Friday, April 29, 2011

40k: Adepticon Metagame Analysis Breakdown

Today we have a guest article, the first ever on Bringer of Victory.  The author is none other than Timmah, well known contributor at Yes the Truth Hurts.  He has done an excellent statistical analysis of the Adepticon 40k metagame and drawn some interesting conclusions.  I encourage you to check it out!

So Adepticon has finished and left us with a whole lot of data to look over.  I know, it looks like just your average 40k event, the finals ended up being Space Wolves versus Imperial Guard.  However there is a lot more to it than that.  Before we go thinking that Space Wolves and Imperial Guard still have a stranglehold on competitive 40k, let’s dive a bit deeper into the results.

First off we have percentage of the field playing each army.

There is definitely gravitation towards the 5th edition codices.  However even while all of those hovering around 15%, there is still a decent amount of players playing old codices, roughly 4% for each.  Nothing to new or interesting here.  People are picking up and enjoying the new codices while the die-hards stick it out with their older armies.

Personally, I believe this to be a pretty solid diversity in today’s metagame and it should even out even more as more armies get updated for 5th edition.  The best information this shows is that it looks like Games Workshop is learning how to write better, more enjoyable codices and things are only going to get better in the future.

Next we are going to look at how each of these armies is doing in comparison with one another.

Here we see the average battle points obtained by each of the given armies.  Outside of a few outliers (Tau and Daemon Hunters) we see a very balanced distribution and a relation that would insinuate that most codices are balanced well with one another.  The daemon hunter outlier is pretty obvious, they just got a new codex and I would guess no one really wanted to play with the old one.  The Tau one needs a bit more looking into since there were several Tau players.   

My initial conclusion is that because of the Adepticon mission format Tau were at a severe disadvantage.  Since each of the missions always had 1 point devoted to capturing a table quarter or objective with troops, an army with weak troops would generally have to fight an uphill battle all day and perform worse.  Likewise an army that is generally perceived as one of the best in objective grabbing (elder) would conversely do well even if the codex was slightly out of date and weaker.

Moving along, next let’s take a look at what lists ended up making day 2.

As you can see, the percentage of the field moved drastically in Orks and Space Marines favor going into day 2.  While only being about 12% of the field Orks managed to put 4 generals thru to the top 16.  Space Marines were also only 12% of the field and managed to put 3 through.  Imperial Guard, while also being around 12% of the field, only managed to see 1 player reach the top 16.  Of the other armies that made top 16 were balanced with their original day percentages.  This would again be a strong indication that the codices are balanced well with one another.

Generally, the assumptions we would make about the three outlying armies on this graph would be that something must be affecting these results.  One of the following would have a good chance of being true:
  1. These codices are actually stronger (Orks, Space Marines)/weaker (Imperial Guard) than the other codices.
  2. The playskill required to play these lists is much higher (IG) / Lower (Orks, SM) than the other codices.

Based on the fact that the Imperial Guard player placed 2nd overall, with guard we would lean towards the 2nd option.  It was shown in this tournament that Imperial Guard does have the ability to place high and fight against the other good armies.  As for the other 2 armies, things are a lot more unclear.  The only observation that can really be made is once these players were up against players of their same skill level (in the top 16) they didn’t do nearly as well.  With the highest of them being an Ork player finishing in (3rd/4th).  Again pushing the 2 option meaning once things started to come down to play skill at the top levels of competition, these players couldn’t quite compete.

Now remember, this is only a single tournament.   A variety of other things come into play during these things.  And these are just meant to be observations of Adepticon.  Missions and the Scoring format definitely come into play here.  At an event such as Nova with a different scoring format, we could see wildly different results.  The end result of this tournament and the data we can garner from it is that we currently have a very balanced Warhammer 40K environment and there is a lot of diversity in it.

Excellent stuff, Timmah!  I'll post my reactions in the comments.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grey Kni... er... I mean Black Templars 2k List

Sorry for no post yesterday, I had serious work drama that isn't totally resolved yet so I'm pretty well distracted and not too happy about various changes.  But I was thinking about Black Templars at 2000 points.  Previously, I have relied on using TLLC Razorbacks to bring extra firepower out of the anti-tank slot.

Obviously, those cost a lot of points.  At least 90 points each before you add on smoke launchers or extra armor.  After talking about it with Timmah, it's way more effective to put the Las/Plas shooty Crusaders in Rhinos and add firepower in other more cost effective slots.  A persuasive argument.  Losing the 1+1 sucks, but honestly it's just too expensive at 2k points.  I think it works for Templars at 2.5k, but 2k, nah.

His other good point was that the mid-field double melta squads being 5 man min/max isn't really good once outside of their transport.  5 guys, two of whom aren't gear for CC, aren't scaring anybody.  They don't have the combat ability to take objectives, nor the bodies to hold objectives.  If they can sit unmolested in their rhinos firing double meltas all game, wonderful.  But what chances is it going to be that easy?  Another persuasive argument.  So much in line with the recent backlash against min/maxing it turns out that in this case adding sub-optimal bodies to a squad will make them more effective.

