Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More Giant Robot Battles - Harkevich vs. Sturgis

No matter what else I get into, I'll probably always cycle back around to playing Harkevich. I really like the kinds of lists he can run, and even though it can be pretty frustrating sometimes, the "fun" moments are amazing.
The Mechano-ham beckons...I must heed it's call

Since I had the good fortune of getting an extra game in last week, I wanted to try out my most recent Harkevich iteration again.

Full report and thoughts after the break.

My list:

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (9pts)
* Conquest (18pts)
* Grolar (8pts)
* Demolisher (8pts)
Battle Mechaniks (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
* Battle Mechanik Officer (2pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Widowmaker Marksman (2pts)

This is the same list in my last game vs Convergence. I wanted to test it out against something I knew would have more infantry (and pretty tough infantry at that,) and I wanted to test the list again in general. Nothing too shocking - full T4 theme list with lots of warjacks and blast damage.

My friend's list:

Commander Dalin Sturgis (*6pts)
* Stormwall (19pts)
* Squire (2pts)
Arcane Tempest Gun Mages (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
* Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Officer (2pts)
Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team (4pts)
Horgenhold Forge Guard (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
Stormblade Infantry (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
Captain Arlan Strangewayes (2pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)
Ragman (2pts)

This is the same list he's been running with Sturgis for awhile, and it's the same one I fought recently when I opted to put my Retribution back on the table recently. Very solid list, and it has a few things I was interested in testing my Harkevich list against: the ever dreadful Stormwall (now with Arcane Shield or Snipe!) and Forge Guard with Arcane Shield which are a bear to take down at range using anything short of Sniper shots and are very capable in melee (both with damage output and potential slams knocking things out of position.)

Scenario: SR2014 Outflank

Terrain: Pretty standard terrain set up for us. A few forests scattered around, a hill on the left side of the table, a large patch of rough ground (that also provided Concealment,) and a few sets of ruins (obstructions, Cover if behind.)

Deployment: Sturgis wins the roll off and opts to take first turn. 

Pre-Deployment: Both colossals go in the center, on the deployment line.

Cygnar Normal Deployment: Sturgis goes in the center, with the ATGM and the Stormblades on right side. The B13 and Forge Guard go on the left side. Support staff is spread around as needed.

Khador Normal Deployment: Harkevich goes in the center. Black Ivan goes on the right side, the Grolar and Demolisher go on the left. Mechaniks buddy up next to Conquest. Each half of the table gets its own Mortar.

Cygnar Advanced Deployment: Eiryss2 deploys on the left flank, ahead of the Forge Guard.

Khador Advanced Deployment: The Widowmaker Marksman (WMM) deploys on the hill on the left side.

Round 1:
Sturgis Turn 1:
Standard first turn of running and getting upkeeps out. Stormwall gets Snipe, Forge Guard get Jr.'s Arcane Shield, and the ATGM get Sturgis' Arcane Shield to buffer against blast damage. The B13 advance to toe into the back of a forest while Ryan tosses out a Mage Storm to block LOS. Everything else runs forward.

Harkevich Turn 1:
Harkevich started the game with upkeeps in play (Fortune on Conquest, Escort on himself,) so each warjack gets a Focus and they all run forward, making sure to end their movement inside of Wreck Markers. Mechaniks form up behind Conquest.

The WMM runs forward into one of the Wreck Markers, while the left Mortar runs forward for next turn. The right Mortar kicks a shot out at the ATGM, catching one under the template and killing it.

Round 2:
Sturgis Turn 2:
Sturgis upkeeps Snipe, gives 3 Focus to the Stormwall. Jr. upkeeps Arcane Shield on the Forge Guard.

The ATGM advance into the right zone and start shooting Thunderbolt shots at Black Ivan, looking for KD. The first shot hits and pushes him back (no damage,) but the second shot misses and Black Ivan moves out of range of the rest of the ATGM. Stormwall advances to toe into the right zone, shoots at Black Ivan doing 6 damage, misses the Grolar with it's second shot, then plunks down Covering Fire templates and a Storm Pod in interfering positions. The Stormblades line up in counter-charge position, with some toeing into the zone.

