Monday, October 28, 2013

DC Narrative 2014 - Teaser - "Full Weekend" Track and Expansion of the Most Unique and Dramatic Narrative 40k Event Out There

The NOVA prides itself on the DC Narrative. For two years now, we've put on a truly unique Narrative event experience, literally unlike any other in the world of 40k.

In the first year, around 20 people showed up to participate; in year 2, total participation more than doubled, and most players were not involved in the GT during the day (unique attendees).

The Narrative production team has expanded this year, and we're turning it into something truly special, following along with the tracks of the past years.

2014 will focus on the reaction of the Virtue (our own homebrew intergalactic race) remnants still in Earth's Solar System as they struggle to cope with the reality of what occurred. Meanwhile, Earth will be facing their own struggles in terms of racial morality and survival; the planet is devastated (perhaps beyond habitable repair), and the survivors are riddled with both grief and hatred ... eager for revenge upon any and all surviving members of the Virtue (both Earthbound and lingering throughout the Solar System).

To reflect the expanded appeal of the Narrative, 40k players who wish for a different experience from the GT altogether (As opposed to just something in the evening to do instead of or in addition to the GT) will have it: the DC Narrative's full track will involve a unique combination of Command and Combat capabilities, where the Full Track participants (a very limited # of slots ... around 35 ... will be available) both battle it out during the day, and participate in smallgroup sessions that will help determine the battles to occur in the evenings, and will help determine the direction of the Narrative story as a whole in a much more direct way.

A great deal more information is forthcoming, but in addition to the battles these players will be facing, they'll also be responsible for such things as determining which areas of operations the evening players (which they're also a part of) will be deployed to. Our Narrative leads best described some of it as "Model UN meets War of the Worlds."

On the technical gaming front, Day Teams will be in part responsible for determining where night battles will occur, matching wits between Human and Virtue opponents in both a strategic and tactical sense. Furthermore, all participants in the Narrative will have the opportunity to play Virtue or Human "aspects" of each current 40k Codex; these Aspects will introduce subtle tweaks and changes to improve both the connection of the codices to the Narrative's backstory and encourage different ways to play some of the more net-listed armies.

As with everything NOVA, there'll be extensive opportunities for player involvement, playtesting and feedback in the lead-up.

Moreover, players will still be able to participate in the "Night Only" Narrative Gaming we've had to date, so those who wish to duke it out in the GT during the day and have a light, relaxing schedule at night maintain it ... while those who wish to experience an entire weekend full of 7 Narrative Games at relaxing paces coupled w/ "into the story" sessions gain that as well (and plenty of time to hit up seminars, shop vendors, etc. while they're at it).

For those who lived ... mercy died.
Uncredited Human source, following the 2nd Earth-Virtue War of 2313.

Sneak Peak Background Material
Written by Owen Beste (one of the co-leads for the 2014 Narrative, and 2013's Human "Acting" Faction Commander), edited by Mike Brandt, the closing notes to this year's Narrative

"Aspects" of the Virtue and Humanity for 2014
Each Codex will gain an optional "tweak" connecting to one of the three aspects of Humanity and the Virtue as their profiles evolve following the latest war. These includes the Virtue's "Aspect of Insanity," and Humanity's "Aspect of Revenge."

Plenty more information forthcoming for the Narrative, so keep your eyes and ears peeled. This year's format and presentation will also be heavily revised in terms of ensuring fair and balanced matches (especially for the evening games) and will include dramatic new terrain additions, including sector and specific location boards.

We've all seen Zero Gravity combat rules, for instance. Imagine placing your miniatures on a zero gravity gaming board ... complete with suspended, inertially-rotating terrain pieces and flickering embers and explosions.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Army Lists, and a Re-Blog - Competitive vs. Casual, the Endless Debate

So I told Chip / Torrent of Fire that I'd occasionally write a freelance article for them. I'm going to re-post that here.

I also wanted to share that I heard through the grapevine about something ... and if people are looking for army list advice, I suggest ... ask! There are a lot of really nice guys out there (and I'm occasionally one of them) who are happy to help out and share thoughts whenever people ask us for list advice. The grapevine was that someone thought those of us who historically share were suddenly being "sekrit" and only sharing with our friends. Oddball thing, that, but everyone in this hobby is a friend (or should be, it's small enough)!

On to the Re-Blog
Original post:

