Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Attritioooooon, Attrition!

A lot of Warmachine/Hordes boils down to trying to destroy the opponent's most threatening models without losing your own.  Since both players are always trying it, however, many games work out as a series of trades which leave one player in control of the battle (the ones that don't usually end in an early-ish assassination).  In this post I go over how to trade effectively.  Generally, when I initiate a trade, I intentionally put one of my own pieces at risk, and hope that when I lose it, my counterattack will more than make up for the value of what I lost.  When I put a piece at risk like this, I'm generally thinking about 3 things:
1).  Make Them Work
Ideally, your trading pieces will be tough to remove, especially if you have to move into an area the opponent is threatening.  The ultimate example of this is Kayazi Assassins with Iron Flesh.  They're Def 17 base, Def 19 against melee attacks.  And oh yes, there are 11 of them.  Most armies have some similar attrition tricks which make a target model or unit very hard to remove.
Skorne have a lot of ways to make opponents work hard to remove our trade pieces.  What I've been doing lately with pMorghoul is throwing some combination of Admonition, Diminish, Gnawing Pain, and Paralytic Aura on my Titan Cannoneer depending on what I'm up against.  It takes a lot to power through that much defense.  I've lost my Cannoneer even protected by all those abilities, but it took a lot out of my opponent to get her.  Nearly every Skorne warlock has some spell or ability which makes the opponent work harder to destroy a specific target, and there are a lot of other models in the faction which help out as well.
2).  Make Them Worry
A prospective trading piece isn't very useful if it doesn't threaten the enemy.  If I've protected my Titan Cannoneer up to the eyeballs, my opponent doesn't have a whole lot of incentive to commit a bunch of resources to killing it.  I have to make the consequenses of leaving the Cannoneer alone worse than the consequenses of attacking it.  Make sure the model or unit you're putting in jeopardy isn't just expendable chaff.  It has to present a real threat in its own right, or the opponent will just try to outmaneuver it rather than commit to engaging it.
Fortunately, most models are useful enough in Warmachine/Hordes that they're all somewhat threatening.  As long as the unit you're using can project a credible threat against something within its threat range, it should work.  Most opponents would rather try to engage you on their own terms than wait for you to punish them for hesitating.
To continue with the example of the Titan Cannoneer, it projects some threat against almost everything within range of its gun, supported by the Extoller.  My opponents often have to close with it to prevent it from grinding down their armies, even though they know it's going to be tough, and they know it's well supported by the rest of my army.
3).  Make Them Suffer
Support your models well.  Before sacrificing a model to the enemy, make sure that whatever hits it is likely to be destroyed by the backup you have waiting right behind it.  This is where making your opponent work hard to take out that first piece pays off.  The more they commit to the unit you've left out for them, the more will be in range of your counterattack next turn.  The more of your opponent's army you can take out, the better prepared you'll be for their counterattack.
If there are any counterattackers who are especially well equipped to take out your remaining threats, go after them first.  If, for example, my opponent had killed off my Cannoneer with their only two heavies, I should try to take both of them out (assuming I have heavies left) before other targets, because then, my opponent's options against my surviving heavies will be very limited.
Skorne used to specialize in Making Them Suffer back in MkI with our so-called "Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't" playstyle.  In honor of the good old days, when Ancestral Guardians were bargain heavies, and Basilisk Kreas could do everything the best, I'll make an old school style list.  Here goes:
*Titan Gladiator (8)
*Titan Cannoneer (9)
*Basilisk Krea (4)
10 Praetorian Swordsmen (6)
*Officer and Standard (2)
6 Cataphract Cetrati (11)
Tyrant Commander and Standard (3)
4 Paingiver Beast Handlers (2)
Ancestral Guardian (3)
Ancestral Guardian (3)
Extoller Soulward (2)
Agonizer (2)
Backed up by the Agonizer and Krea, the Titans and Cetrati will be tough enough to make a lot of enemies work hard to finish them.  The Swordsmen will go down more easily, but there are a lot of them.
The main units I'll be putting up for trade with this army, the Swordsmen, the Cannoneer, and sometimes the Cetrati, are all threatening to their preferred targets.  The Swordsmen and Cetrati can also threaten to jam the opponent's battle lines, which can let other models access the enemy more easily.
So who is the Warlock, you ask?  Well, I'm going to switch it up among three old school warlocks who all do attrition well in different ways. 
PMakeda is fast, maneuverable, and a champion of making the enemy struggle to score meaningful kills between her feat and Defender's Ward.
Xerxis also makes the enemy work hard by toughening up his army with his feat, Defender's Ward, and Inhospitable Ground.  He also makes anything in the army hit like a truck with his Feat and Fury, which makes counterattacks devastating.
Finally, PHexeris adds a special kind of suffering to the Attrition game with Death March, his spectacular feat (against infantry anyway), and sometimes Psychic Vampire to bleed out spellcasters.  PHexy also adds extra threat to one of my beasts by channelling spells through his Soul Slave target.  I have an extra point in the Hexy list, which I'm tempted to leave open.  I may end up swapping out the Krea with a Cyclops of some kind.
So that's my Attrition list.  Some of you may recognize it from the Skorne Forums (or the tabletop if you're Caleb) as a list I ran back in January.  As I experiment around with Mordikaar and eHexeris, I'll be taking some time out to focus on this list, these three warlocks, and my Attrition game.  I'll write at least one full report on it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Casters, New Lists

