[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: At The End Of The Road, He Calls Everyone Home…

Let’s start with an admission.

I played eleven games of Warmahordes over two days and lost ten of them.

Weirdly enough, this doesn’t bother me as much as it might. It’s all in the expectations. I went to the Winter Warmup thinking I might win something; I went to SmogCon thinking I’d probably win nothing, but that if I got to catch up with everyone I know from previous clubs/the tournament circuit, and play a shitload of Warmahordes, and try out the IKRPG at last, and take home some swag from the SmogPit, I’d be basically happy.

I managed to miss Russ entirely, and I didn’t get to play many of the Darklords in the end, and I did end up dropping from the Con on the Saturday night. Turns out that sleeping on the floor of the drawing room, for about three hours, after a twenty-two hour day, renders you quite vulnerable to chronic sleepiness and con-plague; since I need to be awake and in possession of a working voicebox to do my job, I decided to bail and sleep off the side-effects rather than drag myself through a painful Sunday.

Apart from that, though, mission accomplished. My second three-day con ever, and the first where I’d be doing anything more stressful than host a panel or two and spend the rest of the weekend in my hotel room writing, surfacing for dinner and the occasional round of Mijnlieff, and I bloody loved it.

I rolled up to the venue at about two p/m on the Friday, ‘fresh’ from a four-day depressive funk, about three hours’ sleep since Thursday morning, and a six-hour marking session as I tried to cram in all the work I should have done instead of sitting around in my dressing gown, feeling near-fatally miserable and playing Hearthstone. Took me a while to find the Mandolay Hotel, as I’d come in on the ‘wrong’ side of Guildford; fortunately, I stumbled on foppish Nick Topham and the lovely Adrienne and they informed me that no, I hadn’t walked up that sodding great hill for nothing.

Anyway, I got in and, lacking any of that tedious ‘hotel room’ business to deal with, threw myself straight into the SmogPit; a run of tables open for casual gaming all weekend, with every game played accumulating points that could be exchanged for Valuable Prizes, or for Mr. Chom’s Mystery Boxes. I had my eye on the nifty Iron Arena template sets, and set myself two missions: earn 25 Pit points to get some templates, and play on some of the special scenario tables.

The undoubted highlight of my first day in the Pit was FINALLY getting to play the ‘Smoke on the Water’ scenario from Escalation… but I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s run through the first day’s Pit results:

  1. 35 points vs. Jay’s Trollbloods. Lost after an Earthborn Trampled and Goaded through difficult terrain to nab Ossyran, who’d moved upfield to try and Chronophage Cannon the aforementioned Earthborn and missed.
  2. 35 points vs. … someone… with a Cygnar army. I conceded this one after horribly botching my second turn, effectively denying my army a turn of shooting and thus the opportunity to do anything before being massacred. Wouldn’t normally have done that, but my opponent was also playing in Hydra later in the night so I figured we might well draw each other again and get a proper game in.
  3. 35 points vs. Darklord Dave P.’s shiny new Convergence of Cyriss. A player I’ve never beaten, and an army I still haven’t figured out, but a game I played surprisingly well, only just failing an assassination run on Syntherion, who was left on two boxes by the time Ossyran’s feat turn was over. I regret nothing – the closest I’ve ever come to beating Dave, and it was marvellous catching up with him.
  4. 35 points vs. Benj’s Menoth – SMOKE ON THE WATER, and a Battle Box game ’cause we were killing time between Hydra registration and the actual event. My notes start to become indecipherable at this point… “fucked up – nearly lost, ate 2 frees, nearly won”… I think this is something to do with poor movement of Kaelyssa or one of her ‘jacks, against a knocked-together eFeora force (which isn’t, technically speaking, a Battle Box, but whatever).

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And then it was Hydra time! Y’know, the event for which I put together this whole Retribution project in the first place, since my Mercenaries would be virtually unplayable in the format. 35 points, same list with a random caster from a pool of 5, running from 2100 to 0300 (or ‘whenever we’re done’, as foppish Topham put it).

First round: I drew Ossyran (who I’d been playing all day…) against Khador, with the new Super Epic Mega Plus Butcher – the one with the two Arguses (Arguii?). I lost this one ’cause I gimped my activation order on a turn in which Ossyran was engaged by Fenris but somehow (due to high DEF, I think) still alive. I moved my Dawnguard on the basis that I could CRA into melee, which of course I can’t: one of those things you don’t know if you started out playing Cryx and don’t know a Combined Ranged Attack from a Massive Casualties Check. I also learned that you can’t Combine charge and non-charge attacks, having made some decisions involving Houseguard Halberdiers on the understanding that you could. Had I just had Ossyran swing his sword and kill Fenris, I’d have been in a reasonable position to just shoot the Butcher’s army out from under him and then stay out of his way until I could win on scenario or something.

