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.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Storm of Miscasts

Just finished my first Storm of Magic game and wanted to get my first impression down before I forgot it.

Ok, I'll be honest, I wanted to get my first impression down while I was waiting for dinner to finish cooking.

Ok, fine, while I was waiting for the frozen pizza to warm.

My first impression goes a little something like this. "Wow look at all the cool stuff I can try to do. Too bad I just kept blowing myself up trying."

Actually, it wasn't even that cool. The two worst miscasts of the game came when both I and my opponent were trying to do completely routine things, as opposed to any of the new shiny spells. I turned one of my casters into a rampaging monster while trying to case Power of Darkness, and my opponent blew his caster and the fulcrum he was holding off the table while raising six zombies.

In the other game that was going on at the store today, they managed to turn all the casters on the table into toads three times. They spent half the game turning their casters back to normal only to have them turn into toads again.

It was fun, it's got potential, but I'm afraid unless you have just the right mindset or are in the right mood for it, it's just going to annoy the heck out of you.

The monsters are cool, the spells are impressive, but mostly you play the game if you want to watch a comedy of errors unfold before you.

You also need to make some serious adjustments to your normal lists for this game. 'I need more casters' is going to be said by pretty much everyone after their first try. I took three and felt like I should have taken 4.

For my monster allowance I took a Great Black Dragon and a Hydra. The SoM Hydra is more expensive and lacks Hatred and Handlers, but you can spend even more and give it a better ranged attack. I think once I get a hold of some of the other monsters I'm going to skip the SoM Hydra. The Dark Elf ones are better. I suspect that when they get around to re-writing the Dark Army book the Hydra will cost the same as it does in SoM and lack Hatred, and in all honesty I think that would be more balanced, but in the meantime I think there might be better monster choices available.

I'm going to make some more list tweaks and give it another go.

At this point I see this expansion as providing a little different flavor and some spectacular moments every once in a while. Which is really all I expected from it. So I think it's safe to say that it accomplishes that goal. Whether it will be worth the money or not depends on how often I feel like playing it versus normal Warhammer, and it's still too soon to know that.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So what's next?

There are a few things on the horizon for me, hobby-wise. I've been working on my Dark Elves for a couple of years now, and with the Quake City Rumble I finally feel like I can say I'm 'done' with my first army. Not 'done' as in 'done playing with them' or 'done painting them' or 'tired' of them, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment at having taken a fully painted and well performing army to a tournament. So at this point the only further things I'm planning to do with my Dark Elves are things I consider 'tweaks'. I've got some more Cold One Knights, and I want to bulk that unit up to 10 or 12. I've got some more Executioners and I want to bump that unit up to a good size and probably include a filler to help. I plan on continuing to use this army for fun and tournament play, and I'll probably make a fancier display board for them for next tournament season. I've got a couple more characters that I can paint and the new Black Dragon which I asked for as a birthday present. Those last two lead into the second thing on the horizon.

Storm of Magic was release this weekend. We had a release event all set up for today except for one small problem. GW didn't ship the books on time. I'm not sure if it was a global issue, or was specific to certain stores or regions, but we aren't getting it until Monday. So I guess I'll have to get a hold of it at some point this week and we'll reschedule our 'let's try out this new thing' event. Along with SoM are some new monster models, a few of which I've asked for as presents. I'm looking forward to painting those up and, from the sounds of it, a couple more spell casters. I've still got that GameZone Sorceress on Dark Pegasus that I've been looking for a reason to paint.

The third thing on the horizon is the one I've been thinking the most about this weekend. We've been talking at the store about doing another escalation league, and even better is that someone else is interested in running it. It seems like it would be cheating to walk in with fully painted Dark Elves, so I'm going to take this opportunity to spend some time with the Empire army I bought.

I had a fat gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I purchased some additional stuff to give me some more list building options. Greatswords, State Troops, and...... Steam Tank! I couldn't resist, it just looked like it would be too much fun to paint. And with that my mind started working through how to go about painting them. After some reading and thinking, I've settled on not only a color scheme but a nice fluffy theme with some conversion opportunities that I'm already looking forward to.

For my Dark Elves I have a very loose 'Corsair' theme. Which basically means I put the big Corsair banners on as many units as possible. (Which reminds me.. I still have a couple of those to finish...) The colors, red and gold, were not typical Dark Elf colors. Most folks paint them something dark, like black, grey, purple, dark blue, etc. My Dark Elves are definitely more of a 'summer' looking army than the typical 'winter' look.

