Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning with the Eldar

I've now had six games with my Eldar ranging from 500 to 750 points, and I have had four draws, one loss, and a win. My first game, was against 500 points of Orks. I had two squads of Storm Guardians with flamers, each in a Wave Serpent, and an Autarch as my HQ. One Wave Serpent was armed with a twin linked Bright Lance and the other with a twin linked Shuriken Cannon. This game was a true learning experience, mainly in a negative aspect as I learned what not to do.

My opponent fielded an Ork army with two 21 man mobz of boyz and a Warboss. My plan was to whittle down one mob to half strength using the Wave Serpents and then assault it with both squads of Storm Guardians. Unfortunately, that never happened, as I just wasn't able to do enough damage to a mob to bring them down to the level where I could think about disembarking from the Wave Serpents and assaulting them. As a result, I ended up just playing keep away for the entire game, which wasn't really that exciting for either of us.

I did get the opportunity to see how hard it is to assault moving vehicles, as my opponent attempted it against one of my Wave Serpents and I was able to just move on past after his unsuccessful attempt. This happened late in the game, and it taught me that I probably don't have to work quite so hard at playing keep away.

About that time I also figured out that what I should have been doing was trying to take out his warboss, as we were playing annihilation and he hadn't grouped his warboss. I might have been able to take it out and won if I hadn't been so focused on the mob of boyz.

The next week I got two games in, the first at 750 points. This let me add Warlocks to my Storm Guardian squads, have bright lances on both Wave Serpents, trade my Autarch for a Farseer, and add a Fire Prism. I was up against Space Marines this time. A Dreadnaught in a Drop Pod, a full Tactical Squad, and a half Tactical Squad in a Razorback with a Librarian. This list had a lot of melta weapons, and the Librarian had been tooled out to try to neutralize my Farseer (he changed his list when he heard he was playing Eldar).

This game was interesting, and was a learning experience, but was made slightly less fun by the fact that I had to be constantly watching my opponent. If I didn't then strange things would happen, like meltaguns transforming into multi-meltas.

I had decided to be more aggressive in this game, and while the end result was still a tie, I was more satisfied with my results. If I'd remembered to take +1 attack for assaulting, then I might have even won. My first experience using a Fire Prism has convinced me of its usefulness, and that I need to include multiples of them in my larger list. It proved key to whittling down my opponent's squads, and almost won the game for me by eliminating all but one last model from the Tactical Squad sitting on one of the objectives.

My Storm Guardians also proved their worth as I was able to bring the triple template attacks of the Warlock and two flamers into play. The result was impressive, and would have been even more so if I'd realized that they generated automatic hits. I was rolling to hit models under the template, which was not correct.

My Farseer would have been more useful if I'd remembered to use him more, but as it was his Doom ability helped a bit, and my opponent never got the chance to use the Librarian's Psychic Hood to nullify it.

In the end, I made some mistakes with the rules that hurt me, but I felt my tactics were fairly sound, and we ended the game each controlling one objective.

My third game was back to 500 points, and my opponent was again Space Marines, but run by a different player. I went back to my original list I played last week, and he brought two Tactical Squads and a Master of the Forge, which I felt was an interesting choice as an HQ. One Tactical squad had a Plasma Cannon and a Plasma Rifle, the other had a Flamer and was joined by the HQ.

My opponent made what I felt was a tactical error by not starting his Plasma squad on his objective. If he had, it would have made things more difficult for me. Instead, he started both squads away from his objective, and moved his close combat squad towards his while ignoring mine. I encouraged this by feinting towards his objective with both my Wave Serpents, only to reverse course with one of them in the fourth turn in order to rush back and garrison my objective.

Before doing this, I had spent the first three turns the same way I did in my first game, sniping at one of his squads. The difference was that my plan wasn't relying on me doing damage in the shooting phase. Anything I did manage to do was simply a bonus. I was really just maneuvering to keep him away from my objective while contesting his.

On the fourth turn I got more aggressive as I put my endgame into play. In addition to my already mentioned move towards my own objective, I unloaded my other squad hear his objective and then tank shocked his tactical squad that was approaching it from the other direction.

While they easily passed the morale check, they were moved a bit away from the objective, and my opponent became temporarily focused on my Wave Serpent instead of continuing to move on the objective. He still beat me to the objective, but only after I'd positioned my Storm Guardian squad to assault him on my next turn.

The pre-assault shooting was quite effective, the assault itself not so much. I barely lost the combat, but rolled terribly on my moral check and fled. If the game had ended, then I would have tied, but instead it went one more turn, and I realized that if I could guess the correct distance from my Wave Serpent to the objective, that I could Tank Shock him off of it. I guessed correctly, and then followed it up by shooting with my Storm Guardians that had recovered from their panic, and finished off the last of his Tactical Squad. The result was I controlled one objective, and he controlled none. Victory!