And the text of it ...
casualty2I’m going to try to convince people to stop using the words Casual and Competitive.
I’m going to do this by using them repeatedly for an entire, long article.
If I could give anyone I know a single piece of advice in life, it would be to live a life without expectations. If I could give someone a second piece of advice, it would be to establish goals instead.
The notion of “expectation” plays out heavily throughout our hobby. It impacts how our games pan out, how we play, how we feel about our games, and dramatically impacts our collective outlook on the hobby itself.
Lately, expectations are coming into play again with an upsurge in the perceived conflict between “Competitive” and “Casual” in Warhammer 40k. It bears understanding right from the get-go that these words are both awful words to use; we use them wrong, and we use them wrong routinely … they’re imprecise and highly subjective. More importantly, they cause serious problems in our community, because they detract from the real issues we often see causing conflict. They imprecisely and inaccurately rebrand these problems as a conflict of culture instead of a conflict caused by unrealistic and selfish expectations.
So let’s break some things down that need discussion …
As soon as you call something a Tournament and establish wins, losses, ties and scores for performance (whether that performance is “Did you win?” or “Was your opponent’s list cheesy in your expert opinion?” or “How attractive is your army compared to everyone else’s?”), you’ve created a Competition. A competition need not be competitive, but competitiveness is largely beyond the control of the organizer in contemporary 40k.
It’s time to take you guys to the mystical realm of ANALOGYLAND (which is apparently a real place). If you host a five-round one-on-one street basketball tournament in which the first round is randomly paired and the participants are Kobe Bryant in his prime, Michael Jordan in his prime, and 30 identically cloned people with dwarfism … is it competitive? We know it’s a competition … after all, it’s a five-round streetball tournament. Your initial thought might be “This isn’t competitive,” since we can probably guess Kobe and MJ are going to face each other at some point (not necessarily in the final round as would make sense, since the first round is randomly paired), and are otherwise going to run roughshod over a bunch of poor little people.
You’d be wrong.
In every round save for the first, 14 of the 16 games played are going to be practical mirror matches in terms of size and athleticism. The excepted round will have 16 highly competitive games, because at some point either Kobe or MJ are going to have to face each other … it’s a five-round tournament and there are 32 players, and we can safely assume neither of them is going to lose to a dwarf. So while theoretically eight games are going to be highly unfair and not competitive (the four rounds in which MJ and Kobe are beating up on the little people, and not facing each other), 72 games are going to be exceptionally competitive. So even though 30 of the 32 players never had a chance to win, the event itself is incredibly competitive, with 72 of 80 games likely to be very closely contested, with no clear guess at a winner ahead of time. Plus, the game to determine the overall winner (Kobe vs. MJ, whenever it happens) is also going to be very competitive (let’s avoid Kobe vs. MJ debates and assume they’d be similar enough in their respective primes).
A far less competitive event would be one in which the field is incredibly diverse. Host the same tournament with the same random first round pairings, yet change the field to MJ and Kobe, a handful of the little people, and then a full spectrum of basketball players from grade school, junior high and high school, college, the pros and retiree leagues. This event is far less likely to be even remotely competitive, because the ability to actually pair up evenly matched individuals becomes more difficult … and you still know going into it who is likely to wind up at or near the top by the end.
The second example represents all of today’s major 40k tournaments, from the Feast of Blades and NOVA Invitational all the way through most local Rogue Trader tournaments. You won’t find any event that is even remotely competitive. You’ll find plenty of events that are well-designed, fair competitions.
There’s another point, by the way. I’ll wager no one reading this wondered about the rules of basketball while pondering the whimsy of the above examples. Nobody was sitting there thinking, “3-pointers are overpowered; I wonder if any of the old guys will bring those to their game.” Perceived and real imbalances in 40k create yet another layer of “Come on guys, none of these tournaments are competitive.”
You, the reader, represent one of the people in the second tournament example above. Just like that example, when you attend a Tournament you are competing. You are in a competition. Your likelihood of getting a bunch of competitive games isn’t necessarily very high. Your likelihood of successfully winning games is directly proportional to your metrics; while for MJ the key factors were his skill and physical attributes, for you it’s your skill and army attributes.
In all of these cases, skill and army … or skill and physicality … are independent of personality. They are independent of “competitive spirit” and “sociability” and “fun-lovingness.”
Hall Of Fame Induction CeremonyThe world is full of competitively elite people who are superjerks, and competitively elite people who are wonderful human beings. Cal Ripken, Jr. isn’t an awesome human being because he played a ton of consecutive baseball games.
The world is also full of competitively incompetent a**holes, and competitively incompetent angels. Kim Jong-un isn’t a horrible ornery a**hole because of his poor hangtime.
But I’m getting off course. There’s a paradigm in our hobby of trying to brand people as being “one or the other,” “competitive vs. casual,” and other similar brandings.Kim 40k
I hope we’ve by now completely abolished the horrible use of the word “competitive” when referring to 40k tournaments. They aren’t, and IMO they never will be. There are too few events, too diverse a set of codices, too rapid a series of changes to those codices and too many players spread across too large a land area. Until we have a seeded event for only the best players (and look, I think the NOVA Invitational gets close, but it’s still fairly diverse in skill and army level), we’re never going to have a remotely competitive 40k event.
Stop thinking yours is. I’m talking to you, Mike Brandt of the NOVA Open. I’m talking to you, Chandler Lee of the Feast of Blades. I’m talking to you, Reece Robbins of the Bay Area Open. Whoever. Until we want to shoot ourselves in the financial foot and only let in a tiny handful of people we know are “good,” and then just to be sure, QC their lists with an independent commission to make sure none of them are being dummies and taking something that’s trying too hard to be different … we’ll never have a truly competitive event. Furthermore, calling someone “competitive” makes no sense whatsoever. I’ve faced many local heroes who are considered competitive dudes by their local crews … and crushed them. Does that mean they are or aren’t competitive? Just … STOP using the word. Try “good at 40k,” or “He has an optimized list,” or “He a bad man!!!” Those, at least, are all aware of their own subjectivity.
shoot-40kWhat we all do have, by the way, are fair competitions with fair rules in which people have a fair shot to prove how good they are (at painting, gaming, being good people in the eyes of those with whom they interact, or all three combined somehow).
So … moving on to the word “casual.”
What does it mean?
  • Relaxed and unconcerned
  • A person who does something irregularly
  • Clothes or shoes suitable for everyday wear rather than formal occasions
  • Made or done without much thought or premeditation
The closest I can see any of these getting to how our hobby community tries to use it is the fourth definition, but it’s still …. just awful as a way to try and brand someone.
I call tell you, the people out there desperately crying for comp or “casual” events are very, very concerned, and aren’t even a little bit relaxed. I can tell you none of them seem to play 40k irregularly. We can skip the clothing definition …
There are other uses for “casual,” as funny as that is. There’s also a great deal of thought and premeditation going into trying to brand “Competitive vs. Casual” subsets of players, and then trying to add qualitative value to whom each “side” is as human beings.
I’m a casual player. OH YEAH I DID. Am I concerned with the outcome of a tournament or game I attend? Not particularly. Am I relaxed when I play? Most opponents would probably argue stridently “yes,” especially when making cocktails for opponents and myself (as at Battle for Salvation: Lavender Bitters + Citadelle Gin + Q Tonic, yessir!). I played about four games of 40k in the two+ months leading up to BFS. Sounds fairly irregular to me. Less than once every two weeks. Less than twice a month. I do occasionally wear fancier clothes while playing … but that’s usually because I just got home from work. I often scribble out a list to play against my opponents on the spot, the moment I get home, with … well, without much thought or premeditation.
Yet I’m not who the Branders are thinking of when they say “casual.” (Oh yeah, I just branded the Branders, sue me.)
Who are they thinking of? Bad players? Players who try really hard to build a list they don’t think is “competitive” (there’s that stupid word again). Players who … don’t care if they win? Wait, can’t go there … lots of the “competitive” guys don’t care if they win either, despite bringing strong lists and playing well.
I think what gets me is that it’s the opposite of casual to try and stovepipe or brand people who share the same hobby as being a certain way. There are a lot of players who are anything but casual, but for whatever reason (more power to them) don’t want to play what is considered an optimal list, and don’t want to spend much energy within their games playing to win. That’s OK. I don’t fully understand it personally, because I’ve always found myself able to engender positive relationships with all sorts of player types while playing the game as it is supposed to be played and bringing whatever list I want to bring … the exact definition of a casual player.
The truth of the matter is we all need to take it a little less seriously, and remember that it is a game. When you sit down to play Apples to Apples, or Trivial Pursuit, or Pictionary … you give it your best shot at playing the game correctly and to win … you congratulate those who do well … you laugh at the fun things that happen … and you generally care not all that much about the outcome. You certainly don’t look at that guy next to you who is answering all the Trivial Pursuit questions correctly and say
competitive-2The long and short of this long-winded retort to the Branders of our little hobby world is this:
Kim Jong-un sucks at basketball (I’m just sure of it), and also sucks at life. Cal Ripken, Jr. is pretty awesome at life, and awesome at baseball. I think most of us use the words “casual” and “competitive” incorrectly, but we all know what players mean when they try to brand people as being one or the other.
And it’s still wrong.
There are as many overly intense, unpleasant people who play 40k poorly or with fluffy / underpowered lists as there are overly intense, unpleasant people who play 40k well and with optimized or overpowered lists.
Drop your expectations when going into public gaming settings (local game stores, tournaments, etc.), and be open and aware of your own needs. Avoid games that are too far outside your skill and list level, and if you put yourself in games that are outside your skill and list level … understand and accept responsibility for the fact that’s exactly where you’ve put yourself. You aren’t a “casual player” stuck facing a bunch of “competitive players.” You aren’t a competitive player forced to get his practice in against “casual newbies.” We’re all different, we all share traits and differ in all sorts of variable ways, and we’re all playing a silly little game. Obsessing over throwing a diverse group of human beings into a couple of hyper-generic, grammatically intoxicated buckets is probably the last thing any of us should be doing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Battle for Salvation Quick ReCap

