Sunday, 26 February 2012

051 - UK Masters Tournament Report: Part 3

Sorry to anyone following these posts for the delay in writing this tournament up - given that it's now over a month since this happened, I hope my recollection of the 5th and final game is accurate!

Game 5: Shared Turf War

Seamus vs. Lilith

Opponent: Neverata

Game Type: Tournament

This would be the 4th tournament in which the Swiss pairing system had put me and Jo to face each other in the final round. We'd previously crossed swords at Leeds (her Lilith killed my Seamus), Stockport (my Seamus killed her Viktorias) and Leeds again (my Pandora killed her Lilith). Jo needed this to settle 2011 at two-all.

I wanted another try at using Insignificant spam so chose my Seamus list. With hindsight, I would have done better with Pandora, and this tournament wasn't really the place for experimenting with different tactics. Jo's Lilith crew included two Lelu, one Lilitu, one Young Nephilim and two Desperate Mercs.

Although I'd saved breakthrough for this Strategy, I had very little in the way of other useful Schemes left so chose Steal Relic, hoping that I'd be able to nip in with Seamus and nab it before pulling him out. Jo took Bodyguard and Grudge.

On my left side, Madame Sybelle and the linked Grave Spirit went up against a Lelu, while on my right side I planned to hold up the other Nephilim twins by throwing a dog at them and hoping Bête could work some magic. Seamus and the Belles shored up my center, face to face with Lilith, the Young and the Mercs.

Fearful of the damage potential of the Mercs and the fact that the Young probably was looking to Grow asap, I made them the focus and killed all 3 in the first two turns for no losses. I threw the Canine at the twins on my right, but Bête Noire proved no match for Lelu and Lilitu, who also lured in a Grudged Belle to beat up. A complete lack of high cards in my hand on the turn after Bête appeared meant her fate was sealed.

Sybelle was outclassed by the Lelu she faced, only managing to damage it slightly before falling to poison, and Seamus ended up on his own, face to face with Lilith.

With all my other VPs looking untenable, I wanted to at least get my hands on the Relic, but with a higher Soulstone pool, Lilith was able to hang onto it and eventually beat Seamus into the ground. In the final turn, Lilith chased down and killed my last Belle who had made it into the Neverborn deployment zone for breakthrough. The game ended a complete massacre and an 8-0 victory to Jo.

Looking back, I played this game terribly (not to take anything away from Jo who did all the right things), and it highlighted to me a lot of the things I'm doing wrong in playing this game, in particular, my poor choices when it comes to picking my fights. This match in particular has given me the impetus to stick with Seamus as my main competitive master in 2012 and to really get the most out of him, and the measure of that will be whether he performs well next time I take him to a competitive event. Watch out Lilith, that's two deaths he owes you now!

Following the 5th Round and after lunch (Maelstrom Games provided a very nice toad in the hole), the top four winners had a playoff to decide the overall winner. From what I've heard, the four games played between Adam (magicpockets), Ian (Calmdown), Ant (Stryder) and Craig (ukrocky) were a smackdown of epic proportions. Knowing that watching these games would be a valuable learning opportunity, I had intended to watch them play out and see the top players at work, but I was offered a game of Puppet Wars which I've wanted to have a try of for a while, so I ended up missing the finals. A four-player Puppet fight kicked off, all of us complete noobs to the game, with Dave (Clousseau) talking us through how it all worked.

3 hours later and with our Puppet Wars game only half way through while the finalists had played 2 full games of Malifaux, we called it at the end of the afternoon. I may post my thoughts on the game in a future post, but in summary: lots of fun, but probably not £80 worth of fun.

That was the end of a fantastic weekend (thanks again to Jo for putting it together), and probably the best tournament I've been to so far. I'm not especially hopeful that I'll be in the top 16 this time next year, but the incentive of another weekend like that one definitely gives me something to strive for!

Monday, 20 February 2012

050 - Ophelia Second Thoughts

I had a lot of fun with Ophelia at the Harrogate Icebreaker tournament last weekend. She performed well against Perdita in the first round, helped by me drawing the Red Joker into my hand on three of the six turns. Nino, Santiago and Perdita herself all took a Red Joker to the face.

Unfortunately she came up against serious opposition in rounds 2-4, in the form of Pandora, Hamelin the Plagued and then minion Hamelin (accompanying Nicodem). Probably three of the nastiest things for a Gremlin crew to come up against and they were all queuing up to give Ophelia a kicking.

