, which is less accurate and ended up scattering away.  The Cankerworm took an awful beating in the process.

A full throttling.
Earlier I had fired with Ivan into the mess of bodies.  He had Focus enough to boost on the Biles I hoped to scatter on, but ended up only hitting a single one.  This left one Bile still alive(ish), which was very unfortunate.  I moved the Manhuntress back a bit to block potential charge lanes on Orsus and nearly screwed myself in the process.  After much measuring, we found the Kodiak was just barely in the zone, so the game continued.

Khador turn three.
Turn 4

The Withershadow kicked things off by kicking the Kodiak.  They did a good job, but not quite good enough, and the Kodiak managed to avoid becoming a dirty Cryx jack.

Note that this includes the Cankerworm attack as well.
The final Bile Thrall came in and did its dirty business. Despite reducing the squad to a single member, I knew that I was going to get nailed.  That's what makes the Bile Thralls so dangerous (and annoying): it doesn't matter how many there are, one is all your need.

Have I mentioned how much I don't like Purge?
And now, the sour moment.  EV chagred the Banes in, which brought about a Counter Charge.  I thought he was charging Ivan and after looking at model placement I didn't think the War Dog was engaged, hence the Counter Charge.  Later in the game EV charged the War Dog with the Cankerworm and expected an attack in return.  When I told him I couldn't attack while the dog was engaged, he said that he'd been charging the War Dog in the first place in this turn.  Pictures were unhelpful, and it was too late to turn the clock back anyway, but I felt bad regardless.  While misunderstandings like this happen it doesn't make them any more pleasant when they crop up.  In the end I don't think the outcome affected anything either way, but it cast a pall over the end of the game all the same.

Back to the action at hand, the surviving Bane did a bit of damage to Ivan but nothing significant.

Ivan takes one on the chin.
On the right, the lone remaining MechThrall charged and killed a Doomie.

A Doomie meets his doom.
The Fat Thrall finally joined the fray, taking out the Greylord Escort and Joe.  People on the internets love to take shots at the Doomie UA, but it's done nothing but wonders for me.  Perhaps at higher levels of play Tough can cause problems, but I'm nowhere near those levels.  With all the times that Tough has saved my bacon (like earlier in this very game), to say nothing of the extra spray, I'm glad to pay two points for the Escort.  Not as over-the-top effective as Kovnik Joe, but wonderful all the same.

Ichor explosion.
I think Denny tried to debuff something, and the Cankerworm scuttled off to hide on the edge of the woods, but that aside EV's turn was over.  We were both low on pieces at this point, so turns clipped along faster and angles became more important.

Cryx turn four.
My turn started with the remaining Winter Guard succumbing to Corrosion.

An ignoble end for a proud son of Khador.
After that the Doomies got their revenge.  The leader moved behind a building (being Knocked Down he could either move or attack but not both) and the trooper took out the MechThrall that had killed a Doomie in EV's turn.

Finish him!
With the Kodiak on the ropes, I knew I had to do something about the Withershadow.  Having a new Cryx jack pop up right next to Orsus simply wouldn't do.  While I only had to kill one member to stop their rascally jack stealing actions, why stop at one?  I did some planning and got to work, first sending in the newly repaired Manhuntress.  Looks like having two arms to work with made all the difference as she killed one of the Withershadow on the charge and took out a Bane for good measure.

The Manhuntress gets the job done.
After that the Butcher got to work himself.  He charged the leftmost Withershadow Combiner and wrecked it, then took out the last member.  Reach is a wonderful ability.  I wanted to pop my feat this turn to make sure of things, but positioning didn't allow me to activate Orsus first.  After the Manhuntress had moved out of the way I didn't have to worry about the Combine anymore, so I sat on my feat.  Ivan Bulldozed the remaining Bane back a bit and then didn't hit it, despite having a Focus to boost with.  I moved the War Dog to the side to try and block the Cankerworm's lane to the Butcher.

Khador turn four.
Turn 5

EV started off by sending the Carnkerworm in against the War Dog, which is when the whole Counter Charge thing came up.  I had expected the jack to be a player in the assassination run, but EV reminded me that the Kodiak had all but crippled the jack, which was lacking its cortex (among other systems).  The Dog failed its Tough roll and finally succumbed.  Next Denny came in, popping her feat and Parasiting Orsus on the way.  She blew her load and did some damage, but not enough to fell the stout Khadoran.  EV folded here as his caster was within easy reach of the Butcher and out of tricks.

End of game.
The misunderstanding about the War Dog soured this one for me.  As I said above, I don't think it affected the game in any significant way, but it was unfortunate all the same.  While I love tabletop gaming, this is one area where computers indisputably hold the upper hand.  They'll never measure wrong, read a card incompletely, or forget about a buff or debuff. 

War Dog aside, this was still not an entirely satisfying game.  I made a couple blunders that generally led to big Purges.  I also forgot how to play the Doomies for the first turn or two, which led to the easy loss of half the squad.  The Koldun Lord was a total loss.

On the plus side, the Manhuntress did herself proud and survived to the end of the game, a very rare combination.  The Doomies showed why they're such a wonderful unit in their return to the table.  The Winter Guard cleared out a lot of stuff in the center despite acting like idiots and standing around waiting for Purges.  My jacks did well in spots, but were underwhelming in others.  Perhaps I should scale back to one and work on getting 100% out of it before moving back to a pair.  Of course I could say that about most of my list.  At least I have plenty of room for improvement.  Now to watch my pathetic Redskins get plastered by a team that knows how to play the game...


  1. Great write-up, as usual. FWIW, Doom Reavers with P+S 13 and Weapon Master will kill an ARM 20 model 74% of the time when they hit it. You only need a roll of 8 or more on 3D6 to trigger 1 point of damage. This assumes that a Storm Blade is a 1-wound model.

  2. Odds are great, but it seems when you lean on them the most is when they're likely to turn against you. The only reason the WGI cleared out as many Banes as they did in this game was that I had 3-4 shots at each one, and I went into how expected value shot me in the foot in the last report. I'm not saying that odds are irrelevant and have no place in my games, they're a good planning tool to see what should happen in a given situation, it's just that no plan survives initial contact with the enemy. Point taken though that the Doomies should carve up the (single wound) Storm Blades.