War In The North

There and Back Again: A Masters Tale Part 2

A Masters report by Andrew Colman

Welcome back to the second part of my blog covering the Australian SBG Masters for 2017. In this part I’ll be covering the group stage on the first day of play. If you haven’t already, go back and peruse the blog entry I composed prior to the weekend, I do a preview of all three of my group stage matches and an in depth discussion of my own list which should give you some good context.

Day 1: The Road Goes Ever On and On

Friday night saw myself and Liam Dailly travelling down from Sydney to Melbourne where we were joined by Lachlan Rigg from WA and hosted by the magnificent Joshua Colman (as his surname would suggest). Together we made up the ‘Fallen’ representatives at Masters under the pseudonym of ‘The Barons’. Saturday morning was a bracing 1 degree above 0 as we plodded around in at least 4 layers. A trend of extremely cold weather seems to hang around the Melbourne events I’ve attended the past few years. Whilst the turnout for this year was a little disappointing, it was great to see both some familiar faces and get the opportunity to meet some new ones. The quality of painting and creativity in display boards made my choice for best army difficult, but I ultimately voted for Tim’s Double Mumak army just ahead of Josh’s Werewolves. Coincidentally, I’d have the pleasure of playing both of these armies on Day 1.

In the interest of assisting those who might be looking to improve their game, throughout my discussion of each of these matches I will try to convey my thought process going into the game, how it plays out and you could possibly learn from it. Before you start each game you need to identify several factors; the strengths and weaknesses of your army, the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents, how they will subsequently interact with each other and the nature of the mission you are playing, and what point in all of the these interactions will yield you the greatest advantage. This is a fairly overt way to articulate it, but everyone who’s ever played a miniatures game will have done this on some level.

Game 1: Supply Lines vs Joshua Colman (Dwellers in the Dark)

Wild Warg Chieftain

9 Dwellers in the Dark

Wolves1They don’t bite…they rend

The supply lines mission revolves around getting points for holding up to 3 objectives in every turn. Josh’s werewolf army was using dweller in the dark profiles, meaning there were 9 monsters with regeneration and higher fight value than my big hitters. I knew if they got into my goblin line they would inflict horrific damage and start a bowling competition with the amount of hurls they would unleash. The mission lay heavily in my favour however as I could easily get to all 3 objectives with superior numbers and quickly gain points Josh had limited mechanisms to answer. He also possessed only a single might point, guaranteeing me the ability to move as and when I needed to. Fury and the high courage of the Numenoreans meant the terror on his models wasn’t a heavy concern, whilst if I beat the werewolves in combat there low defence meant i could return heavy damage on them.  It was the epitomy of a glass cannon. With all these factors in mind, I was cautiously optimistic that if I simply control the game I should come out with a win. We were playing on a beautiful Khand board that drew some inspiration from Japanese aesthetics of our world. The central objective lay just outside a portico style gate in the centre of the board. This created a natural choke point that only one or two wolves could access, so a coterie of goblins proceeded to huddle in its shelter throughout the course of the game hoping they wouldn’t be killed by their hurled brethren. A stone wall run through the board on either side of the gate.

Wolves2The flying Goblin formation (with camera blur)

Hesitant about dividing my army with one half cut off by the wall, I formed a defensive V formation spearheaded upon the gate and prepared to stall out whilst I gained objective points.

My initial manoeuvres made it difficult for Josh to commit many of the dwellers and I was able to weather the initial onslaught with a little bit of luck. Meanwhile the scribe began his magic and the reinforcements began to roll in, drawing Wolves away from the primary conflict.

Wolves 3It’s rude to hurl your dinner, please just kill and eat it like a normal giant Wolf would (My inner monologue for most of this game)

The Dark Marshal and the Goblin King then proceeded to use this as an opportunity to go on the counterattack, striking up and surrounding dwellers to bring them down whilst using magic to keep others locked down. A piercing striking Goblin King with Burly needed 2s to wound the defense 5 Dwellers with 6 attacks when trapped. Ouch! This chained with heroic combats saw several dwellers downed. The goblins in the centre had taken a bit of a beating and were broken in that time however, and the King / Marshal were drained of might.

