Monday, June 23, 2014

Kaelyssa vs. Durgen - Spikes and Clocks

So apparently those winds of Malifaux that I thought were blowing have at least temporarily changed course. I'm sure I'll be getting some games in with that soon but for now Warmachine is still the order of the day. To try and keep my Retribution painting momentum up (painting units wounds my soul,) I broke out my one (1) Retribution list against a friend of mine running Durgen.

I wonder what's in his battlegroup? Lets all discover the shocking truth together, after the break.

My list:

Kaelyssa, Night's Whisper (*7pts)
   * Chimera (6pts)
   * Banshee (10pts)
   * Manticore (8pts)
   * Sylys Wyshnalyrr, the Seeker (2pts)
Dawnguard Sentinels (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
   * Dawnguard Sentinel Officer & Standard (2pts)
Lady Aiyana & Master Holt (4pts)
Mage Hunter Strikeforce (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
   * Mage Hunter Commander (2pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)

Unchanged due to my painting requirements. The good news is: the plan is working. I'm very motivated to paint more models to give me more options. The bad news is: that takes time. So for now it's more of the "My First Retribution" army.

My friend's list:
Durgen Madhammer (*6pts)
   * Grundback Blaster (3pts)
   * Ghordson Earthbreaker (19pts)
 Master Gunner Dougal MacNaile (2 pts)
Alexia Ciannor & the Risen (Alexia and 9 Risen Grunts) (5pts)
Steelhead Halberdiers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Tactical Arcanist Corps (4pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Gastone Crosse (3pts)
   * Vanguard (4pts)
Ogrun Bokur (3pts)
Taryn di la Rovissi (2pts)
Thor Steinhammer (2pts)

I was surprised to see him take an Earthbreaker. It gets so little attention on forums and podcasts.

I kid, I kid. I'd be stunned to see a Rhulic 'caster without an Earthbreaker, and my friend painting his so you bet your ass it was going to be on the table. Everything else is relatively standard Mercenary fare, while also playing pretty nicely with Durgen.

Scenario: SR2014 Incursion

Special Note: In an effort to speed up play and get some practice for (hopefully more frequent) tournament play, we opted to use Deathclocks for this game. Standard value for the game size, 60 minutes. More thoughts on the general effect it had on the game later, but the most immediate one is that once we got rolling I totally spaced on taking pictures. My apologies for that.

Similarly, the rush of Deathclock and the energy drink in my system makes a lot of fine detail blur together, so this report will be a bit more abridged (which may become more common.)

Finally, I totally forgot my Dawnguard Sentinel Standard Bearer at home (painting example for the Invictors in progress) so the reverse Scyir was his stand in. Sorry folks, I haven't discovered some sick rear arc tech that makes him worth taking.

Round 1:
Pretty standard turn one. Lots of running/shuffling. Kaelyssa gets Phantom Hunter out on the Banshee. Durgen gets Redline out on the Earthbreaker, then it shuffles up and with a Dougal re-roll it vaporizes four MHSF (takes 3 damage at the end of turn from Redline.

Round 2:
Start of Round 2
Kaelyssa Turn 2:
Post-Earthbreaker-Crater-Syndrome kicks in and Kaelyssa goes in on a panic bid to get damage on the Earthbreaker. Both MHA charge it - the first does 12 or so damage, while the second one drops four 6's for damage, doing 26 damage in a single shot and checking one item off my gaming bucket list. Everything else that can shoot at the Earthbreaker does so, chipping in some more damage. The Sentinels and the Chimera run forward, while the Manticore advances ad puts down a Covering Fire template. Kaelyssa moves back towards the left flag, pops her feat, camps, and prays.

Durgen Turn 2:
Durgen drops Redline, gives one to the Blaster. Thor goes early and attempts to Repair the Earthbreaker, but unfortunately fails his skill check. Durgen pops his feat and casts Inhospitable Ground to ward off the ocoming melee models. Both MHAs are killed, along with a couple of Sentinels and MHSF. The Manticore begins his long love affair with zombies, as he ends up hugging a couple this turn.

CPs Scored: 0 - 0

Round 3: (This is unfortunately where the pictures stop)
Kaelyssa Turn 3:
Sentinels shuffle up with Vengeance moves, then chop up two zombies. Kaelyssa upkeeps Phantom Hunter for free thanks to Sylys. The Banshee gets a Focus from an Arcanist, moves in base with the center flag, then puts a shot into the Earthbreaker. The shot is absorbed by the Bokur who lives through the shot. Sentinels try and charge the Earthbreaker, but come up short due to difficult terrain. One charging the Basher makes distance and chops it good. A few more zombies get chopped up. 

