Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Turning the Tables: pButcher vs Xerxis

Google returns this for "Turning the tables."
Last week I returned to the warm embrace of the Motherland in my first post-Gnarls game.  While thinking through a list the night before I engaged in an activity that I usually detest: I planned my list based on what I assumed EV would field.  This started mostly with planning a counter to Bile Thralls (Widowmakers), who are a rock-hard counter to the WGI I would be running (since I finished Kovnik Joe recently and wanted to field him.)  My distaste for list-tailoring sent me off on various themes, notably an all (or almost all) Stealth list, but as I was packing in the Kayazy I came back to tailoring.  While I'm against planning for a particular opponent, it makes no sense to do something like an all Stealth list that focuses on negating shooting when you know your opponent is all but guaranteed to take a melee-heavy force with little to no shooting.  Practicing in undesirable conditions is one thing, but bringing that Stealth list against a list packed with Banes, Biles, and Mech Thralls is an exercise in masochism.  After iterating for a while, I came back to my starting point of putting Joe (and Torch, also recently finished) on the table and came up with the following:

35+6 points, 33 models

The Butcher of Khardov  +6 points
* Torch  10 points

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

The Widowmakers are the anti-Bile Thrall unit.  I planned to run them forward into position, snipe out as many Bile Thralls as possible, then appreciate their sacrifice when they inevitably got munched by the advancing waves of undead.  The rest is just a usual army that I'd throw together.  I had to remind myself to take the WGI so I could use Joe many times.  While trying to cram in all the different flavors of infantry I wanted to take the WGI always got the axe first to make room for Great Bears or Kayazy or whatever.  I didn't realize it until I saw my army on the table, but everything except the Widowmakers was painted.  It was a pleasant surprise.

More pleasant still was the surprise waiting for me when I got to EV's place.  After planning against Bile Thralls and a Cryx infantry swarm, I saw Skorne on the other side of the table.  Beast heavy(ish) Skorne at that.  EV's list:

35+5 points, 18 models

Tyrant Xerxis  +5 points
* Cyclops Brute  5 points
* 2x Cyclops Savage  5 points each
* Titan Gladiator  8 points

6 Cataphract Cetrati  11 points
6 Paingiver Beast Handlers  3 points
Totem Hunter  3 points

In an odd, unplanned reversal I was running the horde of Warmachine infantry while EV was running the Hordes beast-centric list.  For a moment I was concerned about all the beef I'd have to face, but since three of four beasts were lights the moment was brief.  I had never seen Xerxis before, but a quick look over his card told me he was a combination of Orsus and Irusk.  Capable-looking himself, Xerxis didn't seem to offer a lot of support to his beasts/units and his SPD 5 meant I should be able to dodge him as needed.  Everything else I was familiar with and the group as a whole didn't concern me too much.  DEF 17 on 15 models is one hell of a security blanket.

Going with the Gnarls league scenario table, we rolled up an entertaining one: Whirling Gauntlet.  I won the roll to go first and decided fate had decreed that I go first.  There wasn't a lot to choose from strategy-wise, so everything went in the middle.  When EV deployed heavy on the left, I countered with my AD on the right.  The resulting plan was thus: center moves up, Doomies and Manhuntress run around to flank, Widowmakers set up shop in one of the buildings and pour fire into the objective zones.  The good ol' hammer and anvil, what could be more Khadoran than that?


Turn 1

Running.  Lots of running.  Somewhat less pictures, meaning none.

Turn 2

My half of turn two was slightly more involved than the first turn.  Doomies and Manhuntress ran.  The Widowmakers tried to shoot something, anything, but were out of range.  The Rocketeers put out some long-range fire but did little with it.  Perhaps if I'd activated Kovnik Joe before the unit it would have helped.  The WGI did manage to block Torch up pretty good though, so there was that.

Khador turn two.

EV continued his advance and one Cyclops made contact.  A successful Tough roll or two later, it had managed to kill a Winter Guard.
Poked one Guard real good.

That was about all the action.  You can see the cloud in the center moving around through my lines.  This was a trend that would continue.  Fortunately it did me little real harm, but was an inconvenience for most of the battle.  Two things to note: the flanking Totem Hunter, and that Xerxis had cast Inhospitable Ground.
Skorne turn two.

Turn 3

Who uses Kovnik Joe to boost attack rolls?  Not me.  As such the WGI didn't do a whole lot this turn.  I pumped some CRAs into the Cetrati, which softened them up a little but didn't take any out.  The unengaged Rocketeer did better when he took out three Beast Handlers with a single rocket.

Tactical missile strike.
Having been held up the previous turn, Torch was out of charge range.  He was in flame range though, and moved up to set some Skorne on fire.  My positioning left something to be desired and I managed to get only one Cetrati under the template, but did set it on fire.

Burn it with fire!
Did you see the Doomies in the above pictures, menacing various foes with their big swords?  There was a slight problem there.  I forgot about Inhospitable Ground, then EV didn't remember until I was in the "dice in hand" phase.  With no way to figure out who was where before the charge I backed them all up half the distance they had traveled through the Inhospitable Ground.  This turned my glorious charge where most (perhaps all) of the Doomies made contact into a piss-poor charge where two made it in while the rest clustered up for a counter-charge.  With only one swing per beast, no beasts were killed.  Also of note: I moved the Greylords down to block up the Totem Hunter and hopefully land an Ice Cage or two on it so that when Orsus strolled down to corner-snipe it he'd have an easier time.  Problem?  Totem Hunter has Stealth.  As a result the Greylords just hung out and Orsus didn't do much.  I was also moving the Totem Hunter's Prey (Kovnik Joe) away from it each turn to try and deny the extra movement.

