Monday, February 27, 2017

Weekly Hobby Update

It has been another quiet week on the (physical) creative front as real life and the belated arrival of summer intervened.

I did finish the Night Lords Omnibus which - though the ending was totally predictable - was an excellent read. It really gave you an insight into what drives the Legions in the ongoing Long War (mostly survival).

Lack of free time meant that there was no 3D printing this week but with the arrival of free supplies of filament I am hoping to get back to it this week.

One thing I have been trying to do is publish a daily "thought piece" on Kings of War. I love the game as the mechanisms really allow you to focus on tactics rather than info recall. Over the past 10 days I have managed to get three games in and whenever I play a lot the game always sparks my thought processes and creative juices. This coupled with the release of the Clash of Kings supplement has given me lots of opportunities to blog about the game. The response has been remarkable too with page views going through the roof. Obviously there is an audience out there for ramblings on Kings of War 😎.

Purchases over the past week have been limited to a box of Frostgrave Cultists and another GW rattlecan from Mighty Ape. I was inspired to buy the cultists after seeing the remarkable job Paul Welsh posted on the Kings Of War Fanatics FB page.


I'm not sure what I'll use them for but after seeing Paul's fantastic unit I just had to buy some.

Hopefully the next week will see me hit my painting desk again. Have a good seven days.

Oh and thanks Leicester City for reaffirming that fairytales are just a myth!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

KoW - The Introduction of Unit Strength

With all the focus on new Spells and Artefacts and the removal of favoured crutches, one of the more significant changes in the new Clash of Kings has gone largely uncommented upon.

This is the introduction of the concept of "Unit Strength". In the past victory in some scenarios was decided on how many points you had in an area/sector/half. IMO this was a poor mechanism for a number of reasons. Firstly, it led to a number of situations where control of a sector could be decided on a 5 point Magic Artefact rather than a distinguishable difference between items. Secondly, there was no distinction between different unit types. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, it was an extremely clunky mechanism in that you couldn't see at a glance the state of the game. It was only when the calculators came out that a precise picture could be determined.

--
Horde, Hoard or Whored?

In 2016, the Rules Committee obviously recognised at least one of these problems and instituted a change where Individuals and War Machines only counted half points in scenarios where victory was determined by unit points. This was a step in the right direction but didn't address all the issues outlined above. This year, they have made that step with the introduction of "Unit Strength".

So in 2017 for the "Control", "Invade" and "Dominate" scenarios, the Clash of Kings uses the following metric for determining victory:

Unit Strength

  • 0 - Individuals, War Engines
  • 1 - Troops, Monsters, Heroes without the Individual rule, any unit with Height 0
  • 2 - Regiments
  • 3 - Hordes, Legions

 

Now rather than having to total up unit points, you just total up Unit Strength e.g. If you have an Individual, a Regiment and a Monster in the scoring zone while your opponent has a Troop and a Horde then you have Unit Strength of 3 versus his Unit Strength of 4. He would have control.

IMO this is a giant leap forward for KoW. You can tell the state of play easily and quickly which is a real boon even if you are not playing timed games. It also removes false granularity from the game - why should a 240 point Horde be better than a 235 point Horde; and why should that then change with the addition of a 10 point artefact.

Unit Strength also acts as a form of composition steering army construction. Want to take an Individual or Monster heavy (in terms of points) army? Well you need to recognise that your overall Unit Strength is going to suffer and that you will be at a disadvantage in the Control, Invade and Dominate scenarios.

I played Control yesterday and to start to get a feel for Army Unit Strength, my opponent and I calculated our scores. My Herd came in at 19 while Rob's Orcs had Unit Strength of 20. Just like there are views on the number of deployment drops you should have, very quickly "required" AUS will be a factor.

While not a new concept, I applaud the Rules Committee for introducing Unit Strength into KoW. It makes a good game better and even more tactical.

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Battle Report - The Herd vs. Orcs in Control

Today Rob brought his Orcs around for a game. We were keen to try out the new Clash of Kings rules ahead of their use in the upcoming WSS -Summer tournament.

We decided to play Control, interested to see how this played with the new Unit Strength rules. Terrain density was similar to that of the Norwegian Map Pack.

There were a couple of woods, two hills, two obstacles, a burnt out building, an impassable shrine and a ploughed field.
I had made some changes to my Herd dropping the Brutox and Centaur Chief and replacing them with a Longhorn Regiment, a Tribal Totem Bearer and a second Shaman. The changes were designed to add some Inspiring to the list as well as additional Bane Chant. The TTB took the Lute while my senior Shaman added Heal.
The Orcs had a Regiment of Morax, two Hordes of Trolls, a Horde of Ax plus War Drums as well as a Troop of Skulks and a Fight Wagon Horde all concentrated on my right flank.

