Intro – Dun, Fick & QWERTY
Those of you who endure my company on a regular basis will know that I was a bit worried about this ‘un. I haven’t exactly conducted myself with grace, dignity and sportsmanship at previous Warmachine events and was starting to wonder if something had changed since 2008 (the last time I remember making it through with a smile on my face). Fun, Quick and Dirty II was in many ways my last chance; I was sorely considering hanging up my away pass and becoming a garage gamer if I couldn’t manage to behave like a civilised human being at this ‘un.
I was doubly concerned since, no matter what happened, I’d resolved to go into this with a new faction. Only able to come up with one Cryx list I was really interested in playing, it was either going to be Khador or Circle, and I’d been hedging my bets for weeks, waiting to see if the Circle I’m sure I bought were ever going to turn up. As a result I’d only had four games with each faction and didn’t really have any meaningful idea what I’d be doing. Couple that with my usual ‘scenario? Sounds like too much hard work to me’ routine and victories seemed unlikely. I was going in expecting to lose – almost wanting to, actually. Anything to avoid my usual bad-karma-for-big-wins routine whereby I do too well early on, end up with a strength of schedule I don’t really deserve, and find myself encountering people who are flat-out better than me. They don’t get a challenge and I don’t get a chance. I had no intention of throwing any games, mind; I was just hoping for a couple of stonkings early in the day rather than a run of them towards the end when I was all tired and cross.
In the end it turned out to be Khador I’d be disgracing at the event, with three lists: the good, the dodgy, and the one made up of whatever I hadn’t used up the Field Allowance for. Bear in mind that my Khador collection predates Warmachine: Apotheosis and has received one – one! – new model, plus the Nyss Hunters parachuted in to make up the numbers.
First list: Tech Tech Tech
Vladimir, The Dark Prince (*5pts)
* Devastator (9pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
* Koldun Kapitan Valachev (2pts)
Greylord Ternion (Leader and 2 Grunts) (4pts)
Second list: Freeze, motherlicker!
Kommander Sorscha (*5pts)
* Destroyer (9pts)
Iron Fang Pikemen (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
* Iron Fang Pikemen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Widowmakers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (4pts)
Man-o-war Kovnik (3pts)
Third list: BUTCHER STRONGEST ONE THERE IS
The Butcher of Khardov (*6pts)
* Juggernaut (7pts)
* Marauder (7pts)
Greylord Ternion (Leader and 2 Grunts) (4pts)
Kossite Woodsmen (Leader and 5 Grunts) (4pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Game One – James Boosey, Khador
Great Bears of Gallowswood
Well, Operation ‘Lose The First Game’ looked to be off to a flying start. I’d never met James before but I’d been sneaky and looked him up on Rankings HQ a few days ago, when the draws were declared, and he seemed to be made of respectable stuff. The spellproof front line of Weapon Masters and the amount of advance deploying stuff in James’ list meant the scenario control zone was pretty much his, and Sorscha would contribute a lot more to the battle from arm’s length than the poor ol’ Butcher. My best bet, I figured, would be to drive the Big Red Battlegroup right up James’ nose, clearing the Doom Reavers out of the way with trusty Kossite firepower. To accomplish that I’d need to draw them off toward a board edge, and the Manhunter/Gorman tag team drew the short straw, deployed to make a run around James’ flank and get his attention.
James, going first, was able to fan out and gobble most of the scenario control area. Spiteful little devil that I am, I responded by sending the Manhunter on his mission of murder, chopping the outermost Doom Reaver into a fine paste. The rest of Team Butcher ground slowly upfield, with Iron Flesh and smoke clouds aplenty going up.
The Manhunter suffered the expected fate, as several Fellblade-toting headcases waddled up to Reave his Doom. On the other side the Great Bears hunkered up and made base-to-base noises, and the rest of the army hunkered down in midfield, taking a few potshots at the Juggernaut in an effort to expose its cortex.
