Episode 7: An Ode to 6x4 Tables

Happy Valentine's Day! I spent part of my corporate love holiday at the store playing yet another awesome game of Age of Sigmar. This time I'd made arrangement to play against Seraphon piloted by someone I'd never played against before. Unfortunately her name escapes me, I am just the worst with names! In any case she was a great opponent and someone I'd love to play again, I've been so happy to find that the players in my local scene are all great sports and enjoying the game so much.

We decided to play a 1500 Point game, which I was very excited about for two reasons. One, bigger table! Wargaming feels more fun on a 6x4 table for some reason, that was one thing I always missed when I got into Warmachine. The other is Scenarios are a lot more live at higher Points and on a bigger table, which means I can further improve my play and keep adjusting to the game.

Scenario: Blood and Glory




Terrain
Starting with the Ruin in the center of my Deployment Zone and going clockwise: Dangerous, Arcane, Nothing (Hill), Inspiring, Mystical, Inspiring, Damned, Damned.

                      Deployment, Army Lists, and Pre-Game

Destruction
Frostlord on Stonehorn w/ Battle Brew
Huskard on Thundertusk

1x Fanatic
1x Fanatic
20x Night Goblins w/ Spears
20x Night Goblins w/ Spears
40x Savage Orruk Arrowboys


Seraphon
Slann w/ Master of Defense
Saurus Sunblood w/ Quicksilver Potion
Saurus Eternity Warden w/ Obstinate Blade
Skin Starpriest

5x Saurus Guard
5x Saurus Guard
5x Saurus Guard
5x Chameleon Skinks
5x Chameleon Skinks
3x Ripperdactyl Riders

Eternal Starhost
Shadowstrike Starhost


I won the roll for Deployment and chose to take the side with the Damned Terrain. While Mystical is so powerful with Arrowboys I continue to fear the drawbacks and don't think I'll pursue that Terrain unless I feel like I'm behind in a game. Also having some Mystical Terrain near my opponent's Objective could cause some problems for the Seraphon.

My plan for the game was to keep center and then move the Night Goblins up to cover my front. My Heroes should be able to hold their own and take a Charge if needed as long as I don't allow too much into me at once. I'm not going to be able to keep the Ripperdactyls and Skinks out of my Arrowboys so instead I need to hold off the Saurus Guard and move up the board for the Scenario.



Battle Round 1

Seraphon took the first Turn thanks to the Battalions and moved up the board with the Saurus, keeping the Wizards and Eternity Guard back. The Ripperdactyls and Skinks stayed off the board for the time being. Mystic Shield goes on the center Saurus Guard and the Starpriest uses Summon Starlight on the Saurus Guard to my left.


In my Turn I shuffle the Arrowboys and Thundertusk up while moving the Night Goblins up front with Rampaging Destroyer and Running. The Stonehorn moves up aggressively to try and get into the right Saurus Guard. Shooting sees the Thundertusk remove the left Saurus Guard while the Arrow Boys barely get rid of the center Unit. (3+ Rerollable Saves!) Unfortunately the Stonehorn rolls a 3 for his Charge and stands around looking menacing.




Battle Round 2

Seraphon wins the Initiative Roll and takes the Turn. The remaining Saurus Guard and Sunblood move up to prepare for a Charge on the Stonehorn while the Starpriest uses Summon Starlight on the remaining Saurus. Mystic Shield goes up on the Slaan who also casts Light of the Heavens and throws up Gift from the Heavens. The Chameleon Skinks and 'Dactyls come on the board, the former next to the Thundertusk and that latter behind the Arrowboys.

The Chameleon Skinks put 10 normal Wounds into the Thundertusk but he makes 9 Saves, followed by another 4 double Damage Wounds which I make 3 Saves for. During Charges the Sunblood and 'Dactyls get in but the Saurus Guard roll a three and fail to backup the Hero. The 'Dactyls start things off and kill 6 Arrowboys with the aid of their Battalion bonus and The Great Drake ability of the Slaan. I go to the Stonelord who makes short work of the Sunblood, and then back to the Arrowboys who bounce off the 'Dactyls with minimal attacks.

