Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight.

Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight.

One of the topics of last night’s podcast (Episode 3 of The Deployment Zone podcast) was list building and themes. After we finished recording and I was seeking the slowly diminishing solace of a good night’s sleep, a nagging thought was bouncing around in my head. There was a comment that Bryan made which was “Bringing a knife to a gun fight” which referenced when you bring what are considered sub-optimal units in a list.

That comment managed to bounce around in my head for good thirty or so minutes until I finally fell into what could be considered an exhausted slumber. After waking up this morning, which took longer to get out of bed and to wake up than I care to admit, that same comment resurfaced in my thoughts as my brain began to finally work.

I think the comment itself is brilliant because it really encompasses an idea that I feel should be used more and more often in war gaming. People get so caught up in what is the most competitive and efficient build for whatever army they play. They are more concerned with the easy win with minimal effort rather than exercising tactics and strategy. You don’t need to bring a bazooka when all you need is pellet gun.
I listen to a variety of podcasts through out the week; many of these podcasts concern themselves with covering the American, Australian and European tournament scenes. The reoccurring theme with many of these podcasts is the best build, the most optimal composition, or the best units to take in your list. While it is always fun to perform an analysis and state your opinion on what you think is the best unit or set up for this or that army, too often these opinions become the accepted standard for how that certain army should work. When this happens you then begin to see cookie cutter lists spring up with little or no variation in their composition or play style. I feel that this problem has only been exacerbated by the epidemic of “netlisting” where people go online and post the most recent tournament winning list for everyone to replicate. From an analytical standpoint this is an interesting method of seeing how well an army can perform with the most “efficient” build, but from a personal standpoint I find that this is a serious problem because it defeats the entire purpose of self discovery and inspiration. You no longer have to be an excellent player or even learn to play well, just download the most recent Adepticon, ‘Ard Boyz, Tournament of Skulls or list for your army and terrorize your FLGS. The netlisting issue seems to be more prevalent in Warhammer 40k rather than Warhammer Fantasy but I believe that is because there is a larger Tournament scene for 40k and a larger player base currently. While some may argue that this netlisting method “levels’ the playing field between the really good players and the not so good players, - you’re an idiot if you think so and please die in a fire. If you want to play a game where you don’t have to make your own list or put any thought into composition then go play checkers.

Creating your own army list is one of the most core principles of war gaming. Looking at an army and feeling inspired to collect, assemble, paint and play it for months or even years is what this game is all about. Using the units that you enjoyed assembling and painting should be personally rewarding because there was something about them that made you choose them in the first place. You should be able to write an army list and look at the finished product and feel pride that it is your creation and not something you downloaded off Warseer or Dakkadakka.

Now we get to the very meat of my post, bringing the proverbial “knife” to a gunfight.

First and foremost, I am a competitive player who regularly attends and competes in tournaments. I do very well and take pride in my performance at these events. I would also like to add that I do very well and win at these events using lists that contain what are considered sub-optimal units. Last night was an excellent example when Bryan and I were discussing my Eldar army and he said that he thought I would have a lot of trouble against heavy armor armies like Imperial Guard. He had a hard time believing me that I had no problem against those types of armies with the units I listed that make up my 1500 point list. It is examples like this where the bringing a Knife to a Gun fight analogy works brilliantly. Another example would be my choice to run with the Wood Elves as my primary army in Warhammer Fantasy. The common opinion both here in the US and also in Europe is that the Wood Elf army is the weakest choice to play. People do not regard the army very highly and really tend to underestimate it all the time. It is this misconception that really strengthens my belief that regardless of what the army being played is, the player is the determining factor. I have had people bring their “netlists” to the table in both Warhammer Fantasy and 40k and they were beaten soundly. The reason why they were defeated so easily is because they did not design their list, they did not formulate their own strategy when their list was being created, and they also tend to have their entire army fall apart when you negate how the army was intended to work.

