Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Game Report - Harkevich + Debuffs

As mentioned in my last big 'ol post about Harkevich, I thought I might get the chance to put those ideas to the test this week. Thankfully, that panned out, and I managed to get a game in with the list idea of using debuffs to make clamjacks less terrible against enemy armor. Report and thoughts after the break.

I've kicked around a number of different possible lists, but in the end I went with the following:

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (10pts)
* Demolisher (9pts)
* Demolisher (9pts)
* Juggernaut (7pts)
* War dog (1pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
* Koldun Kapitan Valachev (2pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Ragman (2pts)

This list isn't quite as ARM skew as something with 3 Demolishers, but it does have better punch with the Juggernaut. I've debated quite a bit between the Nyss and the WGI, and I think which one you want comes down to a lot of factors. Character restrictions are one of the big ones - I feel like whatever list I'd want to compliment this one would want Winter Guard in some form (since it'd be focused on anti-infantry) and so I'd like to keep Joe free if at all possible.

I opted for the Nyss since they have a bit more versatility between ranged and melee, and more crucially they have a much longer threat range than the WGI (22" with advance + Zephyr.) I want to hit my opponent's infantry/chaff early to start wearing them down, and the Nyss feel like the best way to do that.

My friend was running Reznik2, and it's actually a revision of a list I've fought previously:

Servath Reznik, Wrath of Ages (*4pts)
* Devout (5pts)
* Judicator (18pts)
Choir of Menoth (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Daughters of the Flame (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
Flame Bringers (Leader and 4 Grunts) (10pts)
Temple Flameguard (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Temple Flameguard Officer & Standard (2pts)
Nicia, Tear of Vengeance (3pts)
Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord (2pts)
Vassal Mechanik (1pts)

This list makes some very strong (IMO) changes over the previous version of this list (as seen here). The TFG gives him a great chaff unit to put in front of Judicator/Reznik, and they're still very dangerous against other infantry thanks to Death March and Reznik2's feat. Daughters of the Flame are another really nice jam unit that can do great work on feat turn (makes them MAT 8 with two attacks, Anatomical Precision, and explosions.) Nicia is also another roving murder model, and a nice objective runner.

One of the most significant changes is dropping Durant and putting the Judicator back onto Reznik. This is precisely why I wanted to move away from the Quad Clam list; the only reason I was able to deal with the Judicator in my last game was by circumventing it via Durant assassination. With the Judicator on Reznik my options are: beat the Judicator to death, or beat Reznik to death. No "easy out" shenanigans, and P+S 22 with the Choir will let the Judicator work through clamjacks effectively enough that I can't really hope to stall it forever.

Now, onto the game (note: all orientation descriptions are based on my perspective, so "left" is always "on my left", and so on):

Scenario: Incursion

A mix of hills and trees distributed around the flags, with a large wrecked train laying in a line roughly parallel to deployment zones, about 3/4 of the way up towards the flags (but not in either flag area as the train was impassible terrain that granted cover.)

Harkevich wins the roll to determine starting order, and opts to take first turn.

Pre-Deployment: the Judicator and Reznik are deployed centrally, with Reznik more towards the right flag.

Normal Deployment: Harkevich, Ragman, Gorman, and his battlegroup go in the middle of the table. The Nyss are deployed between the left and center flags. 

For Reznik, the TFG set up to the left of Judicator, with the Choir and Mechanik right next to it. The Devout is deployed near Reznik and the Judicator. Carvolo and the Flame Bringers are deployed lined up with the right flag.

Advanced Deployment: Eiryss2 deploys towards the right flag. The Daughters deploy towards the left flag, Nicia deploys towards the right flag.

Round 1:
Everything runs forward for both players. Harkevich casts Escort before advancing, while Reznik casts Death March on the Flame Bringers and puts up Creator's Wrath on himself. Carvolo gives the Flame Bringers +1 DEF and Terror before they run up, and the TFG use Iron Zeal before running up.

Round 2:
The left flag disappears. 