So with these ideas in mind, what did I brew up?

No Marshal in this list.
Black Templar 2k

Emperor's Champ

[I really wanted AAC, but points being what they are, this will do.]

5x Terminator Squad
-2x Cyclone Launchers
-Tank Hunters

5x Terminator Squad
-2x Cyclone Launchers
-Tank Hunters

[These are the meat to the list.  They can sit back in cover getting 2+/4++ and drop 4 str9 shots per turn.  I don't really have to explain very much why these are good.  They aren't scary close combat units, but with the EC attached they are strong enough to discourage anyone except dedicated close combat units.]

3x1 Landspeeders

[These are seriously undercosted in the BT dex now, no real explanation needed.  Why not take more?  They are paper thin armor and while they may get more shots per point than the terminators, the question you have to ask is who will get more shots per game?  Clearly, the terminators, while shooting fewer times per turn, have the better chance at still being around to shoot at thing turn 6.  I don't want to say I'm down on them, because they are a great unit, but I'm just leery of sinking more than 15% of the points in my list on AV10 open topped armor.]

3x1 Predator Destructors
-Lascannon sponsons

[The argument here is dropping one of them, adding two more Typhoons, or a cheap Castellan for Rites of Battle.  I don't know if it's a good argument or not, but I'm inclined to think that 1 AV13 hull is better than 2 A10 open topped.]

2x10 Initiates with BP/CCW

[So these are the midfield/forward troop units.  They really wish they had AAC to make them better at seizing forward objectives but the points aren't really there.  At very least they are a capable dual melta unit who are at worst better than Tactical Squads in close combat.]

2x5 Initiates with Bolters
-Plasma Gun

[These guys sit back on the home objectives.  Point for point, they put out more heavy fire than tactical squads.  While it would be super nice to have their Rhinos be Razorbacks, as I discussed before, it just isn't efficient enough to make work.  Those Razorbacks turned into the 10 extra bodies for the melta squads, which is a trade I'm happy to make.]

=Total 1,998

So all told, I lose two razorbacks and 2 typhoons from my old list.  I gain a second terminator squad, and 10 more MEQ bodies.  I think overall the list is a better all-comers list than before and has a lot more versatility in terms of the threats it puts out.  I wouldn't be ashamed to roll to a GT with this list at all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WHFB: 'Ard Boyz Semis Scenario Review

Hey all.  I imagine this won't be a hugely popular article, since probably about 2 of you will be attending the Semis for Fantasy, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway.  I really wish I was going, but I had other obligations on Prelim day and I was shut out.  Next year!

Scenario 1: The Changer of Ways

Pitched battle, 6 turns.  Kill points instead of Victory Points.  Hmmm.  Rare units worth 8 kill points!  Whoa.  My Dark Elf list gives up 32 kill points... from it rare slot.  That's nasty.  This scenario ought to be called "let Chaos win."  Both Warriors and Daemons get most of their killing power from Core.  If your Round 1 opponent is Warriors and you're Skaven, Dark Elves, or High Elves, you better plan on tabling him because you won't win the kill point game.

Wacky rule: everytime a wizard casts a spell, roll a D6 and on a 1 the Wizard suffers a miscast.  Further help for Warriors of Chaos.  Infernal Puppet anyone?  With all the miscasts floating around, modifying them by a D3 in either direction is strong.  Be sure that your own wizards bring some miscast defense.

Scenario 2: Crazed Fanatic

Dawn Attack, 6 turns.  Straight victory points.

Wacky rule: there is a Crazed Fanatic at the center of the table and moves randomly.  Any unit it touches takes nasty hits and can capture him.  If you capture it at the game end you get +5 battle points.  If the unit holding him is destroyed the Fanatic is released again.

This scenario favors bigger units that can absorb the hits from the Fanatic, as MSU units will likely get destroyed.  Honestly, if I was playing my strategy would be to avoid the Fanatic and just try to win the game.  If I can grab him on the last turn, great, if not, no big deal.  +5 battle points is a big deal, so it may be tempting to go for it early.  Don't throw away a +20 massacre in an effort to get +5 bonus points.

Scenario 3: Wez Is Betas Dan Yuz

Blood and Glory.  6 Turns.  Straight Victory points with a bonus +500 points for the side that makes the other reach the breaking point first.

No wacky rules.  So because of this scenario you have to bring a few more banners on your units than you might ordinarily.  Not a huge deal.  You also get a bonus point for breaking the enemy.  This will be hard to get a massacre on.  Chances are your opponent will break before you open up a victory point window large enough to get a massacre.  Two schools of thought, try to crush the opponent in one big turn to end the game quickly OR try to delay it over several turns so you can kill more of the enemy units that DON'T have banners to maximize your victory points. 

All in all, these scenarios suck, but not nearly as sucky as the prelims.  Don't they get that when you have a tournament designed to "prove" who the "best" players are, you should keep the scenarios minimal and let the players beat the other players rather than have a player lose to a scenario?