On my Turn I move the left Goblins over to deal with the Skinks and the right Goblins to make for the Objective. My Stonehorn advances with an eye for the Saurus Guard. Shooting removes a Unit of Chameleon Skinks with the Tundertusk and the Ripperdactyls with the Arrowboys. I get the Goblins and Thundertusk into the Skinks and the Stonehorn into the Saurus Guard, who kills two with his impact ability. The Skinks manage to get by unscathed thanks to triple 1's on the Thundertusk Wound Rolls but they don't do any damage back. My Stonehorn mops up the remaining Saurus Guard.





Battle Round 3

Seraphon again win the Initiative and take it. The Skink Priest kills a few Goblins with Arcane Bolt and the Slaan puts up his Spells and Command Ability but doesn't do much else.

Night Goblins and the Arrowboys continue moving up the board for the Objective but not making it to within 6" even with Runs and Rampaging Destroyer. The Thundertusk removes the Skinks in Shooting and puts a Wound on the Eternity Host with his Raven. The Stonehorn Charges the Skink Priest and kills it to claim the third Objective.




Battle Round 4

I win the Initiative and take it. Everything Runs and uses Rampaging Destroyer to get control of both the Seraphon Objectives. I end my Turn in control of all four and win the game.


Major Victory for Destruction!

This is a game where I would have normally taken a bit softer of a list, unfortunately I wasn't able to find out what type of list my opponent would have preferred until I was already at the store. I do think that the Seraphon list has a lot of merit, bigger Saurus Guard Units with the Eternity Host can be really nasty! Having the Hero as the linchpin can present some problems though. The Seraphon list feels a bit like mine, it just wants to be played at 2000 Points so badly. The Slaan would fit in a lot more easily and the list could be backed up with some Shooting.

Initially I was apprehensive about the Ripperdactyls but their output was less than I suspected, even with the +1 to Wounds and re-rolls from the Slaan. The more I play with the Arrowboys Unit the more I realize just how hard it is to eat through their Wounds. Most guns just aren't up to the task and it's very hard to get relevant melee Units into them. Having a few Warmachines on hand would go a long way, but that has its own issues.

I was really happy to play on a 6x4 Table as it prevents me from being able to just bunch up and do nothing but shoot. Lately I've been thinking Kunnin' Rukk is overrated against very high Tier competitive lists and having the Stonehorn gives me way more presence up the board by substituting those Points.

This week my League goes up to 1500 Points officially and I'm hoping to get another few games in. Age of Sigmar is getting better and better as the game sizes go up and I can't wait to get to 2000!

Episode 6.2: Asking All the Right Questions

Lately I've been making a concerted effort to learn more about the Age of Sigmar Competitive Meta. As someone who primarily enjoys the hobby for table time it's important that I can draw my own educated conclusions about Units, changes to the game, Army Lists, etc. and contribute meaningfully to discussions on the topic. Over the last week I've been reading all the Warscrolls, Battalions, looking at lists that place well at events, and talking to other Players about what they like and why. All this has contributed to me taking a hard look at my own conclusions about Age of Sigmar and how I approach something basic like putting an Army List together for a game.

Everyone has their own process for throwing together a list. Some people are theme oriented, some copy a list they like or know is powerful, some know they want a particular model or rule in and build around that as best they can, etc. Being someone who plays to win I employ a method I first encountered through a podcast called Muse on Minis, which is aimed at Warmachine/Hordes gamers. The hosts of that show focus largely on two aspects of list building:

What Questions Are You Asking?
What Questions Are You Answering?

