Friday, August 24, 2012

Preferred Enemies - Sepulchral Stalkers

This installment of Preferred Enemies will deal with the Special choice for the Tomb Kings army, the Sepulchral Stalkers.  The ancient sentinels of Nehekhara, the Sepulchral Stalkers were created to guard the borders of the Tomb Kings realm and defend its borders.  Slinking beneath the shifting sands of the desert, the animated constructs would ambush their prey and with their cursed gaze turn their opponents into pillars of sands to be blown away by the wind.   These ancient ambushers are generally under-estimated when first encountered, a perception that is generally very quickly altered once they are seen in action.  While this is not an extremely difficult enemy to deal with for the Wood Elf army, it is a unit that can wreck havoc on an army if it is not dealt with appropriately.

The Sepulchral Stalkers provide the Tomb King army with a fast moving and mobile unit of monstrous beasts.  The units theme is fully reflected in their rules and their functionality provides the Tomb King army with versatility that the undead army needed. 

First and foremost here is the stat line and special abilities of a Sepulchral Stalker:
Movement:           7
Weapon Skill:       3
Ballistic Skill:         3             
Strength:               4
Toughness:            4
Wounds:                3
Initiative:               3
Attacks:                  2
Leadership:           8
Equipment:  Halberd
Special Rules:  Animated Construct, Entombed Beneath the Sands, Nehekharan Undead
Special Attacks:  Transmogrifying gaze
                Range: 8”, Strength: 1, Special: see blow

Sepulchral Stalkers are Nehekharan Undead which means they are Unbreakable, Unstable, cause Fear and are unable to march, ever.  The Animated Construct rule provides the Sepulchral Stalker with a 5+ armor save.  The special rule of Entombed Beneath the Sands rule is a fairly important rule for the Sepulchral Stalkers.  The unit gains the Ambusher rule but rather than coming on a table edge, a counter is placed and the scatter and artillery die is rolled.  If the “HIT” is rolled then the unit stays there otherwise it moves in the direction of the arrow and the number of inches reflected on the artillery die.  Should a misfire roll come up or the unit can not be placed, then the mishap table is consulted. 

The Sepulchral Stalkers are not extremely formidable in close combat.  They are on a chariot base and as a result the unit frontage is wide and opens them up to a lot of return attacks from the engaged unit.  Each Stalker has two attacks at Strength 5 and a Strength 4 stomp attack.  The unit causes Fear so if their opponent fails then they will be striking on 3’s.  Stalkers do have some fairly decent defensive capabilities, they are Toughness 4 and have a 5+ armor save.  Each model has three wounds so the unit can take a wound or two before beginning to suffer a loss of effectiveness.  The Stalkers are also able to attack at Initiative 3 which allows them to swing simultaneously with armies like Empire or Beastmen and before armies like Ogres, Orcs and Goblins, and Vampire Counts.  The true strength of this unit lies in its special attack.

The Transmogrifying Gaze is a magical ranged attack that has an 8” range.  Each model rolls an artillery die to determine the number of hits the unit suffers with a misfire resulting in a D3 automatic wounds inflicted on the Sepulchral Stalkers with no armor saves.  The hits are at Strength 1 and allow no armor saves.   The attacks use the target’s Initiative rather than their Toughness which directly affects large monsters and units that have a lower initiative.  Against Wood Elves this is not that critical of an issue unless the unit is attacking the Treeman or the Treekin. 
Canny Tomb King Generals will position the Stalkers to pop up behind the unit that has a high toughness and armor save but very low initative.  Examples would be: Treeman, Giants, most monsters, Ogre Ironguts, or Black Orcs.  When the Stalkers arrive from reserve, they may then unload their Transmogrifying Gaze upon the unfortunate unit.  If anything is Toughness 2 then they are being wounded on 5’s with no armor save.  This type of barrage can wreck havoc on most monstrous infantry/cavalry which makes the Sepulchral Stalkers a highly prized asset.