I kept grinding forward – Gorman lobbed an Acid Bomb over the three Doom Reavers who’d scrobbled my Manhunter, and the Kossites edged onto the field, taking potshots at some Widowmakers that probably didn’t achieve anything and then ducking back into cover with Reform. I forget, if I’m honest. Clouds again, Iron Flesh stayed up. I kept the jacks back largely to keep the Butcher safe while he was lumbering along at four inches per turn, and because I wanted James’ army coming towards said Butcher rather than hanging around out of my threat range.
Reinholdt squinted down his peeper-scope, determined that the distance was favourable, and politely suggested popping Sorscha’s feat and sending the Spriggan forth to batter my two jacks into dust once they’d been softened up a bit more by the Widowmakers. James took that suggestion and ran with it, drawing the Great Bears back to protect Sorscha.
The one downside to this brilliant plan is that it meant the Butcher – even with Iron Flesh up – was able to feat, waddle forward the whole two inches permitted to him, and scrap the Spriggan in a couple of blows, with Gorman’s Rust bomb sealing the deal. The Greylords chopped up a Doom Reaver, and the Kossites failed to hit the one Widowmaker they could reach.
Sorscha pulled back to the nearest flag and enabled the Widowmakers to score a control point while they shot up four Kossites. The last Doom Reaver bagged himself a Greylord, while the Great Bears were sent forth to carve up the Butcher, unleashing exactly six shades of hell in his general direction.
Alas, like James’ dice, this wasn’t quite enough – Iron Flesh kept quite a few sevens from connecting – and they actually failed to so much as hit him, let alone scratch his paintwork remotely. The Butcher evidently took their failure as a sign of weakness and gave them the appropriate treatment for all sons of Khador who fail in their duty, while Gorman tossed another acid bomb onto the last Doom Reaver, and the surviving Greylord and Kossites botched their attacks on James’ Widowmakers.
James’ Widowmakers showed no such reluctance, capping my remaining infantry but not managing to land hits on Gorman or the Butcher. Sorscha whipped her quad-iron out to finish the job, scored her last control point, and left the Butcher scowling ineffectively from atop his pile of smoking ruined warjacks.
A loss, then, but a loss by scenario and with bog-all from either army left on the board, so the best kind! James went on to take third place, and very well deserved it was too; he played a tight game and was clearly in this to learn tricks and fiddles from players of a somewhat higher calibre than my bad self. More to the point, I’d managed to lose without being a total pushover, which is pretty much exactly what I’d been hoping for…
Game Two – Kira Chapman, Circle Orboros
* Warpwolf Stalker
* Shadowhorn Satyr
Kira poses a unique set of challenges for the unwary gamer – for starters, it’s easy to spend so much time prostrating yourself before her glorious-looking army that you forget to actually deploy your own, and for seconds, she’s significant-othered with my arch-nemesis Stanford, who made it quite clear that anyone beating her – particularly anyone from our club beating her – would be invited to step outside. And then step back inside again.
With that in mind, I decided to take the Sorscha list – the one I am, all things considered, a bit crap with. Kira selected Kaya the Moonhunter, a warlock I myself am passingly familiar with, although you’d never bloody guess it from the number of times I had to ask what she did and didn’t have to force her beasts for.
While these points of data formed a beautiful line, I opted for the ‘ruthless little ratbag’ approach, setting up where I could quickly get Widowmakers and Manhunter into cover (turn one) and blockade the central gap with Shield Walled Iron Fangs (turn two). Not that it’d matter much against Circle, who go where they bally well want, but it’d look good and it sounded very tactical.
I went first and successfully executed part one of the plan, with Sorscha sweeping up with a Rush of Wind and a War Fog… or something like that anyway. Kira reacted by piling forward and spreading out, putting up Shadow Pack and Forcing some Evolution out of the Shadowhorn.
