Saturday, July 7, 2012

Quake City Rumble 2012

Last weekend was Quake City Rumble at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.  This was my second year attending and overall I had a good time.  The only overall issue was some griping and confusion over how comp scores affected the pairings in the early rounds.  There were some matchups that seemed a lot more one sided than they should have been.  Some of the comp scores didn't quite make sense and there were some sneaking suspicions that newer armies got comped harder by default even when their lists were relatively soft.  Other than that ... the venue was good, the organization was good, the attendance was good, the games were fun, the opponents were fun to play against, and the painting and conversions on several of the armies were fantastic.

In terms of my actual performance, I don't really like where I placed.  I used the same list I had used at SAWS where I was 2-1-2 but ended up 2-0-3.  Turning one tie into a loss dropped me from the middle of the pack to the bottom quarter.  This is also worse than I did last year at QCR where I was 2-2-1.  I'll step through the games and then talk some about the other scoring components.

Game 1 : Loss
My first game was against Ryan's Lizardmen.  His list was a pretty standard tournament Lizard list: Slann, Temple Guard, Steg, SKrocs, some Saurus, some Skinks, and a Salamander.  He went first and during his magic phase he cast Throne of Vines followed by an irresistable Dwellers Below on my level 4 Sorceress' unit.  He killed my level 4 and paniced her unit off the table.  Starting out the game without the bulk of your offensive magic and trying to fend off a Slann with just a level 2 .... let's just say that I did well by not getting tabled.  My 'unkillable' Lord managed to tarpit his Steg for the whole game, so at least that part worked as planned.

Game 2 : Win
The second game was against Mike's Vampire Counts.  This is one of the Vampire Count armies I'd played and won against at SAWS, with some slight modifications, and there was a definite comp problem with his list.  We both agreed that his list was softer than his comp score reflected and that this matchup was probably not a good one for the second round when both of us had lost our first games. 

Mike was already having a bad day.  In his first game, his opponent's Hell Cannon misfired at the top of the first turn.  It's misfire result caused every caster on the table to suffer a miscast.  Mike had some really bad luck and lost all of his casters before he even got a turn.  Which means that his army started crumbling before he even got a turn.

Coming off that kind of quick and frustrating loss, I can see how he would be upset when I tabled him in three turns.  He took it as best he could, tried to keep from getting angry about it, and even waited a good long while before filling out my sportsmanship and comp scores to avoid being unnecessarily harsh due to his mood.  I hope he had better luck for the rest of the weekend.

The one interesting high point of the game was that his Wight King managed to Killing Blow my 'unkillable' Lord.

Game 3 : Win
Game three was against Brett's Scaven.  I've got a lot of practice playing Scaven and my army is really good at killing light infantry.  This was a really fun game that ended up being pretty close.  My 'unkillable' Lord managed to tarpit his Hellpit Abomination for the first half of the game.  I don't think it actually managed to get into any combats once it finally got free.  He also committed a bit of a tactical mistake by sending his Storm Vermin in to try to break the stalemate between my lord and the HPA, which really just meant that they got stuck for a couple of turns as well.  I took out his warmachines with scouts and fliers and killed enough Clan Rats to win.

Game 4 : Loss
My first game of the second day was against Greg's Empire.  I like getting to play tournament level Empire armies, since I still haven't played with the new book and really want to get back to working on my Empire army now that tournament season is over.  I've seen a lot of very mobile Empire lists lately, and this was a good example.  A big block of Knights, a couple of units of Demigryphs, Stank, Hurricanium, an some minimal infantry to guard some characters.  This game was fun but frustrating for me since I failed all but one charge I attempted in turns 2 and 3.  My 'unkillable' Lord made the only successful charge, whiffed, and then failed his break test on a stubborn 10 and was run down.   When Dark Elves can't move and get into combat when they want to in the early game, they just don't work.  I also didn't roll more than 3 dice for winds of magic in the first 3 turns.

