Friday, October 28, 2011

Is Unorthodoxy a function of playing time?

I was discussing the Sisters of Battle Codex with someone on another forum and it struck me that my unorthodoxy might very well be a product of playing time.

Where I play, I get 4 games a week in.  That is about 230 games a year including tournaments, and it has never really occurred to me that this would be much different than all the other "guru's and experts" on the interwebz.

Recent discussions and off hand comments from gamers and forum owners have made me think that it isn't the norm.  By all accounts, 50-75 games a year is the norm for a LOT of players at a lot of shops.

So in some ways my playing time has contributed greatly to my ability to be more open minded about playing styles and list building; whereas a person who plays once a week or even month is going to find the idea of struggling three straight games while they learn a new method or list abhorrent.  I get that many games in one week, sometimes in one day!  Losing here and there isn't a big deal to me.

For people to learn multiple ways to play they are going to need to either take advice from those who do it in order to learn faster or they are going to have to try it themselves (which means a little struggle initially as you transform the way you think).  Peoples tolerance for growing pains is so small in the 40K multiverse that many players simply won't, despite the benefits and no matter how many wins you show them.  That makes me a little sad.

The limited playing time issue may very well be why so many are trapped into more conventional thinking and get extremely nasty about it when you try to point out any other way of doing things.  The heavy reliance on formidable, albeit cookie cutter, builds comes from the simple human drive to succeed.  They KNOW that they can win one way because they saw a bunch of other monkeys do it.

So I conclude that playing may skew peoples views a lot more than I had considered and may be why I am seen as unorthodox.  Still, I'd sure like it if people would look at the success other builds and play styles create.  I have no problem with one arguing that one has no time to learn a new trick (it's an excuse, but as excuses go, it's not the worst I've heard).  I do take great exception to those who belittle other less orthodox approaches, especially when they yield success.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Comprehensive Sisters of Battle Review

Observations (somewhat revised):
1. I want to give special mention to a piece of wargear:  The Simulacrum Impirialis.  It is just a must for many units.  The Sisters of Battle can ill afford to be unreliable at their jobs.  Every unit needs to do it’s “thing”, a lot like Eldar, to be successful in this new codex incarnation.  Dominions in particular need them but other units like the Sororitas Command Squad also need it to function as well as possible.  With so few Acts of Faith to use at any given time, the added certainty is important.

2.  Battle Conclaves:  Thumbs up.  They give the army a melee punch that is very impressive and they are far more resilient than I imagined they would be.  I use a combination of 4 Assassins, 4 Arco-flaggelents and 2 Crusaders to fuel the madness of this unit.  It gives you the FNP uriah might have provided without needing him, the deadly speed of the Assassins in combat and the extra invulnerable throw away 3+ saves of the Crusaders on the approach.  Tough to kill and able to kill vehicles as well.

3.  Repentia Sisters:  Thumbs up.  Their ability to use Eviscerators even as they die to kill their hated foes has made this unit totally worth it.  You no longer need the large absorptive wound count you used to.  They are sturdy now with FnP and their 2 attacks instead of 1 is a totally necessary upgrade.  This is easily the most improved unit in the entire codex.

4.  Sororitas Command squads:  Thumbs up.  Much better than they look on paper with a Canoness leading them.  The ability to go Relentless with 3 Multimeltas will be popular and the unit has some staying power with the Sister Hospitallar in the unit.  Having this unit was almost like having yet another Dominion Squad because of it’s range and ability to be carried into “juice” range by the Immolator.  You'll notice comparisons to Dominions a lot here because ultimately they are the "game changing" unit of this codex, but you can emulate the utility of Dominions with other units as you will see.  Dominions still do it bets though.

5.  Exorcists are...Exorcists.  Unreliable but deadly.  Great for soaking fire singly or as an actual firing threat in two’s or threes.  Retributors will statistically kill Rhino’s and infantry better, but as the enemy becomes tougher, the Exorcist overtakes them.  The Exorcist range and mobility make it more immune to deployment tricks that allow armies to mitigate Retributor fire to some extent; and of course they just DO fire farther.  So a combination of the two seems a good idea.  Most NetListers are recommending three minimum sized units of Retributors and no Exorcists.  I personally would veer clear of that advice for reason too numerous and long winded to go into here.  But one or two Retributor Squads are certainly going to make it into winning lists.

