Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Hunter's Red October: Tournament Review

On October 27, 2012, the first "Hunter's Red October" tournament was held. The nine games played will be recapped below, but a few preliminary details for those who didn't see the rules posting (or have forgotten):
  • As a "club" (read, 5 consistent players and a guy that we are desperately trying to get involved), we were playing the scenarios, army building rules, and deployment constraints of the new sourcebooks with three adaptations: first, the rules for wounding the enemy army leader were removed, so you scored 0 points for wounding the army leader. Second, killing the enemy army leader gained you 1 point (not 3). Third, the maximum deployment distance you could do was 18" (not 24").
  • Most of us had our doubts as to whether the results of the fights would be skewed by the new deployment and scoring rules. The fear that an army might be losing the scenario (have more losses, flanks collapsing, and all) and yet win the game (killing the army leader and keeping pace in the other categories) drove us to make the three changes listed above. On the whole, I think we would all agree that the adjustments made were for the better.
I'm only going to provide critiques of the three games I played and will provide summaries of the other games. Insights from other participants in the tournament (especially from my fellow contributors Zorro and Glenstorm) are encouraged to be shared in comments. Without further ado, let's see a quick recap of each army:

1) The Silvan Alliance: Lothlorien & Mirkwood list controlled by Tiberius

These are my beloved Elves - 20 Wood Elf Warriors, 6 Galadhrim Warriors, and 4 Mirkwood Guard led by Thranduil, Legolas, and Galadriel. Everyone could be protected from enemy archery, 12-14 shots from my Elf bows (added to 9 throwing weapons), and high Courage and Fight values. They are the first army I built and by far the most dominant on my blog. I know from experience that their greatest weakness is in close combat, so the fact that this tournament has (and I imagine most of the TMAT-sponsored tournaments will continue to have) objective-based scenarios, I could be in for a world of hurt. I also expect that most/all of my units will make it to close combat, so hopefully the Fight 5 will help me dominate when the going gets tough.

2) The Men of the West: The Kingdom of Rohan + Arnor list controlled by Glenstorm

Thoughts from Tiberius: Army lists like this make me glad I played Good this tournament. The Arnor allied contingent of rangers consists of a full volley team led by Halbarad, who came toting his banner which provides a banner reroll for all friendly units within 6" of the famed captain of the rangers. Add to this otherwise capable force two warbands of Rohan Warriors, Royal Guards, and the great Third Marshal of the mark, Eomer. Some throwing weapons and 32 units to boot. Dangerous from a distance and mostly Fight 4 in close combat.

Thoughts from Glenstorm: This is the first time I am bringing my Good armies to a tournament, so why not test out both at once?  Eomer will bring a number of light, cheap infantry with Royal Guard support for sheer numbers and shielding, while Halbarad and the Rangers of the North will bring the killing power.  With a lot of D6 units in the fight this game, we'll see how this goes!

3) The Wardens of Rohan: The Kingdom of Rohan list controlled by Captain Glot

Captain Glot brought a Rohan army (with allied Haldir and Boromir of Gondor) to last March's TMAT Grand Tournament. They did averagely (tying with my Dwarves for third place in a six-man tournament) and gained a reputation for themselves as a force that could hold its own against Uruk-Hai and utterly fail against Goblins (if it was any consolation, my Dwarves failed to the Goblins too). This time, the Rohan force has a whopping 50 units, and is the second largest army in the tournament. With plenty of throwing weapons, Rohan Outriders, and a few Rohan Royal Guards, this force relies on average heroes to supplement the needs of their core units.

4) The House of the Rising Sun: Rhun + Mordor list controlled by el Zorro

Zorro's High Elves won the TMAT tournament and he's back with one of his Evil lists to see what carnage he can cause. I've heard from him that of all the armies he's collected, the Easterlings are thematically his favorite. Today, his force numbers nearly 40, with Amdur, two Captains, and an allied Shagrat for extra umph and killing power. I learned from Zorro on the day of that the hope for this army was that the D6 of most of the units combined with the ability to deploy up front would help in the scenarios we'd be playing.

