Friday, August 22, 2014

Taking the Ogres For A Spin

Playing my first game since the ETC tomorrow and taking the Ogres for a spin.

Trying to come up with a 2000 point list has left me at this:

Slaughtermaster - Level 4 (Heavens), Fencers, Glittering Scales, Ironcurse, Dragonbane, Scroll

Bruiser - BSB, Heavy Armour, Enchanted Shield, Luckstone, Crown, Great Weapon
Firebelly - Gold Sigil Sword
Butcher - Hellheart

9 Ironguts - Full Command, Lookout Gnobbler, Standard of Discipline
3 Bulls - Bellower, Ironfists

3x 1 Sabretusk
2 Mournfang - Bellower, Heavy Armour, Ironfist
4 Maneaters - 3x XHW, 1 x GW, Bellower - ITP, Scouts

Ironblaster

First time I've ever used Heavens and have ever used the Crown.

Fully expect to see significant changes over next couple of weeks.


Nagash Book Just The First

It appears in October we will be getting a second "End Times" campaign book. This one will feature additional forces for the Chaos Incursion.

I wonder if we'll see the rumoured four plastic Greater Daemons? If so they will arrive ahead of the Creature Caster Kickstarter.

Guess this is the final nail in the coffin for the "9th Edition in September" boosters.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Team NZ Performance at ETC 2015 - Captain's Observations

This was the fifth time that NZ had sent a team to the ETC. Six of the team plus the Coach (James Milner) were returnees with only Rory Finnemore and myself as debutants.

When the team was put together last September, I set out the goal I wanted the team to achieve. This was to improve from last year's 26th Place into the top half of the table. Effectively this meant Top 16. I also identified 12th or above as significant outperformance given the playing resources, set up and logistics of other countries.

The team selected was:

Pete Dunn (Skaven) - Captain
Mal Patel (Lizards)
Dave Grant (Ogres)
Dave Meachen (Daemons)
Thomas van Roekel (Dwarfs)
Tim Joss (Dark Elves)
Dan Butler (Warriors of Chaos)
Rory Finnemore (Empire)

James Milner - Coach

Initially we did not have Dwarfs in the mix - Rory was playing Vampires and Thomas Empire - but we switched late last year. The other decision was around Dave Grant's army. We considered switching him to Wood Elves when the new book fell but decided against it. In retrospect both these decisions were correct.

Going into the event we played two practice rounds - beating Serbia and then a narrow loss to Singapore. After the Singapore game we spent 5+ hours reviewing and revising our matchups - remedial homework from the Captain.

So our round results were as follows:

Round 1 - Scotland (eventual finish 11th)  - Win 97-63

Round 2 - Norway (21st) - Loss 60-100

Round 3 - Switzerland (12th) - Win 84-76

Round 4 - Australia (19th) - Win 87-63

Round 5 - Czech Republic (9th) - Loss 76-84

Round 6 - Finland (14th) - Loss 63-97

Our record was 3 wins and 3 losses. In achieving that we beat the 11th and 12th placed teams and took a narrow loss to the 9th Place team.

Going into Day 3 we were placed 11th and I gave the team a target of a minimum 150 points. Unfortunately we only got 139 points and were jumped by teams coming from much lower on the table.

This meant that we finished 20th and failed to achieve the placing we had wanted. This was very disappointing to the team - I personally was gutted - as we felt we had done well.


With the benefit of a week to provide context I think the final placing undersells the performance.  Throughout the weekend we were always playing on the Top Half tables. This means that we have a very strong strength of schedule. All our opponents came from the other top twenty teams. We had three wins and all of those came against teams that finished above us. Against the Czechs, the team gave up what looked like a solid "85 point" win when a few things went awry. That would have set us up for a Top 12 finish last round.....might have beens.

To give some context of how ruthless the ETC is. Norway who finished below us placed eventual winners Sweden in Round 5.

Obviously the highlight for me was the win over Australia who had been tipped to do very well. They were quite confident going into the event and to beat them 87-73 was a big fillup for the NZ team. The haka performed by Rory post Dan Butler's win over Nick Hoen (in what Oz had as a solid Green) brought a standing ovation from the room.

Regarding our lists I think we had two lists that were problematic. The traditional Skink Cloud Lizardman list was just too 2012. I think one (Jack Armstrong from England) did well with it but generally the Lizards that achieved were "newer" builds. We may have got some assessments wrong but generally I think the list itself was pressured. And WoC. They underperformed last year and did so again this year. The problem was that they didn't have enough good matchups and had more orange than in the past. In the end it meant Dan went under the bus to get the team better matchups. I also found in the matchup process that we relied a lot on DoC, Skaven and Dwarfs to take what would be problematic matchups for other armies. We certainly missed not having High Elves.