For the Empire I wanted something visually very different. Lots of the pictures of Empire armies are red and white, which was too close to my Dark Elves for me. So after some looking I settled on the blue and white of Middenheim. Middenheim has some nice fluff, being a fortress city on the top of a rocky mountain in the north of the Empire and home to the temple of Ulric, god of war, winter, and wolves. So I've decided to do a Middenheim 'Cult of Ulric' army. Lots of blue, gray, and white for colors, giving me a 'summer' army and a 'winter' army. (I guess then I'll have to figure out how to do Lizardmen and Vampire Counts as spring and fall.) Lots of conversion opportunities to add wolf bits here and there. I've already got some of the Knights of the White Wolf. No priests of Sigmar in this army, instead I'll be converting up some Warrior Priests of Ulric. Maybe even have a War Altar pulled by Dire Wolves instead of War Horses with a different statue on the back. I'm also trying to figure out how to make the mouths of the cannons look like wolves heads with open mouths. It should be fun.

So now I've got some bits hunting to do. The Space Wolves had a couple of bits that look useful. There are also just some plain wolves I could get to add to a unit here and there. The Warriors of Chaos cloaks are ok, but a little ragged looking. I'm also not sure about putting snow on their bases. Stone and gray gravel, definitely, but my concern with snow is that Empire models don't really look dressed for very cold weather and it might look odd to have them standing in snow.

Conversion thoughts and suggestions welcome.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quake City Rumble 2011

This past weekend was the 2011 Quake City Rumble, put on by one of the local gaming clubs, Leadership 2. It was the first time I'd been to a Grand Tournament and overall I'd call it a positive experience. There were, I think, 105 players registered and 93 attended. I think I'll go back next year.

It was held at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, so there were different food vendors to choose from in the Farmer's Market on day 2 and a taco stand on day 1, ample parking, and was easy to find. The actual building was a little hard to find since the directions just said 'Fleet room' but none of the maps had a 'Fleet room' listed. But it wasn't too hard to spot the wargamers carrying their armies in from their cars. The Center is right on the bay so there was a nice cool breeze blowing through the whole time. All it in all it was a really nice spot for an event like this.

So, how did I do? Let's pull up my goals for this event -

Have fun.

I had a good time. Each of the 5 opponents I played, I would play again. Well, there was one army that I would prefer not to play again with this build of my army, but the guy was cool enough. I hung out with a couple of guys from Game Kastle between games. I talked with a few other guys from around the area. I saw some great looking armies.

Try to avoid stupid tactical mistakes.

I don't think I did anything particularly wrong in any of my games. I'll go into more detail on the individual games further down.

Don't get annoyed at bad rolls.
Check minus

There were four specific rolls during the tournament that were particularly bad for me. The first one I didn't let bother me. The second one I watching in disbelief and was a little grumpy about, but then I got over. The third and fourth were during the same game and I was a little grumpy at them at first but then made sure to laugh about them.

Have my army fully painted.
Check plus.

So overall I did pretty well for myself in terms of my personal goals.

In terms of the numbers, I was 53rd out of 93. I won 2, drew 2, and lost 1. My painting score was 26 out of 30. Well, out of 33. The points went to 30 but they considered display board a 1-3 point bonus over that. My comp score was on the low side, but that's to be expected for a Dark Elf list with 2 Hydras. My sportsmanship score was fine.

I was actually tied with the guy above me, and the next two people were only a half point over us, and the next couple were only a point over. My overall total was 154.5 out of 200. If one of the draws had been a win I would have moved up about 10 places. So I guess the takeaway from all that is: if I'm going to bring a hard list I'd better win more.

Now to run through the games.

Game 1 versus Dan's Demons

I draw a Blood Thirster list for the first game. My Sorceress miscasts in the first turn and forgets Mindrazor and two other spells. This was the first really bad roll for me. I managed a draw by killing his big blocks of Bloodletters and Daemonettes, and by him being more cautious with his Bloodthrister than I would have been considering I lost Mindrazor. If I'd had all my spells for another round or two I might have won.

