Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blink! How to Make Decisions on the Table Top

I recently finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  In addition to being a fascinating book in general, much of the book was directly applicable to table top wargaming.  Several times in the course of reading the book I said, "wow, that is a good lesson for 40k," and I put a note tab on the page.  I highly recommend to any of you to check this book out, because like I said, it's a great read for anybody, but especially useful for wargamers.

For now, I'd like to start with some of Gladwell's general conclusions and down the road go into specific examples.

The thesis of this book is that our subconscious mind is far, far better at making complicated decisions than our conscious minds.  The more complicated the decision, with the more variables factoring in, the better our subconscious is than our conscious is at making the correct decision.  He cites numerous studies and curious anecdotes to support his thesis, and the end result is very convincing.

For example, in a study where people were given the specifications of 12 hypothetical used cars, and then given 5 minutes to review the information, only 20% of people made the correct choice.  When given only 30 seconds to make a snap decision on which car to buy, around 60% of the study picked the correct car.  In a scenario with 12 distinct cars, each with variable laundry lists of specifications, your conscious brain simply cannot efficiently process all the different variables and weigh the different options comparatively.  Once the variables reach a certain level of complexity or quantity, it's simply asking too much to expect to use rational thought processes to reach an accurate decision: when faced with overwhelming amounts of options the chances become exponentially higher that one will slip through the cracks, or be miscalculated.  Generally speaking, our subconscious brains are far better at doing such background calculations in a split second and we are much more likely to arrive at the proper decision.
The corollary to this, is how experience plays a factor in cultivating this ability.  Gladwell uses the example of ancient art experts who, using a split second judgement, identified a supposed ancient statue as a fraud but were unable to explain why.  It just "felt" wrong to them.  They didn't need lab results or complicated paper trails of ownership, they just needed to rely on their gut instinct as developed by years of expertise in their field.  The important lesson is that your "gut instinct" can be honed and improved with practice.  Speaking personally, when I play 40k, my decisions for target priority are usually done by instinct.  Only very rarely will I spend significant amounts of time pondering target priority on a turn by turn basis.  I have enough years of experience to have a general idea of threats and what needs to be done.  I'm not always 100% right, but I don't spend 20 minutes a turn agonizing over whether or not to shoot a missile or an auto-cannon at a particular target.

So if you take anything away from this, learn to trust your gut when you play.  And the more you play, the better your gut becomes at being trustworthy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

40k Battle Report: Grey Knights vs. Orks 2k

What up?  Got a game in this weekend against a buddy's Ork army.  It was a pretty hard fought game, and all I have to say is: thank God for Cleansing Flame!

I played my Crowe 2.0 list that you are probably familiar with by now. 

The Ork list was approximately...

Warboss on Bike
8x Nob Bikers kitted out with Pain Boy
Big Mek with the gun that has a 2d6 strength large blast thing  (You might say "WTF?!" but as you'll see this was really strong for him.  My Ork buddy has a nasty habit of playing "bad" units and getting insanely good mileage out of them)
3x12 Truck Boyz
12x Burna Boyz in a Looted Wagon (Another "bad" unit he gets insane mileage out of.  Most people ignore it, until he does a drive by and hits your unit with 12 flame templates and does 30ish wounds)
2x Deff Copta
Zagstruk? with a sizable unit of Storm Boyz
We rolled Seize Ground with Dawn of War.  He won the roll off and elected to go second.  

I deployed a unit of Purifiers in the midfield, put Crowe in Reserve and elected to have everything roll on turn 1.  He deployed nothing electing to have his stuff roll on turn 1.  He kept the Koptas and Zagstruk in reserve.

Grey Knights Turn 1

I rolled on and popped smoke on most of my tanks.  I knew he wouldn't have much shooting, but I also knew he would be into my lines by turn 2, so there was no sense in saving the smoke launchers.  There was nothing to shoot at, so my turn was over.

End Grey Knights Turn 1

Orks Turn 1

He rolled on with his stuff.  The Nob bike deathstar turbo boosted on towards my left flank.  He sent two units of Truck Boyz and the Burnas up the middle, and a unit of boyz on the right.  He walked on the Big Mek and ran him during the shooting phase behind a rock facing my left flank.  Nothing for him to do in his shooting so he passed the turn.

End Orks Turn 1
GK 2

With the Nobs bearing down on me, I focused some fire on them.  My Psyflemen all fired on the Nobz, killing 3 or 4 of them.  Three of my Purifier units fired Psycannons at them out of the hatch but did nothing.  Actually, I think one of them did a wound to the Warboss.  My Razorbacks blew up the Truck on the right flank and the other popped a Truck in the center.  The Nobz passed their leadership test, and I passed the turn.

All in all, I was happy to have thinned out the Nobs as well as I did.  I figured with their numbers thinned out a bit that even if they demeched those Purifiers my shooting following by a Hammerhand charge would be enough to kill the rest of them.

End GK 2
Orks Turn 2

This was a bad turn for me.  I took serious heat and thought the game was slipping away from me.

