Is there a 4th list archetype?

Featured in the last No Quarter was a write up about the 3 main archetypes of list building or play-style: Attrition, Assassination, and everyone’s favorite, Control. After going over the tenants of these types PP asked the reader if they thought there was a fourth type. Well that got me to thinking, is there a fourth way that I’ve seen people approach the game or even how I may have built lists in the past and I think tonight really solidified that the answer is yes. I’ll explain and let you be the judge. Continue reading

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Clocking Out – Forge Master Syntherion

I wanted to start collecting my thoughts on Convergence of Cyriss (CoC), and their different models.  I figured since I would be doing it anyway, I might as well turn it into a semi-irregular post of sorts.

I decided to start with Forge Master Syntherion for several reasons.  First, he is the Warcaster I have played the most in the faction, given the majority of my play before a few weeks ago was in a Journeyman league, and he strongly fits my play style.  Second, he is the battle box Warcaster, and so he is the first Warcaster most players will experience when starting a Convergence army.  Third, he is just so dang cool!

Abilities

Statistics

Syntherion’s stats are very reasonable, although there is nothing too earth-shattering about them.  He has a MAT of 6, RAT of 5 – the best combined of those stats in the faction’s warcasters (highest RAT, second highest MAT).  He has the highest ARM of 18, and second highest health of 20 boxes.

The MAT and RAT are of particular note, as all of the CoC Warjacks use their controller’s MAT and RAT.  While not amazing, the MAT 6 means, boosted, you are hitting 16s on average, and have a decent chance to hit 18s enough to get a kill.  The RAT of 5 is the highest RAT in the faction, and it is good enough for most of our purposes.  We will talk about more of that later, when we discuss battlegroup options.

Special Abilities

Syntherion’s special abilities are where he shines.  His Field Marshall ability means his whole battlegroup is healing every turn.  This is a HUGE deal when it comes to attrition.  It doesn’t seem like much – 1 to 3 damage, after all, isn’t a ton – but when it means that you can go from having an almost-wrecked Warjack to something that is fully functional, your opponents will HAVE to try and kill the Warjacks in one go, or risk being beaten to pieces the next turn.  Note that this healing is AFTER allocating focus (in the “other control phase actions” portion of the control phase), so if you need to allocate to a Warjack that has lost it’s induction node, you will have to heal it and induct focus to it afterward.

His other ability of note, Resourceful, is amazing on him.  Not having to pay to upkeep three spells (Three!) per turn means three extra focus floating around.  And he wants those upkeeps up, pretty much all the time.

Spells

Syntherion has a group of spells that are really good for his play style.  I want to go through each one, to talk about it and what it does for him specifically.

Convection

This spell is kind of meh on … well, anyone except Amon Ad’Raza (who, let’s be honest here, is pretty meh already).  In a pinch, it is a decent attack spell, and if you need to hit something with a spell, the fact that if you kill it (if it is living and enemy) you get to allocate a focus is nice, but there are so many better things for him to spend focus on.  Like allocating it to his warjacks in the first place.

Hot Shot

Hot Shot is the kind of spell that makes people swoon.  It is a major reason why, despite being a ‘jack ‘caster, Syntherion is considered to have a strong anti-infantry game as well.  When you put it on the Cipher, for instance, and do the Bombardment shot, ALL models under the AOE take boosted POW 6 damage.  The Cipher can do this twice per turn, as the gun is RoF 2.  Syntherion can then cycle this to another cipher (which also had the focus the first Cipher spent for the second shot inducted, naturally), after upkeeping it for free, and have it shoot two more.  So, for three focus, you get 4 4″ AOEs with boosted POW 6 damage rolls.  That will kill a LOT of infantry, as it is, on average, doing 16 damage to them.  In short, I love Hot Shot.  And, since it upkeeps for free, late game you can put it up on another ‘jack (or even Synth, if you don’t need Synergy anymore), and from that point on get free boosted damage rolls.

Magnetic Hold

This spell is Unique to Syntherion, I believe.  It lowers the DEF and SPD of target model/unit, and gives all constructs in your army +2″ when charging the affected models.  So, it slows down your enemy, AND makes them easier for you to close with?  Pretty amazing.  It is pricey, at 3 Focus, and is hard to get off unless you have a corollary (since you want all that sweet, sweet focus on your Warjacks most turns), but at the right time, it can stop your opponent’s plans, or give you that extra distance you need to scrap something important.

Remember, because it is a penalty to SPD, the affected models cannot charge, slam or trample.  Also, since it is not on your own battlegroup (unless you are doing something really wonky) you don’t get to upkeep it for free.