Players that create their own lists and themes using models they like and play those lists a lot tend to become almost tournament level proficient with their army. I think that players do themselves a disservice when they don’t exercise their own creativity and fail to branch out with the army they have chosen. Just because the internet says that this unit isn’t optimal doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking, it only means you need to figure out if that model fits your theme and play style. You don’t really learn anything new about your army if you use someone else’s list.

I think players develop and become better by playing the armies that they design. I also think that a player that plays their own list and becomes proficient at their list will perform better than even the best “tournament” lists out there - even when they bring what are considered “knives” to a gunfight.

Now there is another topic that I could address in this post which is the difference between what people consider “Douchey” and “Friendly” lists but I’ll address that another day.

I will now spend the rest of my freetime today attempting to make a Beastmen list that I like.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Product Review: Tamurkhan, Throne of Chaos

Product Review: Tamurkhan, Throne of Chaos

Warhammer Forge, the Warhammer Fantasy division of Forge World, has released their first Warhammer Fantasy supplement called Tamurkhan, Throne of Chaos. The book provides lore, campaign outlines, scenarios, army rules and themes that centers around the coming of Tamurkhan, the Maggot Lord and his conquest of the empire of man.

The production quality of the book is absolutely top notch. Every single page is made of high quality parchment paper and the book is bound with a dark red leather cover. The pages are full color and the font they use varies from an “archaic” freehanded script to your standard print. The artwork is both unique and stunning, it provides you with a wonderful visual of what the author was trying to convey in his story. I have purchased my fair share of gaming books in the past and the quality of this supplement really rates at the top.

The story for this supplement was done very well. In this tale, Nurgle has unleashed his chosen champion Tamurkhan upon the world. Historically, the forces of Chaos have always come down through Kislev and smashed against the might of the Empire’s northern battlements. Tamurkhan, the Maggot Lord, decides to come in from the South and blazes his way through the Ogre Kingdoms, the Dark Lands and finally through the Border Princes to Nuln. Each chapter describes how Tamurkhan conquers, slaughters, dominates or enslaves both allies and foes on his way to the heart of the Empire. The story is so well done and it dominates the first 100 or so pages of the book. The author, Alan Bligh, does such a good job describing the blasted trail that Tamurkhan and his hordes of chaos carve through the Warhammer world and the events that transpire during the journey.

Now the next part of the book deals with the actual game world and provides the reader with not only new units to use but also how to run the actual story campaign and the scenarios to go along with it. I was already pleased with the book due to the story and I knew that the new units in the book were going to be well worth the $76.00 price tag, but I had no idea that the book would provide the campaign setting and outline for Tamurkhan’s storming of the Old World. The campaign outline was the proverbial icing on the cake. The campaign outline is designed for armies of both 2500 and 3500 points. This further reinforces my belief that Warhammer Fantasy 8th edition is geared towards higher level point values but I digress! The campaign itself is split up into six different chapters or phases and has it’s own limitations for heroes and magical items. Each “phase” corresponds with one of the six chapters in the story section of the book and each phase they recommend having as many battles as you have players in the campaign before moving on. Each battle you fight will have a random scenario to be chosen which is worth a set number of points. The side (Order vs. Chaos) that has the most points at the end of the phase wins that phase and the side with the most points will receive bonuses in the final scenario. I personally am looking forward to running this campaign with my friends and seeing how it plays out.

The bestiary is the next leg of the book that describes three main sections; Chaos forces, Empire forces and the Legions of Azgorh – the Chaos Dwarves. I will be providing a super brief run down of various units in this book and my thoughts about them. The first thing I wanted to make known is that the units in this book are actually well done. The Chaos units are definitely themed and do not suck! The point values actually reflect the model’s worth very well and I think the game designer did an excellent job on all three sections. In future posts I’ll do a full evaluation of each unit and special character in the book but for this post I’ll just list out the units and the chaos dwarf army.

Bestiary of Chaos:

Bile Trolls of Chaos – rare selection for Warriors of Chaos

Plague Toads of Nurgle – Core choice in Daemons of Chaos, Special Choice in Warriors of Chaos.