The B13 move up to the front of the forest, and Ryan throws out another LOS blocking Mage Storm. The Forge Guard continue to run into the left zone, spreading out their clumps to mitigate potential Critical Devastation shots. Ragman lurks behind the Forge Guard, just close enough for Sac Pawn.

Eiryss2 charges the WMM and stabs him to death. Sturgis casts Arcane Shield on the Stormwall, then moves over to toe into the forest also containing the B13.

Harkevich Turn 2:
Harkevich upkeeps both spells, gives 1 Focus to the Conquest.

Both Mortars shoot at the ATGM, killing two and putting damage on the UA.

Conquest advances to toe into the right zone and shoots at a cluster of Forge Guard, hoping for a Critical with a boosted shot. The critical doesn't happen, but the Forge Guard directly hit dies. Conquest then starts shooting at the ATGM with it's Secondary Batterys, killing two ATGM. Black Ivan advances back towards the Mechaniks, and shoots the closest Stormblade, killing it. Two Mechaniks repair 4 damage on Black Ivan.

Harkevich activates and casts Broadsides. The Demolisher shoots at a Forge Guard, misses, and the template fails to damage anything (after drifting onto Ryan.) Conquest shoots at the Forge Guard without a Critical, but kills with the direct hit. Black Ivan shoots another Stormblade, killing it.

The Demolisher moves into the left zone while staying toed into a Wreck Marker, while the Grolar hangs back towards the center.

Round 3:
Sturgis Turn 3:
Sturgis upkeeps Arcane Shield, allocates 2 Focus to Stormwall. Jr. upkeeps Arcane Shield on the Forge Guard.

Stormwall shuffles to the absolute back edge of the zone, then lays into Conquest with it's Big Guns, doing around 14 damage. It drops a Storm Pod in front of Conquest. The remaining ATGM run around the right to try and flank, while the Stormblades run up against a section of ruins to block LOS and gain Cover (while threatening Conquest if it tries to advance.)

Eiryss2 moves onto the hill and shoots the Demolisher, Disrupting it and doing 1 damage to column 4. Two of the Forge Guard charge the Demolisher, doing some damage but also not getting any Critical hits. The remaining Forge Guard position to charge in next turn, with Ragman lurking nearby.

Sturgis continues to slowly move towards the left zone, casting Snipe on the B13 in the process. The B13 activates and shoots at the Grolar. Lynch makes distance but does no damage, and Ryan is short with her Mage Storm. It drifts long, barely missing the Mechaniks but catching Harkevich and the Mechanik UA (Mechanik UA takes 2 damage.)

Harkevich Turn 4:
Harkevich upkeeps both spells, allocates 1 Focus to the Conquest. The Mechaniks repair Conquest, patching up 12 or so damage.

Conquest advances very slightly and puts a Main Guns shot into the Forge Guard and gets a Critical. The three Forge Guard are thrown, one of which hits Ragman. Ragman is damaged and knocked down, the directly hit Forge Guard is killed, and the other two are knocked down. Secondary Battery shots don't do anything.

The left Mortar shoots at a Forge Guard and connects, killing it. The right Mortar shoots at the Stormblades and kills one with the scatter.

Black Ivan picks off another Stormblade with his shot and advances to the Wreck Marker near the right zone. Harkevich shoots the Storm Pod in front of Conquest, then casts Broadsides. The resulting shots picking off another Stormblade.

The Demolisher advances into the Forge Guard, bumping them back with Bulldoze to get further into the zone and reduce charges.

Round 4:
Sturgis Turn 4:
Sturgis upkeeps Arcane Shield and Snipe, allocates two to the Stormwall.

This turn is very similar to the previous one: Stormwall shoots at Conquest doing a pile of damage (another 14-15,) and dropping a pod in the way. The remaining Stormblades and ATGM run to try and interpose themselves between Conquest and Stormwall.

The Forge Guard that can charge the Demolisher, with 3 getting enough movement to gain the damage bonus. The resulting attacks do some damage to the Demolisher, but unfortunately none of them get a Critical.