I'm going to talk more about Matchups in a later post as this really is a topic that deserves wider review. However I will say here that the team owes a great debt to Jack Dunn for his work in developing matchup software. While it is only as good as its inputs, based on team assessment this software regular gave the team a pickup of between 5-10 points in the matchup process with no angst. While other teams mulled over matchups, James and I shuffled cards and pushed buttons. We never left the matchup process with an expected score less than 86 - some cases improving from 76. Perhaps his MIT PhD can be on enhancements of ETC Matchup software.

So where will I grade us.....a "C" on recount. But it could have been a B+/A-. Curses.

And playing Captain....Forget about it.

EDIT: And I'm not sure how I forgot to mention the efforts of James in herding us cats during the round. Thanks mate you made my life a lot easier.

Skitterleap 2014 - October 25/26

Skitterleap 2014 is on the weekend of 25/26 October here in Wellington.

You can access the Players' Pack here

The headline details are:

When:  25/26 October

Where: Cashmere Avenue School Hall, Khandallah, Wellington

Armies: 2000 points using FOB-Lite Comp

Rounds: Five (three Saturday, two Sunday) using Scenarios

Umpire: Ryan Lister

All the details for registration, the mechanics of the event etc, are included in the Players Pack.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nagash - Sticker Shock?

We've seen the models - and they are beautiful.

However I wonder if there is going to be some serious sticker shock from NZ consumers when they see the price of the models.

Nagash, Supreme Lord of the Undead will cost NZ$175. That's pretty expensive.

But how does it compare to other countries. Below is a list of other GW RRP and in brackets the NZ$ conversion.

UK GBP 65 (NZ128)
EURO 85 (NZ134)
USD 105 (NZ125)
CAD 130 (NZ141)
AUD 150 (NZ166)

So it looks like NZ consumers are getting the highest price - recently that was generally the preserve of our Australian cousins). And this seems to reverse some recent moves to normalise the price.

Perhaps GW has decided that NZ doesn't need the Supreme Lord of the Undead - we are already living in the End Times.

ETC Match-up Analysis

Posted below is some analysis undertaken by an ETC "analyst" that looks at the results of specific matchups at this year's ETC.

While it doesn't differentiate between different list build - and appreciate that the total data points are 768 - it does give some insight into how certain matchups played out.

An entry has only been included where the matchup occurred at least 5 times.

Some points I noted:
  • Dark Elves, High Elves and Daemons were very strong across the field
  • Dark Elves had no "bad" matchups whereas DoC struggled versus Lizards and High Elves vs. Dark Elves (this last one was important given they are the two most prevalent armies)
  • Skaven and Empire have higher good matchups than most - but that matchup process is important
  • WoC and Woodies were general underperformers (more surprised by the latter than the former)

My Skaven Adventures at the ETC

So I spent the last fortnight travelling to and from and participating in ETC 2015.

I intend to do a series of posts over the next week or so on my experiences and thoughts coming out of the event - especially re Team NZ. Today I thought I'd start with my own playing performance (and get that out of the way).


My list was as follows:

Grey Seer - Screaming Bell, Skalm, Earthing Rod, Dragonbane Gem

Chieftain - BSB, Shield
Assassin - Weeping Blade, Potion of Strength
Engineer - Level 2, Doomrocket, Condenser
Engineer - Level 1, Dispel Scroll, Ruby Ring
Engineer - Potion of Foolhardiness

39 Stormvermin - Full Command, Storm Banner
3 x 39 Slaves - Pawleader, Muso
2x 2 Rat Swarms

2x 5 Gutter Runners - Poison, Slings

2x Doomwheel
Plagueclaw Catapult
Warp Lightning Cannon

To say I have some familiarity with the Screaming Bell list is a bit of an understatement. I had played the list for about 18 months before I applied for ETC (with some forays into DoC  to get variety). Once selected it meant the next 12 months of Screaming Bell (enormous fun for all my regular opponents).

Leading into the event I played three ETC warmup events - Horned Rat VII, Wrath & Ruin and Panzershreck. In the first I suffered a 5-15 loss after blowing up my Bell but other than that I didn't give away points. I managed to win W&R and Panzershreck by winning 9 out of 11 games and drawing 2. In the process I learned that the nemesis - apart from three dicing the bell - is Life magic. I did manage to secure two draws vs. Empire Life armies which to me are the devil.