He called a Waagh! which allowed his Orks in the center to completely surround my center Rhino.  On of his Koptas came on behind my Razorbacks on the right.  On the plus side, Zagstruk deep struck on the left behind my two Dreads, but scattered off the table and were lost in the mishap.  That was a huge threat taken care of.  Whew.

In the shooting phase, his Shock attack Gun failed to open a Rhino.  His Kopta fired missiles in the rear of a Razorback, exploding it, and killing 3 Purifiers.  I believe he exploded the other Razor with the missiles from the Boyz squad, which killed one of the Purifiers.

In the assault phase, his Warboss charged a Rhino.  Since it didn't move and he was Str 10 he auto-penetrated.  Nice.  The Rhino exploded, but none of the Purifiers died.  The two Boyz squads in the center assaulted the Rhino and wrecked it without exploding it.  Auto-dead Purifiers.  Sad face.  That more or less made up for him losing Zagstruk and the Stormboyz.  He charged his Boyz on the right into my unit of 2 Purifiers.  The Purifiers cast Cleansing Flame, killing 4 or 5.  Then they killed one or two with their halberd attacks.  His attacks back killed one Purifier.  I ran the unit down and consolidated.

End Orks Turn 2
Grey Knights Turn 3

I rallied a bit this turn.

I disembarked my Rhino on the left so I had two full squads of Purifiers ready to take care of the Nobs and Warboss.

In the shooting phase I dropped some damage on the Nobs and all he had left was the Warboss.  I wrecked the looted wagon forcing out the Burnas.

In assault, I charged his Kopta on the right and charged 20 Purifiers into his Warboss.  I cut down the Warboss about as easily as you'd expect 40 Str 5 power weapon attacks to do.  On the other side, I failed to kill the damn Kopta and he somehow made the hit and run roll and jumped out.

End GK 3
Orks Turn 3

His two units of Boyz in the center moved to attack my left flank.  The intact truck moved backwards and picked up the disembarked Burnaz.  His other Kopter came on from reserve.

In the shooting phase, that Kopster killed one of my Purifiers on the right.  The Shock Attack gun dropped base this turn.  The big template hit my Purifiers and rolled... boxcars.  8 Purifiers sucked into the warp.  

One of his units of Boyz charged the Purifiers that took 5 casualties from the big gun.  His other Boyz charged a Dread.  The Kopter charged my dread on the right.  Cleansing Flame killed 5 of the truck Boyz, and my normal attacks killed like 1.  His attacks were more than enough to kill the 4 or 5 Purifiers they were in combat with.  His Boyz failed to hurt my Dread, which failed to hurt them back and they piled in.  The Kopter immobilized the Dread on my right.

At this point I my casualties were starting to mount up, but I had most of his stuff neutralized except for the Burnaz.

End Orks Turn 3
Grey Knights Turn 4

Crowe came on from reserve right behind my Dreads on the left, intent to rescue the Dread that was locked up with the Boyz.  My Purifiers on the left shot the Boyz on the left off the board.  They braced for another hit from the Mek Boy.  On the right, my Purifiers moved away from the objective because they didn't want to be in charge range of the Burnaz next turn.  They managed to kill the 2nd Deff Kopter with Pyscannon shots.

In Combat my Dread failed to kill the Kopter and again he made his Hit and Run roll and jumped out.  On the left, Crowe cast Cleansing Flame, killing 7 of the 12 Orks, and went into his Defensive Stance, which allowed him to weather the remaining attacks back Matrix style.  Those Boyz lost combat by a lot, and broke.  Crowe did a sweeping advance, caught them, and wiped them out. 

At this point, he had no scoring units left, so he was playing for the draw and/or trying to table me.  It would be a tough road to go as all he had left were the Burnaz and the Big Mek.

End GK 4

Orks Turn 4

He had to do something about my 10 Puriers on the left objective, so he moved the Truk with the Burnas flat out over the terrain in the middle and parked next to it, contesting it.  His hope was that I couldn't explode the Truk and charge the Burnaz.  

The Big Mek's shot exploded one of my Psyflemen.

His Kopta charged the Dread on my right, but failed to hurt it, and I failed to hurt him back.  Another draw.

End Orks 4

Grey Knights 5

In the movement phase I moved my Rhino right up beside his Truk, so if I Wrecked it, he would have to deploy on the side of the Truk next to my Purifiers and I'd be able to shoot/charge them.

My Purifiers opened fire with psy-stormbolters and exploded the Truk.  Nice job Str 5!  My Psyfleman shot and killed that damn Big Mek finally.

My Purifiers charged into the Burnaz and my Purifiers on the right charged into the combat between the Kopter and the Dread.  On the right, they turned on Hammerhand and cut down the annoying Kopter whose Hit and Run shenanigans was a thorn in my side all game.  They only consolidated 1" though, which was not enough to get in distance to claim the objective.

On the left, I cast Cleansing Flame, killing 4 or so Burnaz.  My attacks killed 5 more.  The Burnaz attacks back killed 1 Purifier.  The ran for it, I caught them and killed them.  I consolidated, and claimed the objective.