She gave it her all, but ended up narrowly missing out on a draw vs Hamelin and losing the other two games convincingly.

My first games with a Slop Hauler proved him to be worth his weight in gold in keeping the Dumb Luck shots coming thick and fast (thanks for the recommendation Dom!), and I got some great results out of Rami who one-shotted Nicodem with a very dumb and very lucky shot.

I think I have an effective anti-Hamelin the Plagued tactic (hide from his ratty death-star until it gets closer, then run around it to reach your objectives behind him, popping off a few shots as you run past for a distraction.

I currently have no plans on how Pandora should be dealt with though. Low WP across the board and low WDs mean that it takes much less than "one thousand cuts" to make your gremlins die very fast indeed. The paralyzing power of Coppelius (automatic on WP 4 Ophelia) is also something that doesn't have a great counter.

I'm a little disillusioned with Ophelia as a competitive master due to the ease in which an opponent can put a hard counter in their crew to make the game an uphill struggle for her, but that may be due to the fact that it was common knowledge at the tournament that I'd be using gremlins.

I'm looking forward to using her again at the Doubles GT next month, but I don't think that she'll have a long and illustrious competitive career after that. We shall see.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

049 - Ophelia First Thoughts

I gave a new crew a couple of trial games this week. In a serious breach of my personal "don't use unpainted models" rule, I'm taking Ophelia and the gremlin kin to the Harrogate Icebreaker tournament this weekend. Many of the Harrogate players are retiring their established crews and building new lists for 2012, in a similar way to myself, and so the painting requirement has been relaxed for the tournament (as long as the models are assembled). I've painted 3 of my gremlins so far, so although the majority of my crew will be silver. they'll be green in spirit.

I played two 25ss games on Tuesday, one against Adam using Sonnia, and one against James using Hamelin, and had a 35ss rematch against Adam yesterday night. Three excellent games, and I think as a result I have at least a basic idea of what my models do.

Ophelia vs Sonnia was perhaps the most violent game I've ever played. On one side of the table, Ophelia was in melee with Sonnia and two Witchlings. Sonnia had cast (0) Inferno which causes 3 damage in a pulse at the end of the turn. This killed one of the Witchlings, who detonated for another two damage in another pulse, which then detonated the second Witchling for even more damage! Ophelia was reduced to a pile of smoking boots, and Sonnia herself was weakened badly enough for Rami to pick her off in my next activation.

Meanwhile on the other side of the table, Papa Loco had charged into Pere Ravage. Casting "Take Ya With Me" for 6Dg and killing Pere, who then detonated through "Ka-Blooey" for a 5Dg explosion, which killed Papa Ortega in return, who then went "Boom!" for another big bang! It's a good job that nobody else was stood nearby, as that amount of damage would have floored any model in the game! The crater caused by this series of explosions would easily be visible from space!

Needless to say, there were very few survivors after that had all played out. I think I finished the game with just one model left after finishing off one final Witchling, which was enough to give me a narrow victory.

In my game against Hamelin, I wasn't expecting much, given that I couldn't target Hamelin and that killing rats would be ineffectual. My strategy was Claim Jump, but I'd be unable to establish a presence around the objective that couldn't be easily dispersed by James standing Hamelin on top. I was lucky though, because he played the crew a little too conservatively, and Hamelin didn't really get stuck into the action as much as he could have given that he could attack my models with impunity once Pere Ravage had been Obedienced into blowing himself up. By taking Kill Protoge on Nix as a scheme (the only model I could effectively attack!), I knew I'd be able to get a couple of VPs, and I managed to prevent James' schemes and bring the game to a 2-2 draw.

In the 35ss game I added in some Bayou Gremlins and used what I think will be my crew throughout the tournament on Sunday. The volume of firepower was intimidating, and I managed to shoot down many of Adam's crew before they had change to do anything. Sonnia herself fell when I won a crucial initiative and companioned 3 of my Kin to ping her full of lead. Adam's derisory defense flips didn't help her either to be honest, and so he had to burn almost his entire hand and his whole soulstone cache trying to keep her standing. The final result was Ophelia and Rami standing on the claim marker having obliterated every Guild model that tried to approach. The gremlins had suffered heavy losses, but my weight of numbers meant I had models left at the end of the game.

Worth noting too that we played this game on Adam's new Buildings of Malifaux Terraclips set combined with rubber cobblestone roll mats, and it made for a great setting.