Monday, April 25, 2011

40k Battle Report: Grey Knights vs. Space Wolves 2,000pts

Despite a hectic weekend, I managed to get my first game in with my new GK army and it was pretty interesting.  Boy was I rusty.  I need to play a lot more, I was forgetting way too many things and making a lot of play errors.

I played my Purifier list as seen here.  My opponent had a Space Wolves drop pod list.  I don't have a paper copy so here it is from my memory...

Wolf Lord with Saga of the Warrior
10x Wolf Guard in Drop Pod
3x10x Grey Hunters in Drop Pod with Wulfen, Banner, Fist, 2 meltas
2x 5x Long Fangs with Missiles
1x 5x Long Fangs with Plasma Cannons

When I saw the list I expected the Wolf Lord to be Logan, but was surprised that it was just a normal Lord.  Maybe shy on points?  I would have figured a way to have relentless Long Fangs.

The missions was capture and control with pitched battle deployment.  I won the roll and chose to deploy and play first.  My deployment was as such...

Grey Knight Deployment
So I castled up around the trees.  I knew the melta pods would be trouble, but I planned to pop smoke turn 1 and have decent cover.  Since I was more than likely going first I thought I could weather the storm.  Crowe was in reserve as I knew at least one of his units would be close to my table edge and Crowe could walk on and charge in.  My objective was placed behind my trees.  My opponent placed his behind the hut, as you can see in the foreground.

Space Wolf Deployment
He deployed his Long Fangs on the hill ready to lay down some withering fire power.  4 drop pods sitting in reserve.

He failed to seize and I went first.

GK Turn 1

I realized there was very little I could do to stop the drop meltas from hitting my Dreads if he wanted to, so I just moved everyone forward.  The Rhinos in the front popped smoke.  The Ven Dreads moved up, popped smoke and ran.  The Psyflemen moved up and took shots at the Long Fangs.  I managed to kill one of the Plasma Cannon Fangs.  After that, I passed the turn.

End GK Turn 1

Space Wolves Turn 1

Two of his GH pods come crashing down, one on each side of my lines.  The GH dismbark and take aim.  On the left flank, his GH melta explode a Rhino and 3 Purifiers die in the explosion.  Holy bad rolling!  The Plasma cannons take aim at the exposed squad, and 3 of them get hot, killing one.  The one who gets his shot off scatters and kills 3 of the Grey Hunters who popped the Rhino in the first place.

The other Hunter Squads fires melta at a Venerable Dread and wrecks it.  The Missile Long fangs shoot at the advancing Rhinos but is largely ineffective due to poor rolling, and my smoke + cover.  He destroys the storm bolter from one of them, the rest are fine.  He passes the turn.

End Space Wolves Turn 1
Grey Knights Turn 2

OK, so now I was ready for action.  Crowe failed to come in, which would have been nice, but I can live with that.  My de-meched Purifiers and Venerable Dread prepare to assault the Grey Hunters on the left.  My Rhino on the left moves 6" to sit in the forest.  My plan is to tarpit the right flank Grey Hunters with a Psyfleman until the Purifiers can get over there, or Crowe shows up.  My Rhinos on the right flank move forward 6" each towards his Long Fangs.

In the shooting phase, my Psylemen and Purifiers torrent his Long Fangs, wiping out the Plasma Squad, and killing the team leader of one of the missile squads.  Here is where I made a big mistake.  I wasn't supposed to shoot one of the Pysflemen at them, because his job was to tarpit the GH.  I forgot and thus gave the GH another turn of freedom.  This could have been bad news.  On the other side, my 5 Purifiers shot into the GH and failed to do anything.  The Ven Dread didn't shoot because he was right on the edge of charge range, and I figured his charge would get boned if he inflicted a casualty.

In close combat I charged the Purifiers and Venerable Dread into the Grey Hunters.  I fail to cast Hammerhands, but still manage to kill a handful of Grey Hunters.  His hits back kill a couple Purifiers.  His fist and Wulfen fail to pen or glance my venerable.  He fails leadership and runs, but I fail to catch him.  I consolidate so I'm still within 6" to keep the two survivors from re-forming.

End Grey Knights Turn 2
Space Wolves Turn 2

The pod containing Njal, Wolf Lord and Wolf Guard comes down and lands next to my advancing Rhinos.  He doesn't move very much at all.

In shooting, his Long Fangs shake my lead Rhino... and that's about it.  I think he penetrated it twice, but both rolls were a 2.  This is good.  His Grey Hunter squad shoots at the Rhino thats in my trees in the backline.  Shaken and Immobilized.  No problem there for me, either.  The Wolf Guard/Njal squad I believe shoots and kills the de-mech Purifiers.  No problem.  His Grey Hunters on the right flank who immobilized my forest Rhino failed to charge it, which is fine by me, too.  All in all, not the best turn of shooting for him.

End Space Wolves Turn 2.  You can see the Njal Unit standing next to two fully loaded Rhinos and a Venerable Dread on the other side of the Pod.  The Rhino on its side is still alive, just immobilized, and also ready to send out the Purifiers into combat .
Grey Knights Turn 3

I was really expecting this to be a game-sealing turn for me, but my rolling was pretty poor.  My shaken Rhino disembarked its Purifiers to charge the Njal team, and the Ven Dread moved into charge position.   My forest Rhino team disembarked and prepared to charge the Hunters in my back lines, Crowe walked on and prepared to join the fracas. One of my Psyflemen advanced with his broken Hunters to keep them walking off the table.

