Tuesday, March 28, 2017

KOW - The Importance of Scenarios

In 2014 I captained the New Zealand WHFB team at the ETC. I played Skaven using a Screaming Bell list. Because we took it seriously - 48 hours travel and a US$3000 cost will do do that for you - I did an enormous amount of preparation. I played that list to death for about 2.5 years (eighteen months prior to selection, then 12 months of ETC hammer). It pretty much killed my love for the hobby for about a year afterwards.

I could walk to a table and know how the game would play. The army was designed to blunt all the best choices other participants had especially the heavy hitter Dark Elves and Daemons which teams used to score their points. It got to the stage whereby unless my opponent had a Level Four Life Mage (specifically with Dwellers Below), I knew I wouldn't drop more than one point and likely would eke out a 2-3 point win. At ETC including warmup games it played out exactly that way - 9 games, 5 wins (4x 12 points, 1x 13 points), 4 draws. God, it was soul destroying but in the team environment you all have a role.


Here We Play The Home Grown Scenario "King of the Cat" - An Objective-based Mission Based on How Tired He Was!

Part of this was the nature of tournament Warhammer, and ETC in particular. A lot of TOs and certainly the ETC only played Battleline (or in KOW parlance - Kill). This gave you a limited set of objectives - deny your opponents' points and retain the ability to kill 2-3 of your enemy's units.

This is a long winded introduction into why scenarios are so important.

Scenarios take the game from a single or limited focus to one where you have to have the ability to achieve multiple objectives while denying your opponent the same. A well constructed set of scenarios will require different strengths at different times and acts as a factor in list construction disadvantaging armies that can only do one thing. It is in effect a form of stealth comp!
Moving into 2017, the new COK book gives us 12 scenarios. Generally they fall into three key areas:
  • Get something
  • Hold something or somewhere
  • Go somewhere
I personally think Kill was a valid inclusion in a list of 12 as its focus was "Destroy something" which would have added a fourth "skill" required in construction of your list.

More importantly the variation of having 12 different missions will keep the game "fresh".

When I got into GW games it was with 40k 3rd Edition. By the end of that edition our local gaming group had a collection of 50+ different tournament missions that we had collected playing in events. They all offered different challenges and therefore keep things fresh.

Even the ETC has seen this need now ensuring Ninth Age has some variation in scenario (differing deployment/objectives) albeit baby steps.

A lot of focus when people play a game is on the balance aspects. This is critically important but just as important for the health of the game is replayability. The lack of replayability can suck the life out of your hobby - as I found. I am glad Mantic is conscious of this and encourages it by the release of books such as COK 2017. Different challenges be it meta changes, new items and spells are what will keep people interested in the game. New and different scenarios are a key way of achieving this.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Weekly Hobby Update

No games for me this week 😢 However I did manage to get quite a bit of hobby, after falling into a recent funk.

First up, I started and completed the Swamps featured in a post last week. Moving to the Epic Dwarf Map Pack has required two pieces of Height (0) terrain and so these swamps will fill some of that bill. I was sufficient impressed by the "Battlefield in a Box" pieces that I've ordered some frozen ponds and also some desert palms. Hopefully they'll arrive later this week.

With the Herd completed, thoughts turn to the next project. I have been picking up figures for a Night Stalkers army but have no specific build in mind. Recently I bought some of the Frostgrave Cultists and on the weekend I started painting them. Not sure what unit they will be - or even if they'll make it into the Night Stalkers - but they get me back painting figures.

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with the airbrush and laid down the base colours on the Water Mill I picked up late 2016 from Tabletop World. This is a beautiful piece and will paint up well. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have some progress to show.

Currently working my way through Fracture of the Biel-Tan. Love it that the fluff is advancing and looking forward to reading the final part though I'm not a big fan of the Imperium's accountant, Robert Girly-Man. Hopefully it doesn't bog down into a quest to discover the source of an auditing error in relation to the M3 8mm Bolt manifest.

Finally, I'm expecting a parcel this week from Mierce Miniatures. They had a recent "Buy One, Get One Free" sale on Monsters and I managed to speak nicely to family members and populate my birthday gift haul with new resin. I have eight Mierce Monsters arriving which I'll look to slot into various armies.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

KOW - Making the Dragonshard Shield Work for Me

One of my favourite units in my Herd are my Spiritwalker Horde. They have okay (4+ Me) and 35 Attacks. However their greatest attributes in my mind are their high Nerve (23) and the fact they can't be Wavered.

I use them as a multifunction unit that can be both offensive and defensive. Sometimes they will take the fight to the enemy while others they will just block off an area of the battlefield.

Always looking to maximise the functionality I had a look at the new Dragonshard Shield as a potential force multiplier for them.

Dragonshard Shield - Once per game, when this unit carries out a Halt! Or Pivot! Order, it may choose to increase its Defence by +2 to a maximum of 6+ until the start of its next turn. [20 points]

Now on the face of it the ability to increase De by +2 even once by game is very attractive. However there is a downside which I have placed in italics. To get the benefit of this increased defence your enemy has to charge you knowing you have it and, as well as the cost of 20 points and forgoing any other item, the only movement you can do is Pivot.

To say that the benefit of this item is "situational" is probably understating it! To activate it you are probably giving up the opportunity to inflict 35 attacks on an enemy unit. Even with no modifiers over their TC1, this is approx 15 wounds on De2-3, 12 on De4 and 9 and 6 on De 5 and 6 respectively. That is quite an opportunity cost!

There are two situations where I can see it having great utility. First, when facing multiple enemies. The Horde is 200mm wide so can accommodate a lot of charging units. When this is the case then it certainly has its worth. The second is when it is sitting on an objective or holding one. Again it has its worth as it may reduce the unit to immovable. But as I say it is situational.