Harkevich Turn: 
Harkevich upkeeps Escort, allocates one to all of his warjacks. One Demolisher runs over to just barely get in range of the right flag, while the other Demolisher and the Juggernaut run diagonally forward between the center and right flag (staying B2B and near the center flag.) Black Ivan shoots at a Daughter near the TFG, connecting with the shot which kills her and one of the TFG (boosted blast damage.) Harkevich, Ragman, and the War Dog move up behind the warjack wall with Harkevich and Ragman in B2B with the Demolisher.

The Nyss aim, Valachev Zephyrs them forward, and they unload bow shots into the Daughters, killing 4 of them (they pass their command test for casualties.) Gorman shuffles around to be behind the warjack wall but not directly behind it, while Eiryss2 fades back a bit from the Flame Bringers bearing down on her.

Reznik Turn:
Reznik upkeeps Death March and Creator's Wrath, camps the rest. The Judicator receives the Battle Hymn, then moves up to get in range of the center flag and puts some rocket shots into the Nyss unit. After two shots and scatters, 3 Nyss are dead. The Judicator fires it's secondary flamethrowers at the warjack wall, but comes up just short. The Devout and Mechanik move up behind the Judicator, while Reznik moves diagonally towards the right flag (while staying in counter-charge range of anything that goes after the Judicator.)

Carvolo moves to within 4" of the right flag and gives the Flame Bringers +1 DEF and Terror. The Flame Bringers run, engaging Eiryss2 (passes the Terror command check) and working their way around the wrecked train to get behind Harkevich's warjack wall. The lone Daughter charges a Nyss Hunter, but ends up short due to terrain. Nicia moves to hang out around the right flag. The TFG advance in Shield Wall.

Round 3:
Harkevich Turn:
Harkevich upkeeps Escort, allocates 3 to the Juggernaut and 2 to the Demolisher near the center flag.

Gorman advances and throws an Acid Bomb into the TFG, killing three and putting Corrosion on the other two. The Nyss pick off more between aimed shots, CRAs, and Valachev's Frost Bite spray; by the end of the turn three TFG remain (both UA members and the unit leader.) One Nyss attempts to shoot the remaining Daughter, but misses.

Harkevich repositions a bit and pops his feat. Black Ivan moves to give Ragman a walking lane, and shoots one of the Choir. Ragman advances and puts up Death Field, then the Juggernaut charges in. After making all five attacks (with some really hot dice) the Judicator is left with around 6 boxes remaining, which allows the nearby Demolisher to charge in and finish it off. The bonus pre-Charge feat shot is Shield Guarded by the Devout, where it does 2 damage.

The Demolisher near the right flag opens up to try hit Carvolo, but both aimed shots miss. One scatter manages to clip him, doing a point or two of damage.

Eiryss2 remains in combat with the Flame Bringers and swings at one of them, connecting and doing one damage with her Sabre (which also knocks Death March off the unit.)

Reznik Turn:
Reznik upkeeps Creator's Wrath, allocates three Focus to the Devout, and camps the rest. Reznik runs over to be near the right flag, but out of charge range of everything.

The TFG charge Ragman, but unfortunately miss the charge CRA. Fortunately, they're scary, and Ragman fails his command check.

The Flame Bringers charge, with the one in melee with Eiryss2 staying there, two riding around to get behind Harkevich and his warjacks, and two more lurking around the corner, hidden by the train wreckage. The Flame Bringer in melee with Eiryss2 chops her up. The remaining Daughter charge one of the Nyss and shanks him.

The Devout receives Battle Hymn from the Choir and charges the open Devastator. The Devout does solid damage (16 or so,) but Harkevich's feat granting +3 ARM reduces the damage enough that no systems were broken. The Vassal Mechanik moves up behind the Devout, in B2B.

Carvolo moves away from the right flag and gives the TFG Tough. Nicia moves over to continue lurking by the right flag.

Round 4:
Harkevich Turn:
Harkevich upkeeps Escort, allocates two to the Demolisher on the right flank, keeps the rest. Harkevich leads off by moving back to one of the Flame Bringers, hitting and killing her with Minister, then using Beat Back to shuffle back into position. Harkevich then puts Fortune on the Nyss.