Game 2 versus Seth's Warriors of Chaos

Seth was playing a list that was probably really nasty in 7th edition. I suspect this because he told me that it was his 7th edition list and he hadn't updated it for 8th yet. Lots of medium sized (for 8th, large for 7th) units of Marauders, a couple of Chariots, a Demon Prince, and a couple of small units of light cavalry. Unfortunately for him, my army is really really good at killing light infantry.
I think that pic is from turn 3, and a little more than half his army was gone. He was a great opponent though, took it all in stride, and he seemed like a really fun guy to play with. I'd be happy to play him again some time with better balanced lists.

Game 3 versus Dave's Vampire Counts

I don't know what it is about Vampires. I always have trouble with them. By this point I had a win and a draw, so I sort of felt the loss coming. And what a loss it was. Dave's army consisted of two hordes of Zombies, and a big block of Ghouls, and a Graveguard deathstar unit with the regen banner, 2 Vampire Lords, 2 Vampire Heros, and a Wight King. This was a hard Vampire list and I gave it the lowest comp score of any of the armies I played, but Dave was a nice guy and I gave him a fine sportsmanship score.

His combat Lord killed my entire unit of 20 Blackguard all by himself in a single round thanks to their Red Rage power or whatever it's called. It's the one where he gets to keep attacking so long as he keeps killing. Toughness 3 Elves in Heavy Armor against Strength 6 with Hatred..... so 20 rolls later the whole unit was dead and with it pretty much any hope I had of killing anything in his army worth any points. This was the second bad roll which I watched in disbelief and the end of day 1.

Game 3 versus Luke's Lizardmen

This game featured the remaining two very bad rolls. Luke was a nice guy playing a Lizardmen list with no Slann. Two Stegadons, one with the Engine of the Gods, a few Saurus blocks, only a couple units of Skinks and Salamanders, and an Oldblood on a Carnosaur. We both played cautiously with some good maneuvering, putting our expendable and harassing units out to redirect things in our favor. The first bad dice roll happened in turn 2. I failed to cast Power of Darkness with my Level 4 by rolling a 1, then killing a Spearman for a second die and rolling another 1. That left about 8 power dice on unused on the table and my Corsairs had just headed off down the left flank in the direction of the Stegs without magic support. As a result, the Stegs had my Corsairs for lunch instead of being cut to ribbons. In turn 3 my Blackguard and one Hydra charged his center Saurus block with his BSB in it and my Witches charged his right Saurus block that was worth a bonus Victory point. I won both combats by a lot and killed his BSB. But the center Saurus unit held with Insane Courage. This was the last really bad roll for me. As a result of those last few Saurus holding, my Blackguard was charged in the flank by his third unit of Saurus and my Hydra was charged in the rear by his General and Carnosaur. So that cost me a couple hundred points and the game ended a draw. If either of those rolls hadn't come out double 1's, it would have been a win.

Game 5 versus Scott's Orcs and Goblins

Once again, my army is really really good at killing light infantry. Scott's army was a couple of hordes of Night Goblins, a horde of Orcs with spears, some Trolls, some Wolf Riders, a Mangler, and one of those new ginormous spiders. He was a nice guy, but just had no luck. My Shades shot his Mangler dead before it got a chance to move. One Hydra broke his giant spider by itself. My other Hydra charged his Wolf Riders, who failed their Terror check and ran off the table. My Blackguard with flaming banner, +1 attack from the Cauldron, and Mindrazor charged his Trolls and did 18 wounds killing, all 6 before they could do anything. It was nice to round out the tournament with a win, but the game was really one sided and I felt a little bad for the guy.

So, a good time all around. Now, here's a couple of pics of other armies that were there. Including this one that I'd seen on Bell of Lost Souls.

A nice looking Empire army.

An epic Skaven display board.

And lastly, a Tomb Kings army that won a couple of the painting awards.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Painty painty paint paint

Insert typical "wow it's been a while since I've posted" opening.

It's now June and the next big thing coming up for me, hobby-wise, is the Quake City Rumble Indy GT. This will be my first GT style tournament and I've set what I feel are reasonable goals for myself.

Have fun.
Try to avoid stupid tactical mistakes.
Don't get annoyed at bad rolls. (What? Me? Pout at bad dice luck? Never!)
Have my army fully painted.

That last one is the reason I haven't posted in a while. I've been spending all my available hobby time painting to make sure I'm done in time.

