Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blast from the past?


Played a 35 point steamroller tournament at X Planet in Mississauga on Saturday, and had a grand old time. Haven't played that much Warmachine in many a moon. Humor: I spent most of my free time last week agonizing over which of two lists to run, only to discover at my first game that I could take two lists. Must have missed that part in the tourney rules . . . ;) As a side note, I can't recommend the store enough. Clean, well stocked, with plenty of playing area, some of it at ground level in natural light. The store owner / operater is an enthusiastic gamer, and an extremely likeble guy.

I ran:

Wraithwitch (e)Deneghra
Full McThralls
Necrosugeon and Stich Thralls
Necrotech and Scrap thrall
Pistol Wraith
Machine Wraith

Played three games, against Vlad / Khador, Kromac / Circle, and Saeryn / Legion. I have pics, but sadly, none of my games were against painted opponents, so they're not the eye candy I hoped for. I will try to post a glam shot of my list by tonight.

The games brought home to me something I've been thinking about for a while now. Let me illustrate.

Game one, against Vlad, was three turns. Turn one, I moved up. Turn two, I moved up, and took out a couple of the Doom reavers sheltering Vlad. Turn three, I made eDennie incorporeal, slammed a McThrall into Vlad, charged with eDennie, teleporting Vlad into the waiting arms of Nightmare. Nom, nom, nom, I win.

Game two, against Kromac. Took much longer - we actually took up the whole time slot for the round. I gradually took out his beasts, except for one, then made an assasination run. Teleported Kromac to Nightmare when he had 2 Fury remaining. Nom, nom, urgh. Kromac was left with one health, and on his turn, switched to beast form, jumped back to eDennie, and took her out.

Game three, against Saeryn. By this time, I was getting tired, and sloppy. Another long game. I made TWO assasination runs, both against a full Fury Saeryn - stupid, I know, but I couldn't see any other option to win. Both failed, and I ended up losing by scenario, with the remmants of my army scattered, and my opponent concentrated in the scoring zone.

See any patterns? In all three games, I played aggressively for the assasination, with my usual tactics: don't worry about losses, all units are expendable as long as they create an assasination opportunity, it's ok to hang your warcaster out there as long as you take out the opposing warcaster that turn. I've played this way pretty much since beginning warmachine. The tactic generally works - against warmachine armies, except when it doesn't (as my many Gaspy vs Sevvie games against Kennoth of Menoth will testify). I played this way in part because I liked it - the aggressive, make or break style was part of what made Warmachin fun. I'm finding, however, that while it's fine for a Sunday afternoon game or two, the style of play doesn't work for competitive play. Here's why:

1. Bear in mind, this was a steamroller event. In the new format, there are three basic ways to win: by assasination, by scenario, or by army points destroyed (if neither player wins by the first two). What I found was that consistanly, while it was difficult to win by scenario, it was easy to lose. By this I mean that against an aware opponent, planning to win by scenario was almost impossible - preventing win conditions is easy. Failing to pay attention, however, and forgetting the scenario conditions, could very easily hand my opponent the game.

In my second game, I could have won. All I had to do was, rather than making the assasination run, pull back, and protext my army. I had taken out most of his warbests, including all of his heavies, for the cost of my McThralls. Instead, fixated on the assasination win, I took a needless risk, and ended up losing.

In my third game, I could have directed my energies to destroying his beast-heavy army. Instead, tired and losing concentration, I made a number of pointless assasination runs. While I might still have lost, I certainly would have had a better run.

2. Aggressive, do-or-die style play is TIRING. Not, say, as much as digging ditches, but the blunt fact is that by game three, I was off my game, and not thinking straight. In a recent post, I noted that I got in three large games of the new WFB 8th edition with no sense of fatigue - this is not the case for Warmachine, at least the way I play it. A play style that drains my emotional resources is not suited to multiple successive games, as it means my play gets increasingly sloppy as the day goes on.

3. Hordes. The introduction of the Fury mechanic, and the reality of mixed-environment play, means that having assasination as a core strategy is no longer viable. Assasination wins against Hordes are like scenario wins in steamroller - your opponent has to be not paying attention, and leave his warlock naked of Fury and exposed, in order to win. I've found that two fury, camped on a warlock, is generally enough to ruin an assasination run, unless dumb luck and the dice come to your rescue.

Taken together, these three factors suggest a need to rethink both my basic strategy and tactics - how I plan to win, and what I do in games to win. I need to retool from list design on up. Generally speaking, I favour lists with redundancy and disposable elements - cheap infantry like McThralls, more arc nodes than I need, multiple heavies, duplicate solos. This is so I can throw away units willy-nilly in the bid to open a hole to the assasination run - as I did in game one.

The problem is, this doesn't work against Hordes lists. Game three is a perfect illustration. I lost the game because I lost my army. I lost my army because I burned it up gaining access to a caster I wasn't likely to be able to kill. If I had concentrated on my opponent's army, and focussed on force preservation, I might have won.

Force preservation may be my new watchword. I need to learn to play in a way that lets me take out opposing units / jacks / beasts without exposing my own forces to retribution (or at least that lets me come out ahead in attrition). This, at first glance, might be a bit of a challenge for Cryx. We don't do durable. While there are obviously some Cryx units that are tougher than others, army-wide, we are outclassed by pretty much every other army in the game. I've finding that even those durability "tricks" we do have - Necrosurgeon regenerating McThralls, for eg., are ineffective. In every game I played, my opponents tagetted the stich thralls and necrosurgeon first, before they got to the McThralls themselves.

What Cryx does have is mobility and offensive power. Up until now, I've used this to create assasination opportunities. Now I need to learn to use it to hit while minimizing the risk of counter-damage.

I'm thinking of putting together a "training" list designed to learn this new approach. I remember back when I first started to play, for three or four weeks straight I went into games solely to learn how to use slams. Every game, I was less concerned with winning, than I was learning how to anticipate and position my 'jacks to set up and capitalise on the slam power attack. I'm good at slams now - see game one.

I need to put together a list that maks it difficult for me to put my caster at risk, and where I can't afford to throw away units. The Coven seem like a good pick here, as they're not much use near the action anyway (in fact, if they are anywhere near the fight, I've probably lost). In terms of a list, I'm thinking a combination of fast, relatively expensive units like satyxis and soulhunters, along with expensive and flexible 'jacks - the spider 'jacks, DJ, etc. With the Coven running an "elite" list, I will have to learn to be selective in how I engage targets, and work to preserve what I have.

I'll let you know how it turns out.


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