Game 5 : Loss
Last game of the tournament was against Zack's Nurgle Warriors of Chaos.  His list was definitely softer than mine and it was comped appropriately.  By all odds I should have won this game, but bad luck with dice at bad times.  Failed charges I should have made, failed to cast spells that I needed, failed to run down units that I broke.  He also managed to kill my 'unkillable' Lord with magic before he got into combat.  He was a fun guy to play against though and we had a good time to finish out the event.

For those keeping score, my 'unkillable' Lord died in 4 out of 5 games.

Now for the other score related stuff.  I got a 20 out of 30 for painting.  Last year I got a 26 out of 30 with the same army and display board.  This really annoyed me.  All I can figure is that since there were even more amazing looking armies this year than last year, the judges must have raised the bar or something. 

My list was comped at 2 out of 15 by the tournament judges and my final comp score was 11.5, meaning that my opponents gave me a collective comp score of 9.5 out of 15 for an average of 1.9.  So my opponents gave me almost as many comp points each as the tournament comp judges gave me total.  Last year my total comp score was 7.5.  I attribute the difference to removing the second Hydra from the list, and my 'unkillable' Lord dying in almost every game.  The 4 point increase in comp doesn't quite compensate for the 6 point drop in painting, but it was are area that I hoped to improve from last year so I'm glad that I was successful there.

In terms of sportsmanship, this year I got a 52, up from 48 last year.  I feel like I did a better job of not letting bad luck get to me and trying to keep having fun regardless of what happened on the table, and I think the increase in sportsmanship reflects that.

Overall, my score this year was 146.5 versus 154.5 last year.  My battle score was 6 points lower than last year, but I did do a little better at getting scenario bonus points this year so it could have been worse with the win-loss record I had.  I brought up the couple of categories where I thought I could improve, but slipped even more in the ones I did well at last year.

For next year, my goal is to bring fully painted Empire instead of Dark Elves.  I'm going to try to increase my comp score from the judges while keeping the comp score from my opponents good, and keep my sportsmanship score where it is.  I've got some good ideas for conversions for my Empire army, so I'm hoping that I can pull my painting score back up to where it was.  In terms of win-loss, I'd be happy to get back to a more even record.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SAWS Challenge 2012

This past weekend I went up to Sacramento for the SAWS Challenge tournament.  This was a large, fantasy-only event that sort of felt like the 'sister event' to Quake City Rumble.  Largely the same clubs in attendance, well organized and run, and well attended.  I had a great time and definitely plan to go back next year.

One part that I found particularly interesting was the way they did scenario objectives.  The actual game scenarios were pretty standard, which I thought was good.  Some tournament scenarios are so screwy that they end up making the games annoying or are kind of unfair towards one kind of army or another.  The twist was that each player got a big list of generic scenario objectives (take more standards than your opponent, kill the enemy's most expensive character / unit, control more table quarters, etc) and they got to pick one objective at the start of each game to try to accomplish.  You could only pick each objective once, and there were about twice as many objectives as there were games in the tournament.  I really liked getting to take a look at the opposing army and then pick a bonus objective that I thought I could actually accomplish.

I plan on keeping the list I used, at least through Quake City Rumble, which is a slight variation on the list I used last year -
'Unkillable' Dread Lord on Dark Pegasus, General
Lvl 4 Shadow Sorceress w/ Sac Dagger
Cauldron BSB
Lvl 2 Dark Sorceress w/ Familar
Block of Sacrificial Spearmen
Big block of Frenzied Corsairs
Big Block of Witch Elves
5 Dark Riders
2 units of Harpies
2 units of Shades

The big difference are the Dread Lord as General, only one Hydra, added one unit of Dark Riders, and added a rank to both the Corsairs and Witches.

My first game was against Mike's Vampire Counts.  Mike was getting over a cold and his list seemed fairly conservative.  No toys from the new Vampire Counts book.  He was a cool guy and fun to play against, but seemed a little off his game or perhaps not used to playing against Dark Elves (a comment I would hear a lot).  I tabled him in 5 turns.  For my special objective I picked "destroy the opponent's most expensive character" since killing the General is the best way to beat Vampires.

