Thursday, 30 May 2013

Bushido: Early Analysis

Having had a proper chance to sit down and analyze the mechanics of Bushido for a couple of weeks now there are certain things that should be kept in mind if you want to get the most out of your force.  Keep in mind these three ideas have a fair amount of overlap, so many of the explanations will meander into each other.

Model Count & Activations
Forcing your enemy into a position where their models are all exhausted before your models has a significant advantage.  There are three main benefits from this: firstly, exhausted models suffer penalties while fighting; secondly, you can achieve more objectives during your turn; lastly, you can force your opponent into unfavorable choices of strategy.

Certain lists are designed around the idea of having more activations - notably Savage Wave Bakemono hordes - and aim to simply out-activate you.  This means you end up wasting a lot of activations dealing with expendable models while the enemy's important models can wait patiently for the right moment to strike, or that they swarm you with superior numbers to stack the dice bonuses and penalties in their favor.

There are certain ways to counter this or at least prepare for it.  Certain Ki feats - Master Ekusa and Ryoko-Sha being the most obvious candidates with appropriate Ki feats - can nullify an opposing force with more activations for a time, either allowing you to deal with their force or have some time to recuperate for a counter-attack.  Certain models allow additional activations - Hanzo using "Move It!" for example - which can be a surprising advantage when timed right.

Of course, killing enemy models is the most viable way to reduce the number of activations they can use, and is the optimal outcome in most cases.  Do not underestimate the power of choosing the simplest action.

If you have more activations than your opponent, force them to activate their important models before they would like to - typically by engaging in melee, but simply waiting out your opponent until they have nothing else to activate can work too.  You can also seize objectives much easier if you have additional activations, even holding off enemy models from scoring while you do so.  Typically you will have the upper hand simply through exhausting all the enemy models and then being able to abuse their reduced effectiveness while in this state.

While you have an activation advantage, do not become lax thinking that you have an insurmountable advantage, particularly in scenarios.  Getting to those scenario objectives first is more important than exhausting the enemy force as you cannot trigger most objectives in an enemy Zone of Control, and scenario actions prevent you from attacking or moving.  Whomever gets to a scenario objective first instantly starts with an advantage for scenario purposes.

Your activation advantage will be most obvious if you can gain a lead in scenario points as you can continually trigger scenario actions while fighting off an enemy force at the same time; your opponent can only choose one or the other, and often cannot use scenario actions as your models will already be there.

Melee Rule of Threes - Dice for Defending or Attacking
When making melee attack or defence rolls, three dice is the magic number since you pick the highest die and up to two additional dice for the bonuses.  After that, I personally prefer buying flat bonuses over additional dice, but 3d6+1 works out almost the same as 4d6; what you choose most likely depends on how much Ki you are willing to spend.  Consider how many dice your opponent is going to be rolling in response too though, don't go full kamikaze just because you read this article and decided the three dice advice was the only way to do things.

So, if you want to defend yourself as best you can, three dice in defence, whatever else goes into attack; if you want that model dead as dead can be, three dice in attack, everything else in defence.  This also relates loosely to ranged attacks, where three dice is a pretty good bet, but it's less important since you have a flat target number rather than a slightly nebulous enemy result.

As a side note, nearly always put at least one die in defence.  You may be going for that one big kamikaze attack to kill the enemy model quickly, but if you fail and rolled no defence dice, you are almost guaranteed to be killed if your opponent rolled any dice in attack.

Stacking Debuffs
This particular mechanic seems to be rather underused, though it might just be the factions I tend to examine the most.  Basically you want to layer as many negative effects on an enemy model as you can before you move in for the kill: for instance, my 50 rice Ito Clan list can drop Blind and Stunned on the target model, for a total of -2 melee dice.  Given that the majority of models have 2 or 3 melee skill, that's a significant debuff and almost guarantees I'm going to be able to really hurt (if not outright kill) the model I'm attack - of course there's the luck of the dice, but I've stacked the odds into my favor as much as I can.