Reconstruct

It used to be that Saeryn was the only kid on the block with a similar ability.  Syntherion came along, went “I like that idea!” and ran with it.  If the warjack that this spell is on is disabled (all boxes are full), you remove 1 damage from each system, place it WITHIN 3″, and reconstruct expires.  Another way that Syntherion really forces the attrition game.  Now, much like against Saeryn, you have to expect to kill one of his warjacks twice, and have the models ready to do it.

Synergy

Synergy is one of those spells that is either great, or awful, depending on what else is being brought to the table.  In Syntherion’s case, it is great.  Amazing.  Spectacular even.  Because of the induction node rules, you can pass around focus like it is candy, and you can get early boosts on attacks to get the Synergy bonus up for the later, super important attacks.

This spell, along with the general Convergence focus on Warjacks, is why Syntherion loves large battlegroups.  It is why the Galvanizer is so amazing with him.  Hit 6 models before the Galvanizer, and now it is hitting at a Pow 18 – a 3 point light Warjack is hitting with MAT 12, POW 18.  Pretty amazing.

Some things to note about this spell that throws off a lot of newer players.  First is that it only is affected by, and only affects, melee attacks.  You cannot use the bonus for ranged attacks, nor does it help ranged attacks.  Second, is that it is a +1 to hit and damage per previous model that hit – this means that it isn’t +1 per attack that hit previously, but +1 per previous model.  Third is that the bonus ONLY happens while within Syntherion’s control area – both for generating the bonus (the model doing the hit must be in his control area) and for receiving the bonus (when attacking, it only gets the bonus while within his control area).

Feat

Syntherion’s feat is very good for what he has.  He allows his battlegroup to charge for free, and gives them Weapons Platform (lets them shoot as well as make melee attacks).  Since you are going to have a lot of Warjacks that can do both, it is very nice to be able to walk up, or charge up, hit something, and then shoot something else (or the thing you are engaged).  It means that ‘jacks that are normally ranged only, such as the Diffuser or Mitigator, are going to be able to get into melee to help build up the synergy bonus, without needing to give up their initial ranged attacks.

Just note that you have to finish ALL of your initial attacks before you buy extras.  If you don’t, you lose those initial attacks.  So you have to do all of your melee, and ranged, initials before buying more melee attacks (or, in the case of the Cipher, more ranged attacks).

All in all, not an overwhelming feat on it’s own, but very powerful when taken into account with his other abilities, and his usual battlegroup makeup.

Theme – The Great Machine

Syntherion’s theme list is one that is definitely worth building towards.  You will probably be running it anyway, whether you realize it or not, and it gives you some amazing benefits.  The only problem is, as of this writing, the Corollary has not been officially released, and it is required for Tier 2.  I have been playing with him in Tier 1 for now, since Tier 1 gives you a decent bonus (Algorithmic Dispersion Optifex solos get Advanced Deployment).  Once the corollary comes out, I cannot see running him out of tier, for that reason.

Warjacks

There isn’t a warjack in the faction that Syntherion doesn’t like.  He can handle ranged and melee ‘jacks equally well, and likes to have a good mix of both.  That said, some of them are well worth noting for their utility in his army specifically.

Assimilator

While I have not had a chance to play with this Vector yet, there has been discussion about using him with Syntherion because Hot Shot on Ground Pounder (boosted POW 12s on a 4″ AOE!) would be very, very useful.  Especially with a Cipher to hot-swap between, I think it would be very powerful.

Cipher

This is the sweet spot for Syntherion.  The Cipher has lots of flexibility, and it has a 4″ AOE that does POW 6 blast damage as one of it’s shots.  This means that, with Hot Shot and a RoF 2, you can get 2 4″ AOEs with boosted POW 6 damage rolls.

POW 6 doesn’t sound like a lot, I know.  Until you realize that, on average, you roll 10 on three dice.  Then it becomes a POW 16 damage roll.  Most things that you need AOEs against (Daughters of the Flame, Mage Hunter Strike Force, Kayazy, etc) will die to it, and even those that you normally wouldn’t use it against, like Bane Thralls, will die in enough numbers to make it a useful attack.

Syntherion’s play-style is a slow grind, leading up to a hard anvil strike.  The Cipher helps to support that, between throwing out rough terrain, easy access to flare, and the bombardment, it can really cause infantry-heavy lists problems, especially if they don’t have easy access to pathfinder.

