Saturday, December 31, 2011

Real Life: 2011 Year in Review

Plugging my cycling/training blog.  Wrote an article summing up my year of training and racing.  It was a fun year.  Please check it out. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Regurgitated Content: Orcs and Goblins

Over the past month or so I've been a busy bee by starting to write some Armies in 8th articles at 3++ for Kirby.  The first army I wanted to do was Orcs and Goblins because it's an army I know somewhat well, and because it's an army that 40k players looking to get into Fantasy might be initially attracted to.

I had already written a rather lengthy OnG review here when the book first dropped, as the kids say.  Now with several months experience under our collective belts I wrote the articles for 3++ from scratch.  Some of my ideas changed, and some initial opinions were confirmed.  There were some people who told me that I didn't have a clue about Fantasy (which I find to be typical of ANY 40k blogger who dares to mention Fantasy, my guess is these folks are adult children) but for the most part the comments from people who disagreed with me on one unit or another were pretty constructive.

I'm sure most of you who stop by this blog already read 3++, but for those of you that might have missed my OnG series there, please check it out.  If anyone has any comments about the series as a whole, I'd love to hear them.

If I don't get another post in before the calendar turns, have a happy new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

40k Theory: The Razor's Edge

Originally posted on 3++, but I felt like re-posting it here on the off chance that someone who reads my blog managed to miss it on Kirby's...

In and Out Burger: how to NOT be on the razor's edge

As some of you (translation: none of you) may be aware, I am a racing cyclist and something of a fitness/nutrition nut.  There is a concept I’ve been thinking about lately from the endurance sports world that crosses over to 40k list building, oddly enough. 

In endurance sports, there is a concept called “the razor’s edge.”  In short, the idea is that in running/cycling/triathlon etc. you want to weigh as little as possible and have the least body fat possible.  Mostly because the less you weigh, the faster you are, especially in areas with hills (or even mountains) because gravity is only second to wind resistance in forces to be overcome.  In the racing world, you measure your watts of power output divided by your weight in kilograms to get a good idea of your relative speed compared to other athletes. 

Enough about that.

There is a downside to weight loss.  Any weight loss is going to come at the expense of strength.  Even if you lose a pound of fat off your body, there is going to be some muscle that is lost too.  And the less fat you have to lose, the more muscle that you lose when you try to keep losing weight.  So in the mad rush to lower the weight side of the power/weight ratio, you can lose power and end up making no gains, or worse yet, losing ground.

Additionally, if your body fat percentage gets too lean, or your weight gets too low, you start having medical issues.  Your immune system gets much weaker and you can catch flu or become unable to fight infection.  For women, you stop having your menstrual cycle and you start developing… masculine traits.  All bad.  So the irony is that your peak performance is so close to a breakdown.  For an elite cyclist, his peak performance might be 130 pounds and 6% body fat.  But if he was to drop to 127 and 5%, he could start physically breaking down.  Many a Tour De France racer, or Iron Man aspirant has been knocked out of their event due to a cold they couldn’t shake because of too low bodyfat.

Hence the term, razor’s edge.  The ideal place for these athletes to be is on the razor’s edge, where on one side they are unhealthily lean, and on the other side they are too fat.  They try to be right on the razor’s edge of ideal performance.  Since it would be impossible to maintain the razor’s edge indefinitely, athletes practice periodization, so that they schedule their diet and training to ‘peak’ right at their target event.  Thus they only put themselves “at risk” for a brief period of time, hopefully short enough to win their event and avoid any side effects.

So after all that banality, you might be interested in how it applies to Wargaming.  I see a direct parallel between the goal to be at peak performance by being as lean as possible and in having an MSU list that is as tuned as can be and maximum optimal.  In both concepts, the goal is to trim the fat and be a lean, mean, fighting machine.  In both concepts it can be taken too far, to have serious negative effects. 

In 40k, an overtuned list can make bad metagame calls.   As some of you know, the terrain and rules of the NOVA gave a lot of cover saves.  Probably a lot more than many people play on the local level, and thus, long range firepower was not as scary (or important) as many people might have expected.  Additionally, close combat was a fair bit more important that many people expected it to be.  Had someone over-optimized their list based on their pre-NOVA conception of the game, they could have brought way too much long range shooting, not enough melta, and not enough defenses against enemy close combat units.  Many a Guard player didn’t have quite the tournament they expected to have going in.

