Thursday, March 26, 2015

Directrix vs. Ossrum - All According To Plan?

It's been awhile since I've had a regular 'ol battle report to post up. Most of my games have been either in other systems (which I honestly should be writing up, at least for variety), tournament games (which are unwieldy to recap in full), or games that I just straight-up forgot to capture at all.

To reboot that battle reporting groove, I made sure to take pictures and mentally note down my most recent game: Iron Mother Directrix vs. General Ossrum. Join me after the break for a rundown of the game and my thoughts about Convergence after a whopping four games with the faction (two each with Syntherion and Directrix at this point).

My List:
Iron Mother Directrix & Exponent Servitors (*4pts)
   * Corollary (3pts)
   * Mitigator (4pts)
   * Assimilator (8pts)
   * Monitor (8pts)
   * Prime Axiom (19pts)
Transinfinite Emergence Projector & Permutation Servitors (9pts)
Optifex Directive (Leader and 2 Grunts) (2pts)
Accretion Servitors (1pts)

This is my second attempt at a Directrix list; the first was a fairly straightforward Carrier Group (theme) list. The biggest changes are adding in my recently acquired TEP to give the list more independent firepower, and sneaking in the Mitigator for some Quake and Puncture template action.

My Friend's List:
General Ossrum (*5pts)
   * Ghordson Earthbreaker (19pts)
Herne & Jonne (3pts)
Horgenhold Forge Guard (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
Lady Aiyana & Master Holt (4pts)
Steelhead Halberdiers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Gastone Crosse (3pts)
   * Vanguard (4pts)
Ragman (2pts)
Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord (2pts)
Taryn di la Rovissi (2pts)
Thor Steinhammer (2pts)

This is likewise my friend's first revision of his Ossrum list. The previous version tried to put the Hammerfall High Shields to good use, and while he found that they weren't as terrible as originally feared, they also didn't really pull significant weight. Shifting those points to Steelhead Halberdiers for more melee presence (and Earthbreaker screening) seemed like a very solid change (especially since it allows room for other options to make it into the list).

Scenario: SR2015 Outflank

Ossrum won the roll off and opted for second turn. It's worth noting that the Prime Axiom isn't fixed to it's base, so it'll often be represented by just it's "flying stand" for most of the game (due to terrain and model positioning complications).

Round 1:
The usual "set up and run" turn for both armies. Directrix gets out Tactical Supremacy on her unit, while Ossrum gets out Snipe on the Earthbreaker and Fire for Effect on Herne & Jonne. The Prime Axiom launches a Reflex Servitor, which runs wide.

Round 2:
Start of Round 2
Directrix Turn 2:
Directrix upkeeps Tactical Supremacy, allocates three Focus to the Prime Axiom, one Focus to the Monitor, and keeps the rest.

Directrix starts off the turn by charge/running one of her Exponent Servitors up to the Earthbreaker, then successfully casting Backlash onto it. The Corollary gains a Focus from Accumulator, then immediately passes that Focus to the Monitor.

The Prime Axiom and Monitor both shoot into the Earthbreaker, doing mild damage to it and putting two points of damage onto Ossrum. The Prime Axiom launches another Reflex Servitor, which again runs to the left zone.

Everything else advances to contest zones. End of turn, Directrix and her servitors reposition to hide her behind the forest.

Ossrum Turn 2:
Ossrum upkeeps both spells and allocates three Focus to the Earthbreaker. Crosse gives three Focus to the Vanguard.

Thor tunes up the Earthbreaker, which then advances and pumps shots into the Monitor. Herne & Jonne also put boosted damage into the Monitor using FFE shots. The Monitor survives, heavily damaged and in rough terrain.

The Vanguard charges the Mitigator, making distance but unfortunately whiffing a few attacks, doing little damage.

Holt shoots the nearby Exponent Servitor while Aiyana gives them both Stealth. Everything else runs to contest zones and threaten charges.

