Monday, November 14, 2011

New Caster Throwdown: Strakhov vs eCaine

Wrong game, right feel.
Over the past couple weeks my collection, at least the part ready for the table, has expanded and there are lots of pieces that have yet to see the table.  While some of these (Shock Troopers) are relatively new and require some jockeying to find space in my case, there is one piece in particular that has been on the shelf for what feels like an eternity: Strakhov.  I got Strakhov when I went down to Fredericksburg for an Uncharted Seas tournament more than a year ago.  Poor guy sat in the blister for most of that time until I got him painted for a recent Paint the Target.  That was more than a month ago.  I've been hesitant to play Strakhov because I didn't have the pieces to play the kind of fast assassination game Strakhov seems made for, namely Great Bears and a Spriggan/Beast 09.  Fast-forward to now and I've just finished priming the Great Bears, Torch who lacks reach but is Strakhov's jack, eEiryss, and Aiyana & Holt (with Valachev).  If these pieces can't combine to make an assassination list then I have a problem in a logic bank.  With that in mind I got to bodging a list together last night.  At first I made a list that was full of everything I haven't played yet, but I just couldn't get Shock Troopers to play right with Strakhov in my head, plus I came up a bit short on 35 points, so I took out the Shock Troopers and put in some other stuff to come up with the following list: 

35+6 points, 23 models

Kommander Strakhov  +6 points
* Torch  10 points
* War Dog  1 point

Doom Reavers  6 points
* Greylord Escort  2 points
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution  3 points
Great Bears of Gallowswood  5 points
Lady Aiyana & Master Holt  4 points
* Koldun Kapitan Valachev  2 points
Manhunter  2 points
Widowmaker Marksman  2 points
Widowmakers  4 points

To be clear up front, assassination is not my preferred play style.  I'd much rather play the attrition game, which I think originated in Khador and suits the faction perfectly.  That said, you can't always play attrition and if I never try to play assassination then I'm halving (at least) my options, plus if I ever expand out into something like Legion or Circle I'll need to know how to get the job done quick and dirty.

The basic plan here is to throw things forward.  The Doomies are the foremost element, there to rocket across the board and gum things up and/or force my opponent to deal with them right now.  After that the second wave (Great Bears, Manhuntress, and Torch) hit and hopefully get the job done.  The shooty bits are there for support and to help clear out charge lanes.  While the Doomies will be way out front with Advanced Deployment, Strakhov's feat (plus Overrun shenanigans) should allow the other elements to arrive in a timely manner.  Of course the problem with all this is that it's all one big glass cannon and if the assassination run doesn't pan out I'll probably be left with my ass hanging in the breeze, which is exactly what I don't like about assassination.

Since EV had a week to work on the Black 13th I figured I'd be facing them, and I wasn't disappointed.  What I wasn't expecting was a new caster, eCaine, and a new approach, the gun line.  EV ran a pHaley list a while back that had a lot of shooting but nothing like what I saw across the table:

35+5 points, 26 models

Captain Allister Caine  +5 points
* Hunter  6 points
* Squire  2 points

Journeyman Warcaster  3 points
* Charger  4 points

Arcane Tempest Gun Mages  6 points
* Gun Mage Officer  2 points
Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team  4 points
Eiryss, Mage Hunter of Ios  3 points
Gun Mage Captain Adept  2 points
Rangers  5 points
3x Stormsmith Stormcaller  1 point each

All shooting, all the time.  I've heard plenty of complaining about the Black 13th and took a look at their card before wrapping it up for EV, but nothing beats experience on the table.  I've gotten plenty of that with the Gun Mages of late, so I figured the Black 13th were like them but worse.  All that shooting didn't sit too well with me since I was banking on getting things into place for a charge, but I figured that if I could just get a few things in melee I'd be set.  eCaine is supposed to be at least as much of an assassination caster as Strakhov so we should both learn a lot real quick.

We rolled up the three objective game.  This threw a bit of a wrench into my assassination plans, but doing a bit of math told me you couldn't win the game by scenario until the end of your fourth turn which should give me plenty of time to get something setup and take a run at Caine, so I didn't figure taking objectives too heavily into my plans.  I won the terrain roll and put down a forest for my Widowmakers, then dropped things on EV's side of the table.  For his part EV put terrain on all the objectives, including the two swamps.  I won the roll to go first and took the initiative.  Not knowing where Caine would be, I setup mostly in the center.  That half of my army had AD meant I didn't have to tip my hand too much, but that half that didn't was the half I expected to get the kill with.  EV deployed mostly in the center as well, with the Stormcallers on the extreme left.  I put my shooting AD (Eiryss & Widowmakers) on that flank to shoot them up before they could start drawing lightning lines through my troops.  Everything would advance forward and take objectives if possible, but mostly I would be looking for the big feat charge.

The Setup
Turn 1

The Khador line moved up.  After finding out that Strakhov doesn't have enough Focus to cast all his upkeeps while having his jack run, I put Superiority on Torch and Sentry on the Marksman.  Occultation lost out because of all the things that ignore Stealth on EV's side.  The Doomies were far forward to apply pressure and try to keep some shooting off the rest of my force.  

Though I normally skip the picture at the middle of turn one, I took one this time.  I had a feeling that a lot might change in EV's first turn.

Khador turn one.
EV started with the Gun Mage solo, who killed a Doomie.

No Tough love.
Next came the man himself.  Two more Doomies down.

Not used to seeing a caster this far up.
The Eiryss came in for another Reaver.