The question is where do you get those points. In my Herd I certainly wouldn't give up Healing Brew and Blood of The Old King Kittens for it. Perhaps Helm of the Ram but with that I know I'll always get use. Same with the Lute.

What we have here is a dilemma where we are balancing certain use versus potential game winning.

I have looked at ways of approximating but again these are largely situational. One way is to park the Horde in Difficult Terrain so any charge accepted is Hindered. That would reduce damage somewhat but not as much as the Shard. Of the other magic items, Brew of Courage reduces the effect of damage by effectively increasing Nerve and is constant.

It is an interest situation as I can see over a tournament how the Shard could be decisive but the majority of the time it is a 20 point opportunity cost.

Again, good rules design.

 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

KOW - Best Game Aid You Can Use.....And It's Free!

Over the past few weeks there has been discussion about timed games, playing quicker etc.

One thing that I do when going into an event is build up my army cheat sheet. I use this in conjunction with the Easy Army list as a basis for a lot of my decisions.

Above is the one I created for my Herd army I used last week. It lists the units I have in the army and for each determines the expected wounds against each Defence level. The two Lycan units could be condensed purely into the second Lycan table in retrospect.

To determine the wounds I have a spreadsheet "Abacus of War" which was built based on the the "Kings of Math" calculator available in the Mantic Forum. My version looks at stand deviations so gives me expected wounds at different confidence levels.

In-game, this means I'm not having it work things out in my head. I can charge my Lycans with Helm of the Ram into De 6 and know I'm expected to do six wounds whereas at De 3, I'll likely do 10. I also know having looked at the stats that I only have about a 5% chance to do more than 8 wounds versus De 6 or more than 12 versus De 3. 

That information informs every choice I make. Lycans can't go in frontally unsupported against De 6 and a Beast Pack is unlikely to make much difference. However two Lycans can break it. With a Stampede with Blood of Kittens I can be expected to do 17 wounds regardless of target which will generally be enough.

The ability to make these calls at an instant, increases the speed of your play no end. It has three major effects:
  • You have realistic expectation of damage output
  • You use less of your own time making decisions; and
  • You reduce the opportunity for your opponent to make decisions during your turn thereby pressuring his clock.
The sheet is quick to make and populate - 15-20 minutes - but is probably some of the best preparation you can do pre-battle. 

It will pay dividends!


Friday, March 24, 2017

KOW - Terrain: New Swamps

Gale Force Nine make a very nice set of swamps as part of their "Battlefield in a Box" terrain sets.

They are perfectly usable straight out of box with just the supplied flock adhered but I wanted to do a little more with mine.

Above is the set as it arrives; two swamps, four islands and two bags of static grass. I decided that I would give the water some depth so after supergluing the islands onto the swamps, I poured in some Realistic Water.

This takes awhile to dry. You can see the slightly milky colour the newly poured water is, as it dries it clears.

The best thing about the Realistic Water is that you get the odd bubble in the resin. Suddenly your swamp has pondlife!

I let the resin dry overnight and it sets hard as it clears. This is also more reflective than straight out of the box.

One thing you can do if you wish is put some wash in your resin when you apply it. Then you will have some colour variation in your water.

Now that it has set hard, I drybrushes the rocks and tree trunks and then start to add tufts. I have used a variety of reeds, lily pads and swamp grass tufts I had in my basing box. I also added some flowers to give extra colour.

It's now time to add the static grass. Rather than use that supplied, I have some from the Citadel Terrain Kit that I used on my Realm of Battle board, other terrain and army bases.

First I apply some PVA and then use my static grass applicator to get the grass to stand upright.

You can be fairly liberal when applying it as you'll recover most when you shake it off after that adhering to the PVA dries.

And here is the finished article. I just need to use the hairdryer to get off some loose static grass and they will be ready to hit the table.

I'm guessing the actual Hobby work - as separate from drying - was less than an hour.

 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

KOW - Line of Sight Mechanic

One thing common to all wargames is some type of Line of Sight (LoS) mechanic. It is using this rule that allows you determine whether one unit can see and/or be seen by another unit.

I started playing in Historicals (DBM specifically) and in that game there was no height mechanic and LoS was determined by the ability to draw an unimpeded line from one unit to another. When I switched to 40k the system did have an abstract height mechanic which determined whether a unit could see or not. With the advent of 5th Edition 40k Games Workshop removed it and went to True Line of Sight ostensibly to add a more cinematic experience. I hated the rule in 40k. Nothing ignored me more than having to crouch down to get a "model's eye view" while your opponent justified his shot through a window and two doors whereby his crouching Dark Eldar Warrior with Dark Lance could shoot the foot of your Dreadnaught. Happy Times! That move from the abstract to TLOS was a key reason I gave 40k away.

One consequence of TLOS is that it does away with the "rule of cool" (amazing conversions generally larger than stock) and introduces "modelling for advantage" (traditional extreme example - the prone Wraithlord). Subsequent editions of 40k have maintained TLOS.

When it was introduced into Fantasy I didn't mind as much. Certainly for most players it wasn't and issue - though one local did make an extreme height Skaven Warp Lightning Cannon before being told not to be so silly. The ETC introduced their own Systematic LOS system which seemed to solve a problem that wasn't necessarily there for 99% of gamers. It worked but liked all things that come out of a European collective was overly bureaucratic. Those crazy Danes, ay?

When I moved to KOW I moved back to a prescribed rather than abstract system.

The KOW LoS Rules

The system seems to work very well without being unnecessarily cumbersome. Now I might be looking at it with rose-tinted glasses because I never found TLOS a problem in WHFB but I think the abstract system KOW uses is critical once you introduce timed games. By having a Height system you reduce any LOS discussion to 2D rather than 3D.

The use of Leader Point gives the measure point and then it is a straight determination.