Game 2 was against Nathan's Empire.  His list was very mobile.  Two cannons, but otherwise everything else was mounted.  Two big blocks of Knights as core, two units of Demigryphs, a Steam Tank, and ... I want to say the Hurricanium.  We fought to a draw since I had trouble getting through his armor and the Demigryphs are pretty good at killing lightly armored Elves.  I picked the "destroy the opponent's most expensive unit" objective which I didn't do.  I figured I'd be able to take out the slightly bigger unit of Knights, but it wasn't in the cards.

Game 3 was against Joe's 'Evil Christmas' themed Vampire Count army.  I'm not sure that there was a single normal Vampire model on the table.  This was a fully themed and converted army that was hilarious. As an example, his Grave Guard unit was 'Presents Gone Wrong'.  They were wrapped Christmas presents with little boots and a single big-beefy arm holding a meat cleaver.  Great fun to play against, but Joe also hadn't had much experience playing against Dark Elves so he wasn't prepared for how effectively Corsairs and Witches can tear through light troops.  We called it a day in turn 4 as we were running short on time.  I picked "destroy all the opponent's spell casters", but was not able to kill them all before we called it.

Game 4 was the first game of day 2.  Considering that the day before I had won two games and tied one game, I fully expected to lose both remaining games.  I played Jason's Vampire Counts (note the developing trend) which had more of the toys from the new book than the previous two Vampire armies I played: Mortis Engine, Terror Giest, and Crypt Horrors.  Jason was a cool guy and a lot of fun to play against.  I lost my General to the Terror Geist's scream attack very early in the game, and a couple of bad rolls at bad times kept me from turning the game around.  In the end, I lost all my characters (his Grave Guard managed to kill my Cauldron in one turn, my level 4 blew herself up, and my level 2 was killed by two dogs that she really should have been able to handle) which was enough to give Jason the win.  I picked the "have more units in your opponent's deployment zone than he has in yours" objective, which I managed to pull off easily what with all my scouts and fliers.

Game 5 was against Derek's Vampire Counts.  For those of you following along at home, yes I played Vampires in four out of five games.  I had previously played Derek at the Bay Area Open and did very poorly.  This game went a little better, but it was still obvious that I was going to lose by the end of the first turn.  I lost my General to Death magic in the first turn and was on the defensive from there on.  I picked "destroy more than 50% of your opponent's army by model count" as my special objective, which I managed to pull off.  Turns out that ripping through a couple of massive units of Zombies is good for something.

In the end, I finished 32rd out of 64.  Two wins, one draw, two losses.  22 out of 30 for a painting score.  Comp and sportsmanship were fine, and I got my bonus objective in 3 out of 5 games.  I'm happy with my performance, intend to go back next year, and got some good experience that will help at Quake City Rumble.  I would have liked to have faced a wider variety of armies, but other than that it was a solid weekend.

Bay Area Open 2012

I haven't done a lot of gaming since the end of the escalation league.  Things pretty much ground to a halt since everyone was a little burnt out.  As tournament season started approaching, I decide that break time was over but I had a tough choice to make.  I'd been playing Empire, but hadn't started painting them yet and a new Empire book was looming on the horizon.  I was out of practice with Dark Elves and wanted to make some improvements to my list from the previous year.  If I was going to play Empire, I was going to have to paint like the wind and hope that the new book didn't disrupt things too much.  If I were going to play Dark Elves again, I would need to get in some practice games to figure out what list changes I wanted to make so I could paint whatever additional models I needed.

I decided to take the easier route and go with Dark Elves again.  I signed up for the Bay Area Open at the last minute as a way to get in some test games with a slightly different list.  The reason I hadn't blogged about that tournament yet was because I did so poorly at it, I don't even want to think about it any more.  However, I did learn that the list I was trying simply wasn't going to work for me.  Other people might have success with Cold One Knights, but I just can't get the hang of them in 8th.  So I went back to the drawing board and came up with a list that was more my style and started practicing for the next tournament of the season, the SAWS Challenge. 