How to deal with Sepulchral Stalkers:

Against Wood Elves the Sepulchral Stalkers are slightly frustrating because they can easily take down the really high toughness models in the army.  The Sepulchral Stalkers excel when they are able to ambush in areas that will support their large base size and behind the charge arc of the higher toughness units.  The sheer amount of dice that a unit is able to throw with the Transmogrifying Gaze can completely devastate a unit if the right rolls are made.  Wood Elf units will get no armor save and will also be denied their ward save since this is considered a magical attack.  So how do Wood Elf Generals counter this type of unit?
  1. Deployment – Ensure that you are within 5” of each unit and prevent the unit from arriving from reserves in areas you do not want to have them.  i.e. arrange your units to prevent the 3 chariot base wide minimum base size unit from popping up and causing undue havoc in your line.  This forces your opponent to put his Stalkers further out and away from the vulnerable units.
  2. Shooting – The Sepulchral Stalkers are only Toughness 4 which means at short range Glade Guard can wound them on 4’s and reduce their armor save to a 6+.  Ideally you will want to unload unto the unit and remove it from play otherwise the Stalkers may reduce or destroy a key unit.
  3. Melee – The Sepulchral Stalkers are Strength 5 in close combat so even your Treekin risk being wounded on 4’s unless you properly augment them with Flesh to Stone or Wyssan’s Wildform.  You will want to flank charge Sepulchral Stalkers if any at all possible, especially since they have a chariot sized base.  The Sepulchral Stalkers only swing back with two attacks so you can minimize their damage to you while maximizing your damage to them with appropriate charges.  In addition to being susceptible to flank charges, the Sepulchral Stalkers run the risk of being multi-charged rather easily.  Wild Riders or Great Eagles are great options if they are able to kill before they are swung upon.
  4. Spells – If you are using Lore of Life then Dweller’s Below can be very effective against the Sepulchral Stalkers and an entire base at a time if they fail their Strength test.  If you are using Lore of Beasts, the Amber Spear runs an excellent change of removing the entire unit if you are able to go through all three. 
Ideally, the Sepulchral Stalkers serve as the Tomb King General’s Warmachine and Monstrous Infantry hunters.  Wood elves need to properly account for the chicanery and shenanigans that this unit employs.  The Sepulchral Stalkers may go from being annoying to downright terrifying when they are placed in blocks of 6-10 where their Transmogrifying Gaze could unload up to 100 shots into a unit.   For the most part however, this unit is generally seen in smaller groups of around 3 to 4 Stalkers.  Wood Elf Generals will need to once again not underestimate this unit otherwise a key monstrous infantry or monster unit could be wiped out before being able to act.   

I hope this Preferred Enemies edition provides helpful advice and an accurate and effective method of handling and dealing with the Tomb Kings Special selection of the Sepulchral Stalkers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Malifaux First Look: Why do I feel so dirty?

This weekend I had the ...opportunity to play Malifaux for the first time.  I had been actively avoiding playing the game mainly due to not wanting to be involved in yet another miniature game when I was already actively playing three others.  However, due to the constant pestering by my co-host Josh of the Deployment Zone, I finally acquiesced to playing a demo game and experiencing Malifaux.   
Malifaux is a skirmish level miniatures game that uses a dice-less mechanic for determining successes and failures.  When I was told that the game does not utilize dice, I was completely uninterested in playing because I did not understand how the deck mechanic worked.  It wasn’t until I was watching the game play demo for another game by Sodapop Miniatures called Relic Knights which is currently being kick started and is due out in May of 2013 that my interest in a diceless miniatures game was sparked.  Malifaux uses a deck of cards where the suite and card number determine successes or failures.  There are two ways to be successful when performing an action in Malifaux (that I have become aware of thus far in my single game), one is that you flip a card from the top of the deck and the number on that card plus the number on the miniatures stat line have to meet or exceed the casting cost/difficulty level.  The second utilizes the dueling mechanic where you and the opposing player each flip a card and add their cards number to the offensive or defensive stat and the winner is the one with the higher number (ties go to attacker).  There is another mechanic involved which is called cheating fate where you may substitute cards from your hand to raise the current value to a successful number.  So when this mechanic was first explained to me, I was rather unimpressed and it did little to encourage me to try the game.  When I did actually sit down to play the game however, the diceless mechanic actually made sense when seen in action and was a refreshing alternative to rolling dice. 
The order of operations is different in Malifaux than it is in most wargames in that the deployment and mission type are rolled first then the “army” is chosen.  Not having a standardized army that I would play every game is something of an anathema to me and when it was first explained I once again had very little interest in investing my time in the game.  However, once again I put my initial objections aside after I read the missions and objectives and realized that not every “crew” is suitable for each mission.  So once again I was pleasantly surprised to see a different order of operations work out.
The armies were divided up much like Warmachine and Hordes handle their different army books.  You have different factions with “masters” serving as the generals for that army.  Once you have selected your general you use your Soulstones to purchase additional models til you reach the agreed upon total (usually 35, we played 25).  Depending upon the master chosen, an army will function a specific way.  I chose Lady Justice and her Death Marshals mainly because I liked the look and feel of those models and could care less about their effectiveness at that point in time.  I was not aware that like Warmachine and Hordes, there were multiple masters available per faction. 
The game play for Malifaux is where I had to overcome the most trepidation.  In Warhammer Fantasy, 40k and Warmahordes the players take their full turn and move all their models.  In Malifaux however the players use an alternating activation sequence where one player activates and plays a model then the other player activates and plays a model until all the models have been activated in a single turn.  I was not especially keen on that type of game play at first but as the game unfolded, I began to see how in this small model count game it makes sense.  Without the alternating activation sequence, this game would devolve into a string of combos and chains that would annihilate any semblance of balance or even remotely fun game play. 
Malifaux also uses terrain much like Warmachine and Hordes do where there are certain heights associated with models and how certain types of terrain can block line of sight or grant cover.  I am still getting used to the system but with the sheer amount of terrain required to play this game, I can foresee a player learning those rules quickly.

