Friday, January 17, 2014

Moving Metal: Harkevich Battle Report and Thoughts

As promised in the previous post talking about Harkevich and his theme list, I managed to get a game in this week to put some lists to the test. First up is a quick-ish recap of the game, followed by thoughts about my list, how it played, how the scenario affected the game, and what mistakes I made that can be used as a vehicle for improvement.

Battle Report:
My list:
Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (9pts)
* Conquest (18pts)
* Juggernaut (7pts)
* Spriggan (9pts)
Battle Mechaniks (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Man-o-war Drakhun (without dismount) (4pts)

My opponent's list:
Feora, Protector of the Flame (*6pts)
* Judicator (18pts)
* Sanctifier (9pts)
* Templar (8pts)
Choir of Menoth (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Temple Flameguard (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Temple Flameguard Officer & Standard (2pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
The Covenant of Menoth (2pts)
Vassal Mechanik (1pts)
Vassal Mechanik (1pts)
Vassal of Menoth (2pts)
Vassal of Menoth (2pts)

List Thoughts:
Both lists are very similar: big 'ol colossal on a warcaster with a speed buff (though Feora2 brings even more to the table with her warjack bond and Ignite,) some other warjacks to vanguard, some miscellaneous harassment models, and support.

I will say that I like the Protectorate version of this list more on it's face. It'll have an easier time clearing infantry with a bonded Judicator (so many fire causing templates,) it hits damn hard with great threat ranges, and it has that wonderful Protectorate warjack support keeping the warjacks in fighting shape on the approach.

The Khador version I'm kinda running is similar in approach, but has to be played more aggressively. I only have the one turn of feat armor buffing to carry me through a big damage turn, and my Mechaniks can only do so much work (though when they "hit", they can repair impressive amounts.)

Scenario and Terrain:
With the recent release of Steamroller 2014, we decided to roll up a scenario from the new packet. We managed to roll up a new scenario - Scenario 3: Balance of Power (pg. 16 of the pdf for those playing along at home.)

Terrain was probably a little more prevalent than normal, but not super dense. There was large patch of Concealment granting rough terrain adjacent to the scoring zone, several walls scattered around, two forests out on the flanks, and a hill in front of one of the deployment zones.

Harkevich's theme list lets me cheat with terrain and put down four wreck markers. I put one up near the zone as close as terrain will allow, another next to my flag (giving Harkevich a safe spot to stand and Dominate it,) and the other two go out in miscellaneous spots, since terrain prevents me from placing them anywhere particularly great.

Deployment and First Turn:
I lost the roll off, and my opponent decided to go second, setting up on the side with the hill. I declare my theme bonus starting upkeeps: Fortune goes on Conquest, and after very careful deliberation I decide to put Escort on Harkevich (this is a joke.)

With such small armies and a central scenario, our deployments were pretty straightforward. Both of us set up our colossals in the middle, with Judicator in position to run up onto the hill(not good for my flammable elements.)

I set up Black Ivan, the Spriggan, and Harkevich to the right of Conquest, with the Juggernaut and Drakun going to the left of Conquest. Both Mortars were deployed out to the flanks, and the Mechaniks glue to Conquest's back.

Most of the Protectorate army deploys in the center, with the support lumping up behind the warjacks. The Templar goes to my right of the Judicator and the Sanctifier goes on my left near the Temple Flameguard (TFG). Eiryss2 is deployed in a forest far on my left side, near the TFG but far from his warjacks.

First turn was the same as most games: everyone runs pell mell up the table. The biggest things of note come from the Protectorate turn:

 Feora2 casts Escort and allocates focus. An Ancillary Attack shot from the Judicator floats onto Conquest, setting him on fire, and all the warjacks get the Passage prayer. The TFG run up in a cloud, and the Protectorate player opts to save Iron Zeal for the following turn. Covenant puts up the Power of Faith (no KD) aura.

Khador - Turn 2:
Harkevich upkeeps Escort and Fortune. Conquest is allocated one focus, Harkevich keeps 3. Fire on Conquest doesn't do anything. Lots of shooting this round. 

Right flank Mortar lobs a shell out towards the Covenant and the nearby Choir. The scatter catches one Choir member and the Covenant, but the Choir member apparently takes one for the team as the blast damage kills him but doesn't break ARM on the Covenant. Left flank Mortar lobs a shell towards the TFG, but goes way long (6" scatter, direction 1) and hits nothing.