The actual tournament seemed ok.  The fantasy turnout was maybe half that of 40k and less than flames of war, somewhere around 30 players.  They seemed a little disorganized and since fantasy was the lowest attended part of the tournament, I felt like we were also the least well run part of the event.  I'd say there's a 70% chance that I'll go back next year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1st Runner up

The big news is that I finished second in the Escalation League. As I'd hoped, the Empire got a lot more competitive once we got up in the 2k point range. I won the last few games I played and even the bonus Storm of Magic game at the end of the schedule.

So what did I learn about the army through all this? Let's take the list I ended with.

Templar Grand Master of the Knights of the White Wolf, General
Sword 0f Might, Talisman of Preservation, Crown of Command
Captain, BSB
Armor of Meteoric Iron, Dawnstone
Level 4 Wizard, Lore of Light
Rod of Power, Holy Relic
Warrior Priest (of Ulric!)
Dawn Armor, Iron Curse Icon

35 Halberdiers, std&mus
35 Halberdiers, std&mus
14 Knights of the White Wolf, std&mus

28 Greatswords, std&mus
5 Outriders, mus
5 Outriders, mus

2 Mortars
2 Cannons
1 Hellblaster Volley Gun

At first, I felt like the Knights were very lackluster until I added the Templar to the unit. Before, they seemed to die more than I expected them to, kill less than I expected them to, and break and run waaaay more often than I expected them to. With the Templar, they are Immune to Psychology, his Crown of Command makes them Stubborn, his few early attacks helps keep more of the Knights alive longer, and now they make a great tarpit/bunker/flanker.

Second, the Lore of Light compliments the Empire well. Timewarp and Speed of Light turns Greatswords and great weapon Knights into serious killing machines. I experimented with Life early on, but since I switched to Light I've had no reason to look elsewhere. It also fits the fluff of the army pretty well since I'm going for a 'Cult of Ulric' theme. In terms of gear, the Rod of Power is awesome and became a no-brainer. There were magic phases where between it and the Warrior Priest I has just as many dispell dice as my opponent had to cast.

The Warrior Priest was really good to have, and I think every Empire army should have at least one. I put mine in the Greatswords just to give them Hatred.

The Captain is, as far as I can tell, the only character type that can be your BSB. I would much rather have a Warrior Priest in that role for fluff reasons, but a BSB is just too useful to do without.

I found Halberdier buses to be preferable to seven wide frontage or hoard formation, but Greatswords were better seven wide since they are already Stubborn. The seven ranks worth of Halberdiers did a good job of holding steady for one or two turns against pretty much anything thanks to steadfast, but usually only won when they were up against smaller units they could wear down, less capable troops like Goblins or Zombies, or fighting in conjunction with Knights or Greatswords.

The Outriders were a late addition, but I found them vastly superior to the little detachments of Free Company I was initially trying to use as redirectors. Vanguard move, then park and shoot until your have to feign flight, rinse and repeat. Dark Riders were one of my favorite Dark Elf units in seventh edition, and Outriders have reminded my of what I liked about fast cavalry in the first place. A fast, shooty unit that is just threatening / annoying enough that you have to commit something in your army to getting rid of them or they will screw up all your plans.

Five artillery pieces is too many for a normal sized game. Mortars are great against ranked units and cannons are great against monsters, so I feel like you need one of each. The problem lies in monstrous infantry or heavily armored cavalry or infantry, like Knights or Choas Warriors. The cannon picks them off too slowly and the mortars don't have high enough strength to punch through enough of them. The rocket battery and volley gun are supposed to fill this gap, and of the two I opted to try the volley gun. The rocket battery seemed a little too random to me in terms of whether it would even hit or not. The volley gun, on the other hand, performed well in a point-defense sort of role. I would deploy it centrally in between two infantry blocks and shoot at the scariest thing coming across the table. It paid for itself easily against Ogres, Beastmen, and Brettonians. I never really felt like I missed having an Engineer, so I can't really see the point in dropping another character to include one. I'll probably drop either one or two pieces, probably a mortar since monsters are harder to deal with than rank-and-file or a mortal and cannon.