Friday, February 24, 2017

KOW - Artefact Comparison: Re-rolls

With the release of "Clash of Kings", I've been looking at some changes to my Herd list. In particular I was looking at which magic artefacts, if any, that I would give to my units.

Previously I had been trying out the Blessing of the Gods on my Stampede. This gave the unit Elite - re-roll "1"s to Hit. The unit is one of my heavy hitters, generally with +4 to wound on the charge, so my opponent's De is irrelevant. With 30 attacks hitting on 4+ the non-Elite Stampede will theoretically do 12.5 wounds versus any opponent. With Blessing of the Gods this increases to a theoretical 14.6 wounds. So for 25 points I am increasing my "typical" damage output by 2.1 wounds.


One of the new items in the Clash of Kings book is Blood of the Old King. This costs 15 points and in one round of combat bestows both Elite and Vicious onto the unit. This allows you to re-roll "1"s to both Hit and Wound. Using my Stampede again, the theoretical wounds inflicted increases from 12.5 to 17.0 for that round (assuming no loss of Thunderous Charge). The cost of this is 15 points.

Obviously the critical thing is that this is a one use only item.

From my point of view the new item looks really promising. When you move to a theoretical 17.0 wounds compared to 12.5 (no Elite) or 14.6 (Elite) you open up all sorts of battlefield possibilities. There are very few units in the game that could reliably survive a 17 + 2D6 Nerve Roll. This allows you to throw the Stampede at virtually anything with a high probability of blowing through it in a turn. It removes the need for a charge partner allowing you to commit the supporting unit elsewhere.

Yes, it is only for a single round of combat but if used correctly it can change the nature of the game very quickly. And in turns where it is not used the unit is hardly a slouch. I think of it as eating a mushroom in Super Mario!

There is a lot of analysis in KoW that looks purely at output in terms of wounds inflicted per point paid. That is fair. However in this case I think there is a tendency to miss the wood for the trees. By amping up a unit like the Stampede for even one turn you turn it into a different beast in terms of battlefield capability.

For 15 points this is a very good investment IMO.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

KoW - Clash of Kings Supplement Release

The Mantic KoW Supplement for organised play "Clash of Kings" is being released tomorrow.

In addition to information and ideas on tournaments, campaigns, leagues etc, there is also advice on writing your own rules and scenarios. However the most "anticipated" content are the ten pages at the end of the book which contain the "rules" for the 2017 Clash of Kings.

Effectively these rules are an update to Kings of War v2. However they are not an errata so Tournament Organisers, casual players etc are free to use them as they see fit. Although not "official" rules, I think they will very quickly become the default option - much like 2016's COK Tournament Tweaks.

So what do you get? Well the focus is on:

  • Rules & Unit Changes - stricter Army Composition, changes to how Breath Attacks and Spells interact with cover, 2016's "Fly" amendment, modification to the Bane Chant spell and a mix of boosts and nerfs to various armies/units.
  • Magic Artefacts - the addition of ten new artefacts to join the existing list of Magic Items. Three of that original list are also removed reflecting their almost "no-brainer" presence in some builds.
  • Spells - Three new spells are added and are available to all Magic Users (except Living Legends)
  • Scenarios - Kill and Kill & Pillage are removed, the two 2016 CoK scenarios "Control" and "Push" are added as are six new scenarios. There is also a new scoring mechanism for some scenarios that focuses on Unit Strength values rather than Points values.


Comment

From a directional and strategic point of view I think this is a positive release. Kings of War v2 has been out for just under two years (20 months to be precise). Unlike Games Workshop who alter their meta continually through regular releases of army books and supplements, Mantic have chosen the full release at launch tract. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages (e.g. GW's method generally results in power creep whereby you need the "new shiney" to remain competitive while a lack of new releases can result in static meta where game is "solved" and becomes stale).

IMO this book is an attempt by Mantic (and particularly the KoW Rules Committee) to alleviate the dangers of a static meta inherent in a complete launch model. Based on feedback, their own experiences and that of selected TOs and players, they have attempted to "freshen" the game by addressing identified "flaws" and "no-brainers".

Is the process scientific? Again IMO, no because it can't be. There is insufficient data - games of KoW played - that you could get a statistically-based objective balance into the games. This is further hampered by the inconsistency of input variables - player skill, terrain setup, scoring systems - that makes a mathematical "solving" of KoW pretty much impossible.