Round 3:
Start of Round 3
Directrix Turn 3:
Directrix upkeeps Backlash and Tactical Supremacy and allocates three Focus to the Assimilator. She also puts out another Exponent Servitor.

The Corollary gains a Focus from Accumulator, advances and allocates three Focus to the Prime Axiom, and inducts one Focus to the Monitor.

Directrix and her unit activate and one of the Exponent Servitors sticks Imperil on the Earthbreaker. One of the Accretion Servitors patches up the right arm on the Monitor.

After that, everything that can piles onto the Earthbreaker until it is scrapped. The full list: Prime Axiom charging, double-boosted Monitor shot (no critical), boosted Assimilator shot, and one of the TEP's shots. That set of attacks also puts another six damage onto Ossrum.

The TEP's servitor configuration this turn was one in each firing arc, giving it Autofire[3] with 3d6 to hit and 3d6 to damage. It's turn of shooting killed, in addition to the Earthbreaker, five Steelheads, and Holt.

The Mitigator managed to bash one of the Steelheads to death, while the Reflex Servitors ran to try and block Forge Guard charges.

Ossrum Turn 3:
Ossrum upkeeps FFE and keeps the rest of his Focus. Aiyana leads off the turn by Harming the Prime Axiom, then Ossram pops his feat and charges it. Despite several criticals, the Prime Axiom is mostly undamaged.

Herne & Jonne shell the Optifex Diretive off the table while Ragman, Taryn, and the Forge Guard work together to clear out the left zone and control it. The Vanguard and remaining Steelheads pile onto the TEP, destroying it.

End of turn, Ossrum scores 1 CP for controlling the left zone.

CP: Directrix 0 - Ossrum 1

Round 4:
Start of Round 4
Directrix Turn 4:
Directrix allocates three Focus to the Prime Axiom, pops her feat to give it MAT 8, and the Prime Axiom kills Ossrum with the first attack (due to the previous Backlash damage).

Result: Directrix wins via assassination!

Post-Game Thoughts:
I'm not sure why my friend charged Ossrum into Prime Axiom. My guess is that things were looking kind of bleak for him at the start of his turn, so he figured why not YOLO and get the game over with in style? Or maybe it was March Madness. Regardless, he ended up making one helluva push back that turn. If he had kept Ossrum back, we probably would have had a nasty fight on our hands.

Things That Went Well:
Backlash on the Earthbreaker ended up being very helpful. I've never had access to that spell (or any analogous effects), so I didn't really appreciate the quality sandpapering effect it has on the game. You're not likely to kill the opposing 'caster outright with it (though you could have one helluva go at it with Directrix's theme force) but putting a chunk of damage onto the enemy 'caster opens up a lot of assassination possibilities that might not have been feasible otherwise.

As an example: if Ossrum doesn't commit to attacking the Prime Axiom, he still has to deal with the fact that the Prime Axiom is sitting pretty much in front of him, with 13" (with Fire Group) range Tow Cables and RAT 8 still available. Failing that, 15" (again with Fire Group) range Accelespiker shots just might do that job. Failing that, Directrix may be able to seal the deal herself with some arc'd Shrapnel Swarms.

It's an interesting interaction that is pretty fun to leverage (especially coming from Khador, which is low on such shenanigans).

Charging the Earthbreaker was also a big boon. I was planning on hanging back and continuing to dump shots into it (for more general damage, as well as Backlash onto Ossrum), but I wasn't going to pass up on the chance to try and kill it. The easiest way for this game to end was the Earthbreaker getting LOS to Directrix, then railing her to death after high-fiveing Thor.

This is my second game with Directrix, and the first game I learned an important lesson: keep her Exponent Servitors in front of her (for reasons I'll get into later). I remembered it this game and it paid off by allowing me to easily get Backlash onto the Earthbreaker. I also discovered that Directrix has an amazing CMD of 10, so it's actually not too difficult to run a Servitor out like that and still keep it in formation (though your opponent is very likely to just pick it off next round).