All in all, with Empire you really have to get used to, and be okay with, watching a lot of your guys die. This is a pretty significant morale and game enjoyment lesson to learn. After playing an elite army I had gotten used to hitting before my opponent and killing a lot of them before they got the chance to swing back. The Empire in many cases either attacks simultaneously or after the opponent and loses a lot more models. But, that's just how the army works and you can absolutely win games even when your opponent wracks up a higher raw body count. Once I really got that into my head, I began enjoying the games more.

After this experience, I can see myself playing Empire enough that it's actually worth doing some conversions and painting them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Winter is Coming.....

After a brief hiatus, my Empire army is finally underway. We are now wrapping up the second week of this year's Escalation League at Game Kastle. Since this sort of format is perfect for getting started on a new army, I've taken the opportunity to jump in with both feet. I'm focusing on getting the basics of the army assembled and gaining experience playing them. Painting and converting the army to fit the theme will come later.

So far I've played 5 games and lost all 5 of them. While I expected to have trouble with a new army, I didn't really expect to start out with such a poor record. Although.... I do seem to remember losing a lot when I first started playing with Dark Elves..... At any rate, I've made a couple of observations about the Empire in 8th Edition at low point levels. First, the Empire generally functions as a hoard army in 8th. Sure, they have core Knights and Outriders are really good, but the most common approach involves hoards (or buses) of Halberdiers as the center of the army. At lower point levels, you just can't get enough troops to outnumber your opponent to a great enough degree to be successful. This is a complaint I've also heard about Scaven at low point levels. I don't see this army really being competitive until we get to 2000 points.

The other thing I've noticed is that a Level 2 Life Wizard is pretty useless. Life, as a Lore, is awesome if the caster has Throne of Vines already cast. With just a 2 spells, you either end up with Throne and one awesome spell, or two spells that aren't as good as they could be. I felt kind of frustrated by it and switched to Light, which felt much more useful.

I'm going to experiment with different units between now and 2k to get a feel for whether I like them or not, with a goal of having a really solid 2k list in a couple of weeks. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A little side project

My friend JC sent my a Jabberwock by Reaper so I painted it up for fun. I don't have a specific use for it, but it's already come in handy as a stand-in for other monsters in Storm of Magic and plus it's a pretty cool model.

Mega Storm of Miscasts!

Yesterday, Game Kastle attempted to have a Storm of Magic tournament. What actually happened was a Storm of Magic mega game with a $10 fee. Only 5 people showed up, which is actually pretty good for a casual game day but not enough to really call it a tournament. Fortunately, the store had a plan B for this contingency so instead we just played a 3 on 2 mega battle.

We took about an hour longer to get started than expected, because we had to figure out how to do the sides. Order versus Destruction was the way the store intended for us to do it, and that would have worked out fine with an even number of people since one of the armies was Ogres and could fill either role. We finally ended up with High Elves, Brets, and Ogres on one side and my Dark Elves and two Chaos Warrior armies played by one guy. We were lucky that he brought both his WoC and WoC Trolls and monsters lists otherwise I don't know what we would have done to even things out other than frantically calling people or running home to get another 1000 points of models.

Before we got started with the game, there was a little painting competition. It being SoM, the categories were Monster, Spellcaster, and Arcane Fulcrum. I'd sent some time over the previous week painting one of the Fulcrums I bought and I'm happy to report that my Eternity Stair won the category.

The prize was that I got an extra 200 points to buy SoM Mythic Artifacts. With my 200, I bought the Living Deadwood Staff. This might seem like an odd choice, but the scenario we were going to play was the one with the Mad Mage and the only terrain on the table was forests are Arcane Fulcrums. The Living Deadwood Staff would turn about 10 forests into Blood Forests and let me move them around the table. Plus they would all do more damage than a normal Blood Forest depending on how many Fulcrums we controlled. So there was potential for some really destructive combos.

We finally started the game. I lined up on the left flank opposite the High Elves and about half the Ogres. The WoC lined up in the Center opposite the rest of the Ogres and all their warmachines. The WoC Trolls lines up on the right flank opposite the Brets. As you would expect for a Storm of Magic mega game, the magic phase dominated every turn. There was some combat over on the right flank, but other than that it was pretty much all monsters smashing into each other and big spells flying around. The actual army units barely moved in the center and or left flank since ... well, it almost always would have been a bad idea. For example, my Corsairs had Flame Cage cast on the for the first four turns in a row.