However, my observation is that the Rules Committee recognise this and have taken a subjective solution to commonly identified "problems". For example, the removal of Ensorcelled Armour addresses the issue that every Hero (Monster) takes the increase in De if it can, a Horde of Ranged Attack Troops that roll to hit will take +1 to Hit far more often than not etc. EoD's Cursed Pharoah is a solid Individual but inclusion in all lists shows he is viewed as extremely efficient for his points when you add the Wings of Honeymaze. Can a scientific basis for changes to these items/individuals be provided? No - the consistent database doesn't exist in anything like a statistically meaningful size - but that is the beauty of the human condition, the ability to extrapolate based on insufficient data. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong. Based on my observations with rules changes, the Rules Committee have fallen heavily on the positive side.

We can all quibble about how broken somebody else's army is - again the human condition - but personally I am happy with 90% of the rules changes, and certainly can see the case for the other 10%. Have they missed things? Almost certainly, but the efficient market hypothesis says everytime you change the goalposts you'll likely create a new set of undercosted items/units. Thegoal is that these are less pronounced.

For me the other main benefit of this book is increased variety. As a person trying to grow the KoW community in an environment where it competes with other games - both in and out of genre - one of the biggest criticisms/complaints from non-participants has been a lack of variety. Personally I don't believe it is the problem they are portraying it as but "the customer is always right". By introducing new Magic Artefacts and Spells the Rules Committee have provided some ammunition to help fight that complaint.

None of the spells appear at first glance to be overpowered, my opinion is that they are likely very situational (for instance, I can see Bloodboil being used in an army that lacks ranged ability or other damage spells). Among the Magic Items, one stands out as far more likely to be used than any others - and possibly all others combined - we'll see if the RC have created a new rod for their backs.

The new scenarios are really variations of the same. Generally there are only a limited number of things you can do:

  • Kill something
  • Collect something
  • Hold something
  • Go somewhere
It's a little bit like the theory that there are "only seven storylines", one you've got them covered it is variations on a theme. The changes to Victory Conditions are a well considered change. I always felt that a Horde with a 5 point Magic Artefact shouldn't outscore a Horde in a number of the existing scenarios.

So overall I am happy with the changes and the book. I like it addresses some deficiencies in the rules, removes "no-brainer" choices, introduces great variety and thereby refreshes the game to a certain extent. I like the process of yearly updates to address glaring issues.

Just as importantly, I hope that it provides a path whereby when we see an updated version of Kings of War (hopefully 2+ years away) that change is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

KoW - Pricing of Magic Artefacts

One of the hardest things for the Rules Committee to balance must be the pricing of Magic Artefacts, largely because not all recipients are created equal. For instance the value of the (current) Ensorcelled Armour on a Dragon Lord is much greater than it is on a Swarm Crier.


It's Sometimes A Matter Of Perspective

There are three common approaches to addressing this conundrum:
  • Pricing at a Single Value;
  • Restricting Who Can Use An Item; and
  • Tiering the Cost.
In the first approach, the item has a value placed on it based (most likely) on its average utility. In this approach it is accepted that there will be winners and losers (see above Ensorcelled Armour example) but hopefully over time things will average out.

The second assigns who can take the item. Again using Ensorcelled Armour as the example, it is designed for Heroes rather than for units (or Monsters). The problem emerges when boundaries are blurred e.g. Hero (Monster). The rules say that Hero (Monsters) can definitely take artefacts but to me this looks like an area where Alessio didn't fully think through the consequences. One potential fix is to restrict Ensorcelled Armour to Heroes with De 4+ or less.

The final approach is more complicated, though not more complex. That is to have some form of differential pricing e.g. Ensorcelled Armour on De 4 or less is 20 points but is 70 points on De 5. There are numerous examples through the rules where differential pricing may provide a "better" outcome. For instance, Caterpillar bestows Pathfinder. It costs 20 points. Where do you get most bang for your buck, putting it on a Troop or on a Horde?  Similarly, it is of far greater value on certain types e.g. Cavalry over Infantry. Extending the example to the extreme "Where is Caterpillar most useful, on an Infantry Troop or a Cavalry Horde? And where do you get most value for your 20 points?"

The rules writers have taken the approach of a single value, no doubt acknowledging that there are winners and losers? Where the discrepancy is too great they have then partially implemented the second approach. I'd contend that there are cases where the third approach would produce greater fairness but I understand that this has to be balanced against increased complication.

Sometimes though a mix of the first two approaches doesn't necessarily work. I'd surmise that the ubiquity of Ensorcelled Armour on a limited cohort of Heroes has led to the removal in the upcoming COK Organised Play book. If you are going to rely on the first two approaches then you need the blunt instrument that is the Banhammer.