I'd like to thank the locals who did play me so I could try things out....it really helped.

When it came to matchups I had one set of "reds", the ten armies with Level 4 Life and minimal "orange" - generally Empire, Lore of Hashut Chaos Dwarfs and the Swedish Wood Elves. Other than that I fancied I could generally hold points. I saw my role in the team as a blocker trying to take the enemy hard hitters - Dark Elves, Daemons, Woodies (wrongly it seems) and (as a back up) High Elves. I didn't expect to be given the chance to play Lizards, WoC, ethereal VC etc.

Warm Up Games

We played warmups vs. Serbia and Singapore. In my game vs. Serbia I fought out a 10-10 vs. their Daemons (4 VPs my way), while against Singapore Dark Elves (Flying Circus) it was also 10-10 (3 VPs). Both were hard games which blew away some of the cobwebs.

ETC

Round 1 I was drawn vs. Scotland (Rob Ritchie - who is a lovely bloke). In the end we fought out a 10-10 (about 70 points my way) with me removing two blocks but leaving 4 warmachines on 1 wound. I cast 13th for the only time on the weekend and removed 16 Hammerers. I'd argue it should have been 12-8 my way but Rob would similarly argue the same if I hadn't got the spell off.

In the second round I played Oystein Berg (Norway) who had a Chaos Dwarf list. I fancied the matchup if he didn't castle - he placed everything into a 16" corner square. I could rush him but he had Death/Hellcannon, Deathshriekers, Magma Cannon and Iron Daemon...so I saw a steady bleed of points. I deployed in the other half with important stuff outside his range. 10-10. We then played a game with me rushing him...10-10.

The 3rd round saw me matched up vs. Sebastian Berg (Switzerland) and his Daemons. He hid his LoC behind the hill and baselined the rest. I managed to get a unit of Plague Drones, Beast of Nurgle and pressured his Horrors and Plaguebearers. He didn't want to come out and play and so it petered out to 12-8.

Our grudge round saw me up against Mick Ferraro (Australia) and his High Elves. He had a White Lion BotWD buss which he deployed away from me. I deployed in corner then began the push forward. He sacrificed his two units of Silver Helms to extricate his Frostheart and by start of Turn 3 I was about 300 points up. It petered out again and we called a 12-8.

Fifth round saw me up against the Czech Daemon player. He had a similar list to the Swiss DoC but crucially rolled up 2+ armour save on his LoC. This removed the threat of my Gutter Runners and the Doomwheels. As long as he hid it from WLC it was safe. This he did and he held the rest of his army back. He had Final Trans and Searing Doom, as well as Blue Fire so rushing him was risky - I could see my Doomwheels giving up a bracket early. Final Trans always scares me (thanks Tom)....so after deployment we agreed a 10-10 (as an aside this suited me as it freed me up to act as Captain).

The final round saw me drawn against the Finnish HE player. Here he was all-mounted with a Silver Helm bus that included 6 characters. He pressured me early but I was able to delay him and started working on the two smaller SH units. My hope was to get Deafening Peals off once or twice to remove the warmachines. Unfortunately that only happened once (Turn 4) and I only got 1 - typically I should get between 2-3. There was one bit of play I was quite proud of in this came, I combat reformed a Slave Block facing a single SH, 19 wide preventing his bus going around it. Into the last turn I had dragged the game back to a 10-10 when my opponent made a very strange combat reform putting his bus into one long line. I then had two opportunities - to try for the magical charge into flank hoping he'd fail Break Test and/or Cracks Call down the line. I need a 5 to get in on the charge which was only about a 16% chance....against that I had the opportunity (25%) to Deafening Peal off the warmachines. I rolled Scorch. However I still had Cracks Call - my 5 Dice plus Level 4 vs. his 4 Dice and now Level 1. It had the potential to go through 10 models - six characters and 4 SHs. Each character was a bracket on a roll of a 6 and one SH was worth 170 points (also on a 6). Unfortunately he dispelled it.....I still don't want to do the maths :-(. The game was 10-10

Thoughts

So in the end I went 2-4-0 scoring 64 points.

Looking at my matchups - using the ETC average for the matchup - my baseline was 53.3.  The sample size is small but it gives you an idea on performance.


Scoring 10.7 points more than I "should" makes me feel happier about my performance. I know through the event I felt under enormous pressure to contribute both as a captain and as a player. Certainly in the matchups for a lot of armies Dave Meachen's DoC and my Skaven were the first line of defence. This generally made my conservative buttons kick in, possibly more than they could have.