5) The Misty Mountain Alliance: Moria + Angmar list controlled by Tavros

In last March's TMAT tournament, Tavros brought a Angmar-Moria army (and ended up being the best Evil army at the tournament), sporting the Hill Troll Buhrdur, a Cave Troll, several wargs, and a great host of Goblins, maxing out his army at 50 points. This time, Tavros maxed out his army at 60 units and brought an interesting combo of heroes for his (mostly) all-Goblin army: 2 Goblin Shamans, Durburz (12" Stand Fast!) and Gorblog (new Goblin King who increases Fury saves to 5+ instead of 6+). The lone member of the Angmar contingent was a Barrow-Wight, who you can see in other posts on this blog can be a real game-changer against enemy heroes.

6) The Fist of Isengard: Isengard list controlled by the General Will

The General Will is the newest of us to the hobby and jumped in with both feet when we extended the invite to him. He visited last March's tournament and took a lot of pictures for us, giving us most of the shots you saw in the TMAT-GT post back in March. This time, he comes ready to play, using an army of Uruk-Hai borrowed from Zorro which sports 3 Captains (including Vrasku) and 10 Berserkers - yes, 10 Berserkers. Besides the 8 crossbows and 6 pikes, the other Uruks in this force carry shields, which should help them live against the Elven ranged weapons that usually do a number against Uruk-Hai.

So, with these thoughts in mind, let's go into the first round of the tournament...

Round 1, Table 1: Hold Ground - Dunedain vs. Easterlings
All of the Easterling units deployed on the first turn, while only the warband of Rangers deployed for the forces of Good.  Two turns later, all of the Good forces were present on the Western side of the board, set to face the minions of the Rising Sun that filled the center of the map from the other three board edges.  I was at a different table, but I heard that these Rangers killed quite a few Warriors of Rhun before combat was met (Glenstorm Note: about 3-4 infantry per round, which was unusually high for me).
The Easterlings maintain their Fight 4 shield-wall against the Rohan and Grey Company, keeping all away from scoring range except for the lone rider, Eomer of the Mark! Eomer is met by the great warriors of the enemy, Shagrat of Cirith Ungol and Amdur, Lord of Blades.
Here's a close-up of the fight: Amdur is supported by 1 Easterling Warrior with pike (3 Attacks at Fight 6 and Strength 4) and is assisted by Shagrat (unpainted "counts as" model) who is supported by two Easterling Warriors with pikes (5 Attacks at Fight 5 and Strength 5). 
As you can see, the fight didn't go so well for the Third Marshal of the Mark - 5 wounds by Shagat, felling first horse then rider. On this sorrowful note, the game ended. The Easterlings were newly broken while the Men of the West were unbroken, but the Easterlings had the only units (7) in the center and killed the enemy army leader (Eomer).

Final score: 3-8, major victory for the House of the Rising Sun 

Round 1, Table 2: Domination - Rohan vs. Isengard
The General Will and his Uruk minions fought a Domination game against Captain Glot and his Warriors of Rohan - a classic match of Uruk-Hai and straw-heads. 
When they finally got going, Rohan had a lot of guys storming the bridge on the far right, facing off against a solid core of Uruk-Hai Warriors and Berserkers.
On the left side, a one-man bridge allowed a few warriors to cross over at a time. This battle group was set to rely on their pikes to take the bridge and later hold against the spear-less Rohan.
At the center bridge (an objective of the game) was the great Uruk crossbow firing line. Supporting them are several Uruk Berserkers (the rest of the 10), and all prepare for a bloody battle. We didn't get many shots of the rest of the fights, but suffice it to say that the battle was close: neither army broke, each controlled two uncontested objectives (not much headway across the bridges made), no army leaders died, but the Uruks had more units at the center bridge and so squeezed out a win.