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Second round: Garryth. Oh poop. Against Lich Lord Asphyxious. Oh poop poop. Arguably the best warcaster in the game against arguably the worst… and as you can see, Stewart and his turquoise-and-pink Cryx were very confident about their chances.

And yet, and yet… this was the game I managed to win. With Bane Knights carpet-bombed by Stormfall Archers, dying of Fire on their own turns and thus not getting to Vengeance, with Bile Thralls Combustioned off the field (though this did mean the poor Phoenix got rear-charged by the Withershadow Combine and turned into a Harrower), and with Halberdiers dying in droves to Venom and Nightwretch blasts, the game was a rather tense pile-up until Garryth was able to leap forward, drill Asphyxious with two bullets, feat to prevent him spending his eleven focus to teleport away, and then chase him down to plug two more shots in his face and finish the job. Stewart… didn’t take it well. He had my usual face – the “what the fuck, I had that in the bag, I hate this game” face, and much like myself he needed a good five minutes to pull himself together and apologise for his graceless behaviour. All was of course forgiven; I’ve been there and done that too many times in the last eight years, and that is Garryth’s game, really; lose, lose, lose and then seize on the chance for a crafty last-minute win.

Also, apropos of nothing, I miss Cryx.

Third round: Kaelyssa, vs. Paul F.’s Legion of Everblight with Rhyas at the helm. A somewhat overambitious assassination attempt on a camped-up Rhyas with Rapport upkept left Kaelyssa too far forward, and gave Paul a textbook ‘walk in and whack’ Rhyas kill. The PGs who’d taken over from Foppish asked if I’d be dropping, given that I couldn’t win anything and it was well after one o’clock by now. I said words to the event of “sod that, Hydra’s what I built this army to play!” and pressed on…

Fourth and final round: Ravyn, vs. a nice bloke called Luke running eKreoss. Tackling Menoth in timed turns is always difficult; working out what you’re actually allowed to do takes up precious doing-things time, especially at two in the bloody morning. Despite that, I managed to dismantle the army pretty well, shooting up Exemplars and reducing Kreoss to his battlegroup and support elements. Unfortunately, I bodged up the activation order again – what should have been a “shoot the screen, CRA the caster, charge in with the Phoenix to finish” became a “charge the screen, charge the caster, try for dodgy Flank run” – once again, I failed to implement the Blood Bowler’s Lessons (“Greed Ain’t Good”, “Safety First” and “Don’t Roll Dice Unless You Need To”). In my defence, it was two a/m and I’d not slept in twenty-four hours.

After a quick chat with Corehammer‘s Neil (the rest of the lads were off at Ill Blood in London), I found a quiet corner in which to doze and did so fitfully, awakening at 0530 to the sound of the night manager watching Takeshi’s Castle. Lacking the gumption to attempt further sleepage, and gasping for a cuppa, I essayed forth to the SmogPit once again – many of the chaps were still awake, most notably Jimmy ‘GStar’ Stark, who’d been running the Pit since midnight and who was still in a fit state to throw down on the Smoke on the Water table again. Day two went no better than day one…