Conquest advances and puts a boosted Main Guns shot into one of the TFG. The attack hits and gets a critical, so the three TFG in the blast and the Sanctifier are thrown 2" backwards. Two of the TFG collide with other members of the unit and when the dust settles 4 are killed, including the Standard Bearer. The Sanctifier is thrown into Judicator, taking a few damage from the collateral damage roll, and isn't KD'd thanks to the Covenant. The shots from the Secondary Battery shots come up short and don't drift onto anything.

The other three warjacks advance, with the Juggernaut moving into the difficult terrain near the scoring zone and Black Ivan toeing into the zone. Black Ivan shoots one of the TFG and connects, killing it.

Harkevich advances up into the wreck marker next to the flag behind Black Ivan and casts Broadsides. Black Ivan's shot clips the Covenant and does 1 damage to it. Conquest's free Main Guns shot into the TFG connects with no crit. The shot kills 3 more TFG, and they pass their command check to not flee (the remaining models were just outside of Feora2's Inspiration bubble.)

The Drakun attempts to pick off one more TFG with his Shield Cannon as part of a Ride-by Attack action, but misses the shot.

Protectorate - Turn 2:
Feora2 upkeeps Escort, allocates one to the Judicator (possibly another to the Templar; can't remember) and keeps the rest. Judicator gets its free focus.

The TFG advance in Shield Wall and pop Iron Zeal. Eiryss2 moves up somewhat behind them and tags the Juggernaut with a shot, Disrupting him and doing one point of damage.

Judicator advances and shoots at the Spriggan, but misses. The resulting scatters set the Spriggan and Black Ivan on fire. Judicator's second shot goes into the Juggernaut, which connects for 4 damage and sets him on fire. The secondary scatter doesn't hit anything.

The Sanctifier and the Templar both receive Enliven from the Vassals, and advance into the zone. The Covenant moves up onto the hill and puts up it's "no KD" aura. The Choir advance and put Passage on all the warjacks.

End of Turn: no one scores.

CPs: Khador 0 - Protectorate 0

Khador - Turn 3:
Harkevich upkeeps both spells, allocates one to Conquest, and keeps 3 focus. Fire goes out on Black Ivan, but it can't go out on the Juggernautt, the Spriggan, or Conquest due to Caustic Presence on Feora2. Fire does 3 damage to Conquest, but nothing to the other two warjacks.

The Mortar on my right flank lobs a shot into the cluster of Covenant, Choir, and Vassal. The shot scatters but still catches the Vassal, and remarkably kills it with blast damage (thankfully it wasn't in base with any warjacks.)

The Mechaniks advance and repair the damage caused by fire.

Conquest advances and shoots at the TFG Officer, connecting with no crit. The Officer dies to the direct hit, another TFG dies in the blast (back arc on the blast ignored Shield Wall on the three in front of the Officer,) but Eiryss2 lives through the boosted blast damage with 2 health. The Secondary Batter shots go into the Covenant, but all the shots miss (DEF 14 on a hill) and only one blast manages to both stay on target and break ARM (2 damage total on the Covenant.)

Black Ivan aims and shoots at the Covenant, connecting. The shot puts another point of damage onto the Covenant and kills a nearby Choir member with the blast.

Harkevich activates, shuffles up slightly, pops his feat, and casts Broadsides again. Conquest lobs a Main Guns shot at Eiryss2 to try and catch her in the blast, but it scatters wide. Black Ivan shoots another Choir member and connects, killing it. The Choir pass their resulting morale test.

The Spriggan charges the Templar, connecting with it's Lance for 8 damage. The Juggernaut charges the Sanctifier and hits with it's Ice Axe, doing 11 or so damage and breaking it's movement system. Both Protectorate warjacks use their Enliven moves to get back to nearby Vassal Mechaniks, which takes them out of the zone (a perfectly fine move, thanks to this scenario.)

The Mortar on the left attempts to catch Eiryss2 in the blast, but it's shot drifts wide. In a final hail mary attempt to finish her off, the Drakun charges Eiryss, hoping to impact attack through the one TFG in the way (the blast damage had killed the middle TFG causing them to lose Shield Wall, making the impact attack much more likely to kill if it connects.) Unfortunately for me, the Drakun misses the impact attack and stalls out the charge.

End of Turn: Khador scores 1 CP.