My next game didn't go so well. It was at 750 points and I was facing daemons. I decided to take a chance and hold my entire force in reserve, but poor reserve rolls led to my force coming on one unit at a time and getting defeated in detail. In retrospect, I would have done better if I'd just deployed normally, but given that it was a kill point mission I probably would have still lost.

The next game I again faced Space Marines, and again made a draw. My opponent made a couple mistakes in his list creation (he thought he took assault marines, but had selected devastators in Army Builder, and he decided to stick with what was on his sheet instead of changing it mid-game, which I was OK with), but I was unable to capitalize on them to force a win. If I'd been a bit more aggressive in moving my vehicles into difficult terrain, or if the game had gone on another turn, then I probably could have done it, but as it turned out it was another draw.

My most recent game was against Chaos again, this time Chaos Marines. Chaos just seems to be the bane of this list so far. I managed to pull out a draw, but I only had around four models left on the table, and I'm not sure what I could have done differently to have improved my situation. I actually got a bit lucky on some of my rolls. so I can't even blame the dice.

The one thing I did pull out of that game is that I probably need to learn to accept a turn five draw if it leaves me in a position to win on turn six. Odds are that most games will go to turn six, so risking it all to win on turn five isn't the smartest strategy if you know it's going to result in you getting your butt kicked if the game goes to turn six. I basically sacrificed a Wave Serpent and a squad of Storm Guardians in an attempt to win on turn five. If the game had ended on turn five I would have won, but it didn't, and as a result I had put myself into a position where I couldn't win on turns six or seven.

I do feel that I'm learning how to use the units I've fielded so far, and am looking forward now to getting some Fire Warriors on the table.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Podcast Update

It's been a while since I updated my list of podcasts that I listen to. There haven't been too many big changes, although my order of preference has changed a bit.

The biggest change is that The Order 66 Podcast is pretty much off my rotation. I'm still subscribed, but I haven't listened to an episode in ages. I'm around 20 episodes behind at this point, with no real intention to catch up. It's not that the podcast stopped being good, it's just that I can't see myself playing the game anytime in the foreseeable future, whereas I am doing a lot of miniatures gaming, so I'm more interested in podcasts covering that. I still recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Star Wars Saga edition RPG, and even possibly to someone with just a general interest in either RPGs or Star Wars.

The other big change is that Dice Like Thunder has now become my favorite 40K specific podcast, ahead of 40K Radio. Part of this is that I simply think the guys at DLT have a better grasp of the game. Part of it is that the guys at 40K Radio are really adamant that they are doing "internet radio" and are really pushing the live show aspect.

I'm going to diverge into a rant for a bit here. I'm very firmly of the opinion that one of the biggest advantages of podcasting is the ability to listen to it when I want to, not when the producers of the show decide to make it. Scheduling a time to stop everything and go listen to some guys make a podcast feels very pre-VCR to me, and I have little to no interest in doing so. Of course, I can still listen to the recorded episodes of 40K Radio, but as they aim more and more of their programming towards live call-ins, and other audience participation elements, I feel more and more left out. The Order 66 also suffers a bit from this, but to a lesser degree. It's all starting to feel very cliquish from my perspective. I'm sure that's more an issue with me than the show, but it's still an issue that has me enjoying the show a bit less.

On the other hand, DLT is very much a podcast, and a good one. As the disclaimer goes at the beginning of their show "there are certainly things with which you will vehemently disagree," but it's still both informative and entertaining. It's also one of the few podcasts which I have liked enough to go back and listen to old episodes of, something I'm still in the process of doing. One disclaimer about recommending it though is that they're currently undergoing a rather big change in that the founder of the podcast has moved to California (it's based out of Chicago), and rather than trying to do it over Skype, they are switching to an alternating cast format where the guys in Chicago do one episode, and the next is done by the founder and some friends of his new to the podcast. It's too early to tell if this is going to work out over the long run, but it seems to be going well so far.

As good as DLT is, World's End Radio is still the podcast I look forward to the most, followed closely by the D6 Generation. I've already gone over both of those in prior posts.

Podhammer is back, sort of, but it's been a bit sporadic lately. It's common knowledge among his listeners that the host has been through quite a lot lately, and presumably still has major issues to deal with aside from podcasting. For those interested, his earlier hiatus was a result of his wife filing for divorce, and since then he also lost his job. He has found new work since then, but it's quite possible that the work is more demanding on his time than his old job was (pure speculation on my part). I'm hoping that he works things out and gets back to podcasting, as I enjoy the show despite not currently playing the game it covers.

