Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Life without Tartarus, part 2

I suppose that when I say I'm going to try something out and report my results I should make some effort to, you know, report my results. To recap, several weeks ago I decided to take bane thralls without Tartarus, with the idea being to compensate for his absence with other models (mostly pDenny). Well, I did so, and here's my conclusion:

Take Tartarus.

To be more specific, I feel that max banes + UA can attrition very well, and high (but not stupid-high) DEF can be worked around, but I could not stand how slow the thralls are without Tartarus. Maybe I'm spoiled by Satyxis and their ability to sprint into my opponent's deployment zone, but the thrall's lack of speed was maddening.

I did quite like the Desecrator though. 4" scathers are fun. I'll need to give it some more play time.

That's it for now. Laters.

National Novel Writing Month

The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, and this year, I'll be attempting to write a National Novel.

This either means I'll be on hiatus for a month, or I'll be blogging frantically, every day, in hopes of avoiding my novel.

If I get 5 comments requesting Skorne fanfic before Thursday, I'll throw my current idea out the window, and do that instead.

: P

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Battle Report: Shooty pMorghoul vs. Calandra (50pts)

An idea I've playing around with lately is pMorghoul running a beast-heavy ranged army.  I decided to give it a shot against Caleb's Trollbloods over the weekend.  This is going to be more of a review than a blow-by-blow account.

I played:

Master Tormentor Morgoul (+7)
*Bronzeback Titan (10)
*Titan Cannoneer (9)
*Titan Cannoneer (9)
*Titan Gladiator (8)
*Cyclops Brute (5)
*Cyclops Shaman (5)
*Basilisk Krea (4)

4 Paingiver Beast Handlers (2)
4 Paingiver Beast Handlers (2)
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew (1)

Extoller Soulward (2)

The idea for this list is to be decent at both range and melee.  The ranged element is part of my attrition game, softening up the enemy as I close to melee.  It will hopefully give me more options for choosing where the engagement happens.  If I want, I should be able to hang back and shoot, spew some smoke, and let Admonition, Diminish , and possibly Morghoul's feat handle any charges I take.  This is still a pMorghoul list, though, and I intend to be aggressive with it.  I'm just hoping that the Cannoneers will bring some nice utility with their guns as well as being good enough at melee that Enrage and Abuse take them over the top.

My main worry is being jammed.  I'd normally run some infantry out in front of my beasts to block my opponent's jamming infantry, and I'm a little worried that my list will grind to a halt against large numbers of infantry.

Caleb went with:

Calandra Truthsayer, Oracle of the Glimmerwood (+5)
*Earthborn Dire Troll (10)
*Dire Troll Bomber (10)
*Pyre Troll (5)
*Troll Impaler (5)
*Rune Bearer (2)

10 Fennblades (8)
*Officer and Drummer (2)
Krielstone Bearer and 5 Stone Scribes (4)
*Stone Scribe Elder (1)

Janessa Stonetide (3)
Fell Caller Hero (3)
5 Whelps (2)

This looks like a solid, well rounded list with a good mix of ranged and melee troops.  The Fennblades are an effective screen, and Calandra definitely has the ability to make her ranged beasts dangerous at both range and melee with her feat.  Caleb has also had good luck with Force Blow assassinations backed up by ranged units in the past, and this list is well designed to capitalize on a Knocked Down model.

Caleb's list has no glaring weak spots, but he only has one dedicated melee heavy.  He might have some trouble cracking heavy armor, particularly if there's a lot of it, like a colossal or, say, 4 Titans.


Our main lines deployed mostly between two forests on the center-left side of the table.  There were some tall grasses to provide concealment, but not much preventing our two armies from getting to grips with one another.

Caleb deployed in  a tight brick, with his ranged warbeasts in front, and his Earthborn off to the right to try to sneak through one of the forests.  His Fennblades flanked the Warbeasts on both sides, and would be wrapping around to screen them later on.  Calandra and the Support made up the second line.

I deployed in a looser formation, with my Titans out front in pairs.  My Gladiator went with one Cannoneer on the right (supported by the Shaman).  The Bronzeback took the center, paired up with my other Cannoneer on the left (supported by the Krea).  The Brute went in the middle where it could support either side, and Morghoul went next to it.  The Extoller and Paingivers spread out behind the beasts.

Turn 1

Caleb ran everything forward, and cast no spells.  He just dumped 7 Fury onto the Kriel Stone.  His Fennblades had wrapped around the beasts as predicted.