Again this is a mechanic that enhances the game through its simplicity.

 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

KOW - Clash of Kings 2017 Tournament Test Drive

Last weekend we had our first local event of the year and the first in New Zealand to utilise the newly released COK 2017 rules. In addition we also used the newly updated FAQ.

I thought it might be useful to give a review of the rules changes in the context of the event.

Scenarios

By far the biggest change in the COK pack IMO is how scenarios are scored. Other rules have impact but changes to Victory Conditions fundamentally change how you build your army and play the game.

For this event, it was decided to introduce only one of the scenarios that wasn't in the v2 rule book. "Control" has been floating around since last year - I believe its genesis was at the 2016 Lonewolf GT in Texas - and was featured at the UK Clash of Kings. The other three used were Invade, Dominate and Loot.

The reasoning behind this suite was they were generally known but apart from Loot all used the new Unit Strength mechanic - previously it was points. When the army lists were distributed to participants the Unit Strength of the army was listed.

This new mechanic has two major effects. Firstly, you can always see the state of the game at a glance. This makes it much faster as you don't have to calculate points constantly to know how you stand. For timed games this is a big win. It also is totally unambiguous to both participants. The second is that it influences army design. You need to have sufficient Unit Strength to compete in these scenarios - or if you limit your US then you have a plan to address the hurdle. I suspect that over time the average US of a 2000 point army will coalesce around the 18 mark. This change will impact the number of Monsters and Individuals you will see in lists - especially tank Individuals. As an example I can take a Brutox in my Herd or a Horde of Lycans for the same points. If previously I was ambivalent, now the Lycans give me 3x the Unit Strength. Things like that won't be ignored.

As I said, the introduction of US into core scenarios fundamentally changes the way we play the game. It is the ultimate meta changer.

Special Rules

There are three new special rules. One, Fly, where Flyers lose the ability if Disordered in combat has been around since mid-2016 but is now captured in book form. It has always been a good change.

The second, 4++ Cover, where you can get cover from Lightning Bolts, Fireballs and Breath Weapons is a significant change without being earthshattering. There is now far more tactical consideration both in their use and in defence against them then there was previously. Any move that rewards the competence of players is good. Previously they were literal "no-brainers", now a player has to consider cover or suffer a 33% swing in effectiveness.

I think the third change, Bane Chant Piercing Success, is the best of them all. Sitting a Mage with BC behind a shooting Horde was a given. If he had. BC2 then head 75% change of success and 87% with BC3. The chance of getting Piercing now (when you require 2x 4+) has dropped to 25% and 50% respectively. For anyone who plays based on probabilities and seeks near certainty then this is a big change. It is also one that needed to be done given the introduction of the Lute.

Unit Changes

In a field of ten this is going to be a hard one to get a fix. The best I can offer is anecdotes. One of our Undead players said that he wasn't happy on spending 10% of his army on an Individual with De 5+. Therefore there was an army switch while our other Undead player was more heavily liche-driven.

We had an Orc player finish 3rd and his Morax and Fightwagons benefitted from the addition of Fury. My view prior to the event was that he would likely finish 4th-5th so hard to know how much the changes helped. I suspect that the rules changes in their entirety have helped the Orcs, given their army make-up. They will be more survivable and are more US based.

Artefacts

We saw six of the ten new artefacts on show. Any unit that had Blood of the Old King was the new poster-child for "Fire Magnet".

I suspect the most useful were the Healing Brew and the Lute. The ability to increase CS reliably gives the lowly ASB a highly useful function that complements his prime role. And I struggle to find a better use of 5 points than the ability to recover D3 wounds. Both will find their way into the majority of tournament lists.

The removal of three items will engender mixed feelings depending on whether you used them. I always felt Ensorcelled Armour was a crutch item but thought restricting it to Individuals might be a better solution. The Brew of +1 to Hit depends on your meta. The restriction to non-ally units helped but we had seen it start to fall out of use once we removed hills in the deployment zone. However the combination of this removal and the BC changes may see shooting Hordes disappear from the game for awhile. This wouldn't necessarily be a good thing.

Spells

We had no new spells.

Overall

My first tournament exposure to these changes suggest that the game is faster, less ambiguous and more tactical. In this the Rules Committee have scored an unqualified win. We can quibble about some things but I think that overall they've knocked it out of the park. Just as importantly, they have shifted the meta significantly which for a game that does not have a three month army release cycle (with all the associated power creep that that brings) is critical for the game and experience to remain fresh.

Well done!

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

KOW - Deployment: Having A Plan

Over the past couple of months I have been getting used to playing with my Herd army. This has involved trying different units and strategies to decide on the required build. A part of this involves deployment strategy and once I had refined my list to what I was taking to my first event with them, I needed to have a deployment plan.

My list was:


  • 4x Beast Packs
  • 2x Lycan Horde
  • 2x Stampede
  • Spiritwalker Horde
  • Chimera
  • Shaman
  • Tribal Totem Bearer
There are a few things implicit in the list:

  • It is very fast...6" minimum (characters and Spiritwalkers), the rest 7"+ (over half the units 9"+
  • There is a lot of Nimble - Beasts, Lycans and Chimera
  • Everything has Pathfinder, Stampedes also have Strider
  • Only one Flyer
  • No Ranged Attack so any Kills must be in combat
  • Only two sources of Inspiring - both move 6"
  • Army has hard hitters 
  • Chaff unlikely to kill units
Taking all that into account I built a deployment plan that maximises these strengths and minimises weaknesses.
Three  of the Beast Packs are set up on the deployment line with dual roles - seize space to all me to set up Turn 2-3 charges by heavy hitters and/or to act as screens from shooting. Given their Pathfinder terrain is usually an assistance rather than a hindrance. They are set up with 2" between their rear and other units so they can make use of Nimble and pivoting 90 degrees before moving.