For v3, I'd hope that we see some consideration of Approach 3 for a limited group of items (and as part of an overall approach reliant on the first two methods). That would allow items to remain on the list of Magical Artefacts but further restrict the "no-brainer" solutions. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

KoW - Inspired?

The "Inspiring" ability is without a doubt one of the most important abilities in Kings of War. Because of the vagaries of dice, being able to make your opponent re-roll Nerve rolls resulting in a "Routed" result can literally win or lose you a game. A stray "10" or "11" can be (re)-turned into something more statistically probable or you get a second chance for your foe to deliver the dreaded "Snake Eyes".


The Ultimate Example of "Inspiring"

With my Ratkin I typically used three sources of Inspiring in my list - a Warlock with the Talisman, a Swarmcrier and the Daemonspawn. I always felt that this was more than ample. The two foot Individuals "umbrellaed" my main Infantry blocks while my Daemonspawn was free to rampage but had an Inspiring bubble he could project if necessary with his flying ability.

Recently I have started playing The Herd. Due to the make-up of my list I have only been able to get two Inspiring characters into my army. One is a Centaur Chief and the other is a Shaman on foot. After four games I have noticed far more instances where I am not forcing my opponent to re-roll successful "Routed" results.

Is this bad play on my part or do I have insufficient (or inefficient) sources of Inspiring in my list?

Well The Herd is a very fast army and my construction has emphasised that. As a result there are numerous opportunities for a unit to move outside "Inspiring" range. There are times where this is not a problem - in relation to chaff units that are charged having done their job, for example - but in the vast majority of occasions, it is a problem.

I am convinced that in my case, around 80% of these occasions are most likely due to poor placement on my part. This either occurs at deployment but more likely occurs in subsequent Movement phases. The tendency is to focus on the movement of combat units rather than support units - both the Shaman and the Centaur Chief fall into the latter group. You then move your support units as an afterthought. I would suggest that the really good players take as much, if not more, care in ensuring that the supporting units are in an optimal position. This can mean having to balance the "Inspiring" ability with the positive effects of ranged attacks, particularly Magic. However most gamers being unbridled optimists seem to err on the offensive output rather than risk mitigation side of the equation.

So for me that leaves about 20% of instances that I can probably not avoid by tightening up my placement. How do I address them? I would say it falls into three key areas.

Firstly, I can buy a third source of "Inspiring". This comes at both a points cost and incurs a list construction tax (a unit has to be given up to allow another Individual/Totem to be taken). In the end there is probably also a redundancy cost as there will be numerous instances where "Inspiring" is not used or the affected unit as an alternative source.

Secondly, I can make my existing sources more mobile. My Foot shaman could be put on a mount for 15 points giving him an additional 6" of mobility to plug an "Inspiring" hole. This seems a rational choice (and would be my preferred option) but I love my foot model.

The third option is to accept that there will be circumstances where a unit is out of "Inspiring" range. The key with this is to know the probable outcome and know the impact of a unfortunate dice roll. If the whole game hinges on you surviving that combat and your opponent doesn't have to re-roll then probably better not to commit in the first place.

For me, I'm going to persevere with the two sources of "Inspiring" in my Herd and focus on tightening up my placement. This will hopefully hone my skills as a player. If after another 10-15 games I determine it is not working (i.e. it's beyond me) then I'll look at the more fundamental option of a list change.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Weekly Hobby Update

Lots of things done this week, just not too much on the creative front.

First of all, I got two games of KoW in on Saturday. I've got to say that I love this game, in that the rules are so crisp and clear that it allows you to focus on tactics rather than application of layers of combos. In the games I had, I was specifically trying out the Chimera that had been recommended to me as a "must have" unit. After using it I can see where it has application but again with so much of KoW the devil is in the detail of how you use it. The Chimera can Fly, has CS2 but it only has 7 attacks. You are paying 210 points for it so you need to be aware that throwing it in frontally by itself is not going to pay dividends....even against chaff.

Secondly, I purchased the two Gathering Storm books. I chose to get the enhanced iBook versions largely because they are half the price of the physical versions. My main interest is in reading the advancing storyline so they will hit the bedside table once I finish the Night Lords' Omnibus.

I received my copy of "Gangs of Commorragh" last week. This new initiative of GW to produce mini-games with standard models in it is fantastic. I have a Dark Eldar army painted by Troy Forster that featured in a four page spread in White Dwarf (somewhere between #250-270) which lacked Hellions and had 6 Reavers. The ability to add a further 6 Reavers plus 20 of the new Hellions is win-win.
Printing continued on my trenchworks. I've now got an additional 10 modules to paint. The PLA filament I was waiting on has arrived so I can get back to them. My intention is to have three 4' parallel lines joined by connecting trenches so I need 15-16' of models to complete the project. After this I have an Aztec Ruin and a Daemon Summoning Dais I want to print.