Wolves4Bottom Right: A conveniently Dweller shaped hole in the midst of the Goblins. Forcing Josh to split his army made it very difficult for him to produce the shock and awe tactics he needed.

 By this point however Goblin reinforcements were swarming over the remaining objectives and the day was clearly carried. The surviving dwellers were buried under the remaining goblins whilst the Dark Marshal heroically delivered the coup de grace to end the game, fading out of existence beside the Wolfs corpse as he lost his last will point. Ultimately a bloody victory, but a comfortable one that I didn’t make tangible mistakes in and felt in control. As much as he likes to compete Josh was a top sport as usual and clearly still enjoying himself even when losing.

Final score: 19-3 

 


Game 2: Race to the Prize vs Nick Beattie (Iron Hills Dwarves)

Dain Ironfoot – War Boar
11 Iron Hills Dwarves 

Iron Hills Captain
11 Iron Hills Dwarves 

Iron Hills Captain – War Goat
6 Goat Riders

Dwarves1‘We’re on lads! Let’s give these bastards a good hammering!’

Race to the Prize is a more balanced version of Hold Ground. Nothing starts on the board but instead randomly deploys from any board edge, runs to the middle and seeks to capture the objective and the artifact atop it. I was playing against Nick Beattie, who as I mentioned in my previous blog, from everything I heard was quickly picking up the game with the benefit of his experience in other war gaming systems. As you’ll soon see, ‘quickly’ is a severe disservice to his ability.

Iron Hills if they can bunker up are a nightmare to dislodge, but I knew that I could most likely outflank them plus the fact they needed to move to the centre while being harassed and only having limited options to stop my reinforcements. The Iron Hills army rule meant that the dwarves could always arrive when and where they wanted to (a 2 could be pushed down to a 1, a 3 could be pushed up to a 4, a 4+ is effectively a 6) so I had no hope of looking to catch them out, but was prepared to spend as much might as necessary to make sure my army came on together, its strength is in numbers. I held a decent might advantage at 11 to 7, but this was mitigated by the Captains special rules to potentially copy my actions for free. Double monster gives me good tools to take out the goats with hurls and the Marshal could shut down Dain with magic for most of the game hopefully. With all this in mind I was reasonably confident I could pull out the win against a newcomer. Nick had never encountered many of the things in my army, including Ringwraiths, Shamans and flying monsters. It was only his 2nd large point’s game and something like his 8th game in total.

I began by deploying some of my smaller weaker warbands with less might, so that if necessary the big things could spend might to come on and protect them. The Scribe was my first warband and immediately rolled for reinforcements, which combined with the spreading of that warband resulted in my covering 44 inches of a board edge in which Nick could not deploy because he would be within 6 inches of one of my models. He did however deploy his goats towards the edge of that board edge. I responded with more goblins, he deployed infantry some distance away on the short board edge. The King, The Dark Marshal and Grinnah all spent might to appear in the face of the Goat Riders. Nick immediately realised his error in not deploying his force together and resolved to do everything to mitigate his losses.

Dwarves2‘Send in the Goats’ –Dain

The goats would not be able to outrun the fellbeast who could compel, charge one and then hurl or heroic combat, so he decided to commit them in to buy time for the dwarves to reach the centre and do as much damage as possible. My jaw then proceeded to hit the floor as he looked to block the flying fellbeast by using his models to prevent a space for it to land in the back line. This is a fairly advanced tactic, and most players pick it up after a long time playing where they’ve seen it been done before. This man was doing it despite having never even played against a model with fly before. I was later told in his 2nd game ever he’d dismounted in order to able to fit through a particular gap. This is something people playing the game for years don’t do.