So I attended the Battle for Salvation this weekend, and performed well again. I seem to do well here every year, and with the intensely competitive field it's always a good opportunity for me to tick a little internal box that "yes, I can still play this game."

More important than that, the BFS is always an incredibly awesome social time ... and I love connecting and re-connecting with some of the coolest people in the hobby.

Long and short:
Performed well, had fun, tied for Best Sportsmanship (tied for most Favorite Opponent votes while maxing sports score), won 2nd-to-1, and won Battlemaster. I actually took home the Battlemaster award, as it was the highest "prestige" of the three; the other 2 went subsequently to other players who performed well themselves in those categories.

Here is my army list:

The list was built with a couple of things in mind
1) I didn't want to borrow or proxy any models, so I didn't roll with a squad of Guardian Jetbikes. Hence, 6 avengers in one squad, and 8 hunters.
2) I wanted the tools to be able to fight anyone, while understanding as a result my list was not going to be maxed out in firepower, or use Tau trickeration as an ally, etc. It was still a very strong list, as would be evinced by the results of the tournament.
3) I wanted it to look nice. This was perhaps most proven by the final round, where multiple comments of "at least the top table is between two gorgeous armies" were made ... winning!

Here are my round recaps ... I went into each feeling outgunned if I went toe to toe. Quick note - all my games finished well ahead of time being called. All but my last Round finished an hour ahead. This is 2000 points and 3 hour rounds.

Round 1 - Against Tau
My opponent was a cheery, more casual player, or so he said ;) ... he was actually, but his list was plenty mean

Trick Commander (this was about to become a major theme)
2 Riptides w/ Ion Accels
2x2 Missile Broadsides w/ Missile Drone
3 Crisis Suits w/ Missiles
Several 8-man Fire Warrior Squads
2 Pathfinder Squads (About 6 pathfinders)
Very large Sniper Drone unit (This thing was a pain in the butt, surprisingly)

He elected to go first, as the mission was First Blood / Kill Points more or less. I was able to deploy my army hiding behind the Land Raider and a Hill. The Land Raider was often key for this. There was some gamble here, as Ion Accels / etc. might have a chance to kill it. They did not succeed.

I then rolled forward w/ the raider and got the hunters out and jaws'ed a Riptide. The Serpents played it cagey for another turn, not wanting to expose themselves to the withering fire of the Broadsides. So they shot some potshots off at one Broadside unit while keeping the other more than 42" away.

Swooping Hawks would end up more or less managing all his troops (this is what they do, and they do it expertly). The Lone Wolf used the Land Raider as a "hide me" way to get into his army and eventually punk his trick commander and crisis team. The Serpents moved forward into the thick of it on Turn 3 when we agreed it'd be unsporting to just sit behind the hill and claim everything with the Land Raider after I eliminated his Riptides and any ability he had to deal with it.

I also made my opponent a Lavender Bittered Gin & Tonic. Full cocktail mode for this event. I ended up tabling him, and earning 20 BP.

Round 2
Another Tau player. This one had a pair of riptides, a maxed out 6 drone missile broadside unit, a Trick Commander (theme), Tigurius, 4 Centurions w/ Grav, some scouts and a bunch of Kroot, and a Sniper Drone unit. It was also Big Guns Never Tire, which was problematic ... he had a LOT of heavy support units, and a lot of scoring units.