In Shooting I softened up the squads I planned to charge with more or less negliable effects.  My still packed Purifiers and Psyflemen torrented his Long Fangs.  One squad broke and fled off the table, the other was reduced to a single guy.

I charged 8 Purifiers and a Venerable Dread into his Wolf Guard, but was only able to get the Dread in Base to base with Njal.  I was hoping to drop him because shutting down my psychic powers was getting old extra fast.  On the other side, I charged my Purifiers into his Grey Hunters along with Crowe.  Here is where I made a big mistake.  I charged with Crowe second, so they were already locked in with the Purifiers and Crowe only got two guys in Base to base.  Had he charged first and gotten 7 guys in base to base, he would have been significantly more effective.  This combat went poorly, Njal shut down hammerhand and I only inflicted a couple casualties, and Crowe killed none.  His hits back killed a handful of Purifiers and I lost combat.  I passed some fearless saves and was left with 2 Purifiers and Crowe locked in with 6 Grey Hunters.

On the other side things didn't fare much better.  I killed 3 or 4 Wolf Guard, but his Lord killed 3 back, and the Wolf Guard killed a couple more.  The Dread did one wound to Njal but his passed his invulnerable and he lived, damn it!  Then the power fist in the unit penetrated and exploded the Venerable Dread.  Bloody combat.  He had two Wolf Guard left (powerfist and Wulfen) and the two characters.  I had 2 Purifiers.  Me not getting Hammerhand off was the big difference.  I would have done 3 or 4 more wounds, and effectively wiped the squad, while simultaneously saving 3 or 4 Purifiers.  Njal's 3+ dispel was quite strong.

End Grey Knights Turn 3
Space Wolves Turn 3

I still had the momentum on my side going into this turn, I felt.  But good rolling for him might turn that around.  I was somewhat dejected because I felt I should have wrapped up the game last turn but rolled poorly enough in combat to keep him in it.

His movement was fast, his broken Wolves kept fleeing.  His last pod of Grey Hunters came in between my two Rhinos and the Long Fangs.

His lone Missile Fang did nothing noteworthy.  His new Grey Hunter Squad only had LoS to the empty Rhino, so they blasted it, exploding it.  In retrospect, he should have played for the win and dropped by his objective and tried to hold me off of it.

In combat his Wolf Lord and Njal slaughtered the last two Purifiers and consolidated.  The other Grey Hunters killed the last two Purifiers in the other squad and surrounded Crowe.  His model count was now perilously low.  I figured at this point he had no models that could capture objectives except for the ones locked in with Crowe, and they were a couple turns away from the objective with some Dreads in between, so it wasn't likely.  I still had 3 fully functioning Pysflemen and a fully functional Purifier squad inside a Rhino.

End of Space Wolf Turn 3.  You can see a surround Crowe (just where he wants to be) and the two characters menacing my last intact Purifier squad in their Rhino.
Grey Knights Turn 4

I disembarked my Purifiers and moved them between the characters and the newly dropped Grey Hunters.  My plan was to shoot the hell out of the characters and if they lived, charge them and try to wipe them out at Initiative 6.

Luckily in the shooting phase, my Psyflemen did the trick.  12 Str 8 wounds were enough to put a wound on each of them passed their armor.  INSTANT DEATH.  Boom.  Dead Njal, dead Wolf Lord.  Man Pysflemen are good.  Those two terrors dead, my Purifiers unloaded on the Grey Hunters and killed a few with shooting.  They then charged them.

In combat, Crowe killed all but one guy who was in base to base with him, and didn't get touched back, then he ran that man down and killed him.  On the other side, with Njal gone, I cast hammerhand and gave those Hunters an ass beating.  I wiped them and consolidated towards his objective and his lone missile Fang.  

We called the game at that point, since he had one model left, who would have surely died on my next turn.

End GK Turn 4, End of Game.
So it ended with me having a functioning Rhino, 8 Purifiers and 3 dreads left and him basically tabled.  Not bad for my first time out with the new army.  I think on average my rolls were pretty bad the first few turns, and they were exacerbated by the two big mistakes I made which cost me significant damage both times.  Had I not made those two mistake I would have hardly lost anything.

It's a bit too early to say my feelings about how individual units played, except that Psyflemen did excellently.  The Purifiers were somewhat off their game, but that was due to not getting Hammerhand off when it mattered thanks to Njal, and also some pretty below average to mediocre rolling.  Plus, against Marines, Cleansing Flame is useless.  It will be interesting to compare how they do against non-3+ armies.  I expect significantly better.  We shall see.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this report.  Plenty more to come as I hope to start getting several games a week in with them over the next few months leading to NOVA.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Better Playtesting: Tournament Prep

Playing in an 8 round tournament is not the same as playing 8 games of 40k over two days.  Is that a huge understatement, or what?  Today we are going to talk about how you can use your playtesting sessions to avoid making mistake on the big stage.