When your list asks a question, it means that you're prompting a response from your opponent. An example of this in Age of Sigmar is a Khorne Bloodbound army with a bunch of bodies and Heroes. Can your opponent deal with a horde running at them as fast as possible in order to drown them in Attacks? Counters to this would be things like Screening Units, high volume of damage output, debuffs, and the like. Now that's not to say that if you go up against that type of Bloodbound list and don't have the counters to it that you will lose, it just means you're at a disadvantage. In Age of Sigmar it's very difficult to lose a game at the list building stage (although many people believe otherwise) but you can be at a big advantage or disadvantage. Asking questions with your list means that your opponent might not have all the answers they need and you can exploit that during the game.

Answering questions is just the opposite of asking them. The Khorne Bloodbound list that I used as example would be good against things like other Horde Armies, Combat Armies, and Battleshock strategies because of their buffs. When sitting down to make a Bloodbound list I would know that I have some inherent advantages against certain opposing lists. From there I can either add to those strengths and aim to really tilt the odds in my favor with those matchups, or I can devote points to shoring up my weaknesses and build more of an all comer style list.

Knowing what questions your Alliance/Faction answers inherently is extremely important because it allows you to plan the rest of the list better. It's also important to know what type of questions you want to ask, and can ask, when sitting down to throw a force together. Continuing with my Khorne example, you can add shooting to Khorne but not enough to ask a question of your opponent. Almost any army with deal with shooting focused Khorne list, so it's not powerful enough to build around. At that point you'd be tilting too far away from the inherent strengths of the Alliance without making up for it.

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In some games asking questions is the most powerful thing you can do, for better or worse Age of Sigmar is not one of those games. In Age of Sigmar you sit down with an opponent each bringing one army to the table without any option to substitute Units, tweak Artifacts or Spells, etc. Your list is static and it needs to be able to deal with anything so because of that we have to focus on answering questions. Here is a rundown of questions I ask myself when I start putting an army together:

Can I Play Against 3+ Monsters?
Can I Play Against a High Quantity of Quality Armor Saves?
Can I Play Against a High Quantity of Wounds?
Can I Play Against 2+ Units in My Deployment Zone on Turn 1?
Can I Play Against High Quality and High Volume Shooting?
Can I Play Against High Quality and High Volume Combat Attacks?
Can I Protect My Objectives?

This list is refreshingly simple compared to what I used to deal with in Warmachine. In Age of Sigmar armies are inherently fair because of how the rules of the game are structured. Some armies are better than others but they all fall into these categories and don't ask their own, highly specific questions. If that wasn't the case Age of Sigmar would have a Rock, Paper, Scissors feel and that's something that people don't often like.

When thinking about what questions you answer, categorize your Units. Since I'm fond of Destruction let me use Arrowboys as an example. Arrowboys are good against Monsters and can shoot almost any single one off the table in a Turn but aren't good against non-Monsters with quality Armor Saves because they lack Rend. They deal with large amounts of Wounds well because they're a high volume offensive Unit but they don't deal well with my opponent getting into them quickly. They're good against both quality and quantity shooting because they have 2 Wounds each and can shoot back and likely win an attrition war. Quality and quantity of Combat Attacks is a problem though because it diminishes their shooting which is how they deal with opposing Units. Finally Arrowboys are good with Objectives since they can project force through range while remaining on an Objective with a high amount of Wounds/Models and can also move across the board without suffering any offensive output.

This leaves me with a few key weaknesses of Arrowboys. They don't deal well with Fast Units, dedicated Combat Units, or quality Armor Saves. This means I need to incorporate other Units into my army that combat their weaknesses, while countering those Units weaknesses with the Arrowboys. This creates synergy, each Unit has a role and the army is greater than the sum of its parts. If you come across the term "Balanced List/Army" this is what the person is referring to.

The enemy of a balanced army has always been spam, multiple instances of Units which fill the exact same role. If my opponent has an army that's almost all shooting then some of my Units won't have anything to counter or any role to fulfill during a game. This is where adaptation and not overly specializing comes into play. If you have a Unit that is amazing at Combat with Heroes but isn't very good at anything else then that's likely to be a bad Unit. When your opponent has a ton of Combat Heroes that Unit would be worth its weight in gold but outside of that they'd struggle to contribute.

