Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Skaven at the Masters

This weekend I attended the NZ Masters in Hamilton. This was the sixth running of the event and my fourth appearance (I qualified for the first two but ended up umpiring the event). The field for this weekend’s event was the best ranked of any of the six tournaments so far – ten of the Top 12, last year’s winner and #15.

When I saw the field I tried to work out what the make up of race selection for the field would be. The only surprises (for me) were Locky (I didn't know what he’d take), James Brown (I thought he’d take Ogres) and Rory (I thought Vampires). I was pleasantly surprised when I got these incorrect (vampires being a hard match for the two armies I was considering).

My initial selection was the Daemons I've been using recently but I shelved them when I considered the potential for cannons and poison. That proved a good choice and so I fell back on Skaven, generally my army of choice.

The list I took was modified to reflect what I thought I would be facing and I likened it to a Swiss army Knife with a tool for every job.

Seer – General, Bell, Earthing Rod, Skalm, Dragonbane Gem

Chieftain – BSB, Standard of Discipline
Engineer – Level 2, Doomrocket, Condenser
Engineer – Level 1, Ruby Ring, Dispel Scroll
Engineer – Brass Orb
Assassin – Weeping Blades, Potion of Strength

30 Clanrats – Full command
22 Stormvermin – Muso, Standard, Storm Banner
40 Slaves – Champ, Muso
40 Slaves – Muso
40 Slaves – Muso

6 Gutter Runners – Slings, Poison
6 Gutter Runners – Slings, Poison

Hellpit Abomination
Warplightning Cannon

The list has more toys than I’d normally like – I've never been a big user of the Orb – but it gave me an option in most circumstances. Critically it gave points up sparingly and was risk averse in that I took the Rod over my more usual Power Scroll.

So how did it go?

Game 1 – Locky Reid (Empire) – Dawn Attack

Locky’s list was my worst matchup but I was happy to get him early as he had had no recent practice with Empire. I started picking up points almost immediately – Stank (Orb), Hellblaster, Engineer – and built up an early lead. My WLC blew up Turn One but that was about it. I pushed my Slaves aggressively at him and the Demigryphs were shocked when the Assassin popped out of one unit and shredded them. Locky started to pull pack and I managed a big win 1420-155.

Win 17-3

Game 2 – Hamish Gordon (Warriors of Chaos) – Blood & Glory

Hamish had Throgg, 3 units of Trolls, two of Skullcrushers, Tz BSB and Slaanesh Daemon Prince.  The scenario allowed him to set up 15” in which was always going to be hard for me. Early on Skullcrushers took out the Doomwheel but were effectively out of game. He turned his other unit to face off vs. scouting Gutter Runners and I pushed Slaves at him. These Slaves eventually charged him – the Skullcrushers turned, popped Assassin, and destroyed them. While this was going on my Seer was dishing out Crack’s Call destroying one unit of Trolls and hurting another.

Here Hamish got unlucky. His Prince cascaded while he was in the flank of Slaves with BSB and Trolls in front. If he had cleared out the 40 slaves then he had a nice overrun path. He needed to get 30 kills to move me off a rerollable Ld 10 Break Test (I’m not sure he would have done it – he 42 attacks + a Thunderstomp and 5 Stomps). Slaves eventually died but Seer cleaned up a second Troll unit with supporting shooting/magic. I got Throgg while Hamish got the Abom. Worked out as 2255-467 win giving me a big win.

Win 19-1

Game 3 – Peter Williamson (High Elves) – Battleline

Peter’s list had the strongest shooting phase of any there. This proved the most brutal of any encounter with the rats giving up 1598 points. The Storm Banner was invaluable reducing Peter’s shooting and allowing me to close and pick up some points. Peter took my bait and charged the Bell with the Prince on Dragon but a lost Champ due to miscast meant I couldn’t use my Assassin to full effect. He did kill BSB which was small consolation. I had put three wounds on Peter’s Phoenix but it then rampaged through my Stormvermin before turning back on my Bell. In the end it was a bloodbath but I finished killing 2130 points for a narrow win.

Win 13-7

Game 4 – Tom Dunn (Daemons of Chaos) – Meeting Engagement

Last year Tom ended my Masters hopes and fulfilled his own by removing my Seer, Bell and BSB with a single Final Transformation. When he cast it with IF Turn One, I expected the worse. Luckily the Horned Rat was with me in this game and I survived the spell. I managed to bring the Lord of Change down with a combination of Poison and a cannon shot. From here on we traded units the Seer again contributing critically by Crack’s Calling the block of Nurgle Beasts. He survived failing his 2+ Flaming Ward but only took two wounds. It finished 1900-1003 to me.