Aiyana tries to Harm the Earthbreaker but comes up short, then Holt tries to shoot it and also comes up short. The MHSF put more shots into the Earthbreaker, damaging it more but not finishing it off. Sylys gives Kaelyssa Arcane Secrets, then she arcs a Rift into the Earthbreaker, finishing it off with boosted, secret damage. 

Durgen Turn 3:
Durgen allocates one to the Blaster. The Steelheads charge into the Sentinels, chopping up a handful of them. Eiryss shoots Aiyana to death, while the Vanguard and Gastonne continue to whittle down MHSF, and move in B2B with the left flag. Durgen puts a Case Cracker shot into Banshee, but misses the shot.

The growing zombie horde continues to hug the Manticore and some move into the Sentinels. Holt gets killed by scattering templates, while Durgen puts Inhospitable Ground up again.

CPs Scored: Kaelyssa 1 - Durgen 1

Round 4:
Kaelyssa Turn 4:
The remaining Sentinels get in a few more Vengeance attacks, killing a few Steelheads and zombies. Kaelyssa upkeeps Phantom Hunter for free, allocates three to the Chimera. The Chimera moves up to punch the TAC, killing one and wounding the other. Sylys gives Arcane Secrets to Kaelyssa, who uses it to pick off Gastone with an Arcane Bolt.

The Banshee shoots one of the Steelheads, knocking it into two others and killing all of them. The Sentinels chop at the Steelheads and the growing zombie horde. The Manticore punches another two zombies.

Durgen Turn 4:
Durgen keeps all his focus. Durgen puts another Case Cracker shot into the Banshee, which connects, doing a ton of damage. Durgen also gets Primed on the Risen. The Risen and Steelheads continue to work down the Sentinels, while also getting scratch damage on the Manticore.

Alexia crafts a Thrall, which charges the Manticore and does some damage to it. Eiryss picks off Sylys.

CPs Scored: Kaelyssa 1 - Durgen 1

Round 5:
Kaelyssa Turn 5:
Kaelyssa drops Phantom Hunter, gives the Chimera another 3 focus. The Chimera tosses a TAC at Eiryss, killing the TAC but only wounding Eiryss. The remaining Sentinel chops a Risen, which takes out a few more in it's explosion. The Manticore  walks out of combat with the Risen, then shoots a Risen which puts some damage on Alexia and gets rid of a few more Risen. The Banshee hacks at nearby models with no success.

Kaelyssa moves towards the outside flag and finishes off Eiryss with her gun. 

Durgen Turn 5:
Durgen keeps all of his Focus. Durgen puts an aimed Case Cracker shot into the Banshee which finishes it off. The zombie horde continues to move toward the center of the table. Dougal and the remaining TAC move towards the left flag. The Bokur runs to get into base with the center flag.

CPs Scored: Kaelyssa 1 - Durgen 2

Round 6:
Kaelyssa Turn 6:
Kaelyssa allocates three Focus to the Chimera. The Chimera punches the TAC to death, but misses Dougal. Kaelyssa charges Dougal, kills him, then tosses an Arcane Bolt at Taryn. Everyting else shuffles around. Not much is left to contest the center flag, and what could can't make it there.

Durgen Turn 6:
Durgen keeps all of his focus. Everything that's within range lays attacks into Kaelyssa, but she survives the turn with two health.

CPs Scored: Kaelyssa 1 - Durgen 3

The game ends next round when Kaelyssa's clock runs out.

Final CP Count: Kaelyssa 1- Durgen 3

Result: Durgen wins via Deathclock!

Post Game Thoughts:
This game gave me some new and revised insights on playing Warmachine in two areas: Deathclock, and dealing with colossals.

Though I've played using Deathclock before, this is the first time doing so in a long time, and it's been even longer since we've used it in a "casual" game. We wanted to try it out for many reasons, but one of the chief reasons was time: we were playing in a game store, so we didn't have the luxury of playing a 4 hour game. And honestly, as much fun as it can be sometimes, 3+ hour games are extremely long and draining, so we were hoping that putting a (rough) limit of 2 hours on the game would help keep it brisk.

