Friday, 23 February 2018

Investigating the Underworlds: Squeaks and Tweaks

Next up for review is my skaven deck, as I recently got a few games in with them, and while it wasn't straight back to the drawing board, I did go back and alter the deck slightly.

First up it has to be said I have my priorities. my Orks are my first party, and get all the cool toys. my undead come second, but they're such a different playstyle they still pretty much get their first picks. In their case, lots of objective cards - with that many regenerating bodies, why wouldn't you?

So I happened to build my dwarf deck before my skaven deck, and with fighters that are inspired by being on objectives, it made total sense to build a deck around being on objectives to score some points. I may come back to that deck as I had to leave out a lot of cool, flavourful cards for the deck I wanted to build, and will need a few test games with it to see if it works.

So then it comes to the skaven, a fast moving warband that can get fighters behind enemy lines, that's perfect for objective grabbing... ah. I've used up my objective cards...

Not wanting to swap cards between decks every game, and not having another copy of the Base game yet (although I am considering it) I had to come up with a plan B...

Noticing that the skaven, unlike most warband, generally don't hit much harder when inspired, I built my objectives around three core themes - precise use of small force at distance, grabbing many objectives for good points, keeping my leader alive.

So, on the first theme, I have "The Bigger They Are" "Arm's Length" and "Precise Use of Force" objectives that are score immediately objectives, worth 1 point each, for killing something with a damage characteristic of 1, killing someone not adjacent, and killing with precisely the amount needed to kill.

With objective grabbing in mind, I have "Cover Ground" to score immediately if I move 6 or more hexes. I have "Supremacy" for holding three objectives, and "Making a Statement" for holding all objectives in enemy territory. As these inevitably involve sending rats into harms way, I also have "Lives are Cheap" which I score if someone kills two of my fighters in a single phase.

With the goal of keeping my leader alive, I have "Leading from the Back" and "Live to Fight Another Day" a couple of third phase objectives that reward me for my leader being in his own territory with no adjacent enemies, and being the only survivor.

To round out my objectives I have "Brilliant, Brilliant" which rewards me for completing two other objective cards in this phase, with so many score immediately cards I'm hoping to daisy chain this. And as Skaven are inspired by having ploys played on them, I have gone with "Ploymaster" (score for 3 or more ploys played) and "No More Tricks" (have no power cards left)

So, what weapons and tools of war have I given myself to achieve these objectives?

The first thing I noticed from my games the other night was that I didn't have enough self influencing ploys. I had a few, but I had others that messed around with the enemy, same as any other deck. Now this was a multiplayer game so perhaps 1 vs 1 my opponent will have to use his enemy targeted ploys on my fighters rather than others, but I don't like this being in his control. It certainly didn't seem like much of a deterrent value, and given my rats increase in survivability when inspired, I wanted to activate that asap.

So a tweak to the deck later, I now have 10 ploy cards, 9 of which can be used to interact with my own models. Some two at once.

I have "Sprint" and "Sudden Skittering" two cards that do the same thing, double the move characteristic of the first model to move. This should come in handy with my "move 6 hexes" objective and with grabbing objectives my opponent thought were well out of reach. And of course, whichever rat is picked to move is thus affected by the ploy and inspired, so a mad dash into enemy territory, at least you're rolling two defence when you get there.

"There Are Always More" let's me bring a skaven (apart from the main two) back from the dead and put them on any starting hex, so the same as the leaders ability, but because it's a ploy, it also inspires them...

"Sacrificial Pawn" is a ploy that let's me pick a fighter (inspiring them) which means if the enemy kills them in the next activation, I gain a glory point. Good for deterrence, or compensation.

"Heightened Caution" gives the first friendly target an extra defence dice... handy, although I have less control over who is the recipient of this one.

"Aversion to Death" is a reaction card to when a friendly fighter dies... I can push two friendly fighters on hex each. Handy if someone is planning to swing into a horde and kill several, to scupper their plans. But also it's a ploy affecting two rats, so very action efficient. Similarly, "Confusion" let's me switch any two adjacent fighters... handy for objective grabbing, but in a pinch can be used on two of my own to make them more likely to live long enough to hold the objective. "Sidestep" is push a friendly fighter one hex, again nice for reclaiming objectives and for inspiring.