Pox Riders of Nurgle – special selection for Daemons of Chaos

Chaos War Mammoth – Rare selection for Warriors of Chaos (so awesome!)

Chaos Siege Giant – Rare selection in both Warriors of Chaos and Legion of Azgorh.

The Empire Bestiary is full of special characters that augment the army or have a pivotal role in the Throne of Chaos campaign.

The Marienberg Class Land Battle Ship – is a Rare selection for the Empire.

Now is the part that everyone has been waiting for! I will not be typing out anything other than what is listed and the type of unit it is. I will do a full run down in later posts about each unit.

Legion of Azgorh: The Chaos Dwarves

Lord choices:

Sorcerer-Prophet –Wizard (lore of Hashut, Fire, Metal or Death)

Hero choices:

Daemonsmith Sorcerer – Wizard (lore of Fire, Metal or Death)

Infernal Castellan – Infantry melee Hero

Hobgoblin Khan – Infantry melee Hero

Bull Centaur Taur’ruk – Monstrous Beast Hero

Core choices:

Chaos Dwarf Infernal Guard – two options for outfitting – ranged or hand to hand.

Hobgoblin Cutthroats – infantry

Special choices:

Chaos Dwarf Infernal Ironsworn – Infantry

Bull Centaur Renders – Monstrous Beasts

K’Daai Fireborn – Monstrous Infantry

Magma Cannon – War machine

Deathshrieker Rocket Launcher – War machine

Iron Daemon War Engine – Unique war machine/chariot/something

Rare choices:

Hobgoblin Wolf Raiders – Cavalry

Dreadquake Mortar – War Machine

K’Daai Destroyer – Monster

Hellcannon – as per Warriors of Chaos army book

Chaos Siege Giant – Monster

The army itself is very formidable and should be fun to play and play against. I was exceptionally pleased with how well they presented the material. The army is more of an elite and specialized army but has a lot of flexibility. I was surprised that there was not a Lord level close combat styled character but that may be because the Sorcerer-Prophet’s are beefy enough to give even your standard combat Lord pause before attacking.

The last section and probably the most surprising was the Storm of Magic chapter. The designers actually included a Bestiary of the monsters located in this book for SoM! You can take the Chaos Siege Giant, Bile Trolls, Carmine Dragon and the Toad Dragon.

Final thoughts and wrap up for Tamurkhan, Throne of Chaos.

I think that Warhammer Forge has managed to single handedly win me over with just one release. I was almost willing to order the 800+ dollar order to get a medium sized army of Chaos Dwarves, good thing fear of my girlfriend and my imminent death swayed me not to. The book itself is phenomenal, the content is amazing and the rules and bestiary are top notch. Two thumbs up in my book. I will now have a hard time NOT buying Warhammer Forge releases!

You can all expect a full run down of each unit in the Legion of Azgorh in the next few weeks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

By Daemons...be driven! Wood elves vs. Daemons of Chaos

Friday night yielded two rather fun games of Warhammer Fantasy for me.  I had the chance to take on a rather unconventional but fun Daemons of Chaos list.  We had decided to play at 3000 points with no grand army rules.  I've always had a bit of trepidation going up against Daemons since they are incredibly tough and have the uncanny knack of killing everything they go up against.  I had originally planned on using my Beastmen since I wanted to get more practice with them but I couldn't create a list at 3k that I was happy with (oh the joys of making "the list") so I chose to use my Wood elves.
So... here are the two lists brought.