Eiryss2 moves over to take a shot at Harkevich, but ends up just out of range.

The B13 activate, with Watts toeing into the left zone. Lynch and Ryan shoot at the Grolar, neither doing damage, but Ryan does catch Harkevich in the template, doing 3 damage to him.

Harkevich Turn 4:
Harkevich upkeeps both spells, allocates 3 Focus to Conquest. After much Control Range measuring, it is decided that it is go time.

Harkevich activates and pops his feat. Black Ivan charges the ATGM UA that is in his way, using his pre-charge shot from the feat to shoot the Storm Pod in Conquest's way. Black Ivan then whiffs the charge attack.

The Mechaniks move up to patch up Conquest before it charges off, repairing a good amount of damage; it had 4 damage left on it after all Repair rolls.

Conquest them charges the Stormwall, just barely making distance. Two initials and 3 bought attacks later, Stormwall is battered but still alive.

The right Mortar shoots at Eiryss2 and clips her, but doesn't do enough damage to kill her. The left Mortar shoots at Ragman, catching him in the blast and killing him. The Demolisher continues to stand in front of the Forge Guard, while the Grolar moves over to get in between Eiryss2 and Harkevich.

Round 5:
Sturgis Turn 5:
Sturgis upkeeps Arcane Shield and Snipe, allocates 3 to the Stormwall.

Arlan repairs 4 damage on Stormwall, getting it's Left Arm back online. Stormwall lays into Conquest, but the feat ARM and previous repairs result in less than one grid of damage.

The Forge Guard pile onto the Demolisher, hoping to get a Critical Smite to clear the zone, but insanely none of them critical across the remainder of the unit (still 6-7 strong at this point.) No damage is done due to ARM 28.

Eiryss2 attempts to shoot at Harkevich but misses (due to having to move and Concealment.) The B13 members that can take shots at Harkevich, but between DEF 17 and ARM 21 no damage is done.


It is at this point that my friend scoops, which I totally understand. Stormwall is very likely to die next turn (Conquest was still in allocation range) and after that there isn't much stopping Harkevich from moving in and starting to dominate that right zone. The Forge Guard were doing a great job of whittling down the Demolisher, but their inability to crit this game (which is nuts over that many attacks,) kept him from scoring any early CP. The game was very likely to devolve into a quick CP rush, and I think I was in position to come out on top of it.

Post Game Thoughts:
This game was one helluva grind, as is probably evident by the write-up. Harkevich games seem to either go quickly - you take ground aggressively and your opponent can't get it back before you win - or they're a total slog. This was definitely the latter, and a big part of it was that I had to stall as long as possible to thin out his army before I could try to really go for any big plays. 

My friend played this game very well, even though he was kind of frustrated by the end of it. This Harkevich list makes use of a ton of armor, so it's not easy to get through it. You kind of have to settle in for a long game, and my friend did a very good job of identifying where he needed to prioritize (try to clear out the left zone and score before Conquest started punching Stormwall,) and he had a great way to do it. This game he didn't get any criticals, but he just as easily could have been golfing with the Demolisher the whole game and put me in a dangerous spot with CPs.

He also made two excellent plays, one of which caught me off guard and cost me big early. I totally didn't expect him to charge the WMM with Eiryss2 (I figured he'd want to keep her mobile and not risk being tied up in melee,) but it was absolutely the right call. Her odds of killing him aren't great, but even if they just tango all game, I'm not picking off the Forge Guard (and I desperately needed a faster way to thin them out.) He got the even better result and just flat killed him with the charge attack!

The other great move was trying to skip Ryan's Mage Storm shot into the Mechaniks. It came terrifying close and if he was able to thin them out I'd have felt a lot worse about my long term attrition prospects with Conquest.

Things to Improve:
Nothing, I won!

Just kidding. 

The first and most obvious error was letting the WMM get charged in the first place. He has a fantastic threat range and I knew the Forge Guard were going to be going into the left zone, so there was absolutely no reason to push him as far forward as I did. I could have had him comfortably up on the hill, which would have also helped to keep him safe from eventual Snipe'd Lynch shots. 