I've had a blast focussing on pMorghoul for the slow-grow league so far.  In particular, I've been delighted at how well the Titan Cannoneer is doing.  However, it's time for a change of pace for me.  I'm thinking of picking up a new warlock, and learning the ropes all over again.  Right now, I'm thinking either eHexeris or Void Seer Mordikaar.  Here are the lists I'm considering.

Lord Arbiter Hexeris (+6)
*Bronzeback Titan (10)
*Titan Sentry (9) (bonded)
*Titan Gladiator (8)
*Cyclops Savage (5)

6 Venator Rievers (5)
*Officer and Standard (2)

4 Paingiver Beast Handlers (2)

A tough list with a lot of beasts, and some very cool synergies.  I'm looking forward to using Black Spot in conjunction with Train Wreck and CRA.  I may decide I'd rather have the Cannoneer than the Sentry, but I'd like more experience with the Sentry, and I feel like I have enough ranged support in the list between the Venators and eHexy's spells.  Other swap-out options include an Agonizer or Extoller for the Venator UA.  We'll see how it goes.

Void Seer Mordikaar (+5)
*Titan Cannoneer (9)
*Basilisk Drake (4)
*Basilisk Krea (4)

10 Praetorian Swordsmen (6)
*Officer and Standard (2)
6 Cataphract Cetrati (11)

Extoller Soulward (2)
Void Spirit (2)

I'm not as sure about this list - I'm a little worried about dealing with heavies.  All told, I might rather have Arcuarii than Cetrati, and I'll probably proxy Arcs and a second Void Spirit at some point.  I really like the idea of respawning, shield walling, maybe even undead and tough/spell immune (against those awful Druids for sure) Cetrati though.  What an annoyance.  Arcs are cheaper, and have a good ranged attack they can throw around.  I'll miss the Agonizer in this list.  Mordikaar seems like he can use the extra attrition and denial, but I want support for the Cannoneer.  I'm looking forward to running the basilisks together, which I don't do enough.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Mohsar List by a non-Circle Player

I've been asked to build a Mohsar list for Caleb using the Team Building method I outlined a while back.  This will be a little less in-depth than my pMorghoul Team Building exercise, but hopefully will cover all the bases.  Here's the list:

Mohsar, the Desert Walker (+5)
*Warpwolf Stalker (10)
*Wold Warden (9)
*Gorax (4)

10 Tharn Bloodtrackers + Nuala (10)
Shifting Stones + Stone Keeper (3)

Gallows Grove (1)
Gallows Grove (1)
Blackclad Wayfarer (2)

I've decided to split this up into 5 teams, which will operate in 2 rough groups.
Team 1:  Warpwolf Stalker, Wold Warden
Team 2:  Gorax, Shifting Stones, Blackclad Wayfarer
Team 3:  Tharn Bloodtrackers
Team 4:  Gallows Grove, Gallows Grove
Mohsar can be anywhere, but he'll probably stay behind Team 2 most of the time.

Team 1's jobs will be to Kill Heavies, Hit and Run, and Assassinate, although they'll have a secondary ability to Clear Infantry as well.  The Wold Warden and the Stalker provide good support for each other here.  The Wold, while offensively sort of a wet blanket, provides great spell support.  Curse of Shadows both increases the Stalker's damage potential against hard targets, and lets it move through or disengage from an infantry unit safely.  Mirage is good on either beast.  Crevasse means that both the Stalker and the Warden have something effective to do against infantry.  Finally, the Warden's animus is a good way to give the Stalker Prowl.  The Stalker, in addition to being an offensive powerhouse, lets the Warden make use of Lightning Strike to sprint after charging into melee.
I see Team 1 as a skirmishing formation.  The Stalker will hit and run with Lightning Strike, while the Wold Warden will stay around where the Stalker wants to end up, providing support and doing damage with Geomancy.  Mohsar will often be covering them with a couple of Pillars of Salt for protection.