"Last Chance" is a reaction that gives a one dice roll to get a result that would normally be a failure, and if so, you survive. Given the majority of my models are defending on dodge this is a very good card for them. Finally, I have "Duel of Wits" that let's me draw more power cards if my opponent plays a ploy, which could be quite handy.

So, what upgrades have I selected for my rats? Well, as with most decks, there were several upgrades to make my basic fighters hit harder... but with my plan to attack with a nibble from range approach, this didn't suit my needs. So I have been quite selective in my upgrades.

To bolster my leader, who already has a ranged attack, I have a plan to equip "Flee" which is an action that let's himself and an adjacent fighter move away from the enemy, handy for pulling his bodyguard with him. I also plan to give him "Skitter-Scurry" which let's me push him one hex each time he makes an action... so if someone is getting too close I can take a pot shot at them AND back away too. I plan to give him the "Vampiric Weapon" which let's him heal for each casualty he causes - not a great deal but he's my hardest hitter with a ranged attack and probably a high priority target for my opponent so, giving him the potential to heal a wound or twois probably a good move. I then have two more that might go on the leader or potentially other rats... "Ethereal Shield" to change my defence characteristic to Shields, and "Acrobatic" which gives me an extra defence dice if i'm looking for dodges, or am on guard while looking for Shields.

In keeping with the goal of leader survivability, I have set up krrk with "Bodyguard For a Price" which means that if Skritch is adjacent to him, he is on guard, even if he charged. I have also given him "Swarm of Rats" an attack all adjacent models that is strength 1 as opposed to Krrks base attack strength of 2... which ties in nicely with my precision nibbling approach.

The lowly skaven I see as having the most potential for my list is the lurking skaven... he starts more survivable, and can be equipped with "Throwing Stars" a range 3 str 1 attack, perfect for my long range precision nibbling goals. I also plan to put "Sneaky Stab-Stab" on this fighter as, for one, it sounds like his approach, and two, it let's me push him one hex before making an attack. With a range three attack I can imagine there will always be plenty of targets within 4 hexes I can potentially stalk, and if they've moved already I can advance on an objective while picking at them nibble by nibble...

Finally, I have "Expendable" which I would put on whichever rat I was sending most into harms way... it let's you sacrifice the rat if they're about to take damage (which on a 2w model almost always means death anyway) and inflict 1 damage to the enemy, which may kill them, or better yet, soften them up for a "nibbling" on my next turn...

So that is my deck as it currently stands, until I either give up on scoring objectives with the fyreslayers, or pick up another core set... which to be fair I am watching on ebay as I'd like a second set of board anyway, it'd be handy to be able to play four player without the only other person I know with a copy having to be there... plus we could potentially houserule some six player shenanigans, or a mini tournament...

But in the meantime...

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Investigating the Underworlds: A Series on Shadespire

I have never been one to normally be taken by small scale skirmish games, always much preferring the grand spectacle of hordes of infantry and companies of tanks (explains my masochistic tendency towards horde armies like guard and orks anyway) however the fairly recent release from Games Workshop, Shadespire, has managed to capture my attention. What started as a "Go on I'll give it a go" with a friend who had picked up a copy soon became a complete, and recently updated, collection of my own. Despite there being enough dice in the box to play the game, I have even bought the individual warbands dice sets. Godamn you Geedub...

Now you may be forgiven for thinking there isn't too much variety to be had in a game that has maybe 3-7 fighters that are all based on fixed character cards, but that is where the deck of cards comes in. A hell of a lot of variety can be added to a warband, completely changing how it plays, just with the application of these decks. When the Dwarves and Skaven were released the other day, I went through their new cards and cherry picked a few from each to upgrade my existing Orks, Undead and Sigmarines decks. I then went through and picked out all the cards I liked the look of for the Dwarves. I'd picked 37. The deck size is 20. I then had to spend a good hour deliberating over which way I wanted to set the deck up. I settled on one setup. After a few games I may tweak, or do a complete overhaul, I don't know we shall see. Bear in mind, that's 37 choices I liked AFTER setting up 4 0ther decks of 20 cards each first... if the dwarves were my first priority (orks all the way) I would have even more choices to agonise over...