The last Beast Pack is deployed further back and will be used as a harrier. It generally works in conjunction with the Chimera to hold any push on that flank. The two Lycans are on the other flank and have Nimble, Pathfinder and an 18" move. The first also has Healing Brew as well as Regen to absorb shooting.The two Lycans work as a team with the rightmost Stampede and TTB.

In the centre I have my Spiritwalker Horde. These can't be Wavered and work behind the Beast Packs. They are supported by the second Stampede and the Shaman. He has Bane Chant and Heal to recover wounds on those two units or to add CS if necessary. The two units have high Attack values and so BC works well here.

At setup, all but the far most Beasts are in Inspired range which acts as a safety net if I lose first turn.

So what are the benefits of the plan. Well I can quickly set up knowing I have speed and mobility to adjust as game develops. given my Pathfinder special rule, it is not heavily influenced by terrain considerations so again allows quick set up. I also know my measurements and the placement reflects special abilities.

I find I do worse if I am playing in a reactive fashion and especially with Herd I don't necessarily need to react to opponents set up as I have speed/mobility advantage. With a set plan I deploy fast, leaving no time for my opponent to think in my time. This can pressure his clock later on.

Obviously the plan can be flipped if necessary into mirror image with Lycans going on left rather than right. Interesting though players generally tend to stack their right flank over their left - wonder if it is preferred hand or side of the brain thing?

The plan you use will vary depending on which army you use and you may find each army has a couple of set ups that work and you choose depending on the type of game you expect.

They say that no plan survives contact with the enemy. While that may be true the benefits of having some semblance of one is better than setting up on an ad hoc basis IMO

Monday, March 20, 2017

KOW - Dancing on the Head of a Pin

On Saturday at WSS:Summer my final round opponent had a Varangur army with two Devourers in it. What surprised me most about these were that they were Monsters that had Nimble that could not be stripped. There are a few Monsters with Nimble courtesy of Fly but that can be stripped in combat by Disordering them.

Being mounted on a square base allows the Monster to move away from an unattractive combat very easily. The Nimble allows a Pivot and the Height the LoS to undertake a lot of charge corkscrews etc.

Monster Gyrating Atop A Pin

As this offered tactical possibilities, I decided that I would look through the various lists and see how many of these non-Fly Nimble Monsters there are.

The answer is three and they are all in Uncharted Empires.

1. Devourer (Varangur)

Sp 7 - Me 4 - De 4 - A 10 - Ne 14/16 (175 points)

He comes with Pathfinder, CS1, Stealthy, Strider, TC1 and can be given a Vicious Breath Weapon for 15 points.

2. Knucker (Trident Realms)

Sp 9 - Me 4 - De 4 - A 6 - Ne 13/15 (145 points)

Here you Pathfinder and TC3

3. Planar Apparition (Night Stalkers)

Sp 7 - Me 4 - De 4 - A 4 - Ne 13/15 (165 points)

Added abilities are Ensnare, Heal (7), Pathfinder, Regen 4+

So three quite different units, but all sitting in the mid-priced Monster niche. I think it is fair to discount the Apparition as it is clearly a support unit that should never be in combat (Heal 7 and only 4 attacks). But the other two have potential.

The Devourers I saw had Breath Weapon upgrade and I can see the value of that - however it can be neutralised via combat. I am undecided but expect I would take the upgrade in an all comers list as it appears charitably priced.

The speed of the Knucker is its greatest asset (when coupled with Nimble and Pathfinder and its TC3). It suffers from a low Attack count though and is probably best used for clearing chaff rather than confronting heavy hitters.

Interested to hear what success people have had with these Pin-dancing behemoths.

 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

KOW - Tournament Report: The Herd at WSS: Summer

On the weekend we had the first local event of the year with WSS: Summer. It was 2000 points, four rounds using the new Clash of Kings 2017. We also used the Epic Dwarf Map Pack.

I took my Herd army to its first tournament. Last year I played almost exclusively Ratkin and I wanted an army that provided a different challenge. I like the shoot then counterpunch tactics regardless of game so I thought that The Herd was pretty much the antithesis of that.

When I built my list I decided that I would try a smashmouth in-your-grill army. That meant that it would have no Ranged Attack at all (no shooting, no magic missiles) and I wanted to go against conventional wisdom and rely on two sources of Inspiring. I also decided that to make sure I played tight with them that they would be on foot rather than mounts - actually it was primarily because I love the Mierce foot Shaman and Banner Bearer.

My list was as follows:

  • Spiritwalker Horde
  • 4x Beast Pack Troops
  • Lycan Horde with Healing Brew
  • Lycan Horde with Helm of the Ram
  • Stampede with Brew of Sharpness
  • Stampede with Blood of Kittens (the Old King)
  • Chimera with Wings
  • Shaman with Heal
  • Tribal Totem Bearer with Lute

So the list has 12 drops and Unit Strength of 20.

You can check out the lists at the event here

Game 1 - Carson Turnbull (Forces of Nature) in Invade

This was Carson's first tournament but he has been playing about once a week for the past three months.

Carson set up most of his army on one flank. He vanguarded his Shamblers and sped up my left side. Knowing I had higher Unit Strength I moved diagonally across the table away from his army with a view to getting my fragile Beast Packs to safety. His shooting was limited to 2-3 LBs and a Regiment of Naiads so I covered my move with my Spiritwalkers chaperoned by the Shaman with Heal. Because they can't be Wavered I knew that I would maintain control of them healing any wounds they took. For Carson to break them Nerve 23 it would take a sustained assault and I had my Lycans and Chimera lurking to pounce on any advance by his Flyers.

