Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tournament Mode: the Debut

Tournament time.
A cluster of eager combatants. Pedestrian tables turned into exact playing surfaces with themed terrain. Handouts: a sheet for game results and army lists, another for event feedback. Packets of rules and scenarios. The gentle rumble of conversation and laughter. Trays of (somewhat) painted minis. The appraising looks drawn by the assembled armies. The atmosphere when I arrived to my first Warmahordes tournament was everything I thought it would be.

As I alluded to in my last post, I went in a new direction with my lists the night before the tournament.  I had settled into a single jack, infantry heavy, Iron Flesh caster approach, but following a successful game with Strakhov on Thursday night I went with a list very similar to the one I used that night:

35+6 points, 18 models

Kommander Strakhov  +6 points
* Kodiak  8 points
* Torch  10 points
* Sylys Wyshnalyrr, The Seeker  2 points

Doom Reavers  6 points
* Greylord Escort  2 points
Great Bears of Gallowswood  5 points
Koldun Lord  2 points
2x Manhunter  2 points each
Widowmaker Marksman  2 points

The idea here is simple: send the Doomies forward to disrupt enemy lines and kill as much as they can while the rest spreads out wide to set up the feat turn, crazy angle and distance charges.  I took Sylys for the free upkeep since Strakhov is a six Focus caster, though I often forgot to use his free upkeep.  The extended range on spells came in handy once for Sentry.  The Kodiak got Superiority, the Great Bears got Occultation (not that it ever helped), and after that it's all rocketing forward and smashing stuff.  To complement  this assassination-focused list I made a Harkevich list:

35+5 points, 24 models

Kommander Harkevich, The Iron Wolf  +5 points
* Black Ivan  10 points
* Destroyer  9 points
* War Dog  1 point

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

This list fits my usual style (attrition) better, yet I felt less confident in it than the Strakhov list.  Lots of boosted shooting is the theme.  Both Bombards are fully boosted each turn, with potential if not intention for Broadsides, and the WGI do their usual thing, though without Iron Flesh.  I wanted to try Fortune out on the Ternion who seem like a great target for it with sprays and Ice Cages.  Whether I was right or not, I looked at the Harkevich list as anti-infantry and the Strakhov as anti-armor.  There was also an unexpected addition to the lists: reinforcements.  This is a new wrinkle for Steamroller 2012, which we were testing out, that gives an extra seven points in certain scenarios.  Given prior warning I might have tried to incorporate these extra points into the general theme of the lists, but as it is I just reached for the first seven points I thought of: a Juggernaut.  After submitting lists and getting the pre-event address from Plarzoid, the pairings were announced and it was game on.

Early on, the net spreads wide.
My first game was against Bill and his Legion.  Having never played Legion before, and with my current interest in the faction, I was curious about how the blighters would fight and die.  Since the Internet (and a bit of common sense) says Legion runs beast heavy I took Strakhov to have plenty of Weapon Masters running around to bust up the beasties.  Bill ran Absylonia, who I've been eying as a potential caster to start with myself.  He took a pair of flyers (Angelus and Seraph), Typhon, and a couple lessers along with a pair of Forsaken.  The scenario was a dual-objective one with a zone for each player to capture (on the far side of the table, the blue glass beads) and another objective in the center.  This center objective had some special rules that allowed a caster to throw out an AoE but neither of us used it in that way.  My regular deployment troops clustered in the middle with my advanced deployment stuff out on the flanks or up-field in the middle.  He bricked up. 

The trap is sprung.
I think Bill said this was his eighth game, and his play backed that up.  He didn't play poorly, just slowly and with lots of checking cards and rules in general.  This being my second game against Hordes, I was learning as well, so we had plenty of pausing the clock while learning, for example, what the different damage spirals did.  Bill was hard up against the clock after his first two turns, and he ultimately lost when time ran out, but in the meantime I played my game as planned and things turned out well for me.  I cleared out everything that wasn't a caster or a heavy beast and did decent damage to everything left on the table.  In return I lost a handful of Doomies, a pair of solos, and a ding or two on my jacks.  As you can see in the above picture, I had all the Great Bears open and ready to drop the hammer on anything in sight.  This game felt more like a Thursday nighter at the FLGS than a tournament game as there was plenty of banter, card referencing, and a generally relaxed feel.  Hopefully my opponent had as good a time as I did.

The Circle offensive begins.
My second game was against a familiar opponent, albeit in new circumstances.  I lined up across from a Cassius list played by Thel, who I remembered better as Gorgor from the Uncharted Seas days.  He was at the FLGS on Thursday, though not playing, so it was a pleasant if not entirely surprising surprise.  My only exposure to Circle has been through the limited selections found in Primal mk 2, so this would be another learning experience.  While Thel was an old hand at Warmahordes he had been out of the game for a while, so he was remembering as I was learning.  This was another laid-back game with lots of banter.  I got off an unexpected, feat-fueled charge on Wormwood in the bottom of turn two.  While the tree survived (with a bare handful of boxes) the charge, along with a timely failed...command? leadership? morale? some sort of Abomination-induced psychology check, meant the game was all but decided. 