Chaos United 
General - Daemon Prince - unmarked w/ ASF power and no armor saves power.
20 Bloodletters w/ full command
Herald of Khorne on Juggernaut 
3 Bloodcrushers w/ Standard bearer/mus
Herald of Tzentch w/ Loremaster? of Beasts power, Level 2
20 Pink Horrors w/ full command
Herald of Nurgle on Paliquin? Level 1 - annoying Miasma spell and Always strike last power - seriously F Nurgle.
20 Plaguebearers
Herald of Slaanesh - Level 1 
20 Daemonettes w/ full command
6 Flamers of Tzeentch
5 Nurglings
5 Seekers of Slaanesh
5 Chaos Furies
Opponent:  Derek

3000 Pts - Wood Elves Roster - The Great Hunt, War Host of Athel Loren

Waywatcher Lord Sylvos Greystorm the Huntsman, Ranger General of Athel Loren (1#, 244 pts)
1 ×Wood Elf Highborn, 244 pts (General; Scout Kindred; Hand Weapon; Longbow; Extra Hand Weapon; Light Armour; Extra Attack)
1 The Bow of Loren
1 Enchanted Shield
1 Arcane Bodkins

The Stalkers of the Silent Path (10#, 240 pts)
10 Waywatchers, 240 pts (Hand Weapon; Extra Hand Weapon; Longbow; Extra Attack; Scouts; Skirmishers)

The Farstriders of Lady Dreamsinger (14#, 196 pts)
14 Glade Guard, 196 pts (Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Hand Weapon; Longbow)
1 Banner of Eternal Flame

The Twilight Host (14#, 186 pts)
14 Glade Guard, 186 pts (Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Hand Weapon; Longbow)

The Handmaidens of Durthu, the Verdant Rage (10#, 132 pts)
9 Dryads, 132 pts (Causes Fear; Skirmishers)
1 Branch Nymph

Archdruidess Nysa Greystorm the Storm Maiden, Hierophant of Athel Loren (2#, 330 pts)
1 Spellweaver, 330 pts (Level 4 Upgrade; Hand Weapon; Longbow)
1 Great Eagle (Flyer; Stomp)
1 Glamorweave

Lady Nepenthia Dreamsinger, Stormsinger of Athel Loren (1#, 125 pts)
1 Wood Elf Noble (Battle Standard Bearer), 125 pts (Hand Weapon; Battle Standard Bearer)
1 Armour of Fortune

The Spears of Loren, Storm Wardens of Coeth-Mara (19#, 303 pts)
18 Eternal Guard, 303 pts (Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std)
1 Guardian
1 Razor Standard

The Wolfkin, Feral Knights of Durthu (6#, 390 pts)
6 Tree Kin, 390 pts (Causes Fear; Flammable; Scaly Skin)

The Outriders of Twilight, Huntsmen of Kurnous (10#, 296 pts)
9 Wild Riders of Kurnous, 296 pts (Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Spear; Light Armour; Fast Cavalry; Magic Resistance (1))
1 Wild Hunter (Spear; Light Armour)
10 Elven Steed

Scryah, the Last Shadow (1#, 50 pts)
1 Great Eagle, 50 pts (Flyer)

Gwynador, the Scion of the Sethayla (1#, 50 pts)
1 Great Eagle, 50 pts (Flyer)

Dornatha the Verdant Rage (1#, 285 pts)
1 Treeman, 285 pts (Causes Terror; Flammable; Large Target; Scaly Skin; Stubborn; Thunder Stomp)

Cyre Winterwolf, the Storm Lord of Athel Loren (2#, 171 pts)
1 Wood Elf Noble, 171 pts (Hand Weapon; Longbow; Spear; Light Armour; Shield)
1 Great Eagle (Flyer; Stomp)
1 Dragonhelm
1 Stone of the Crystal Mere

Total Roster Cost: 2998

We played two games - the first one ended in a draw but at around turn 4 I realized I hadn't been keeping track of what happened per turn so I asked if we were going to play another and was told "hell yes".  So...we have a battle report for 1 game!

Game type: Battle Mission 1 - Battle Line
Deployment: 12" from long board edge
Mysterious Terrain - 2 Forests


As you can see the Daemons chose to consolidate their strength in the center and placed their fast moving units on the left side.  The Wood Elves chose to lean a little more to their left as well but with all the flying units in the army my opponent knew I could pick and choose what flank I wanted per turn.  I chose to keep my Waywatchers nearby this game for fear of his Flamers of Tzeench.  I however forgot three very important things - skirmishers, 6" move and 18" range shots.  Meh...anyway.  Daemon's got first turn which was unfortunate...