  1. 35 points vs. Jimmy and his Trollbloods – Smoke On The Water again, and my fifth game and fifth opponent, earning heap big bonus points. This was a loooong game for two insomniacs, neither of whom had really had any rest in two days. My one fatal mistake was putting my Dawnguard in the middle of the barge rather than toward the back; to get them into the action they had to move forward toward Boris the Night Troll, who kept them locked down in melee with Warders for most of the game. With Grissel standing behind walls or elevated on walkways, under the protection of the Krielstone, I just couldn’t land a kill shot on her, although I did, to my glee, manage to Force Hammer/Telekinesis a Dire Troll off the side of the barge.
  2. Image35 points vs. Alex and his Retribution, in the Beer Barrel Bash! scenario. A fun one on paper, with a tent that handed out Fearless/Tough/Stumbling Drunk/Hyper-Aggressive if Dominated, and barrels that needed to be moved back to the deployment zone or destroyed in order to score control points. Alas, this was a non-game in which Alex had the perfect list to remove two barrels on cue and score full points for the third. Might have been more fun if Garryth hadn’t had to spend the whole game hiding out of the effective range of Alex’s Mage Hunters, too, or if I’d managed to hit his Kaelyssa with my Eiryss.
  3. And finally, needing to earn three more Pit points, I opted for a 50 pointer against Paul G’s. Privateers. A huge infantry swarm with a Colossal. In 50 points. Was I mad? After the Winter Warmup, had I not learned that this was a game I’d hate?
    And yet, and yet, I didn’t. The Galleon is much less scary when it doesn’t have Dougal hiding behind it (he’s not welcome in Captain Shae’s Theme Force, you see), and the infantry swarm stayed sufficiently bunched up for a few key Star Falls on their back line and a run of Halberdier stabbings up front. My Banshee drew the Colossal’s tender affections and my Phoenix, on the other flank, had free reign to hot-swap Death Sentence between Pirate units as needed. Garryth had a route to plant two shots on Shae… and alas, didn’t quite manage it. The only piece I had left with which to land the kill was the flanking Eiryss, who’d run around the side of Paul’s army two turns ago for that express purpose… and who I’d forgotten to move for two turns. Bugger, blast and damnation.
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Mad props to Paul though; the first 50 point game I haven’t hated!

With 25 points under my belt and the template set in my pocket, I hied me onwards to the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game demo. I’d been itching to give this game a go for a while, but not being made of money I couldn’t justify dropping £45 on it sight-unseen. Long-suffering demo-GM Aaron (I think that was his name…) put on an outstanding show. While I’ll be making another post down the line (here or on COREHAMMER) in which I actually review the IKRPG, I’d like to take the time to thank Aaron for one of the best RPG sessions I’ve had the privilege of playing in, and for convincing me that the game was not only worth a shot but potentially a better route into the Iron Kingdoms for yours truly than the wargame is.. I would also like to apologise to my fellow players for ze outrageous Llaelese accent, and for deciding that my logical course of action was OBVIOUSLY “convert to Thamarism and take over the antagonist’s cult”. I’d actually like to play my character in that group again – being the token evil teammate’s always had a certain appeal to me, and the chaps were outrageously good sports.

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Now, I’d registered for the Scalpel tournament on Saturday night, but at this stage, the thought of playing any more Retribution made me want to throw up. There was the prospect of Malifaux, but it’d involve a trek down to the other SmogCon site, and I haven’t so much as glanced at the M2E rules for my Gremlins. There was Mr. Chom’s SmogPit BattleBox tournament, but… well… I stopped off behind the Pit desk for an hour’s nap, and Chom – despite instructions – woke me after registering people for the mini-tournament, not before.

Under the circumstances, and with the option of a half-hour walk, an hour’s train ride, and a night’s sleep in my own bed, I decided that might as well be the end of the road.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

2 thoughts on “[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: At The End Of The Road, He Calls Everyone Home…”

  1. Fascinating write-up. What I enjoy reading about is your seemingly love-hate relationship with Warmachine and how you almost thrive on the fact it takes you so far out of your comfort zone. Is that where its appeal lies? That the precise quasi-clockwork manner in which you have to activate things – and its no surprise you repeatedly mention this was something you messed up – forces you to think beyond your regular level of thinking. I certainly wonder if it would do me good to just give the damned game a go, and stick at it, like you have, even if my natural tendencies are currently more towards the vagueness of WFB.

    Btw I reckon that IKRPGGM is Lewis from Cross Gaming Club. If you want to take your WM/H to the next level, give those boys a visit. They are machines.

    1. The Cross lads and I crossed swords at the Winter Warmup, and I know one or two of them from previous events. You’re right; they’re a terrifying lot.

      I think you TOTALLY have my number with that ‘love-hate’ comment. To succeed at Warmachine demands a level of intellectual input that I don’t often have cause to make in daily life; at the same time, the system is robust enough that I can, with the right opponent and in the right circumstances, throw down something brainless like my old Khador or Cryx lists and just do as much damage as I can before I die. I do wish more people would see that the system works A-OK for casual or narrative or otherwise sub-optimal play, and that might be why I’m drifting more toward the IKRPG incarnation at the moment.

      Try it. Go in braced to lose your first dozen games. Pick something simple and see how you get on with it. I distinctly remember thinking “the worst that can happen’s that I’m down thirty quid”, and that was eight years and a whole lot of bartering ago…

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