I was very worried about the objective count only being 1-0, completely forgetting that he was tabled.  In any event, despite only securing one objective I did kill all the Ork models on the table, so it was a pretty solid victory nonetheless.

End GK 5, End Game
All in all, I played pretty well.  My huge mistake was allowing that Rhino to get surrounded.  I wasn't thinking about that possibility at all, and lo and behold it happened.  I'll bet it doesn't happen again anytime soon, though.

MVP of the match for me was Cleansing Flame.  In a match were my regular close combat attacks didn't do much worth mentioning, Cleansing Flame managed to kill about 30-40 Orks by my count.  Pretty damn effective, especially in combats when he charged 12 Boyz into combat with 2 Purifiers.  Those two Purifiers inflicted casualties far in excess of the combat capabilities of 2 marines.  It made even "easy" combats into Pyrrhic victories for the Orks.
Runner up with be the Psybolt stormbolter ammo on my big Purifier squads.  Orks count on T4 to be their primary defense, and having 16 str5 shots from a unit at 24" goes a long way towards mitigating that T4 entirely.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Theory: Luck vs. Skill vs. Your Mom

It's an often quoted maxim that it is better to be lucky than to be good.  It's best to be both, ofcourse, but we rarely have that option since you can only control one of those.

This is NOT a game of skill, despite what degenerate gamblers will tell you.
You often hear from people that the best games are between two equally skilled opponents that comes down to a single die roll on the last turn.  And I agree.

But yet we all complain about bad luck, despite that.  Everyone wants it to come down to a single roll, but they don't want to lose that roll.  The element of the balance between luck and skill in the game is what makes it interesting.  If it was 100% skill based, it would be chess and the better player would always win 99.9% of the time, and in a small gaming group it would kill the game.  If it was 100% luck based, you'd have War, and the game would be boring since the outcome was predetermined and there would be no reward for practice or study.

So clearly, we need a happy medium, everyone agrees.  It should be balanced so skilled players win most of the time, but worse players can still pull out wins from time to time.  Thus the battle for veteran players becomes how to minimize luck in order to maximize the role of skill in determining the outcome of your games.


Dice rolls are the biggest random factor in the game, that's pretty obvious.  But there are other random factors that can be controlled for, incidentally.  The list you bring and it's match up qualities carry a luck element.  Let's say playtesting reveals you have a list that loses to mech-Guard 80% of the time.  But beats every other army list out there 80% of the time.  Do you run that list?  Or do you run a list that beats every list- including mech Guard- 65% of the time?

You don't know who you will be paired with ahead of time, and you have no idea what the popular armies at the tournament will be.  The 65% list gives you a good chance to beat every one you face.  The 80% list gives you an even better chance to beat everyone you face, unless you face Guard in which case you nearly auto-lose.

In a 3 round tournament like 'Ard Boyz, you should probably favor the 80% list, since you will have fewer matches and thus less a chance of playing against Guard.  In an 8 round GT, you have to assume you will play Guard at least once, given its popularity.  It might be better to go with the 65% list.

The laws of probability state that the more chances you take, the closer to average your results will be.  So the fewer rounds are in your tournament, the more 'variance' there will be in the results.  Thus, a more 'extreme' or 'unabalanced' list becomes a more realistic option.  It can still often be better to take the balanced list in an abreviated tournament, but the decision is much more difficult and requires more consideration.


The second luck based thing you can control involves math-hammer.  We are all aware that you cannot rely on math hammer, but to ignore probability is equally foolish. 
As I said earlier, people claim to want the game to be so evenly fought it comes down to a single die roll.  This is true.  But do you want that roll to be a 2+ or a 6+?  That's where being good at math-hammer comes in.  A skilled player can seem luckier than he really is to an unskilled player, simply by virtue of putting himself in situations where the odds are in his favor.  So he fired one meltagun and managed to wreck your Land Raider.  A bit above average rolling, yes.  But it's a bit better than the odds of a single Lascannon doing it.  The skilled player put himself in a situation where his 'long shot' chance was a lot closer.  

You'll find inexperienced players stretching their resources, so to speak, so that they are forced into situations where Guardsmen have to charge Plague Marines in order to win.  Or that a Lascannon has to kill a Land Raider or else they lose. 

In basketball, they refer to this concept as a player who "takes high percentage shots."  He makes a lot of shots because he takes easy shots.  He takes easy shots because he is skilled enough to get into the right place at the right time to take the shots.  If you have a good list, so you know that isn't the issue, and you consistently find yourself forced to take "low percentage shots" in 40k in order to pull out wins it is time to re-evaluate your tactics, because something is going wrong.  It isn't "bad luck" that caused your autocannon shot to fail to knock out the Predator, it was your bad tactics that forced you to shoot an autocannon at a Predator as opposed to a meltagun.

