Sunday, 15 June 2014

Musings on Blog War 7

Well, it's all done and dusted, the smoke has cleared and the cannons have been stowed. So what happened at Blog Wars?

Well, the field was a little tougher than I had expected if I'm honest - yes, I know it's a tournament, but Blog Wars started as a hobbyists tournament. It still is for the most part, but there are a few competitive spirits about it has to be said. Then again, it had been 2 years sine my last Blog Wars, so perhaps for everyone else it has been a more gradual adjustment and was more surprising for me. I would still recommend it as a fun day and a friendly atmosphere... however I'm thinking my crazy project armies may not be taken again.

Yes, those crazy project armies like the Star Wars guard and more recently Pirates Vs Ninjas. Taking an army and deliberately working from a self restricted codex to fit a theme, picking units that may serve no particular tactical purpose other than giving you a chance to do a cool conversion (I'm looking at you Beastmaster and Razorwing flocks) and then entering it into a competitive environment, not the best. The Star Wars guard, with my years of Guard experience, I managed to overcome a lot of their inherent flaws and still finish a respectable mid-table. The Dark Eldar army, being only my second game with that army outside of four games of combat patrol, I didn't have that experience to fall back on. I didn't come last... a victory in the final game, the fight for the wooden spoon, avoided that fate. But 36 out of 38 is still rather poor. The Star Wars guard went in for the wooden spoon fight in the final game of the last Blog Wars, but I stonked my opponent so convincingly I ended up mid table. Not so this time. I kept away from the spoon and managed to put one more person in my wake, but that is it.

This taking of bad armies can best be summed up by the reaction of one of the other gamers, who I overheard admiring my army at the army judging table. Sure there were comments about the cool conversions, but what pricked my ears up was the comment "Wow he brought Mandrakes, he should get a bonus point just for that!" Now given Mandrakes are gorgeous models, I didn't think his "pity point" had anything to do with the look of the army. It's chances on the field of battle on the other hand...

So let's look at those Mandrakes. They're a cool idea, they've got a nice little shooting attack before running in to finish off the survivors. One problem... they need a pain token to use the shooting attack. Something they need to kill something to get. And chances are, by the time you've run these guys through a round of combat, there won't be many left to enjoy the shooting attack anyway. I sent one squad after an easy target in the first game, a squad of scouts. I outnumbered him 2:1, I was an assault unit, all he had in his favour was cover, meaning I'd be Initiative 1 for the first round of combat. I thought I could handle that. Several turns later my 5 surviving Mandrakes fled from the combat having killed 1 scout, and were promptly gunned down by the rest of his army, which by that point had tabled me and were waiting for me with itchy trigger fingers. Once they have a pain token they become immeasurably better, so starting them with a haemonculus would be a good idea. Except if you do that, they now can't infiltrate. Gah! About the best I could do with them was have the Cronos hurt something, toss the resultant pain token to the Mandrakes, then they could fire. That little trick was handy, and if I was going to expand the army I may repeat it... but the Cronos can't infiltrate, so is playing catch up with the mandrakes it is supposed to be supporting from the get go.

How about Khaerendahahahakkahak or whatever his name is? He starts with a pain token, is beefy in assault, and he gets to arrive Marbo esque wherever you like, preferably (according to the codex) with an evil chuckle. I can imagine him appearing, leering at his target, and whispering "I'm going to cut your head off... Next turn." At which point the target simply turns and shoots Kharendekekeheke in the head. Having a unit that is primarily designed for assault turn up and not charge is pretty useless. I mean, at least Marbo (lord rest his redacted soul) would turn up and throw a demo charge... this guy turns up and throws two str 4 ap 4 shots. Woo. If they gave this guy IC status it would make him AND Mandrakes miles better. Have a couple squads of Mandrakes advance on the enemy, when this guy becomes available he deploys and JOINS a squad. They then have a pain token. Sure they can't assault this turn because he just arrived from reserve, but they can then all bloody shoot. Two str 4 ap 4 shots isn't that impressive, but twenty two might make a dent... It would also give Kherwhatsisface some ablative wounds so that, god forbid, he may make it into combat. The only time I got him into combat this tournament was when a unit of Mandrakes tied up some marines for several turns (with pain token from Cronos to keep them in the fight) and I hid him behind a unit of Wyches that Mephiston duly slaughtered... freeing the way up for K-K to go bail the mandrakes out of the shit they were in.

So what about the actual games? Well first up I was against a Space Wolf/Space Marine list that included 7 drop pods... the marine contingent being a Stormraven and Stormtalon. This was over as a contest by turn 2. His drop assault on me took out my ravager (and 3 of only 7 strength based weapons in my entire army) and I remember looking at the situation and thinking "I could maybe just about deal with all of this... IF this was it. But no, there's more..." My overzealous scourges picked off a drop pod for some easy points, the resultant explosion killing four out of the five. Just felt like it wasn't going to be my morning. It was over as a contest by turn 2. My opponent seemed willing to accept my concession, but we had plenty of time and for tournament integrity I played on. I had a quad gun, Kharededeekeke and 5 mandrakes locked in combat with some scouts. I basically hoped I may pick off some scouts for some bonus VP. Couldn't even manage that. Tabled by turn 4.

