Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kill the Bronzeback, win the game

OK, so the title is supposed to be a Heroes reference, I suppose it's tenuous at best. Anyway. I posted some photos of Alexia and Solomon on a blog I frequent, and for some reason received very little feedback - only three comments in fact. I'm not sure why I didn't get more, but I have a theory: not very many people actually opened the thread. Some 600 people actually viewed the thread, of which three commented. I figure that less than 1% of viewers actually commenting is probably about normal. So why did so few people open it? Perhaps the title I used was boring ("Illuminated Alexia and Thrall" just doesn't capture the imagination I suppose), or perhaps it's because I posted in the middle of the week and not many visit the painting forum on workdays? I don't know, it's just slightly disappointing is all.

Anyway, I finally had a chance to get a game in. I chose my Butcher list with the tweaks I mentioned last time:
Butcher I
-Beast 09
Alexia and the Risen
Kayazy Eliminators

My opponent was trying a new Warlock, and took what I think is a slightly soft list:
Hexeris I
Paingiver Beast Handlers
Paingiver Bloodrunners
Mortithurge Willbreaker
Saxon Orrick

He has no Agonizer, which is good for me. No Ashes to Ashes is a weight off my mind as well. Nihilators don't scare me as much as the Gatormen (same number of attacks at the same P&S, but no re-rolls, and my Nyss can actually hurt them), and it means potentially more bodies for Alexia. His beasts still out-threat my jacks though, and he has plenty of infantry to screen them with. Also, his feat scares me since it will just erase the Risen, and I'm not in a hurry to expose my Nyss to it either.

We roll a 2015 Steamroller mission with a small rectangular zone and two objectives that contest. He wins the roll and chooses to go first. I pick the side of the table with a forest in the center, just outside the zone, and a house on the right. This was something of a mistake since I then spend the rest of the game wishing the forest wasn't there, and I pretty much had to run the Nyss around the house, which was a little awkward.

He picks the Arcane Wonder objective, and I pick the one that lets me sacrifice models to keep it alive.

He deploys in a central brick. I put Butcher a little to the left so the forest isn't in his way, and the rest of my stuff spreads out along the deployment line. Obviously I put my cheap throwaway Risen on the opposite side from my sacrifice-models-to-keep-it-alive objective. Obviously. Actually there was a reason for that; I didn't want to put my infantry too far forwards since the feat was so bad for them, but I figured I could hold the Risen back and throw Thralls at his objective. The Nyss go on the right where they can run around the house. I had no idea where to put the Eliminators so they end up behind the forest.

He then puts the Bloodrunners and Saxon a little ahead of his army.

Round 1:
He advances everything, with Saxon going into the forest and the Bloodrunners already in the zone. The Bloodrunners get Deathmarch, and Spell Slave goes on the Drake.

The Kodiak gets Fury and the Nyss get Iron Flesh. I run my Jacks forwards... for FREE! The Kodiak does what Torch never could, and runs unobstructed through the forest. For some reason I move Butcher behind the forest. No idea what I was thinking. The Risen shuffle forwards conservatively, I upgrade one to a Thrall who charges at and kills a Bloodrunner. The Nyss run around the house. For lack of any better ideas I run the Eliminators up behind Beast. I make sure not to stand them too close to him so they won't be vulnerable to Obliteration... and instead stand them next to a Risen, who's defense is just as low. Smart.

Round 2:
He charges the Nyss with the Bloodrunners but only one makes distance, and it misses. He also puts one into the Kodiak, but it doesn't break armour. Saxon remembers that the Nyss ignore forests, and backs up a bit. A Nihilator kills the Thrall. The Drake moves up and sprays a Risen, then he arcs Obliteration through it onto the Thrall standing next to Alexia and my Eliminators. Sigh. Fortunately he rolled low, and (even with Puppet Strings) Alexia and one Eliminator survived. I'm not entirely sure why, but he moves the Bronzeback over to my left. Unfortunately his Nihilators are in the way, and he has to trample over two of them to get there. Luckily one toughs.

I debate charging Beast at his beasts, but after discussing it we decide I'm just out. I can't afford to leave his drake alive, however, so I have to send beast at him. I realise that I'm never going to be able to force him to bring his heavies into my charge range, and he already has the zone, so I decide that I'm going to have to use the Kodiak as bait. I give each jack 2 focus and upkeep my spells. Beast charges the Drake, making sure to keep as far from the other warbeasts as possible, but misses his second attack and leaves it on two health. The surviving Eliminator manages to finish it off however, and uses her second attack to stab a Nihilitor. He toughs, but she ignores him and side-steps into a Beast Handler.