Generally any Unit that only answers 1-2 questions in Age of Sigmar strikes me as being weak for competitive play. Armies are too varied and lists have to be too generalized to include those kinds of Units unless your army has a HUGE hole that they fill. At that point you have to make a decision and that's the beauty of list design.

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Those are my thoughts on list building on Age of Sigmar, I may do a followup using one of my own potential armies as an example. Hopefully this was useful to anyone who reads it and please feel free to give me feedback.

Episode 6: Some Sort of Tree Pun

As per usual Thursday marks the next week in my Age of Sigmar Slow Grow League and I was able to get in another games, this time against Sylvaneth. The army was piloted by Jared, someone I've known for quite awhile and used to play Warmachine with. Instead of Cryx vs. Cryx it's now Destruction vs. Sylvaneth!

Jared is still getting the bits and pieces of his preferred army list together so I decided to take a medium strength list instead of going all out, this seemed like a good idea in order to have a more fun and challenging game.

Scenario: Blood and Glory





Terrain
Starting with the Bottom Left Ruins going clockwise: Arcane, Deadly, Arcane, Deadly, Inspiring, Mystical, Damned, and Inspiring.

Deployment, Army Lists, and Pre-Game

Destruction
Savage Orruk Big Boss w/ Talisman of Protection
Maniak Weirdnob on Boar
Huskard on Thundertusk w/ Battle Brew

20x Savage Orruk Arrow Boys
10x Savage Orruks
10x Savage Orruks

Kunnin' Rukk

Sylvaneth
Spirit of Durthu w/ Gift of Ghyran & Briarsheath
Branchwych w/ Make a Forest Spell (The name escapes me)

20x Dryads
20x Dryads

Jared won the roll for Deployment and decided to take the side with the Mystical Terrain in order to deny me it. He put two Forests down in the center of the table, claiming he didn't feel like a third since the table was busy.

I deployed pretty centrally since the Scenario is frankly not live at this Point total and Jared can't win the game if I wipe out any of his Units. I wasn't in a much better position and decided to go for the Minor Victory on Victory Points. The Maniak Weirdnob went out a bit far to make a play for an Objective if one presented itself and because the trees didn't bring along many bows.

Jared kept a Unit of Dryads and the Treeman in Reserve, presumably to try a Turn 1 Charge. Even if that succeeded I was pretty sure I could keep the Dryads at bay since they're in such big Units and have limited paths to approach.


Battle Round 1
Jared took the First Turn and moved the Dryads and Branchwych up. Branchwych tried to summon a Forest but failed the roll and the Dryads Ran up a bit. Jared dropped both the Reserve Units as close as he could and the Spirit put 2 Wounds into the Thundertusk but both Units failed their Charges.

On my turn I shuffle around a bit to cover my Arrow Boys and also get them in range thanks to Rampaging Destroyer. The Thundertusk heals itself for 3 Wounds and Kunnin' Rukk goes out, severely wounding the Spirit of Durthu thanks to my buffs. In Shooting I finish off the Spirit with my Thundertusk, put a Wound onto the Branchwych thanks to an overzealous Blood Raven, and kill a few Dryads with some bows.

Jared wins the Initiative and takes the Turn.





Battle Round 2
Both Dryad Units move up as far as they can while the Branchwych summons a Forest off to the side of the table. In Combat I kill a few Dryads but take more losses than I inflict, as expected. Because of the Dryads positioning I get to Pile In with the Thundertusk, who does most of the damage and takes nothing in return.

In my Turn I rinse and repeat the salvo of Kunnin' Rukk, Spells, and regular bows, although the Thundertusk "misses" with its blizzard. When the Shooting Phase settles I've wiped out one Unit and the other is hurting. In Combat I lose my first Unit of Orruks and kill off a few more Dryads.