The charge that followed was rather exciting and seemingly impossible to photograph; I made three attempts and the ensuing crock is about the best of them. Lest it be impossible to discern a thing from what is allegedly an image, let me explain; the Destroyer received Boundless Charge and took a chunk out of the Satyr, while the Iron Fangs piled up, realised Circle beasts are quite hard to hit, and opted for some inefficient Combine Melee Attacks that knocked down and killed Laris as well as blasting a bit more of the Satyr off. The Fangs then used ‘that thing that they do what makes them move and Shield Wall’ (I can never remember what it’s actually called) to surround and pen in the Satyr and tie up Kaya with three ARM 18 bodies.
On the other flank, the Manhunter charged Kira’s Stalker and thumped it a few times, while the Widomakers went for some opportunistic shots on the Druid Wilder (the only Circle model without Stealth). Lurking in cover, the Druid was up to DEF 18 and I expected I’d have to sink the squad’s efforts into killing her. Imagine my shock when the Widowmaker leader blew the hippy tart’s ‘do off with her first shot!
Now trapped outside of Kaya’s control area, the Stalker frenzied, but failed to hit the Manhunter with its wild and furious flailings. Result! Kaya and the Argus did their best to chop up the Iron Fangs, but one survived and Kaya was looking a bit the worse for fury by the time the turn was over. Still, Kira seemed unperturbed; she just said some words like ‘Vitality’ and ‘double handed throw’ and ‘thataway’ and before I quite knew what was what, my single wound Iron Fangs had all gone crunch and the Officer was looking a bit the worse for wear too. I was so shocked I forgot how to take photos!
I’d been intending to Boundless Charge both Kovnik and Destroyer into Kaya but goofed by activating the Iron Fangs first, reforming Shield Wall and failing to impress the Shadowhorn. Out of spite, I Wind Rushed Sorscha onto the hill, feated – provoking a short debate over whether Stealthed models are still in Line of Sight even though they can be seen through to target things behind them – and caught Satyr, Argus and Moonhunter alike, and then charged the Satyr to finish it off. The Destroyer charged the Argus and didn’t quite nobble it, and the Manhunter lopped the Stalker’s Spirit off. That put the kybosh on Kira’s plan to have him kill the Manhunter, Lightning Strike himself, and then teleport back over the board with Kaya’s feat, moving up (from Lightning Strike) to threaten Sorscha, and seeing the warcaster and Weapon Master closing in, she called the game there.
A win – the first one of those I’d seen in a while! – and, at last, what I felt to be a well-timed use of Sorscha’s feat. It could have been set off a turn earlier to help the Iron Fangs and Destroyer with the two beasts on the hill, but that would have denied me the chance to use it on Kaya and soak up her fury on the later turn when she really needed those points to chop up Iron Fangs. Just wish I’d thought to use it before activating the Fangs, though – so well timed, but not perfect.
Let the record show, incidentally, that Kira was inhumanly unlucky with her rolls to hit the Manhunter or the Iron Fangs; while I think I played this one well, some more love from the dice could have kept her in the game a lot longer.
Somewhat concerned at the number of Victory Points I was accumulating, which would see me drifting back into the middle tables, it was with a cautious heart that I made my way to the front and saw another name that I didn’t recognise…
Game Three – Neal Barton, Protectorate of Menoth
* Redeemer (bonded)
Choir of Menoth
Vassal of Menoth
Unfortunately, owing to one of those “hang on I’ve already played him” moments on the next table over, I would never get to find out what my mystery opponent was made of – an emergency swap left me squaring off against Mr. Bandwagon, who’d returned to his godbothering roots and brought a metal heavy epic Feora list. I was a bit queasy about this one – I only had the infantry-heavy Vlad list left and frankly even scatter damage kills Nyss, never mind Fire. The man, the list and the first turn’s movement are all shown here, in a hasty “oh gawd I forgot to take photos” instance that will absolutely not happen again.