The Kodiak shuffles forwards to make sure he's in the Bronzeback's charge range ([ArnieVoice]I'm here! Come get me![/ArnieVoice]), and throws one Bloodrunner at another, killing both. Butcher walks back around the forest to be in a position to have the best chance of taking out anything that kills the Kodiak, and I think misses a Nihilator with his Blunderbuss.

Alexia uses the Eliminator's corpse to spawn a Risen next to the Kodiak, then turns him into a Thrall. Her Risen just shuffle around aimlessly. The Thrall charges and kills a Bloodrunner thanks to the backstrike bonus. The Nyss then move around, getting the aiming bonus where possible, and finish off the Bloodrunners with ranged attacks. I make sure to put as many models as I can near my objective, as I don't have anything in the zone and I think I'm going to have to try to keep it alive next turn.

Round 3:
He puts two Beast Handlers into the Eliminator but can't kill her. The Nihilators get Deathmarch and Pathfinder from Orrick, and charge my Nyss, killing a couple (and the Thrall). The Bronzeback ignores my delicious looking Kodiak and charges the objective, killing it easily and using beat-back to move a bit farther away. I don't sacrifice any Nyss to keep it alive; I would run out models long before he runs out of attacks. He scores a point for the objective and a point for controlling the zone.

It occurs to me that I might be able to kill his Beast Handlers this turn, and his Bronzeback looks to be in range of the Kodiak, so I decide to go for it. The Kodiak gets three focus, Beast gets one, the rest goes to upkeeps. The Eliminator runs through everything and charges one of the rear Beast Handlers. She kills it and side-steps into the other, but misses. Well, so much for that idea; it's not worth putting too much effort into the other three anymore, so Beast just walks up and kills another with a boosted attack - I'm not sure if whether he's in walking range of the Gladiator or not, but since he can't charge with the objective in the way I decide to take my chances. The surviving Beast Handlers then fail their command check! Ouch, unlucky for him.

The Nyss all stand still and Zephyr, then proceed to shoot most of his Nihilators to death. Butcher feats and misses a Nihilator again. The Kodiak, he path now clear, charges the Bronzeback. Two initials and a headbutt later and the mighty Titan is toppled.
I just realised that I forgot to pay for the charge. Oh well, turns out I had focus to spare.

After the Nyss has completed their activations my Opponent realised that he could have used Counter Charge to move his Bronzeback to a safer location. It would have been a very different game if he had! Anyway, the Risen shuffle around and I end my turn.

Round 4:
So my opponent has very little infantry left and his Beast Handlers can't do anything this turn. I have two untouched jacks and most of my Nyss, and an Eliminator running amuck in his back line. He might be able to kill a jack with the Gladiator, but at only P&S 16 it's far from a sure thing. He could slam or Beat-back the Kodiak out of the zone, kill the only contesting Risen, and dominate up to 4, but the next turn he loses what's left of his infantry and probably his Warlock. So after some discussion, he decides that his only realistic chance of winning is to kill Butcher.

The Nihilators use their Vengeance move to get in range. He advances Hexeris and boosts an Obliteration into the Butcher; I also convince him to feat, so the Risen that he kills can turn around and attack Butcher before they die. One hits; but at dice-11 damage it does nothing. Somehow Alexia actually survives the blast! The remaining Nihilators then charge and leave Butcher on 4 health, at which point he concedes. My opponent, not the Butcher.

That's my first win in a while! I got lucky though; I had some good dice and my opponent made some mistakes - if he had thought to charge the Bronzeback to safety it would have been a completely different game. Seriously, that model is crazy; Beat-back and Counter Charge give it so much threat, and now I realise that it can use counter-charge for hit-and-run tactics as well! I'll have to keep an eye out for that in the future.

My opponent seemed to have a lot of respect for the Eliminators; so much so that he lost the Drake just trying to get it close enough to arc a spell through it. To be honest I think that if he had done things differently he probably could have killed them with a boosted spray instead. I got lucky there; I just couldn't seem to figure out where to put them, not until the battle lines closed anyway. I'll need to practice more with them, but I think they solve a lot of problems for me; taking out troublesome support models, blocking movement shenanigans like Admonition, etc. Still, I rather miss having the MOW Kovnik there. I think he'll see play time when I get around to trying Butcher 2 though.