Win 12-4

Game Two - Ian Dixon (Ogres) in Dominate

In my 18 months of playing KOW (probably about 70 games) I have never played Ogres. Dominate is probably not the best introduction. From reading and watching I knew a few things - don't let the Blasters get in your lines and don't let their Living Legend charge you in the flank.

Ian started his Blasters on the flanks aimed diagonally into the centre circle. I realised I decided to sacrifice Beast Packs to get them but Ian had one screened by RG Fleabags and the other escorted by Boomers and Grokagamok. My Beast Pack was able to take out the Red Goblins over two turns but the other was shot off by Boomers. This meant I had to throw the Lycans into the Blaster's flank. They had to wear six shots when it exploded but that's why they have Regen and the Healing Brew. The Beast Pack wasn't as lucky - it took 12 shots and disappeared into a red mist.

My Lycans were charged frontally by Grokagamok and the Boomers but both were Hindered. They were able to survive and the two Lycan units removed the Boomers. As I hadn't countercharged Grokagamok he was Hindered again when he charged the first Lycans. They held and countercharged supported by the other Lycans in Grokagamok's flank. That was enough to bring the Legend down.

While this was going on the Ogre Legion, two Hordes and a Boomer Regiment moved into the circle. I faced this with the Spiritwalkers, two Beast Packs, Chimera and two Stampedes. In my favour was a pond in the middle of the circle. Ian was wavered both Beast Packs which forced my hand. I flew my Chimera over behind his army and pivoted 90 degrees at the end. While it wasn't an immediate threat it would be next turn when it turned to face the Ogres' rear. Ian turned one unit to face it while I cleaned out his chaff - Boomers and Fleabags. I eventually sacrificed the Chimera by charging it into the rear of an Orge Horde. It broke them but was in turn charged in the flank by the Ogre Legion who destroyed it. This however lowed me the charge with my Stampedes and I cleared out the centre circle.

Win 14-2

Game Three - Lliam Munro (Forces of the Abyss) in Loot

Lliam and I play 1-2 times a month. Previously it was my Ratkin versus his Empire of Dust while this year it has been Herd versus Abyss.

I feel that Lliam's army matches up really well against mine. His army shreds De 3-4 and my lack of Ranged Attacks really hurts my cause. Generally I struggle to go toe to toe with him and always feel that I'm at least one unit short against him.

Note: We played this mission incorrectly. Neither of us had noted the rule change that said you couldn't take Loot counters off the board. We checked the KoW rulebook during the game as Lliam had thought you could take off either long edge but neither of us picked up the change on Page 43 of CoK. Only as I was writing up this report and confirming the Fly rule in Loot that I noticed it.

Lliam picked table side and placed first Loot counter while I got to go first. Having struggled to match Lliam's army in the past in a slog, I thought my best bet was to snatch the tokens and make off with them. To do this I advanced my Beast Packs ahead of the tokens and then moved my two Lycan units onto the tokens along with the Chimera. My plan was to for the two Lycans (who have Nimble) to control tokens with the Chimera eventually giving up his - he was facing Archfiend, Abyssal Horsemen and Hellhounds. While the Lycans skulked off, the rest of my army would be sacrificed for the greater good. Given the inability to leave the board this plan would not have been a goer.

I had my first bit of Good luck when my Beast Pack in front of the Chimera rolled Snake Eyes when charged by the Archfiend. However this led to a mistake by me when I took the opportunity to duck behind a hill forgetting my Monster could be seen by the Hellhounds. Lliam corkscrewed into my rear around the Archfiend and Beasts to claim the counter. Great play by him and a lesson learned by me.

In the centre I fed my army piecemeal to Lliam as I walked one of the tokens off on Turn 4. In hindsight I think I could have safely moved it towards the corner and behind terrain (safe from a charge) in the two remaining turns. I was feeding characters to delay fast units and made sure I had killed flyers bar Archfiend (more later).

The second unit of Lycans moved behind a building which stopped Lliam's infantry getting to him. On Turn 6 he moved out to avoid encroaching Succubi reasoning that he could wear one charge from the Archfiend. Lliam charged in and did 7 wounds but did not roll the non-rerollable "9" he needed to break them. The game ended on Turn 6.

We played a Turn 7 to see if he could kill them but their Healing Brew and Regeneration reduced their wounds to 2. They suffered only four wounds meaning they were safe from breaking.

This was a great game - probably one of the best I've had. I decided early on that I would try to win the scenario and suffer the attrition to do so. This gave the rather incredible score of 9-7 to me (Lliam gaining +3 and me -3). I don't think I would have attempted the strategy had we known you could not exit Loot counters though as I said above I believe it would have still been successful - Lliam?

The result put us both on the same points going into the last round. Lliam got my Best Opponent vote as this was seat of your pants stuff played in excellent spirit.

Win 9-7

Game Four - Neil Williamson (Varangur) in Control

This matchup was against what was probably the most innovative army at the event. Throughout the day I had been hearing how hard Neil's army was to play against. He had won two and had a close loss against Lliam.

The basis of the army was four Regiments of Horse Archers backed up by two Devourer with Breath Weapons, two Magus Conclaves and two Magos. He also had a Horde of Direfangs, Lord on Direfang and ASB. So a lot of shooting, most at 24" range.

While I enjoyed an advantage on paper in Unit Strength, my four Beast Packs had a half-life of 5 seconds given the Varangur ranged attack and both armies were similarly mobile.

I lost two Beast Packs Turn One even though they were in cover due to high Nerve Rolls from Neil. One unfortunately was outside Inspiring range so I may have benefitted from tighter play.

The battle came down to Neil overcommitting his Direfang Lord. I was able to get both Lycans in (one on flank) and broke him. The 18" charge always seems to get people. One unit of Lycans then battled with a Devourer while the other unit joined with a Beast Pack to take out some of Neil's support units. I sacrificed the Chimera to get a Stampede charge on the Direfang Horde. I knew I should do 16 wounds and it was worth sacrificing the Chimera to remove a unit with US3.