I moved forward a little more slowly (this list would really prefer to go first, to get the Gobbers out in front quickly).  My Titans formed a ragged line about 12" away from Caleb, and managed to shoot a couple of Fennblades.  Yes, Vengeance would be a pain, but it was better to thin their ranks now than wait for them to be jamming me already.  2 Paralytic Auras went up, catching all beasts except (whoops) the Bronzeback, who got Admonition as a consolation prize.

Turn 2

The Fennblades Vengeanced up into good positions.  The Bomber managed to shoot a bunch of boxes off of my Bronzeback, much to my chagrin.  The Fennblades tried to finish the job, but I Admonitioned away, then Counter-Charged one of the Fennblades.  Some other Fennblades also jammed up the Gladiator and Cannoneer.  The Earthborn made it into the forest on the right, where it could see the other side.  Finally, Calandra cast Star Crossed to make my turn a little harder.

On my turn, I mostly picked off Fennblades.  The Krea tagged the Earthborn with Spiritual Paralysis*, and the Gladiator charged it, but failed to finish it.  Morghoul also used his Feat, but didn't quite get close enough to Caleb's beasts to cripple his ranged game.

Turn 3

The Fennblades made a bunch of Vengeance attacks, but failed to damage my Titans.  Calandra Feated, and Befuddled my Cannoneer, causing it to wander over toward the Bomber, and put up Star Crossed.  Janessa moved it even further toward the Bomber with that mean ol' spell of hers (Tectonic Shift?).  The Earthborn killed my Gladiator, and the Bomber (with Flame Fist), moved out of Morghoul's CTRL, and killed my Cannoneer.  The Fennblades tried to finish off the Bronzeback, but left it alive with 2 hit points.

I was in a pretty bad situation.  Calandra was seriously blunting my offense with Star Crossed.  I decided to try to kill her rather than go toe to toe with a relatively healthy batch of Troll beasts.  First, my Bronzeback killed off the remaining Fennblades.  Then, my Krea advanced, and shot Spiritual Paralysis at Calandra.  To my immense relief, she hit, and Calandra would be at Def 7 against my ranged attacks.  Morghoul went next, and managed to kill Calandra himself with Torment (which turned off Tough, and prevented Transfers).

Victory to the Skorne!


 A fun game overall.  This was the most 'beasts I've run in a 50pt game, and I definitely need practice with this type of list.  I made a bunch of mistakes in positioning.  Generally, I feel I played a little too spread out.  When the Fennblades hit, they got me basically stuck into 2 small bricks.  I managed to extricate myself without too much trouble, but I wasn't really able to focus my attack.  I was also too spread out for my whole battlegroup to be protected by Morghoul's Feat, and I lost two heavies on his Feat turn.

I used the Bronzeback well this game (apart from leaving it outside the Krea's Aura).  Admonition with Counter-Charge is just mean.  The Krea was an absolute champion.  Paralytic Aura was very useful on most of my beasts, and Spiritual Paralysis really pulled the game out of the fire on the last turn.

I was also surprised by how useful Diminish was.  It ended up covering a lot of my army on a crucial turn, and definitely kept my Bronzeback alive against those Fennblades.

In terms of the list, I'm really happy.  I'll be trying out the Raider next, and I do think the list would be significantly stronger for Far Strike.  Next time I'll probably play the Raider instead of the Shaman.  I had considered swapping out the Krea, but now I don't know...  Caleb's list wasn't exactly a gunline, and I was very glad for Paralytic Aura anyway.  Spiritual Paralysis also makes Torment a completely legitimate offensive spell.  I missed having an Agonizer.  If I do end up going with the Raider, I may replace the Extoller with an Agonizer, but I do want to keep the ability to ignore stealth with something.  I also don't know if I have the skills to run this list without screening infantry.  It really would have helped against those Fennblades.

Caleb did not make many big mistakes.  He left his Earthborn vulnerable, and if my Gladiator had been any less unlucky, I would have been able to capitalize, but it all worked out for him.  He jammed me well with his Fennblades, and neatly pulled my Candes to her death with Befuddle. He isn't used to dealing with a ranged assassination threat from me, and didn't screen Calandra very well on his third turn.

However, I seem to recall out-slugging Calandra on several occasions only to be assassinated by a well placed Force Blow and some ranged attacks, and I was all too happy to turn the tables on Caleb this time.

Caleb's list was also good.  It had some very good attrition abilities, and Calandra's Feat definitely makes even the ranged beasts decent at melee for a turn.  At range, they managed to wear me down pretty well, and managed to stay behind the wall of Fennblades for two turns.

*I hadn't noticed before this game that the "Paralysis" token from the Skorne token bag is an adorable little mummy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Swordsmen vs. Nihilators, part 1, Math and Tough

This question pops up every once in a while on the Skorne forum:  Which infantry unit is bettter: Max Praetorian Swordsmen with UA, or max Nihilators?