Battle Round 3 -5
At this point the game devolves into me taking a few Wounds on my Orruks while I batter the Dryads. Eventually they go down and the Brnchwych dies to a Unit of Orruks and shooting after inflicting a few more casualties.

The last Round is me Running/Rampaging Destroyer to the four corners of the table to just barely grab all the Objectives.






Major Victory for Destruction!

Post-Game

This is the first list I've played against that I think would have legs against my army. The -1 to Hit from the Sylvaneth Woods are brutal and essentially impossible to get around until things start Charging. The idea of Kernoth Hunters, camping in the Woods, with 3+ Saves, is a nightmare. That certainly seems like the Rock to my Scissors and is something I have to think about.

I believe this was Jared's second or third game ever and his first at 1000 Points. There's certainly a lot more he could have done by placing the Forests more aggressively and getting the Spell off Turn 1 could have opened up some other options. He already plans to get Kurnoth Hunters and was merely playing what he had.

Overall this was a fun bash where I certainly pulled some punches but I'm getting used to the Thundertusk and how my army operates as it continues to grow. Next week is 1500 Point games and we move to 6x4 Tables, Scenarios should also be more live. I can't wait!

Episode 5.5: Getting Dirty

I saw an interesting post this week on The Grand Alliance Forums regarding list strength when it comes to events, tournaments. This person was happy to see lists doing well and lists being taken that aren't the typical min/maxed Army Lists. Example of this would be Tomb Kings with Settra and Snake Knights, Beast Claw Raiders Brick, Kunnin' Rukk, Warrior Brotherhood, Sayl Bomb, etc.

It's no big surprise that people dislike spam, dislike seeing the same Units taken over and over, and dislike events made up of all Tier 0/Tier 1 Army Lists. We all play for different reasons and like different things, that's part of what makes the hobby great and gives it legs. I don't like spam and games where things get "solved", by which I mean there are 1-2 optimal builds and anything else is sub-optimal without question. Having some flair to your Army and breaking new ground are exciting moments and what competitive players love, especially list builders like myself. For the record I don't think Age of Sigmar is anywhere near the solved point and every Faction has at least two archetypes which I consider Tier 1, which is actually amazing balance all things considered.

Coming from a competitive gaming background, I think beating people over the head with the top strategies is a VITAL part of the game. If Players don't take what's "broken" then the Metagame never becomes aware of it as a whole, if that happens the developer cannot become aware of it and decide if action is needed. A popular example of this is Magic the Gathering, cards are sometimes banned from competitive play because they're too powerful. Wizards of the Coast, who publish Magic the Gathering, learn of this because Players try to break everything. This is GOOD for the game. If developers learn what is broken, they can design future iterations better and avoid pitfalls. This leads to less broken cards/models/entries over time and better balance. If everyone makes a gentleman's agreement to be super lenient then the developer never learns and the game never improves. You also build resentment among Player's who can't take things they like due to Comp or Restrictions, so it's pleasing one group to spite another.

This brings us to one of Games Workshop's longstanding issues: One Size Fits All. Conventions have one tournament for GW games, or at least one main one. Why? Privateer Press, who publish Warmachine/Hordes, have at least 5 different tournament types that are almost all hosted at every convention. This provides a unique experience for everyone that they can pursue based on their wishes and allows like-minded groups to play together for mutual enjoyment. I've played in Masters style events, never once have I enjoyed beating up on another Player who brought a poorly optimized army list, or who was new to the game. I learn nothing, they learn nothing. We rolled dice at each other and then it ended.

Competitive Players need to stop invading the Casual Player space and vice versa, we are separate groups that should get separate treatment. I would never criticize someone for playing a fluffy list in casual play and I would never expect to get criticized for bringing my best possible list and play in a Tournament. The term Separate But Equal had negative connotations but it works and is applicable with competitive gaming.

Those are my thoughts on the topic and I was glad to have a good discussion about it on The Grand Alliance Forums. I hope it sparks some people out there to consider their views on the topic and make their voices heard, even if I don't agree. A vocal community is an active community.