Team 2 is mainly support for Team 1.  The Gorax is there to buff the Stalker's offensive potential, although it will probably also make supporting charges in the mid-game.  The Blackclad is there to buff the charge range of both heavies, although it too can do some damage with Stone Spray.  The Shifting Stones are mainly around to heal and manage Fury, although they should always be in a position to teleport a beast, especially the Stalker, before it activates.  Teleportation is fairly situational, but if the opportunity is there, it's great to have.

Team 3's jobs are to Eliminate Support, Kill Heavies, Clear Infantry, Hit and Run, and Alpha Strike.  Like Team 1, Team 3 is good against a variety of targets, and Reform gives it a similar ability to play offensively and retreat a bit.  If it's better to charge in, Bloodtrackers are incredibly fast.

Team 4 will give Mohsar a way to provide Spell Support to the Bloodtrackers, who can benefit a lot from Mirage, or having Curse of Shadows and Crevasse ready to hand.  Running both Groves together lessens the chances of losing that support to a stray cannon ball.

Mohsar will mostly hang just behind Team 2, where he can cast Animi on key models if he needs to.  He'll also throw out Curses of Shadows and Crevasses to support Team 3 as needed.  His main job, though, is to cast Pillar of Salt.  This will let both Team 1 and Team 3 skirmish effectively.  Mohsar should generally cast 2 to 4 pillars per turn depending on what he's upkeeping, and should generally activate late in the turn to do it after all the mainliners have retreated.

Theme-wise, the list focuses on Flexibility and Denial.  It has no trouble with rough terrain, and Mohsar's Pillars of Salt can really slow the enemy down.  Between the Tharn and the Stalker, it has great hitting power as well.  I might swap the Wold Warden and Blackclad for Megalith, but with character restrictions, I'd take the Warden.
No doubt it will need some refinement as Caleb finds out if it'll work for his playstyle, but there it is.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Second Caster Dilemma, pt 3 - eKrueger

Mohsar has settled into position as my go-to second caster, however he's a little trickier to learn than I had first guessed, and his feat doesn't seem to mesh well with my more defensive style of play.

Since I already have the model, I figured it was time for a write up on the next caster I'm considering - Krueger the Stormlord (or eKrueger, for those of you savvy with the shorthand).

- Fury 7
- VERY Strong spell list (Gallows, Storm Wall, AND Telekinesis? holy crap)
- Great ranged attack (Sustained Attack and ROF 3)
- Ludicrously powerful feat, but also universally useful
- Flight makes him hard to pin down
- Strong stat line - he's going to be tricky to kill!

- Bit of a one-trick pony (movement shenanigans)
- Can't pump out a lot of damage on his own
- Spells have relatively short ranges

eKrueger is pretty much the master of movement shenanigans - Gallows to pull enemies closer, Telekinesis to move enemies and friendlies into better positions, and his feat to push the enemy back (literally) and seriously slow them down. Storm Wall makes a great addition to the party as well, since it'll help protect my important models as they advance to face the enemy and seriously hinder enemy shooting. Storm Wall also illustrates the trend of "random powerful large scale defensive spell" that I'm seeing in every Circle caster so far; Deflection on pKrueger, Solid Ground on pBaldur, Sunhammer (sort of) on Mohsar, etc. I'm going to break up my review a bit to focus on what I feel are going to be his strong points.

1. Feat.
eKrueger's feat is a good one - enemy models in his control area are pushed slightly back and have their SPD reduced by 2. Not only will this push enemy models off control points, it will prevent just about everything the opponent has from charging on the next turn, allowing friendly models to get in closer and get the jump on them next turn. Given the quite squishy nature of Circle models, getting the charge will often mean the difference between victory and defeat.  It also helps that his feat plays almost straight into my style of reactionary play.  All in all, superb feat.

2. Spells
I'm looking forward to playing eKrueger simply to be able to use Gallows more. The Old Witch is one of my main Khador warcasters, so I know how much of a game changer it can be if used correctly. It also means that I won't be taking eKrueger without at least a geomancer and a gallows grove (or several), as it's range leaves a bit to be desired. Telekinesis is also a wonderful spell, and both it and Gallows mesh so wonderfully with the Gnarlhorn's abilities that I can easily see taking the big goat with eKrueger for some well positioned grand slams. Storm Wall is going to be useful in keeping enemy shooting off of me, though again spells like this are a bit of a staple of Circle casters. Lightning Storm is a good AOE infantry clearer, however I don't see myself using it too much where there are Gallows targets available.

