Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Back to Drawing Boards: an MTI Dark Age Battle Report

     With the upcoming March to Immortality at Gencon- which Belgarath97 now knows he'll be in regardless of local competitions due to it being an Open Event this year- it was time to get in some practice.  Especially since the point totals have changed, and all his hard work list building and points maximizing just went out the window. 

     For those of you who missed B97's article on the subject, the March to Immortality this season is going to be a bit different- both in entrance and in gameplay.  Confidentially, I don't put it past Mr. Black to still have a wrinkle or two up his sleeve between now and then, but you have to game plan for what you know, not what you don't.  What we know is this:  the point totals just went from 500 to 750.  While this means that B97 isn't going to be as comfortable playing at the bumped points, nobody else is either, and I honestly think that works to his advantage:  practiced well-worked lists for months or years have to be scrapped and rebuilt only a handful of weeks out from the tournament. So, on with the show.  

     In the ruins of some settlement along the edge of the green belt, advance scouts of the Cult of Blood scavenge the streets looking for anything worth keeping that all the previous decades of vultures might have missed.   A Buzzblade searches the ruins, kicking detritus and debris about.  He stops as he hears something rustle- something he didn't move. Without warning a quartet of barbed tentacles lash out, nicking his scarred flesh, and robbing him of the chance to move, to attack, or to even cry out a warning.  As Scion creeps down the wall from the ceiling, she approaches the Buzzblade, staring into his eyes with hers.  As she extends her taloned claws, the Buzzblade thinks himself mad, as the creature before him seems to mutter the phrase "Baad God."

     Here's the list I prepped for this game- A Guile Broodspawn list featuring Helexia and Scion, a Howler for some serious meat, a pair of Ratchets, and 2 pairs of Broodhounds.  In the future, I might switch out a pair of the hounds for a second set of Ratchets, but I wanted to use a completely painted force, so Hounds it was.  Helexia was given Improved Regen and Toxic Vapor, which is by and large my favorite Bio-gen. The basic concept of this list is "action denial." The nearly obscene amount of paralyzing poison (coupled with a good amount of Knock Prone) is designed to make it very difficult for my opponent to do what he wants.  (Yes, I know that's a Lurker pretending to be Scion.  She's a Lurker Hybrid, so it's close enough until I get her model painted.)

     We get ready to set up... and B97 (who admittedly to date was having one of the top twenty works weeks known to mankind in history) realized he had brought the wrong case of figures.  Not a catastrophe, it just meant that rather than batrepping two well painted armies on the table, I could mock him for having a 100% stand-in rate.  The Hulk makes a good Raze. The Spinespur thugs are Blood Mistresses. The Dark Age Scut is a Sister of Charity.  The Pud Throwers are Buzzblades (upgraded to Charity's Might due to the inclusion of the SoC). The Harpy is Keepsake.  Pigskin is Father Mayhem (one slaughterer for another...) Caretaker is a Bone Doc.  Dragyri slaves are Puppets, and the Blue Cyborg model is Blood Reign. All in all, similar enough in concept for us to keep track, and all the bases matched up.

     Our Scenario was "Killing Floor", which creates a large area in the center of the table (oddly enough, nearly exactly the side of the intersection). Any round after the first which ends with a one player having a model fully or partially in the center ring while their opponent does not scores one point.  The goal is three points. My secondary objectives were Grisly Reminders (placing heads on objective markers after kills) and Forced Evolution (a Brood  specific one, wherein a model/squad  is chosen, and if it collects as many kills as its starting HP and returns to an objective marker, it gains a point.

     Deployment begins, and I'm looking at the fact that my Howler moves so slow he'll get to the center of the table around next Tuesday.  The Broodhounds can be used to slow my opponent up, Helexia, Scion, and the Ratchets can make it to the middle by turn two easily. So, the plan is, get in, get a point or two, and force my opponent to fight uphill the rest of the game.

     Belgarath97 pretty much goes for the "shortest distance" approach, and lumps his force together in the middle of his deployment zone to try to make a speartip strike in the scoring zone.   The Broodhounds deploy in No Man's Land on my right side of the table, with plans of sacrificially intercepting as much as possible.

     Turn One is pretty uneventful, as is the norm for Dark Age- everybody moves up, nobody in range to do anything yet, and both battle plans survive due to no contact with the enemy.  