This can be a challenging aspect of one's game to improve, but I would stress that much of it comes back to math-hammer and being comfortable quickly calculating the odds in your mind.  Once you can quickly math-hammer, you can combine math-hammer with target priority knowledge, and essentially the proper choices are made for you automatically.  Generally, "low percentage shooters" in 40k are folks who are either bad at math-hammer or bad at target priority.

Food for thought, have a good weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 NOVA Open: Whiskey Challenge

I got an email from MVB today (and I suspect many of you did too) that talked about the Whiskey Challenge.  I'm not really a loudmouth, but I would like to get my ass  kicked on live video for all the blogosphere to see. 

The question is, who wants to play me?  Xaereth?  Timmah?  Laeroth? 

Let me know.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Better Playtesting: The Stelek Litmus Test

Stelek made a strong point here.  Essentially, he is creating a single army playtesting gauntlet.  I have long advocated creating a few archetypal lists to playtest against in preparation for a major event, and so I'd say Stelek is right here: this is a challenging list to beat, and if you can't do it there is a good chance you will run into other lists you can't beat at the top tables.

But I think this bears repeating: just beating one IG list is not a large enough sample to predict tournament success.  I think there are many lists that can beat that one, that won't win tournaments against a balanced field, and vice versa.  

So can my Purifier list beat that one? 

No clue.  I'm not as confident as the commentors in that thread who seem to believe their lists will trounce it.  I don't really care what army you play, you won't steam roll that IG list: it's going to be bloody.  What gives me some confidence in saying my GK have a chance is that a lot of its power relies on...

1.  Autocannons.  If any army isn't afraid of Str 7 Autocannons, it's GK.  I don't care if you Shake every one of my tanks/dreads each turn.  Won't slow me down or stop my shooting.  And when you do de-mech me, Autocannons aren't marine killers.

2.  PBS.  I'm Fearless.  You won't be running my army off the board.  You have to actually kill them before they kill you.

So while I'm not crazy about my chances, I'd have to say that my chances aren't horrible compared to most other 3+ lists.

Monday, May 23, 2011

40k Battle Report Grey Knights vs. Dark Eldar 2k

I somehow found the time to get a game in this weekend at the LGS, and it was against a Dark Eldar list.  I must admit I am worried about GK vs. DE, because they have a good 24" range on my army and they can beat me in close combat if they are allowed to pick their battles.

I was using my Crowe List 2.0.

My opponent's list was roughly as follows...
Malus (some chick who made it so that the unit she joins is immune to psychic powers, and allowed her to redeploy d3 units.  I hadn't seen her played before so I'm not sure.)

2x 20x Kabalite Warriors with 2x Dark Lance
3x Reavers with Heat Lance
3x Reavers with Heat Lance
10x Wyches with Agonizer in Raider
10x Wyches with Agonizer in Raider
9x Incubi in Raider
3x Ravagers

We rolled Seize Ground and Pitched Battle.  He took first deployment/turn, and deployed like so...

Dark Eldar Deployment
I then deployed like so...

Grey Knights Deployment.  Everything will have cover Turn 1.
As luck would have it, I seized the initiative and took turn 1.  This was huge for me, as you might have guessed.

Grey Knights Turn 1

I moved my Rhinos and Razors forward and the lead Rhinos popped smoke.

My shooting was decent.  I immobilized a Raider carrying Wyches, which would keep them out of my hair and I exploded a Ravager.  It's always nice to take 3 Dark Lances off the table before they can shoot.   I also killed one of the Reaver squads.

Good first turn.

End Grey Knights turn 1
Dark Eldar Turn 1

He moved his flotilla around to get shots on things but otherwise stayed on his half of the board.

His shooting exploded a Psyfleman, wrecked a second Psyfleman, shook a Rhino, and destroyed the Storm Bolter on another Rhino.  Can't say that I expected it to go better than that for me.  Losing two dreads early sucks, but I expected to lose a lot more.

End Dark Eldar Turn 1
GK Turn 2

I advanced my right Rhinos to midfield and kept the Razors sitting on my objective.  My left Rhino advanced to midfield but within striking distance of the center objective.  Dreads positioned for shots.

My shooting killed the other 3 Reavers, shook the Incubi's Raider, and destroyed his second Ravager.  Not the best shooting phase but decent enough.

End GK 2

DE Turn 2

He moved his Incubi Raider closer to my lines and had the Wyche's behind it.

His shooting shook two Rhinos and wrecked my last Psyfleman.  

I was happy at this point that two turns of shooting were through and I wasn't de-meched.  I lose my support Dreads, but still being meched when he had Wyches and Incubi was a good thing!

End DE 2

GK 3

One of my Rhinos got Fortitude off, but the other Periled and was shook again.  I moved around the one that was still shook would have a cover save.

My shooting killed the last Ravager, and shook his Incubi Raider.  Doesn't sound like a lot, but getting rid of his Ravagers without being de-meched made my day.

End GK 3

DE 3

His shooting immbolized one of my Razorbacks, exploded a Rhino and shook the left Rhino.  I put down the crater template and deployed my Purifiers in it.  My plan was to hunker down in the crater using it as a firebase, so the Incubi would have to assault into cover and I could fillet them.

