Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Harkevich: Non-Theme Game Report

I managed to meet up with a friend over the weekend and get in a game of Warmachine. Snow be damned, the dice will roll.

In keeping with my Harkevich-fever, I decided to try out a non-theme list for him, to see how it felt compared to the various theme list iterations I've tried. My list was:

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
   * Conquest (19pts)
   * Juggernaut (7pts)
   * Juggernaut (7pts)
   * Sylys Wyshnalyrr, the Seeker (2pts)
Battle Mechaniks (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Great Bears of Gallowswood (5pts)
Greylord Outriders (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Koldun Lord (2pts)

My friend was playing Nemo3:

Artificier General Nemo (*3pts)
   * Storm Chaser Adept Caitlin Finch
   * Thorn (8pts)
   * Stormwall (19pts)
Storm Tower (2pts)
Stormblade Infantry (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
   * Stormblade Infantry Officer & Standard (3pts)
   * 1 Stormblade Infantry Storm Gunner (1pts)
Trencher Infantry (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
Captain Arlan Strangewayes (2pts)
   * Sentinel (4pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)

The scenario was Incursion, played on a Cygnar industrial themed table (several pieces of LOS blocking cover, sets of vents that granted Concealment.)

Collective Turn 1:
Harkevich gets first turn. Escort goes up, everything runs forward, and the Outriders get Fortune (while they also run to the opposite flank to face off against the combination of Trencher Infantry and Stormblade Infantry.)

Nemo's turn is a similar turn of running/re-deploying. Stormwall gets Disruption Field, Thorn get Failsafe, Arcane Shield is cast on the Stormblade Infantry. Thorn starts to make his way over to the same flank as the Outriders. The Trenchers hold their ground and drop smoke, while the Stormblade Infantry move up behind them. Stormwall moves up, drops a pod, and fires off some Big Gun shots that are short.

Harkevich Turn 2:
Left flag disappears. Fortune and Escort are upkept (one for free,) Conquest gets 2 focus, one Juggernaut gets one.

Lots more moving around on Harkevich's side this turn. The Outriders continue to shuffle around towards the right flank, trying to give Thorn some space against Chain Lightning. The Juggernaut on the right side runs towards the right flag, while the Juggernaut on the left side runs to a more central position (and to give Harkevich an Escort caddy to hide behind.)

Conquest moves up and puts a Main Guns shot into the Storm Tower, getting a crit and killing both members. The Secondary Batterys shoot at the Sentinel, doing nothing. Somewhere in the shooting, the deployed Storm Pod is destroyed. 

The Great Bears, Gorman, and the Mechaniks advance behind Conquest, trying to stay outside of lightning jump range.

Nemo Turn 2:
Fail Safe is upkept for free, Disruption Field is dropped. Stormwall gets one focus (doubled to two from Finch.)

Stormwall moves up and puts two shots into Conquest doing around 16 damage with boosts. Lightning Pod drops in the way of Conquest to try and prevent a charge next turn. The Sentinel also moves up to be a roadblock.

Arlan Power Boosts Thorn, who runs up into range to arc spells at the Khador line. Trenchers move up and drop smoke clouds, creating a wall for the Stormblade Infantry and Nemo to hide behind. The Stormblades and Nemo oblige, moving up behind the smoke wall. Nemo casts Force Hammer at the Juggernaut near the right flag, knocking it out of contesting range and allowing Thorn to Reaction Drive move into base with the flag.

Just to be safe, the Journeyman Warcaster shifts Arcane Shield over to Nemo.

End of turn, Nemo scores 1 CP. (Spoiler: this will be the only CP scored all game.)

Harkevich Turn 3:
Fortune and Escort are upkept (one for free,) Conquest gets 1 focus, Juggernaut on the right flank gets 3.

The Outriders move up and spray into the Trenchers and Stormblades, killing a few models and doing a point or two of damage to Thorn in the crossfire.

Harkevich pops his feat, shoots the Storm Pod in front of Conquest, then casts Jump Start to get the right flank Juggernaut off its back. The fully loaded Juggernaut charges in against Thorn, connecting with the charge attack and his Open Fist for decent damage, but it misses the third attack (and it takes 2 points of Cortex damage for its trouble thanks to the Shock Shield.)

The Mechaniks move up and heal Conquest for 6, then Conquest charges into the Sentinel. It fires its bonus feat shot at some nearby Stormblades, but the shot misses and the scatter fails to break any ARM. Conquest connects with all three attacks (two initial, one purchased) against the Sentinel, destroying it.

The Great Bears and Gorman shuffle around to get into counter-attack range behind Conquest. The Koldun Lord moves up to try and spray a Trencher, but misses.