Many debuffs figure into the Model States section of the rules (p.18 of the New Dawn PDF) and it's worth reading up on those as many of them apply negative modifiers and impose powerful restrictions.  Figure out which models in your warband can hand out debuffs and exploit those models as much as you can.

Of course, there's more to the game - notably special attacks and defences (and my mancrush for Side-Step Defence) - and this advice isn't drawn from games and games of experience, I've only had a couple of games and this is what I've noticed while playing.  Other more experienced players will be able to give better advice through practical experience.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Snakes and Dragons

Two models of the starter box down, three to go.  I have been side-tracked by Kenzo however, but I'm going to sideline him until the rest of the starter box is finished.  Kenzo is a really simple miniature to paint; he's just snake belly, scales, and some armour.  There's some skin but there's no delicate kimono folds or really ornate sword scabbards.  I reckon I could probably finish him in a full day of painting.  First though, finish the starter box, no distractions!

Here's a WIP photo I took on the iPhone in some terrible light, I have since finished Akimoto.  As you might be able to tell, Itsunagi is not my greatest work.  Very pleased with how Akimoto's skin turned out:

Had my first real game against Dave's Prefecture as planned; I did lose horribly on scenario.  I also discovered that Akimoto is totally garbage on the table (as expected) and Itsunagi is an unholy terror (as expected.)  The other models in the starter box performed pretty much as expected.  Temple Bushi are very solid models for their cost, I feel they get outshone slightly by the Ryu Yarimen, but I'm okay with that; my samurai are awesome and boost for less Ki - also, giant snakemen!  Sakura merely functions as a Ki battery for everyone else in the box, which is unfortunate, and her Ki feats seem pretty awful.  I get the feeling "Venomous Gaze" is there to finish off nearly-dead models, rather than deal out initial damage.  It's something I'll have to test over a couple more games.

If I could change some of the rules for the models that I used, I'd remove the restrictions on Akimoto's "Orochi's Visage" so it can be used in melee or as part of a Walk action.  This turns him into a weird reactive character into an okay proactive one.  At some point I'll give him another test run just to be sure, but that's my feedback on him at the moment.  Perhaps I should try running him as a more aggressive figure and utilize the Terror to burn through enemy activations?

Of the special attacks and defences, Side-step Defence works as I expected, it makes your models very difficult to take down quickly or they can complete their melee exchange, do a little damage, and then dance out of combat to prevent getting outnumbered.  I forgot normal Temple Bushi don't have it, but my lone Bushi managed to survive both Hiro and Jin poking him just by going all-out defensive.  Chiyo was not so lucky and got shot by Minuro's arquebus.  Sad times my friends, sad times.  I only got to use Combo Attack on Itsunagi and it did let me pile up some poison tokens on Hiro, but it was too late by that point, Dave had already gained more scenario points than I could score in the time remaining.

The combat system is a bit deceptive (in a good way!) as it is difficult to take down an opponent who is going all out on defence, so stacking debuffs is rather high priority.  This is where I feel the Shisai come in for the Ito Clan.  My planned 50 rice list basically involves me blinding as many models as I can with Naoko and then using Ayako to stun another or stack debuffs on a single model so that Kenzo or my Temple Bushi can kill them through sheer number of dice.  If you only roll a single die in defence, there's a good chance you're about to get gibbed.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Two-Swords, One Heaven

My enthusiasm for Bushido continues.  The Ito Clan starter box arrived and I've already finished Ito Itsunagi - probably the most powerful member of the Ito Clan.  He's not as good as I could have painted him though, as I tried to paint on his tattoos and it all went horribly wrong and had to redo a lot of his flesh.  He's still passable, but definitely just tabletop quality now.  Ah well, at some point when I'm drowning in time and money I may get another Itsunagi and try again.  For now though I'll settle for getting a fully painted force.

My first real game is scheduled for next week (the 28th) against Dave Hamilton's Prefecture of Ryu force.  The Prefecture are the 'standard' samurai force: samurai with ashigaru retainers.  No weird powers or unusual creatures for the most part.  The Prefecture seems to be the faction for rocking straight up to someone and beating them down.  Just about everyone in the faction has plenty of armour, which makes it very unlikely to kill anyone in a single exchange without access to Sharp or Armour Piercing.