So yeah, I'm liking this list. I think it covers a lot of bases. I still have to be very careful with it since my jacks have such short threat range and Iron Flesh Nyss can be killed en-masse by the right tech, but with Alexia is good for screening them and if I lose them then she can potentially take out a heavy herself, as can the Butcher, so I'm not completely dependent on my heavies. Valachev actually gives the Nyss a great accuracy buff, and also a damage buff via the Butcher's feat. The Eliminators solve problems; along with spontaneous back-striking Thralls they give my list a mobile threat that can deal with troublesome models. And Butcher himself survived an assassination attempt there that not many casters would have.

So every time I play a game I think back afterwards to what I could have done better, but I still find myself at a complete loss as to what to do in the opening moves. Once the lines have closed a bit and I know that my models are in range I actually find it easier to make decisions (I'm not saying I make good ones...), it's just those early turns when I'm not sure which models can get where and what forces I should commit to what enemy models.

I really need to play more games; I'm not going to get better in a hurry playing once a month. Hopefully I'll be able to play more regularly in the future.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You know a swamp is evil when it glows green!

I had hoped to finish these two a few months ago, but I've been very busy and suffered some setbacks (plus that last model took FOREVER), so it took me a lot longer than I'd hoped. My goal was to finish them - and another couple of models - before the Powered Play guys put out their new powered bases in March, so at least I've managed half that goal. Anyway, I give you Alexia and a Thrall:

And now for the important bit:

Green was obviously a big part of the colour scheme, I decided my second colour would be purple. This was partially because I thought it would work well with the green, partially because I wanted to use it for the Thrall, partially because I'm just on a sort of a purple kick right now, and I think partially because the model reminds me so much of this:

I used two different shades of purple for her clothes (Liche Purple and Warlock Purple), then gave them the same wash (Leviathan Purple) to tie them together. While I'm happy with how the colours turned out, overall her clothes didn't have much of the usual sculpted folds that make detailing cloth much easier; my el-cheapo method of washes and drybrushes did not give good results here, but after trying a couple of different things I decided this was good enough.

While the shading is a little flatter than I would like, and her eyes didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped, I think that this is the best face I've painted so far. I'm quite happy with it overall. The lips might look a little bit puffy up close, but that's mostly just the model itself. I mixed Elf Flesh with Warlock Purple to try to get a colour that would not clash with her skin or clothes, which I think worked quite well.

The glow on the sword was done with a couple of quick drybrushes and a some watered down white, but it came out looking better than I expected and is one of the highlights of the model in my eyes.

I've already posted about the base, but I might as well recap a little here. The base uses a clear resin insert from CoolMiniOrNot's Groundwerks series. I cut along the base topper that comes with Alexia and filed the bottom a little to reduce the height, then glued it to the resin base insert.

I then cut away the top of the plastic base where needed and carefully installed the components in the base. The idea was not to point the LEDs upwards, but to leave an empty space surrounded with white underneath the clear resin to allow the light to diffuse and illuminate the whole area. I drybrushed light green at the bottom of the resin to further diffuse the light.

Needless to say I had to work very slowly and carefully to fit the components while leaving enough room for the LED to light up as much of the resin as possible. While I tried to solder components before gluing them in, there were a couple of things that just had to be soldered in place; as a result I managed to melt part of the rim (as you can see in top right of the above photo), and had to repair it with greenstuff later. Another complication was that I wanted to pin Alexia to the base through both legs, so I had to work around where the pins would go. I then carefully blended Alexia's base to the resin with greenstuff such that there was no exposed resin that wasn't picking up the light.

I think the rear LED ended up a little mis-aligned, as the front part of the base ended up looking much brighter than the rear, but it's better this way than the opposite.

The second model was the Thrall. I absolutely love this model; it's by far my favorite Undead miniature. In fact I bought this guy a long time before I actually bought Alexia, just to paint him. I call him Solomon.