3. Weapons and Abilities
On his own, eKrueger has some powerful abilities and a nice feat, but he's got some big gaps in what he can and can't handle. Unlike pKrueger, he looks to be pretty good against multi-wound heavy infantry or light beasts thanks to his lightning bolt ranged attack - ROF 3, Sustained Attack, and POW 12 means that for 3-4 focus (boosting to hit), he can be reasonably expected to take out single targets like Tyrant Vorkesh, Bane Lord Tartarus, and most light warbeasts with decently lucky rolls. However, he lacks any spells that boost friendly infantry (though he does have Inspiration), and beyond Lightning Storm he's going to have a tough time dealing with lots of infantry if they spread themselves out. Luckily, I recently picked up a Lord of the Feast....

4. Synergies
- Woldwarden/Megalith: his spell list is practically tailor made for Geomancying, so one of these two will likely be in every list I've got. I can see more utility with the Woldwarden, as I'll undoubtedly be using it mainly as a gallows-slinger, and Megalith's face smacking abilities won't see much play.
- Woldguardian: All the movement shenanigans eKrueger can dish out pretty much negate this guy's main downside (low SPD). Combined with the durability and transfer-when-full-fury ability, this guy is going to see a lot of play time with eKrueger as my second heavy hitter.
- Gnarlhorn Satyr: I doubt any warlock (besides Mohsar) can make better use of his slamming abilties, and the ability to realllly line up the shots makes the Gnarlhorn a good choice. Unfortunately, he'll be vying with the Woldguardian for his spot, so I'll have to see which I like better.
- Warpwolf Stalker: berserk and reach solves most of my anti-infantry worries, and this guy's ability to absolutely maul an enemy heavy on a single charge makes him my first choice in heavy hitter.

- Druids of Orboros: more movement shenanigans! eKrueger's feat will also let them get in closer to make use of their spells, so they're a good choice in any list that can afford them.
- Stoneward and Woldstalkers: they're a pretty self contained unit that can fry infantry or lights pretty well, and they come with their own speed boost! I actually think they'll do well with eKrueger, if for no other reason than they don't really need much from him except Storm Wall for protection.

- Lord of the Feast: solves most of the infantry issues if the Stalker has bigger fish to fry. I don't have much experience with him.
- Blackclad Wayfarer: more speed boosts are always welcome, and his spray will help quite a bit with enemy infantry.

5. Army Lists
Here's the lists I'm going to start him with:

eKrueger 15pts
Krueger the Stormlord (*5pts)
* Warpwolf Stalker
* Woldwarden
Gallows Grove

All the basics in one package.  The only thing I worry about is that I'll be running the beasts pretty hot just to keep the warlock full on fury.

eKrueger 35pts
Krueger the Stormlord (*5pts)
* Warpwolf Stalker
* Woldguardian
* Woldwarden
Stoneward and 5 Woldstalkers
Blackclad Wayfarer
Lord of the Feast
Gallows Grove

... I really want to play this list.  It's compact, chock full of heavy hitters, and just about everything will mesh very well with what eKrueger beings to the table. It lacks fury management, but with 2 construct warbeasts (one of which will be on geomancy duty), I shouldn't have much of a problem with frenzy.

eKrueger 50pts
Krueger the Stormlord (*5pts)
* Warpwolf Stalker
* Woldguardian
* Woldwarden
Druids of Orboros (Leader and 5 Grunts)
* Druid of Orboros Overseer
Shifting Stones
* Stone keeper
Wolves of Orboros (Leader and 9 Grunts)
* Wolf of Orboros Officer & Standard
Blackclad Wayfarer
Gallows Grove
Lord of the Feast

The 50pt list sees a pretty significant change - I've dropped the Woldstalkers and added full units of Wolves of Orboros + UA, Druids of Orboros +UA, and Shifting Stones + UA. The reasons for this are a little complex, but essentially boil down to the fact that I had 3 points left and it was either drop the Woldstalkers (Druids are better at the job anyway) and pick up a big unit of Wolves of Orboros, or spend 3 points on models I didn't think would add much (Wilder/2nd Gallows Grove or Sentry Stone & Mannikins). While eKrueger doesn't really give much to the Wolves, they can give quite a bit to the rest of the list -- they're quite self sufficient, cheap, can act as a screening unit that won't get in the Druids' way (yay Ranked Attacks!), delivery a punch on the charge thanks to Power Swell on their UA, and give me an expandable melee unit to tie things up in combat (see "tarpit" or "throw under the bus without a second thought").

All in all, I'm looking forward to using him in my next few battles. Unlike Mohsar, eKrueger is going to play MUCH more aggressively thanks to his spell list, and seems like he'll play a bit like a more in-your-face version of pBaldur.

Thanks for reading!