Corollary

I almost considered leaving this out, since it is so obvious, but I thought that people might think me remiss otherwise.  The corollary is amazing.  Full stop.  Take it in every army.  Moving on…

Oh, you want reasons why?  For Syntherion, the first reason is that it helps his tier out – you HAVE to have it to get to tier 2, and as mentioned earlier, his tier list is amazing.  The second reason is it helps his focus efficiency.  The corollary is generating focus every turn, as long as it is near Syntherion.  It keeps focus from previous turns, and can dole that focus out to other vectors.  Note also that, when doling out the focus, because it is spending the focus as an action, it can induct one of those focus it spent to another Warjack as normal.  So, worst case, it is generating 2 focus a turn.  Best case?  If you can induct some back to it at the end of a turn, you can end up with 2 or 3 focus that it is passing out (fully loading a warjack, and then putting another one out there for kicks) every turn.

But wait – there’s more!  Beyond all of that, he also has Arcane Repeater.  This increases the Control Area of the warcaster – think like the Squire does for Cygnar.  Not a huge deal, but it can mean that something that would be out of control is now inside of control, for bonuses like Synergy, his feat effects, etc.

Diffuser

I love, LOVE this little ‘jack.  While not a melee powerhouse (in fact, it should only be doing melee to help a synergy chain, or as a last resort), it’s ranged attack is decently powerful, it has luck on the attack (allowing it to reroll missed attack rolls), and it applies beacon to targets hit, giving your friendly models an extra 2″ when charging a model with Beacon.  This means that, if you have Beacon AND Magnetic Hold up on a target, you will get +4 inches on the charge – which can mean actually getting to them, rather than falling short.

Galvanizer

For a 3 point Warjack, this can pack a heavy punch in Syntherion’s list.  Given the synergy stacking bonuses, I have killed enemy heavies with a fully loaded Galvanizer at the end of a synergy chain.  Also, it can repair, and it has critical grievous wounds.  Not something you want to depend upon, but very nice when it happens at the right time.

Monitor

I want to talk about the Monitor real quickly, because it can be a huge help in certain games.  While it doesn’t synergize as well as the Cipher, or even the Prime Axiom, it does lend True Sight to the army, and has a relatively strong gun with a strong range.  Add in the sustained attack on it’s spiked fist, and it can be a game finisher, especially on his feat turn.

Prime Axiom

Syntherion loves having a Prime Axiom in his lists.  He gives it the highest RAT we can see in the faction (sans during Iron Mother’s feat turn), and it gives Syntherion more board control.  That said – I don’t think I would run one below 50 points.  It is a large investment, and Synergy means he doesn’t want for high POW attacks as much as some of our other Warcasters do.

I will say – there is nothing like pegging Butcher, dragging him in, and hitting him with a MAT 11, POW 26 fist attack, when my opponent thought he was safe.  Add in the Auto Fire Accelespiker, and during Syntherion’s feat turn he gets 7 initial attacks (two Tow Cables, 3 Accelespikers, 2 fists), plus two more if he hits with both drag attacks, and THEN he can buy more.  Yeah, Syntherion does like him a LOT.

Solos

Syntherion doesn’t particularly need most of the solos – most don’t fit in his tier lists, or are superfluous, like the Enigma Foundry, but one deserves special mention.

Algorithmic Dispersion Optifex

This solo effectively gives him an arc node for 1 point, meaning it is WELL worth the cost.  It means he can stay back and cast his offensive spells, or use the arc node to get his battlegroup spells up while not being directly near them.  This can help with cycling it turn after turn, and getting his spell in the right spot at the right time.  Just remember that they cannot channel while engaged, and while they don’t necessarily die after channeling, in most cases your opponent will try to take them out afterwards, since they have to hang themselves out there to make the channel happen.

Units

Much like solos, Syntherion doesn’t really care much about units.  He loves the Optifex Directive, and it is required for his tier, but otherwise he doesn’t bring much to units, and they don’t give him much in return.  Outside of the Directive, I would avoid units with him.

Battle Engine

The CoC battle engine looks very, very cool, and seems good on paper.  Time will tell, as will playtesting, how well it plays out.  It does fit in Syntherion’s tier list, so it has that going for it.  However, he doesn’t do much to help it directly, and at 9 points, you could add another Cipher, or three Galvanizers, or a Monitor and an Algorithmic Dispersion Optifex, or… you get the idea.

In most other Warmachine factions, this battle engine would be an auto include, since they have a hard time running warjacks and it would nicely fill the role that many warjacks play.  In CoC, we WANT warjacks, much like Hordes armies want beasts.  The induction rule means that we don’t have to worry about focus as much, and Syntherion especially likes running large battlegroups.  If you must take it, feel free – it isn’t a bad choice, by any means.  I just think there are better choices for his lists, and he would prefer more warjacks before the battle engine.

Weaknesses

I have talked a lot about what Syntherion likes, what his strengths are, and the like.  What doesn’t he want to see across the table from him?  What will throw his battle plan away?