The goats were fairly swiftly swarmed and brought down with a combination of magic, hurling and sheer numbers whilst the rest of the Goblins swarmed for the centre from the shortest possible distance from a table edge.

Dwarves3The horde swallows the goats up, leaving nary a trace behind

At this point I was very confident of taking away the win, but I also realised I had someone who would have a great mind for the game and was very open to learning. The rest of the game was in some respects almost a cooperative venture, with both of us openly talking from both sides of the fence what our tactics should be and what our opponent should expect and how to react to that. Nick would end up earning my best sports vote, despite his early losses he wholeheartedly threw himself for the rest of the game into discussing how he should be trying to mitigate his losses and recover with an upbeat and very perceptive attitude.

Dwarves4Dwarves are natural sprinters, very dangerous over short distances!

It was then a headlong march for the centre, with harassing goblins from behind and the mercenaries deploying near the centre blocking off the dwarves ensuring I would comfortably envelop it before Nick could get there. The artifact was snatched up and quickly put into the hands of the Goblin King.

Dwarves5The Goblin Apocalypse is upon us

The Dwarves formed their shield wall, gritted their teeth and began to grind relentlessly towards the objective. Iron Hills are incredibly hard to kill, even when completely surrounded, so a heavy extended melee broke out in the town square. The Marshal kept Dain out of the fight whilst I rolled a horrendous amount of reinforcements, using up the 40 odd spare goblins I had brought along, never anticipating I would use every single one of them.

Dwarves6I ended the game with more models than when I started. Not often you can say that.

The Dwarves eventually caved under the relentless pressure, not before bringing down the Dark Marshal. A very decisive win ultimately, but a most engaging and enjoyable game. I like helping people learn, and someone with a natural knack for it like Nick is very gratifying to watch. I think it’s fair to say, come this time next year, there will be another very dangerous competitor in the ranks, and I’ll be cheering for him. I’d love a rematch then.

Final Score: 21 – 3

 


Game 3: Breakthrough vs Tim Wraight (Double Mumakil)

Mumak1Amazing display board and theme, got my best army vote

Game 3 saw me matched up against Tim’s Mumaks. As I’d suspected, the big things were coming out in full force from him. The objective of Breakthrough is to run your models off the opposite edge, with points for how many you get off. I had far more than he did, but his were much faster, and much harder to stop. If they all died or got off before I could get models to the other side, I would be losing very hard. The Goblin King could shake off a trample, but nothing else in the list can. The only other tool I have for stopping them is using the Dark Marshal to control the commander of the beasts. I couldn’t also let them die too quickly because then the game would end again! Speed bumps is the name of the game.

Mumak2Full Speed Ahead!

Tim sensibly split the Mumaks so I couldn’t slam them into each other and also forced me to divide my forces. The Mercenaries deployed early in one of the far ruins in the hope that Tim would turn around and try to run them down, which would give me some very crucial time to move everything up. He didn’t bite, and continued to storm forward, which I think was the right decision. If he gets a mumak off and ends the game he still gains more points than I do. The Purple Mumak squared up against the Goblin King, who stood at the head of a cowering column of Goblins that all stood directly in 2 lines behind him. After some thinking Tim elects to veer away from the King, reasoning that he has a low chance to kill him and will probably be losing combats against him because of the fight values. I agree with this rationale, he wants to get off the board as swiftly as possible. However, I think he would have fared better drifting to the edge of the board than towards the centre, for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Mumak3Grinnah and friends breathe a sigh of relief

In the meantime, the Dark Marshal was forcing the Green Mumak into reverse parking every turn, heavily stalling its movement forward. Most of the crew dismounted with rappelling lines, since they would be able to actually move faster than the 4 inches forward it was gaining each turn. In the meantime both Grinnah on my right flank and Black Numenoreans in the centre were sprinting towards the other end of the board unimpeded. With the Green Mumak stalled, the Dark Marshal flew over and was able to reach the Purple Mumak as it had veered towards the centre.

Mumak5Did you invite it?