I’ve been a big proponent of playtesting scientifically to tweak your list, and the biggest x-factor in scientific playtesting is your playtest gauntlet.  If you test against 5 lists (assuming them to be the most popular tournament archetypes) and you over optimize to beat them, you may run into a situation where you don’t encounter any of them at the actual tournament and you find your ‘optimizations’ were actually less than optimal.  That said, I still fully endorse scientific playtesting, and a gauntlet.  But I also think it helps to take your tuned list out ‘into the wild’ so to speak, but a test run.  It’s very smart to play your tuned list in a local tournament or two before the GT to find out how your gauntlet tested list performs in the real world.  Essentially what I’m saying is, in endurance sports you can trim the fat and lose muscle and strength unintentionally.  In 40k list building, you can trim what you think is fat, only to find out it was really muscle on the day of the tournament.

In conclusion, one piece of advice that applies to both endurance sports and 40k: don’t make knee jerk changes to your program in response to a minor setback.  In endurance sports, you don’t change your diet plan radically a week before the event because you had a bad training session.  In 40k, you don’t radically tweak a list in response to a loss (or even a string of losses), any changes you make to your list during testing should be minor and gradual so that you don’t accidentally trim the muscle along with the fat.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shameless eBay Plug

Hey folks.  Just in time for Christmas (so you can spend money on yourself rather than the ingrates in your life) I have an extra pair of Forgeworld Dreadnought autocannon arms for sale on eBay ending in the next few hours and I thought I'd put it out there for you guys.  The price is pretty low so considering conversation rates and shipping and stuff you can get a pretty good deal.  

You know you want another rifle/psyfle-man in your armies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Better Playtesting: Controlled Tempo

How often have we heard the following story…

“I had the game more or less under control.  The judge yelled out ‘last turn’ and in order to get the last turn in my opponent and I agreed to play very quickly.  On the last turn, he was able to grab an objective from me and win the game.  Had we not played that last turn I would have had it.”

Where did this hypothetical player make his mistake?  Most people would say that he messed up when he agreed to play the last turn; after all, had he said, “nah we won’t be able to finish,” he would have won.  And that’s a perfectly valid answer to the question, but the proximate cause of his loss was more than likely the change in tempo.

Control tempo, don't be controlled by tempo
Pace of play is crucially important, and often neglected in playtesting.  Most tournament games take place at a medium tempo/pace of play.  It isn’t hurried speed turns, but it also isn’t a laid back casual pace where a single 2k game might take a whole Saturday afternoon.  Therefore, most people would be best advised to practice games at a medium pace to better replicate the speed of decision making that you will be under at the event itself.  This is fairly common sense.

I would definitely advise you to go one step further and play several games before you event at a sped up blitz round pace.  I’ve touched on this before, but there is a reason why Chess experts play Blitz matches in order to hone their decision making.  Not only does this sharpen their decision making processes under pressure, but it gives them the ability to dictate the pace of play with confidence.

This might be considered gamesmanship or unsportsmanlike by some, but it is true that most people will play at the pace of their opponent.  If their opponent is playing quickly and with a sense of urgency, they will subconsciously speed up their own play.  Most people do little to none blitz practice.  A player looking to generate an advantage might begin to play quickly (a skill he has practiced) to see if his opponent (who hasn’t practiced it) will match his pace.  If he matches the pace, the player has given himself a tremendous advantage in the game.  If his opponent doesn’t respond to the change in pace, the player can just go back to his medium pace, with no loss.

Now that isn’t friendly gaming, it’s tournament gamesmanship.  Come to your own conclusions about how and when to deploy that tactic.

But even if you don’t use that skill ‘offensively’ you can- and should- still hone the ability to play quickly for the inevitable times when you need to squeeze in another turn before time is called in the round in order to grind out a victory.  You might not be gaming your tempo for an advantage, but you can certainly practice it so that you’re never placed at a disadvantage. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

40k: Black Templar Rumors and Rumblings

Some Templar rumors have been floating around, and I felt that as a well known Black Templar blogger, giving my thoughts on them would be marginally appropriate.  So here goes, my thoughts following each item in orange.

Vow to do something good in 6th Edition
-          Phil Kelly is writing the Codex.

This could be a good thing (IG) or a bad thing (Tyranids).  Time will tell.   This WILL be a good thing.

-          More emphasis on the horde aspect of the army with lots of large units of Initiates and Neophytes.

If this is true, it’s an abject failure in the making, unless they make the units insanely cheap, and give them really good anti-tank weapons, like 4 meltaguns per 20 or something.  Unless 6th Edition is radically different, the game is about maneuver and killing light mech.  Hordes of power armor with one special weapon do neither.

-          Emperors Champion is more in line with the company champion of the Grey Knights but is still 2 wounds. Gains preferred enemy against independent characters and monstrous creatures.

I take it that means we won’t be getting a preferred enemy vow, if this is true.  That will be sad.  We don’t have counter attack, or likely Furious Charge (since BA got that) so I’m not sure what useful USR the Templars will get to make them CC beasts.  If the answer is “you get cheaper dudes and more dudes = more attacks” I’ll be bummed.  More attacks are good, but efficient units are better.