Apart from hitting the 13th against Rob I didn't feel I had a huge amount of luck at the event. Deafening Peals was generally underwhelming in its results and the Storm Banner never stayed up more than one opponent turn. If these had been a little bit more in my favour I suspect I could have squeezed another 5-6 points out of my result. However the important thing was that - apart from the speed of the SH bus in the last round - I never really felt under pressure of losing a lot of points. The army holds points well and if you play tight, it makes things very difficult for opponents.

About three months ago I changed out a Hell Pit Abomination plus 65 points for two Doomwheels. That was the correct decision as I think I would have struggled to protect its points, while the Doomwheels have more projection (and importantly scare the shit out of most Elves).

Overall it was a very interesting experience. I was mentally and physically shattered at the end - 48 hours door to door to get there. One thing that became blatantly clear is that acting as a Playing Captain is a very difficult road to travel. I'd never combine the roles in the future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Citadel Hobby Knife 1 - Jack 0

Jack was down this weekend before heading off to the States for Uni.

While making toast and getting ready to disappear out the door to see family, he decided it would be a good idea to remove his painted Caudron Avatar from its painting base.

It wasn't.

He managed to slice into his palm severing a nerve and doing damage to his muscle.

So instead of flying back to Auckland this morning, he found himself in surgery at Hutt Hospital having the damage repaired.


So kids, hobby tip - don't multi-task with Citadel Craft Knives.

Nagash - The End Times

The new Nagash models have been sighted in a copy of Warhammer Visions. These are truly fantastic models and I certainly can see me getting pretty much all of them.

Feast your eyes people.





Looking at them I get a real "Alien vs Predator" feel. There seems a strong Tyranid influence.

Next is Arkhan the Black. Again simply stunning.



I love this next model. Looks like a new unit.



The new Spirit Hosts fit with the Hexwraith, Mortis Engine models released in 2012.




A new Manfred van Karstein




Looks like a Khemri/Lahmian crossover character.


I think these will sell very very well

2015 ETC Selection Process


Since the end of the ETC I have been asked about ETC selection process for 2015. Thought I go through what was discussed by the team in the hours after. This fits with previous process but establishes a slightly different timeframe.
Part of the reason for this was so members of this year's team could have a period of time to reflect on whether they wanted to be in the 2015 mix.
The first stage is that the 2014 team elects a Captain for 2015 from available applicants. It is my intention to call for nominations for 2015 Captain on 1 October and to close the application window on 15 October. The team will then vote to determine the preferred applicant. Essentially there are nine votes – including James Milner (2014 Coach). In the event of a draw, and to get early resolution, I’ll have a casting vote. This will be finalised no later than 22 October.
The incoming Captain will then establish a selection panel of his choosing. In the past it has included past captains and players. My recommendation is that the panel include at least one person who does not intend attending 2015 ETC (to provide wider perspective). The selection criteria will be established by the panel. This year I stated upfront what the panel was looking for in applicants.

Applicants for the 2015 will then be opened and any interested player will be able to apply. The only criteria from ETC is that a minimum of 4 players hold NZ passports. This year we aimed to provide a team that blended experience with a reflection of the NZ tournament community.
I would expect that the whole process would be completed by mid-November giving a nine month lead-in for preparation.
As an aside people have asked what they can do to get on the team. The following are my own thoughts based on my prep and what I saw and experienced this year.
  • It is a nine month commitment to ETC
  • You can never prepare enough. Select a race you want to play and use it relentlessly.
  • For this to be meaningful I believe you need to fit your army to ETC restrictions. So if you are playing “Swedish” take an ETC army that fits those restrictions. Essentially, playing an army that is significantly harder than that allowed for the race at ETC is of lesser relevance than practice with ETC army.
  • Clubbing baby seals maybe (is) fun, but of less relevance than your results versus other “good” players. For instance, the English selection process ignores rankings and focuses on how you have done versus other ETC players. I think this is a solid practice.
  • Be a team player…individual egos need to be shelved. So if you are focussed on your own individual goals rather than team placing, then I contend you are less useful to your captain.
Hopefully this year’s event, the coverage etc will whet the appetite of people to apply for 2015. This year we had 16 applicants. It would be great to have that choice again. If you want to discuss further I’m happy to answer any questions and provide my view.

Appreciate if this post could be linked to any relevant forums in NZ and Oz by a regular user of those sites