Things That Did Not Go Well:
I'm still pretty bad at positioning models in my Convergence battlegroups.

In Khador, you're almost always dealing with one or two warjacks. The juggling act is usually trying to make sure your warjacks and infantry aren't tripping over each other (especially if you're using a colossal), with the emphasis on keeping the infantry moving effectively.

In my time with Legion, the battlegroup could afford to move freely, so long as it stayed in control range. Between the flexibility of the Fury mechanic and the astounding Fury management available in Legion, the battlegroups felt incredibly flexible and fluid.

Convergence battlegroups feel like a mid-step between the two battlegroup experiences. The induction mechanic (and Corollary) afford the vectors more Focus than Warmachine battlegroups are used to. If you're not making good use of those mechanics you're not any better off than most Warmachine factions are when trying to run warjacks. Sometimes that can't be helped (sending the one Assimilator out onto the left was necessary to put something durable over there), but I'm having moments where I'm moving the battlegroup like a Legion army, only to realize next turn that I f'ed up my ability to induct Focus around, which in turn makes those activations less efficient than they should be.

It's a learning process. I'm only four or so games in with the faction, so I don't expect to have it down pat anytime soon. I just thought it was interesting to note how Convergence plays, compared to the other two factions I have the most experience with.

Key Mistakes/Things To Do Differently:
The fun part about learning to play something new: picking apart the many, many things you did wrong! In no particular order:

 - I have zero clue as to why I was pumping out Reflex Servitors with the Prime Axiom. I knew that I was going to use the free servitors to reinforce the left flank, and the Reflex Servitors were not going to accomplish a lot against the Forge Guard. Elimination Servitors would have been way more effective (Forge Guard are pretty much the ideal targets for them) and at least helped me thin them out.

 - Speaking of pumping out Reflex Servitors: I completely forgot to use Launch Servitor on the turn the Prime Axiom charged the Earthbreaker. That could have either been another point of damage onto the Earthbreaker (and thus Ossrum), or another possible dead Forge Guard (assuming I don't derp early game and make Reflex Servitors from turn one). I can see Launch Servitor being an easy rule to forget while learning this army, so I need to be more mindful to not move past the Prime Axiom's activation until I've used it.

 - I also made a big mistake with the Reflex Servitors on the turn the Forge Guard moved into the left zone. I was debating whether or not to charge them in and at least try to kill two with direct hits (and maybe another one with an extremely lucky blast damage roll). I instead opted to run the Reflex Servitors in to try and gum up activations a bit. This failed for two reasons: 1) Taryn has Black Penny, which I did remember, and 2) the Forge Guard have Ranked Attacks, which I did not remember. I though that Taryn would at least have to move around to get LOS, but she was able to easily aim and pick both of the Reflex Servitors off. Charging in would have been way more productive; two dead Forge Guard (though not guaranteed) are at least not attacking me next turn.

 - The Earthbreaker ended up draining a lot of resources on the turn I committed to taking it down. Part of that is the inherent durability of colossals, but another important factor is that I flat out forgot Directrix's gun! She easily could have gotten a boosted damage shot off on it before the Prime Axiom charged in, and with Imperil in place it would have been an effective POW 17 hit. That extra damage easily could have saved me from having to commit the Assimilator (which I really wanted to use to try and thin out the Forge Guard) and the TEP (which I wanted to use to erase the infantry in the right zone). Forgetting Directrix's shot was a mistake that cascaded into leaving far too many things alive to retaliate next turn.