I was hoping Tough would save my bacon a little more.
And the Gun Mages drop a CRA that kills another and almost takes out the UA, who made his Tough roll.

Yay Tough roll.
The Rangers finish things up by taking out the last Doom Reaver.  At least the UA is still alive.  The Black 13th did nothing at all which was quite the surprise.  I resisted the urge to mock them, lest they visit their wrath upon me in a future turn.  The Doomies had soaked up the first turn's shooting, but my big hitters were too far away to get a solid charge in.  I'd have to position myself the next turn and hope for a chance in turn three.

Cygnar turn one.
Turn 2

Knowing the Stormcallers could take out Eiryss despite her Stealth, I decided to take them out first.  The Widowmakers began the festivities by killing two of them along with a Ranger.  It took me a missed shot on a Stormcaller to decide that shooting the Ranger first to get an easier shot on the Stormcaller behind it was a good idea.

Snipers at work.
Eiryss herself came around the far left rocky hill and finished off the Stormcallers, and hopefully leaving her alive in range of Caine next turn.

Each Eiryss kills a warrior.
In the middle Aiyana, Holt, and Valachev make a move on the Hunter.  Zephyr, advance, Kiss of (someone), and a pair of Hand Cannons later the light jack is half dead.  It's my good luck that the dead half is one with the gun.

Pretty decent damage.
The Manhuntress moves to capture the objective while the Marksmen shoots at Eiryss.  His aim is true, but not true enough, and the elf lives to fight another round.  

Not a good development for Khador.
After casting Sentry on Holt (the Marksman was out of range), Strakhov cast Overrun and started shooting at the Rangers with the intent of sending Torch in close enough so he can charge in and set them on fire.  Unfortunately my plan didn't account for the possibility that Strakhov would fail to kill a Ranger.  I had placed him in a forest though, for extra protection against shooting, and blocked charges with the War Dog.  The Greylord Escort dropped back, bidding his time until a spray target appeared.  The Great Bears were hanging around in the open, but there wasn't much I could do about that.  I got a point with the Manhuntress.

Khador - 1  Cygnar - 0

Khador turn two.
EV wasted no time killing my dog.  The Rangers had been rather incompetent the first turn, but did a good job here in turn two.  Tough disappointed me again.

Poor dog never had a chance.
My attempt to avoid the Black 13th's wrath was in vain.  They shot up the Great Bears real good, killing one and forcing the other two back on their Tough rolls.  Unfortunately the one that died was the one that grants Steady, so the two survivors were Knocked Down. 

Round one of the character unit battle goes to Cygnar.
Eiryss made the Marksman pay for not killing her when he had the opportunity...

The elf out snipes the sniper.
...while the Charger wandered up and blasted the Manhuntress.  

So much for taking the right flank.
Then the big moment came.  A tumble weed blew across the table, a clock tower rang noon, and Caine stepped forward to make his play.  Pumped full of Focus and with his feat popped, Caine sent a hail of bullets into Strakhov, doing horrific damage in the process.  But when the lead stopped flying Strakhov stood.  With a single box, yes, but he stood.

Can't get any closer than that.
The Gun Mages shot Torch pretty good but left all the important systems (Rip Saw) intact.  They also lost one of their number to Holt and Sentry.  I figured EV would try and finish Strakhov, but perhaps he was out of range.  

Holt bags a Gun Mage.
The Hunter took the center objective, tying the score at one.  I didn't anticipate an assassination run, though I probably should have given Caine's reputation for shooting casters to death.  EV took his shot and came up just short, leaving his caster exposed one the front line looking at Torch across a glorious charge lane. 

Khador - 1  Cygnar - 1

Cygnar turn two.
Turn 3

A plan fell quickly into place.  The Widowmakers and Eiryss would shoot at Caine, then A & H would come in to try and pile on.  Then Strakhov would feat, charge in, and stab Caine.  Finally Torch would arrive with a full load of Focus to clean up any pesky remaining boxes.

I started with an exploratory shot on Caine.  He had a high DEF, but the first Widowmaker hit and I discovered that Caine doesn't wear armor.  Instead he clothes himself in the finest tissue paper.  A second Widowmaker shot later and he was down.

That was easier than expected.
I got the quick assassination kill, but not in the way I wanted.  EV overextended himself after lunging at Strakhov.  I figured Charging Reaching Weapon Masters would cut a charge lane from the flesh of my foes, but instead it was a short-lived firefight that decided the day.  My first experiences with Torch and the Great Bears was also less than satisfactory.  In retrospect I should have put Occultation up before Sentry as it might have helped the Great Bears survive long enough to make contact.  Torch was ready to go but the match ended before his number was called.  Strakhov himself got the same sort of incomplete grade.  I don't think I played him right, though that could be because Overrun didn't work for me in turn two.  Perhaps if I ran everything in turn one, not stopping for upkeeps or anything of the sort, then my troops might have been able to pull off a turn two charge.  The extra 4" charge leads to some big threat ranges, but Strakhov's 12" control area limits them somewhat.  It could have easily been me with the overextended caster.  The Black 13th proved to be effective, as did the army in general, and had an assassination not arrived on a silver platter I would have been in trouble.  EV could have kept me at arm's length and swept me off the objectives until I ran out of pieces.  If this is the real face of the Cygnar gun line then I see what all the talk is about.  A win is a win, but this one feels like EV gave it away more than I took it.  Hopefully Strakhov has a better showing next time out.

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