I'd say it worked pretty marvelously. Even though both of us used up most of our time - my friend had less than a minute or so left when I clocked - it was a still a very fast paced game. Even with breaks (still casual, but the Deathclock keeps us moving forward when we're playing) it was still probably only 2.5 hours, which is about an hour shorter than we probably average without a Deathclock (or more.)

The most pleasantly unexpected side benefit of playing with Deathclocks was a general reduction of game stress and frustration. In our group Warmachine is the game we all love to hate: it's a marvelous game that's a ton of fun to theory about, build lists for, hobby for, and play. Then you put the models on the table and everything goes to hell at some point when something goes awry (bad dice, bad decision, error in judgement, etc.) I've had a lot of theories about why we get so frustrated sometimes playing this game, and I stand by a lot of them, but I never really considered that time was one of the factors.

When you have an infinite amount of time to plan (at least, relative to playing timed turns or Deathclock,) execute, and refine (change steps if things go awry mid plan,) that can, and in my experience often does, add a lot of stress to a turn. You spend so much time thinking about a course of action, debating all of the different options, then finally settling on a choice that if/when it doesn't work out it's much, much more frustrating than the situation might have been otherwise. It sucks when 20-30 minutes of thinking is undone with one bad die roll. Or when you've played a 3+ hour game only to have it come down to one last mistake/bad set of dice for you/hot dice for your opponent. The build up of time translates to a build up of energy, so the eventual diffusion of that energy tends to match the outcome of the results - triumph for success, frustration/gamer rage for failure.

Deathclock alleviates a lot of that stress by not allowing you to ruminate like that. You have time to plan, and you can even afford to go "in the tank" at least one good time during the game (which I'd wager most players need to do on that crucial turn that always comes up,) but for the most part the time limit keeps you moving forward. It can and does lead to some screw ups and mis-plays (hell we played several rules wrong just due to time constraints,) and the final frenzy as the clocks wind down is intense, but I feel like it's overall much less stressful than having every turn feel like you invested tons of time in thought and planning just to have it go awry (or be undone by your opponent next turn.)

It also almost goes without saying that Deathclock helps tremendously to circumvent analysis paralysis. There are many times in Warmachine that you're faced with a set of choices, with no clear "best" course of action. Most often it's a choice of attacks - buy multiples or boost a few? attack this model or that model? - and without a really clear tiebreaker it can be really easy to ping pong between options and drive yourself crazy. Deathclock keeps you moving forward: run some quick math, and failing any revelations go with your gut. You can analyze it and agonize over it in the post-game, but you need to make a decision and act on it.

This game was one of the least stressful games I've played in forever, despite things going off the rails for me about halfway through the game and losing pretty soundly (if the clock hadn't gotten me, CPs would have shortly.) Part of that was absolutely my opponent; this particular gaming friend is extremely laid back and chill, which takes some of the stress out of the game. I feel like the other part was thanks to Deathclock: it got me out of my own head (where I can spend quite a bit of time) and more out on the table, making moves and decisions. Without the Deathclock, I think the game would have had the same conclusion, but it would have taken a helluva lot longer and I would have been way more frustrated by the end of it (due to building it all up in my head.)

I'm very much looking forward to playing more games with Deathclock. Partly for the improved game times, and also because it may prove to be an ultimately less stressful way of approaching the game. Plus I seriously need the practice if I'm going to try and play competitively.

This game also reinforced to me some thoughts about colossals, one of the most important being that you don't always need to kill them. Moreover, if your list isn't engineered to do it (as this list wasn't) then you can really screw yourself by trying to go for it, even if you happen to have crazy extreme good luck.

First things first: those two MHAs did way, way, way more damage than any sane estimate would have accounted for. I was hoping to ding the Earthbreaker up and put it on notice a little; I damn sure didn't expect to half kill the thing with two attacks. I absolutely wouldn't have killed it without that freak damage (even the first one did more than I was expecting,) and also ironically that freak damage steered me in what I think was the wrong direction in hindsight.

The Earthbreaker is absolutely a big scary beast that must be respected. However, it's also not that easy to kill: 60 damage boxes at ARM 20 is a good place to start, then add in Inhospitable Ground to neuter charges (first time I've faced it using Ret, and now I understand the pain) and it's going to take my whole list's effort to kill the damn thing under ideal circumstances.

Look back on the game: even with absolutely ideal circumstances (MHA dice are straight lava, Thor fails one Repair check,) it took me two turns of throwing absolutely everything I could manifest at the Earthbreaker to kill it. All of those attacks going into the Earthbreaker weren't attacks going at everything else in the army; as a result, after the Earthbreaker went down I was overwhelmed.

