Monday, April 30, 2012

List Building Part 1: Team Building

Way, way back when Warhammer Fantasy 6th edition was just starting up, I stumbled upon a tactics website for Wood Elves (my army) called Macharia's Battle Glade.  There, I ran into some advice that's helped me out in all my army lists and all my games since: When including a unit in your army, think about what jobs it will be doing, and what other units it will be teaming up with.

Seems a little obvious, put that way, but it can be deceptively easy to lose track of.  In Warmachine/Hordes, for example, I'll sometimes get distracted by mechanical synergy.  I'll build a list with lots of synergy, but no teamwork, and like the villains in a Saturday morning cartoon,* I'll lose.  When I'm not distracted, thinking about Team Building is an integral part of building lists that work well, have tactical as well as mechanical synergy, and fight according to a battle plan.

One of the nice things about Warmachine/Hordes is that lists, even within the same faction, can work in completely different ways.  I'm going to outline the team-building process with the 25pt list I'll be using in the escalation league this coming month.  A lot of the jobs and concerns I mention will be common to most armies.  Some will be distinctly Skorne, or even distinctly pMorghoul. The list I'll be running is:

Master Tormentor Morghoul (+7)
-Titan Cannoneer (9)       4 Paingiver Beast Handlers (2)
-Titan Gladiator    (8)       Agonizer (2)
-Cyclops Savage   (5)       Extoller Soulward (2)
-Basilisk Krea       (4)

So what are the jobs I want to be able to accomplish?
- Kill Heavies
- Eliminate Solos and Support
- Clear Infantry
- Bait Charges and Counterattack
- Engage and Hold enemies
- Alpha Strike**
- Capture and Contest Objectives (though we're just playing Kill Box in the league)
- Assassinate

Here's a model by model analysis of what everyone can do, starting with the combat models, then moving on to support, and finally my Warlock.  It'll seem like everyone does everything at first, but I'll try to sort out the various teams in a second look.

-Titan Cannoneer: Kill Heavies, Eliminate Solos and Support, Clear Infantry, Bait Charges and Counterattack, Capture and Contest Objectives, Assassinate.

-Titan Gladiator: Kill Heavies, Alpha Strike, Bait Charges and Counterattack, Clear Infantry (by slamming), Capture and Contest Objectives, Assassinate.

-Cyclops Savage: Eliminate Solos and Support, Clear Infantry, Alpha Strike, Engage and Hold Enemies, Capture and Contest Objectives, Assassinate.

-Basilisk Krea: Engage and Hold Enemies, Capture and Contest Objectives. (Support): Bait Charges and Counterattack, Eliminate Solos and Support, Assassinate.

-Paingiver Beast Handlers: Engage and Hold Enemies, Capture and Contest Objectives. (Support): Eliminate Solos and Support, Alpha Strike, Bait Charges and Counterattack, Assassinate.

-Agonizer: Capture and Contest Objectives. (Support): Alpha Strike (against Warmachine), Bait Charges and Counterattack (against Hordes).

-Extoller Soulward: Capture and Contest Objectives. (Support): Alpha Strike, Eliminate Solos and Support, Assassinate.

Master Tormentor Morghoul
Clear Infantry, Assassinate
(Support): Alpha Strike, Assassinate, Bait Charges and Counterattack, Kill Heavies, Engage and Hold Enemies
Now I have to split my models up into teams.  I want a list that's equally adept at baiting the enemy and charging in to smash them.

For this list, I'll be baiting charges with the Titan Cannoneer.  She's a bit more durable than the Gladiator with Diminish up, a little more expendable than the Gladiator for the end game, and can still benefit from Admonition.  Most of all, however, she can draw opponents in with her cannon.  She can keep picking off support models, and damaging warjacks/beasts while I set up good charges.  Most opponents won't be able to afford to let me do that.  If Candes is the Bait, the Gladys gets to be the Counterattack.  A Gladiator will wreck most heavies without too much trouble, and Gladys has the additional option of slamming and following up if that works best.  Gladys also supports Candes with Rush, giving her some extra movement, and the ability to hang out in rough terrain.  This is the core of Team 1.  The Extoller is there too, because Eyeless Sight make Candes' gun vastly more threatening to a lot of targets, and because it combos well with Rush, giving either Titan the option to charge unhindered through forests.  Team 1 can deal with a wide variety of threats, and is my army's strategic heart.  It will do the heavy lifting against enemy Beasts, Jacks and support models.  The biggest assassination threat will also come from Team one.