Turn 1 - Daemons of Chaos

The Daemon's first turn went pretty well.  the Flamers reduced the Waywatchers down to 3 models from 10 but they held their ground after a successful leadership test.  The Nurglings moved right in front of my line to serve as a speed bump so that Derek could maneuver his units better.  The Magic phase went pretty well for the Daemons: Wyssan's Wildform was cast on the Daemonettes, Phantasmagoria went off (I seriously hate that damn spell), Amber Spear and Miasma were dispelled.

Turn 1 - Wood Elves

The Great Hunt decided to do a little switcheroo here.  The Treeman and Eternal Guard charged the Nurglings, crushed them in combat and the Eternal Guard overran into the Bloodcrushers.  The Glade Guard with the Flaming banner killed a Bloodcrusher.  The rest of the army as you can see moved to the far right side of my opponent's flank while my Dryads moved up to prevent a flank charge on my Treekin.  Magic phase went well for me, I was able to get Throne of Vines off and hit my Eternal Guard with Regeneration and my Treekin with +4 Toughness making them T9.  Regrowth was dispelled on the Waywatchers =(

Turn 2 - Daemons

Here is where I began to sweat bullets a bit.  The Daemonettes and Bloodletters charge my Treekin.  The Plaguebearers charge my Treeman.  The Furies and the Seekers manage to swing up on my flank and rear.  The Magic phase fortunately was hugely favorable to me, the Herald of Tzeentch miscast Wyssan's Wildform on the Daemonettes and lost 4 or so Horrors to the explosion and lost the rest of their magic dice. The Flamers of Tzeentch absolutely vaporized the Dryads which was ...lame.  The Treekin, Eternal Guard and Treemen won their combats but the Daemon's held with minimal losses.  I began to respect the Monsters and Monstrous Infantry of the Wood Elves more and more.

Turn 2 - Wood Elves

This turn went well for the Wood Elves as far as shooting went.  I multicharged the hell out of the Plaguebearers with my Eagles and Hero.  I rear charged the Bloodcrushers with the Wild Riders.  The Spellweaver still had Throne of Vines up cast Regrowth on the Waywatchers restoring 4.  Regeneration was dispelled on the Eternal Guard but I still got Toughness off on the Treekin making them T9 once again.  The Treekin lost combat by 1 but still held with a 6.  The Plaguebearers and their multicombat didn't really do much and the Plaguebearers lost by 2 and were fine.  The Bloodcrushers weathered the storm well against the Eternal Guard and won the combat by 1 but both Wild Riders and Eternal Guard held.

Turn 3 - Daemons

The Daemons managed to get a pretty good magic phase going - Miasma was cast and nerfed the hell out of my Treeman.  Phantasmagoria was cast again which screwed my Glade Guard but we'll talk about that in a minute.  Flickering Fires of Tzeentch was cast inflicting 2 Str 6 shots on my Glade Guard.  The Flamers of Tzeench still on their unholy rampage inflicted enough casualties to make my Glade Guard run.  I rolled like a  2, 6 and 5 which meant I was running (thx phantasmagoria) and I failed my BSB reroll as well.  Lovely.  The nerfed Treeman and Eagles still manage to obliterate the Plaguebearers finally.  Here is where we screwed up and the Eagles and Treemen should have just reformed after winning but we overran a D6.  I think we were tired but that's ok it didn't impact the game much at if at all.

Turn 3 - Wood Elves

The Wood elf eagles flew behind the Treekin combat while the Treeman did his lumbering beast thing.  The Spellweaver had Regrowth and Throne of Vines dispelled as well as Flesh to Stone.  She did manage to get Regeneration off on the Eternal Guard.  The close combats continued to grind out, each side holding or only losing 1 or 2 models after disruption.  The Glade Guard that were fleeing ran off the table while the other archers put some hurt on the Flamers of Tzeentch.