So, for the uninitiated, I am not planning to give a rundown of how to play the game, there are tutorials out there for that. But I will cover a couple of basics that may be pertinent to the tactical decisions to follow.


First off, board placement is a big thing. You roll off for placing the boards as the layout of the battlefield can make a big difference to a warband.

In the example above, the undead player has deployed the second board, going for a long board, allowing him to hide his all important Warden (the only fighter he has that he can't bring back to life, and the one that does the resurrecting of the other fighters) a loooong way from harms way...

This is a good setup for the Sigmarines, keeping the minimum board contact amount so their small numbers can hold the line together

The khornate loonies would probably prefer something like this... wide open spaces to make use of their numbers to get around the individual fighters

So how you set up the board makes a big difference to how the game is played. Whether it is going for a wide frontage, choke points, or even potentially isolating half your opponents warband. Up against Orks? Deploy so they can put 2 or 3 of their 4 fighters next to you, but one is left isolated. Now do they put their leader at the back out of harms way? Or a less destructive character? And if the latter option, do they spend actions trying to drag him into the fight? Or do they just forget about him and leave him back there? Forcing your opponent to ask difficult questions is all part of the game.

The Decks

In this game you have two decks... an objective deck of 12 cards, and a power deck of at least 20. Now the sleeve sets that you can buy come with exactly that amount, you could buy your own sleeves and have a 40 card power deck, but it's very rare to run out of power cards in the game in my experience, so all doubling your deck size would do is give you less predictability over what is due. If you want some carnage, go for it, take 100 cards and see what happens. But I wouldn't rate your chances beyond blind luck.

A maximum of half those power cards can be ploy cards, the other half have to be upgrades. Upgrades cost glory points to fit to your fighters, which means a starting hand of 5 upgrade cards can make it difficult to get the ball rolling... but at least if you mulligan then you are twice as likely to get ploy cards as upgrade cards when you re-draw. The downside being you can't reshuffle the deck, So maybe you don't want to throw all of them away, just a couple. This has meant that one game I drew 5 upgrades, discarded 3, drew 3 more. Struggled as my opponent threw ploy after ploy at me. FInally managed to score an objective so use an upgrade, drew another one. My remaining deck was 10 ploys and 1 upgrade, which would have been great, if I didn't have a full hand of power cards already and going into turn 3 with a 17 point deficit... but hey, that's the luck of the draw sometimes. t least I can moan about that... If I had a 100 card deck then drawing 10 upgrades first just gets a "So?"

Now, with 12 objectives 10 ploys and 10 upgrades being your expected deck, let's have a look at an example deck and how I plan to play them... at least in theory...


Yes I know it's not their official name but it's stuck with me now so... there you go.

The sigmarines are the smallest warband thus far, and I don't think that will change any time soon. Their individual fighters are however tough and hard hitting. Their defence is the more common shields, and a good defence roll makes them inspired, which lets them roll two defence dice instead of one. Being inspired gives each of them a second attack characteristic too, the leader now being able to strike at all adjacent enemies, while obryn can nowCleave and brightshield can't be pushed and can make a counter attack - making her very handy for holding an objective. With this in mind I would want to set them up with a narrow frontage and basically try to plug the gap and hold the line.

Something like this really...

With this in mind, what objectives do I plan to score? It's also worth mentioning that during setup, I would try to make sure there was an objective in enemy territory as close as possible to no mans land, to give my slow moving party an easy to reach enemy objective.

Now you can't have the same card twice in your decks, but you can have differently titled cards that broadly do the same thing, and I have utilised that to try to limit my focus, hoping to maybe double up on points for one objective where possible. As such, my objectives consist of:

Dauntless - score in an end phase if I'm outnumbered three to one - with such a small party this seems a good fallback option, allowing me to score points if things start to go wrong and I'm losing fighters.
Perfect Planning - Score if none of my guys made a move action - if I set myself up in a static defensive position, or am running out of fighters, this could be a good one to score.
Unbroken Wall - Score in an end phase if all my fighters are in a single group and adjacent to each other - it's a bit risky as it has a minimum group size of three, but if it comes up early game it should be an easy one to accomplish, especially if I'm plugging the gap as shown above.
Twilight Conquerer - Have all my party, (at least 3) in no mans land. Again, risky as if I lose a model I can't complete it, but it compliments Unbroken wall quite well.
Consecrated Area - have no enemy adjacent to my fighters.
Alone in the Darkness - There are no adjacent fighters on the battlefield. Similar to the above although harder to accomplish.
Seize Ground - Score if you hold an enemy objective.
Plant a Standard - score if your leader is holding an enemy objective (this is another example where, if the draw is favourable, you can score two points in one hit...)
Immovable Object/Determined Defender - both of these reward you if the same friendly fighter has held the same objective for two consecutive phases... again, going for the double bubble on a favourable draw.
I also included a couple of "score immediately" cards as they can be handy to get the ball rolling...
Lightning Strikes - take an enemy out of action with a charge
Crushing Force - deal twice as much damage as needed to take out a target - with two of my three fighters swinging at three damage, plenty of plus one damage cards out there and plenty of two damage enemies, it seemed an obvious choice...

So in summary, I am trying to keep myself near the neutral gap, perhaps stepping slightly onto the nearest objective and staying there, keeping my guys clustered together for mutual support, keeping the enemy away from me, and making the occasional dash if the situation demands. I did used to tie this up with "Keep the enemy in their territory/out of your territory" objectives, but I realised that my decks were very geared towards one on one combat, and that the minute the game being three or four player I could hold one line but then someone else could attack from the opposite flank, and I had no hope of keeping my territory free unless I placed the very last board. So I tweaked the deck. With the above being what I need to do to score points, how do I intend to go about it?

Unlike most of my decks that feature as many ploys as legally permissible, I felt the sigmarines were worth investing in, as they were less likely to die swiftly and thus be a waste of an upgrade. As such I have a 12/8 upgrade/ploy split in this deck.

These broadly fit into three categories - keeping my guys alive, getting them to hit harder, and playing around with movement.

For the keeping them alive, I have Great Fortitude and Blessed by Sigmar (two ways to get +1W) as well as Soultrap ( a dice roll that might prevent someone from dying) a Brightshield specific upgrade that plets her take an action to put herself and all adjacent fighters on guard, and if all else fails, Army of One, a card that only works if you're the last surviving fighter, but does let you roll an extra dice in attack and defence. Now my overall plan is to spread the survivability out among my fighters, but if I have a bad start and lose someone early, I may instead switch focus into making one unkillable tank to sit on that one enemy objective for two consecutive turns and not bloody move.

To compliment these upgrades I have some ploys for survivability, I have the ubiquitous healing potion, Sigmarite Wall (puts two adjacent fighters on guard) Rebound (on a successful dice roll the attacker suffers his own damage not me) and Valiant Attack - which could be used offensively or defensively, to strip support from my presumably outnumbered warband.

For offence, I have some nice character upgrades. I can make Obryn inflict a point of damage to enemies adjacent to his target, which could be nice to finish off a hiding fighter. I can give my leader a ranged attack, always handy if he's the last man standing and wants some options. Plus I have a generic +1 damage that can go to anyone.

In damage dealing ploys I have the ability to make a second attack if a first attack fails, and a one off +1 damage for the next round.

Finally, movement and objective tricks, I have an upgrade for Brightshield that means she cannot be driven back, and in fact can push her attacker one hex - handy for those "don't let anyone stand near you/hold an objective for two consecutive turns" objectives. I can give my leader the ability to move one hex if an enemy ends his movement within two... so if someone wants to stand just out of range, I can step in for the kill. Or if someone scary looks ready to pummel my leader, I can get out of harms way. I could even use it to claim an objective I'd been pushed off. I can also give my leader a riposte, allowing him (on a successful dice roll) to not be pushed back at all and in fact to counter strike. Finally an upgrade that can be applied to anyone allows them to, instead of pushing an enemy, swap places with them. This doesn't sit too well with the whole adjacent/no enemies near tactic, but it could prove critical to getting the enemy objective for two consecutive turns.

Ploy cards for movement are an ability to push an enemy fighter one hex, or if I kill an enemy, push all adjacent fighters to my hero one hex. Handy for clearing my lines for those "have no one nearby" objective cards.