There is a difference between strong technical play and deliberate play.  Technical play is, as I have said, usually a matter of making sure you remember all the 'little things' and being a good book-keeper for your match.  Deliberate play, however, is more a style of play.  The top Magic pros all play very deliberately.  Watch two of the all time greats.  Both players have perfect technical play, and perfect deliberate play.

Even if you aren't familiar with the game, you can see their their every action is deliberate and measured.  This is the proper pace to play any tournament strategy game.  A deliberate playstyle has the following benefits...

  • Confidence.  You will appear confident and assured.  This can throw someone who is less confident off their game.  It can be a huge advantage to come into the game when your opponent already believes he is going to lose.
  • Proactivity.  If your actions are deliberate, it puts you in a proactive stance.  It puts your opponent in a reactive stance.  He is reacting to your game plan, and ignoring his own.
  • Pace.  The value of maintaining a stable pace of play cannot be underestimated in a timed round environment.  In every tournament I've ever been to, I've had opponents pressure me to play faster at the end of a round.  I won't do it.  They can't accuse me of slow play, either, because I maintain the same pace the whole game.  Note, I'm not suggesting slow playing from the start.  Play with a deliberate, measured, medium pace the whole match.  Fast playing at the end to get one more round in is insanity.  The choices you make at the end of the game are just as important (or moreso) than the ones you make at the beginning.  Putting any less thought into them is ridiculous.
  • Touching on an above point in regards to an opponent pressuring you.  A deliberate playstyle will help you resist your opponent's pressuring.  You cannot allow an opponent to pressure you into playing faster or slower to suit them.  If they want to play speed rounds, let them play it on their turn.  Opponent will try to pressure you on more than pace though.  They can and will pressure you on rules interpretations and scoring.  Without arguing over any disagreements, call for a judge.  There is no sense in being pressured into losing or drawing a match because a guy is trying to intimidate you over the rules.  Maintaining your calm, deliberate style will allow you to stay level headed and be above that kind of intimidation.
 Lastly, I want to close by saying that playing 4 rounds of 40k in one day at a tournament level is grueling.  In the weeks leading up to a tournament you should try simulating 4 rounds in one day.  Get your playtest partner to play 4 timed games in one day in order to simulate the event.  I would highly suggest playing with no take backs of mistakes, which I normally say are good to allow in playtesting.  You want to really see the effects of the tournament on your mental stamina.  Keep track of how many mistakes you make game 1 versus game 4.  It should be pretty telling.

I would also advise you when you do this test to eat the food you would eat at the event.  I talked before about what you should eat at tournaments.  Try to make a food plan prior to the tournament, and use that food plan on the day of your simulated tournament.  It will show any weakness in your plan ahead of time, hopefully.  If you get headaches, eat more good carbs.  If you get hunger pangs, eat more high quality proteins.  Basically, adjust as needed to ensure success.  Better to have the headaches while playtesting than at the event.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Better Playtesting: Experience and Tournament Prep

Welcome back for another article about improving the quality of your playtesting.  With the summer months upon us, there will be a lot of big tournaments coming up, and a bit more free time (for most of us) to get games in.  As I've always said, playtesting scientifically is your best bet for preparing for an event and making sure you have the best list available.

Previously, I focused on using your playtesting gauntlet to tune your own list to be a strong all-comers list.  However, running the gauntlet to improve your own list is only half the benefit: the other half is getting the experience playing against other competitive lists and learning their strengths and weaknesses.

Let's talk about some of the pitfalls (and how to avoid them) you can run into if you fail to playtest again some of the more popular lists out there...

If you have fond memories of this, you're as old as me.
  • Failing to identify the threats in an opponent's list.  Yes, we all know Hydras in IG lists are very strong, in general.  But you have a dual Land Raider Vulkan list.  The Hydras are not the threats you need to worry about.  You need to be much more concerned about the melta vets who can kill your raiders, and the infantry blob who can swamp your TH/SS terminators.  That is an obvious example, but the match ups get more subtle.  Let's say you are playing against Space Wolves who have a couple 10 man units in Rhinos and 5 man units in Razors.  Which do you target first?  Is the answer that obvious?  I think that knowing the correct answer is important, and you won't know for sure until you've played the matchup several times.
  • Rules interactions.  It's important, ofcourse, to know all the rules for your own army.  It helps to know the rules in other armies too, because you never want to say, "Oh wow, I didn't know they could do that..."  How many times do you suppose the guy who wins Best General at major tournaments is surprised by how a particular unit works in an enemy army?  Also, interactions between your rules and your opponent's is important.  Say you have a power that can be used offensively or defensively.  99/100 times you use it offensively.   What about that one particular match up where it helps to play it defensively?  Will you know when the time is right to play it that way?  
  • Allowing your opponent to cheat you.  Briefly, your opponent can't cheat you if you know you're being cheated.  If your opponent figures out that you don't have a clue how his army works, he may play honestly... or he might not.
I've spoken at length about technical play and how to improve it.  But technical play is about remembering to do the automatic things, the type of book keeping tasks that aren't directly related to tactics or strategy.  Better playtesting will improve technical play, but it will also sharpen your decision making ability and judgement.  So what benefits do you get from scientific playtestings?