 - I need to be more mindful of how versatile the Optifex Directive are. I'm used to a unit of mechaniks being, well, just a unit of mechaniks. The Optifex Directive are usually your primary source of Repair, but they are also an on-tap source of Pathfinder and Magical Weapons. I don't think it really would have worked out this game - Crater puts enough difficult terrain around a vector that if the Optifex is close enough to walk up and hand out Pathfinder, it's probably close enough to get shot - but the Monitor being in charge range (with a functional weapon arm and induction node no less!) yet having no Pathfinder available was a good example of why I need to be more mindful of where I position the Optifex each turn.

 - Although I was happy that I remembered to keep Exponent Servitors in front of Directrix for charge/run and arc'ing shenanigans, I still feel like I misplaced her servitors in other turns. I would have loved to get an Imperil on the Forge Guard (to make the Assimilator's Ground Pounder a little more effective) the turn I was going to send in the Prime Axiom, but I couldn't get an Exponent Servitor into position without blocking the Prime Axiom's charge lane. Better positioning of the Exponent Servitors earlier could have helped make that happen (along with Fire Group; that's another Directrix error on my part).

Noteworthy Model Thoughts:
The Prime Axiom is great. This is my second game with the model, and the first one I've had a chance to write up thoughts about, but it's very clear that Prime Axiom is a very well designed colossal. Out of all the colossals, I think it's probably at my favorite spot on the power curve: very strong and effective if you design your list to include it, but at the same time it doesn't overshadow other warjack choices.

Part of that is the inherent rules of vectors - basing their MAT and RAT off the 'caster does a lot to shake up which vectors are good with each - and part of it is the design of the model itself. The Prime Axiom makes a fantastic anchor, with it's Tow Cables, Sustained Attack fists, Servitor generation, and light arms fire from the Accelespiker. But it also doesn't have quite enough output (or output in the right ways) to carry the game all by itself (compared to a Stormwall, or more clearly Galleon/Earthbreaker). So it ends up being a very strong colossal that still needs support and holistic list design to really shine.

And the model is extremely cool. Turning the drill claw into a drill hand was a big pain in the ass, but the result was worth it.

Directrix is a very interesting warcaster. I can definitely understand some of the sentiments I've read about her. She has some very powerful effects - Backlash, Imperil, Fire Group, Domination, Shrapnel Swarm - but many of those are situational/dependent on your opponent's list. Against a Hordes army, for example, she's not bringing much more than Fire Group, Imperil, and spot Shrapnel Swarms. Domination will likewise be a dead spell in many Warmachine match ups, though it's better to have it than not.

She's also not as good at sweeping infantry as you'd initially expect. A big part of it is that many of Convergence's anti-infantry measures are based on AOEs. 4" AOEs, thankfully, but still AOEs, and those can be tricky to stick on multiple enemy models. Assimilators help with Ground Pounder (a fantastic and fun attack to use), but that ends up being offset by RAT 5 (8 on the feat turn, but that's only one turn) or Flares (which can be difficult to project outward if you're going for longer range attacks).

All that said, I do still think she can be very effective, and fun. She's a very compelling place for a Prime Axiom (if for no other reason than Fire Group for 13" Tow Cable threats), and many Convergence vectors are boasting guns so she has a lot of options available to her. The upcoming colossal - the Prime Conflux - also seems like it could have some real potential with her, depending on the guns it brings.

One model that I think helps her out, oddly enough, is the Transfinite Emergence Projector. I initially hadn't considered it as I felt like Directrix's battlegroup was going to be handling all of the anti-infantry necessary. My first game with Directrix disabused me of that notion pretty quickly - it's probably doable without a Prime Axiom, but with those 19 points already spoken for there isn't that much room left for a sufficient volume of anti-infantry attacks. Couple that with the AOE issue mentioned earlier, and I found myself quickly overwhelmed by the first infantry based army I fought.

The TEP brings a few very important things to any Convergence list:

1) Non-AOE, non-line based anti-infantry attacks. Sprays are very powerful anti-infantry tools, and SP10 is as good as you can get with that type of weapon.