End DE 3

GK 4

My shooting phase went well.  I exploded his Incubi Raider, and then torrented the Incubi with Psy-stormbolters which wiped the squad.  All he had left from that unit by the end was the Malus chick with 2 wounds on her.

End GK 4.  Notice the Raider Crater and lack of alive Incubi

DE 4

He moved his Raider with Wyches up, disembarked them, and fleeted towards my disembarked Purifiers.  Malus joined the unit, and they rolled their terrain rolls and assaulted.  His shooting wrecked my left Rhino, the troops disembarked behind it in cover within 3" of the midfield objective.  He exploded another Rhino and I lost 4 Purifiers!  They remaining 6 of them deployed in the crater.

In the assault phase, Malus prevented me from Cleansing them, so I hammer handed.  I rolled snake eyes, so I lost a dude but at least got the power off.  He unleashed a boat load of attacks and when all was said and done, I lost 3 guys.  My attackes killed Malus and 3 other Wyches.  We drew combat and were locked in.  I was happy, as I figured I would wipe them next turn with what we had left.

End DE 4
GK 5

My shooting killed half of one of his 20 man squads, an immobilized and weapon destroyed the Wyche's former Raider.

In combat, I finished off the Wyches and consolidated towards the objective, but I was about an inch away.  Still, I controlled 2 objectives, and there was no way he could contest either of them.  And I was about an inch away from controlling the 3rd objective if the game was to continue to turn 6.

End GK 5
DE 5

He disembarked the Wyches who were stranded in the immobilized Raider in his back field and fleeted them towards the objective, claiming it.

He shot 4 Dark Lances and a handful of Splinter Rifles that were in range at my Purifiers in his backfield, but could only kill 1 thanks to the crater giving cover.

At the end of the turn, we rolled... a 1.  Game over.

Final tally: GK 2 Objectives, DE 1.  Had it gone another turn it would certainly have been 3 to 1.


So all in all, a great game for my list against a tough match up.  Seizing the initiative was ofcourse monumentally good, but the fact that I remained meched up for as long as I did was the real thing that won me the game as I got in places where he couldn't shoot me from over 24" and play keep away.  He was forced to come to me if he wanted to win, and it required him to face the full shooting of my army.  

For a soft army like DE, you don't want to trade short/midrange fire with GK.  Ideally, you want to de-mech GK early and from afar, and then assault like a scapel wiping out isolated units and controlling the board.  Part of my ability to do that was seizing, but my deployment was so that even had he gone first he wouldn't have done significantly more damage, in all probability.

MVP of the match were the de-meched Purifier squad.  They shot a large squad of deadly Incubi right off the board and killed a large unit of Wyches and IC in close combat.  And had enough bodies left to potentially secure an objective.  You can't ask a unit to do much more than that.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Friday, May 20, 2011

40k Hobby: Grey Knights Updated

Good morning.  Got the minis for the 2.0 list painted and ready for action this weekend.  Gander at my par-level table-top painting quality!

Group Shot
Magnetized Razorback/Rhino
Purifiers, Rhinos, Psyflemen
Crowe, front and center

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Grey Knights Crowe List 2.0

Hey all.  So like I mentioned yesterday, after a lot of playtesting, there are some things I want to experiment with in my Purifier list.  Yesterday I made a list of the particular units I thought preformed well, and those that didn't.  Today, before I get to the list, I'd like to talk about some tactical limitations in the old list and how I want to address them.

You aren't going anywhere.

First, the list was constructed with only 4 scoring units.  That's on the low side for a 5th Edition 2k list.  Additionally, the scoring units were all large units of Purifiers.  Those are designed to push to the midfield, or enemy backfield, aggressively.  They were not good at sitting back on my backfield objectives.  It's a lot of points to invest in a large Purifier unit to sit back on an objective contributing nothing offensively.  And if you DO hold one back, the offense of units pushing forward was drastically weakened.  To sum up, it wasn't enough scoring units and it wasn't the proper construction of scoring units.  I won most of the games I played, but against top opponents with top lists, like I will face at NOVA, I would get punished.

Second, the large units of Purifiers were run in an 8 man configuration.  I liked the large units of Fearless units pushing to the midfield/backline objectives.  Though just T4/3+ bodies, being Fearless, good at shooting and good at CC made them very tough to shift.  But there were times it was very close.  Like 1 or 2 guys left sitting on an objective close.  I'd feel much more comfortable in their resiliency (and combat ability) to buff them to 10 man units.  I don't care what anyone says, 10 is not overkill.  If they had WS 5, 8 might be enough.  But put them against gritty opposing Troops units like Plague Marines or Grey Hunters and you'll see that even 10 Purifiers isn't overkill.  

So how do I reconcile these two ideas?  Well, since I want to cut the VenMelta Dreads, I have some points to play with.  Here is what I came up with for the 2.0 version of the list and my rationale...