I've also got to make a display board, which will be a first time thing for me. People put a lot of effort and creativity into display boards, but I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself. First, finish painting the army well. Then, make an acceptable display board with whatever time I have left. At a bare minimum I should have a flat board based like my models mounted to a breakfast tray, a la Rushputin. (Kinda cool how you're the first google search result for 'warp stone pile, eh?) If I finish painting in enough time I might try to throw some scenery on there to bump my painting score up another point.

So all this points in an obvious content direction for this blog, I need to take some photos. We have a pretty good digital camera with macro settings, but I have no backdrop / light box to speak of. Anyone have good recommendations for how to put together a decent model photo setup without spending an arm and a leg?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'ard Boyz Round 1

Yesterday was the local first round of Fantasy 'ard Boyz at Game Kastle. We had a total of 6 people there, which from what I heard was double the number that showed up the year before. So instead of just rolling off to see who got which prizes we actually got to play.

My list is a slight expansion of my normal list. Sacrificial Dagger level 4 with a block of Spears to kill. Level 2 on a horse with Dark instead of Death (Death just never seemed to do much for me). Block of Corsairs, block of Black Guard, block of Witches, block of Crossbows, couple of unit of Shades, couple of units of Harpies, Cauldron BSB. The main difference was 2 Hydras and a stubborn Dreadlord on a Dark Pegasus with the Pendant.

Game 1: So this is what it feels like to fight Dark Elves.

My first game was against another Dark Elf player who came down from the other side of the Bay. His list was a good example of what I was afraid I would see at 'ard Boyz. The main feature was a unit of 65, count 'em, 65 Corsairs with 4, count 'em, 4 characters, 2 of which, count 'em, 2 of which were special characters. BSB with the Always Strike First banner, Dreadlord kitted up for challenges, Lokhir Fellheart and the Chrone. The rest of the list was a big block of spears with a level 2 caster, a Hydra, about 10 Cold One Knights, a couple of units of Harpies and a Cauldron.

The scenario was the 'random line of sight restriction'. We both had a couple of characters and a Hydra get stuck as reserves. Given the big differences between our approach to list construction, the game was quite predictable. I fed his Corsair unit small cheap things angled so his frenzy overrun would take him off the table while I killed the rest of his army. I shot, flamed, and Soul Stealer-ed his Spears down to just the character. The random line of sight caused a few charges to have to wait a turn. His Knights caught my Hydra in the side, and killed him, but then were eventually counter charged by my Corsairs and Dreadlord and taken out. My Witches killed his Hydra easily. I also shot at and cast Soul Stealer on his Corsairs and got them down to.... I think 10 or so by the end of the game, but the only expensive unit he managed to kill with it was my Black Guard. The result was a draw but I got one more point than him due to the special objectives. We both killed each others' cheapest unit and I killed his Hydra that came in from reserve.

Game 2: Thursday night, take 2.

My second game was against a friend who was playing a beefed up version of his Warriors of Chaos list that I had just played on Thursday. During that game his Hellcannon managed to kill all but 6 of my Witches and 3 or my Corsairs in its first two shots and his Knights broke my Black Guard, which isn't supposed to happen, and ran them down on turn 2. Yep, you read that right, at the start of my second turn I had lost basically my entire close combat force. He'd added a second Hellcannon, a second Warshrine, and some additional Warriors to one of his two blocks. Everything in the army that was markable had the Mark of Tzeech.

The scenario gave a special weapon to one core unit that gave them +1 attack and +1 strength. I went with my Corsairs and he went with the bigger block of Warriors.

Turn 1, I go first and move everything up to be ready to start charging next turn. His first Hellcannon misses and the second misfires, blows up, and kills his level 2 caster who was near by. This was huge. At that point we both sort of knew that we'd be playing out the game for the heck of it since my Dreadlord was lined up to charge his other Hellcannon. Well ..... games with dice .....

My Dreadlord fails his charge on the other Hellcannon. My Corsairs with the magic weapon and a Hydra charge in against his bigger block of Warriors and should rip them apart. I was not fortunate enough to get Mindrazor this time, but I did manage to get some good debuffs on his Warrior block that gave me a significant statistical advantage. But, well ..... games with dice......
He saves almost every wound I put on him and wins combat by a couple. The Hydra stays but my Corsairs break and run, losing frenzy and dropping the special weapon. The next turn he breaks the Hydra and runs it down just as the Corsairs rally and turn around. On the other side of the table, his Knights grind through the Blackguard and my Witches bounce off his other block of Warriors while my other Hydra chases his Warshrines around but doesn't manage to actually catch anything.