I did what would become a theme, and is a big deal ... and used Swooping Hawks to kill his troops while playing it cagey with the serpents, and largely prevented his centurions and missile broadsides from ever firing very much at anything they wanted to. Eventually I was able to crack his army open the "Safe" way, and got him to over-extend his centurions trying to get LOS to me, which exposed them to a charge from the Lone Wolf, who hid in center. He attached Tigurius early on to a Riptide for buffs like Perfect Timing, which was a gamble. He had his trick commander w/ the Centurions or Missile tides as he saw fit. I was able to hide the Rune Priest but use the Riptide's height to draw LOS and Jaws him without exposing myself to much return fire, and he failed Hood and the I test. 50/50 on both. REgardless, this left Tigurius exposed ... and I threw a bunch of serpent shields into him. My opponent wasn't able to get lucky with his Riptide shots (only one shot and one max damage result on a Serpent isn't great odds, even at Ordnance AP2), and I was able to keep his missile tides and centurions from bringing their firepower to bear. I tabled him at the cost of 0 points. I think this was the point where I realized I might be able to do fairly well, as my opponent (Bryan Hayzler) is a good player who did well at NOVA, and I had been able to use maneuver and placement to out muscle a much more muscular army .. i.e., if I'd just tried to outshoot him I'd have lost badly. 20 more BP.

Round 3
And more Tau, but this time with Space Wolf primary. This was Matt Cerino, of the Stomping Grounds store and gaming club. He had 50 drop wolves, with 3 or so Rune Priests, backed up by some Kroot and a Trick Commander with a Burst Tide, plus a Skyray. It was the Relic, and he misjudged that I was able to use the LAnd Raider deployed "Battlewagon style" to get troops onto the Relic on Turn 1. HE gave me first turn when he won that roll (I did not win a "Go first" roll all day). So, I was able to get the relic, and pass it down off the top of the building (you pick up the relic at the end of the movement phase you touch it, and can pass it at the end ... as the player whose turn it was, I was able to decide which to do first, RAW yada yada) into the waiting hands of the look-out-sir'able Rune Priest. I then used the Wave Serpents to shield the Land RAider from any possible drop melta (he had a drop melta squad).

Cerino's drop of 30 wolves were unable to do a lot of meaningful damage to me, and were not able to get at the Rune Priest holding the relic. He also immobilized his Skyray in a position that made using his Seekers difficult, so they remained unused (see later). I then hopped in the LAnd RAider, and the game became "kill all his scoring units and stay in the Raider to win). I got most of my Avengers out, and was able to kill 29 of the 30 wolves on Top 2 shooting phase, thanks in part again to the Lone Wolf (who had been right near the action for this very reason, right alongside the land raider). Since Cerino'd dropped close enough to use rapid fire, the Lone Wolf was able to charge the surviving squad and gank its rune priest / etc.

Matt played hard from here, and made a game of it, but ultimately I was able to destroy most of his army and win the game 20-0. I give him credit, because it was such a nasty situation to be in after Turn 2 top, it's hard to imagine easily recovering ... but he really hung in there. The game cracked ultimately when the Farseer snuck up and Puppet Mastered the Skyray into firing all its weapons (including 6 seekers and 2 markers) into his last Wolf troop unit and rune priest, which had been otherwise on an objective and out of LOS of my army. 20BP, and #1 Seed in Bracket 1 are the result here.

Round 4
My first game against NOT Tau-something-or-other. Chaos Marines / Chaos Daemons ... well, there weren't any marines but whatever.
Black Legion primary, with 2 Tzeentch CSM Daemon Princes kitted in power armor, level 3 powers, and toting various new wargear. The Warlord was Eternal w/ the uber Sword. He had 4 x 10 cultists ... 3 with a flamer, 1 w/ an autogun and flamer. He had a pair of Heldrakes. His Daemon ally was Fateweaver, a Tzeentch DP w/ Power Armor and Level 3 / exalted gift (grimoire), and 10 plaguebearers.

I made him go first. He flew off the board with all but Fateweaver (3 DP's), and had heldrakes / cultists / plaguebearers in reserve. He grimoire'd Fatey before he left the board. I shot at fateweaver b/c why not, and did 0 damage to the 2+ re-rollable. I focused on being safe from the next turn arrivals regardless.

Turn 2 saw 0 Heldrakes, and a cultist squad, and the plaguebearers. The Hawks went to work killing these. Eventually his Plaguebearer survivors would charge my hawks, and lose over numerous turns in combat (not all that surprising mathematically, b/c of the swings in losses for any lost round on the part of the bearers). The Hawks over the course of the game survived just fine, and annihilated all his troops. On turn 2 I got him to burn his Fatey re-roll on one of his other Daemon Princes, and then poured fire into Fateweaver until he grounded. Thereafter, my Lone Wolf charged and stuck him in combat, where he would remain until the Grimoire carrier died, and then Fatey died.

Wave Serpents got beat up by vectors and flamers from the Heldrakes, but then would just fly under them and shoot them in the tailpipe. Since he put the Grimoire on Fatey, I had no trouble using Serpents to put tons of wounds on his other princes. Game ended when we called it, probably would have led to a tabling but we just rolled an extra turn of fire on his surviving prince and heldrake, didn't kill them, and called it at that. 20BP, and advance to the Semi-Finals, and guarantee myself at least 4th place / a 4-2 record. Cool!

Round 5
Chris Johnson's Tau w/ crazy Centurion gunstar. Trick Commander, Shadowsun, 4 Grav Centurions, Librarian, 2 Riptides (Ion Accel), Hammerhead w/ Longstrike, Skyray, bunches of Kroot, some scouts. He won the roll and made me go first  (I won only 1/6 gofirst rolls all tournament, and it was Round 4). I moved so that his Hammerhead wouldn't have much of a shot at the Land Raider, and to put the center blocker in the way of his grav + commander + shadowsun super unit. The biggest key here was I used my Farseer ... moved 6" with serpent, spun, disembarked 6", battle focus fleet ran and puppet mastere'd the skyray into the hammerhead. Didn't roll well enough to kill the Hammerhead, but blew off the Rail Gun and blew all the Seekers, successfully eliminating 2 of the 5 units he had that could kill vehicles.