A Woldwatcher got through to Strakhov, but didn't get it done.
I learned a couple things from this game.  First is that cavalry is fast.  The Wolf Riders took a big flanking loop and were still charging in on turn two.  With plenty of attacks, some re-rolls, and the ability to get out of dodge after attacking, they make a great harassing unit.  Second, I learned Circle is not as tricksy as I thought.  Thel pulled off some movement shenanigans, teleporting things here and there, but the majority of his movement was still running and charging in straight lines, just like everyone else.  The last, and perhaps most important, lesson that I learned on the day was that in a tournament setting, it's probably better to grind your opponent down as much as possible before finishing them off.  After my assassination run came up just short, and then surviving the next turn to get another shot at it, my first activation was the Kodiak who finished off the tree.  While I won, I didn't score many points of any sort (there were a few flavors).  It didn't have any ill effects this time, but it's the sort of thing that could cost me in the future.  I don't like having my opponent down and then taking my time about finishing the job (it's generally unnecessary and often rude), but here is the situation where I should make sure to take down as much stuff as possible.

Borka vs Khador on an ice table.  Picturesque.
With two wins under my belt, I found myself in the unexpected position of playing for the win in the last round.  My opponent for this round was Dixon, an energetic Trollblood player.  He ran a compact Borka list with an (extreme) Mauler, an Axer, some Champions, and Dygmies.  This final game had the feel that I was expecting: fast paced, a knowledgeable opponent, high body count.  The tables were turned on me here.  In the first two rounds I was the more experienced/practiced player who pulled off some unexpected charges that broke the game open.  Here I faced an opponent that knew more about my caster than I did (and was nice enough to point out things that I would have missed), which meant he had already countered my moves before I'd even thought of them, and I got blindsided by the Dygmies despite having them explained and reading their card.  Dixon was obviously well versed in tournament play and played at a pace that was just fast enough that I knew what was going on but didn't have enough time to process each activation before the next one was underway.  He used the Dygmies to tar pit my Doomies, then charged the Champions in to finish the job.  I made some bad choices in deployment and general strategy, which my opponent capitalized on to cripple my army in the second turn.  You play to the whistle though, and I took a lot of Trollbloods down with me.  The twin highlights of this game were the Marksman vs Keg Carrier grudge match (I shot at the Keg, then he charged in, all to no effect) and the aftermath of a failed Dygmie assassination run.  The Burrowers popped up behind Strakhov and did their worse, which left Strakhov with a single box.  On my turn I paid one to upkeep Superiority, then turned Strakhov to face his attackers.  It took all of his five Focus, but when the air cleared six Dygmies were dead and Oleg Sprinted off to (temporary) safety.  The Mauler launched Torch into Strakhov in the next turn and the day was finished.

Same podium spot as Shawn Johnson.
When the dust had settled, I finished second (of six players).  On the one hand I had (what I think was) a favorable draw, getting the newest player and the most rusty.  On the other hand I won those games, and convincingly if I do say so, without any trickery or shenanigans, through the force of axe to mouth.  I don't know what the points totals were, though I gather I wasn't second in those totals.  That said, I left a lot of whatever those points were called literally on the table in the second game, and in the future I'll know to make as big of a crater as possible.  Considering the turn-out on Thursday nights, generally 10-12 people, I expected more than a half dozen for the tournament, but things worked out well as it was.  Everyone was friendly and appeared to have a good time.  I managed to dodge the only Cryx player (who was even running pDenny, one of my least favorites), which was a nice reprieve, along with the other Warmachine player (Menoth), which meant I quadrupled my Hordes experience over the course of the day.

Welcome back random rotation.
The low turn-out had an upside though: everyone got a prize of some sort.  The bottom three got gift certificates for Huzzah Hobbies (the store that hosted), while the top three got to pick from a (handcrafted) LoS laser and two pieces of terrain.  My eye caught on one of them at the beginning of the day, though I didn't expect to contend for it, so it was a pleasant surprise when I ended up with it.  The other terrain option, a Tribal Chieftan Hut, was too big and incongruous for my tastes.  Plans for turning the crystals into a couple "forests" are already forming.

What I wanted to get out of this first tournament changed a bit over time, from crushing foes to making friends to something in between.  In the end I managed to get just about everything I wanted out of the event.  Having fun was my foremost priority, but I also managed to get in some good competitive play at the same time.  Being able to say that my most enjoyable game was the one that I lost feels like an indicator of a good time.  Thanks go out across the interwebs to my various opponents (who probably will never see this) and my local PG (who may well see this) for playing their particular parts in making a successful event.  Now to catch my breath a bit and mess around with some different approaches to begin the inevitable preparation for the next event.


  1. Terrain wise, if you are going for a winter theme, the craft store Micheal's sells bags of snow covered pine trees miniatures around this time of year for cheap. After Christmas they sell them for extra cheap.

  2. I'll have to check that out. There's a Michael's real close to the house where I get my brushes and whatnot.