  • You can base your decisions on experience, rather than assumptions, or internet theory.  "Orks suck."  Yup, they do.  Until you get your ass kicked by Orks at a tournament because you didn't test against them and assumed you'd just stomp them.

  • Closing the book.  A player who doesn't playtest might still have enough skill to make all the obvious choices when playing.  But obvious choices don't win games.  If I realize my opponent is playing "by the book" I will have no trouble predicting his next turn, and I'll be able to game him.  The obvious decision is not the correct decision 100% of the time.  When to deviate from the obvious decision is important. 
  • Identifying who is the gunline and who is the beatdown.  I've spoken about the importance of making this identification often.  Sometimes it's easy.  Orks are usually the beatdown against a shooty IG list.  But other times it's muddy.  Grey Knight Purifier Psyback list against Mech Blood Angels.  Who, exactly, is the gunline and the beat down in that match up?  It isn't at all obvious.  If you make the correct identification before your opponent does, you will go a long way towards winning.
  • Failing to press your advantage when you're ahead, and knowing when to throwaway a unit when you're behind.  Human nature is to get conservative when you're winning by a lot, and when you're losing by a lot.  40k does not reward this thinking.  Despite alpha strikes and critical mass, comebacks from a bad start happen.  They happen a lot, especially when good lists are involved.  If you get ahead, you need to stay ahead.  This means sticking to your plan.  If you're the gunline, don't suddenly switch to beatdown because you got far ahead.  Don't change your target priority away from his mech because "he only has 2 of his original 10 vehicles left."  Those 2 remaining vehicles can turn the tide if you let them.  On the other side of the coin, after taking heavy losses human nature is to get conservative and try to play ultra-defensively to maintain what you do have.  This doesn't often work.  There are times when you have to say, "OK I'm getting smoked, and next turn is going to be bad too, but if I sacrifice these two units, I can regroup with the rest and come back."   Essentially, those two sacrificial lambs can save the rest of the flock.  If you try to save all of them, you might not save any of them.
I'll do part 2 of this article tomorrow where I'll into tournament specific preparation, because succeeding in a tournament is different than just winning games of 40k.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yeah, Go Ahead and Drink At Tournaments

Adam at Space Wolves has been posting some excellent bat reps from his strong finish at the UKGT this month, and I've been enjoying them.  He does a great job of making sense of the game via text, and the pictures are always helpful.  Along with Xaereth, I think he does the best bat reps on the blogosphere.

Anyway, in Round 4 he played against a Nid player named Tim King.  According to Adam, Tim had narrowly drawn with him at previous events, and he has beaten some of Adam's friends in previous events.  Plus, he was near the top tables at a major GT.

This time, though, Adam blew him out of the water.  It wasn't a close game.  How odd.  What happened?  Apparently, Tim showed up to the table blitzed drunk.  Good game.

Let's be clear, I drink alcohol.  I have a good time and I do like to get drunk occasionally.  It's all fun.  I get that tournaments are a good occasion to have a few drinks with friends from across the country you don't get to see a lot.  But really, have some respect for the game and your opponent and not drink DURING the freaking tournament.  Wait until the end of the day and hit up the bar with your buds, don't get wasted during the actual event.

It really does come down to a lack of respect for your opponent and the game.  People who attend tournaments like the UKGT run the gamut from competitive to hyper-casual, but I know that none of them enjoy playing against a guy who can barely stand and communicate.  It's frankly rather embarrassing.  

If I was a casual player, who is there to enjoy some fun games with nice people, the last thing I would want to do is waste one of my few matches on a dude who is totally obliterated.

From a competitive standpoint, when you're in round 4 at a major GT and near the top tables you expect to get a tough game against a good opponent.  How fair was it to everyone else that Adam essentially received a bye for the round?  I'm sure even Adam would have preferred to play a sober opponent, even if it meant that he would be jeopardizing his high finish.  I bet everyone who lost in the 4th round against a strong opponent was real excited to see a staggeringly drunk guy get blown out.

So the moral of the story is be responsible and respectful.  Have drinks and have fun, but don't let your drinking cross the line into ruining the fun for others.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Today in Awful Warseer Tactics Part 15

Here we are again.  How did we get here?  I must admit since I started doing this series, the bar has been raised in my mind for what I would regard as worthy of making a post about it.  So you can imagine that this one is pretty amazing.  It is a fairly short thread, by Warseer standards, but the original poster is so dumb and the responses so ridiculous that it has significant merit.

I also want to add, that I believe these are all adults.  It's possible the OP is an 11 year old, but I doubt it.  I have very little doubt that that he is at least 16.  Keep that in mind.

rcm2216: Has the meta game come down to who can kill the transports first and kick the troops out, then deal with the heavier armored vehicles later?  This is what it seems like to me.  The smart player probaly needs a list that is fast without transports and it wastes alot of anti tank firepower on small targets.