Eventually he exposed his grav star to take shots at the Land Raider, and killed it. Problem was, he didn't do so with them in cover, so only had the 4+ cover from Shadowsun. He also arguably positioned his unit poorly, such that if I Could get through a couple drones and a centurion or two, the Commander would then be up with SHadowsun closest to him (and hence the target of Look Out Sir rolls, with only T3). This put him in a tough situation where he couldn't look out sir off the commander without putting Instant Death wounds on the 3+ save Shadowsun. It didn't work out well, and eventually he LOS'ed a failed Shuricannon rend onto Shadow, who died. Then the Lone Wolf charged, and killed the Commander, and eventually the Libby and all but 1 Centurion, who ran away and was eventually shot down. This was all in like the first 3 turns, and went downhill from there. I was once again able to use movement and LOS + clever moves like puppet master to take most of a Tau army's crazy ignore-everything firepower out of the game, and won with a tabling and another 20 BP.

Onto the finals, against the one list I didn't want to face all tournament long, but sitting 5-0 with a max possible 100 BP.

Round 6 - Final Round, Top Table, for the Whole Ball of Wax (Sorta)
I knew going into this round from checking Torrent that if I got at least 3 Battle Points, I'd at least win Best General. I also knew I'd been guaranteed 2nd-to-One. I was proud of how I'd done. I also knew it was going to be an extremely difficult match.

My opponent was Matt DeFranza, who had won 3 GT's on the year going into it, and also won Renaissance Man in both the NOVA Open GT and Invitational this year, with a loss in each. Matt's a very good player, this wasn't going to be easy. It was going to be darn near impossible in fact, b/c his list was also a rock to my scissors (IMO) ...

2 Farseers, both with Witness/Ward (to ensure powers, and prevent Misfortune), on Jetbikes, one with a Spear and the other with the Shard of Anaris (ID/Fleshbane in challenges, gives model/unit Fearless)
10 Warlocks on Jetbikes w/ 4 Spears
Baron Sathonyx (Stealth/hit and run for the unit)

5 DE Warriors (To get Sathonyx)

5 x 3 Guardian Jetbikes (this is a key to the list ... no matter how the star does, whether it annihilates your army or just soaks all your fire, if he goes 2nd he has a really good shot to just contest everything and win, since all these units AND the independent characters AND the warlocks can move 48" any time they please, anywhere they want)
2 x 6 Swooping Hawks (and the mission was Scouring, so these added to his formidable # of scoring fast place-wherever-I-want units)

2 Wraithknights (oh, yeah, gotta deal with this too)

He then got Fortune, lots of Protect/Conceal, Misfortune, Prescience, etc.; all the powers he needed and then some
He then won the roll off and chose to go 2nd, in a 5-objective mission


Matt then made his first of two critical mistakes to give me a shot. He deployed his Jetseer behind a hill but still visible if I Could get range; he was relying on the fact he had Night Fight going on to get a 2+ cover save, plus his 3+ armor, and thus be more or less fine against whatever my serpents could bring to bear. He also knew if I wanted to fire them all at him, they'd have to get pretty close with Night Fight, and thus be exposed to a multi-charge and the wraithkinights. All his guardian bikes and hawks were naturally in reserve.

So I sacrificed my Land Raider by moving it up far enough to Searchlight the Jetstar. I also forgot to fire the Raider ... well, can't be perfect. We'd both end up making a lot of mistakes in this game, but also both played brilliantly. Ups and downs. It's on video.

Because of the Searchlight, I was able to unload all of my Serpents at the unbuffed star with only a 3+ save and not having to get them all up real close. Only one was within possible charge range as a result (but remember, he has fleet). I killed 7/10 Warlocks. This was still problematic, as he'd positioned his Farseers out of any possible range of the Runic Weapon emanating from the Raider, so they were going to Fortune up with the remaining still extremely dangerous 6 models, where most of the unit's killy power and all of its "split into three units that move 48" contest power lie. Shit. I also was now close to the Wraith Knights w/ my raider (but this was a bit on purpose, as you'll see).

My gameplan now could actually be something other than "hope he rolls badly," b/c the Star was banged up some. I now had to stay spread out, kill the Wraithknights, survive the star by giving them at most one serpent a turn, and kill all his troops. THen I had to pin or kill at least one or two of the star's contest units (2 farseers, and the warlocks). This meant I still had an enormous task in front of me, and was still "losing."

So Turn 1 bottom he jumps his Knights forward, and blows up the Redeemer w/ 3/4 hits penetrating off the Wraith Cannons. Alright, that's fine. I line up the Rune Priest (Runic axe), the Lone Wolf to charge the closest one if necessary, unload most of my Avengers (and make a huge mistake at this point in where I place them and forgetting to battle focus), and get all my Serpents spread but aimed and within Cannon range of the Knights. I start with Jaws, and get my first luck; with 2 Knights in a row, I have a 1/3 chance to kill one with Jaws outright. And I do. OHKAY. Now I don't have to rely on the charge at all (Though the odds were in my favor with one, due to Knights having no ability to challenge). I start shooting at the other Knight, who isn't in cover, and shuriken fire rapidly disintegrates it. I fling my remaining firepower, which was substantial, at the 2+ re-rollable council, but it of course does nothing. The council also had killed a Serpent on Bottom 1 with a long charge.

I realized at the end of all this that I'd forgotten to battle focus with a couple avenger teams, with the result I had too much of a multi-charge lined up for the Council, inclusive of 2 avenger units, a serpent, and the grey hunters/rune priest. Matt probably would have let me go back and run the ones that could, but I didn't think that was appropriate, and commented as much (again, on vid).

The Rune Priest stopped about 65% of the powers Matt cast all game, starting with 4/6 on Turn 2, inclusive of Protect and Fortune. Cool, all they have is a 3+! All I need to do is force some saves and ... well, crap, I did actually in the multi-charge he pulled off, but he made every single save. Some avengers broke, the Grey Hunters didn't, and so I was forced to charge in on Top 3 with the farseer and 6 more avengers ... and netted about 15-25 wounds total over the 2 combats, to 0 fails. I also failed very few at first, but eventually did, and all but the Lone Wolf (oh, he charged in too, and almost got Baron, but didn't) and Hunters broke or were killed to a man. He then hit and ran away for his turn.