Even if the WMM only picks off 2-3 Forge Guard, that's about as many as I was able to kill with everything else all game, and it would have been a huge pressure relief to get them cut down faster (both for fewer incoming attacks, and to get them below scoring size.) I gave all of that up early in the game on a total derp moment coupled with "nah, he won't do that." Shows me!

The second big error on my part was not moving Conquest up a little bit more the turn before I wanted to charge Stormwall. In this match up, Conquest out-threats Stormwall (barely, but it's enough,) so I can use that to pressure my opponent: once I get into charge range, Stormwall either needs to back off of the zone, or risk taking it on the chin. 

I tried to thin out the infantry as much as possible to cut down on charge blockers (which ended up working out,) and I even set up the situation I wanted but I almost failed to capitalize by not moving up a smidge to be absolutely sure that I was in charge range. I ended up being just barely in when I had 1" of wiggle room to work with, and it would have been absolutely disastrous if I had failed that charge.

Also, I could have saved myself a little heartache by putting the Grolar behind the Demolisher in the earlier game to prevent it from being slammed out. If a Critical Smite happens both warjacks end up knocked down (and a charging 11 + 5d6 probably isn't going to feel great to the Demolisher,) but I can ensure that the Demolisher can't get punted out of the zone and I can easily stand everything up next turn with Jump Start. That could have mitigated some early game CP risk, along with keeping the Grolar in position to help whittle down the Forge Guard if I needed him to.

Other than that, things went pretty well. Part of it was luck with no Forge Guard crits the whole game, part of it was the Mortars finally pulling weight (I've had a string of games where it's felt like they can't get those templates near anything useful,) and part of it was that I didn't have any catastrophic dice failures anywhere.

I feel like I did a good job of keeping pressure on both zones, and I had Harkevich on standby to Dominate the one zone I felt like I'd be able to clear faster ("faster" being extremely relative here.) Those are two things that I think are crucial for this list, so I'm glad to look back on the game and feel like those went well.

Thoughts on The List:
Having played it a whopping two times now, I still like it.

The battlegroup has a pretty nice combination of factors: hitting power, guns, durability, board control (kinda-sorta,) and scenario tech. I mentioned before that one of my biggest issues with an earlier version of this list was a lack of attacks, and I think this version fares better in that regard. It's still not a list capable of kicking out a ton of attacks, but between the initial shots, Broadsides, and many of those shots being templates, you can affect a decent number of enemy models in a given turn.

Black Ivan and a Demolisher have been in a lot of my Harkevich lists (especially theme lists,) and I still like both of them a lot. Black Ivan gives you a very good gun to work with (RAT 5 with auto boosted attack rolls is about as good as you get on a Khador warjack,) and it's ability to juke and jive continues to put a smile on my face.

The Demolisher is kind of crucial in modern scenario play. A fair number of scenarios require that you spread out, and if you're going to do that with a battlegroup in Khador you almost need a clamjack; anything else you put in front of the enemy is probably going to get killed and Khador warjacks don't really project enough threat to keep themselves safe on their own. Plus it gives me an extra template to toss around on Broadsides turns, which is nice.

I'm warming up to Conquest in this style of Harkevich theme list. It's absolutely crucial to have it when you're facing off against another colossal (at least, in my experience,) and it also does some nice things for the list. It's Main Guns are either a good gun or a game changer depending on if you get a Critical hit, and that adds a lot to the list. The Secondary Batterys are still not great, but they're at least capable of picking off models when you factor in Fortune and Linked (essentially giving you three re-rolls against one target) and Creeping Barrage has it's moments where it's great. Even when it isn't, it gives you a chance to maybe cause some damage during the opponent's turn when you otherwise wouldn't have been able to do much (vs. Stealth infantry, infantry that require B2B for ARM bonuses,) so it's worth bearing in mind.

The biggest things (har har) that Conquest brings to the list are immovability and hitting power, both of which came up this game. There are a lot of push/place/slam effects in the game - and there's usually another one or two added each release cycle - that it's extremely valuable to be able to put a model somewhere and say "it's there until you come over here and kill it." Hitting power is clutch both in dealing with other colossals and when trying to deal with multiple high ARM heavies (ARM 21 spam is absolutely something you can run into, even if it isn't super common.)