2) Unmatched flexibility. The Firing Formulae rule allows the TEP to threaten almost any kind of model, and it can easily adjust that output turn by turn (thanks to how the Permutation Servitors regenerate).

3) High durability vs. ranged attacks. Your opponent is going to want to get rid of the TEP as fast as possible, and preferably from as far away as possible. However, that's going to be hard for most armies to do when it has three Sacrifical Pawn targets that it generates for itself every turn.

4) Battlegroup independence. The TEP costs as much as the (currently) most expensive vector, and it doesn't bring along the melee components that any of them do. What makes it still very much worth considering is that it can do whatever you need it to in most match ups (barring dealing with especially heavy ARM) without taxing your warcaster at all. That frees up a considerable amount of mental and in-game resources that can be used to better manage your battlegroup.

Even after just one game with the TEP, I'm totally sold on its efficacy. It may not have seemed like it did a lot this game, but it was in a prime position to erase all of the Steelheads and Aiyana & Holt. If I hadn't had to commit one of it's shots to finish off the Earthbreaker, it would have put me in an extremely good position on that right flank. What is exciting about the TEP is that it doesn't really matter what infantry it's up against - with the right allocation of servitors, it can handle almost anything. Contrast that with how difficult it can be to handle masses of infantry with vectors, which are almost all relying on templates to do the job (or lines in the case of the Modulator).

List Changes/Tweaks:
With the way Convergence works, there are a million things I could do to tweak this list. Change around the vector load out, swap the TEP for something else, move in or out of theme, etc.

For now, though, I'll probably keep the list as-is and try to put it through the paces more. There are a few things I'm "stuck" on:

1) I can't imagine running Directrix without the Prime Axiom. It's a big, expensive model to fill up her battlegroup with, but I think she does some nice stuff for it. Much more importantly, I think it does some very nice stuff for her: it guarantees her list will have at least one shooting element that your opponent has to respect (RNG 13, RAT 8 Tow Cables are a concern) and it gives her a model with strong melee that also mitigates her poor MAT.

2) I think I'm going to stay out of the theme list. I started out with a theme list for Directrix, and while I think it's a perfectly usable, fine list, I don't love the lists you end up making as a result. Servitors are neat little models to have access to, but sometimes those points can be better allocated elsewhere (especially considering their low DEF/ARM). Plus, the reward for running her theme list is essentially "more servitors, AD servitors, and free servitors". For right now, I prefer the flexibility of running a normal list.

3) I'm sticking with the TEP in her list. It's a little odd, in that I want to focus on Directrix's battlegroup shooting, but I'm having a hard time coming up with any allocation of 9 points that is going to do as much work as the TEP, as well as give me something independent that can handle a flank on it's own if needs be. Truth be told, I can see the TEP showing up in a lot of lists, but I like it with Directrix especially because it's (in theory) supposed to be my list that deals more effectively with infantry.

For those reasons (and the fact that I'm still figuring the faction out as a whole) I don't anticipate many changes with this list in the near future. Though I will be keeping a close eye on how the Prime Conflux turns out.

Closing Thoughts:
Playing Convergence has been extremely fun, and it's been just the kind of different experience I was hoping for. In addition, they have a lot of design mechanics that I didn't really appreciate until I actually put the army on the table myself.

I'm not sure how many more Convergence games I'll be getting in the coming weeks. I'm definitely sticking with the faction long term - it's my next big painting project after I finish off my mercenary work - but it's very, very hard to resist the call of Khador right now. Reckoning seems like its going to visit another round of fantastic releases onto the faction, which is of course very exciting. I'm also pumped to continue practicing and improving my play skill with the two lists I've been taking to tournaments, in the hopes that I can keep up my competitive momentum (and maybe even sneak onto the podium one of these months).

So, while I'm not sure if there will be many more robot-themed battle reports in the near future, rest assured more will come eventually. I just may need a quick trip back to the frozen, butchery north in the interim.

As always, thanks very much for reading!

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