3x Psyflemen

3x10 Purifiers w/ 2x Hammer, 2x Psycannon, 6x Halberd, Psybolt Ammo in Rhino with Dozer Blade

[So this is my offensive core.  These units push to the midfield or enemy backlines as the situation merits.  They can outshoot nearly anyone with 8 Str5 Stormbolters and 2 Psycannons.  6 Halberds and 2 Hammers makes them a legit combat threat to anyone who isn't a TH/SS Terminator or Incubus.  They are a lot of points per unit, and far from the MSU concept, but they are just damn efficient.  There isn't much you can't ask them to do and have them do it well.]

2x5 Purifiers w/ 2x Psycannons, 3x Halberds in Razorback with Psybolt Ammo and Dozer Blade

[These are my objective sitters.  They can shoot pretty well at anything closer than 36".  Anything pushing towards my backlines will be shot at, pretty roughly.  These guys fill a pretty good tactical role, in that they aren't ultra expensive, are good at baby sitting my home objectives, and most of all: they protect my Psyflemen.  Losing the melta-dreads mean more heat will be coming at the Psyflemen, so these units will have a bit more synergy.  The 1.0 version of the army felt like two separate forces: one that pushed forward and one that stood static and shot.  These two squads should do a good job of blending it into a cohesive force that has some synergy.]

Total: 1,998

So I lose two Melta Dreads.  I gain an extra scoring unit, and I make the scoring units I have a bit more specialized at their battlefield roles.  I should get some test games in this weekend, and I'm definitely nervous about the lack of AP1, so we'll see how it goes.  

Thoughts on the list?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Grey Knights Crowe List Musings

I've played a bunch of games with my Dread-bash Purifier list and I rather like the list.  There are a couple observations I've made about the list both good and bad.  I intend to take this list (or whatever evolution it's in when the time comes) to NOVA, so I'm pretty excited to see where the list ends up compared to what it was when it started.  So what are my observations?

Version 1.0
Things That Were Really Good

1.  Psyflemen.  I really can't overstate how good these have been in every game.  Psycannons are often hit or miss for anti-tank, but Psyflemen are just ultra consistent.  People say they are relatively fragile, and it's true, but to focus fire on them requires you to ignore the mechanized GK threats in the midfield, which is perilous too.  There are no easy target priority solutions for an opponent, since most people's 48" weapons can't beat them in a war of attrition, and those weapons are what they count on to stop my Rhinos.  In the games I've played, not once have all three Psyflemen been destroyed by the end of the game.  There is always at least one of them alive and shooting, and in most cases, more than one.

2.  Big Purifier Squads.  I understand how MSU works.  It like MSU.  But I also like my forward units to be able to swing the game.  Remember, cost is only half of the efficiency equation.  Effectiveness is the other half, and it is just as important.  Big Purifier squads moving into the midfield or opposing back are just super tough.  They can outshoot almost anybody at short range, and while they can't dominate CC, they can hold their own.  Plus they are Fearless.  This is huge.  When I rush a unit into your backfield objectives, you have to kill them to a man.  As fragile as Space Marines supposedly are, killing a big squad of Fearless Purifiers while they are sitting in your backfield isn't the easiest task.  And you must kill them, because like I said, they can shoot well and CC well.  If you ignore them they will do serious damage.

3.  Fortitude.  If this were available as a 5 point upgrade for all Marines, they would take it in a heartbeat.  It is so far superior to Extra Armor that it's not even funny.  I can think of a half dozen times where a Psyfleman or Rhino embarked squad unshook themselves and then went on to do something great in the shooting phase.  That is the GK difference, and it has been one of the most effective forces on the table top.  If you're playing foot GK, using Interceptors and Dreadknights and Terminators, you're ignoring one of the most overpowered aspects of the codex.  And ignoring it to your detriment.

4.  Crowe.  Yeah I know what you're thinking.  In nearly every game I have reserved Crowe and when he has walked on, there has always been a scouted/infiltrated/outflanked enemy unit threatening my backfield.  And in every case, he has done something great against them.  Single handedly killing everything from Eldar Rangers to Blood Angel assault squads, he has been useful.  And not because he is especially awesome, but rather the synergy he has with the rest of the list.  My midfield and forward units are combat oriented and quite scary.  My backfield is... 3 dreads with no power weapon.  Crowe synergizes well in that he punishes people for extended to my backlines.  If you want to push up to shut down the Psyfledreads, Crowe will be there to punish you for it.

Things That Weren't Amazing

1.  Venerable Melta Dreads.  These died every game, usually before they did much more than pop a Chimera or Rhino.  I know the concept of earning your points back is fallacious, because these Dreads often took a ton of anti-tank shots that would have been aimed elsewhere, but my issue is in a small/elite list, I don't want a pincushion.  I want effective and efficient units.  Frankly, these cost too much, and do too little.  Upgrading them to PsyfleVenDreads would make them extremely powerful, but the points aren't there for that in my current configuration.  Mid-field melta, even if it is just a threat rather than an effective resource, is valuable, so if I cut that out of the list, it will have to be for something worthwhile.