Learning points so far:

Reckless is a difficult ability to manage well. I'm always tempted to push for the extra AP, but after a turn or two it results in a crew where every model is damaged to half Wds, and nobody in the crew has enough Wds to not be concerned by the loss of just one or two.

Ophelia is pretty destructive, and can kill most minions in a single activation if she's willing to burn a soulstone to do it. I need to remember to use her (0) action buffs before attacking though.

Rami scares the enemy, mainly due to his long range, but he isn't especially damaging. If you go for his Dumb Luck trigger, he doesn't really have enough Wds to sustain himself for long afterwards.

Raphael perhaps isn't as bad as I've been led to believe, but maybe I've just been lucky with him. I found Francois to be the least effective of the crew so far. Or perhaps Pere Ravage - I haven't yet worked out how to use him pro-actively.

Young LaCroix are awesome. Plenty of bodies on the table that can all cast Ophelia's damaging spell. It's very painful though if Ophelia dies and you have to remove 4 models from the table!

I need to remember the Bayou Gremlin's "Oops" ability and plan accordingly. In my third game I forgot it even existed (I assure you this was innocent - I'm just not used to there being consequences for my models failing a duel!). I may write this down somewhere, or at least warn my opponent to remind me during the next few games.

Enjoying the crew so far - but I fully expect to get ripped a new one on Sunday when they have to face up to some very experienced players.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

048 - UK Masters Tournament Report: Part 2

There were two more games in the afternoon, making for a bit of a marathon of a gaming day, and with the calibre of opponent there was no room for relaxation.

Game 3: Shared Reconnoiter

Seamus vs. Dreamer

Opponent: Calmdown

Game Type: Tournament

This was going to be a difficult matchup. I decided to stick with my original plan of using Seamus and attempting to Insignificant-ify his crew when they showed up, but expected Ian to be fielding the Dreamer. If nothing else, I wanted to try and prove to myself that Seamus wouldn't be a pushover for Chompy.

Ian started with a standard Dreamer crew build containing Lelu & Lilitu, 3 Stitched Together and 3 Daydreams. His game plan was obviously to try and remove as many of my models as possible so that I'd have nobody to contest quarters at the end of the game. For my Schemes I chose Frame for Murder (unannounced) on Sybelle, and Exterminate Dolls, intending to take out the Stitched Together. Ian's Schemes were Hold Out and Steal Relic.

Dreamer prepares to launch his Nightmare Friend at Seamus & Co.
Winning the initiative, the Dreamer did his signature slingshot move and Chompy ate one of my Belles before retreating behind a distant building, a place I knew he would continue to hide his master unless I got one of my models behind his lines. I therefore advanced everyone as quickly as possible towards the center of the table, luring forwards the exposed Daydream and taking him out to try and limit Ian's future mobility.

I won the second turn initiative and put Seamus in Defensive Stance, knowing that he would be the next target and he re-raised the Belle from the nearby corpse to keep my model count up. Chompy jumped out again, and this was where I made probably my biggest mistake of the weekend. Seamus had plenty of Soulstones and managed to survive the first Strike, but in the Onslaught that followed and every subsequent attack I forgot to flip extra cards for his defense! These are the worst kind of mistakes, the "what-ifs". Not knowing how the result might have been different, and knowing the potential effect Seamus could have had on the subsequent turns, means you're always kicking yourself that it could have been different. Ian knew the best way to put Seamus down was to go for lots of negative flips and hope for the Red Joker to inevitably come out. Flipping 4 cards on each damage flip meant he quickly hit the card he wanted and Seamus went down. Whoops for Ian here though as in his rush to kill Seamus, he'd forgotten to Steal the Relic!

After my master was dead, Ian felt comfortable dropping his crew to engage my minions, and the game became a protracted fight in the center of the board. I'm struggling to remember the details of exactly who killed who from that point. One Belle almost made it through in an attempt to deny Hold Out, but was killed before she managed to escape. Knowing that it was my only chance to claw back some VPs, Sybelle attacked and wounded Chompy, and was eaten in retaliation, but this only gained me 1VP. Bete Noire appeared from Sybelle's death and managed to kill Lelu with a timely Slit Jugular, but she was unable to get close enough to the Dreamer to pick him off before being Chomped. I think I managed to put down a couple of Stitched Together, but it was around Turn 5 when the last of my models fell to the Neverborn attack and Ian was able to position his survivors to gain 3VPs for the Strategy which along with 2 for Hold Out gave him a 5-1 win.