Nemo Turn 3:
Fail Safe is upkept for free. Stormwall gets two focus (upped to 3,) Nemo holds the rest.

Nemo pops his feat, casts Disruption Field on Stormwall, and shoots his gun at Conquest. He cranks the resulting damage roll, doing a column or so after ARM. The lightning jumps fry a couple of nearby Trenchers, unfortunately.

Everything that can piles into Conquest: Stormwall, 4 assaulting Stormblades (with 3 successfully making the charge distance,) Finch's gun, Strangeways' gun, and the Journeyman's gun. When it's all said and done, Conquest is still alive with 3 damage boxes - Left Arm and Cortex still functional.

On the right flank, Thorn bops the Juggernaut with his Shock Shield, finishing off it's Cortex system and the Disruption Spear does no damage. Some of the Stormblades that didn't charge Conquest also charged this Juggernaut, but since the unit sergeant is over by Conquest the few that charge in have a hard time doing significant damage (still a column and a half or so.)

In preparation for the retaliation, the Journeyman also moves Arcane Shield over to Stormwall when it activates later in the turn. The Trenchers Assault Charge, with two of them making it into combat. One makes it to an Outrider and leaves it alive with 1 health. The other gets to the Koldun Lord and kills him with the charge attack.

Harkevich Turn 4:
Escort and Fortune are upkept (one for free.) Conquest gets three focus, Harkevich keeps the remaining two.

The Outriders activate early in the turn and spray down as much as they can, killing a number of the Stormblades and another Trencher or two.

Harkevich activates and cycles Fortune onto Conquest - it's only got one activation left so it might as well be as good as it can be. Conquest activates and punches Stormwall a whole lot, doing almost half the grid (mitigated by Arcane Shield and one busted arm.)

Gorman sneaks around Conquest and hits Stormwall with a Blind Bomb, while the Great Bears position to charge next turn. The "fresh" Juggernaut positions to charge in next turn as well.

The Juggernaut on the right side continues to swing away, killing the remaining Stormblade in that area with its Open Fist and hitting Thorn for some more damage with its Ice Axe. The Mechaniks reposition behind the "fresh" Juggernaut.

Nemo Turn 4:
Fail Safe is upkept for free. Stormwall gets one focus (doubles from Finch,) Nemo keeps the rest.

Stormwall finishes off Conquest, then barbecues Gorman with a Lightning Pod. Strangeways repairs the Stormwall for 5 boxes.

The remaining Stormblades charge into the "fresh" Juggernaut, making it much less fresh but not taking out any systems. The Trencher in combat with the wounded Outrider manages to bayonet it off the table.

Nemo aims and zaps two Outriders with his gun - boosting to hit, getting two jumps (one of which goes onto Thorn) and boosting damage on both Outriders. Thorn shuffles over and attempts to stab one of the Outriders, but misses. The Outriders successfully fail to panic.

In an effort to gum up the Great Bears, Finch enacts Operation: Body Block (running in front of them.)

Harkevich Turn 5:
Escort is upkept for free. Juggernaut gets 3 focus, Harkevich keeps the other 3 (not like he had much choice.)

Harkevich enacts a bold counter to Operation: Body Block - Sylas gives Harkevich the Arcane Secrets bonus, then he moves up and clubs one of the Stormblades engaging the Juggernaut (moving 1" with Beat Back.) Harkevich then fires off a Razor Wind at Finch, boosting the attack roll (needing a 12 to hit, with the Arcane Secrets bonus.) The Razor Wind connects, and the Arcane Secrets nudge to damage kills her, freeing up the Great Bears.

The Outriders move over and spray into the remaining Stormblade Officer and Trencher Infantry sergeant, killing both.

Now freed up, the Great Bears and the Juggernaut charge in against the Stormwall. Unfortunately, one of the Great Bears does not make the charge. Double unfortunately, Stormwall survives the assault with one damage box remaining. In desperation, the Mechaniks enact their own version of Operation: Body Block, moving to block LoS between the Stormwall and Harkevich.

Nemo Turn 5:
With a little finagling, Nemo is able to get a Force Hammer onto one of the Mechaniks. Unfortunately, the slam distance comes up a '1', which doesn't connect with Harkevich. 

Fortunately, that still opens up a hole that allows Stormwall to gun Harkevich down through a combination of boosted Big Guns, lots of secondary gun shots, and a particularly zappy lightning pod.

Final Result: Nemo wins via Assassination!
Final CPs: Nemo 1 - Harkevich 0

Game Thoughts:
The summary kind of glosses over it, but this game was really back and forth. Lots of time spent with both of us thinking of the best thing to do each turn, and in the end it came down to positioning and a little luck, which I think is a damn fine outcome for any game of Warmachine.