2.  Hammerhand.  In many of my games, the times I needed it, it got hooded.  The other times it was either overkill, or Cleansing Flame was better.  In a great many scenarios, Cleansing Flame math-hammers better, even against MEQ.

So with all this in mind, I have thought about (and bounced ideas off Timmah) the changes I want to make in the list that I'll be playtesting soon.  Later this week I'll post my updated list (with pictures since I am still semi-hobby oriented) and then more battle reports.  Hopefully the 2.0 list is better, but if not, the 1.0 list hasn't been that bad.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today in Awful Warseer Tactics: BoLS Lounge Edition

Before I start, I would like to reiterate that I say dumb stuff all the time.  It wouldn't be hard to scour my blog and find examples of me being 100% wrong about a topic.  So when I post these, I would like to reiterate that even if I call you "fucking retarded" I don't actual mean it personally.  It's just polemic.  That said, I don't want anyone who reads my blog to get mad when I criticize a post they make in one of these forums, OK?

So in this short thread, we have a guy who sounds pretty newbish mentioning that he is getting his ass kicked by his friend's IG army.  The GK list is super bad.  The IG list is bad but at least playable.  The newb asks what he can do to get to his 24" sweet spot when his opponent is blowing him up from range.

The right answer is...

1.  Get a list that doesn't waste 20% of it's points in two characters.  Drop the GM.  Use the points to buy another Dread and to get up to 10 terminators.
2.  Learn to choo choo train your Rhinos and make effective use of smoke launchers.
3.  Walk the Terminators up behind your Rhino wall, casting Shrouding.  If done properly, you will have 3+ cover saves all over the place and you can laugh at the IG shooting phase.

Unfortunately, he gets some rather bad advice out of the gate.  Let's go to the video tape!

Denied: So I have been playing the new GK codex for a while now designing the army list that fits my style of play.

Apparently not, since you're getting smashed and thus your style of play sucks?

The question I ask is what can I do against an army that has a ton of Str10 large blasts every where? I tried closing the field gap and even using cover and smoking he was able to easily pop all my Rhinos..... there has to be a tactic here I am just not getting and I would appreciate advice in this manner. I mean I had Alpha strike and everything it was just pure pain in the fight.

Yeah, I'd say.  Choo choo train Rhinos.  Smoke.  Shrouding.  Win.

 Dark Link: Rule #1. Spread the f*#! out.

I know you're talking about his disembarked infantry/terminators, but I just want to add that since the guy is clearly missing the idea of Rhino trains, spreading out isn't going to do much for him.  By then it's already too late.  Also, I fear that telling him to spread out will be misinterpreted as spreading out his vehicles.  This is turning out to be a pretty sad excuse for good advice...

Rule #2. Your GM grants the Scout rule. Take advantage of it, both to get to the midfield more quickly and to outflank a unit or two.

He should drop the GM from his list entirely, not scout up.  Outflanking with the terminators is cute, but guess what?  If your libby isn't with the terminators than where is he?  If he is with the terminators he isn't casting Shrouding turn 1.  Lose.
Iceman: So, I guess I don't have any great ideas other than going second.

You're an excellent contributor.  Please quit the game.

Darklink: you might just need to change up your list a bit. It's not exactly the best GKs can do against IG or really even in general.

And after a rough start, Dark Link recovers nicely with some actual good advice.

Sonicpara: Rethink the Halberds. IG are mostly I3 so you don't need to spend the points on the Halberds. Instead, save those points and buy incinerators, psycannons, or hammers when you can.

It's called not list tailoring, fuck face.  The guy didn't ask how to tailor his list to beat IG, because removing the Halberds would be pretty fucking obvious.  You have such minion level thinking.  Have fun picking your nose at your fast food job for the rest of your life.  

Denied: I see your point if I was tailoring a list specifically for IG, but in a tournament setting I need to still be versatile and the GM with psykotroke is a great tool to have against any CC army as he defend the line of Rhino's with squishy GKSS inside.

What the fuck?  You mean a 10 strong terminator squad with a Librarian isn't enough to defend your midfield against CC armies?  Those things are insufficient for the task, but add in a Grand Master and suddenly you stomp CC armies?  I'm fairly sure you need to listen when to Dark Link's (and my) advice to drop the GM.  Your heart is in the right place with not list tailoring, but you sound like an 11 year old and you have the mentality of one too.  If you want to play hero-hammer place Space Wolfs.  GK don't win by drop 500 points into characters in a 2k list.

Friday, May 13, 2011

WHFB: Dark Elves and 'Ard Boyz Updated

Hey all.  Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but work has been nuts and combined with that, I haven't had much to post content-wise.  Anyway, I have changed my thinking on 'Ard Boyz level lists for Fantasy.

When I posted my last list, I was trying to play a very finesse magic phase.  I had a Level 4 with Death and a level 1 with Death and Power Scroll.  The obvious gimmick of first turn Purple Sun is nice, but honestly at that point level, and with the wonky anti-magic scenarios that 'Ard Boyz inevitably throws in, it's not reliable to have a single Lord level caster in a magic heavy army.  So I decided to ditch the Power Scroll gimmick and run with 2 level 4's.  But where to find the points for that!?  I solved the riddle and have a better list to show for it.  