I was then able to successfully turn it around a turn away from the board edge into the hands of the King and his merry goblins, who promptly took 5 wounds off the beast in combat. It didn’t stampede, but I wasn’t too fussed as the compel had also granted me an extra turns grace before it reached the edge. I was fortunate enough to win the Heroic Move next turn and promptly dealt another 5 wounds to the Mumak, bringing the beast down.

Mumak6Legend says in Harad this manoeuvre is called ‘chucking a uey’

The Beastmaster was the only survivor of the falling damage, and was hunted down by the Goblin King. The Dark Marshal returned to the left flank to answer the encroaching Green Mumak.

Mumak7Abandon Ship!

The Mercenaries, Black Numenoreans and Grinnah’s contingent sat on the edge of the board, but I didn’t move them off it.  I was close to breaking, and I didn’t want for everything to run unnecessarily. Thus they all gathered on the board edge waiting for the final turn of the game. As the crew had predominantly dismounted, the remaining Goblins on that flank threw themselves into combat. The Dark Marshal came in to assist, yet again delivering the coup de grace to end the game as the models on the board edge left to safety.

Mumak9On Your Mark… Get Set…

The end result was another very clear victory in my favour, as I’d managed to prevent Tim from getting a single model off the board. It was dangerously close though, the Mumak’s had gotten perilously close to the board edge. Tim as always was a great sport.

Final Result: 22-3


Day 1 Closing Thoughts:

I’d run the group stage very successfully, dropping only 10 potential points over the course of the day for a final tournament score of 80 from a maximum of 90 points. I believe this had me sitting in first place at the halfway point in the tournament. I was obviously pleased with this, but I knew that the high seeding I now had would mean the gloves were off and I was in for some very challenging opponents tomorrow. Round 4 was to be on the top table against Lachlan Rigg, the man I knocked off the podium last year and the winner of Clash.  It would promise to be a most interesting game……

Come back next time for my coverage of day 2!

There and Back Again: A Masters Tale

By Andrew Colman

The 2017 Australian Middle Earth Masters are almost upon us, and as the incumbent title holder for the past year, I thought it would be good to blog my adventures at Masters this year. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking to win back to back, but that’s only a part of the appeal. We have an excellent Hobbit SBG community that gets together to play toy soldiers and enjoy each other’s company. It’s marvellous how you can be friends with people you may have only seen face to face half a dozen times or less.

gondor

So what army do I plan to bring? Originally I was tossing up whether to bring this ‘anti-meta’ Gondor list themed around the White Council aiding a kingly Denethor in his prime (tying in the idea that this is when both Saruman and Denethor may have just begun using their Palantirs in the pride before the fall) :

Saruman the Wise
Galadriel, Lady of Light

Denethor
12 Fountain Court Guard- Shield

Beregond (Convert as Irolas, Denethors assistant)
12 Fountain Court Guard- Shield

Damrod (Thorongil conversion?)
8 Citadel Guard – Longbow
2 Citadel Guard – Horse

Lobelia Sackville Baggins (Convert up a young Boromir).

40 Models

W&R-Army

I already had most of the models to make this army from a previous army comprised of converted Numernoreans with Spartan shields and helmet for a suitably elite look.

The basic principle was to have an answer to the things you will most likely see in top table armies (Magic, Fell Beasts, Strength 4, Terror, low defence number spamming, shooting) that I’d most likely be facing while having a omnipotent late game with an army that has bodyguard, aura of command (which will also stop Denethor going mad), 12 inch stand fasts as well as the Lobelia plus Galadriel terror combo. This is a very intimidating synergy build I’m quite proud of, and you may see me bring something like it at some point in the future. But it’s a force that while potent, is influenced by what other people could bring, rather than what I want to bring and is a fairly static indomitable shield wall. I want to bring an assertive, aggressive playstyle to Masters that puts the pressure on and forces your opponent to react.