Game 2 was against Tau/Space Marines, a squad of White Scars bikers providing some fast moving aggression that complemented the Tau gunline nicely. I hoped to get First Blood after putting 10 wounds on a 5 man pathfinder squad, but seeing him pass 8 of the 10 5+ cover saves was somewhat galling. Especially when those pathfinders, that hadn't even had the decency to go to ground, markerlighted my mandrakes and stripped cover from them, allowing them to be annihilated by the Tau firepower. I also hoped my wyches may tie up his riptide in combat (shardnets reducing it to a single attack per turn, the 4+ dodge keeping me alive as long as possible, the agoniser wounding on a 4+ hopefully picking at it... I didn't expect to win, just to stop him from shooting a few turns) but after enduring the firepower from several Tau units I then failed a 6" charge, with fleet. FFS. This was over as a contest by turn 5, but I kept playing again for tournament integrity, hoping that my solitary suriving model may kill the marines in his turn so I could charge his firewarriors and contest one objective in my turn. My opponent was hoping I'd kill the marines in my turn so that his entire army, sat on objectives and pointing their guns at my back, could finish the tabling. It was not to be... I couldn't kill the sodding marine. Was going for the instant kill on the bike commander, the sole survivor. Missed with Smash. Failed to wound with Smash. Missed with Smash. Failed to wound with Smash. Then hit... wounded... passed his bloody Iron Halo save. Which was largely irrelevant as this was turn 7 and game done anyway. So this game was an improvement... I had yet again given away maximum VP, but at least this time I was one wound from being tabled, instead of tabled.

Game 3 was the fight for the wooden spoon. Ken asked after, if I was tempted to throw the game so that I got something, and I said no. I didn't really want to finish last, and I felt it would ruin tournament integrity to deliberately throw a game... particularly just for a spoon and a £5 gift certificate. If the Imperial Knight that was the top raffle prize had been for coming last, then perhaps I may have wavered... which would have made for an interesting game as two armies tried to avoid landing near objectives whilst trying to accidentally give away FB/StW with failed dangerous terrain rolls!

Anyway, this was a good matchup for me, as I had been worried in this mission that someone could blast away my scoring units easily, then sit at their leisure and rack up Tournament points while I had bugger all I could do about it. My best hope was that my opponent would let me get into a nice protracted fight near the objectives with my scoring units. Which my assault marine blood angel opponent duly did. This was an interesting mission with objectives scoring every turn, which meant that by turn 3 I had built up enough of a lead (and reduced my opponents scoring units such) that he didn't think he could catch me. I agree he'd have struggled, though he could have done far better earlier on, when consolidating from a combat he won, he moved for his next turns charge... he should have moved to score a point off the objective, then deal with next turns charge NEXT turn. You're jump infantry, I'm not gonna outrun you! A few times I saw he could have claimed/contested objectives from consolidate moves but didn't. He also left his scouts awaiting their fate at the hands of the mandrakes for far too long... he should have run them out towards the objective. The extra distance alone would have delayed my assault, possibly even long enough for his Sternguard to chew up my Mandrakes before I reached him (they certainly chewed them up AFTER I'd killed them)

Anyway, a few mistakes from my opponent, and some careful play on my part, meant that my bedraggled force of idiots managed to claim one win before they are confined to my display shelf. Good for them. Though it has to be said, I'm glad it was a 5 turn game... he had a unit of Sternguard and half a squad of Sanguinary guard left, in control of MY quad gun. Oh, and a drop pod. I had two immobilised scratched raiders (pointing in useless directions I might add) and one ravage left alive. I think if it had been standard random game length, I might well have been tabled if it had gone to 7 turns. Maybe, maybe not. But I certainly could not have tabled my opponent... 2 turns to kill three targets (totalling 10 marines and a vehicle) with 3 shots per turn. You do the math.

As for the Pirates vs Ninjas, I was a little disappointed that I didn't get ANY votes in the best army contest... but to be fair, I have a cool theme, and am proud of my conversions, but the full title is Best PAINTED Army, and there were other works of a far higher standard than my own, so I cannot really complain. Though it was a little irksome when my opponent for game two was surprised to see my army and asked why I hadn't entered it into the contest... I told him I did and said where I'd put it... and he hadn't realised there was a second table, he'd have voted for me otherwise. Gee, thanks! I don't think this would have made much difference in the longrun, even if several people made the same mistake. It perhaps would have cost the beautiful tyranid army on the same table a critical vote or two (came second by one vote) but to me it would have made little difference. Ah well, I shall have to simply enjoy the many compliments my army got throughout the day.

As for another crazy project? Well despite this one going very long and me having to force myself to finish, the first thing I thought when I did finish was "What next?" Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. However, I need to study 7th a bit more, there's an Ork codex round the corner, much to decide. And after the pirates dismal showing, perhaps I should design an army first and jerry rig a theme round it after this time? Or at the very least, stick to a codex I know well. Hell, I could even pick an army and just try to do a nice, high quality paintjob on it, rather than going for wacky outlandish pop culture references. All sound ideas in theory, but I know me, I'll probably do something silly at some point. I may try to postpone the crazy urges by painting some UCM Dropzone Commander forces to look like Aliens Colonial Marines, apart from the scout buggies, which will be in the desert colours of Dark Knight Rises (except one which of course comes in black...)

In the meantime, watch this space, and if you can make it to a future Blog Wars, do so. I won't be at 8, too much going on at that time of year, but I can perhaps make 9...

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