An of course, all lit up:

Comparing him to the Risen, I imagine in my head that he was no common soldier, but an ancient and powerful warrior-king who has retained some of his dignity and bearing. That's actually quite a fancy sword and armour when you think about it, after all. I decided that I wanted to paint him up to be quite ornate and impressive, rather than decrepit, so I went for black and bronze on his armour. As discussed I thought purple would work well with the green, but I also thought it fitting for him since it's considered a royal colour.

I still wanted him to show some wear and tear, so I painted all the steel surfaces with orange then drybrushed them with Boltgun Metal to give them a hint of rust. The sword was given a feathering of chainmail along the edge to give it a scratched look. This was my first attempt at verdigris for the bronze, I mixed together some blues and greens to get a colour that I liked then watered it down and tried to apply it randomly. I considered drybrushing some bronze or even gold on top but ended up skipping that step as I was afraid it wouldn't look good. Finally I applied some weathering to the black armour. The ground, bone, leather and bronze were shaded using Quickshade Strong Tone (ditto for Alexia btw).

The base was another CoolMiniOrNot Groundwerks clear resin insert. This one was easier to do as there was much less fitting and blending involved, and also the more limited "swamp" area meant a single LED and diffusion space, making the insides much easier to put together.
You can actually see the green drybrushing on the resin surface.
Here you see the plasticard piece that was used to diffuse the light.
You can see here where the pins come through the plasticard.

Overall I do like how they came out. There's actually still a little bit of work left to do: namely I want to add some gloss varnish to the swamp areas and the gem in the sword, but I'll get around to that. I do have a second Thrall model that came with Alexia's unit; I would like to give him a similar base, but I just don't know when I'll have the time. I'll have to convert him a little bit so he doesn't quite look the same of course. Then there's 20 Risen models to paint (well, 21 - seems they accidentally gave me one extra). Obviously there is NO WAY I'm giving them all lit bases!

Monday, February 23, 2015

First game of 2015

This was a few weeks ago, I've been too busy to write it up before but I finally found the time to post the photos and give a quick summary. I was running:
-Beast 09
Nyss Hunters
MOW Kovnik

I put together this list to try to deal with the kind of stuff my regular opponent has been playing that has been giving me trouble. Beast with Fury should do work against shield walls or heavies. Torch can wreck heavies, has some anti-infantry ability and most importantly, pathfinder. The MOW Kovnik is just kind of there; I'll be replacing him with Eliminators in the future but they weren't ready at the time.

My opponent played... some Skorne caster with Reach, Flashing Blade and Ashes to Ashes I think - I can't be bothered to look him up. He brought the Bronzeback, Gladiator and Gators, but left out the Agoniser. He had the Gators and some infantry with Reach and Reform.

As per the photo. I put Butcher in the middle, Torch and the Nyss on the side with the forest.

Turn 1:
He advances.

Nyss get Iron Flesh and toe the zone. Torch runs into a forest because I am stupid. Alexia (proxied by Laddermore) creates a thrall, who I put Fury on because I found the idea humorous and I couldn't decide who really needed it. Said thrall (proxied by a Paladin) hid behind the house.

Turn 2:
He gets into the zones.

Alexia and the Thrall kill a model each. Even with CMAs, Risen miss all their attacks. Beast runs up behind the house with his back to it such that he can get a free strike on anyone who walks past. Butcher ducks behind a wall. Nyss shooting kills a Gator. I realise that Torch can't handle forests very well because he needs a target in order to charge, and that target needs to be pretty close for him to be able to see it, at which point he might as well just run. So he's pretty much bogged down now. I also shift Fury to the Risen because I figure that they need it more than anyone else right now.

Turn 3:
He engages the Nyss and kills the Thrall and a bunch of Risen. He fails to kill the Kovnik.

Beast + Imprint + Thresher = lots of dead Skorne... who's ugly corpses are then re-animated and used to block charge lanes to their killer. The Kovnik also contributes a corpse token. One Risen is Thrall-ed and charges the Gladiator, putting a couple of points of damage on it, The rest miss all their attacks. Butcher slides into the spot recently vacated by Beast, leaving Torch high and dry and nervously waddling away from the approaching Bronzeback. The Nyss charge the Gators (despite still being under Iron Flesh... oops); they kill one but miss most of their attacks.

Turn 4:
He consideres trying to beat-back off the Kovnik to get the Bronzeback into Butcher, but decides that he won't make it past the house (phew!). He kills some more Risen (and the Thrall) and moves the Gladiator to (relative) safety behind the house. He fails at his first attempt to cast Ashes to Ashes, but the second try (cast into the back of a Gator) kills 5 Nyss, clearing the zone and scoring him two points.