Coming at ya!

Dark Elves 'Ard Boyz Chariot Spam 2.0

Supreme Sorceress
-Lore of Shadow
-Level 4
-Dark Steed
-Focus Familiar
-Pendent of Kaleth

Supreme Sorceress
-Lore of Metal
-Level 4
-Dark Steed
-Talisman of Preservation

[This is my much improved magic team.  I get the excellent chariot synergy of both Shadow and Metal.  Plus, thanks to a second level 4, I should be much more often able to dispel enemy magic late in the game.  The best part about them on Dark Steeds that people miss is that they get Look Out Sir! 4+ saves from being near the Dark Riders.  So they get a 4+ LOS save and then their normal Ward.  They will be really hard to kill outside of close combat.  And thanks to an 18" march, they will be really hard to get into combat with.]

Dark Elf Master
-Cold One Chariot
-Armor of Eternal Servatude
-Dragonbane Gem
-Shield, Halberd, Cloak

[Same as before, this guy allows my Stupid chariots to keep moving.  I got rid of the other master.  The LD9 bubble was nice, especially combo'ed with the BSB, but I feel like a second level 4 is worth a lot more to the army than a LD9 bubble, since I'm spending points on the BSB as it is.]

2x11 Repeater Crossbowmen

1x10 Repeater Crossbowmen

6x Dark Riders

2x5 Dark Riders

[The core remains much the same.  Lot's of maneuverability.  Lot's of shooting.  Ability to redeploy before the game starts to trap my opponents.]

6x Cold One Chariots

[The meat.  Do OnG and TK get more chariots?  Yes, do they get the same quality?  No.  Do they get the same caliber of magic phase?  No.  Do they get the shooting I have?  No.]

4x War Hydra

[The potatoes.  4 of these are hard to stop, I heard.]

Total = 3,000

Comments?  I think it's an improvement, do you?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tavern Talk: Comp in Fantasy

Tournaments are a very interesting and popular way to play Warhammer, giving an individual the opportunity to play games against players from around the country or to try out different format.  The tournament might be fun, but the organisers often find a need to change how the game is played.  These changes come in the form of restrictions, such as 'no double rare choices', 'maximum of 12 power dice per magic phase' or they might be the outright banning of certain items ('no power scroll').  Many tournaments come out with large rules packs full of restrictions, others have none at all. 

The question is how do you feel about comp'ed tournaments?  Do you view these restrictions as important to balance out the game, or are they just a pointless dumbing down of the rules?  What do you like or dislike about these comp'ed tournaments?  What are your experience with them?

Before I get into this specific topic (Comp in Fantasy) I'd like to take this opportunity to dance on the grave of 40k Comp.  5 to 10 years ago, it was taken as a matter of course that any 40k tournament one attended would have some kind of incredibly lame comp scoring, oftentimes as arbitrary as how beardy the TO and his buddies thought your list was.  Luckily, thanks to a newer generation of players, TOs and internet pundits, comp is basically dead in the United States tournaments.  While there are a few big tournaments left that have winners determined by softscores, all the tournaments that really matter have switched to separating softscores from the gaming either by totally eliminating them or by making two separate awards.  And I couldn't be happier.  Tournaments should be a place to test your mettle and skill, not a circle jerk of intentionally soft lists.

With that said, let's talk about Fantasy...

1.  I feel that Fantasy isn't special.  We all (mostly) agree that comp has no place in 40k, and it is the same in Fantasy.  The old guard don't want to adapt their lists to 8th Edition, nor do they want to master a new ruleset.  So they try to gimp the rules system (power dice) and then gimp the metagame (banning equipment or characters.)  Sorry, the game is as the game is.  Some things are more powerful than others, that's how it's going to be.  We will have to put up with Teclis until the next HE book.  As of right now, my recommendation is to PLAYTEST against Teclic/BoH lists and figure out how to beat them (it can be done, duh) instead of figuring out new ways to comp your tournaments so you epic 7th Edition VC list can still win games.

2.  Put me in the 'pointless dumbing down of the rules' camp.  Beating Teclis or Power Scroll lists is like beating Nob Bikers or Mech IG.  You learn how to do it through practice, and you move on.  By coming up with these inane restrictions they are simply preventing people from having to learn how to actually play the game the right way.

3.  As you may have guessed, I dislike the concept of comp'ed Fantasy tournaments.  I've played in both, and I vastly prefer non-comped.  The comped tournament is essentially a non-tournament.  It's a series of 'friendlies.'  This is fine, if that is what the players want, but at least in the US, players increasingly want good, clean, fair, and competitive tournaments where the winner is determined on the tabletop.  As a smaller community, Fantasy tends to lag behind 40k but I am certain that 5 years from now Fantasy tournaments will most likely not have any of these last vestiges of comp.