CPs: Khador 1 - Protectorate 0

Protectorate Turn 3:
Feora2 upkeeps Escort, allocates 3 focus to the Templar and keeps the other two. Judicator gets its free focus.

The Sanctifier moves back to meet up with the Vassal Mechanik on the left flank, as well as give Feora2 a warjack to hide behind while Dominating the flag. The Vassal Mechanik on that flank moves up, but flubs his repair check. The Vassal Mechanik behind the Templar is more successful, repairing 3 damage on the Templar.

The remaining Choir puts Battle on the Templar, and the remaining Vassal of Menoth puts Enliven on the Templar while remaining in B2B with the Sanctifier for the defensive bonuses. Feora2 moves up behind the Sancifier in B2B with the flag and casts Ignite on the Templar.

The Templar moves up into melee with the Juggernaut and the Spriggan, then goes to town on the Spriggan even with Harkevich's feat up (thanks in part to Chain Weapon negating the Shield ARM bonus,) doing 20 or so damage and breaking the Lance arm.

Judicator lobs a shot towards Harkevich, but misses and the scatters go wide (though Black Ivan is set on fire.) It's second shot goes towards the Mechaniks behind Conquest (thanks to the hill) but thankfully for me the scatters don't cooperate and Conquest is the only thing caught in the blasts.

The TFG move up and CMA into the Drakun, connecting but failing to break ARM (though he is set on fire.) Eiryss2 runs into the middle of the table, catching Conquest, the Juggernaut, and the Spriggan in her Technological Interference aura. The Covenant moves up behind a nearby wall (blocking LoS to it from a few angles,) and maintains it's "no KD" aura.

End of Turn: Khador loses 1 CP.

CPs: Khador 0 - Protectorate 0

Khador - Turn 4:
Harkevich upkeeps both spells, gives Black Ivan 1 focus, and keeps the rest. Fire can't go out on anything affected by it due to proximity with Feora2, but the Drakun is the only thing damaged in the rolls (taking 3.)

Conquest starts off by aiming and shooting at Eiryss2 with his right Secondary Battery, connecting with the first shot thanks to the Fortune re-roll and killing her. The Main Guns shot goes into the Sanctifier, connecting with no crit. The direct hit does a chunk of damage, and the Vassal Mechanik takes a point or two in the blast. The other Secondary Battery hits the last Choir member, killing it.

The Spriggan shuffles slightly to get the Covenant into melee range of it's shield, then attacks. The shield connects against the Covenant, doing a point of damage, and the broken lance manages to both connect and hit for max damage (6! woo-hoo!) doing 3 to the Templar and triggering Enliven. The Templar uses that move to shuffle back to the nearby Vassal Mechanik.

The Juggernaut advances over to the Templar and also in melee range of the Covenant. The fist attack connects against the Covenant, finishing it off. The Ice Axe attack connects with a crit, doing solid damage and freezing the Templar.

The Mortar on the left flank shoots at the Sanctifier and connects for decent damage. The blast doesn't do anything to the surrounding models. Black Ivan advances and shoots at the Vassal, but misses and the boosted blast damage fails to do any damage.

Harkevich activates, moves over into a wreck marker behind Conquest, and casts Broadsides. Conquest and Black Ivan both shoot at the Sanctifier, and the damage from both shots is enough to finish it off.

The Drakun performs a Ride-by attack, kills the two remaining TFG in melee with it, then moves up to threaten a charge on Feora2.

End of Turn: Khador scores 1 CP.

CPs: Khador 1 - Protectorate 0

Protectorate - Turn 4:
Feora upkeeps both spells, gives the Templar 3 and gives the Judicator 1. Templar uses 1 focus to shake Stationary, and Judicator gains an additional focus thanks to being super-holy.

Judicator advances and beats the Juggernaut neatly to death. Not to be outdone, the Templar kills off the Spriggan with a focus to spare.

The remaining Vassal puts Enliven on the Templar and the Vassal Mechaniks shuffle around.

Feora2 shuffles into the wreck marker provided by the Sanctifier, then pops her feat to gain 2 focus (Drakun and Conquest are both on fire in her control area.)

End of Turn: Khador loses 1 CP.

CPs: Khador 0 - Protectorate 0

Khador - Turn 5:
Harkevich upkeeps both spells, then gives 2 focus each to Conquest and Black Ivan. Fire does no damage to either the Drakun or Conquest.