Purification

Seriously, given he is resourceful and LOVES upkeeps, purification is bad news for him.  While purification is on the rise in general (Morvahna 2, Vayl 2, Harbinger, etc) it is still not in EVERY list, and I think, especially in a 3 list format like the Masters, that he is very much still viable despite not wanting to see purification.

Lots of Heavy Infantry

While I don’t have a TON of experience with this across the table, I am still stumped as to how I would deal with a Xerxis Cataphract spam list, or a Thagrosh 1 Ogrun spam, or a Borka Family Reunion list, or the like.  (Kreoss 2 tier comes to mind too here).  Lots of infantry above ARM 15 will be difficult to deal with, especially if they are multi wound.  While he CAN deal with it, and synergy and lots of attacks from Warjacks helps that, I still think it would be quite the slog.  More testing will help to ferret this out.

Disruption

While this is a problem for most of the faction, Syntherion feels it harder because of his reliance on Synergy.  Nemo 1 is his worst nightmare (OK, maybe not worst – his worst nightmare is probably waking up to realize he is flesh and blood again).  Beware the Cygnar disruption chain!

While much of the other cortex shenanigans (cortex damage, Haley2, etc) don’t work, disruption does.  And some lists bring a lot of it to the table.  So he doesn’t want to see that if at all possible.

Strengths

What kinds of things does Syntherion like to see across the table then?  What things are his usual lists well suited for?

Warjack/Warbeast Spam

Surprise surprise – A few heavy targets?  Synth likes that, a lot.  He can easily out trade his opponent, even giving up the first trade, and can out threat most opponents in this category as well (Circle shenanigans being one of the few things that beat him on this).  Since he can repair every turn, his ‘jacks can repair every turn, and he generally has repair models in the list (Galvanizers, Optifex Directive), he can out weather and out attrition as well.

Light Infantry Spam

If you cringe when I say “Winterguard Deathstar,” then you will love to know that Syntherion with two Ciphers is very adept at handling that particular problem.  Boosted POW 6s will kill Winterguard with ease, and it will kill other lower-armor as well.  Terminus bane/mechanithrall spam?  Outside of Bane Knights, Syntherion will kill most of those things with AOEs.  Add in some mitigators to get some auto-point damage rolls, and you can take on anything Terminus will bring to the table.

Parting Shot

Syntherion is a strong Warcaster who brings a lot to the table.  Between his battle group help with Synergy, his relatively high MAT and RAT (seriously, Khador players are envious, I promise!) and his ability to keep his battlegroup going despite horrific injury, he is an attrition ‘caster with a strong end game.  Just avoid Vayl and Morvahna and you will be fine.

Until next time, continue the Great Work.

On Temple Flameguard, a Protectorate Novice’s Perspective

Protectorate of Menoth is my newest faction, and it is currently my third (I have owned and sold off both Circle  & Legion).  In my limited time in service to the God of Man, I have grown intensely fond of the Temple Flameguard.  They were one of the first units I wanted to pick up, having seen them used to great effect against me in previous games.  And already, it is hard for me not to include them in every list I make.  They have earned their keep in every game I have run them, and I wanted to share what I think makes them such a great option.

Let’s start by taking a look at the raw stats:  TFG have a good SPD which, along with their reach weapons, gives them a great threat range of 11 inches.  They have average MAT (offset by their Combined Melee Attack), pointless RAT, and slightly lackluster STR.  Their CMD is decent, but nothing to write home about.  Overall POW on their melee weapons barely breaks double digits, although it too is somewhat offset by CMA.  From a stats perspective, what I really appreciate the most about TFG is their DEF (one higher than that of Protectorate light jacks).  Along with many of their abilities and combos (more on that later), these guys can be extremely difficult to hit.  Their ARM equals their DEF, and can reach insane levels with still more tricks.

As far as abilities go, there is the aforementioned Combined Melee Attack, which can help them produce a decent damage output when necessary.  Flameguard also pack two very good defensive abilities:  Set Defense and Shield Wall.  Both of these defensive buffing abilities really make them survive.  When in Shield wall, enemies will want to be charging them to get enough damage to take them out, but thanks to Set Defense that gets much harder.  And while 1 pt of DEF may not seem like much, DEF 15 against the charge really shines.

It is worth noting now that I never field Temple Flameguard without their Unit Attachment.  For 2 extra points, you really make out in my opinion.  the UA brings yet another reach model with a higher MAT to bring to those CMA attacks, along with three extra strong abilities.  Ranked Attacks makes the unit a superb front line, escorting Daughters of the Flame, Deliverers, or any other offensive weapon down field.  Iron Zeal acts as another layer of shield wall.  The synergy between it, Set Defense, and Shield Wall give you a turn where it attempting to kill a Flameguard model seems like a suicide run.  And to add insult to injury, Menoth’s Howl means that whatever the unit doesn’t kill will be left aflame.  That is more value than most UAs bring; all for 2 additional points.  A full-on 12 man unit brings quite a toolbox for an 8 point investment.

In a faction of synergies, the Temple Flameguard are right at home.  For my money, it doesn’t get better than hooking them up with a Warcaster with Defender’s Ward; those being pSeverius, pKreoss, and Vindictus.  The defensive number stacking gets pretty ridiculous, but in the best case, TFG can reach 17/23 with this spell (against the charge, in Shield Wall, with Defender’s Ward and Iron Zeal).  That is a turn of defensive godliness.  But even if they ran, the base DEF that Defender’s Ward (or Holy Ward) give them can be pretty hard to hit. Backed by a Reclaimer, TFG are the gift that keep on giving for the savvy Menite.

In addition to what they can borrow from their peers, I value these guys for what they contribute.  For me, that primarily comes in two forms:  as one of the game’s best tarpit units, and as an escort for a more fragile and valuable offensive payload.

I alluded to their tarpitting abilities above, but Temple Flameguard have everything an elite tarpit needs:

  • a decent command range to spread out
  • reach to be more threatening with free strikes and engaging
  • suitable speed to keep up with their army
  • excellent defensive abilities/survivability

I know Manatee has plans to go into tarpitting as a strategy in its own post, but suffice to say that TFG are a pain for an opponent to eat through.  Between all of the above, I have seen many an opponent pour resources into trying to get them off the board.  Again, all from a very affordable unit.

And finally, this unit excels are delivering a potent offensive payload.  Between their great survivability and  Ranked attacks, there are many options here, but I would like to list my favorites:

  • Screening a full units of Deliverers with pKreoss; waiting for that critical feat turn
  • Escorting either Daughters of the Flame or Knights Exemplar towards their respective favorite victims; single wound infantry and heavy warnouns
  • Keeping Holy Zealots alive long enough to save their own mini-feat for late game (when a well timed Greater Destiny can be crippling)
  • Blocking access to Protectorate’s wide array of dangerous warjacks until said ‘jacks can get the alpha strike

The list goes on, but you can see just how versatile this unit is.

While there are certainly some things TFG should watch out for (ongoing effects are particularly nasty; avoiding both their respectable DEF and their Shield Wall order), their price, versatility, and defensive staying power are something no Protectorate player should overlook.  If you have passed on TFG before for their lack of offensive output, I suggest you leave that role to the experts (Knights Exemplar, any Protectorate Jack) and deliver that payload with the always-effective Temple Flameguard!

As always, thanks for reading!

Note Taking – Update

So, I have been working on taking notes during my games.  As one commenter noted on my last article, I have found it hard to take notes during the game.  But I have found it very beneficial to note after the game what won/lost the game, and what I could have done better/should keep doing.  Keeping the army information has also been useful, and I think I am going to start keeping better track of my wins/losses so I know how well I am really doing in my local meta.

Sorry about the lack of posts/brevity of posts.  It was Labor Day this weekend in the States, so we were all off having fun, and leaving the ring of fire surrounding our town.  Regular updates should commence tomorrow.  Hope everyone in the States had a safe and fun Labor Day weekend, and everyone else had a good weekend as well!

Tips and Tricks for the New Warmachine & Hordes Player: Strategy 2

This weeks discussion will focus on movement of troops and how to analyze your game.  I found a weakness and I forced myself to play against it.

Aggressive play

I have mentioned before that I am a pretty conservative player.  I don’t always play like “I have a pair.”  This week I resolved to throw all caution to the wind and get into my opponents face as fast as I could.  The idea was if I know how the game feels when playing it safe, and I then learn how the game feels when I play aggressively I can find my happy middle.  Experienced players know their play style.  My play style is still malleable.

Having decided to just focus on that one goal above all else this week made the games so much fun.  It did not matter if I won or lost, as a matter of fact I may have giggled when the mage hunter strike forge took out my jacks.

Game 1  – DEATH VIA SUSTAINED CANNON ATTACK!

35pt Cryx v. Talion Charter
Bane Knights ran up to greet his infantry.  They did a great job of debuffing but I could have staggered them more.  Most of them died before they could do anything.  If I just held a rank of them back I could have counter charged and it would have been beautiful, sweet carnage.

Nightmare put prey up on the first thing he could reach and charged up the middle.  He chewed through the unit, but not without taking enough damage that he didn’t serve his full potential.  Next game I vowed to use nightmare to chew through some jacks.

Slayer and deathripper went to the right and took a cannon to the face knocking them down.  I need to give two focus to them then so they can stand up and keep running.  This was the one case where I could have been even more aggressive.

Game 2  – DEATH VIA ARC NODE CASTRATION!

35pt Cryx v. Retribution
I knew going in what the Mage Hunter Strike Force was going to do.  Regardless, the goal of the week was to push the movement of my models to their extremes.  Turn one, each jack got a focus to run and Nightmare used ghost walk to push through an obstruction.  My Retribution opponent went second and bam, jack after jack fell to his Strike Force.  It was spectacular and awesome to see how deadly they were to my jacks.  I am glad I did it though because it prepared me for game 3.

Nightmare, still pushing strong, went and ate through his three jacks in the next two turns.  I can’t wait to try out Death Jack!  The last two rounds all I had left were Deneghra, my Bane Thrall Officer and Nightmare without arms.  But don’t count me out yet, Denny went on the offensive and venom spammed two full units down to two models.  Eventually the game did go to him, but man was it a fun way to lose.

Game 3 – DEATH VIA MY OWN HAND!

35pt Cryx v. Skorne
This one was probably over before it began.  I was up against Baron McFats (Rasheth), two agonizers, 2 Gladiators, a full unit of Gatorman posse, Bronzeback Titan, a task master and a unit of Beast Handlers.  It was a tier 4 theme list.  So my Ret game prepared me for this because I once again could not use arc nodes.  Not because he destroyed them, but because Castigate + the agonizers just locked me down.

So, the jacks just went into the melee with the bane thralls, nightmare and everything else.  The goal was to kill the agonizers, but the gatorman posse and the gladiators did an excellent job screening and I could not kill them fast enough.  I knew at turn two that the game was over, so I pulled a hail mary.  I needed to move Dene or she was dead, but a full advance wasn’t going to cut it and a run would mean I could not feat leading to my destruction next turn.  So I did what any self respecting Cryx player would do and I charged into the back arc of my own deathripper (taking him from full to scrapped in one hit) and then feated.

Conclusion:  If you haven’t ever done it, take a few games and push your models as far as they will go.  Cheer on your opponents as they mow you down.  Be aggressive, next week now I know how far I can push to really make my opponents play on MY TERMS!

I have my notebook now so reviewing these games after the fact is so much easier.  Experienced and Novice players alike, try this out.  Play a few games just to push, not to win and record your results.  I was feeling pretty comfortable with this list and thought I knew most of it, but placing myself in these situations forced me to be creative, and to use abilities in new ways.

Competitive Play – Taking Notes

I have always been interested in competitive play in any game I play.  I attempt to learn as much as possible about my opponents, about how the game works, etc.

There are some things we can take from other parts of our life when we want to take our play to the next level.  One of the pieces that I have always struggled with, and seen others struggle with, is note taking, and analysis.

Why take notes?

While this may seem obvious to some people, it is not always clear why we need to take notes, or what note taking actually buys us as players.  There are several benefits that can come from it.

Human Fallibility

As much as it pains me to say it, I do not have an eidetic memory.  I forget things – constantly.  At Lock & Load, I forgot to have Molik Karn’s animus activate at the end of my turn.  Yeah, it was awesome.*  Most people, in fact, do not have perfect memories.  Humans are also strongly susceptible to confirmation bias (as Meatkat has discussed previously).

What does this have to do with taking notes?  Well, if you are taking notes during the game, you are more likely to keep track of small details and iota points that will get lost in the overall ending of the game.

For instance, even if you lost a game, having notes about how well your Gladiator did against Deathjack will help you remember how good of a matchup that is.  Or if your assassination attempt failed, and led to you lose, you can later take the information from it to try and recreate it, and calculate the probabilities.  This will help you determine if you were on the right track with the attempt, or if your attempt was completely off base.

Long Term Analysis

Ever think “man, I am really good with Warcaster X – I should play them more!” and then lose your next three games with that Warcaster or Warlock?  Is that a localized minima, or are you misremembering past game performance?  If you have notes of previous games, it will give you the information you need to make that determination.  Not only that, it will give you the ability to go back and analyze what you are doing differently now from then.  Is it that you are rusty now?  Or that your opponents have learned how to handle it?  Or has the meta shifted such that your list no longer works as well?

These are all questions that are important to answer, and are literally impossible to answer concretely without the proper historical data.  As I noted before, humans are terrible at remembering things.  Having the written information in front of you makes it easier to keep the information you need at hand.

You can also use it to record your games afterwards in a spreadsheet or database, if that is your desire.  This makes it easier to do analytics on your games, and see what Warcasters and Warlocks you are actually good at, and which matchups are just plain bad for you, rather than the ones you THINK you are bad at.

Precedent

If this is such a good idea, there must be others doing it in other industries, right?  Well, there are.  The following (incomplete) list highlights a few of the places where you will see others doing exactly this behavior.

  1. Professional sports have people who’s whole job is to take notes on how the game is played, and who did what when.  They will constantly run through previous games to see what worked and what didn’t
  2. Schoolwork.  Yes, the people who tend to be the most successful in classes are the ones who take notes during class and review them later.  This has the additional benefit of reinforcing the memory by having multiple angles of input to the brain
  3. Chess players keep track of their games, and attempt to recreate the moves to see if there was a better way to handle a particular situation
  4. Go players also keep track of their games

This is a very small list of equivalent situations.  There are many others – anyone want to mention any in the comments?

I am going to take notes – now what?

The first thing is to purchase a dedicated notebook.  I recommend a notebook that doesn’t have perforated pages so that the pages don’t tear out during use.

I recommend a dedicated notebook because it makes it easy to make sure you always have it.  Include it with your miniature case, along with a pencil or pen to write with.  You will always have it with you, and will always be able to take notes no matter where you play.  You can purchase a 100-page notebook from Staples for about a dollar or two.

What notes to take?

Important dice rolls

Honestly, I would actually just keep track of every die roll you or your opponent make.  Not in a rambling way, but in a simple tabular format.  Write down all the possibilities for 3d6, 2d6 and 1d6 twice, and just hash mark alongside a number whenever a die roll comes up that value.  That way it is easy to see at the end of the night if the dice were actually a problem in the game (unlikely), or if it just seemed that way to one side or the other (more likely).

Game turning points

When something happens that completely changes the face of the game or matchup, make a quick note about it.  It is good to reflect on it later – what could your opponent have done, what could you have done differently, etc.  What would you have done if something had not gone that way?

Often, just noting the event so that you can reflect on it afterwards is enough.  But having enough information you can recall it after the game is important.

Lists and opponent played

This is an important one.  Take down your list and your opponent’s list, and who your opponent is.  This information will be invaluable three months down the road.

As an example, in our local meta, we have over 20 regular players.  If I am playing against  a retribution player, it could be one of three different players (currently – I am sure that number will grow soon).  Those three players all have very different skill levels, and very different play styles.  If I completely smoke one of them, or get smashed by another, I want to know who it was that did it to me so I can properly analyze the game later.

Scenario information

Track the scenario played (if any).  Track how it worked out, and after the game make some quick notes on how it affected your gameplay.  If it didn’t, make some notes as to why that was.  There are scenarios I struggle with – having notes about them can help determine WHY I struggle so badly with them, as well as point out to me if I actually struggle with them, or if I am just tricking myself into thinking that.

Thoughts, feelings, struggles

I would recommend a quick note about what you are afraid of from an opponent’s list before the game starts, and after the game what actually scared you.  This is a way to take assessment as to perceived threats vs. real threats.  Note if there is a sudden mood or opinion shift during the game.  If that happens, it helps to note the event that caused it to occur.  (This can also have the side effect of giving you a moment to breathe after something bad has happened to you, allowing you to refocus your thoughts).

Victories

These are just as important as the struggles and pain points during the game.  In fact, they might be more important in games we lose.  As noted earlier, it is very easy for us to only remember the bad (or good) from an event, and gloss over the other parts.  Having the small victories, the good things we did during the game, can help us see what we need to do more of, as well as help keep us from making excuses for our loss.

So get started already!

OK, so I have run through the basics of note taking.  This is something I have been meaning to start for almost a year now.  I finally decided to just bite the bullet, and bought a notebook this weekend from Staples after the tournament.  I will be using it tonight for the first time.  We will see how it goes.  I am sure you can expect more information right here, maybe even as early as next week, as to how well it is going.  Most of what I have discussed are from my experiences playing sports when I was younger, as well as experiences from what I wished I had taken notes about afterwards.

Anyone else done notebooks?  Any comments, experiences, suggestions?

*As an aside, if the person I played against in that game is, by some bizarre chance, reading this – you completely outplayed me.  That mistake just allowed you to completely own my face, rather than just slap me around with a wet fish.  Still a fantastic game, and a ton of fun.  The whole 3 Commanders tournament was fun!

Tips and Tricks for the New Warmachine & Hordes Player: Strategy 1

Last week went well for games.  So I decided to try something different and play with a new Warcaster.  I had been warned that Skarre2 was a huge jump from Deneghra1.  I had learned my other Warcaster pretty quickly as well as the cards so I figured what did I have to lose.

I set up a practice game this week so I could learn her at my own pace.  I was up against our local Press Ganger who was trying Protectorate of Menoth for the first time.  My opponent was my Cryx coach while another friend of ours was his Protectorate coach.  This was an interesting way to do it, and ended up being like three people playing a successful two person game.

I had studied the cards before hand and sat down with another person going over all of Skarre’s abilities.  When I sat down though to actually play the game I was overwhelmed pretty quickly.  That being said with notes in hand I learned a few things.

Jacks are like Kitties – They don’t like water baths

I have been trying to keep my jacks a little bit away from water.  Each army has different things for threat and how far they will be able to throw your Jack.  For now my focus has been to not make it obvious that they have that option.  I know with experienced players that won’t always work but the last thing I want to find is my Slayer in the pool without his water wings.

Jacks are like Sumo Wrestlers – Don’t be behind them when they fall.

My Skorne buddy taught me this one.  He slammed me with his Titan Gladiator.  This pushed my guy into my Warcaster and ended up causing my assassination.  I am sure in larger games it is harder to avoid this, but in these starting point games it is something I have learned to watch for, and for me to use to my advantage.

The Best Units Use Protection – The AOE Protection Bubble:

This is a technique I was shown this week to protect my Satyxis Raiders from AOE splash damage.  Forgive the artwork but I felt it would be best to draw out how it works as I explain it.

Viveka vs. DbSmash
Cryx vs. Protectorate of Menoth (25 pts)

So I ran my raiders up there as fast as I could, and created the placement bubble.  I call it a bubble because if you look at one of the center raiders you can see the other raiders are circled around her.  Protectorate has a LOT of fire, and they certainly aren’t the only ones with AOEs.  His Vanquisher for example has a four inch AOE.  There is just slightly more than four inches between each of my raiders.  This means that the AOE template will never go over more than one person.  If it deviates it again will only hit one model!

The other benefit comes from Free Strikes.  Lets say smash wanted to run his Repenter through my Raiders to get to something later on.  Since my Raiders have Reach there is no safe place for him to run.  I am also in good position for counter charges if things happen to my front line, and they are still close enough to support each other.

Get up in their face, The Game Rewards it:

This was my first week playing where I really felt this.  In this match I may have hedged around a pond too much; it meant that my Slayer didn’t see any action for an extra two turns.  I am not saying always use your max movement, but don’t do what I did and hedge stuff so much that you can’t do anything.  There is a difference between playing it safe and playing it smart.  Playing aggressively with my Raiders almost won me that match.  Had I chosen to be as aggressive with my Jacks I could have won.

Learn the Proper Play Etiquette and Terminology:

This helps to keep all of your actions organized in your mind as you learn your army.  By calling everything out, your opponent will be happier because they understand what you are doing as well.  This means they can also correct any terminology mistakes up front, because specific wording is important in Warmachine.  Not everything is a unit, and a slam is very different than a charge.  By stating it clearly and consistently, you are helping yourself learn the rules faster.  The following are wording fixes that were recommended to me this last week.  It has helped already.

Example – I am activating Denegra, she is going to target this arcnode here (points) and cast venom through it at THIS target.  (Remove focus for declared cast)

Example – I am activating my Bane Thralls and issuing a charge/run order.

Change out your dice out through out the game.  I pour my dice cube out on the left and as I roll, I move them over to the right.  Players have already mentioned to me that they like it because they know I won’t be using “the dice that roll well”.  It also helps eliminate any feeling that you won or lost a game on rolls, when it is pretty much always strategy that decides the outcome.   This keeps the focus on the game not the dice.

Cycling your Upkeep Spells:

While you can choose to upkeep spells at the beginning of your turn, nothing says you can’t change where they are mid turn.

This example was proposed for a game where I had two units of Satyxis Raiders.  Lets say a Deathripper had made a full advance and had been used as an arcnode to put Backlash up on the Repenter.  (Backlash means that any time I damage his Repenter now, his Warcaster takes one point of damage.)  The next turn I upkept the spell and use my first unit of Raiders to attack the Repenter, bringing that Jack down to one box.  I want to do as much damage as possible to his warcaster this turn, so then I choose to activate Skarre.  She now chooses to cast backlash on his Vanquisher which is undamaged. Leaving it on the Repenter would not make sense now; at most backlash can make his warcaster take one more point of damage, but if I move to the ‘jack with full health, I can get a point on him for EVERY attack that does damage!  Skarre’s turn is over and I then activate the second unit of Raiders and attack the Vanquisher.  This is a great example of how choosing to upkeep a spell, but then moving it mid turn can give you more damage or even an assassination.  It is a pretty sweet little trick!

Thanks again for reading! I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions.
If you want to read any of the other Tips and Tricks articles just click my name at the top or below and it will take you to my archive.

Cheers – Viveka