Win 15-5

Game 5 – Rory Finnemore (Empire) – Watchtower

Rory had Karl Franz, BSB in a block of 19 Knights, Light Council in Swordsmen, 2 Stanks and a 5 Demigryphs. The scenario was a dream for me. I had one target and began work on it early. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and Rory eventually got them in the Tower. I worked over the rest of his army, Slaves with Assassin picking up Demigryphs, Crack’s Call getting a Stank and gradually reducing both the Knights and Swordsmen.  I had three chances to 13th the diminishing Swordsmen but failed to cast it. Whilst he only killed 237 points, crucially held the objective which restricted me to 9 points regardless of margin.

Loss 9-11

In this game I let the pressure of what was a very intense event get to me and lost my cool. Rory would have been quite within his rights to “0” me for Sports. I am incredibly disappointed in myself and have apologised to Rory for this.

Game 6 – James Brown (Lizardmen) – Battleline

Going into the last round I was 7 points ahead of the field and the critical thing was to ensure I didn’t take a big loss. This dictated my strategy against James where I focused on picking up points steadily through the game. James was also quite tentative deploying well back and looking to use his Cold One Bus to deliver characters and push a Skink Priest to channel his magic through. In the end I survived his big spells and we fought a critical combat between conga-line Cold One Knights + Characters versus my Abom. I survived having to make a rerollable Ld 7 test as the last act of the game. While this was going on Rory beat Tom 20-0 which meant I had to beat James to stay ahead. When we totalled them up I had 385-237 for the smallest of wins.

Win 11-9

This allowed me to finish on 84 points, a single point ahead of Rory and 6 ahead of Hamish Gordon in 3rd.

This was a very intense gaming experience. In the end I played the guys who finished 2nd through 6th as well as Tom (last year’s Master). There were no easy games and over the course of the weekend I think the luck evened out.

So what about the army?

I never managed to cast 13th over the weekend but my Seer only miscast once. This meant I didn’t need to use the Earthing Rod at all. Similarly I was very cautious ringing the Bell, only on very rare occasions rolling three dice. It generated some Scorch results but best was the 24” Leadership bubble from Embolden. My Engineers were great, generally chipping away with Warplightning. The Level 2 upgrade was well worth it. You have a much greater certainty that the two dice you throw at Warplightning will ensure the spell goes off. The Doomrocket did very little – but that’s its way. The Brass Orb was needed and certainly got its points back. I chose the wrong target versus Rory but other than that was always a threat.

The Clanrats died once – to Peter’s HE – and this was the only time that they got into a sustained combat. The Stormvermin again only went down once – to the HE’s Phoenix – and the Storm Banner bought me time across the board. The Gutter Runners (what I see as the soft points in the Skaven army) only died once – both units falling to Tom’s lone Beast – however they also are required to weasel out points. Their shots wounded the Lord of Change and the unit with Assassin (yes in Gutter Runners) killed a Skullcannon.

Peter killed my Warplightning Cannon and three other times it blew itself up. Generally it had a quiet weekend killing little of the enemy. The Doomwheel was much better, dying to Skullcrushers but generally causing concern. The Hellpit had a mixed weekend but was the game winner in Round 6 picking up skink units and holding off the conga-COKs.

So who were the stars? Well three units stood out.

The Grey Seer himself. He might not have got 13th off but he did cast a lot of Crack’s Call spells. These accounted for Trolls, Beasts and a Stank. Importantly, he held things together with his Leadership and managed to stymie any offensive magic phase.

The Assassin. I moved him around and he was tremendous. He took out Demigryphs, Skullcrushers, Skullcannon and a BSB. It was only in the last game he failed to show but I suspect he was having a nap below the Bell.

But for me the superstars were the three Skavenslave units. They did everything I asked of them, enormously helped by the “Emboldened” result from ringing the Bell. They acted as delivery system for the Assassin, roadblock vs. enemy combat troops and blockers covering the flanks of my Bell. They will dine out on their victories over Demigryphs (Assassin), Skullcrushers (Assassin), Stank (Crack’s Call) and Silver Helms (all their own work).


  1. Well done on the result Pete, particularly in a field of that class, and while playing those in the top half of an extremely strong field.

    Thanks also for the analysis of your army. I can see some of the synergies and strengths, but definitely not all of them, and it helps give me a better understanding of the game. God knows I need it....