In the centre the combined shooting got the other Stampede and then the Spiritwalkers. One Lycan unit got a Horse Archer Regiment, a Devourer and finally on Turn 7 a second Horse Archer unit. When we totalled up the VPs I had a solid 5-1 win.

Win 13-3

Wrap-up

I finished on 4 wins and 48 points, one ahead of Tane's Dwarfs (he beat Lliam in last round).

The army performed really well. Early in the week I worked out some deployment strategies which greatly improved what I was getting out of the force. The Lycans in particular benefitted from this planning.

Key to the army are the Beast Packs. They act as a chaff screen to set up your charges. The only concern is the Waver result on these units as it impedes your ability to charge. The Chimera is also important as a flying monster it has a greater threat projection than say a Brutox. Generally it will die but it will set up a charge in so doing. In a game that now has a US component this can be critical.

There is no doubt that playing with only two sources of Inspiring - both oh foot - is difficult. It does force you to play tighter and I think it is good experience. Is it optimal? No.

The lack of Ranged Attacks is also interesting. There are times you'd give your left nut for a Lightning Bolt or Fireball. You lack the ability to finish units off other than in combat. However it does have a hidden benefit in timed games. You generally play a lot faster - missing a phase does that - which leaves your opponent less time for planning/thinking. Therefore they have more time pressure in their own turns. They haven't had the ability to use your time to plan.

The Herd certainly are a fun army to play. Their total combat focus means you'll never die wondering!

 

KOW - Warlords Super Series: Summer Results

Yesterday we had the first of the Warlords Super Series, four KoW tournaments spread across the year.

It was a four round event using 2000 point armies. Scoring was 60 points battle, 30 points Sports and 10 points Presentation. Sports scoring had default of max points while Presentation was self scored (10 points for tournament level painted army on correct multibases or movement trays, 5 points for either/or and 0 points for neither).

Battle had scenario worth 12 points for the win, 8 for draw and 4 four loss. This could be modified by +/- 3 points for kill differential. Gap of 0-200 points had no modifier, 201-500 points +/-1, 501-1000 points +/-2 points and 1001+ was +/-3 points. You could also lose a point if you timed out.

The scenarios were Invade, Dominate, Loot and Control.

Best Painted was TO selected while Best Sport was Favourite Opponent voting.

The results were as follows:

Best Opponent: 1st - Josh Barton, 2nd - Ryan Lister

Best Army: 1st - Carson Turnbull (FoN), 2nd - Lliam Munro (Abyss)

The event ran very smoothly with no player timing out within the allotted 55 minutes - though 1-2 players were very close!

We used the new CoK rules and players felt that the shift to Unit Strength, in particular, improved the game - by design three of the four selected scenarios used it. The introduction of cover for 4++ shooting was also seen as an improvement.

The next Wellington event is 20 May with next NZ event the first weekend in April in Auckland.

 

Friday, March 17, 2017

KOW - Turn Mechanism

One of the things that I feel Alessio got really right with Kings of War was the turning mechanism.

In my experience, many unit-based wargames utilise a "wheel" mechanism for turns as this reflects real-life military drill. Rules writers love "realism"!

WHEEL

The wheel rotates around the front corner of the unit. However the problem with this is that suddenly you start to work in arcs rather than lines. Certainly it allows you more manoeuvrability as you can do a series of micro-wheels. However measuring the traversed distance is more complex. One of the biggest areas of disagreement in WHFB was around the turn mechanism and multiple micro-wheels was the major contributors.

For KoW, Alessio has simplified the whole process by removing wheels. There are two key rules:
  • Single pivot (unless special circumstances - see below)
  • Pivot limited to 90 degrees
PIVOT

The pivot is different because of its rotation point. Instead of following "drill" the unit rotates around its centre point. This is an abstraction but it works in a gaming sense. It requires no measurement so there is no potential for disagreement. This coupled with the two rules above makes movement very black and white and allows a focus on application rather than micro-measurement.

When special circumstances are introduced - Nimble and Charging - the basic building blocks allow  no ambiguity so again the mechanism is eloquent. 

This allows KoW to be far faster to play than a lot of games and also conducive to timed games. It is something that doesn't get remarked on much but is a key point of difference from most games and enhances playability.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Who Said They Killed Squats?

GW have released photos of their new Age of Sigmar models and they are a little bit of a surprise.

I never knew that we wanted short armoured sky pirates but my local GW manager told me that that was just what we need.


To me they are more steampunk than High Fantasy but whatever they are they represent a radical departure from GW's previous take on Dwarfs.


I believe people will either love them or hate them, there's little scope for middle ground.


Personally I prefer the dirigibles rather than the infantry which I feel are two heavily armoured. 


This ship is probably my favourite though I do have a soft spot for Dwarf airships given Thanquol's trip into the Chaos Wastes on one.


These though could be Devastators in a Squat army. They strike me as more 40k than Fantasy.


This again is a really nice model and could port into a KOW army.


I don't think that they will appeal to traditional Dwarf players. Like their army they like consistency and this is just a bit too much change. The Beardlings might like it, but the Longbeards will grumble and grumble.


Thunder Hammer, anyone?

All in all an interesting release. Probably the most polarising since the Sigmarines. 

KOW - Dice Etiquette: 10 Top Tips

This is largely a repost of an article I wrote a couple of years ago. With the growth of KOW and players from different genres interacting I thought it was a worthwhile rehash.

Particularly in tournaments, dice etiquette is very important. It is one of the key things that can lead to charges of bad sportsmanship but is one of the easiest things to ensure you get right.