So let me recount my first game briefly….

Josh rolled or should I say “flipped” the evidence scenario where each of the players has 3 markers to claim and one in the center.  Each of use then chose our factions – I choose The Guild – Lady Justice and Josh chosen the Ressurectionists with McMourning.   We both had 25 Soulstones to make our “lists” or I guess the appropriate term is “crew”. 

It took me a little while to understand the action options of 2 full activations during a turn and what that meant in relation to the stat card in front of me.  Once that had been explained I then decided to shoot at one of Josh’s undead models.  Using the guy with the hawk the Austringer or something like that, I was able to see the first Duel happen where I flipped a card and my offense combated his defense.  Once that action was completed, the rest of the actions came intuitively. 

Movement was very fluid, obvious the “difficult” terrain halves movement and you want to try to maintain cover as much as possible.  The Line of Sight rules in relation to the use of the base were rather clever as well as movement being top down rather than how most other wargames operate where you do actual distance. 

Close combat, ranged combat and spells/powers were very easy to use and the suite convention is a clever one to use for criticals and extra triggers. 

So as I was saying the game…  We only were able to get three turns in before Josh had to leave but in those three turns, I was able to pretty much see how the game is intended to flow.  Josh was doing an excellent job of being a henchman and apparently had stacked his deck to always draw a Red Joker… When our game ended, my Lady Justice had been brought low by McMourning but I had 2 markers and was 6 inches from his deployment zone.

The game itself is actually very simple in form and execution.  I was expecting a large amount of convoluted rules but everything is pretty much a card flip.  This game obviously uses a different methodology when devising tactics and strategy but in its core I think it’s a very simple and dare I say … fun game. 

I will give this game two more tries before writing it off or buying a crew to play.  I particularly liked Lady Justice and so I shall stay with her until I have finished game three and my final decision is made to go “through the breach” or not.

Initial Rating: B-

The game itself is fun but there are some mechanics I feel are going to rub me the wrong way.  I had made the remark that I felt this game was a solid C+ last night but I upgraded it to a B- because as I was typing out this article, I realized that some of the mechanics I was kind of ho-hum about actually made sense after taking a step back.  Obviously this opinion will change if my next two games I get decimated and do not enjoy myself while playing. 

I’ll end this with saying … I didn’t …hate it.  Hell I might even spend money on this game...

That’s all! 

We'll return with your normal Wood Elf nd Eldar dominated content soon!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Imperial Armour 11 - The Doom of Mymeara, Product Review

Imperial Armour Volume 11: The Doom of Mymeara is the latest narrative expansion by Forge World for Warhammer 40k.  The book focuses on the convergence of three Eldar warhosts launching a full scale attack on the frozen ice world of Betalis III.  The Eldar forces comprised of the warriors from two Craftworlds: Alaitoc and Mymeara ally themselves with the armada of Eldar Corsair fleets such as the Void Dragons, Sun Blitz Brotherhood and the Sky Raiders.  This massive war host descends upon the Imperial world for reasons unknown and becomes embattled with the Imperial Guard led by General Myndoras Odon who manages to enlist the aid of Bran Redmaw’s company of Space Wolves, the Inquisition and the Titans of the Legio Gryphonicus. 