Conquest aims and shoots at Feora2 in the wreck marker. The re-roll from Fortune connects with a crit, throwing her and the nearby Vassal Mechanik 2" and knocking both of them down. Feora2 takes 9 damage from the boosted direct damage shot and the Vassal Mechanik is killed by the collateral damage.

The Drakun charges the knocked down Feora. The impact attack automatically connects for no damage, but the charge attack does the required 7 damage to kill Feora2, ending the game.

Final Result: 
Khador victory by assassination. CPs: Khador 0 - Protectorate 0

Scenario Thoughts:
This is an ugly scenario for Harkevich. In my experience, Harkevich wins by exploiting the pressure that the scenario puts on your opponent to force them into an ugly situation, then you capitalize by either winning via CPs or sneaking the 'caster kill.

In this scenario, your opponent is in much less danger of losing suddenly due to CPs so long as they can camp their flag, and Harkevich's theme list isn't really flexible or fast enough to put pressure on their flag to keep them from Dominating it for much of the game.

I think a key factor of this scenario is: if your opponent wants to exploit their flag, you know exactly where their 'caster is going to be. They then need to devote resources to protecting their caster there (more or less depending on how beneficial the terrain is,) so it pulls their army in a certain direction. Likewise, you can exert pressure in that direction to force a reaction, which may cause them to back off of the flag, or let you get to their 'caster. 

I do feel like this scenario may make fighting against a gunline damn unpleasant. So long as they can feed a token element into the zone on their turn and dominate the flag, they can stall without having to heavily commit to the zone. You can kind of pull a counter-stall, which is funny and sad all at once, but I don't think that will work out well in a competitive environment; someone's going to 'clock themselves, or sneak in 1 CP to hold onto before dice down. I'm interested in seeing how this scenario plays over the course of the year.

Things to Learn From:
From my side of the table:

 - When trying to kill Eiryss2, I should have just given Conquest 2 focus and had him boost the hit against the TFG Officer, then boost blast damage against her. I gave up the chance for a crit there which would have been tremendously clutch, and I also banked my entire plan on rolling a hard 9 (granted, with a re-roll its not totally insane.) The blast damage roll failed me, but I'm honestly a little lucky I even got to that point.

 - Speaking of Eiryss2, when I saw where she was deployed I should have tried to have my Juggernaut and Spriggan switch places as they ran up. If I could have gotten a Flare on her I would have been able to shoot her straight away, which cuts down on my consternation considerably. Plus it may have reduced the likelihood of the Spriggan fighting the Templar, which cut into his durablity; though the Templar has enough movement in that army to probably get himself realigned against his favored target.

- I was seriously debating running the Drakun to tie up Eiryss2 in combat (he had enough movement to shuffle up and engage her around the TFG.) Less profitable than trying to kill her outright, but also impossible to fail. To free her up he then needs to either send Feora2 that way (which gets her eaten by Conquest if he doesn't super protect her,) or send one of his heavies over that way (letting me better tag-team the Templar more.) I'm still not sure what the "right" call is here. Looking back on it, trying to kill her was probably the best move, since the payoff is worth the risk - if I kill her, she can't focus block me ever again, but if I engage her he can still do it, just with expending resources (which is likely worth it when it shuts down the combat wing of my battlegroup for a turn.)

 - I need to be more mindful of two-handed throw shenanigans with Conquest. I may have been able to do something silly like throw the Drakun at Eiryss2, but I was so fixated on his shots that I didn't even consider the possibility. I was seriously eyeballing throwing things at Feora2 at the end of the game, but I figured it was easier/more fun to just shoot her and hope the re-roll got me the 13 I needed to hit (in hindsight it probably would have been way smarter to toss the Vassal at her, though I'm not sure if it was in the right spot.)

 - I am way out of practice with boostable guns in Warmachine. My last experience with boostable shooting was when I used to play Legion, and that's cheating because you can essentially boost as much as you want. I need to get better about knowing where to allocate, what that focus is going to be used for, and following through on all that.

Looking at my opponent's side of the table:
 - I was surprised when he didn't pop Iron Zeal first turn when running with the TFG, though I understand the reasoning: if they can make it across the table in decent shape, it's much better to have them in ARM 17/ARM 21 with Shield Wall the next turn when they're going to try to get stuck in. I don't think either of us expect Conquest to take such a big bite out of the unit on it's approach. Iron Zeal would have cut down on a lot of that damage, though I probably would have still killed 5-6 between direct hits and collateral damage.