Below is a list of things that I've picked up over the past decade or so of playing tournament games:

1. Always say what you are rolling for first - pretty self explanatory but absolutely vital. Rolling a dice and then saying "Oh that was for my ward save/lascannon etc is guaranteed to rile your opponent. The easiest thing is to be open with what rolls are for before you roll.

2. Always roll your dice where you opponent has a clear view of the results - regardless of which game you are playing, it is a social contract. You owe it to your opponent that they can see the outcome of any role. I don't want the uncertainty of dice rolls behind terrain etc.

3. Be consistent - nobody likes an opponent who is inconsistent in their application - taking any benefit but rejecting any negatives. Therefore it is important to establish any conventions you use upfront - and then consistently apply them. For instance, if I roll too many dice I will pick them all up and re-roll them regardless of the result. Whereas if I roll too few then I will pick up the extra required dice and roll them. Similarly, establish a convention for "cocked dice". I reroll any die that is not "flat on the green". That means it needs to be on the table flat - not on terrain, not on a movement tray, not on a book, piece of paper, cards or army list. The key is to be totally consistent in the application of that convention.

4. Pick up "Misses/Fails", leaving "Hits" - there is a reason for this....it leaves no uncertainty. If you pick up hits then there is the chance of mistakes whereas if you leave hits and remove misses, that uncertainty is removed. I always leave the resultant hits and ask my opponent "Looks Good?" Before I move on.

5. Legible Dice - make sure your dice are legible. Your opponents need to be able to see at a glance the result. I once played a game versus an opponent who used clear dice with white pips on a snow table. It was impossible to read his dice and I asked him to change them. To that end it is probably worth having a second set of dice handy so you can use them if there is a problem. Also remember some people are colour blind so be flexible.

6. Symbols on one face only - with the rise of customised - or "club" dice - there is an opportunity for confusion if the markings are not consistent. Using Skaven dice with symbols on the "6" for some whereas they are on the "1" for others is sure to rile your opponent. Stick to symbols on a single face to ensure there is no confusion.

7. Dice Use - the default is that you bring and use your own dice. You should never touch your opponent's dice without their permission. This is just general politeness.

8. "Special " Dice - wargamers are a superstitious lot - as well as being strange. One gamer at our club used to identify non-performing dice, then line up his other dice to watch as he smashed the non-performers with a hammer. I have a set of "Strawberry" Chessex dice and I swear that they roll unbelievably well or unbelievably badly - never consistently average. They are just too "scary" to use.

9. Opponent's Rights - sometimes dice may get on a "hot" run. In a tournament situation your opponent always has the right to ask to ask to either use the same dice as you or that you use a different set of dice. I personally loathe the concept of "Table Dice" - this is a friendly game. As a tournament organiser if it ever got to the stage where table dice were required then I'd give up organising events. However the premise remains, players must be willing to accommodate opponents when asked.

10. "Hot" Dice - it goes without saying that if you suspect that a certain set of dice or an individual dice roll consistently well then you should definitely not use them. Dice are a vehicle to introduce chance into a game and if you suspect that your dice are skewed to a particular set of outcomes then it is clearly unacceptable to use them. This is particularly true in a game like KoW where it is always desirable to roll high.

So it general boils down to three key planks - consistency, openness and fairness. Most issues can be resolved by discussion or by both players using the same dice if there is any suspicion of dice being skewed.

From a TO's POV the last thing he wants with his event is controversy and once a player has aspersions raised around their dice etiquette it can haunt them for a long time. To this end the best solution when playing any wargame is to be both flexible and accommodating.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

KOW - WSS: Summer Lists

We have the first KoW tournament of the year for Wellington this weekend. There are ten participants signed up and with lists submitted.


The range of armies is as follows:

  • Orcs x2
  • Varangur x2
  • Undead 
  • Forces of Nature
  • Dwarfs
  • Forces of the Abyss
  • Ogres
  • The Herd
You can download the lists here

We will be using the Norwegian Map Pack and are playing four scenarios - Invade, Loot, Dominate and Control - using the Clash of Kings 2017 rules.

I thought I'd break down some of the stats around the lists to give an idea of our local meta.

Drops - The number of deployment drops each army has ranges from 11 (Undead 11) to 15 (Orcs). The average is 12.8

User Strength - User Strength ranges from 14 (Varangur) to 21 (Orcs). The average is 18.3

Magic Items - Armies have spent on average 71 points on Magic Items. This ranges from 30 points (Varangur) to 135 points (Undead).

42% of the Magic Item spend has been on new Clash of Kings Magic Artefacts. Three are particularly popular - Healing Brew (6), Blood of the Old King (5) and Lute of Insatiable Darkness (5).

Six of the ten new items have been taken by at least one player. The four spurned items are the Sparkstone, the Hammer, the Zephyr Crown and the Dragonshard Shield.

Of the rulebook magic items, 15 out of the remaining 37 items have been taken. This gives us 21 out of the 47 total Magic Items being used in a ten person event.

Spells - none of the new spells are being used. Heal, Lightning Bolt, Bane Chant and Fireball remain the popular choices.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

KOW - Target Remains - The New FAQ

One of the most interesting changes contained in the KOW FAQ v1.5 released on the weekend is the inclusion of new errata regarding the aftermath of Combat.

The change reads:

Page 66, Target Remains—Chargers Pull Back Add the following at the end of the final paragraph: “In any case, all chargers who charged the same facing must end up the same distance from the unit they charged.”

I am assuming that the inclusion is to stop the following situation:

Here you have three units combo-charge a wide defender. The Target remains and the three attackers must withdraw 1". By the inadvertent (or judicious) placement of a character behind A2, that unit is unable to retreat 1" and so the Defender does. 

If the Defender is then boxed by its own units, its only target becomes A2. 

