Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Road Works & Improving Your Game - Part 1 (Space)

For some reason there is no parking on my street this week as there are road works happening on the main road.  Why this has caused the parking in my tiny cull-de-sac to be suspended is a bit beyond me, and I am somewhat wroth about the measly single day of warning that we received.  However, I have already moved my car across the street to a spot that seems ripe for it to get stolen, so at least I won't get a parking ticket or have my vehicle removed by... whoever...  the council I guess.  Normal car thieves are another matter.

I've been watching a lot of Day[9] tv lately.  For those of you who don't know he's a Starcraft 2 commentator - probably the most popular one outside Korea - but he does a daily webcast about helping people improve their Starcraft 2 playing skills.  Having a small background in e-sports (I hear Jim sniggering at the very idea of e-sports) it's interesting to see the depth that the game can provide and how different strategies can rotate around each other.  It's very similar with Warmachine and Hordes except there's no benefit (yet) to having an immensely fast playing speed and the game doesn't get patches (errata) as often.

So, taking a page from Day[9], how do you become a better Warmachine and Hordes player?  Well, firstly you should decide how far into the game you're willing to go.  What type of army build are you planning?  What is your preferred style of play?  Have you read up on the latest Steamroller documents?  Most importantly, are you aware of the important errata?

I'd originally written a lengthy document of differences required between infantry swarm lists and infantry-light lists, but it ended up being somewhat bloated and lopsided due to my personal distaste of infantry swarms.  Not a good place to start when trying to instruct other people who to improve their game.  So we'll start where I started.

Now I was taught how to play by Jim Lawrence, and for a brief period of time early in my wargaming career, he was my sole opponent for reasons neither of us really could comprehend.  Jim frequently places very highly in the national tournaments and he's fairly well known in the tournament circuit, so he's a good pivoting point for this topic.  Early on I adopted the stance of thinking 'what makes Jim good at this game?' and I'd sit and analyse what he did whilst sticking all my own choices under a microscope.  Just open up my early blog posts from 2008 (has it really been 4 years?) and you can laugh at my horrible, horrible mistakes.

Those horrible, horrible mistakes deserve to be analysed but are less important than 'what did Jim do to win?'  Early on, Jim would just horribly kill my caster with something I'd never seen before, rather typical of a more experienced player teaching a new player.  Unlike most people I did not go off in a huff, which is generally an important part of improving your game.  What these games quickly taught me was that there are some basic concepts that really have to applied as much as possible.

Unfortunately I'm going to have to utilize Barry Kelly as a contrast to Jim now - sorry Barry.  Barry has been having a hard time of Warmachine and Hordes lately and been losing a lot of games.  He certainly has the wish to improve but appears to be failing to put it into action.  This is mainly down to Barry's lack of understanding of the basics whilst attempt to utilize advanced play.

The most fundamental basic of the game is keeping your caster safe.  Since my first UK Masters - where I did extremely well - I have the bad habit of leaving my warlock totally exposed and in the middle of nowhere simple because so many people would trigger Protective Fit back then.  This is stupid because everyone now just ignores or nullifies Protective Fit and then my warlock dies horribly.  It's only recently I broke out of this habit through conscious effort and analysis but that's for a later blog post - back to Barry and Jim.

Now let's discuss how Barry and Jim use this concept.  Typically Jim's caster is miles away but in some position central to the board.  He has a solid grasp of just how far models can go to threaten or even attack his caster at most times.  He doesn't crowd his caster in with friendly models and typically gives them room to move if they must go somewhere.

Barry on the other hand doesn't grasp how threatening enemy models are and frequently has late game problems once his army has become porous.  When attempting to move in for the kill Barry will put his caster well within comfortable range of enemy figures or crowds his own models.  A more advanced concept for protecting your caster is that the DEF of nearby models will almost certainly effect your caster.  If the surrounding models have a lower DEF than the caster, their mere presence increases how vulnerable your caster is.

So, what do we learn from this comparison?  Jim keeps his caster back and leaves space around them; Barry brings his caster forward and crowds them with friendly models in an attempt to protect them.  So space around your caster is vital, as is knowing just how much space to have between your caster and any threatening enemy models.  Space around your caster is important!

Think about how much space is needed around your caster when you move them.  Can something get to them?  Do they have enough room to move without activating other models first?  Be aware of the concept of negative space, where you've crowded in too many models into too small an area.  Models in proximity have an immediate effect on one another, whether it be through accidentally dropping DEF values or simply getting in the way.  Think about the space you need.

Since this article seems to be expanding much faster than I expected, I'm going to divide it into separate parts until I've covered as much as I'm comfortable with.  Thus concludes part 1.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Morton's Fork

I really should get back into the habit of updating this blog and keeping abreast of all the various WM/H events in the UK.  Unfortunately I'm not much in the writing mood these days - nor in the painting one either it seems - so I haven't been logging my various games or what I've learned through them.

Tonight I had a 50 point game against Barry and his Protectorate troops, I pulled out my usual pDoomshaper list since that had a War Wagon in it and I said it was going to tank him horribly.  Also I did not have time to repack my case before heading to the club as I'd arrived home later than expected.  So it was either Doomshaper (either one) or my Borka list designed for maximum rage inducement (could that be rage induction?).  Seeing as the eDoomshaper list doesn't have a War Wagon, it wasn't much of a choice in picking pDoomshaper.

I recently had a discussion with Jim while we worked where I mentioned that I need to train myself to play an attrition game.  Typically I get bored of the current situation on the board or attempt to dive down my opponent's throat when there's no real need to do anything.  Tonight's game was the first one where I attempted this new playstyle and unfortunately Barry got a massive tanking.

Adopting attrition tactics was a bit unusual for me as I mentioned before and forces you to adapt to the weaknesses in your opponent's army.  I looked at what Barry had put down and saw the following important pieces of information:

  • Menite warjacks have no pathfinder or any way to get it (besides Amon.)
  • Most of his infantry did not have Reach
  • Errants have pea-shooters.
  • Most of the rest of the army lacked pathfinder and would rely on the Piper.

The Covenant also made an appearance and there wasn't any way I could really do anything to it, so I just ignored it and operated on the assumption that Protectorate models can't be knocked down or made stationary.  I couldn't tell you if forcing Janissa back with the no spells option on the Covenant would have worked since then I would have just dropped that giant knockdown template in the middle of Barry's army and taken my sweet time dismantling it piece by immobile piece.

There are certain key concepts that I'm working out with the new playstyle at the moment:
  • If you don't have to move forward, don't.
  • Only attack your opponent with little or no repercussions.
  • Present your opponent with horrible, horrible choices.
  • Mock everything they hold dear and crush their spirit!

That was also my first taste of SR2012 and I rather like the addition of Kill Box to the standard scenarios, I haven't tried the other Artifices yet, but I'll give feedback on those once they've been tried.