 - I was gunning hard for his Choir this whole game, and he kept moving them up to buff his warjacks so I was able to keep lobbing POW 8 templates at them. In particular, on Turn 2 or 3 I think he could have buffed his warjacks before sending them out, leaving his Choir back so that they stay safe. I don't know if they would have been able to get back into position to buff the warjacks the following turn, but considering how well the yo-yo was working for him, that may have kept them around longer.

List Evaluation:
Honestly, the list performed better than I thought it would.

I'm very used to having a buffer unit in the mix, so I was really worried about what I'd do without one. In this case, it worked out, though in other situations I probably wouldn't be so fortunate (though I wouldn't drop Harkevich against the most egregious ones like Cryx.)

Having so many warjacks to rotate into the fight was really helpful. It let me keep Conquest back, which not only allowed him to keep shooting (which increases the value you get out of bringing the big lug,) but it also allowed me to try to engineer the trades in such a way that Conquest would end up fighting Judicator. I think that's a huge slugfest, but without Choir, with my Mechaniks still around, and with some luck, Conquest should be able to either win that fight or weaken Judicator enough that Ivan or Harkevich can finish it off.

The Drakun was awesome to have in the list. I had forgotten how much fun that model is to have around. It's a fast, tough, hard hitting model that your opponent has to deal with, but can't get rid of without some significant commitment (versus something soft like Eliminators.) He was pretty much invincible on that flank, while simultaneously being threatening enough that Feora2 needs to be worried about him charging her. 

If you didn't need him to run interference like I did this game, he can easily contribute to the warjack/warbeast trade with his P+S 14 weaponmaster attack. And on top of all that he has some wacky synergy with Conquest: because the Drakun is immune to KD, he can still act after being thrown (has to forfeit movement or action,) so if Conquest throws him at a model he can still hit them with his weapon and his mount. That's a POW 18 from the collateral of the throw, then a POW 14 mount and a P+S 14 weaponmaster hit. Not too shabby! The Drakun's DEF is also low enough that Conquest can pretty reliable hit it with the back arc bonus, so you can pull that move off for as little as 2 focus - one for the power attack, one to boost the two-handed throw attack roll.

The warjack load out worked well. The Spriggan is always good to have with Harkevich, though in this fight he ended up being a punching bag. I really liked having the extra, raw hitting power of the Juggernaut; it helped me feel like I could keep Conquest back longer. I also like how Critical Stationary can pop up and either equalize out DEF (helps a lot with MAT 6,) or set up shooting follow ups into melee.

Black Ivan is always great with Harkevich. The free boost to his shots is extremely helpful, since that's where you "need" to spend focus on him but don't necessarily want to. RAT 5 boosted for free lets him get good work done in conjunction with Arcing Fire. Black Ivan is also remarkably durable: DEF 12 and Dodge combine up with the regular Khador heavy profile in a way I've found consistently surprising. His claw is also randomly very good; every crit turns it into a weaponmaster hit, so randomly he'll spike damage well above his expected output (which probably means he does surprisingly well on average.)

Conquest was the star of the show. His Main Guns are just good enough to do a lot of different things, and every time you get a juicy crit it's like Christmas. I walk away most games kind of disappointed in the Secondary Battery guns, but they occasionally do something great for you, and extra shots are extra shots (plus on the few times you run into a unit that it can stymie, Creeping Barrage is very nice.)

I also continue to really like the synergy that Harkevich has with Conquest. Broadsides is a spell that's usually not worth casting, but if you have a battlegroup with Black Ivan and Conquest, I feel like you're more likely to run into situations where it's useful. Not that you should be 'casting Broadsides a lot (it's a very situational spell,) but those guns with those rules make ponying up for that extra shot worth it sometimes. Plus there's the obvious benefit that +3 ARM gives to a colossal, and the much needed hitting power that Conquest brings to Harkevich's lists (especially the theme list.)

Overall, I'd definitely play this list again. Its not an easy list to run - very little attack redundancy, high density of attacks and resources - but it's a unique experience in Khador, and it feels like it's got more game than just the outward gimmick of "lots of warjacks". 


I was originally going to include some extra thoughts about Harkevich, this list, and where to go next, but this is already a monster of a post. So I'll cut things off here, and save that for another time. Thanks very much for reading!

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