I looked at the missions again, and why I was so successful with my knights last year. The supremely well designed Masters Missions all demand that you have mobility, the ability to capture objectives which usually means numerical pressure, a good versatile leader and a good late game considering they all end at 25%.

A few minor changes to the missions and the potential for a protest march if I brought the Knights again meant I’m bringing something else. So I went from one extreme of army style to the other, but valuing at the exact same principles we touched in doing so. Which means we go down, down, down into Goblintown. I’ve played a lot of variants of Goblintown at this stage, and own far too many of the dear little cockroaches. They probably see me as Sid from Toy Story with the amount of conversions I’ve done for them to create some aesthetic and tactical variety from event to event.

The theme for this particular army comes from a LOTR video game titled War in the North. The story behind it is inspired by the unexplored conflicts in Northern Eriador during the War of the Ring.

witn

Fairly underrated game in my experience. It’s no Shadow of Mordor, but it’s pretty fun!

The grunt enemies you encounter early on are, you guessed it, goblins in loincloths, whilst the primary antagonist is a Black Numenorean named Agandaur, with a core retinue of Black Numenorean followers.

witn2

Attractive looking things, aren’t they?

Throughout the course of the game he is tasked with rising an army of Orcs and Goblins, rides a fell beast and makes extensive use of magic. Sounds quite like something up the wheelhouse of a certain Dark Marshal. I’ve not listed him as the leader of the army for a couple of reasons. The first is purely a competitive one, it makes deciding target priorities for my opponent a real headache (do you deal with the ringwraith on fellbeast or direct it towards the tanky Goblin King who is very difficult to get leader points off?). The second is that this is still a Goblintown army with the Mordor contingent as auxiliary support, and not putting the Goblin King as the general of a Goblintown army simply feels wrong.

witn3

Magic – Great for parties, also useful in SBG

It’s now on its 3rd or 4th email submission as I kept shuffling numbers and points around until I was happy, but the list I’ll bring to Masters 2017 is:

Warband 1: (Leader)
(Tharzug) The Goblin King
12 Goblins

Warband 2:
Grinnah
12 Goblins

Warband: 3
Goblin Scribe
11 Goblins

Warband 4:
Moria Goblin Shaman
1 Moria Goblin – Spear

Warband 5:
Goblin Mercenary Captain
6 Goblin Mercenaries

Warband 6:
(Agandaur) The Dark Marshal – Fell Beast
1 Morannon Orc – Spear
8 Black Numenoreans – 1 Warhorn

army

The outer walls of Fornost in ruin (one of the games early levels) as the hordes burst forth from one of the breaches in the Fall of Fornost long ago.

This is an army that embodies pressure. It’s a ticking time bomb that demands a response and provokes mistakes. The Mercenaries and the Scribe combined with the warhorn create a constant stream of models that can appear anywhere on the board, granting so many of the checklist points we need to win the Masters scenarios. As mobile as you can get considering they can appear from any point, you’ll be outnumbering your opponent with Goblintown, you can very comfortably capture objectives and the Goblin King is an exceptional leader with a 40k esque stacking 3+, 4+, 5+ save between blubber, fate and fury. You also have a decent late game considering you can be reduced to 25% and still outnumber your opponent and clinch those all important objectives. If you don’t break until late in the piece you can also snowball your growing numbers advantage to overwhelm your opponent.

The Black Numenoreans are a tool to mitigate some of the weaknesses of Goblintown with their low defense and low fight value and provide a terror causing frontline that will also be very useful in the end game. The Dark Marshal will get the full value out of the banner range with this many models to benefit from it, while also being an answer to enemy fell beasts (F6!) and dangerous heroes. Because he is not my leader, it enables me to take risks and be aggressive with him, which is what we want at a Masters event. Having a second monster is great for hurl combos as well.

Anecdotally, this will be the first tournament of the many I’ve attended that I will be bringing the power pick that is a named wraith on Fell Beast. Considering the amount I’ve faced and brought down, I’ve more or less learned how to use them by proxy of being on the receiving end and knowing what shuts them down. Their recent nerf in the FAQ’s that stops them from being one shot machines when rending enemy heroes soothed some of my previous qualms about taking these point efficient nasties.