-          Emperors Champion is more in line with the company champion of the Grey Knights but is still 2 wounds. Gains preferred enemy against independent characters and monstrous creatures.

Oh boy, I can’t wait to have a 20 man unit that completely fails when one Neophyte dies.  That will make my huge points investment useful.  Since when has rage been used on a competitive unit?

-          All the current special characters (ie: Helbrect and Grimaldius) will remain. Also I had heard of an mention of a special character who is like the greatest of all of the Emperor's Champions and the greatest warrior in the Black Templars. I had heard mention of a bike mounted special character with a lance like weapon but I cannot confirm this yet. "

The old special characters were boring, so them coming back is whatever.  Hopefully there is a reason to take them (hint: Helbrect makes Sword Brethren into Troops would be good).  The new special characters are no brainers.  The “epic” EC is an obvious idea, and the mounted “Questing Knight” character is also a good idea.  Hopefully their rules make them useable. 

-Sword Brethren are to get a special rule where when they are assaulted the enemy unit has to re-roll all* successful hits, at the expense of 1 attack. It's called "parry".

This doesn’t excite me much.  Genestealers and Incubi will still kill you.  Everything else you should be beating up.

-Land Raiders, when suffering a 5 or 6 on the damage chart* (so "wrecked" or "destroyed") gets one more turn where it rampage, think along the lines of the machine spirit going bezerk.

Better than nothing, but I’d prefer Blessed Hull that stops the melta bonus.

-No horses as far as I am aware, bikes would be the direction (if any at all) for riding knights.

Unless they reinvent the fluff (and I wouldn’t be against it if they did) the BT don’t have any bike “Questing Knight” uber unit.  Multi-wound Sword Brethren on bikes would be pretty fun.

That’s it for now.  Some of this stuff has me worried, but some of it has definite potential.  This codex can’t come soon enough to remove the bad taste of Necrons from my mouth.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Email in: Dark Elf Cauldron Advice

Toramouse writes...

"I have been reading your blog for several months now and am really enjoying it, especially the stupidity on the internet section which has taught me a lot of stuff. I know you have done many stupidity articles on dark elves, but i think i have found a gem for you to mine on warseer labelled "Do i need a Cauldron in my Dark Elf army".

 It involves a noobish question and a variety of answers before going into a huge argument between a veteran warseer poster and a new one. It was a hugely entertaining read for me, but i would like a bit of feedback on the posts so i can get a better idea about the army, as i am looking to start dark elves and every bit of advise from a good dark elf player helps.

Yours sincerely,

I painted this
I'm not going to go into the abyss of Warseer today, though that particular thread is quite high on the stupid, but I do have some general thoughts about Cauldrons I'll share with you.

Cauldron buffs scale.  The bigger your unit is, the more benefit that unit catches from a cauldron.  So the first thing to remember is, an MSU list, or a list with lots of singleton units (like my beloved chariots n' Hydras) doesn't gain so much relatively speaking.  So the first thing to consider is, "am I playing a list that benefits GREATLY from a Cauldron?"  If you have a Corsair deathstar or playing some god awful Executioner list, or a Witch Elf list, you just might. 

I could see a Cauldron hanging with a triple/double Blackguard list but herein lies the problem with that strategy: If I have three units of BG walking across the board, you can just focus on the two units that don't grab the buff and boss them around.  So really, it's not gaining you a ton.  I know there is better stuff for a BG list to spend its points on that add a lot more.

Either you go with a basket with all your eggs in it backed up by a Cauldron, or you play multiple Cauldrons a la my Witch Elf list.  So it's either one giant unit with one cauldron, or a couple mid-size units with a couple of Cauldrons.  I think the latter option is better, hence why I use it in my Witch Elves.  However, remember that if you are dropping all your Hero level points on Cauldrons, you are going to be magic light.  So neither option is completely good.

You are just starting a Dark Elf army so lemme give you some specific advice: skip the Cauldron unless you have a really good plan for it.  Obviously, if you are playing beer n' pretzels battleforce lists, do whatever you want.  But if you're looking to be at least semi-competitive, come up with a list idea first.  Chances are, any competitive idea you come up with will be better off spending its Hero points on level two casters.  Remember: Dark Elf sorceresses can generate their own power dice so having a 3rd caster doesn't leave you in a diminishing returns scenario other books suffer from in regards to Hero magic.

When you come up with a list idea, send it over and I'll give you some feedback.  But for now, hold off on a Cauldron.  The same amount of $$$ will buy you a Hydra, and buying as many of those as you are allowed to play at your chosen points level is the optimal purchasing decision.

Anyone else have any advice to offer Toramouse?