Time gets called in our, I want to say 4th turn. In the end I had killed his Hellcannon. He had killed his other Hellcannon and level 2 caster. I'd lost enough points to give him a minor victory. This game was incredibly frustrating. Given how poorly it started out for my opponent I should have been able to capitalize and get a solid win. Instead I watched my army trip over its own feet and then gently poke at his army instead of running across the table and tearing it apart as it's designed to do.

Game 3: Don't call it a comeback.

For the last game I played a High Elf played who was just starting to figure out how to play 8th. He was playing a Teclis list with a second level 4 and a bunch of small-ish for 8th but good sized for 7th blocks of infantry, 5 Dragon Princes, and a block of 30 Seaguard. After the game we talked about his list since he had felt frustrated all day and I gave him some pointers. I told him to drop the second level 4 down to 2 since Teclis used almost all the dice himself and she only cast 1 spell the entire game, put the two smaller blocks of Swordmasters into a single large block, either add a second rank to the Dragon Princes or get rid of them.

The final scenario was a pain in the ass. I don't think anyone at the event had anything good to say about it. There was a prisoner's dilemma chaos portal in the middle of the table which you could only hold with a character in base contact and was worth 500 points. If no one held it, the game was a draw regardless of what else happened. If both claimed it then no one got anything for it and you figured the result as normal. There was also a chart of random effects that you had to roll for every game turn. The strangest part was that at the end of turn 4 you rolled a die and on a 3+ the game ended then. In later turns you had to roll higher to end the game, so this didn't really make much sense unless GW really wanted these games to end on turn 4. All the games at the event ended on turn 4.

During this game we rolled the 'half movement' random effect twice. So suddenly two Elf armies who are used to zipping around the table are just kind of hanging back and looking at each other. Given that we expected the game to end after turn 4, this made the game frustrating for both of us. He had all his characters in a Phoenix Guard bunker, so I tried to get my Dreadlord to charge that unit and just tie them up away from the portal with Challenges. Thanks to the reduced movement he didn't make it and instead got stuck fighting a block of spears with Mindrazor. Now, I can make a pretty good number of reverse ward saves, but after two rounds of combat where I'm trying to make about 10 or 12 of them per round my Dreadlord was dead. Thanks to the reduced movement I couldn't get him any backup either.

At that point we sort of piled around the portal and things ground to a halt. My Witches locked up with his Seaguard and my Blackguard locked up with the Spears that just killed my General. Out on the flanks, my crossbows shot a unit of Swordmasters to death and my Hydra closed in on his Dragon Princes with some Harpies blocking them. On the other side my Corsairs and other Hydra were closing in on some Swordmasters after the Hydra flamed and paniced some White Lions. I moved my Level 4 with Spears and my Cauldron up to hold the portal.

My Blackguard were wiped out by his Spearmen with Mindrazor and then charged into my Level 4 and Spears. My unit broke but he decided to park on the portal instead of pursuing, which turned out to be a huge mistake since this was turn 4 and the game was about to end.

On my last turn I charge, break, and run down the Dragon Princes on one flank. My Hydra on the other flank breaks and runs down the unit of Swordmasters on the other flank. My Witches finally kill enough Seaguard to make them lose Steadfast and run them down. Those three combats on the last turn swing things to a minor victory for me since we both had characters on the portal.

All in all, it was a mixed bag. I had fun hanging out with the other players. I don't know that I can say I actually had fun playing any of the three games. I spent game 1 avoiding a deathstar, game 2 watching my army fail to perform, and game 3 watching both armies stumble slowly towards each other while the imposed turn limit crept up on us. Since there was no painting component, only a couple of the armies were painted. So while it was nice that the guy running the tournament made a point of taking photos of my army during games, I didn't really feel the sense of spectacle that I would get at even the club tournaments back in Virginia. I didn't have any annoying opponents, so I guess that's a plus.

After the GT in June I should have a bit more perspective since that one has both painting and comp, but at this point I think I enjoy tournaments with those scores included more than the 'ard Boyz format. I also think I prefer casual games, leagues, or challenge pyramids more than tournaments, but I'm not ready to swear off tournaments altogether.