So let me see if I can boil down what actually happened on my end of the table into something readable. Some highlights if you will....

Turn 1:
I hit a unit of Trolls with Pit of Shades and they all die. Bottom of Turn 1 a Life Mage casts one of their Cataclysm Spells and brings it right back to life. I hit a unit of Ogre Ironguts with a Purple Sun, killing half of them and blowing up my Death Mage. Bottom of Turn 1 a Life Mage brings them back as well. My line moves up to be ready to charge anything that moves forward.

Turn 2:
A Comet starts heading towards my far left. I Pit of Shades the Trolls again, and kill all but two causing them to Flee. My Chimera charges a Wyvern, kills it, and overruns into some High Elf Archers. I move some Forests around and we cast every little targeted spell we can across the whole table to do as much damage as possible with the Living Deadwood Staff. Our Giant charges into some enemy Skirmishers in the center and kills them all by the start of our next turn. A couple of enemy Mages turn themselves into Monsters.

After Turn 2, we break for lunch.

Turn 3:
My Dragon and Our Giant combo charge a small unit of High Elf Swordmasters, which opts to flee. The Giant redirects into some High Elf Spearmen and I redirect the Dragon into some High Elf Seaguard who fail their Terror check and flee. At this point I've got the far left under control, so long as I can get out of the way of the Comet. An enemy Mage casts one of the big Fire spells at my Mage on a Fulcrum and toasts him. The comet comes down and kills about half of what I had on the far left. I become aware that things are happening on the other side of the table as a unit of Grail Knights charges into the flank of the WoC unit on my right. Seems that the WoC Trolls had killed pretty much all the rest of the Bretts, so the last unit turned and headed towards the center.

Turn 4:
I summon a Level 1 Empire Wizard to replace the Mage I lost the previous turn. I Duel an enemy Mage off his Fulcrum with my Level 4 Sorceress. My Dragon charges the High Elf spears who finished off the Giant.

A big old miscast causes the entire game to change. Up until this point we'd been hammering on each other and ignoring the Mad Mage, even though claiming his Fulcrum meant victory. Well, we managed to get the miscast where you remove every Mage on a Fulcrum and then randomly redistribute them. Turns out that the Mad Mage dies instantly as soon as he's removed from his Fulcrum. So everyone gets redistributed but I don't think anyone ended up on the objective Fulcrum. The unit of Grail Knights hits my Corsairs in the side and I manage to roll a 10 and 11 for my Leadership test after losing combat by 1, so they break and get run down after sitting there in a Flame Cage for the entire game.

Turn 5:
This is the turn where I set myself up to win the game. First, my summoned Empire Wizard occupies my Fulcrum, giving us Dominance. I move forests around, so they are touching most of the remaining enemy units and then cast the Dominance Shadow Spell which targets every enemy unit on the table. So I reduce a bunch of stats 1 with the spell, but then the Living Deadwood Staff does 4d6 Strength 7 hits to all the units touched by a forest. After I'm done rolling all the dice, I've wiped out about half of what the enemy had left on the field. With my remaining power dice, I teleport my Level 4 Sorceress onto the main Fulcrum and get ready to fend off challengers. I felt pretty darn cool after that.

Unfortunately, in the bottom of turn 5 I manage to roll a big fat 2 to defend the Fulcrum and get bumped off it.

Turn 6:
Basically all that happens is that I fail to retake the main Fulcrum by losing a duel by a grand total of 1. So the forces of Destruction fall to the forces of Order even though I think we had more Victory points.

It's been a long time since I played a Warhammer mega battle. It was fun, but definitely not something I'd want to do often. I think that Storm of Magic actually worked pretty well for a mega battle. It took us a while to work out who should get to dispell what casting attempts and whatnot so I would want to think that stuff through and have it written down before we start next time around. But, I think the big spells, weird miscast effects, and lots of monsters made for a more fun mega battle than the standard rules would have.