Since Team 1 is so important, I don't want it getting gummed up.  This is where the Cyclops Savage (Adam) comes in.  Adam is Team 2.  Team 2's job will be to run interference.  If there are some infantry who look like they'll tie up Candes and Gladys, I'll charge them with the Savage to hold them up.  If a ranged unit is in a position to outshoot me, I'll run Adam over to tie them down with his 20" engagement range.  Lobbing a Savage down the enemy's throat won't just let me advance unimpeded.  It will also let me set up an effective alpha strike.  Even if Adam only lasts a single round, it will often be enoungh for Team 1 to get into an optimal charge position.  A Cyclops Savage also has the speed and accuracy to end games if the enemy leaves their caster open.  A 15" threat range, charging for free at P+S 17 with Future Sight is a force to be reckoned with.

Team 3 is Warbeast Support, and consist of Morghoul and the Painivers.  The Paingivers get to manage Fury, heal, and when the time comes, Enrage my beasts.  They'll focus on Team 1, which contains most of my fighting strength, but Team 2 will also be supported in the early turns.  Morghoul will focus on handing out Abuse, Rush, and when it's needed, Admonition.  It'll also be their job (ok, mostly Morghoul's) to help kill off any infantry that does happen jam Team 1.  Finally, Morghoul gets to help me Alpha Strike and Bait Charges with his feat.  Denying the ability to spend focus or be forced will greatly reduce damage from either an enemy alpha strike or counterattack, and will keep Team 1 safe while it works.

Now we get to the Krea and the Agonizer.  Both of these models will switch Teams 1 and 2 depending on what my opponent is capable of.  Against serious shooting, I'll want Kreanardo with Team 1, increasing their resistance to ranged damage.  If there isn't much enemy shooting, she'll play foreward and to the side with Team 2, blocking enemy infantry and debuffing Def for the Cyclops.  In either team, she can use Spiritual Paralysis on a Warbeast to stop it from running/charging, and to make it easier for my other beasts to hit.  The Agonizer goes in Team 1 against Hordes opponents, where its Gnawing Pain Agony will keep Candes and Gladys safe from enemy warbeasts.  Against Warmachine opponents, the Agonizer joins Team 2.  It will run up early and put a stun on enemy Warjacks by denying them focus allocation on the turn before I charge in.

So to recap, here are my teams and their jobs.

Team 1:  Titan Cannoneer, Titan Gladiator, Extoller Soulward
Jobs:  Kill Heavies, Eliminate Solos and Support, Bait Charges (Cannoneer) and Counterattack (Gladiator), Alpha Strike, Assassinate,  Capture and Contest Objectives.

Team 2:  Cyclops Savage
Jobs:  Engage and Hold Enemies, Eliminate Solos and Support, Clear Infantry, Alpha Strike, Assassinate, Capture and Contest Objectives.

Team 3:  Master Tormentor Morghoul, Paingiver Beast Handlers
Jobs:  Support Team 1, Support Team 2, Enable Alpha Strike.

The Basilisk Krea and Agonizer will support Teams 1 or 2 as circumstances require.

Team Building is a good way to organize list building according to a battle plan.  My plan for this list grew out of my thoughts on Team 1, my offensive and Defensive powerhouse.  It is this:

My Cannoneer will stay in front, with Admonition up if necessary.  She'll have full use of her gun, while the rest of my army will be somewhat behind her.  Early on, she'll focus on removing any support or flanking models which might give me trouble.  In the mid-game, she'll bait charges, backed up by the Gladiator.  I want my opponents to either charge in and fail, or back up and be charged.  The Savage will block or attack anything causing trouble for Team 1.  The idea is to set up a full-effect charge from my Titans with little to no effective reprisal, then mop up any remaining threats on my next turn.  The Krea and Agonizer add durability, and Morgsy and the Paingivers add speed and hitting power.

*The Skorne are like the villains in a Saturday morning cartoon in a lot of other ways, too.  They hurt baby animals, and they look like Hordak from She-Ra.
**Alpha Strike is in pretty common usage on the PP forums to mean getting the first charge in on the enemy, and doing significant damage.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Battle Precis - 3 Little Fights

Well, I just got back from Tower, and I'm going to keep updates pretty short and frequent until I get used to updating consistently. So here are quick versions of the fights I had. There will be a little more discussion in the comments, too.

Fight 1 (15pts): pBaldur (Caleb) vs pMorghoul (pGrexy)

Morghoul was using: Titan Gladiator, Titan Cannoneer, Cyclops Savage.

Baldur was using: Megalith, Woldwyrd, 5 Woldstalkers and Guest.

I went second. Caleb advanced quickly up a flank, leading with the Woldwyrd, with Megalith and Baldur in support. The Woldstalkers stayed toward the middle. I also advanced pretty quickly, keeping my beasts in a loose formation around Morghoul. On turn 2, Caleb focused fire on my Cannoneer, mostly killing it, and popped Baldur's feat. I replied by killing his Woldwyrd with my Cyclops Savage, who made it into combat thanks to copious movement bonuses.