I did manage to come in 3rd, so I advance to the next round. I don't expect to make it any further since I fully expect the next round to be full of lists on par with my first opponent, but that's ok.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I feel a little dirty

'ard Boyz prelims are coming up in a couple of weeks and Game Kastle is one of the California locations, so I decided I'd give it a whirl. It's free and at the moment the turnout looks like it will be sparse. The problem is that I'm still working towards having a fully painted army for the GT in June so I don't want to lose time doing any modeling prep for 'ard Boyz.

After thinking about it, fiddling with different lists, and checking out other folks 'ard Boyz lists online .... I decided to buy a second Hydra. It's entirely possible that some folks will roll into 'ard Boyz with 3 or even 4 Hydras, so I don't think it's entirely cheesy for a 3k tourney with no comp. I do feel a bit dirty for having it though.

So I'm going to put it together and give it a shot. I've also revised my GT list so now I have two options there. One list with a Chariot and a second unit of Shades, and another with a second Hydra and a couple of extra Corsairs.

I don't think I'll use it for friendly games, and probably not even for local tournaments, but seeing as how these are large scale events I felt like I should pack a little more punch.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To Madicon and back

Headed back East to Madicon this past weekend to see friends and get some gaming in.

The Battlefoam continues to be a good investment for army transport. I just got around to fully unpacking my stuff and the total damage from the trip is one banner and one crossbow cross beam. Both should be easy to repair by just gluing them back in place. If you ever intend to take your models on a plane, accept no substitutes.

The actual Warhammer tournament at Madicon was very poorly attended. So much so that I doubt they'll attempt another one. I got to play a good friend for three straight games as we were the only two people there for it. In the end, I told the ConChair to keep the prize since I didn't have room in my luggage for it and would feel weird taking a second place prize in a two person tournament.

I won one out of the three games. My opponent is really good with his army, so I'm not terribly upset by it. I think I took him by surprise in the first game since he'd mostly been playing hoard-y Dark Elf armies and mine is quite a bit more flexible and maneuverable than he is used to.

In the second game I rolled poorly pretty much the whole way through. The third game scenario dictated that I had to wipe out one specific unit of his and in the second turn I completely failed all the rolls I needed to bring sufficient force into combat with that unit, so at that point the game was pretty much over.

I think the experience was good and showed me a couple of things about my army. I built it to play to the Dark Elves' strength, offense. As such, this army works best as the aggressor and getting the first turn helps out tremendously. Also, getting a good magic phase in the second turn when the first serious combats start is key. Getting a good magic phase in the third turn is also big, and if I haven't pretty much crushed my opponent by turn 4 then I'm probably not going to win.

Both games I lost, I went second. Since I seem to have more deployment drops than most of the armies I'm facing, I'm going to be going second a little more often than not. In 7th edition, the entire trick with the Dark Elf army was using your small, fast units to manipulate your opponent into fighting on your terms. Those units can't really do that job as effectively now. If I'm going to be seriously competitive with this list, I need to get better at using my Harpies and Shades to delay or distract my opponent when he gets the first turn so that combat doesn't really start until my second turn. It punches fine. It needs to counter punch better.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wherein I channel a certain High Elf player

I've been working on finalizing my list for the upcoming GT (Grand Tournament) in SF (San Francisco) in JN (June).

The list I'd been playing with was working well, except for the Cold One Knights. I gave them a chance but they never seemed to make back their points and just felt awkward on the table. So I tried swapping them out for some Dark Riders and Harpies, two of my must-have units from 7th edition. The Harpies seemed ok, so long as you don't try to use them for march blocking or redirecting.

The Dark Riders, on the other hand, just didn't feel right either. Everything moves so fast now and not being able to charge on turn one kinda takes the wind out of the vanguard move. As with the Harpies, march blocking and redirecting aren't really possible anymore. They just felt awkward. Fast enough to get to anything, but not really hard enough to break anything other than small units and war machines, which the Harpies could do for half the points cost.

I think I've come to the conclusion that I just don't like cavalry in this edition, at least not the Dark Elf options. Unless I'm willing to field a really big (and expensive) block of them, they just aren't worth it. Seeing as how I can often get my infantry blocks into combat on turn 2, and certainly on turn 3, the extra movement on the cavalry doesn't help.