The Imperial forces are unable to divine why the Eldar have descended upon their ice world with such ferocity and incredible martial might.  The Eldar immediately launch several surgical strikes and cripple the Imperial communications array and cause a black out across most of the planet.  These attacks go on for weeks until a single pic capture survives showing two Eldar Phoenix Interceptors shooting down an Imperial craft do the humans even realize they are under attack. 

General Odon and the Cadian 6th Armored Division start to mobilize the forces of Betalis III when the Inquisitor Lord Hestaphus Danzk of the Ordo Xenos marched into the command room and joined the war council.  Inquisitor Danzk was able to mobilize the Legio Gryphonicus and the Elysian Drop Troops lead by Captain Isarta to redeploy to Betalis III which normally would have been outside the area of influence of General Odon.  Inquisitor Danzk also petitioned the aid of the Space Wolves chapter that reports said were in a neighboring system.  General Odon decided to split his forces into a three battle groups in order to combat the Eldar forces. 

The battle for Betalis III was an epic struggle between the Eldar and Imperial forces.  Mighty Reaver titans battled the massive Eldar Phantom Titans while the skies were filled with aircraft battling for supremacy.  The Eldar employing hit and run tactics to weaken and cripple the Imperial battle line would launch a blistering offensive then retreat into the frozen wastelands moments later.  General Odon employed his own series of surprise attacks and ambushes, many times luring the Eldar into a trap.  The Space Wolves finally joined the fray, the Great Company of Bran Redmaw newly arrived from an engagement against Orks were eager to sink their teeth into some Eldar.  Through a series of long and drawn out engagements, the Eldar finally had to withdraw from the field of battle and leave the Tormus Delta battleground.  The Imperial forces recognized their retreat as a victory, but little did they realize that the entire battle was merely a distraction to mask the true meaning of the Eldar invasion…

Inquisitor Danzk following a lead journeyed to a mining facility and massive forge that had reported incidents of Eldar activity.  Upon arriving he encountered several instances of Eldar interference and journeys with his retinue into the forge to wipe out any traces of remaining Eldar in the name of the God-Emperor.  After journeying deep into the forge, Danzk finally comes upon what could only be a ritual being performed by the Eldar.  He saw a Farseer along with his priests standing before a body in ancient elder warrior that had to have been dead for thousands of years deep within the tunnels of this mining facility.  The priests were removing pieces of ancient ornate armor from the mummified remains and placing it upon a living Eldar warrior.  Inquisitor Danzk was amazed at the intricacy of the armors decoration – the craftsmanship was beyond anything he had ever encountered in all his years of study.  He began to ponder if this ancient suit of artifact armor was the real reason why the Eldar descended upon Betalis III in the first place. 

The inquisitor had his answer when moments later the Farseer and his priests circled the living warrior encased in the armor and began to chant.  A corona of icy-white light enveloped the warrior and tendrils of psychic power reached out through the chamber attaching itself to the numerous piles of bones that had surrounded the mummified corpse.  When a blinding white light seared through the inquisitor’s mind and he slumped unconscious.  Inquisitor Danzk awoke to the sounds of battle echoing through the forge.  The Farseer and Warlocks now followed behind the ghostly unit of floating Eldar warriors wielding what looked like crystalline tipped lances.  Whenever one of the floating elder aspect warriors leveled their weapon, a bolt of white hot light would emit from the prism on the end and melt through whatever was in its path.

Inquisitor Danzk tried to frantically alert the planet that the forge was under attack from a new powerful Eldar foe when the new Aspect Warriors turned and joined the Aspect Warrior that wore the suit of the ancient, elaborate armor facing the heart of the forge.   The leader leveled his prism topped lance which then fired a constant beam of white hot light towards the heart of the forge.  The others focused their prism lances to join their leaders beam making it change color from white to red to orange and so on till the beam once again turned white. When the prism lances had reached what looked to be the culmination of their power, the leader let loose their combined firepower in a single pulse.  The pulse rocked the forge causing explosions wherever it went and the last thing that Inquisitor Danzk saw was the pulse of light that overtook him as he attempted to radio base for help.

The Imperial Armour 11 – The Doom of Mymeara provides the reader with an excellent story that exemplifies how Eldar attack with misdirection and guile.  The book provides not only an excellent story but also incredible artwork, maps and new rules for playing Warhammer 40,000.  The story tells us about two craftworlds and a union of Corsair bands joining forces to raid Betalis III in order to reclaim the body and armor of Irillyth, the Shade of Twilight.  Irillyth is a lost Phoenix Lord of the Shadow Spectres that the Mymeara craftworld had as one of their largest aspect warrior shrines. 