The Ito Clan on the other are all about dancing around the combat, or evading a direct fight when possible.  Nearly everyone has access to Side Step Defence (basically, I get to walk away if I succeed at defending in melee), most of the samurai in the faction can do it with no penalty.  Unfortunately most of the models in the starter box are very fragile, it is very much a case of protecting Itsunagi while he kills everything.

I actually prefer the old starter box with Ito Kenzo and Naoko over Ito Itsunagi and Akimoto.  The snakeman Akimoto really doesn't seem all that useful to me, he can become very terrifying, but to do that he can't move and he can't be in combat.  Other than that though, he's terrible in combat, has no ranged attack... he's there to generate Blood of Orochi tokens (you can use those to give models in your army the Poison special ability, the lethality is determined by how many Blood of Orochi tokens you spend on an individual model).  Sure Itsunagi is a powerhouse, but Naoko is so much better than Akimoto, while Kenzo isn't miles off from Itsunagi.  Fortunately I have ordered Kenzo and Naoko, so I may have the option of either version of the starter box.  I'll just bring what's painted, so probably the newer 'normal' starter box.

On the hobby front, I seem to have developed a weird taste for building bamboo hedges out of toothpicks and copper wiring.  It's very easy, and I may end up with a disproportionate number of hedges to other terrain.  My board has been put on hold after Mark Bonatti asked how I made all the terrain seamless (he thought it was modular) at which point I slapped myself on the forehead and then decided to make modular terrain instead.  I do need to pick up a giant bag of clump foliage for my hedges though, these tiny GF9 tubs are not cost-efficient.

Update: I got fed up with Itsunagi's terrible skin and redid it (again) so now it's a much smoother blend.  It's much better but it's still just a good tabletop quality.  Pictures once the whole starter box is finished.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Way of the Samurai

It's finally happened, I've totally lost interest in Warmachine and Hordes.  My interest in the game fluctuated up and down for a bit over the past few months, but the introduction of colossals and gargantuans really killed the game for me.  So, after months and months of DotA 2, I tried out Bushido earlier in the week and found it to be great fun.  I've already ordered my starter pack of choice - the Ito Clan - and started making my own playing board.

The game area is a tiny 2ft x 2ft, so making my own board is pretty easy.  I also had a couple of sheets of  foam board lying around that just happened to be 2 feet wide - turned out to be quite handy.  Work is still in progress, I found that most of my paints have dried up since I haven't touched a miniature in months, and I'm still undecided on what sort of terrain I want the board to be.  I could make it grass, jungle, desert, dirt, or snow.  At the moment I'm thinking just plain old grass, but do I have enough flock?  Each board is supposed to have around 6 pieces of terrain, which, in total, should cover 25%-50% of the board; so quite dense.  Unfortunately I'm running very short on materials now, and I'm only at 4 (small) pieces of terrain.  I'm looking to have more vegetation and some places that allow models to abuse elevation, but I'm not sure how to build these with the materials I have on hand.

As for gameplay, the game is very small - most lists I see have 5 to 7 models.  There's quite a surprising amount of tactical depth to the game however, it feels quite Warmachine-esque in that regard.  Knowing when to activate which models, and which tactics to use are key.  My main gripes with the system are that there are certain clunky elements to it: the damage system uses a table; the poison and fire systems are just a confusing mess; certain actions don't really tell you what they allow you to do.  However, the finished rulebook will be available soon and perhaps many of my gripes will vanish in the final product (the current rules are a beta document by the way.)  The easiest way to get around the damage table problem is simply to have the damage table printed out and on hand so you don't have to go leafing through the rulebook every time you activate a model.  The rest of the system is solid though, I particularly like how the combat system works.

Overall, I'm quite excited about the game, and look forward to getting more games in.  There are quite a few players at G3 who have Bushido stuff, and it looks like the game is certainly on the popularity upswing.  Now where are the art assets for websites and blogs to use?