So my newest variant is to have two units of six Shades and two units of five Harpies with no Dark Riders or Cold One Knights. The Shades are cheaper than Dark Riders, have better weapon and ballistics skill, and get two attacks. Plus the scout deployment lets me start them in good enough positions to go after soft targets the Dark Riders would have targeted anyway.

I tried this list on Thursday against WoC and Sunday against Dwarves. I tabled the WoC army in turn 5. The game against the Dwarves went all six turns but I rolled more sixes in a single game than I normally roll in 3 games combined. Needless to say, there's not much a Dwarf player can do with Witches doing around 10+ wounds every round and Corsairs with Mindrazor cast on them every combat round they fight in. By around the fourth turn my opponent felt the need to start pointing out the high number of sixes I was rolling. I agreed to give the guy a rematch some time soon, since I'd really like to see how the list performs when I roll normally.

At any rate, I liked how the dual Shade units felt much better than the Dark Riders. I'd still like to play a few more test games, but I think my list is pretty well set now.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Fair Shake

On Thursday I got a chance to try the Empire again against some High Elves in a 2k game.

Things of note:
In my first turn I miscasted with both my casters and turned my level 4 into a level 2 and level2 into a level 1.

In my third turn all of my war machines misfired.

At the end of the sixth turn I still had most of my army on the table and my opponent had.... 5 models I think.

As we were playing the watchtower scenario, my opponent was victorious since he had a single character still in the tower at the end of the game. On points I would have solidly beaten him.

I definitely felt the sting of facing an elite close combat army with average troops, and the need the use magic and shooting to level the playing field. Not that Dark Elves don't like a good amount of magic and shooting, but with them it's more like 'which of my strategic weapons would I like to throw at which enemy unit'. With Empire it felt more like 'I'd better cut all the enemy units in half with shooting before they get across the table and then buff my troops so they can go toe-to-toe with whichever of them make it, otherwise I'm toast.'

All in all, I think it was a fun game. It definitely provides a different perspective on how the overall game works, which is useful, and I think I'll play them from time to time. I'm still not sure whether or not I'd like to spend more money on other Empire models or how much time I would devote to painting them, but I did enjoy it enough to keep experimenting.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reply hazy, ask again later.

On Sunday I took the Empire for a test drive.

Or rather, I attempted to take them for a test drive.

I had previously tried to get a game in with them on Thursday, but due to various reasons was too late to find an opponent.

Sunday I was not to be denied and succeeded in making it to the store on time and had an opponent.

Game commenced but ... something was just not there.... what was it .... hmmm

Oh right, it was any semblance of decent dice rolling on my part. That was it.

So, while I did get to put the new guys on the table it would be completely unfair for me to judge anything about how the Empire performs as an army or anything about my list or strategy.

I'll give you an example. I was playing against Lizardmen and was fortunate enough to get the first turn. This should have been especially good for me since I had a respectable amount of artillery and the opportunity to, say, blow the Stegadon off the table before it had moved would have made for a nice opening to the game. It was not to be, however, as I let loose with 2 Great Cannons, 2 Mortars, and a Rocket Battery backed by a Master Engineer, some Outriders and a unit of Handgunners and succeeded in killing .... wait for it ..... 2 Skinks.

We shall try again on Thursday.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Some experimenting

So today I'm going to try a little experiment. I'm going to play an army other than Dark Elves.

Yes yes, I know. Sacrilege!

I went ahead and picked up the Empire army my coworker was selling and am going to kick the tires on it in a 2500 point game this afternoon against... Lizardmen I think.

My first attempt at an Empire list looks a little something like this -

Lvl 4 Wizard - Lore of Light
Lvl 4 Wizard - Lore of Life
Captain on Warhorse BSB
Master Engineer

Swordsmen x 25
Handgunners x 20
Greatswords x 20

Outriders x 5
Knights with Lances x 10
Knights with Great Weapons x 10

Mortar x 2
Great Cannon x 2
Helstorm Rocket Battery

Lots of magic, lots of artillery. The magic will mostly be for buffing the Knights and Greatswords so that they can mop up once the shooting has softened enemy units.

I'm still not sure about having 2 level 4 Wizards, but since you can actually squeeze 2 Lord level human characters into a 2500 point list I figured I'd give it a shot. I'm sure if I did the math I'd find that 8 levels of magic is a bit too much under 8th edition, but I'm not familiar with either of the Lores I'm going to be using so I figured having more variety to choose from would be better than not the first time around.

Results to follow.