The Grolar is also growing on me game by game. I like having that extra gun floating around for random shots, it's a very solid melee piece, and it can haul ass when you need it to thanks to Fleet and Escort. I haven't had it do a ton yet due to Conquest being the focus of most games, but I think that also helps out the Grolar: with so much attention focused on Conquest, the Grolar is free to run around and cause whatever trouble it wants, or serve as a back up in case Conquest gets taken down before it can finish off an enemy colossal. In a game where it's gun would be more likely to get good results (i.e. not shooting at ARM 21 Forge Guard,) the ability to kick out 5 shots in a turn is also welcome.

The only real "x factor" for me with the list is that I have a few small options with the 4 points that are currently used on the WMM and the Mechanik UA. Honestly, I like both of those models a good bit. The WMM gives the list a highly accurate, battlegroup independent shot that can help thin out enemy infantry, plus it's a solo so I can use it to run in and sneak CPs if I can't/don't want to get my warjacks over there.

The Mechanik UA brings a solid Repair skill value to the table, and I also really like how durable it is. Most of tools that will easily pick of Mechaniks will only ding up the UA, which allows me to have a model in the thick of repairing Conquest that won't automatically die to a POW 10 hit ("auto leap" attacks are the worst for repair models.) Plus in a pinch it gives me KD immunity for Harkevich, though I'm thinking that most of the game he'll be bunkered up behind Conquest, so that's not a huge concern. Still nice to have available though.

The biggest change I'm considering is dropping those two elements and swapping in a MoW Drakun without Dismount option. The Drakun gives me another roving melee Weaponmaster hit, some nice impact attacks to help thin out infantry a tad, and the ability to tie up troublesome shooting models (such as Eiryss2 in this game.) The downside is that I lose out on the Mechanik UA's durability and utility, and the WMM simple, fairly safe attacks. I don't think either option is obviously better; I'll stick with the WMM + Mechanik UA combo for now, and swap the Drakun in at some point to see how it fares.

The other option is mucking around with that 4 point chunk a little to upgrade one or more of the warjacks, but I don't like that option nearly as much. The only upgrade I can really see doing in this list is swapping out either the Demolisher or the Grolar for a Spriggan. The Spriggan is a nice warjack in the context of Harkevich, but I feel like this battlegroup configuration covers the bases I want to as-is; changing any of the elements out for a Spriggan would probably destabilize it one way or the other.

Final Thoughts:
I still love playing Harkevich. Probably always will. The Grolar is a fun addition to his battlegroup options, and it has plenty of other choice locations in Khador so I'm definitely looking forward to when PP releases the official model. Until then, I'll continue to use my Kodiak as a proxy (it's the only way the poor guy is going to see table time nowadays.)

I definitely like this list, and I'm hoping to throw it up against pretty much everything possible to test just how far it can go. I think, like most Harkevich lists, it'll falter against the stronger control/anti-ARM lists, but I can see it doing well in a lot of other match ups. And maybe it'll surprise me in those "problem" match ups by being more viable than I think (though I'm not expecting many surprises against the creme-de-la-creme.) I certainly look forward to finding out.

Thanks for reading!


  1. I'm also torn on the Mechanic UA in my favourite list - those two points could really do something (generally get me a War Dog and then something), but the points you raise are all valid...

  2. Yeah, that's always the conundrum I run into with the Mechanik UA. It's not terribly flashy, but in lists where you want your Mechaniks doing Repair work it's usually worth the 2 points. Which is one of the reasons I'm sticking with it in this Harkevich list.

    Those 2 points can buy you an awful lot in Khador, so there's always that internal debate. Honestly, if I didn't have Conquest I probably wouldn't have it in the list. It's a great capstone to a unit dedicated to fixing Conquest all game, but if you just Mechaniks in the list for insurance (or if you need them to stay mobile,) I'm much less inclined to bring it.

  3. I'm solidly in the camp of "That is not OK" with a speed 8 Grolar. However, I play Cryx, so I give it a thumbs up.