I tried to set up in breadth, to consider the scenario objectives, and in depth, to avoid losing all my Nyss in one go. My plan was to use Vlad and Wind Wall to deliver the Devastator and Greylords forward, and let the first wave of Nyss die that the second might avenge them with Weapon Mastery goodness.
It didn’t really work out that way. A hail of Vanquisher shots, Ancillary Attacks and ROF 3 bonded Fire-causing Redeemer shots later, the front rank of Nyss was dead, Valachev and Vlad were both on fire, I wasn’t allowed to shoot any ‘jacks, and I’d dropped my camera, causing a small crack in the bottom of the casing that would come back to haunt me again and again. Nevertheless, everything important was still alive and I still had some tricks up my sleeve…
The Nyss advanced, and Valachev used Zephyr to nudge them around so they could take pot-shots at the Choir and kill a couple, thanks to Signs and Portents. Signs and Portents also helped when the Devastator, powered up with Forced March and Boundless Charge, barnstormed thirteen inches forward, barged the Vanquisher back, pummelled half its boxes off and blew up another Choirboy. I moved the Greylords up too, dropped some clouds since I didn’t have spray range to anything, and… oh. If you look closely at that photo, you can see not only the clear charge lane the Dervish has on Vlad, but also my brain, sitting where I dropped it right in the middle of the board. Loading the Devastator up and casting Boundless Charge as well as Signs and Portents had left me without enough to cast Blood of Kings and get Vlad stuck in, or even protected from the inevitable reprisals down that lane that I’d for some reason left wide open. I put it down to getting carried away with all the tech in the list, and forgetting the basics of Warmahordes tactics in a rush of options and enthusiasm.
Some Nyss got shot, Feora feated, the Dervish got loaded up with three focus and Incite and something that Vassals do, and that was very much the end of that. Shame really. I’d been chatting to Stanford about this and we’d agreed that it’s one thing to be outplayed, another to be outrolled, and quite another to suffer a bout of the Stupid Virus and essentially give a game away. A game between two well-matched and entertaining people can sometimes be cut brutally short by something dumb like this, and it’s mistakes of this nature that can really spoil someone’s day if too many are made on the trot.
Still! Back down the tables to relative safety I went, and there was time for a godlike sandwich and a carrot cake as well. Chom reckons that FQD will be essentially a bake sale with demonstration games in the corner by 2014. He’s probably right. Over lunch, I decided to drop the Sorscha list and see if I could win games with the other two.
Game Four – Shaun Price, Cryx
Goreshade the Bastard
Bane Lord Tartarus
6 Bane Knights
6 Bane Thralls
* Officer and Standard
It was bound to happen, sooner or later. Five years of accumulated karma from prancing about debuffing and dodging and not playing the game properly were bound to revenge themselves on me one day. I’d already been thinking “play Butcher and save Vlad for the last game” and when I saw Shaun’s list I felt vindicated. I’m not ashamed to admit that my plan here was to throw the Butcher list (which I wasn’t too keen on) to the wolves and save the Vlad list, which I actually liked, for a game where I thought I’d stand the slightest chance of making a meaningful impact. Plus I’d dropped the camera last round and broken the exact chunk of casing which holds the battery slot shut.
At least I got to go first. Not that I particularly wanted to get within threat range of this lot, but whatever. I’d decided to put the Kossites on the board at the start, like I’d originally planned, so that they could have Fury and maybe hurt something at some point, ever. The Butcher had Iron Flesh on himself and everything else ran up or threw clouds, except Gorman, who bolted across the line to maybe debuff the Slayer at some point. The batteries fell out of my camera.
It seemed neither of us really wanted to commit; Shaun edged forward to cement his defence of my objective and seemed content to creep toward his. I moved the Kossites up, potshotted a Bane Knight, and Reformed back so Vengeance wouldn’t net him any free kills. You want to kill my Kossites, you can do it in your activation like everyone else!