I made a few key mistakes during the game, and there are a few things I may have done differently:

   1) I should have tried to get some early damage onto Stormwall. The thing about colossals is that you're unlikely to kill them in one go unless you're running a pretty specific set up (and some armies can't really manage that,) so you usually need to play the long game. 

   The turn I shot at the Storm Tower I could have used the Main Guns on Stormwall and used the Secondary Batterys to kill the Storm Tower, and the turn I charged Conquest in I should have taken the bonus shot against Stormwall. It ended up living with one damage box remaining; literally any damage earlier in the game would have made my last push successful and put me in a really good spot to close out the game.

   2) I wasn't mindful enough of the Stormblades counter charge. They have a really limited melee threat (8") and I probably could have sent Conquest in against the Sentinel while also keeping him outside of their charge range (or at least most of them; maybe one would have made it.) Granted, I don't think their charge attacks ended up doing much, but Conquest barely survived as-is, so anything I could have done to keep him safer would have helped.

   3) I was too conservative with my placement of the Great Bears when I set them up for the counter-charge. I was really worried about some random, boostable 10s coming their way (Nemo3 is great for that) and wrecking them up, so I kept them pretty far back. If I was able to get that third Great Bear into combat, I'd have very likely gotten that last damage box I needed, and that changes the whole game.

   4) I was too lax with where I put the damage I did with the Great Bears. Colossals are wonderfully designed because their systems are hard to break, so I just put the damage where ever. However, if I was more mindful of trying to focus on taking out the cortex, I may have been able to pull that off and then Stormwall can't do much on Nemo's turn. That's still less than ideal, because I'm not sure how favorably the game plays out at that point, but it certainly would have been better than getting capped.

Overall, nothing huge and glaring, but definitely some things to keep in mind for future games.

List Thoughts:
I liked the list. Its nothing too dramatic: plenty of armor and hitting power, with Outriders for anti-infantry and Great Bears for counter-punching. 

That said, I'm not sure this really plays to Harkevich's strengths. As crappy as Khador battlegroup shooting is, it really feels like he wants some shooting elements in his list to try and do some softening. It takes a lot of compensation to get Khador warjacks to the point where they're reliably taking down other heavies; Harkevich doesn't offer much of that himself and it's expensive to try and build all of that into a list. 

So I'm feeling that it's best to bring a couple of boostable guns to encourage your opponent to engage, and to soften up key components of their list as much as possible. I ended up cutting Black Ivan because his melee is kind of "meh" (with conditional greatness depending on crits,) but now I really want to get him back in because his gun and his autonomy are really nice.

Going back a step: I think a more effective approach with Harkevich is to build towards guns, or towards melee overload (i.e. as many Juggernauts as you can fit, or something like that.) In most of my lists, building towards the middle ends up feeling weaker than leaning to either side, unless you have enough points to get a lot of warjacks out there (and I never feel like I have enough points, especially out of theme.)

I'm also starting to question just how much I like Conquest with Harkevich. Don't get me wrong: it's a very solid warjack that has a lot of synergy with him. But the more I use Conquest with Harkevich, the more I feel like I'm trying to shoehorn it into a role it isn't designed for. All of the most effective lists I've had with Conquest are lists where its able to comfortably sit back and shoot for most of it, then come in and start batting clean up mid to late game. Or, in the more extreme case, when I've used Conquest in my Vlad3 list ot have a really big thing run up to the middle of the table turn 1 to really put pressure on the opponent right away. 

In all of those lists, Conquest is an important part (it can't be anything else at 19 points!) but it's not the core component of the list. With Harkevich, I feel like Conquest ends up having to carry a larger burden, and I'm not really sure it can do that very effectively due to the normal Khador warjack issues (mediocre MAT, bad RAT, reliance on ARM and damage boxes in a game with potentially very high damage output.) It would be better if Harkevich had a buff that he could really use to dial Conquest up (any kind of single target damage or ARM buff would certainly do it) so that you could more assuredly use Conquest as the backbone of your list. Maybe I just need to fit more "solution" models into the list (i.e. Eiryss2, A&H, Ragman,) but I feel like stacking those too heavily in the list makes it overly vulnerable to anti-solo tech (it's hard to find places to hide squishy models when your army is small,) and I think that weakens your possible list pairings. So I waver on if Conquest is better than 2 (almost 3) warjacks in his place, what solos Harkevich really "needs", what warjacks I should be taking, etc. It's why I seem to be stuck in a perpetual Harkevich testing loop.

Those are some of the things I want to explore with future lists, and those ideas are what I'll be kicking around in my next Harkevich post (hopefully forthcoming pretty soon.) Thanks very much for reading!

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