Khador turn three.
EV's turn started in an entertaining way (for me).  His Titan Frenzied and ate a Cetrati.  It wasn't all roses though because the burning Cetrati didn't perish in the flames.

Nothing sweeter than your enemy eating itself.
Despite their reputation for sturdiness and durability, I've found the Khador heavies don't really take a charge too well.  Granted this applies to all jacks (except perhaps Cryx jacks with their high DEF), most any single target when you get right down to it, but I'm still disappointed when I go from a pristine, fresh-from-the-factory jack to a pile of scrap in a single activation.  At least the Cetrati were clustered up in optimal "spray me in the face" fashion.
Enjoy your moment, Cetrati.

Adjacent to this action, the Brute skewered another Winter Guard.  At least the lofty WGI DEF required boosting, and multiple swings, to overcome.
Two down, thirteen to go.

Then came the inevitable doom.  The first Savage killed two Reavers, which were all the targets in range.
Doomies down!

Savage the second killed another two, which would have been three except the lone Reaver made his Tough roll...
More Doomies die.
...Until the Beast Handlers came in.  I have little to complain about here as I'd made far more than my fair share of Tough rolls up to this point.
Piling on is never nice.
The Totem Hunter gave me a brief thrill when it stepped up against the Butcher.  I think it did two points of damage.  Looking at the pictures now, I should have been concerned.  My flanking force had been reaped like so much wheat after my non-charge with the Doomies, Torch was down, and all I had managed to kill was two Beast Handlers (though EV had kindly taken out a Cetrati as well).  Granted the remaining Cetrati were in various states of disrepair, as were the Cyclops.  Why wasn't I worried?  Winter Guard.  Between the 17 DEF and Tough from Joe, EV didn't have a whole lot of answers for the unit.  They packed the zone on my half of the table, which EV was supposed to take, and they weren't going anywhere.  As noted above the Cetrati were packed together in the textbook placement to eat lots of sprays, which would also clip the Titan behind if I got lucky, and after clearing those out then things would look a lot better.  Between Joe's boosts and the Butcher's feat, I was confident that I could clear out the center.
Skorne turn three.

Turn 4

Because my flankers were out of range of the Butcher's feat, I started there.  The Greylord Escort got a tiny measure of revenge for his slaughtered charges by spraying a Beast Handler to death.
"They may be criminals, but they're my criminals!"
 Then the main event began.  Orsus popped feat, popped off the Totem Hunter's head, then popped an Obliteration into the center of the Cetrati, finishing off three of them.  Then, his work complete, the Butcher rested.
I should use Obliteration more.

Next up were the Greylords who took out another Cetrati and, just as vital, didn't gum up any lanes for the Winter Guard.
Greylords join the fray.

This time I made sure to activate Joe first so he could inspire the Winter Guard to greatness.  Inspired himself, he shot a Savage so hard it exploded.  (Looking through the pictures to come, the Beast Handlers just seem to disappear.  I have no reason why this happened. [On extra examinations, it was the Manhuntress.])
Joe gets in on the action.

Then the Winter Guard.  The carnage was less than expected, but not because the WGI didn't perform.  They just didn't have targets.  They cleared out the remaining Cetrati, pumped some CRAs into the Titan, failed to kill the Brute, and popped Xerxis with a rocket for good measure.
Making the most of what you have.

No real extra action to summarize here.  Every unit killed something, which is always nice. 
Khador turn four.

Since I'm writing this a week later, I forget exactly what EV did this turn.  It was something to do with Xerxis.  The crux of his plan was to Trample the Titan in against Orsus and then hope for the best.  The problem with the plan was that there was nowhere for the Titan to stop (since you need to be able to place the model before resolving Trample attacks, you can't stomp in and try to create a hole, nor do the models just dive out of the way).  I had all this in mind while EV was taking his turn and was curious what he was up to.  A Slam maybe?  Xerxis had Combo: Smite, but his activation ended without any attacks.  When EV announced he was going to Trample and I showed him how it wouldn't work, the game was over.

In the post-game chatter, EV dropped an unexpected nugget on me: Hordes is a weaker system than Warmachine.  This flies in the face of the accepted Internet Truth which states that Fury is the superior mechanic, a statement which I support.  EV's reasoning was that you can neuter a Warlock by killing all its beasts, which is fair enough.  The problem, of course, is that you have to kill all the beasts, which is rarely an easy undertaking.  Warcasters are more capable on their own, this is not debatable, but beasts are better than jacks and in more ways than casters are better than locks.  Warmachine infantry is generally superior to Hordes infantry, plus Warmachine has extra development time which means more pieces to choose from.  More than all that though, Fury is just better than Focus for reasons which I won't get into here.  Indeed I've spent too long on the balance of the two systems already.  My point here is that there were a number of reversals in this game: I showed up with jack-light Warmachine and faced beast-heavy Hordes, EV was the one dropping Inhospitable Ground while fielding heavy infantry, and we wrapped up the day debating if Hordes was weaker than Warmachine.  The constant through the battle was the Winter Guard, who reminded me of just how effective they are (too effective really) and why I stopped fielding them.  I'm pondering a post about the Death Star, how to run it and how to fight it, as there are a couple local players wondering how to make it work(!), though I'm reluctant to point out how to beat a pillar of the Motherland.  Perhaps such a public service is due though, considering the final reversal of this battle: I brought what I hoped was a hard counter (Widowmakers) to the hard counter of my WGI (Bile Thralls), only to find that there were no Biles, which allowed my WGI to operate with impunity.


  1. I'd also really dig a WGI post, as someone that based his starting (and still current) army on them.

    1. It's under construction, but probably won't show up for bit. I actually want to take my time for once and make a quality product instead of just writing off the cuff like I have been.