6.  Penitent Engines are slower and more expensive than before.  What more do you need to know?  They gave them two flamers and that’s cool if they survive long enough to use them, and gave them a half-Blood Talon (basically) but that’s assuming they ever see melee.  Truly, the best use for them is as reserves where they have the best chance of impacting the battle.  If nothing else, enemies will think twice before getting too close to a long board edge until after it shows up.  If you rush them forth, they’ll need Rhino cover and frankly, I am really not sure if what you give up to do it is worth it.  Som use them to try and forestall charges on more valuable units.  That’s not meritless.  However that emasn they are out in the open and likely not to survive without staying back behind rhinos.   A catch-22 for sure.

7.  Celestians seem to be a "roadblock" unit and mayb better coices for the job than Penitent Engines.  They are JUST good enough to charge someone to stall them, and then break on the following turn to set up your shooting phase.  Probably don’t want to take them outside of a rhino nor in large numbers. They can also provide a low cost way to bring to bear 2 Melta’s and a Combi-melta.  They are only 10 points more expensive than Dominion Squads and do not get Scout, but are far more capable combatants.  So if you're wanting another Dominion type Squad but want to use the slots for Seraphim, this could be a viable alternative.  WS 4 and 2 attacks makes them a lot better than before and (when attacking only) they can be STR 4 and fearless.  So they might be perfect for rushing an enemy unit on an objective and hanging on to it or acting as a speed bump to set up your shooting.  Despite all this "potential" they strike me as a tweener unit that will take some practice.  Thumbs sideways?

8.  Canoness:  WS 5 is really nice, a much needed upgrade but her lack of serious wargear really makes her less attractive.  To get her STR up, you have to buy a go-last Eviscerator.  No more Blessed Weapon and no more +2 str Acts of Faith apparently, which was what made her okay before.  A 5-7 STR leader that didn’t go last was a decent deal.  So I think she's good for her points like she always was...but most HQ's will outclass her.  She also doesn’t really do as much for the army, but for her unit on the charge, she’s not terrible.

9.  Kyrinov:  good buy.   The Simulacrum Imperialis he comes with is, on its own, a very good reason to consider him.  In my mind he's really only 70 points, and both he and Uriah are better than the Canoness for the most part.  Unfortunately the Sororitas Command Squad is worth taking and therefore you really can only take Kyrinov or Uriah, not both in the preferred motorized version of most lists.  Kyrinov is adequate in combat, and makes his unit and those very close to him Fearless.  That makes the use of the Celestians that I mentioned an ideal unit for him because if they are fearless all the time, they need not worry whether they go first OR second and don’t need to waste what might be a valuable Faith Point elsewhere.  So I have been putting Kyrinov in the Celestian unit, mounted to increase his bubble.

10.  Uriah is…  Awesome.  My personal opinion right now, doing some serious math comparisons, is that he is far better suited for a 20 Sisters Squad than any other.  The “Uriah Bomb” as osme call him is when he joins a Battle Conclave, but I think this is overkill and just ends up leaving his unit exposed to shooting and counter assaults.  Better by far to put him in a unit that’s doughty but can mathematically win without blowing people out, giving them the maximum chance to stay engaged on the charge.  Don’t get me wrong:  such a unit will nearly wipe out a 10 man Assault Squad.  The key word there is “nearly”.  You want them engaged in the enemies shooting round and a big Sisters Squad is your best bet for that, gives you a points/KP denial unit and is of course scoring.

11. Dominion are now Scouts, as they always probably should have been.  They are really the most frightening unit in the codex now, and are as close to an auto-include as I will ever claim there is (while still not claiming it).  The unit can twin link 4 meltaguns, for a level of certainty in tank killing I don't think any unit except the Chaos Chosen can rival and even they can't twin link theirs.  Other armies have alpha strike capability but few (IG BombVets and Grey Knight henchmen perhaps) can do it so cheaply.  If you want more Seraphim, other units can step into this role, but none will have the accuracy and performance of this unit.

12. Serpahim:  The second most frustrating change in the codex is this.  They made these beautiful models more affordable, but at what cost?  The blow to initiative is a death sentence in melee when coupled with their loss of the general Acts of Faith that could protect them or augment them in that realm.  They are now in one of two roles:  Vehicle Assassins or Flamer Wenches.  Since Vehicle assassination is done so much better by other units which indeed may preclude you having any Seraphim in the first place, their role by default becomes Flamer Wenches.  The range at which you must strike with them necessarily means they will end in melee and that in turn means you will likely fire them once and lose them, with no guarantee that they will have done enough to justify taking more than a handful.  Their only value now might be the same as Fast Skimmers in other armies:  Zooming in to annoy objective holders near games end.  The fact that they can fire 4 STR 3 flamers (yes really) and re-roll to wound (fun) is certainly nothing to sniff at, so against hordes they have their uses.  But in the world of MSU minimalist unit sizes that we are in, well…  Their overall value has gone down.

