There and Back Again: A Masters Tale Part 3

By Andrew Colman

Welcome to the third and final part of my Masters blog! If you haven’t , do read the previous two components I’ve written prior this one for context on what is occurring.  (It would also pad my already enormous ego to have people reading it!).

Day 2: ‘It is close, so close to achieving its goal’

Sunday dawned bright and clear, but still far below a soft Sydneysiders acceptable minimum temperature. A slightly later start time was appreciated for the extra hours’ worth of sleep. I was starting the day in a powerful position at the head of the rankings, but facing the task of maintaining it for the whole day against the top of the field.

I’d like to give a little context on the significance of my match against Locky. For this event we were both members of the Fallen so it was a team kill to start. We’d first met in the final round of Masters last year. In a game that ultimately decided the tournament with us both sitting on 5 wins, I’d secured 1st place by a good 15 point margin whilst knocking him down to 4th denying him almost all points over the course of that encounter. I knew that if I were him I’d be leaping at the chance for a rematch. We narrowly avoided playing each other at Clash, which he ultimately won, being on the top tables next to each other in the final round. There was a distinct feeling in the back of my mind that whoever won this match would have a very good opportunity to go and win the event. No pressure for round 4 out of 6 right?

 

Round 4: Random Encounter vs Lachlan Rigg (Survivors of Laketown)

Warband 1

Bard the Bowman with Armour and Horse (LEADER)

2 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Shield

2 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Bow

4 Lake-Town Militia with Shield

1 Lake-Town Militia with Bow

 

Warband 2

Percy

4 Lake-Town Militia with Bow and Spear

6 Lake-Town Militia with Bow

 

Warband 3

Alfrid the Councillor

5 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Shield

4 Lake-Town Militia with Shield

 

Warband 4

Gandalf the Grey with Horse

5 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Shield

4 Lake-Town Militia with Shield

 

THRANDUIL’S HALLS

Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood with Horse

IMG_0504[1].JPGAny man who wants to give their last, follow me!

The mission we were playing was Random Encounter. Every player receives a random assortment of 3 out of a 6 possible objectives. Crucially, you do not which objectives your opponent has secured. The opportunity to play mind games with your opponents  was apparent. I indulged in it wholeheartedly, perhaps overindulged as we shall soon see. The 3 objectives I received were:

Bodyguard: Keep my leader alive, have more heroes alive

Capture: Capture my opponents objectives

Destroy: Break my opponent’s army

I was pretty confident that I would be able to fulfill all of my objectives. The scribe and mercenaries gave me a very good opportunity to lockdown the objective points, the Goblin King is very difficult to kill and I had more heroes to start than Locky. Double Monsters hurling through a defense 4 army should be able to do the work they needed to in order to break Locky as well. We were playing on the fantastic Pelagrir board, with lots of cover, ruins, chokepoints and general theme oozing out of every crevice. From a tactical standpoint, it gave me good cover from the nasty volume of bowfire Locky was packing. There were 12 bowman backed up by Percy, alongside the sniper team of Legolas and Bard. Deployment had me placing everything at the back of the board bar the Goblin King’s warband, which meant I had some difficult decisions to make. Ideally most of my army would be towards the front so they wouldn’t have to run the gauntlet of missile fire hailing down from both bridges. But since they weren’t, did I leave the Goblin King to make the trip with them or commit him straight into combat? I ultimately opted for combat, reasoning that should he be at risk I could simply rotate him out reasonably comfortably. It’d also give me the opportunity to mind game him into thinking I didn’t have the Bodyguard objective and potentially reduce the focus that he’d otherwise receive.

IMG_0548[1]Locky assumed a commanding sniper position atop the two bridges

The Goblins all surged forward in a mad dash to spend the least amount of time under the withering hail coming from the the two bridges on overwatch. Grinnah was brought down in an enfilade of fire from Legolas and Bard and the Shaman was left with one wound and no fate, but the rest of the archery was thankfully not as devastating as it could have been with only light to moderate casualties. The Goblin King slammed into the laketowners and throwing bodies left and right. Some plucky goblins opted to jump into the water and attempt to swim under the bridge. A few of the more allergic to washing stumbled and drowned. Meanwhile the scribes reinforcements were beginning to encroach on his position from behind.

IMG_0549[1]The elite goblin Marines dons their scuba gear and jumps into the water.

In the meantime the Dark Marshal and the Black Numenoreans threatened his left flank, causing everyone to withdraw to the bridge and ceding me sole control of 70% of the board. I had control of 3 of the 4 objective markers with an easy access to the final one, an equal hero count and the ability to get into combat and start tearing his troops apart. I was rightfully feeling comfortable about being able to score good points whilst denying him lots of potential objectives. Looking at Locky, it was clear he had realised the same.

But it’s never over until its over.

IMG_0550[1]A truly beautiful board.

The Goblin King stood in a chokehold only allowing a single model to fight him at a time, and he had slaughtered his way through a total of 8 milita thus far. Locky then opted to charge him with Gandalf, hoping to damage him with Orcrist as it ignores his blubber save. Thematic, but somewhat risky because of his lower attacks and fight value, in addition to being potentially annihilated himself should he lose a fight. It paid very heavy dividends however, as over 2 turns from 4 attacks he successfully dealt 4 wounds and slew the Goblin King outright. The unexpected speed in which he was vanquished took me completely aback and gave no opportunity to withdraw him as I had initially envisioned. It was an undesirable setback, denying me lots of vps  and slowing my killing capacity, but I still held a controlled position. Locky was tunneling hard on his archers dealing out damage, which allowed the Dark Marshal to swoop in over two turns and hurl them pell mell across the bridge. I made another crucial mistake in overestimating where my mercenaries could deploy and holding them back for far too long, and immediately realised they would pay no part in the battle. They were another part of the mind games I had been playing with Locky, and while that had certainly served its purpose in demoralizing him into a losing position, they now weren’t going to be able to anything to help me win! It was at this point I realised that I was letting the game slip away from me, when I by all rights should have been simply playing it out for a comfortable win.

IMG_0553[1]Defeat from the jaws of victory?

It was now crucial that I break Locky before the game ended to secure the victory and a clean 8 VPs to tie the game up irrespective of his objectives. The Dark Marshal flew into the midst of his army looking to seal the deal whilst the goblins closed in on all sides. The Dark Marshal did minimal damage on impact before being swarmed in the final turn of the game and slain. As the dust settled, I was a heartbreaking one model short of breaking him. One model denied me a full 8vps and rendered it 0. Losing the Goblin King had caused me to lose heavy VPs, and the loss of the Dark Marshal at the death meant that because Locky also had the Bodyguard objective, he had more heroes alive and could turn it from a 6-5 to me to a final result of 8-6 in his favor. I’d gotten into his head and Locky fully believed he had lost the match even as it ended, even as we were counting up the points. My mind games had been flawless, successful to a fault, ending up in some measure into tricking Locky into winning. The look of surprise on his face when he realised he’d actually won was priceless. By the end we’d gathered a decent crowd of spectators around the table in what was dubbed the match of the tournament, I’m sure it was a most entertaining game to watch.

As I look back at this game, there are multiple  errors I made. Splitting my force, losing the Goblin King, wasting my time with the Black Numenoreans and Dark Marshal and holding back the mercenaries for far far too long. I still back my decision to commit the Dark Marshal at the death, taking a 6 point win was far too much of a risk for the overall tournament standard, and even with a mediocre finish from me Locky had made mistakes as well, I was still heartbreakingly close to the break and the win, a single defense 4 model lay between victory and defeat across multiple combats.

Unfortunately you can’t win them all. With the advantages I created and the subsequent volume of errors I made when it mattered, I didn’t deserve the win. Far better to lose and learn from your mistakes than win and fail to recognise them. Good advice for life in general!

Final Score: 6-8

 

Round 5: Clash of Champions vs Liam Daily (Moria)

Warband 1

Durbûrz, the Goblin King of Moria

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

2 Warg Marauder

 

Warband 2

Moria Goblin Shaman

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

1 Warg Marauder

 

Warband 3

Grôblog

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

1 Warg Marauder

 

Warband 4

Moria Goblin Shaman

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Orc bow;

 

Warband 5

The Watcher in the Water

IMG_0499[1]Who ordered seafood?

I was quietly disappointed after the result of the last game as I knew it was a powerful opportunity to retain my position on the top of the table. Regardless, winning the final two games should put me in good stead for contention should I pull it off.

Round 5 I was playing against my travelling companion Liam, the final member of the Fallen, meaning I had now had to play against all 3 of my teammates (a testament to the quality of our team that we were all at the top!). Liam and I had spent a fair amount of time discussing strategies in the days prior and I was quietly confident he was going to be a dangerous contender for the top echelons. We’d practiced against each other, so we had a fairly intimate knowledge of how the other persons

We were playing Clash of Champions, which is all about getting kills on your leader, and generally slaughtering your opponent. Liam’s Watcher wasn’t his starting leader, but there was always a chance he would drown Durburz. Even he didn’t, there was a severe danger he would simply snatch up Goblins and deliver them to Durburz on a silver platter. It was also very obvious that he would deploy on the river for the Watchers benefit, as with my lack of shooting I would have to approach him.

Accordingly, we deployed some distance apart in a manner reminiscent of a mexican standoff. I didn’t want to commit and have my champion snatched off by Mr Tentacles to be tied up for the entire game without any prior opportunities to get rid of all the will on his shamans and heroes, whilst Liam didn’t want to face my combat nasties and take the opportunity to shoot whilst he could. A cagey start saw us maneuvering for position, as I tried to stay out of Watcher range whilst throwing off sap wills left and right.

IMG_0555[1]A 6×4 board and we end up on a 2×2 square!

I forced Liams hand with a humble goblin, travelling at Mach 3. The Goblin King successfully killed a Moria Goblin with a thrown Goblintown minion, forcing Liam to engage else he lose outright. I was so tunneled on the Watcher’s movement within the water (which doubles it from 4 inches to 8) that Liam’s decision to take him out of the water took me aback. He swarmed up, threatening to grab the Dark Marshal.

This prompted a truly unique and memorable passage of play. The Goblin King remained stationary and prepared to throw another Goblin. Thrown Goblins knock enemy models to the ground, thus if I could hit the Watcher he couldn’t use his tentacles, which are a shooting attack. Liam calls a heroic shoot, fully aware of what I intend and looking to strike first. I called a heroic shoot in response. A few judicious might later, I win the roll off, successfully hit the watcher and knock it to the ground, preventing it from shooting, and crucially limiting it to a 2 inch move the next turn! This then lead to a massed heroic combat/strike the next turn, with the hapless watcher swarmed and brought down by the King, bringing his kill count to 2. To cap it off, as Liam realises Durburz will never now reach combat, he makes the noble sacrifice of drowning himself in the river, using might to move down the result and give himself a new champion! One of the more ridiculous passages of play I’ve witnessed in recent memory, yet one that made complete tactical sense at all stages.

IMG_0558[1]The Watcher in the Water is filleted for sushi like a fish out of water

At the same time on the other flank, Liam surges into the fray as he desperately tries to secure kills on Groblog, his new champion and use his marauders to run down my goblins. My Black Numenoreans were crucial in getting the fight value to prevent them from rampaging and locking them down. Groblog successfully gets 1 kill, before the Dark Marshal swoops in to immbolise him for the rest of the game. I was fortunate that he would fail to resist the first spell, which made me reasonably confident that I could keep him down and take the game, it was just a question of by what margin.

IMG_0559[1]Thrown Goblins were the clear MVP of this match

The Goblin King waded through the river as Liam came close to breaking. The Moria goblins clung together as the encroaching swarm of their brethren came in from all sides. As the game was coming to a close, Liam consciously stayed as from the Goblin King as possible. Knowing that he would be unable to reach combat, on the last turn he readied his throwing arm for one last throw. He hit, and slew another Goblin, bringing his total to 3, breaking Liam and making my champion kills greater than double his, for a slough of victory points for me in the dying moments of the game. Liam was a difficult opponent who’s getting very good at the game, and I think he’s going to be making waves in the events he attends here in Sydney in the coming months.

Final Score: 16-4

 

Round 6: Seize and Control vs Matthew Todd(High Elves)

Gil-galad on armoured horse w/shield (Leader)

4 High Elves w/elven blade

4 King’s Guard w/spear and shield

1 High Elf w/banner, spear and shield

3 High Elves w/elven bow

 

Elladan (warband leader) and Elrohir

3 High Elves w/elven blade

4 King’s Guard w/spear and shield

3 High Elves w/elven bow

 

Arwen

3 High Elves w/elven blade

3 King’s Guard w/spear and shield

4 High Elves w/elf bow

1 High Elf w/elven blade and elf bow

IMG_0492[1]

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing;
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven’s field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

Mr Todd is a member of the Green Dragon Podcast and a true tournament veteran. I’d predicted him for 3rd place in preamble to the event. It seemed I would need to prove my own prediction wrong if I wanted to place myself! The final round promised for a truly interesting finale. Matt had been on a supreme high of confidence after day 1 with 3 wins which continued into round 4 with a massive win at the same time myself and Locky sunk each other in points. He’d been promptly brought back down to earth with a thorough trouncing from Locky in round 5. Liam was playing Locky and our hopes rested with him to tie him down (he received a barrage of advice from us). Were that to be the case, there was a field of 4 or 5 of us in contention for 1st place. It was time to play for all the marbles. We were playing Seize and Control, effectively Domination. Understandably my focus was intent on the match at hand, so there’s an unfortunate dearth of photos for this particular game, I only took a couple at the end. I will endevour to make this an appealing chunk of text!

My list does exceptionally well at Domination being able to capture all the objectives simultaneously.  We were playing on a heavily forested board, which would favor Matts elves. He also had lots of Kingsguard, of which the Fight 6 would be heavily nullifying the power of my 2 monsters in combination with elven blades. I was fully prepared to heroic strike to be able kill the models I needed to. The match started with Gilgalad storming down a flank, slaying all the goblins in his path. I reasoned it was a reasonable trade to removing him from the primary conflict and keep away from my own hitting power. He would eventually burst through and start hunting down the scribe, who would summon reinforcements to intercept and stall him. In the centre of the board the goblins performed their trademark scuttle towards the waiting ranks of elves. In the meantime Liam had suffered early losses against Locky, but was rapidly coming back into the game for a slight lead. There was everything to play for!

It was at this point that one of the unfortunate realities of a dice game struck. I failed to cast fury two turns in a row on the roll of a one. I wasn’t channeling either so that I could retain the might to ensure it went off. A 1/36 chance that was going to severely punish me in the end game. The shaman enabled my horde to stick around, and if I were to position it in the center of the board, it could daisy chain stand fasts for all my heroes to subsequently cover the entire area around the central 3 objectives whilst the mercenaries secured another. It’d allow me to snowball my numerical advantage for the games entirety. My heart sunk when I saw this, because I knew it was going to make the game much harder and I had really overwhelm the elves, and quickly. If I was broken before the end was nigh, I was most likely now going to lose.

With some moderate casualties from bowfire, the goblins ran into combat. It is at this point I make a very foolish error. I commit the Dark Marshal to the wrong elf, so that he would be in range of a heroic combat slingshot from the twins. I was even conscious of this possibility, and was looking at a different target for him. Yet I still made the mistake. A moment of carelessness, perhaps the pressure brought on by losing my late game safety in the shaman or a touch of fatigue? Irrespective of the reason, it would prove costly. Matt still needed things to go his way because I had several mitigating tools, but full credit to him, he took the opportunity with both hands, and the Twins successfully brought down the Dark Marshal. My late game was looking even more grim now without a high courage hero and one of my major kill threats. Arwen was unable to cast natures wrath, I was fortunate to be able to resist all its casts with a couple of might to assist. One of the Twins was slain in the continuing melee, alongside a steady grind of elves and goblins. My scribe reinforcements were somewhat underwhelming on the whole this game,  and some of those that did come on were diverted to prevent Gil Galad from murdering the scribe.

IMG_0561[1]Gilgalad ran out of might and was on a solo mission relatively early in the game, but it did not stop the mighty king leaving a fearsome pile of bodies in his wake.

I then hit the dreaded break point. As I feared, without my safety nets, my army promptly collapsed upon itself. I was forced to bring the mercenaries on into the primary fight to prevent a complete rout rather than securing one of the periphery objectives Matt was looking to contest. The Goblin King fled immediately, and with it most of my hopes of winning. Should he stay around, I had the killing power to continue grinding out the elves. Gilgalad was in the far corner of the board, and if Matt wanted to contest the final objective, he would have to stay there. Unfortunately it was not be, and the elves began to slay the remaining goblins or more commonly, left them to flee en masse.

IMG_0563[1]My blunder combined with the shamans failure had cost me dearly.

As the final goblins were put to the sword, Matt had managed to pull out a respectable if not overwhelming win, but Locky in the meantime had narrowly pulled out the win over Liam. I mentioned it earlier but I have to give recognition to Liam, he did exceptionally well in the face of a very difficult schedule of opponents and pushed both me and Locky hard.

Final Result: 4-14

 

With 6 wins from 6 games, Locky would thus be the Master of Middle Earth for 2017. He would do it playing against the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place getters. A truly impressive achievement Locky, well done, I am honored to pass on the title!

In what is some true irony, in the reversal of Locky and I’s positions last year, I would finish in 4th place. We’re one to one now, third time takes all?

David Leonard (for the second year in a row!) and Matthew Todd finished in 2nd and 3rd respectively, whilst Liam took 6th. My predictions for the podium in the preamble report I gave before the event proved to be wonderfully accurate, which was pleasing to see. My eye for how people play the game was alive and well! The Fallen would take the team award for the 3rd year at Masters by a decisive margin, despite the substantial volume of team killing we had enacted against each other.

It was a most enjoyable weekend away. I had some commanding wins and some heartbreaking losses. It wasn’t the best I have ever played, but I had a real blast of a time and it was great to see some of our friends from the south again. Goblintown is entering retirement alongside the Rivendell Knights for the forseeable future, however I feel a serious urge to return to my roots in the all cavalry force. I feel its where I best shine as a player, dictating the terms of battle, holding control and never relenting it. At the time of writing, I lead a mounted Gondor force to a tournament win at Courage of Numenor last weekend. I enjoyed a 17 game consecutive winstreak in the wake of my win at Masters last year, so hopefully its a sign that history may repeat itself!

A colossal thank you must go to all my opponents on the weekend, it’s the community that makes the game what it is. A thank you must also go to Kylie for running the event, and to Josh for once again being a most generous host. And lastly, a thank you to you, dear reader, for making it to the end. If you haven’t done it before, come along to an SBG event, you won’t regret it. If you have, I hope to see you at an event soon! I’d be remiss not to promote the next event in Sydney, Hobbitcon, the first weekend of September with one and two day options. I’ll be helping run the event, so if that’s an incentive you won’t have to play me! If you’re not a member, join the Australian LoTR & Hobbit SBG Community , all the details for this and other events are here. If you enjoyed this blog, please comment and let me know if you’d like to see more of this or other things in the future.

Masters will be taking a road trip to Sydney next year, so I’ll be back to reclaim the title!

Thank you for reading! Happy Hobbying!

Andrew

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