The book itself is wonderfully made, the pages are full color and the images are bright and crisp.  They do an excellent job of portraying battle scenes while still using the models.  The writers provide the Imperial Guard codex with new rules for some Apocalypse level vehicles. 

Imperial Guard Players gain the following units/characters:
General Myndoras Odon and his Command Squad.
The Malcador Infernus – Apocalypse level Hellhound Super Heavy Tank
Praetor Armored Assault Launcher – Apocalypse level Super Heavy Tank
Crassus Armored Assault Transport – Apocalypse level Super Heavy Transport Tank

Space Wolves Space Marines gain the following characters:
Wolf Lord Bran Redmaw – He’s pretty bad ass!

Eldar gain the following characters/rules/units:

Eldar Craftworld:
Shadow Spectres Aspect Warriors – Fast Attack selection
Irillyth, the Shade of Twilight – Phoenix Lord of the Shadow Spectres
Farseer Bel-Annath – Farseer of Craftworld Mymeara
Warp Hunter – Heavy selection Grav-tank w/ D-cannon
Wraithseer – HQ selection Monstrous Creature
Wasp Assault Walker Squadron – Fast Attack selection Walkers w/ Jump Packs
Hornet – Fast Attack selection Skimmer
Lynx – Apocalypse Super Heavy Grav Tank
Scorpion - Apocalypse Super Heavy Grav Tank
Cobra - Apocalypse Super Heavy Grav Tank
Vampire Raider – Apocalypse Super Heavy Flyer
Vampire Hunter - Apocalypse Super Heavy Flyer
Revenant Titan – Apocalypse Super Heavy Walker
Phantom Titan - Apocalypse Super Heavy Walker

Eldar Corsair List
Corsair Prince
Corsair Blade Sworm Retinue
Corsair Void Dreamer
Corsair Voidstorm Squad
Harlequin Troupe
Eldar Craftworld Outcasts
Eldar Craftworld Rangers
Dark Eldar Kabalite Warriors
Eldar Corsair Squad
Corsair Wasp Assault Walker Squadron
Corsair Jetbike Squadron
Dedicated Transport:
Corsair Falcon
Corsair Venom
Fast Attack:Corsair Hornet Squadron
Nightwing Interceptor
Corsair Night Spinner
Heavy:Corsair Phoenix Bomber
Corsair Warp Hunter
Corsair Firestorm

In addition to the new units and characters, the reader also gets to play the actual Doom of Mymeara campaign through a series of six scenarios detailed in the book.  The scenarios are geared for various point levels from skirmish level all the way to Apocalypse sized engagements. 

I will be providing a selection by selection break down for each of the Eldar units and Corsair units in future posts, especially with how this book interacts with 6th edition and what benefits it provides.  I have already used some of the units in this book in 6th edition and I have to say that I was very impressed.  I look forward to more games using these extraordinary options.

I recommend this book to any Eldar player who is looking for a small but worthwhile update to their book.  The new units provide Eldar players with speed and flexibility without losing the high strength firepower for which they are known.  I especially recommend this book since the FAQ states that Eldar Corsairs can be used as a battle brother ally to Eldar or Dark Eldar.  The rules are also very well balanced and while the perception that Forge World units are inherently broken is unfortunately widespread, I hope this book dispels those misconceptions and brings an entire segment of the gaming population into compliance!

One thing that I could not get over was the overwhelming amount of theme that the writer put into this book.  The two craftworlds operate so differently and that’s evident in their tactics and behavior.  The Corsair warbands were extremely well stylized, they provided a closest example of an elf pirate army as you could get.  Even the new units really demonstrate the theme and power that the writer put into describing the Mymeara craftworld.  You can almost feel the anger of the warlike Mymearan Warseer as he leads an aggressive guerrilla war against the humans in order to reclaim a long lost hero.  As the story unfolds you really get to see what a mobilized Eldar Craftworld has at its disposal, especially when you are dealing with Titans and Super Heavy Grav Tanks.  It was an amazing tale and I hope there is another one soon.

I would also mention that since buying this book, I have ordered three more Forge World Imperial Armour books due to the high level of quality and excellent reading they make.  Once again, I fully recommend this product and I will be providing more reviews of not only the Forge World books but the units located therein.