The Nyss then advance and Zephyr, with some going into melee with Flame Bringers and others moving to shoot at Choir. Two Choir are shot and killed (they pass their command check for casualties,) and one of the Flame Bringers is killed in melee, while the other is wounded. One again, a Nyss shoots at the lone Daugther and misses.

Gorman moves back around the side of the train wreckage and throws a Black Oil bomb that catches the two Flame Bringers that were waiting behind the wreckage. Ragman manages to rally, but doesn't move. 

The Juggernaut moves over and punches one of the TFG, killing it (failed Tough check.) Black Ivan shoots at the Vassal Mechanik, connecting, but the Devout Shield Guards the hit, taking 3 damage. The Demolisher in melee with the Devout just stands there, remaining closed up. The Demolisher near the right side moves up into melee with Nicia, fires it's gun using Gunfighter, misses, then kills her with boosted blast damage. That Demolisher makes it second shot against Carvolo, boosting to hit, connecting, and killing him (failed Tough check.)

Reznik Turn:
Reznik upkeeps Creator's Wrath, camps the rest. The now open Demolisher near the right flag is unfortunately just outside of Reznik's charge range, so he maintains camp and runs to engage.

The Flame Bringers that were Black Oiled advance to engage Gorman, and the one engaging some Nyss stabs Cylena to death. The TFG Officer stabs at Ragman, but once again misses.

The Mechanik repairs all of the damage on the Devout, while the remaining Choir member gives the Devout Battle Hymn. The Devout swings at the Demolisher, but doesn't exceed ARM.

Round 5: 
Harkevich Turn:
Harkevich upkeeps Escort and Fortune, then allocates three to the Juggernaut. Harkevich charges the TFG Officer, boosting the attack roll to make sure it connects, killing it. Ragman moves over to the where the Devout battle is happening and puts up Death Field.

The Demolisher in combat with the Devout punches it, doing a fair amount of damage. The Juggernaut charges in and takes it down to a column or so remaining, but misses one or two attacks. Black Ivan shoots at the remaining Choir member and connects, but the Devout Shield Guards the hit. The resulting direct hit damage destroys the Devout. The Demolisher on the right flag remains closed up and walks into B2B with the flag.

The Nyss continue to move, aim, and Zephyr as appropriate. During their activation they pick off the TFG Standard Bearer, the remaining Choir, and melee two Flame Bringers to death (casualty command check passed.) 

End of Turn: Harkevich scores 1 CP (control outer flag)

At this point, we essentially call the game. Reznik doesn't have enough models left to contest either or both flags, and I can just wait him out while I score CP on his turn and my turn.

We do roll out what would happen if Reznik goes all in on the Demolisher, and while he doesn't do a lot of damage, the Demolisher totally fails to hit him in return (!!!) setting up the chance for Reznik to kill it next turn. That forces me to pull my battlegroup over towards the right flag, but by then I've also got Gorman near by, hitting Reznik with Black Oil.

Final Result: Harkevich wins via scenario!

Post-Game Thoughts:
First off: this Harkevich list is not what that Reznik2 list wants to be seeing across the table. I don't know that it's an especially bad match up, but Reznik2 excels at chewing through infantry and comes up rather light on ways to deal with armor. Normally he'd be a pretty scary Khador drop (that feat is nasty as hell) but against this many heavy warjacks - more specifically: ARM 25 heavy warjacks - a decent chunk of his kit doesn't work as well.

That's one of the virtues of Harkevich in general, due to how his lists (IMO) naturally end up skewing. It pulls you away from the traditionally bad Khador match ups (infantry hate in spades,) though you need to be ready for the bad match ups it introduces (anti-armor.)