This will be the last time I bring Goblintown for the foreseeable future as it will be the 6th event I’ve brought them along (2 wins and a podium for them thus far) before they join the Knights in semi-retirement. I have some serious shenanigans planned for some of the missions, which I won’t share just yet to keep the surprise, but suffice to say they should provide people with some wonderful headaches.

Predictions:

It’s unreasonable to rank yourself so I’m not going to put myself anywhere. I do want to point however that I have again avoided having to play Jeremy Shannon. Jeremy is the creator of the Green Dragon Podcast and has been playing the game since its inception, and he owns every model in the range. Needless to say he’s pretty damn good. With one exception in the last game of an event that had no relevance due to the scoring system, by some quirk of fate Jeremy and I have never played each other despite sitting next to each other on the scoreboards across many an event. Jeremy can’t make it to Masters this year, so I’ll just facetiously claim it’s because he doesn’t want to have to finally play me.

My top 3 are:

1: David Leonard: Mr Leonard was my pre-tournament pick to win last year, finishing with more points than the winner of the previous two years, and finished 2nd only because some jerk also won 6 games, just by a bigger total margin. He thoroughly trounced me with a crushing loss in our last game at Silmarili. Melbourne’s best hope for their first big interstate win since Masters in 2015

2: Lachlan Rigg: The Men of the West (WA) have made an impact since they arrived at Masters last year with powerful armies and very good players, with Locky leading the charge. He won Clash this year, and undoubtedly has a target on my head after knocking him off the podium by a single point after our game in the final round of Masters last year. Looking forward to a potential rematch.

3 Matthew Todd: Another veteran player coming off a high with a long coming win at Silmarilli earlier this year. Is this the Toddles renaissance? Time will tell, but Matt has been on my shortlist of players at every tournament for a long time, and this one is no different.

Dark Horse – Joshua Colman: Fellow Fallen team mate, a great sportsman and painter as well. His army is top secret TM. It is wonderfully themed and utterly ridiculous, but incredibly potent if he plays it well.

I am of course doing a disservice to all the other excellent players who will be there and consequently wipe the table against me for not mentioning them, but there are only so many spaces on a podium!

Addendum: I wrote this up, but waited for the group draw before publishing this – the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place getters of last year are in the same group, which has my 1st and 2nd picks for this year! Group of Death indeed. I’m sticking with my picks, but there may be some very close games on day 1 in that group, with Corey Leslie playing an all-powerful kingmaker role. They may potentially knock each other out of contention by denying each other points, but if that happens I’m sure they can catch up on day 2 with more forgiving matchups.

My own group has Tim Wraight, Joshua Colman and Nick Beattie.
Joshua Colman and I will be indulging in some kinslaying (apt as we are also both Elf fans) being drawn against each other. From memory we have a 2-1 record in my favour so a good opportunity for him to level the score, especially considering the horrific damage his army can inflict to my Goblins in any given turn. I’ve had the pleasure of playing Tim a few times as well, and he often brings powerful centrepieces to his armies (Treebeard with an all Ent army, Gwaihir and Eagles, King Elessar and SMAUG! to name a few) so I’ll undoubtedly need to be prepared to deal with something big and scary. I’ve never met Nick, a newcomer to the hobby, (it’s also always great to play against new opponents and meet new people), but from what I understand he is a war gaming veteran who’s picked up the game very quickly under the wings of Jeremy Shannon (if the painting and conversion pieces Nick’s shared are any indication he’s already far better than me in that department). I underestimate him at my own peril!

I’d be remiss before ending this to give a quick shout out for Hobbitcon, being run early September here in Sydney. Helmed by myself, Ian Underwood and Adam Jenkinson, we’ve created a large collection of new points match scenarios to play over the weekend.

Come along and enjoy the fun!