So that is my Sigmarine Deck. I can't say how well it plays yet, I'm only just dabbling in this game thus far, and trying to encourage greater participation at my local club. But if a scene for it develops around Portsmouth, I'd love to test my theories and see if they hold water. I will explore my other warbands in future, although I'm saving the skaven and dwarves till after I've played my friend - he reads this blog and hasn't even seen what comes in that box yet, it'd be rude to ruin the surprise for him ;)

Sigmarine Summary

Alone in the Darkness
Consecrated Area
Crushing Force
Determined Defender
Immovable Object
Lightning Strikes
Perfect Planning
Plant a Standard
Seize Ground
Twilight Conqueror
Unbroken Wall

Army of One
Blessed by Sigmar
Cunning Duellist
Fatal Riposte
Great Fortitude
Great Strength
Heroic Stride
Lightning Blade
Lightning Blast
Shield Bash

Healing Potion
Peal of Thunder
Righteous Zeal
Sigmarite Wall
Tireless Assault
Triumphant Roar
Valiant Attack

Thursday, 8 February 2018

You Will Ride Eternal, Shiny and Chrome

Although at the moment, they aren't riding far, and they're plastic and grey, but we'll work on that!

Here we have Joe and a squad of warboyz. That's the easy part out of the way anyway...

The boys are just a cheap squad of ten, sluggas and choppas but no upgrades... they're to fill a presumed mandatory troop choice, the plan is not to disembark them unless someone forces me to...

Which brings me to Joe. Warboss, obviously. But it would be a waste to have him take the same "passenger only" attitude. Plus I wanted him to have a bit of independence. So a Warboss on bike seems the way forward. But we never see him ride a bike in the film, so I sorta had to fudge it a little bit, into an oversized quad. So for rules purposes, he's still on a bike. He's wysiwyg. He's a little bigger but, hey, he should, cos he is da boss!

For fluff purposes, he's driving a 4 wheeled all terrain vehicle with a ramshackle looking cabin - which seems legit.

The rest of my 750 point list is a truk for the Warboys (big shoota, nothing else, keeping it cheap) 3 buggies with rokkits (one of which I hope to model in a "witness me" moment) and 3 wartraks with skorchas, and then a battlewagon. With a deffrolla. And no guns. (In essence, I shall use the rules of the deffrolla to represent the rolling wall of sound provided by the battlewagon, which will be more of a centrepiece. Plus, hopefully when I point out to my opponents that it has no guns, and is carrying no passengers, they'll not bother to shoot at it, meaning my favourite vehicle shouldn't die first!)

So that's the plan. I hope to do more than a mediocre job on it...

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Heart Wants What It Wants...

I had planned to start the new year with a Tale, a Tale of Tzeentch, and whilst that Tale has been postponed I pressed on with the Tzeentch stuff anyway, as I had been waiting a while to start it and didn't want to lose focus now, and have them go the way of my skitarii force. What skitarii I hear you ask? I don't recall seeing those mentioned on the blog much... precisely. Though they are at least now reinforcements for the army of a friend, so not a total loss...

However, it took just the slightest, barest touch, to knock my thoughts off Tzeentch, and back onto the greenskins. Godamnit as if I didn't have enough of those things already. I started the tzeentch project precisely to take a break from the greenskins, doing brightly coloured daemons about as far as I could throw myself from the orkish ways.

Even this blog is poorly named now. I started it as a guard player, a developing treadhead who had started on Catachan but oh so SO loved tanks... so my army hopped between origins, sometimes a catachan force and sometimes a normal guard force, just so I could use those precious precious metal boxes... now I was always an odd guard player to begin with, sending my men running sreaming headlong towards the enemy. They had their moments. My friend Ken once said he lost a hive tyrant to my guardsmen in combat due to the sheer elements of surprise... the big creature was so befuddled by food running towards it's maw that it overindulged and choked to death. But I certainly never fit the style of a guard amry, and thus it was such a natural fit when I thought "hey my first tale of four gamers, I'll give Orks a try..."

Now I have easily 10,000 points of painted orks on a shelf next to me spread across five tribes... as I lament my lack of progress on a tzeentch force in my guard blog. All because the beat of the warboyz drum is distracting me once more...

So apologies for the lack of posts of late, I have been... distracted. THe projects I had lined up to paint and blog about have had barely any time spent on them as I have frantically searched online for the materials for yet another orky project. yet another ludicrous idea that is fundamentally crazy and probably a little dangerous. But I think now it's just in my nature.