Megalith killed the Savage, but was killed in turn by my Titan Gladiator. After that, Baldur was out of beasts, and staring down a full health Gladys. Caleb went for an epic long-shot assassination that didn't quite pan out.

Fight 2 (15pts): pMorghoul (pGrexy) vs Reznik

I was using the same list. Reznik was using: 2 Reckoners, 2 Vassals of Menoth, 4 Chorists (choir), Vassal Mechanic.

I went second again. Reznik and his posse advanced up to a low wall. I ran forward quickly to get to grips. Those Reckoners half killed my Cannoneer, and set her on fire too. I responded by repositioning for a flank attack on his support models, and mashed a Reckoner up with a Slam follow up from Gladys. I foolishly left Morghoul in charge range of a Reckoner, though, and Reznik feated, clearing off my Fury. The Reckoner, which had Iron Aggression on it, charged and 1-shot Morghoul. :(

Fight 3 (25pts): pMorghoul (pGrexy) vs pBaldur (Caleb)

Morghoul used: Titan Cannoneer, Titan Gladiator, Cyclops Savage, Basilisk Krea 4 Paingiver Beast Handlers, Agonizer, Extoller Soulward.

Baldur used: Megalith, Woldwyrd, Woldwatcher 5 Woldstalkers and Guest, Shifting Stones + Stone Keeper, Blackclad Wayfarer.

Caleb had no real answer to my heavy beasts besides Megalith, and the matchup was harshened still more by the Basilisk Krea's aura. We called the game on turn two rather than watch the next few turns unfold.

Tekmology and Escalating the List

Well, I'm not going to let some tech issues prevent me from posting from my phone. From now on, if I post a single blob of text from my phone, I'll write "[stop]" where I want paragraphs to end. Whenever this happens, Caleb, you have my permission to edit by hitting enter. You can delete "[stop]" or not, depending on how much you want my post to sound like an old-timey telegraph message. [Stop]
On to my escalation of the PMorghoul list I talked about yesterday. I have the additions for 25pts and 35pts al planned out. For 25pts, I'll be adding 10 points of support: Min Paingivers are a must for Fury management, plus they'll be easy to finish painting. The Agonizer is a truly great model against most opponents, plus the little guy is pretty cute. My last 6 points are going into an Extoller Soulward and a Basilisk Krea. The Soulward is mostly there for granting Eyeless Sight and Magic Weapon, but will probably collect some souls over the course of the battle. The Krea is there to toughen my list up a bit against ranged attacks, to help reduce enemy Def when I need her to, and because she's mostly painted already. If I start having big infantry problems, I might switch to a Drake, but I think that Morgsy, Adam and Candes han hold down the anti-infantry front. Here's the list. [Stop]
Master Tormentor Morghoul (+7)
*Titan Cannoneer (9)
*Titan Gladiator (8)
*Cyclops Savage (5)
*Basilisk Krea (4)
4 Paingiver Beast Handlers (2)
Extoller Soulward (2)
Agonizer (2) [Stop]
At 35pts, I'll be going back to basics with a Bronzeback Titan, which will take me there on his own. The Bronzeback is a very powerful beast who adds a lot to the army in terms of both maneuvering tricks (Counter Charge, Hyper Aggressive, and most of all, the Train Wreck animus) and in sheer killing power. What I'm looking forward to most is the tag team of Admonitioned Cannoneer and Counter Charging Bronzeback. That'll definitely make people think twice about attacking Candes. [Stop]
I'll have to get a few more games in with the list at 35 before I can really decide what to add at 50. Right now I'm thinking a Basilisk Drake to go with the Krea, and something else. Maybe max Venator Rievers + UA. Maybe a Titan Sentry and a 2nd unit of Paingivers. I'll know once I decide what the 35pt list needs. [Stop]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Escalation League List and First Impressions

As Caleb Mentioned, there's an escalation league going on at our local store. Here's the list I'm using, and my thoughts on my first few games with it.

 Master Tormentor Morghoul (+7)
*Titan Cannoneer - Candes (9)
*Titan Gladiator - Gladys (8)
*Cyclops Savage - Adam (5)

So it's all battlegroup, and no Paingiver Beast Handlers. There are a couple of things I'm trying out with pMorgs this time around. First, I've replaced my customary Cyclops Brute with a Savage. For one thing, my Savage doesn't get nearly enough playtime. For another, there are a bunch of newer players in the league, and I want them to see how good knockdown assassinations are from the winning side if they pull it off.