He did. He also tore the cortex and left arm off the Juggernaut, and then sent the Slayer after a Greylord, killed it, and leapt back into his own lines via Soul Gate. I would later discover, to my cost, that it was slightly more than seven inches away…
The surviving Kossites and Greylords proved unable to kill the Bane Knights tying my Juggernaut down, meaning that it had to waste its Full Throttle on carving up Banes instead of charging forward; this left the Marauder out on its own, to charge and fall just short of the Slayer. I missed Boundless Charge already. At least Gorman nobbled a Knight or two with his acid bomb. The batteries fell out of my camera again.
Shaun moved up and scrapped the Marauder with his Bane Thralls, while Tartarus killed the last Kossite and made a new Bane Knight who joined in some ineffectual attacks on the Butcher and some rather more effectual ones on the Juggernaut. The camera was feeling the pressure and so was I.
The Butcher did what he does to the remaning Bane Knights; Gorman Black Oiled Tartarus so that even a knackered Juggernaut could sort him out; the last Greylord piled into Shaun’s objective largely to give him something else to kill. Camera continued to be disappointed. Despite having sorted out Bane Lord Scary and the Knights Who Say ‘Vengeance’, I still had no real plans for actually winning this game; doom seemed to be impending.
There followed a complicated turn in which six Bane Thralls appeared from the ether, scrapped a Juggernaut, killed a Greylord, and failed to land a blow on Gorman, either when charging or when he risked a freestrike to escape, and were then shortly sent back whence they’d come by a combination of acid bombs and a very big axe. The Slayer may have helped scrap the Juggernaut; I forget. Those other Banes were trapped in my objective zone when Shaun timed out on his turn for the second time in the game.
While the surviving Thralls crept around the wreck markers in their path and the Officer charged Gorman into post-alchemist paste, Shaun sent the Deathwalker in to debuff the Butcher a bit, flung an ineffective Hex Blast in his general direction, and finished by dispatching the Slayer in to rip a good sixteen or so health out of him. Many lesser warcasters would be cringing from that little lot, but the Butcher’s tough as boiled bootstraps and cares not for such trivialities as almost being dead. Plus, I had a cunning plan, and Shaun knew it. I picked up the batteries, then picked up the tape measure, and got stuck in.
See, the thing about the Butcher’s base is, it’s quite big, and the thing about his weapon is, it’s got Reach. The combination of these two factors meant he could walk around inside the Slayer’s melee range and still just about reach Goreshade with the business end of Lola. Three focus, nine dice and a Deathwalker substitution later, and that’s all she wrote. I had, rather unexpectedly, won.
I’m not sure I deserved to, with one model left on the board and all, but given that I’d gone into the game with no idea quite how my list was going to stop his, I wasn’t complaining. Shaun took it on the chin marvellously and netted my vote for the Most Sporting para-prize right there, and I was left with the chance of a hat-trick; one win with each of three lists I’d barely used.
Game Five – Rich Loxam, Cryx
6 Bile Thralls
Rich who? Never heard of him. Team Octopii? Is that some sort of manga? ETC triumph? Like a bunch of uppity Continentals can play proper Warmachine!
Seriously, Loxam’s reputation preceded him, and I was somewhat confused to find him loitering around the middle tables with the likes of me, but he couldn’t be all that if he’d lost two games already today, could he? Okay, so he was running the Coven, a warcaster option I’d given up on in the Field Test on the grounds that it was just boringly simple to win with, and okay, so one foot wrong would see the expensive infantry constituting over half my list get mercilessly pulped by Bile Thralls, and okay, he could actually possess my beloved Devastator and turn it against the Motherland with one of those upgrade kits I just can’t bring myself to spend money on, but still…
Forgive me if I skip the deployment photos and boring ‘run forward casting buffs’ round – it was quite late when I wrote this one up, and the camera had earned itself a short trip to Bunratty Castle to buy the Bunratty Biscuits. What you need to know is that the Bile Thralls have Stealth and the Deathripper has Infernal Machine, while Vlad has Wind Wall up to keep Malice honest. Not that it did any good.