This Week in Wargaming
has also been very sporadic, with both the hosts having various difficulties going on that limited their ability to do a podcast to the point that the co-host had to quit entirely. It would be more accurately titled This Month in Wargaming at the moment, but Troy McCauley has announced his intention to get things back on track. We'll see. My wallet has enjoyed the respite, but I'll still be happy if this one gets back on a regular schedule.

I'm still listening to 40K Warcasting, although it is firmly in third place on my list of 40K only podcasts. I'm not sure if I can finger exactly why that's the case. I feel that the DLT crew is the most knowledgeable about the game, but the 40K Warcasting crew is probably at least as knowledgeable as the 40K Radio crew. It may simply be that 40K radio comes out more often.

That's pretty much my list right now. I've been sampling a few other podcasts, but that's on hold for now as I catch up on back episodes of Dice Like Thunder. I'm sure that in a few months my list will have changed again, if only because the shows have. That's the nature of podcasting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Assault on Evelyn Hive

We're going to be trying out a simple campaign for 40K at Castle House starting either this Sunday or next Sunday (just depends on feedback and if we have everything ready in time).

The goal is to give a nice narrative without restricting anyone's ability to play the game the way they want to. With this in mind there are no required point sizes or special scenarios, or anything like that. You just show up at the store, sign up to join a side and find someone on the other side to play against.

The background is that some malevolent Power of Chaos has set its eyes on an Imperial Hive World and launched an assault on its capital. Nearby Imperial forces have responded to its defense, while opportunistic xenos forces have thrown in their lot with the forces of Chaos in attempt to take the Hive.

The campaign will be three weeks long and will be played out over a map made of the Planetary Empires tiles, with a Hive City tile in the middle, and three tiles extending out from it in all directions. This results in a hex shaped map of three rings around the central Hive. The Chaos side will start controlling the outer ring which contains three scoring hexes. The Imperial side will control the middle ring containing six scoring hexes, and the inner ring containing three scoring hexes.

The first week of the campaign, the Chaos side will hold the initiative. This means that prior to each game the Chaos player will choose a hex to attack that must be adjacent to a Chaos controlled hex. The Chaos and Imperial players will then play a game of 40K at whatever point value they agree on. If the Chaos player wins, he will get to place a flag on the board indicating that Chaos has taken that hex. If the Imperial player wins, they hold the line and keep the Chaos player from advancing, and will be able to place a marker in that hex indicating that it may not be attacked for the remainder of the current campaign turn. In the event of a draw, the hex does not change hands, but may be attacked again during the same campaign turn.

Starting with the second week of the campaign, the Imperial side will have recovered from the initial shock of the invasion, and both players will roll off before each game to determine who is the attacker. The attacker will then get to pick the hex they are attacking as described above. If the Chaos player is the attacker the game is played out exactly as described above. If the Imperial player is the attacker then the only difference is that you reverse the roles and if the Imperial player wins then rather than placing their own flag, they will be allowed to remove the Chaos flag from the tile to show that the Imperial forces have re-taken it.

The only rules in choosing hexes to attack is that you cannot attack into a hex that has already been successfully defended that campaign turn, and you cannot attack from a hex that cannot trace a path of friendly hexes back to a supply point. For the Chaos side the supply points are the three scoring hexes they start with. For the Imperial side the supply point is the Hive City.

At the end of each campaign turn (which will either be Saturday afternoon, or Sunday before any games are played), the campaign points will be totaled for each side. Each side gets one point for each scoring hex controlled. At the end of three campaign turns the side with the highest point total will be declared the winner.

An alternative victory condition for the Chaos side is to successfully take the Hive City.

An alternative victory condition for the Imperial side is to successfully take all three scoring hexes in the outer ring.

If people enjoy this style of play we may try for something more elaborate in the future, but I wanted to keep things very simple and easy to use for our first attempt at this.

I started thinking about this campaign several weeks ago, pretty much right after we saw the previews for the Planetary Empires tiles. Around that time we were regularly getting in six to ten players, and had as many as six games going on at once in the store. For some reason things have slowed up a bit and we haven't had to set up an extra table since the day we had to set up three, which was about a month ago now.

The campaign idea was planned as a way to simply add some fun to what people were already doing, but now I'm hoping that it might bring some people back in. Unfortunately, I spent so much time thinking about the rules that I didn't spend much time on the fluff, which is a lot of what campaigns are about.

As to the time spent thinking about the rules, it was mostly spent thinking up more complex systems and then discarding them. This campaign framework was mostly a result of pruning. I should also acknowledge that it was inspired by the Firestorm campaign system from Battlefront. I'm not sure any of the ideas from that system ended up in the final version of this system, but it provided a good starting point for brainstorming.

One final note, the campaign title comes from the Evelyn Hills Shopping Center, which is where Castle House Games is located. Yeah, that's how little time I spent thinking up the fluff.