So I can't really do much to stop him from scoring that zone, I decide that I have to clear mine and start scoring, and try to contest his zone one Nyss at a time. To that end I come up with a plan to clear my zone: Beast charges the Paingiver toeing the zone, which brings him into melee range of the Gladiator, who he can hopefully kill. Butcher, the Risen and the Kovnik then finish off the rest of his infantry on that side. Torch and a single Nyss contest his zone.

Unfortunately it doesn't quite work out that way; because I needed to activate Beast first  to clear the lane for Butcher I can't support him with Fury or the feat or even Full Throttle. So what ends up happening is that he misses the Paingiver and falls about 7 damage short of killing the Gladiator. The Risen do nothing, and sadly neither does the Kovnik, leaving 3 enemy models still in my zone.

I think I actually dropped Iron Flesh this round as I figured that it wouldn't save a Nyss Hunter from six attacks with re-rolls and I figured I might just need the focus on Butcher. I didn't, so that was a waste.

Turn 5:
The Gladiator charges Torch and by some miracle rolls a couple of snake-eyes on his attacks, crippling Beasts' axe but leaving him alive. Missing Khador jacks, I never thought I'd see the day. The Bronzeback has no such trouble and wreck Torch. The last Nyss Hunter is eaten by Gators. He's now on 4 points.

I want to make damn sure that Beast finishes off the Gladiator this time, so to make sure he can pull it off despite his crippled axe I give him three focus, Fury, and I feat. I attack first with the axe; I need a 5 on one dice... and I get it. He has 7 boxes left, with the feat I'm rolling two dice at dice plus 3. I roll a 7. I then kill the Paingiver with the fist, leaving Beast with full Focus but no targets.

Alexia summons 5 Risen... in circle surrounding the last remaining model from his unit. With a 5-man CMA originating in his back arc, the Risen FINALLY manage to actually hit something! The zone is now clear, getting me two points. I send the Kovnik and a freshly minted Thrall (proxied by a Nyss) to contest the zone.

Turn 6:
His Warlock kills both contesting models with a single Flashing Blade, bringing him to 6 points and winning him the game.

That was a great game. We were both being very cagey, using terrain for cover and trying to out-maneuver each other.

 I made a mistake with Beast and it was only the balmiest of luck (I don't think I've ever used that word before) that he survived the Gladiator. I really should have prioritized killing the Gladiator over clearing the zone; with the feat and Fury (or perhaps Full Throttle for the free charge) he certainly would have managed it, and then the Bronzeback would have had a much harder time getting to Torch through the forest. I'm not sure, but I think that would have given me a fighting chance.

I never really thought about using Reach to attack around obstacles before; it really is very useful, I can see now why Beast is considered one of our best jacks. He made a mistake when he left the Paingiver there; he had used it to kill the Thrall, but he still could have moved the Gladiator farther away.

With Beat-Back and Rush, that Bronzeback really dominates the center of the board; I can't put anything important anywhere near it. Even using infantry to screen doesn't work unless you make sure he has to kill at least three or four (at least) or leave a big gap between them and your precious pieces. It doesn't help that he out-threats my jacks under Butcher. A Grolar would be nice here.

Ashes To Ashes hurts! I have no idea how to deal with it other than staying well back or REALLY spreading out. Need to have a careful read of the wording on that one.

I think a Kodik would have worked out much better than Torch here; it wouldn't have been slowed down by the forest and could have supported the Nyss. Also I could have just run it around the zone to keep away from the Bronzeback even without focus from Butcher. With Fury it's sufficiently hard-hitting. Also that would have saved me two points for Valachev or something. Definately something I'm going to try in the future.

Alexia is awesome! It's such a fun unit. useful too; a cheap replenishing screening unit, assassin-generator, and late-game heavy hitter in one affordable package. She clearly works best when she has support to kill models and keep her Risen count up, but it's a lot of fun building up corpse tokens then bringing all your models back. Killing enemy models is even more fun when it lets you add a token to the pile, and materializing models in enemy back arcs is funny. Also the range on the those Thralls is cool. Having said that, the Risen really are garbage. But hey, pile up enough garbage it starts to get difficult to wade through, right?