A smart opponent could use the placement of his units and characters to ensure that any countercharge had to be directed to the highest Defence (or highest Nerve) target. It also allowed Thunderous Charge on units A1 and A3 to reset for future combats.

I asked on the forums last year whether this was intended and was told that it was legitimate (which is a slightly different thing). With our local group, I explained it to my opponents prior to a game so there wasn't a "gotcha" moment.

Personally I am glad to see it gone. I always felt it was an unintended consequence of the interaction of two rules. The problem was it could happen consciously or by accident but always felt a bit "gamey".

The FAQ clears it up by creating a same distance for all mechanic.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Battle Report - The Herd vs. Varangur in Loot

On Sunday morning I managed to get in a game with Ryan ahead of next weekend's WSS-Summer tournament. Ryan hasn't played under the new CoK rules and was keen to test his list before it had to be submitted.

We decided to play "Loot" which is one of the missions this week. The battlefield had the requisite number of terrain pieces as prescribed in the map pack (though again the set up was influenced rather than dictated by the Norwegians.


My set up is below. You can see my Magic Cards identifying the items the units are carrying.
One counter is between the two woods, one in the centre and the third is out of picture in the foreground.


Ryan has two Hordes of Direfangs in the middle, Trolls, Wolves and a Chieftain on Direfang at the top. Between them is a Magos, two Magos Conclaves and a Cavern Dweller. In the foreground he has a Bloodsworn Horde, a Skald and some Wolves.

Weekly Hobby Update

Got through quite a bit this week.

First, I ordered the trophies for the upcoming Kings of War WSS Summer tournament. I lodged my list and over the past few days the rest have trickled in. I'm only waiting on one list (Higgins!) and then I'll post them to the players and on here. The participants seem attracted to the new Magic Items, if not the spells.

I pulled out my Creature Caster models over the weekend and cleared away the flash and extra lugs. They are now sitting in a vat of soapy water as the detergent tries to penetrate the film of mold release agent on them.

During the week I have been reading "The Gathering Storm". I have almost finished "The Fall of Cadia" and then have "The Fracture of the Biel-Tan" to read. Nice to see the story move along in the 40k universe.

On Sunday morning I had a game against Ryan in preparation for WSS-Summer. The Battle Report will be up later today. I had spent some time during the week looking at different deployment strategies and undertaking some mathhammer. This helped crystallise some thoughts about my list.

On the 3D print front, I'm chewing through the Trenchworks but didn't finish the project because I needed to replace my print surface. The new material is on and I'm back up running.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

KOW - The Dominate Circle

The one scenario I dislike playing more than any other is "Dominate". This is not because of the premise of concentration of force in the centre but because it is difficult to know at a glance the state of the game.

The Rules Committee have helped in making the Victory Conditions based on Unit Strength. This stops the need for calculators out Turns 5-7. However I have always disliked the trigonometry introduced by a circle. When you are trying to determine whether something is in or out a tape measure and arcs aren't your friend. Earlier in the year I suggested switching from circle to box but the general consensus was that I was proposing a solution for something that wasn't a problem.

Recently I watched the YouTube battle Report for Dominate, that the Giant Dwarf Podcast posted. The game between Undead vs. Dwarfs was good but what really interested me was the Dominate zone marker that Fred and Lars had on their table. This solved all my problems.

Absolutely no ambiguity - you can see the game situation at a glance. No opportunity for misunderstandings, incorrect measurement or central counter being knocked.

The Dominate Circle Centred on a FAT Gaming Mat

I knew from the first episode of their podcast that they had had a few of these made at a copy shop. The 2 foot circle is made of vinyl and sits on top of your table. I had thought of doing this myself previously but had never got around to it. I contacted Fred to see if he had one spare that I could purchase (or failing that a copy of the file). Thankfully I was lucky and got the last one.

Thanks very much Fred and Lars. First, Norway gives us the Longship and the ginger gene, now they give us the Dominate Circle.

 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

KOW - Becoming More Precise

One of my "hobby resolutions" for 2017 was to increase the precision in my play. I don't mean become more cold-hearted rather make sure my movement and placement of units is more exact leaving little room for surprises.

The first step along this journey was to use my opponent's turn to plan my next move - rather than determine whether the cat needs to go to the vet, what am I going to cook for tea etc. Yes, circumstances might change but you should at least have an idea of what units are going to do what next turn. By doing this you free up time to concentrate on the actual placement of your units.

When it comes to moving your units, you should know the order in which they have to move so that you can achieve your plan without impeding yourself. Hopefully, your previous turn has kaftan the necessary lines of sight for charging units whereby you suddenly discover you can't do that combined charge.

I am increasingly using markers to determine the starting position of my unit so that I can re-place the unit if a particular move does not work out in practice. By marking where it starts you get away from the "I think it was here" conundrum..

Two of the most important tools you can have are an Arc of Sight (Ironheart Artisans) do a good one and a Laser Pointer (Army Painter). The first is essential, the second while not a must have is a worthwhile tool. These allow you to check your facing and ensure you are not inadvertently leaving a flank open to the enemy. One thing I check on a charge is where I will be if I bounce.

Another various useful habit to get into is your gaps between units. If you place another unit or character too close it will restrict your options in terms of pivots. Recently I posted about the 50mm rule and I am now well aware of what units can turn 90 degrees and move given a 1" gap and which need 2" or more.

Finally the best advice I can give is talk to your opponent. Tell him what your intentions are with a particular move e.g. "I am facing this unit, outside your charge range. I have checked my flank arc and your cavalry are in my front. Do you agree?" This removes so much potential for later confusion and for disagreement.

Kings of War is very much a game of distances and angles. However you have the ability to pre-measure everything so with some planning you can make your movement/placement more precise and that will undoubtedly improve your outcomes.