This was another excellently played game by an expert Dreamer player. Even had Seamus survived that first round of attacks, he would have gone down in Turn 3 or Turn 4 at the very latest, so I'm not confident that the result would have been much different. Defensive Stance isn't something I've used all that much (and I know that's an issue in itself), so when I did need to use it I completely forgot it was still active. Ah well, lesson learned. I still believe Seamus can hold his own against The Dreamer if played a bit better, and with a slightly more optimal crew selection, so I think I'm going to make that a mini-objective for the year.


Game 3: Shared Distract

Pandora vs Colette

Opponent: 13th Warrior

Game Type: Tournament

The final game of the day used a strategy that I’m not at all familiar with – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever played Distract until this point. The majority of the games I’ve played have used the Core Strategies chart and not the Expanded, mainly because that’s what people tend to prefer in my local meta. The Expanded Strategies are more varied (and dare I say it, more fun), but also have an element of imbalance in that they can advantage certain crews more than others, in contrast to the Core strategies which are generally fairer. Another thing for my 2012 objectives list: Play every one of the Expanded strategies at least once.

For Distract, I knew I needed a fast Master, and one that could either kill the enemy Master or really slow them down. I toyed with the idea of using Seamus again to drop Insignificant on the enemy master and stop them getting any VPs, but he wasn’t particularly speedy, and I suspected I’d be facing Colette who’d be a) hard to pin down and b) dropping SS like crazy to stop me hitting her. I plumbed for Pandora, since I’d have to use her at least once over the weekend, and using her in Game 4 would mean I’d have complete freedom of choice in Game 5.

Rob’s crew was the cookie-cutter Colette crew, with Cassandra, the Coryphee duet and one Performer/Mannequin pair. For his schemes he selected Power Ritual and Breakthrough. I chose Kidnap (2 Coryphee and the Performer) and Assassinate. Kidnap would be a little easier on me as the Coryphee would obviously combine and disappear from the table, and I’d only have to take care of the Performer. Assassinate would be a little harder but my main aim Colette and making her run off the table would be just as good as killing her for that Scheme.

In Turn 1, Rob interacted with the two corners in his half of the board, and ran Cassandra alarmingly fast up my left flank to try and capture another corner. The Coryphee joined into a Duet and positioned themselves ready to rush me on Turn 2. I flew the Doppelganger, and the Madness into the ruined tower in the center, and the rest of my crew shuffled forwards slightly.

Turn 2 was where it all kicked off, with Lilitu casting Lure on Cassandra to pull her away from my left corner. Rob decided that his lieutenant was too exposed on her own, and after some fire-breathing and some swapping about she was repositioned safely in his deployment zone. I foolishly moved the Doppelganger out of cover (I can’t even remember what combo I was trying to line up here – it was late in the day and I don’t think I was thinking straight), and Colette pounced on the opportunity, casting Disappearing Act with her trigger and turning my most expensive minion into a Mannequin.

The only positive from this was that it gave Pandora a nearby target for Incite which gained her some extra movement and allowed her to engage the whole of Rob’s crew. A liberal usage of Soulstones on some casting flips, and a high Crow that I’d been saving for the occasion meant that after Pandora’s onslaught, the Performer and Colette herself found themselves on Rob’s board edge and needing to rally. The Duet shot around my right flank, captured the 3rd table corner and hit a few things along the way, but I wasn’t too worried about it.

I was pretty confident at this point that I had Colette trapped and potentially even run off the board. You might even say I was over confident. Colette rallied and recovered in the next couple of turns, and I realised that fate had deserted me when I drew a hand of cards with nothing above a 5. Colette’s retaliation was brutal and effective. Magician’s Duel, Magician’s Duel, Magician’s Duel. Pandora bit the dust and the Showgirls started to close on my deployment zone. With time running out on the round, Rob picked up his tape measure to move Colette her Wk which would bring her into my DZ and score him points for both Distract and Breakthrough. With the tape measure poised, Jo the Tournament Organiser rushed past shouting “Time’s Up! Tape Measure’s Down!” Unlucky for Rob, this denied him 4 VPs, but Cassandra still got to take her free activation at the end of the game and interact with the final board quarter for Power Ritual to give him the game at 4-2.

Sorry it's taking me so long to finish this series of posts - my very helpful place of work has recently decided to ban blogging from work at lunch time, which has meant I'm struggling to fit time in to write these up. Recap of the final game and the results coming soon though.