At this point, the best way to summarize the remaining interim turns is that I spent my energy killing all his guardian jetbikes, and 10/12 of his swooping hawks, and his dark eldar warriors. He in turn killed eventually my wolves, one more serpent (so I had 3 left), and 2/5 avenger squads.

Top 5 comes up and here's the situation:
He's split Baron + Fortuneseer off to kill that 2nd Serpent, and each Farseer has a wound on it. The other Farseer w/ the Fearless blade + 1 surviving Warlock have just finished off the Rune Priest (close fight, nearly got it). He has 6 Swooping Hawks hiding on his objective, bunched up, near a single active Hawk of mine, and 2 pinned Hawks, in his backfield. He has 2 swooping hawks in skyleap who are going to land Bottom 5. I have a wounded Lone Wolf near his Shard Seer + Warlock, which is key ... if he can either pin them in combat (no baron) or kill them, he'll lose 2 of the 3 jetbike models he has left, and lose the game no matter what his 2 swooping hawks, fortuneseer, and baron do. HE only has 6 models left in total. I have avenger squads on 2 objectives, and can put a hawk near his backfield objective where his hawks are.

My single hawk moves to that objective, and plants a plasma grenade blast right on top of his 6 hawks; most die, the remainder break off the board. This gives me 1 objective. Serpents finish off his last guardian jetbikes (I think he still had some, which is why I had to shoot at them), and reduce his fortuneseer to 1 wound ... d'oh. Lone Wolf charges, and he has a 17/18 chance to survive after challenging. The Farseer goes first with 2 attacks, and needs to hit, rend, and then the Wolf needs to fail a 3++ ... and that's what happens. D'Oh! Now I need it to go to 6, b/c with the combination of his landing skylept hawks, his 3 mobile jetbike separable units, and baron ... he can contest the objectives I hold, and win on Quarters (due to being able to put surviving points, however few, wherever he wants). If it goes to 6, I'll table him, as he has to put his surviving handful of models right next to all my firepower, and my serpents are free to shoot at them now.

And the game ends on a 1. D'OH!!!
By denying him Objectives, I manage to keep him to only Quarters / Tertiary (he has this at the time as well, though irrelevant), netting a 17-3 loss ... aka the 3 BP I needed to guarantee Best General. So I 'earn' my three category awards, take home a lovely pink foam case and a bunch of other swag, and have yet one more wonderful and memorable BFS behind me.

Huge thanks go out to Ed Miller, Bob Sinnott, and the entire BFS crew for the event.
Additional thanks go out to Matt DeFranza for an awesome last game; he got my Fave Opponent vote, and I believe he gave me his as well.

Great game by all, great tournament by all, and there's my "quick" recap! :D

PS - It bears sharing, there was a point during the event as a whole where a couple of club mates of one of my opponents decided to get involved in the game on a ruling we'd gotten wrong, in a way that ended up being favorable to their club mate. It's admirable to want to get a rule right, and it's understandable to not want your teammate/clubmate harmed by a ruling gotten wrong during game play. That said, if you aren't a shirted judge of the tournament, the MOST you should do (and even this is questionable, b/c you'll give yourself time to plead that the opponent doesn't have) is go and grab a judge, and tell him there's an issue to resolve at a table. It wasn't even a rule my opponent and I were arguing about ... we resolved it (albeit wrongly) and the game had moved on already to the start of the next turn. In the end, the intervention of clubmates changed the outcome of some things, and got the judge to turn back the clock on a game. Didn't have any real bearing on the outcome of the tournament, and I didn't mind getting a rule correct that I'd been unaware was FAQ'ed (in this case, FNP on a Lone Wolf against ID due to Eternal Warrior).

The reason I'm not saying WHICH game, or WHICH club, is they are people I admire greatly and consider to be close personal friends. We talked it out, we got through it, and all is good. For those who were there, please do not go around sharing the details.

The point in sharing here is more a cautionary tale that when you are in a tournament environment, it is good form NOT to involve yourself in a game you are not personally playing in ... especially if one of the players is a club mate / known personal friend. It's a bad look, and less relaxed people could have gotten really upset. No one did really in this case - in fact, that was one of the games I ended up getting a Favorite Opponent vote out of, and I gave my opponent a great sports score as well. The point is, however - just don't do it.

Sometimes it happens that players in a game will ASK for an outside player or observer to look up a rule, or go get a judge, or if they remember what happened that the two players forgot. That's alright, but that doesn't set precedent either ... if someone asks me about a ruling b/c they know I'm a TO, I'll do my best to answer it while caveating I'm not a judge ... but I will not then think I have carte blanche to comment on and involve myself in everything else that happens in their game.

Simply put - getting rules incorrect is never good, and getting them right IS good ... but to avoid complications, hard feelings, fights, and the perception of impropriety ... don't help your buddies out when they're playing a game. It's unfair to the opponent who doesn't have people backing him up, and it's unfair to the outcome of the tournament as a whole - things may be getting wrong on EVERY table, and it's not as if you can ensure every rule gets right every time.

And again ... please, all who may have witnessed and been involved, don't spread this around detail-wise. Things worked out, I didn't really mind that much (I'm a big boy), and the people involved were ALL Close friends of mine who I admire, respect, and look forward to seeing and playing with again.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Forgeworld's Newest Argument for NOT Allowing FW in Regular 40k

The guys over at Forgeworld have made a rather compelling argument about why we should NOT use their rules in standard 40k.

I'm swayed by their cogent discussion points.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Eldar Finished (more or less) Painting

So, I finished the paint job on the Eldar / Wolf list. Mostly. A lot of the models could probably use more detailing, but all of them have pop and a little bit of flair.

They're based on Micro Art Studios Wraithstone Bases

KR Multicase was my source for casing (as usual perhaps). I was able to fit a Land Raider, 6 Wave Serpents and 55 Infantry into two of their Card Cases with a lot of room to spare/grow.