Turn 4 - Daemons

Turn 4 went pretty well for the Daemons.  Bolt of change and Flamers reduced my recently regrown Waywatchers down to just my General.  The Daemonettes were boosted with Wyssan's Wildform and the Treekin were hexed with Curse of Anwhatever.  The Treekin ended up dying in close combat finally and the Daemonettes and Bloodletters reformed to face the two Eagles in their rear.  The Bloodcrushers died against the Eternal Guard, Wild Riders and Hero...finally..

Turn 4 - Wood Elves

This round went well I think.  I charged the Bloodletter block with both Great eagles and the Hero hoping to  do enough wounds to slow them down.  The Spellweaver got absolutely nothing off this turn since she rolled a 2 and a 1 for power dice.  The General joined the Glade Guard and killed the remaining Flamer (yay!)  After my charges were resolved I immediately realized my mistake in that I should have charged the Bloodletters with my Eternal Guard or Wildriders and not the Hero but oh well.

Turn 5 - Daemons

I began to get tired cause I dont really remember where he moved his Pink Horrors but I do know that I was pretty effective at dispelling his casting except for Phantasmagoria got off AGAIN.  The Eagles and Hero were slaughtered and the Bloodletters slammed into the flank of my Treemen that was engaged with the Daemonettes when the Bloodletters caught a fleeing eagle.  The Treeman however still held!

Turn 5 - Wood Elves

The Wild Riders rear charged the Bloodletters block while the Eternal Guard flank charged the Pink Horrors.  The unit champion of the Eternal Guard was slaughtered by the herald of Tzeentch.  The Bloodletters and Daemon Prince were killed by the Treeman and Wild Riders.  The Daemonettes were still holding tough however.  The Pink Horrors lost by a lot and lost a rank of models but managed to combat reform.  The Spellweaver was able to cast Regeneration on the Eternal Guard but Throne of Vines, Regrowth and Flesh to Stone were dispelled.

Turn 6 - Daemons

Not much happened this turn other than the Daemonettes reducing the Treeman down to 1 wound and the Pink Horrors holding firm against the Eternal Guard.  The Treeman whiffed on his attacks against the Herald and once again Phantasmagoria was cast  and the Treeman held!  Glean magic was cast which stole Regrowth and replenished some of the Horrors lost in the previous round.  Grr...

Turn 6 - Wood Elves

This round went well but almost went badly.  I managed to get Throne of Vines, Regrowth and Flesh to Stone off on the Eternal Guard.  The Wild Riders did a valiant charge to assist the ailing Treeman.  I had hoped that the 6 Wild Riders left would be able to turn the tide and kill the Daemonettes.  I was wrong.  The Daemonettes chewed through the Treeman and the Wild Riders, killing both units.  The Eternal Guard managed to wipe out the Pink Horrors and secured the win.

The Wood Elves win against Daemons of Chaos.

I made some tactical errors that game as far as charges and placement of certain units.  Over all however I liked that this game was just brutal.  I will continue to use the Spellweaver and Hero on Great Eagles.  That worked out very well for me and I'm sure that in time they will be shot off their mounts but I'll just have to exercise caution around warmachines.

MVP's for Daemons - Flamers of Tzeentch - killed 3 units that are very essential to the Wood Elf army.
MVP for Wood Elves - Treekin - holding out that long against 2 melee blocks which allowed me to get into position = huge.

I really enjoyed this army.  Props to Derek for using a Daemon Prince and all 4 heralds for his theme.  I think that having all 4 powers present lead by an unaligned really gave me pause since I wasn't sure how to prioritize targets well.  This army was also deceptively brutal.  Loremaster Beasts meant that he could at any time turn into a Dragon or augment every character with +3 str/attacks.  Frightening synergy with Heralds/Daemons.  Great game Derek, thank you!

Hope this wasn't too long of a read, I'll be working on a method to shorten the Battle Reports and make them a little better.  I'll also be going over this battle and the draw I had on the new Podcast called
The Deployment Zone . (Also located on iTunes).