Loxam’s lips moved, a barrage of muttered calculations emerged, and he decided that the turn two assassination with Puppet Strings and FOC9 was worth going for. While he did Shadow Bind Vlad, he couldn’t quite finish him off, and so in theory I had a lot to work with. Even with Nightfall up, the Nyss could effectively move 10” before shooting thanks to Zephyr, ensuring that I should take out all the Bile Thralls, while the Devastator could barge into Malice and cause it some grief like I’d been planning.
If you look closely at that photo, you can see not only the Deathripper, gambolling around wild and free to repeat the previous turn’s triple-Stygian-Abyss-pour-le-victoire, as they say in ETC land, but also my brain, sitting where I dropped it right in the middle of the board. Loading the Devastator up and casting Signs and Portents meant I couldn’t cast Blood of Kings to protect Vlad, which would have been especially handy since I’d forgotten that making a Deathripper Stationary with three Ice Cages doesn’t actually stop it doing what it’s there to do. Barging it backwards with the Devastator on the way into Malice and wailing on them both would have done, and that was eminently do-able from where the Devastator was, if I’d only thought to feat. I put it down to getting carried away with all the tech in the list, and forgetting the basics of Warmahordes tactics in a rush of options and enthusiasm.
Adding insult to injury, I didn’t even kill all the Biles; thanks to Nightfall, one survived, and it only takes one to Purge and score seven victory points (half the Nyss, plus Valachev… lovely). Shame really. It’s one thing to be outplayed, another to be outrolled, and quite another to suffer a bout of the Stupid Virus and essentially give a game away. I’d had a credible shot at beating a Known player, cut brutally short by something dumb, and it’s mistakes of this nature that can really spoil someone’s day if too many are made on the trot.
Outro: And Uncle Von’s Heart Grew Three Sizes That Day
Fortunately, it didn’t spoil mine. In fact, nothing did.
It’s weird; last year’s FQD put a stick up my jacksie and a foul taste in my mouth, while this year’s, with the same win/loss record, left me with this strange warm and fuzzy feeling that I think you real people call ‘happiness’. It’s possible that sensible amounts of caffeine and water in my system and no booze until after the event helped. It’s possible that the more varied pattern of wins and losses kept me cheerful as I didn’t get borne up by a succession of seal clubbings or dragged down by a run of three terrible match-ups. It’s even possible that it’s not playing Cryx that’s done it (worthy of note: the other tournament I remained in good humour at was the one where I played Trollbloods…). I certainly have some entitlement issues regarding the faction, of the “I can’t believe I’m this crap with them after five years” variety, and going into this ‘un with Khador and having only half an idea what I was doing helped lower my expectations a bit. It’s even possible that I might have just manned up a bit and kept my grumpy thoughts in check after the Live And Let Fly debacle (although I still maintain that was the heatstroke talking).
I managed an untidy 21 of 30 (no matter what Chom says) and considering some of the names in residence and my lack of familiarity with Khador I think that’ll do nicely. I’ll do a full review of my three lists on the blog at some later date; there were definitely errors of judgment in the Vlad and Butcher lists, although the Vlad one could expand very nicely at higher point levels and I’m definitely considering playing the faction again in future.
My thanks to James, Kira, Neal, Shaun and Loxam for five excellent games (shame I dropped my brain every time I took Vlad out of the case), to Tim, Jamie and Christine for a fab event and a giant slab of noms, and to Chom for the lift (even if he is trying to claim my place in the standings, the blackguard). No thanks at all to Hark – I don’t care how many dubious Spanish lagers you’ve had, coming in and collapsing on me at one in the morning the night before a tournament is grounds for justified manslaughter and no jury in the land will convict me.