This lets me pack them into just one Kaiser2 or BackPack2 (I have one of each), so it'll make traveling to BFS pretty easy. For comparison, the Tyranids require both the Kaiser2 and BackPack2, AND still have a spare Card Case on top of that. KR cases are the best in the business, by a wide margin (having tried the big ones available), in terms of foaming up and carrying your army around the country. I will say there's a TableWar KickStarter that's intriguing using a smaller case, for those of you who want a cool display to go with you around a con.

Point is, with an efficient system like KR, the Tyranids still require 150% more traveling material than the Eldar ... feeling justified in my choice already. I'd also like to clarify that the Eldar list I'm bringing is a good, strong list ... it's just not as meta-ready and meta-busting as the Nids would have been. I hope my prior post didn't come off too much as trying to claim the list is a fluffy underpowered one ... so much as an aesthetically pleasing but still well tuned one.

See ya'll at BFS!

Closer view of Exodite Natives (Grey Hunters), Lone Wolf (Kroxx), etc.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Battle for Salvation 2013

Why aren't you going? Join the caravan if you don't have people to go with. I know of floors, couches, and air mattresses for rent if you don't have somewhere to stay. If you aren't going to another tournament or attending life matters, there's little excuse not to make the affordable and fun trip to the Palisades Center and get in on the action.

We've even got NYC day tripping action available for your ladyfriends to connect you with so you don't have to take a hall pass. That's right, ladyfriends befriending other ladyfriends!

I resist the urge to take a year off, or trek out to Feast of Blades, every year ... in order to both reciprocate the good will Ed and Bob and Dan and the rest of the BFS crew have always shown me ... and also in order to get together with the massive group of very cool people who always make it out for the event and have a few brews and great social times every break and evenings at the many venues available within the Mall.

So seriously, it's like 3 days away, throw together whatever list you happen to have painted, drop a few bucks on one of the last couple remaining spots, and come on out!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rules Design Failures - Marbo's Leap of Death

I was having a brief chat w/ Chip Boyd of Torrent of Fire, and Bob Roda of Blood Skulls and Fire (Blog) ... independently ... and up came the subject of Death Leaper.

When Games Workshop made the rule in 6th Edition that you could not assault out of Reserves/Outflank, I understood that from a logic / "fluff" perspective (even if I disliked it from a gameplay perspective). The World in which you are gaming does not end at the edges of the Playing Surface. If a big formation of Chimeras led by Al'Rahem is rolling down on your army from the flank, you ARE likely to see it coming the same way you see things on the Playing Surface. So the notion that your tanks or units or whatever would just obligingly ignore them until they were being assaulted is unreasonable from a fluff perspective. Preventing assault on the arrival turn still permits some element of surprise, but circumvents the fluff conundrum.

Now, I don't approve of making decisions in a fantasy tabletop game full of monsters and daemons based on fluff, but I'm going to get a little hypcritical here at first and then explain why my complaint is from a gameplay AND fluff perspective.

My issue is why they did not simultaneously with 6th Edition (and really, earlier as well) invent rules for units like Guardsman Marbo and Lictors that PERMITTED them to Assault on the turn they arrived.

Let's look at this from both gameplay and fluff perspectives.

Let's create a combat-capable, fragile unit that relies on secrecy to surprise your opponent, and doesn't sustain being shot very well, but make it so that when it DOES arrive, it can't use assault to prevent being shot at.
Game Design Fail. At this point, if you're insistent upon not having them assault when they arrive, DON'T INCLUDE THEM IN YOUR GAME.

Here's where it gets stupid. Let's just use the Lictor.
Let's create a super scary chameleonic super critter that hides in wait before STABBING THINGS when they walk by its ambush. Then, let's make it so it actually turns off its perfect camo, flings a couple of fleshy ropes, and screams its position out to the world, while giving all those nearby and far away a chance to shoot it, and THEN try to stab things.
Fluff Fail.

There are a lot of rules in 40k that are weird b/c of Fluff. There are a few rules that are weird because of Gameplay. Can someone please explain to me the rules that fail to pass the smell test regardless of whether you are playing a game OR forging a narrative?


So I Chose Eldar

So after much consideration, I chose Eldar. Sharing why may be insightful for those preparing for tournaments themselves.

First, I think the list has the tools to hang with anything, without spending egregious amounts of energy or dollars on tweaking to the meta.

The Tyranid list I can put down is almost abusive to the meta, but it's also abusive to my back and mind. It requires enormous amounts of concentration to play correctly (moving hundreds of models, then running hundreds of models, often assaulting hundreds of models, then performing I-step assault moves on hundreds of models). It's far different from a couple guard blobs, where typically each turn you are moving and shooting, but not moving ... then moving again ... then moving again, etc. It also requires a lot of memory flex that I don't necessarily feel like expending, in the sense of remembering every psychic power, when to cast it, making sure you don't mess up and mis-cast the wrong power and "Cheat" via memory failure, etc. It also can be taxing for opponents to have to spend long periods of time waiting, and also having to say "ok" or "not ok" when you forget something, or do something mistakenly - these things happen over a long tournament against top flight competition ... which the Battle for Salvation is.

Additionally, the Tyranid can be overwhelming unpleasant to play AGAINST ... not only for the above-mentioned waiting game, but because often in the current meta against the list mentioned it does not matter what you do ... you could feel you problem solved it correctly, rolled well, and played well, and lose miserably anyway. This happens a lot.

So for reasons of my own well-being, and my opponents', I'm choosing not to go with Nids ... despite believing they give me the best chance to "Win."

Onto the Eldar. I tweaked the list a little more ... with the time available, war walkers would have required me to borrow, and I want to bring my own models and my own paint jobs.