My position has sort of been that they're both about equally good at doing pretty much the same job.  I mainly use infantry for jamming and screening, either to protect my warbeasts and warlock from opposing threats, or to keep enemy infantry from protecting their most valuable targets from my threats.  Both Swordsmen and Nihilators are good at killing whatever enemy infantry they've been sent to counter, and they're both underwhelming at damaging whatever 'beasts or 'jacks they've been sent to jam.

Rather than dig into every factor which might influence battlefield performance just yet, I'm going to look at Tough.  Nihilators have Tough, and Swordsmen don't.  Tough is a pretty significant advantage, particularly for a unit which is mainly around to occupy space and soak up damage, like Nihilators and Swordsmen.  It amounts to a 50% increase in durability over a similar unit (comparable body count, Def and Arm).  In terms of actual numbers, it takes 15 damaging hits on average to wipe out a 10-strong unit with Tough (Tough stopping 1/3 of the incoming hits), and only 10 hits to wipe out a comparable unit without Tough.

Swordsmen are pretty comparable to Nihilators.  Both units have the same Def.  Swordsmen have one more point of Arm, but this advantage is at its most significant against Power 6-8 hits* (average for blast damage, otherwise very low), and isn't much of a factor against Power 10-12 hits (average for most attacks).  The only complication comes from the Swordsmen UA, which adds two bodies to the unit.  Statistically, this goes a pretty long way to closing the gap.  Even assuming that the Swordsmen officer is killed in one hit (in my experience it's just as likely to take two), the Swordsmen will take 12 hits to finish.  In terms of relative durability (admittedly a far less useful way to look at it), the Nihilators' advantage is halved, to 25%.

Is 3 hits (or 25% depending on how you look at it) a significant advantage?  Yes, very much so.  Attack output is a valuable resource in Warmachine/Hordes, and sometimes it's hard to find the resources to hit a single unit 3 more times (which of course takes more than 3 attacks, since you need to roll to hit as well).  Sometimes, even when the attacks exist, it isn't worth it to divert them from other goals.

So Nihilators have a significant natural advantage in durability over Swordsmen, but of course, this can be offset by support.  Spells and abilities (like Hollow, for example) which grant Tough, give Swordsmen the advantage.  Anything which decreases the number of damaging hits the unit takes (anything which boosts Def or Arm, in other words) will decrease the overall impact of Tough on a game.  The fewer hits a unit takes (or the less often those hits cause damage), the fewer Tough rolls will be made, and overall, fewer models will be saved by Tough who would have died otherwise.  Skorne has a lot of options when it comes to boosting Def and Arm.  Defender's Ward (which is the spell I'm most familiar with) does both, for example, making Swordsmen and Nihilators a little more equal in durability than they would be otherwise.

Of course, looking at the total number of hits a unit can take might not be the best way to view the impact of Tough on a game.  Often, an opponent will want to kill just a few models in a unit to open a path to something that unit is screening, and in that situation, Tough is at its most valuable.  The Tough models will always be able to take 50% more hits than non-Tough models, and some halfway decent rolling might just save your warlock.

So those are my thoughts on the Great Debate for now.  Slight advantage to the Nihilators, but it can be reduced by defensive abilities.  More thoughts on this later.

UPDATE:  Michael pointed out that I neglected to mention the offensive side of Tough.  Any Nihilator who survives a round due to Tough is probably going to be on the front lines, ready to make attacks.  This can be a big advantage against an opposing infantry unit (Nihilators are more powerful offensively against infantry).  Tough can let a player use any surviving models to do damage to the enemy unit rather than devoting other resources to getting past it or holding it up.  If there's a Tyrant Commander handy, the Nihilators can be affected by Reveille, and move into better positions before attacking.

*A Pow 6, 7, or 8 hit will need to roll an 8, 7, or 6, respectively, to damage a Nihilator, whereas it will need a roll of 9, 8, or 7 to damage a Swordsman.  Statistically, 6, 7 and 8 are the most common rolls on two dice, accounting for almost half (16/36) of all possible rolls.  When any of these rolls accounts for the difference between a model living and dying , the effect of whatever caused the difference (like that 1-point difference in armor between Swordsmen and Nihilators) is at its most pronounced.

As an aside, these are also the numbers I use when determining whether something will hit reliably, or be missed reliably.  So needing 6's to hit is pretty reliable, at a probability of 26/36 (about 72%), and being hit on 9's is pretty safe, since you'll only be hit 10/36, or 28%, of the time.