What say you?

I say you're as dumb as a sack of bricks.  For starters, the term "meta-game" doesn't mean what you think it means.  Yes, it is fairly safe to describe 5th Edition as a battle of mechanised forces, but that has nothing to do with any concept of "meta-game."

And guess what?  The smart player DOESN'T need such a list, because smart players know the list already.  You should have said that the dumb player needs it.  Also, I reject your proposition that a foot/hybrid based army has to be fast.  If you have reliable long range firepower you don't really need to be that fast.

Zealot!: fast w/o transports sounds like an elite list to me. less models = easier to get outplayed in the movement phase if you don't get a few choice transports open by turn 2.

More stupidity.  Fast without transports is an elite list?  Blood Angels 5 man Jumper units are elite?  You can have 6 units of 5 jumpers with melta/inferno for very few points.  Ironically, BA jumper lists tend to have more bodies than standard Marine mech lists.
Harrold: Wasted anti-tank fire can just as easily be directed at your high-value units. I'm just fine with turning a squad of lascannons on some tougher infantry if there's no armor on his side of the table.

Your 'shoot the lascannons at my 5 man combat squad' plan sounds like a real fucking winner.

Kelanen: Not most codexes, but all Imperial (and CSM) codexes.

Eldar, Tau, Necrons (Monolith is essentially a transport) have damn expensive transports.

Gee, what do those codices have in common?  They weren't written for 5th Edition!  How much do you suspect Devil Fish will cost in the next Tau book?  How much do you want to bet that Wave Serpents cost only slightly more than Razorbacks in the next Eldar book?
One Mean Duck:  this thread is the reason i think jumppack / shooty BA is one of the most powerfull armies out there.. Run assaults squads with jumppakcs and maybe vanguard with 2-3 rifleman dreads, some typhoons and such for opening tranpsots.

 You were so close.  Jumper/shooty BA is a powerful build.  Just not with the rifleman dreads and Typhoons.  Missile Devs with a priest bubble > Riflemen in the BA book.

Latro_:  I'm finding a good way to build a list is that its focus is to kill a11-12 dead with re-usability for big stuff, i'm loving multimeltas at the minute esp attack bikes.

So a good way to build a list is to start by acknowledging that you're playing 5th Edition.  Good start.
The Gribbly:  Its not so much the 'meta game' as it is just 5th edition. 

I love you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Grey Knights Crowe List

As you have seen, I finished getting my GK to be battle ready.  So it's time to have a couple games.  I'm going to try to get a couple games in this weekend, and I'll post some bat reps here next week if I do. 

Like you can see from the pictures, I have a list in mind.  It's not the most competitive list in the world, and I don't expect to go 8-0 at NOVA with it.  But my goal is to put the experience > list theory to the test by getting so many games in with it that I can bring it to respectability. 

Castellan Crowe
4x 8 Purifiers w/ 2x Pyscannon, 5x Halberds, 1x Hammer, Rhino w/ Dozer Blades
3x TLAC Dreadnoughts w/ Psybolt ammo
2x Venerable Dreadnoughts

Very simple list, really.  Pretty good anti-tank.  Pretty good anti-infantry.  9 vehicles at 2k is hardly mech saturation, but it should be OK.  I considered going down to 5 man MSU squads with psybacks to maxmize firepower, but the issue I ran into mentally was that the list wasn't going to be an uber MSU list and going MSU shouldn't be a half-measure.  Either go balls out full MSU, or go with big threats.  I went with big threats.  

Why Dozer Blades?  Well I only have 4 Rhinos.  I'll need to get really good at abusing using cover/terrain to keep them alive.  Dozer blades allow me to use terrain to my advantage without the side effects of getting immobilized all the time.  Plus there were some extra points free that had literally no other good uses.  Dozer Blades were a ton better idea than master-crafting Daemon Hammers, after all.  If I had another 10 points I could have given the Venerables TLAC and psybolt ammo, but having a pair of reliable multi-melta platforms isn't exactly a bad thing for the list to have.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

40k Hobby Update: Grey Knight Army Completed

The only thing I have to do is paint my Rhinos, but that will take a day at most.  But here it is, my 2,000 point (sans Rhinos) Grey Knights army painted and based.

Group shot.
More Purifiers!

Group shot of my Dreadnoughts and Venerable Dreadnoughts

Dreadbash close up!

The much maligned Castellan Crowe

Closing group shot

I know I'm not a great painter by any means, but I am fairly proud of how these came out.  Can't wait to get some games in now as I prepare for the NOVA Open with them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff II: Play What You Know

In the first part of this article I advocated not spending too much mental energy and time stressing over optimizing your list.  If you get neurotic about making tiny tweaks, you can get so absorbed in the difference between 7 multi-meltas and 8 Missile Launchers compared to 8 Multi-meltas and 7 Missile Launchers that you drive yourself crazy.  And what do you gain for all that craziness: nothing, because in the end there is no real measurable difference.  