Turn two it gets interesting. Broodhounds make it into contact with Blood Mistresses, and simply devour them- one even had a latch-on Bite attack that wasn't even rolled. I don't think B97 passed a single test.  The Raze turns to engage the closest Broodhound, but fails to kill it.  The other two hounds now whip around the corner and launch into him, delivering a combined two wounds to the behemoth.    On the other side of the table, Blood Reign and the Charity's Might Buzzblades move ever closer to the center ring, slowed up only due to terrain.  Scion bounds into the ring with incredible speed, while the Howler manages to be just
outside of it, wailing in the most animalistic emo way about how unfair life is.  The rest of B97's forces chew through the Broodhounds (as was expected), but the delay costs them precious movement, and that entire force collectively moves forward about four inches this turn.  Helexia and her pair of Ratchet Bodyguards move up the left flank, preparing to try to cut off the Charity's Might group just short of the center.  Turn two ends with me scoring a point.

Turn three the battered Raze makes it to the center ring- just. Amazingly, the Howler is able to close the gap, and slams into him, giving the Raze one more wound.  One of my Ratchets redirects to engage the Raze, and high sticks him prone, delivering a paralyzing counter. Unfortunately "Prone" means he's still in the same spot, and thus still denying me points with two wounds left.  The other Ratchet engages the Charity's Might, and drops two of them, forcing the other one and Blood Reign to deal with his presence. Scion jumps in to assist on the Raze, and while all four paralyzing strikes hit (guaranteeing the Raze is doing nothing for a while), only one wound is scored and the beast survives.  His survival denies me the second point.

      Turn four the Cavalry arrived.

     Sister of Charity and the remaining Blood Mistress move up towards the ring, and Helexia
vaults after them.  Between the Fear caused by the Howler, and the Toxin Vapors put off by both Helexia and Scion, I have a pretty solid bubble of negative penalties (While the Vapors do not stack, they do create a very wide field of effect for supporting attacks when used in conjunction.)  However, the strength of B97's concept is "buff/debuff,"  as he is able to overlap benefits and effectively had models with +3 and +4 on rolls!  Sadly for me, one of those models is the combat beast Father Mayhem. With a little bit of support from what's left on the field, Six wounds are hammered into the Howler, with a whopping five leveled into Helexia!

     Turn Five begins with Helexia and the Howler regenerating enough wounds to still be in the fight- which wasn't easy with a -1 penalty from the Bone Doc.  The remaining Charity's Might charges at Scion, only to find out about her Bite Reflex attack, and doesn't live long enough to swing.  That's about the extent of my luck in the turn, however, as Father Buffy Mayhem goes positively medieval on Helexia and Howler, and takes them both out of play.  There's simply not enough models left on my side of the table to be able to do much more than contest a turn, maybe two, but there's no way he's not going to hold the ring for three turns.  I back off Scion to go to an objective market to score one point, deciding that in a tournament setting it'd be more important to at least avoid the goose egg that try to hold the Alamo in the center of the table. As the dust clears, the game ends 5-1 in favor of the Skard.

Overall feeling from the game:

     I think this is a scenario which plays to the strength of the Blood Cult- most especially B97's Blood Cult.  The more bodies are on the table, and the more bodies that are nearby, the more effective the force is.  Couple that with "area effect buffs/debuffs" from Keepsake and the Bone Doc, and you have a force designed to move together, fight together, and grow stronger as the game goes on.  Which, oddly, is exactly what happened- on the wings and early on I had an advantage.  Models separated out I had an advantage.  Concentrated push up the middle- I got nothin'.  While there might be a few more tweaks to his list and more games are needed to hone the ranges and overlapping effects a bit more... I think this list is going to be a hard one to crack if the scenario and his opponent allow him to fight huddled up like he's returning a punt. 

     As far as my list... I like that the 750 point cap now allows us to see some larger models like the Howler... I'm just still not entirely certain that those 185 points can't be better spent on more units on the table.  That's 2 pairs of ratchets, or a 2-4 model squad of any other entry in the book. To be fair, the Howler excels at massed combat, not as much at taking out one lone model like Raze and Mayhem, so I'm not ditching him yet. (That and, since he's my only "fully completed" Brood model with the base nicely worked up, I'm pretty keen on using him.) The more I play with Scion and Helexia the more that dynamic duo grows on me... so long as you avoid biting off more than you can chew, they can do a lot.  Send in other units where needed, make prodigious use of paralyzing poison , and keep threats from being threatening.  

     So, as it stands, That's 1-0 for B97 in our Journey Into Dark Age prep, with 5 points scored in the match.  A couple of those and we might just see his ugly mug on a model.  

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