I hope you found this informative!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Getting it right

I had a chat with a former self professed hard core tourney player today and some of the things they did to stop cheating “back in the day” and it got me thinking about the way we think about cheaters.  I expressed that I believed that people are more often than not just making errors of judgment or just not being as careful as they should.  He contended that he thought many more people were purposefully doing it. 

In the course of the discussion (which I very much enjoyed) we talked about some of the different ways people “cheat” during a game:  distances moved, the scatter die line, disembarking, and the list goes on. 

The overarching conclusion that we both could agree on was that the game itself should do what it can to take away some of the areas where two people are both right because neither one is using the same mental “device” to come to their conclusion.
For example, when you place your tape and move, the hypotenuse changes the distance moved based on the angle of the tape.  Inadvertently a person can create a longer hypotenuse and thus end up moving more than they should.  They are not consciously cheating.  They are just wrong.  The more geometrically gifted player feels cheated and the more visually oriented person feels insulted by the inference.

Another good example was the Scatter die.  The arrow may not line up perfectly with the die edges, and because the arrow has width, it can create imprecision.  It can be exacerbated by turning a tape sideways which creates bending.  Yet flattening the tape obscured the arrow itself.  You end up with the width issue either way.

Some of our ideas included purchasing a zip string to pull taut along the scatter die arrow edge; creating “disembarking patterns” with a compass that you can lay the rhino/whatever on, a spinner for scatter you can place instead of the model, allowing the dice to be used only to determine whether the spinner should be spun or not; and we talked about how we could change true lines of sight to be more abstract and easier for people to agree upon.  mitigating arguments is a priority and these were some ideas to stop them from starting..

He also felt that if someone is doing it “wrong” but they do it the same every time, then really he could live with it, but it was when the person was inconsistent that he had to peel himself off the ceiling.  I’m interested in your ideas on what cheating is, what makes you FEEL it’s intentional (even when its not) and what kind of things you do to police YOURSELF.  It’s easy to point a finger, harder to show you’ve made any attempt to avoid it yourself. 


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Generals Matter

There are a number (and it's growing) of what I call NetListers:  People who put lists up and not only haven't tried them, nor do they even typically play that army, but yet are willing to tell you that any way but there's is the wrong way for that army to be built.  Sometimes they might be right.  Sometimes.

The trouble here isn't the lists.  Sharing lists and commenting on them is a fun pastime.  What I bristle at is the underlying assumption that comes across loud and clear:  the List wins or loses you the game and the General is accounted little respect.  If you won with an "unoptimized" list it was "because the other General sucked".  If you lose its because "the list sucked like we said"...but if you think about it, that really just means in both cases that they thought the list was the issue, and they accord you yourself no recognition at all.

Only a blind man would suggest that the list doesn't matter.  But really, how much does it matter? 

I know this:  Generals matter more.  Terrain, dice, opponents and enemy army lists are random factors that create a multiplicity of game situations that one cannot fully anticipate, yet the list requires you to try!  That requires you to consider points denial, sacrificial units, terrain issues, line of sight issues, range banding and likely counter measures the enemy may take plus a bevy of other considerations.  In fact, it is the countermeasures issue that I get into such heated debates online about.  As I mentioned, the NetListers of the world think that their unit is in a vacuum and will never be countered effectively and they like to claim that only a "Bad General" would counter their super unit with a lesser unit..  That hubris drives a lot of lists and list discussions and of course it ends as badly as you might imagine on the field of actual battle. 

The goal here will be to talk tactics as a result of list building, tactical deployment and fitting your armies components to the kind of General you really are.  It will be about the strategy as well.  A lot of new generals look around in confusion after every loss and wonder what they are doing wrong, but really, it's that they don't have a plan to execute nor a framework to really form one.  They know they have the "good units" they've read about and heard analyzed in their list but they haven't any idea what the enemy is thinking about doing to nullify them until its too late.  Anticipating countermeasures and respecting the skill level of the opponent enough to think they will actually do it is important.  Some of that comes from knowing the enemy codex's reasonably well, but a lot of it is just simple foresight.  I am hoping what I write will help on those things.

Your comments are appreciated on whether this kind of focus for the Blog would be of interest to you.