Also, I did not quite like the feel of just plopping a bunch of Space Wolves into an Eldar army, so I took the opportunity to get cracking on an Exodite-related component of guys to count as the Space Wolves, in the form of some metal lizard warriors I won at AdeptiCon a couple years ago who are armed with axes and rifles. These couple w/ a Lamian sorceress with a snake around her arm as my Rune Priest, to create a thematic group of lizard fighters recruited as Allies of Convenience by the Eldar, and handed a semi-burned-out marine raider as a ride.
Side note - I did some searching to try and find a land raider sized / size appropriate / gear appropriate proxy so as to reinforce this theme ... but it's just not plausible in the time available to find and convert one.

I think I have plenty of opportunity to win any game I'm in with the list I settled on, and the skill I can bring to bear, but I have a lower chance of winning the tournament as a whole due to match-up weaknesses and meta than I did with the Nids.

That said, this requires analysis of WHY I'm going to the Battle for Salvation. First off, significant others will be present and doing their own thing in NYC during the daytimes. Second off, it's one of the most concentrated groups of people I'm personally close with on the "Circuit" (NOVA has a higher #, but I'm occupied all weekend working). BFS is ALL about the social experience for me, a chance to hang with a ton of like minded individuals having a few brews and getting in some great games. IF I spend all weekend exhausting myself and my opponents with an unbearably difficult list to both play and play against, I'm not going to have a positive impact on that. If I go and have fun and compete well without embarrassing myself, while getting in a ton of social awesomeness ... I'm winning regardless of the outcome.

This isn't me advocating playing "Down" or not competing to win ... I certainly will play well and hard. It's just me saying that for THIS event, that I've placed highly at or won all three of the last years I've gone (Tourney Champ, Ren Man, and Bracket 2 Champ), I'm making sure to couch the list I'm bringing in my goals for the event. Look for a post on Torrent of Fire soon about exactly how this relates to the notion of what you aim to do when you attend a tournament or con. This is in a sense me practicing what I'm about to preach.

So the final list is as follows:
Farseer w/ Singing Spear - 105
Rune Priest w/ Meltabombs, Force Axe / Exodite Farseer - 105

Lone Wolf w/ Terminator Armor, Storm Shield, Chain Fist - 85

6 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent w/ Scatterlaser, Shuricannon, Ghostwalk - 218
5 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent w/ Scatterlaser, Shuricannon, Ghostwalk - 205
5 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent w/ Scatterlaser, Shuricannon, Ghostwalk - 205
5 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent w/ Scatterlaser, Shuricannon, Ghostwalk - 205
5 Dire Avengers, Wave Serpent w/ Scatterlaser, Shuricannon, Ghostwalk - 205
8 Grey Hunters / Exodite World Natives w/ Meltagun - 125

6 Swooping Hawks - 96
6 Swooping Hawks - 96
6 Swooping Hawks - 96

Land Raider Redeemer w/ Multi-Melta - 250

I have some painting to finish Wed. Pics to follow; very proud of the aesthetic of this army.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What Would the Lists Be?

Here are the two lists that model / prep / desire-to-play altogether would align for in re: BFS decision-making ...

They're about as optimal as they get for what they're attempting to do (welcome to try and problem solve why!) ...

Eldar 2000 Single FOC; (A) Allied

(P) Spiritseer - 70 (because the Autarch power isn't all that necessary for the list, and the Spiritseer is actually better in CC / offensively, even w/ the following HQ present in the list)
(A) Rune Priest - 100; Jaws of the World Wolf, Living Lightning

(A) 8 Grey Hunters w/ Meltagun - 120
5 Dire Avengers - 65
Wave Serpent w/ Ghostwalk Matrix, Shuriken Cannon, Scatter Laser - 140
5 Dire Avengers - 65
Wave Serpent w/ Ghostwalk Matrix, Shuriken Cannon, Scatter Laser - 140
5 Dire Avengers - 65
Wave Serpent w/ Ghostwalk Matrix, Shuriken Cannon, Scatter Laser - 140
5 Dire Avengers - 65
Wave Serpent w/ Ghostwalk Matrix, Shuriken Cannon, Scatter Laser - 140
5 Dire Avengers - 65
Wave Serpent w/ Ghostwalk Matrix, Shuriken Cannon, Scatter Laser - 140

6 Swooping Hawks - 96
6 Swooping Hawks - 96
6 Swooping Hawks - 96

(A) Land Raider Redeemer - 250; Multi-Melta
War Walker w/ Scatter Laser, Bright Lance - 70
War Walker w/ Scatter Laser, Bright Lance - 70

Faster to play; acceptable anti-2+ psyker in the Rune Priest; less painful to play, for me and opponent; functionally competitive
Will probably face a match or two it will lose against, is not nearly as competitively difficult to deal with as the Tyranid are. Will be frustrating when facing matches that are simply difficult due to the current meta.
I'd have to assemble and paint the Land Raider, Grey Hunters, Rune Priest, War Walkers, Jetbikes in the next few days. This is actually pretty doable, but still painful to execute to a degree.

Tyranid Single FOC

Parasite of Mortrex - 160
Tyranid Prime - 80

2 Zoanthropes - 120
2 Zoanthropes - 120
2 Zoanthropes - 120

29 Termagants w/ Poison - 174
10 Termagants - 50
10 Termagants - 50
Tervigon w/ Furious, Poison, Claws, Tri Power - 235
Tervigon w/ Furious, Poison, Claws, Tri Power - 235
Tervigon w/ Furious, Poison, Claws, Tri Power - 235

30 Gargoyles w/ Furious - 210
30 Gargoyles w/ Furious - 210

The current meta / diversity of codices do not have any answers for this list if it is played correctly; it is almost auto-win against any Daemon list; it completely shuts down screamerstar and jetstar; the ability to spam telepathy actually makes it quite functional against Serpent spam (read: puppet master, with added likelihood of rolling it due to re-rolling results 5/6 for all psykers in above list).
This will be the last opportunity for me to play the 5th Edition Tyranid book.
I have to assemble and paint only a Tyranid Prime / equivalent to bring this to BFS.

Extraordinarily difficult to play quickly, and without finishing the weekend in extreme pain (Despite being in good physical health/shape)
More prone to forgetful / sloppy play due to model count, timeframe considerations, and # of psychic powers (21)