Kirby commented that the best scenario would be to have plenty of playtesting experience AND an optimized list.  This is exactly what I'm advocating.  By the time you are to the "7 of one thing 8 of the other or vice versa" stage of optimization, your list is already optimized enough.  Anything further is hand wringing.

Does the list have good, redundant ways to kill tanks?  Great.
Does the list have good, redundant ways to mow down infantry?  Great.
Does the list have reliable scoring units?  Great.
No more obsessive compulsive obsession with required further.  GO PLAY a ton of games.  

So for today's article I want to stress another point: play the army and the list you know.  Innovating the day before the tournament is a really poor idea.

Time spent over-optimizing lists, is time not spent improving your technical play.  When you play technically better than your opponent, and you have a list with all the tools to win, that's all you need to be successful.  It is far more important to know your list, and how it plays, inside and out than it is to have an infinitesimally small edge in optimization.

Besides optimization, the other side of the coin is book jumping at the last minute.  Hypothetical scenario.  You have been playing Blood Angels since the codex launched.  You have months and months of experience and playtesting done.  You have a 2,000 point list you have taken to multiple tournaments and done very well with.  The Necrons codex launches, intrigues you, and you jump in.  A month and a half later, you bring Necrons to a major GT.  

Big mistake.  

Unless you assembled your army in a few days and spent that month and a half playtesting like a madman each day, you won't do as well as you would do with your Blood Angels.  Obviously, not everyone attends GTs in order compete tooth and nail for a high finish.  Some people would say: heck, I just want to have fun with my new love, Necrons.  And that is fine, but this article isn't for you.  This article is for the guy who cares where he finishes.  

So let's recap the Nikephoros' Tournament Maxims:

1.  Make sure your list can win: kills tanks, infantry and can score.
2.  Hours spent playtesting are 100 times more important than hours spent tweaking.
3.  Play the codex you have the most experience with in the last 6 months.
4.  Play the list you have the most experience with in the last 6 months.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Efficiency vs. Utility

This isn't really going to be a full size update, but it's an idea that's been kicking around in my head for a while and I haven't really resolved it.  Hopefully it will spark some discussion and give me the insight I'm seeking.

The GK codex is where I began to think about this topic, Efficiency versus Utility.  In a vacuum where kill points are irrelevant, we can all agree that (in 40k at least) MSU is the optimal way to construct armies, for non-horde codices.  However, taken to an extreme, there are clearly limits.  

Efficient AND killy

Let's look at a hypothetical unit that is very points efficient.  5 Tactical Marines, no heavy or special weapon for 50 points.  No option to take a transport.  Under the normal SM codex rules, this unit should cost around 85 points, so in this hypothetical entry, 50 points for it is quite efficient...

...but it doesn't do anything.  It brings no utility to an army.  So clearly, there is a limit to where no matter how points efficient something is, it has to do something in order to be useful on the battlefield.

Back to GK.

The optimal size of Purifier units has been a hot topic.  Kirby says that 7-8 is the optimal size.  I've heard others argue for 10.  Stelek, sticking to his MSU guns as always, insists 5 is correct.

The argument boils down to efficiency vs. utility.  Kirby's argument, if I can put words into his mouth, is that 5 man units aren't exceptional as shooty units, and they aren't scary in close combat.  If they don't shoot that much better than GKSS, and they aren't that much better in close combat than GKSS, why pay the extra points?  The unit gains utility as it gains size.  A unit of 8 is a definite close combat threat to nearly any unit in the game.  And with 2 Psycannons and 6 storm bolters, it can lay down some shots.  It has definite, undeniable utility.  

The criticism is, that while an 8 man Purifier squad has utility, it isn't points efficient.  You can't have more than 4 units of 8 in a 2000pt force without sacrificing important support units.  And 4 scoring units at 2000 is stretching it, even if they are exceptionally good.

Stelek argues that since they suck as a close combat unit (I personally disagree) there is no need to spend points on extra bodies, so stick to 5.  Also, no need to spend points on halberds.  He advocates 5 man units, 2 psycannons, and MAYBE a hammer if you feel it's necessary for some reason.  This is efficient.  180 points in a Rhino.  If you goal is to put down as many scoring mech based psycannons as possible, this is how you do it.

My question is, while undeniably points efficient and clearly superior to taking 5 man GKSS with a lone Psycannon, is it useful?  It certainly lacks the CC punch of the 8 man halberd wielding unit.  The criticism is that it is sacrificing utility in the quest for efficiency.  That it becomes a sorta-shooty unit rather than a go anywhere, do anything unit.

I see both sides of the coin.  I love the utility of an 8 man Purifier unit.  It eats everything short of TH/SS for breakfast, AND can throw down serious firepower at 24".  I also see how running 12 psycannons at 2000 points inside Rhinos is enough firepower to be excited about to the point where you don't care about losing in CC.

The optimist in me (I'd love to meet him someday) would argue that is a sign the codex has great internal balance because the right answer is far from obvious.  The pessimist would say that maybe running Purifiers as troops doesn't have an obvious right answer because they suck as troops and if they were good troops the answer would be quite obvious.

Like I said at the start, I don't have the answer and hopefully we can get a discussion where we can work towards it.