Second: as I mentioned before, this was kind of a perfect test for this new style of Harkevich list. Whereas I was able to sneak by having to deal with a Judicator directly by killing Durant, that wasn't an option this game, and killing Reznik2 isn't an easy proposition if he's able to keep camping (which he can for most of the game.) This scenario also doesn't really allow you to try and box out an enemy colossal - there are two scenario zones you'd need to cover to make that happen, and the area around the flags is large enough that you're not going to feasibly have enough frontage to blockade it (controlling a flag is hard, but the area for contesting is fairly large.) In order to have any hope of winning via scenario in this fight, the Judicator had to be scrapped.

The good news is: the plan, for all it's jankiness and finicky positioning, worked! Ragman was able to sneak on in and put up Death Field, and with the -2 ARM it was very likely for me to take out Judicator that round. In this game the Juggernaut had fire dice (the left grid was boxed out after the first purchased Ice Axe attack,) but I had two allocated to the Demolisher as back up that would have sealed the deal if the Juggernaut had been more average.

There are a couple of neat things I noticed when moving this formation up:

  • Girded gives you a very easy way to protect Ragman and Gorman if there's blast damage around. Since neither of them have a lot to do before they unload on a key target, they can pretty easily run to keep in B2B with one of the Demolishers.
  • If your opponent has Fire or Corrosion based shooting they plan on using to pick off Ragman, he can Sacrifical Pawn the hits onto Gorman, who is immune. Not something that will come up terribly often, but there's enough of it out there that it's a nice interaction to keep in mind.
  • On the approach, Gorman can use his Smoke Bomb to either extend your warjack wall (depending on what can threaten him,) or he can give your warjacks a little DEF boost against stuff that may be coming their way.
One of the things that became immediately obvious in this game was something that should have occurred to me earlier (especially after having listened to a lot of Madrak1 discussion by Chad from Muse on Minis): this list is a "brick" style list, and as a result you're going to run into issues if/when the brick has to disperse.

In this game, I ended up having to break off one of the Demolishers to run it over to the right flag since I didn't have anything that could contest over there. That is a problem, because it meant that in order to maintain my wall of warjacks (which I needed to protect the models I was ferrying into the fight) I had to bring the Juggernaut up.

The Juggernaut is mainly in the list to serve as melee insurance; P+S 19 is a very good melee damage value, and when you add in any damage buffs or upkeep removal, it can take down a variety of targets. Against a colossal, it makes it more likely that I'll be able to take it out on my big push turn (typically feat turn,) and against a list with a more distributed battlegroup it gives me a strong melee beater to put in the exchange at some point.

The downside is that the Juggernaut is the most vulnerable member of the battlegroup. The Demolishers are ARM 25 (and their offense has enough redundancies built in that they're hard to completely cripple) and Black Ivan's DEF 12 gives him a nice little nudge in durability (especially combined with Evasive.) The Juggernaut is the only warjack with the standard 10/20 stat line, it's likely to attract attention due to it's melee power, and on top of all that it's relatively easy to cripple - take out the right arm or cortex and it isn't doing much.

As a result, I'm kind of concerned with what may happen to the Juggernaut when the warjack wall has to break up like it did in this game. This time it worked out, but what if my opponent had instead opted to sit back with the Judicator and put rockets into the Juggernaut once I brought it forward? Inaccurate is a problem, but even with just Battle Hymn it needs 7's, and with the aiming bonus it just needs 5's to put a boostable POW 16 into the Juggernaut's chest. Two or three of those are likely to start breaking important things, and I can't really afford to take that kind of damage on him before I can commit it. Now extrapolate that out to the dreaded Stormwall (that is a lot more accurate,) and I have concerns with how well the Juggernaut will do in the long term.

To devil's advocate a bit: part of the theory behind this list is that with the right buffs/debuffs P+S 16 is enough to get the job done. If my warjack wall ends up being something like: Black Ivan, Demolisher, Juggernaut, I should be able to get the job done with any two of those warjacks if I can get rid of upkeeps on the target and get some 2 point damage swing in there. Between the bonus feat shots (any extra damage adds up) and the possibility of Critical Brutal Damage on Black Ivan's claw, I think I can get the job done with any two of the three warjacks, so it may not be so bad if the Juggernaut has to move up and cross his fingers for a turn. I would feel safer with three Demolishers in the list, but I like what the Juggernaut brings to the table, so I'm going to stick with him until he fails me spectacularly a few times.