Worse, I was also mostly over extended. The Earthbreaker didn't make it too terribly far up the table - advancing and shooting, then it was hanging back to try and maximize IG to save it from Sentinel charges - so in order to keep attacks coming at it I had to push into my opponent's half of the table super hard. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it was in this case because it left the forces I committed in position to easy pickings after the Earthbreaker went down.

I feel like a better course of action would have been to keep a presence threatening the Earthbreaker (or as much as I could with it's awesome guns threatening me,) and then dump as much pressure as I could into the flag that didn't disappear. There wasn't a lot over there that could have stood up to a concentrated assault. Indeed, when I did get attacks on things over there they tended to die; I just didn't have a lot of attacks to push that way by the time I was making my move.

That's the biggest revelation I've had when fighting against colossals (between this game and recent Stormwall games): there are many times you probably won't be able to kill (or even seriously inconvenience) them, so you need to look at what else you can do. In scenarios that have decently spread out areas, you can shift your focus to pushing hard towards one scenario zone and trying to jam/threaten the colossal out of making it over there in time. Focus on scoring CPs and ending the game before the colossal runs the table. Not always doable, but when you can go for that it beats the hell out of tossing your models uselessly against the colossal in question.

I've kind of learned this lesson in other games, but this game reinforced that idea. I got distracted by doing so much spike damage to the Earthbreaker that I was distracted from my primary win condition. With this army I need to score CPs as fast as possible and win before too much attrition can set in, so I needed to take the side flag and start Dominating as quickly and safely as I could. Pounding on the Earthbreaker pulled a lot of resources away from being able to do that, and it definitely came back to bite me (I was unlikely to hold the center between the Earthbreaker and Alexia1.)

I also made a few very silly mistakes, but some of those can be attributed to Deathclock pressures (and why I need more practice.) I probably had one or two occasions where I could have scored a CP if I had remembered to get something next to a flag, and losing out on those CPs made it impossible for me to try and swing the game at the end with a quick Domination of the outside flag. Related, I should have had a model in base with the flags on Turn 2. I was worried about anything I put there taking damage, but with Kaelyssa's feat the damage would have been minimal. In return it would have forced more commitment from my opponent, which would have allowed me to better respond with force (instead of trying to reach out and coming up mostly short.)

One big error was me being cute: when I threw the TAC at Eiryss2. I completely brain farted and remembered only after committing to the attack that throw damage is based off of STR, which isn't too impressive for a light warjack. I'd have been much better off investing those 3 Focus into boosted attack rolls and a boosted damage somewhere against both models. That at least gives me a decent shot at killing both of them, which I desperately needed to do that turn in order to let Kaelyssa run over to the flag and score. Instead I goofed up and didn't get lucky (a spiked collateral damage roll could have saved me, but that's nothing to count on or hope for,) so I paid for my mistake with 0 CP that turn.

Another big error was just plain 'ol dumbness: the Manticore was out of my Control area for most of the game (and Kaelyssa has a pretty good Control area!) I sent it over towards the right flag initially to hedge my bets, but I moved it a bit too far in that direction. Then, when the right flag went away I didn't do the smart thing and pull the Manticore back to the center; I left it out on the right flag to durdle around with Alexia1. Which would have been okay - I had a few times where I could have put shots into her when her zombie pile was low - but Kaelyssa needed to start moving to the left flag, so I ended up with a warjack that did pretty much nothing all game when it didn't need to. It would have been tremendously more valuable putting down Covering Fire templates in key spots, picking off Steelheads, helping to hold the center, etc.

That's another reason why I need more Deathclock practice (and also why Deathclock is really interesting as a time format): when you're under more of a time impetus, it's easier to lose track of what your true goals are and what the best way to achieve them are. In my case, I got more wrapped up in killing stuff (Earthbreaker, Steelheads, zombies) than focusing on scenario, and it cost me in the end. Deathclock isn't just about being fast, it's also about not letting the pace distract you from the correct course of action.

This was another game where I learned a lot (another reason why I keep coming back to Warmachine.) It reinforced a lot of lessons I've picked up on in the past, taught me a lot about playing Deathclock games, and gave me some valuable experience playing against the Rhulic beast that is the Earthbreaker. So long as I can bring two MHAs, I should be fine against it every game, right?


Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment