Masters 2018 – Day 1 ‘The Betrayer’

As the dust settles in the wake of Masters on a Monday afternoon I am currently sitting in Melbourne Airport waiting for a delayed flight whilst writing the opening to this blog. It had several contributing factors that made it a memorable and challenging event…

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My force for the event

My journey began at an unreasonably early hour on Friday morning with a pre dawn trip to the airport, flying south from Sydney from Melbourne. Upon landing I was met by the wonderful Tim Wright, who was most generous in housing us and chauffeuring us around for the weekend. I spent most of Friday in the company of Tim and Caleb, gradually painting all the finishing touches to my force to make it conform to the standards I’ve begun to set myself against and generally being massive nerds. In the evening we were joined by Ben Galea, a friend of mine I’d introduced to the game making his first interstate trip.
The weather in classic Melbourne fashion was far too cold on Saturday morning for a soft Sydneysider like myself. The usual meet and greets were had, some people I’d not seen in a year or more. The turnout this year was mediocre, but it was incredibly stacked. Looking around, I thought that there would be no hiding or free rides for anyone this year. Your likelihood of versing a top quality player in each round was considerable. I’d also be remiss not to mention the quality of all the armies that were present. It was exceptionally high,  and choosing a best painted army from the field was a demanding test. If you want a rundown on my army and my thoughts going into the event check out my previous blog entry.


Round 1: Pillage and Burn vs Nick Gentile

Aragorn – Horse, Armour, Bow

Legolas – Horse, Armour

Gimli

Eomer, Marshal of the Riddermark – Horse, Shield, Throwing Spear

1 Rider of Rohan – Banner

5 Riders of Rohan

2 Rohan Royal Guard – Throwing Spears, Horse

Captain of Rohan -Horse, Heavy Armour, Shield, Throwing Spear

8 Riders of Rohan

Pillage and Burn is a mission with 6 objectives, 3 in each deployment zone. When they are destroyed they are then placed on the other half of the board. You gain points for each objective on your side of the board at the end of the game.
My first opponent was Nick. Nick had brought an army both thematic and strong, with the 3 Hunters mounted up to join Eomer and the Rohirrm. Nick and I had a moment when we looked at each other and laughed, as two all mounted armies our initial tactics on this mission had assumed we’d be playing against a force less mobile than ourselves, which was now out the window. My goal was to be aggressive and threatening with the Ringwraiths, in the hope  that he would give ground to me for fear of being dismounted en-masse courtesy of their charges and hurls. In practice, this indeed proved to be the case.

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I deployed directly on the centre line, whilst Nick ceded his front most objective to deploy out of range, no doubt hoping to reclaim it later from my half. I was able to catch out a wayward rider on the flank with magic on the fist turn, and the fell beasts hurtled forward, swiftly slaying him and allowing the Betrayer to heroic combat into a rider on the end of Nicks force.

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This was a massive early play, if I was able to throw this rider I would knock over all his friends and dismount the majority of his force including the 3 Hunters, inflicting some serious damage and granting me an overwhelming mobility advantage for the rest an overwhelming mobility advantage for the rest of the game. It was then that the Betrayer would betray me for the first time. With a 3 highest, he failed to win the combat and stood entirely exposed in front of Nicks untouched army. Not good. A very tense contested heroic move was triggered next turn and I was very fortunate to win the 50-50 roll off and allow the Betrayer to very sheepishly fly off and rejoin the rest of my army, freshly out of might.

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The plucky rider to the right of shot prepares to repel a Nazgul on Fellbeast

At the same time in the centre I had successfully pillaged one objective and on the other flank Suladan over the next couple of turns would venture into a wood to destroy another, Bow fire being exchanged across the board all the while.  In this time Nick swung his army towards Suladans flank, the bulk of my force with the Wraiths in tow in hot pursuit. Combat broke out with myself taking the worst of it. Suladan was unhorsed and his warriors were falling around him.

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I was not entirely unhappy with this outcome however, as should I be reduced to 25% of my starting force the game would end with me holding 5 objectives. It would be a delicate  balancing act between getting to that point without giving Nick openings to break through and look to reclaim the objectives I’ve pillaged.

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Suladan managed to extricate himself from the melee as the wraiths arrived and began  unleashing a torrent of debilitating magic onto Nicks heroes. Legolas was singled out and received the full attention of both of them, successfully killing him  in a single turn of combat.

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Legolas had been threatening to use his deadly shot to snipe the wraiths off their mounts all game, a dangerous proposition with an auto hit and 3 might in reserve so I was very pleased to remove him from play. Aragorn, enraged by the loss of Legolas, left a path of destruction in his wake as he sped towards the wraiths, breaking me in the process. After slaying Legolas, I was able to successfully destroy Nicks third and final objective, securing all 6 on my side of the board. In the dying moments Aragorn dueled the Knight of Umbar to a standstill, unable to inflict any wounds on him.

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Positions on the final turn

My strategy had worked more or less as planned, I was able to leverage the threat of my fliers to seize the initiative and Nick was never in a position to take it back. Contesting me face to face would have been fraught with risk, but it may have been the option that would render the greatest opportunity to break through and get to grips with my objectives. Nick was as always friendly, charming and handsome.


Round 2 – Race to the Prize vs Henry Kerr

Race to the prize is a mission in which nothing starts on the board, but instead randomly deploys  along the table edges, with the objective being to capture the centre and hold it come the end of the game.

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Boromir Captain of the White Tower – Horse, Lance, Shield

5 Knights with Shield

1 Knight with Shield and Banner.

Faramir – armored horse, lance shield

6 Warriors of Minas Tirith – Shield

5 Guard of the Fountain Court- Shield

1 Guard of the Fountain Court- Shield and Banner.

Beregond with horse

5 Warriors of Minas Tirith – Shield

1 Warrior of Minas Tirith – Shield, Warhorn

6 Rangers of Gondor -Spear

Madril

6 Rangers of Gondor -Spear

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Mr Kerr had brought a very solid all-rounder Gondor force with good defense, good shooting, good numbers and good heroes. The only advantages I held were my mobility and my hitting power on the charge. If he got the bulk of his army to the centre and hunkered down I would really struggle to push him off it. I would thus need to intercept him on the way.

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Henry’s army was split across two adjacent board edges, and after some consideration I elected not to spend might to alter his deployment and allowed the Knight of Umbar to be deployed between the two groups whilst the remainder of my force came on from the a third side. I had a couple of reasons for this choice. He was in no immediate danger on the first turn and could get an uncontested charge off. It could also draw in Henry’s forces and pull him away from the objective or possibly allow me to sandwich half of his force from both sides should he choose to ignore him.

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Henry opted for the former, and combat swiftly broke out. Some fairly shoddy rolling drew out the Knights might reserves far earlier than I was happy with, but they inflicted decent damage on the first warband they encountered.

Boromir and Faramir began to enclose, and as the Betrayer drew near a fuilsade of magic was thrown Boromirs way, as he spent 4 of magic was thrown Boromirs way, as he spent 4 might and 3 will without seeing combat, before being dismounted as one of his men was hurled at him. Happy with this draining of resources, the Knight of Umbar bailed, leaving the riders in his warband to their fate. Henry’s hornblower had been clearly chosen for some higher purpose as he spent several turns fleeing from the Knight of Umbar to the tune of the Benny Hills theme song, avoiding spells, jumping over walls, throwing his companions into harms way until the Knight of Umbar was forced to withdraw.

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The lines of battle then reset, as I stood on the objective against what was still a very sizable and heavily armoured army. I’d neutered Boromir but hasn’t actually wounded him and we spent a couple of turns exchanging arrow fire as he advanced towards me. I came out much the worst for wear, and I could not afford to lose models in the same manner that Henry could. I thus needed to charge before he reached the centre and either run him down, or, what was looking more likely at this point, reduce myself to 25% and end the game before he could reach it and without letting my lines completely collapse and allow him to surge through.

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As my hand was thus forced, I did not  have the most optimal of charges and I made a minor error keeping Boromir from being jumped on which with the margin I was playing with I could not afford to do. The Knight of Umbar failed to win combat on the first turn and Betrayer on the second. I was dismounting models to be able to use the warspears to support them and getting them coverage to give them decent odds of success but as sometimes happens, the dice were not being particularly kind.

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Whilst lots of models were knocked prone, my charges were yielding very few kills and were being slain swiftly in turn. Suladan was cut down by Faramir in one round and the floodgates opened. The wraiths both lost combat and were destroyed. My riders were alas too brave and they stayed long enough for Henry to swarm all over the objective for the win.

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I am in two minds about that game. Part of me feels I played fairly well but got a little unlucky, and another that because I lost I needed to be more assertive and aggressive than I was. Probably both are true. Henry played well and made solid decisions to lead him to the win. I remember playing him whilst he was still a teenager four years ago, he has improved his game wonderfully. With a loss this early this was certainly a setback.


Round 3 Random Encounter vs Kylie Stevenson

Random Encounter is, as the name suggests, random. You are assigned 3 of a possible 6 sets of objectives for the game, from killing enemy hero’s to capturing their objectives.
Kylie may have been the filler army, but I knew full well and welcomed the fact that she was not going to play like one.

Warband 1:

Mahud King, with Camel, Warspear, Shield, Blowpipe

8 Mahud Raiders with Warspear and Blowpipe

 

Warband 2:

Mahud Chieftain with Shield and Blowpipe

5 Mahud Warriors with Spear and Blowpipe

5 Mahud Warriors with Blowpipe

1 Mahud warrior with Banner, Spear and Blowpipe

1 Warrior of Abrakhan with Warhorn and spear

 

Warband 3:

Haradrim Taskmaster

4 Mahud warriors with spear and Blowpipe

4 Half trolls of Far Harad

2 Half Trolls of Far Harad with Two-handed Weapons

 

Warband 4:

Ringwraith on horse with 2 Might, 10 will, 2 Fate

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Kylie sent her camels marching straight up the middle of the board and I readied to receive the charge, knowing that the fell beasts should be able to quickly dismount them and I could then pick them off before supporting infantry arrived. The impact charges of the impales did damage, but the Betrayer was in prime position to dismount them all with a hurl as the ringwraiths exchanged resource drains at each other.

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The Betrayer then betrays me for the second time in the same fashion,  losing combat against a single model on the charge with help. This was even grimmer than game one, because I’d copped the impaler hits in the knowledge there should be no more of them coming afterwards, but they could now immediately do more damage.

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And with that streak of luck damage they did, happily winning the subsequent roll offs again and skewering Haradrim on the charge with the impaler rule. The Betrayer was promptly slaughtered for his efforts, along with most of my army as Suladan came in to salvage my position.

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In the meantime the  Knight of Umbar was atop a roof battling over an objective and slowly killing a Mahud chieftain but was stalled out longer than I would like, scoring a solitary wound on 6 dice needing 4s. At the same time Suladan failed to slay the Mahud King, costing both of those heroes an extra turns effort, allowing the unchecked camels enough time to break me without reprisal.

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I was eventually able to kill all of Kylie heroes, but my courage checks to stick around were poor and the game would end 3 models before I was able to break the Mahud and possibly cause them to flew en masse because of their atrocious courage values combined with harbinger of evil and lack of hero stand fasts.

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Discussing the game, Kylie said she won the game off those 3 rounds of impaler charges and she was fortunate to get them, I was making good decisions but sometimes things simply go against you. I was inclined to agree, more so than the previous game failure at pivotal moments outside the reach of my might reserves were very very costly. But sometimes that’s just the way the game goes.

This was now two losses in a row putting me at a negative win rate for the day. I was disappointed, but not giving up. I said a couple of times and thought many more ‘3 big wins. Just need 3 big wins tomorrow’. The population of the event was small enough I could have the chance to play those leading the pack in the latter half of tomorrow if I could smash my first game, and if I could beat them as I go then I could drag them down with me. Having them lose games to other people would help, and was certainly a possibility given the strength of the field, but that was out of my hands. I’d just have to focus on myself. I would also need to have a serious talk with the Betrayer so he would start betraying my opponents and not me.


Everyone enjoyed a communal dinner at the local pub, and we returned to the venue for scenarios. Some people played Battle Companies, whilst Jeremy most kindly supplied the models to let me and Ben play ‘The Last Stand’ Scenario from the There and Back Again sourcebook. Very cool scenario, Bofur took over the troll brute, and it was just enough to allow Good to survive the 10 turns they needed against the endless recycled horde of orcs. Despite playing Evil, I was cheering for the Good side to win, but wanted to make sure they worked for it. Ben received some sound tutelage and sage advice under Kylies wing.

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Come back for day 2. Can I recover from this kind of debilitating blow? Two ways to find out; feverishly check this blog everyday until I publish it, or come and ask me in person. The best way to do that would be to come to Hobbitcon! 11th and 12th of August at Hall of Heroes Campbelltown, one and two day options!

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Thanks for reading!

Andrew C

P.S. We’ve got two Andrew’s posting here now so I’ve had to start signing off as Andrew C, feels a little strange… But its probably worth it if it gets Hobby Machine divulging his secrets.

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