The Nyss with Valachev worked very well, as should be expected. The Nyss themselves are versatile, and the combination of Zephyr and Fortune allows them to leverage their ranged presence against a wide variety of targets, as well as a large swath of the table. 

There are some big downsides to this unit: losing Valachev hurts (no putting Fortune on them, no Zephyr, fair chance of out-of-formation situations,) they're still super squishy if anything happens to connect with them, and they're CMD 9 non-Fearless which, while not terrible, is not great on such an expensive unit that is offering critical support. Its a unit that has high "high"s and low "low"s - they can do some fantastic work, but if they flee, if Valachev gets picked off, or if they get blasted (literally) off the table, you're down a significant chunk of the army. The one unit I'm bringing has to support the battlegroup single handedly, and I'm not sure I trust this unit to do that over a long enough time line of games.

For that reason, I'm seriously considering going back to WGI + UA + Joe. Their threat is much less prolific, but they're sturdier - higher ARM (for what it's worth), possible Tough, Standard Bearer for command checks, Fearless on tap - and Joe handles any accuracy concerns. That last bit frees up Harkevich from "needing" to put Fortune on them to get consistent returns (something I felt like I had to do this game) or you can double down with Fortune + For the Motherland for crazy accurate attacks. Plus the WGI module is 2 points cheaper, which allows me to invest in a number of different options (though I'm seriously debating just turning those points into Rocketeers for the unit to have some long ranged threat in there.)

Other than those two list concerns, I really liked the list. It's not as able to spread out as the Quad Clam list is, but the trade off is that this list is actually scary to enemy heavies (whereas the Quad Clam list has to focus on pushing/slamming/throwing them around long enough to win.) That makes it stronger in some scenarios, and weaker in others, but I think it's almost a perfect mirror to what the Quad Clam list was and wasn't good at, with the benefit that this list can actually threaten a colossal so you're not fighting a massively uphill battle the moment you see a Huge base hit the table.

I've mentioned in the past that I didn't like Harkevich non-theme, and while I think the theme list offers some very solid benefits, this non-theme interpretation feels legit enough to warrant further testing and consideration. It maintains the ARM pressure Harkevich relies on, but the ability to pick up Merc models goes a long way in allowing your battlegroup to stay relevant against a variety of targets (whereas it tends to falter in a theme list.) This list also has the complication of being kind of finicky to play - activation order is important on key turns, your army is dense which gives you little redundancy, it tends to brick up, etc - but based on my experience with other, similar lists I don't think this list is any more difficult to run than those lists. High floor, high ceiling kind of deal.

I'll definitely be trying this list out more in the future, probably with the WGI swapped in for Nyss the next game (if/when I fail a command check with the Nyss at a key juncture, my heart will shatter.) Whenever those games happen, I'll be posting up my thoughts about how this list performs and my evolving impressions.

Until then, thanks for reading!


  1. Nice report and insight! Good to see that, basically, your theorem was proven right.

    Too bad I don't own any Nyss Hunters, they seem like a very good choice...

  2. Tonight may be the real test. I'm going to be playing my friend who has been working with Sturgis recently, and he may be trying out a Stormwall in his list. As the Stormwall was the main reason I wanted to make this list, I'm interested to see how it works out.

    Nyss are a very good unit on their own. Nyss with Valachev are kind of nuts, without even considering Faction interactions. Zephyr on a really solid shooting unit is top shelf stuff, and Nyss are by far the best choice for it. I was really hoping there'd be a close second, but there really aren't any other Merc shooting units that warrant consideration in my opinion (especially since both flavors of Winter Guard already do a very good job.)

    The biggest downsides to Nyss are their squishness, and how absolutely tedious they are to assemble. At some point I even painted that unit (an event I've blocked completely from memory,) so I'm trying to work them into more lists (without being obnoxious about it.)