I managed to get the Players Pack out for the first of the Warlords Super Series to be played on March 18. Hopefully we will see a good turnout. I know it is easy for me to say but it is important that the community support these events if we want want KoW to grow. There are competing calls for our time and with the fractured nature of Fantasy here in NZ at the moment growth and continuity are essential.

The hall for the Fields of Blood NZ Masters has been booked. The event will be held in Wellington on the first weekend in December and will have competitions for the three genres that FOB provides rankings for - Kings of War, Warhammer 40k and Flames of War. I urge TOs to send through their results and I'll get them uploaded to ensure the rankings are up to date. Thanks to the three gentlemen who lodged results this week.

Coming up I have my monthly 40k game with Hagen on the first Sunday in March. He gets to wipe the table with me and I get to moan about how bloated and cumbersome the 40k rules are 👍. Win-win. 

And if anyone is looking for a game of Kings of War just drop me a line.....I have a table available for evening or weekend play. The Clask of Kings Organised Play Book is released this week and I'm interested to try out some of the new scenarios, spells and magic items.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Battle Report - The Herd versus Undead in Dominate

Conscious of the fact that I don't want to "do a Vaul"* here's some observations on my second game down the Club yesterday. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos during this game as my battery was low.

Kent and I rolled up "Dominate" and generated a new terrain map from the Norse Map Pack. My army was the same as that against Carson. The Undead had a Lord on Pegasus, Liche King and Army Standard Bearer, two Hordes of Werewolves, Horde of Wights, Wraiths, Zombie Legion, Revanant Horde and two Troops of Skeletons.

I won the roll for first turn and decided I needed to take it to try and stop the infantry Horde and Legion from getting in the centre circle. To this end I managred to push my Spirtwalkers through one Skeleton Troop and in conjunction with the Brutox pushed forward into the Zombie Legion.

On my left the Lycans charged the Wraiths and were Bane Chanted by the Shaman. However they rolled really poorly for the Nerve Check - needed unrerollable 5. This failure set the tone for the game as I had to react to setback and started reinforcing failure with more failure. 😟

The Spiritwalkers inflicted 20 wounds on the Zombies which set me up for a victory against the Nerve 28 Legion. However the Brutox inflicted nothing with its 10 attacks. I failed the Nerve Roll and now my Spiritwalkers were in a lot of trouble. They survived the first Zombie countercharge but died when they and my Brutox failed again to make a Nerve Roll. This, along with my Lycans being Wavered twice put me in a precarious position once the Wight Horde disposed of my screening Beast Pack. My plan was falling apart dramatically.

On the right a Werewolf Horde routed my Harpies but in turn were destroyed by a Stampede. These were then charged by Vampire Lord and the second Werewolves but held. I managed to get the disordered Stampede and my Centaur Lord into the Vampire and damage but he held. The Stampede fell to the combined charges in the next turn.

The second Stampede and the Centaur Chief finished the Vamp on Pegasus but were now outnumbered 4 units to 2. Eventually both fell to the Undead.

In the centre the Spirtwalkers were finished off by the Zombie Legion while the Wights destroyed the Chimera I had had to chuck in to fill a hole. All the while the Lycans were failing to finish off the Wraiths as they were constantly wavered. When they finally did they were charged by the Wights who killed them.

At the end of Turn 6 the game was a draw and I hoped it would end as Kent would steamroller me if it went to Turn 7. It did and he did.....at the end I only had my Shaman left.

It was a great game and I learned an awful lot. The key thing was to have contingency plans. When I got into bother I was fully committed and if things continued to deteriorate I had no way to claw it back.

Well done to Kent....an emphatic victory to him.

* "Doing a Vaul" - we had a player locally who used to post battle reports on YouTube. However they only ever featured him winning!

FOB NZ Rankings - 40K updated for Over The Top

Adam Thornton has sent me through the results for Over The Top, the Hamilton Immortals annual 40K tournament.

These have been uploaded into the Rankings.

Just a heads up to any 40K TO out there. Your event can go into the rankings as long as it has a minimum 8 participants, is at least three rounds and is open to the public to participate.

The info I need you to provide is:

  • Player Rank
  • Player Name (full name not just first name or nickname)
  • Primary Detachment
  • Date of the event
  • No. Of Rounds

You can flick them through to me at pete@thefieldsofblood.com