 The second thing I'm trying out with Morghoul is the Titan Cannoneer. I've always seen her as a little sub-optimal for pMorghoul due to her low Mat (Morghoul has no accuracy buff). I'm 3/1/1 so far. Predictably, the lack of Paingivers is a big limitation, and I don't miss Enrage nearly as much as I do Condition. Controlling 3 beasts with just 5 Fury is pretty rough on Morghoul, and I'm taking a bunch of Threshold checks in the mid-game, when my beasts start getting stuck in. It especially hurts with the Cannoneer. I'm used to taking a fully boosted shot, using her animus (Diminish), then reducing her Fury to a manageable level with Paingivers, and I can't do that here. If the Cannoneer is going to be operating on all cylinders, my other beasts need to be somewhere that a frenzy won't hurt them too much.

 Despite that limitation, the Cannoneer has worked out surprisingly well. Stacking Abuse and Rush on her gives her a 20" threat range with her cannon, and keeping Admonition on her lets me bait charges pretty safely. The speed Morghoul can put on either the Savage or the Gladiator makes backing her up pretty easy, and means I can charge most targets who wander into Candes' threat range. I'm having a lot of fun with the list so far. More on my planned progression in the next post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

News! Plus 15pt Escalation League lists


So, anyone who reads this may have noticed that the address/title changed -- instead of "Sticks, Stones, and Warpwolf Bones: Tactics for a Circle Orboros Army", it is now 'Tormented Equilibrium: a Warmachine/Hordes blog'.  The reason for this, you ask?  Why, my good friend (and regular opponent) pGrexy (or Tyrant Grexeris, in the posts below) is going to join me as co-author of the blog!

Plan on more regular posts in the future, and the added perspectives of a very good Skorne player in addition to Circle Orboros content. Between the two of us, we're hoping to have updates at least once or twice a week, and more posts on tactics and battle reports.

So, next bit - our FLGS, Tower Games (owned by the lovely people over at Focus and Fury) started up a Warmachine/Hordes Escalation league this month, and we're in the swing of it right now. The league has an interesting "win" condition -- you get 3 points for playing a game, 1 for winning, and 1 for having a fully painted army.  At the end of the league, for every 5 points in your record, you get one ticket entered into the raffle for a brand spanking new Battle Engine of your choice. 

For the 15pt level, I've started with pBaldur, and have a Win-Loss-Draw record of 7-3-1 (not bad). We go up to 25pts in May, so I'm preparing for that and getting all my lists in a row.  Here are some of the lists I've been using, plus a rough breakdown of how they've done.

Circle Orboros 15pts
Baldur the Stonecleaver (*6pts)
* Megalith (11pts)
* Woldwatcher (5pts)
* Woldwyrd (5pts)

I started out with this list, and boy did I come out swinging. The Woldwatcher is not generally considered a great light beast, but between the ability to charge for free and his Stone Form ability, he proved to be a surprisingly tenacious little bugger that can tie enemy models up in combat very well until Megalith or Baldur can get around to killing them. However, despite that he was still the weak point of this list, and having 3 beasts meant pBaldur had a hard time pulling all the fury, instead leaving the woldwatcher with 2 un-leeched fury for a turn or two every game.

Circle Orboros 15pts
Baldur the Stonecleaver (*6pts)
* Megalith (11pts) 
* Woldwyrd (5pts)
Stoneward and 5 Woldstalkers (5pts)

The added ranged support was immediately obvious, and having one less beast meant pBaldur had a much easier time keeping the other two empty every turn. The Stonekeeper's abilities allowed them a much wider range of target selection than I'd first thought, either ganging up on a heavy for surprisingly good damage, or taking down enemy infantry (Paingivers... hehehe) while still keeping juuuust out of reach of reprisals with Zephyr.

Circle Orboros 15pts
Baldur the Stonecleaver (*6pts)
* Megalith (11pts)
* Woldguardian (9pts)
Gallows Grove (1pts)

This list only saw a few games, and came about as a counter to a particularly beast-heavy pMorghoul list from Tyrant Grexeris, and my own interest in using a Woldguardian. Most view the Woldguardian as a lackluster beast - it's abilities are strong, with P+S 17 fists, ARM 20, Ram (auto-knockdown and followup), Girded, Steady, and the ability to transfer to it even when it's full on fury, however all of this is countered by SPD 4. Normally I don't think this would be an issue, however in such a small point game, without the benefit of the usual Circle movement shenanigans (Druids, Blackclad, Gnarlhorn, etc.) it was more noticeable than I expected.

The 25pt starts up next month, and in preparation I've been trying to find a 25pt Baldur list that I like -- unfortunately, to little success. More on that later.