Final score: 6-7minor victory for the Fist of Isengard

Round 1, Table 3: To The Death - Woodlands vs. Moria-Angmar
In this To the Death battle, I'm facing off against Tavros' Goblin horde - nearly the same Goblin army that beat my Dwarves last tournament (no trolls/prowlers/wild wargs this time, Wild Warg Chieftain, Barrow-Wight, Gorblog, and lots of archers instead). Thankfully, we're not playing an objective game, so I'm rather happy. My Elves deploy together, so we can all benefit from Aura of Dismay (once I take down the shamans) and Cast Blinding Light. The Wild Warg slinks around at the bottom of the frame, while the rest of the Goblins are rearing and ready to go. You can see Merry at the top of the screen (representing my son, who wanted to be in my army).
The Goblins pursued my Elves, who kept walking backwards and shot at the upcoming warriors. The 5+ Fury saves granted by the Fury spells of the shamans added to the special rule of the new Goblin King Gorblog really helped keep many of the Goblins alive (14+ in this game I think), but I killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 Goblins before they finally charged me. You can see one Goblin archer out in front of the others: Galadriel cast Command on him just because and it made sure he couldn't shoot for a turn...not a big deal, but really fun. You can also see here the two shamans of the enemy - well placed to cover most everyone except the Goblins in the way front on the right.
When the Goblins finally did get the jump on my men, Thranduil cast Nature's Wrath, being sure not to be in range of Durburz or any other heroes. Most of these Goblins managed to live through the close combat phase, but it bought my men a valuable turn of life. The marsh you see was difficult terrain for everyone - kinda painful for both sides. On the final turn, both armies were broken and the Wild Warg Chieftain (who spent most of the game immobilized) finally charged Galadriel and slew her. With the loss of my army leader, the Goblins squeaked out a victory instead of a draw.

Final score: 3-4minor victory for the Misty Mountain Alliance
Fate of Merry this round: he hid behind a rock for most of the game and finally decided to run across the rock on the last turn. So, my son stayed alive. With Round 1 finished, all three armies of Evil won their games, making those of us on Team Good feel a bit bad. We geared up for another round and 15 minutes later, we were in the thick of it...

Round 2, Table 1: Hold Ground - Rohan vs. Moria-Angmar
So, not many pictures of this match, but allow me to make a few insights: one Rohan warband was flanked by the arrival three Goblin warbands. The Rohan held what they could, but the rest of the Goblins swarmed the center objective. The other Rohan attempted to intercept and did a pretty good job, but the game ended after the Rohan were broken and the points were tallied - Goblins broke the Rohan and were not broken, both army leaders were alive, and so it came down to how many units were in the center...

Final score: 7-12minor victory for the Misty Mountain Alliance

Round 2, Table 2: Domination - Woodlands vs. Easterlings
So, I knew setting up for this match that my Elves were in a bit of a pinch - we had three bridges to cover and three warbands. Thankfully, I'm not limited in my ranged weapons, so with my spearmen standing on the bridges, I can hopefully spear/shield my way to victory while shooting the supporting units who attempt to gain the upper hand for Evil. As it turned out, I killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 units with my archery, but it wasn't enough to keep the onslaught away - more on that later. Oh, one last thing...we accidentally got me in the picture...I try not to do that to thwart creepy stalkers, but oh well...
The Easterlings powered through the center bridge and did their utmost to stop Thranduil from doing nasty magic.  I got off Nature's Wrath while missing both Shagrat and an Easterling Captain, but the D6 of my foes kept most of them alive. Grrr... In the end, Shagrat did very well against my Warriors and even burned the Fate points of Thranduil (who only failed to roll a 6 in close combat once - don't think he was knocked down that time, but I don't remember).
Galadriel, for her part, wrought havoc on Amdur, who - despite being Fight 6 - was plagued with Galadriel's Immobilize spells at the end of the game. In this maneuver (which I was rather proud of), I moved from being in line of sight and casting Immobilize to being out of LOS so I couldn't be charged by several of the Easterling warriors.
Unfortunately, a couple of well-timed Heroic Combats allowed an Easterling Captain to race across the bridge and half the board to get in range of the objective, contesting it. Thankfully, Merry was present besides the one Elf archer I had, so the objective was still solidly in my hold as the game ended.
But, in one of the few things that my guys did well, we did halt two of the Easterlings from contesting (and winning) my other rear objective. That felt good - couldn't kill any, but that didn't matter. When the game wrapped up, both army leaders were alive (and well), both armies were broken, so it all came down to the objectives. Two Easterling objectives were uncontested, one Wood Elf objective was uncontested, one Wood Elf objective was contested but won (thanks to Merry!), and the center objective was in the control of the Easterlings (uncontested).

Final score: 5-10major victory for the House of the Rising Sun

Round 2, Table 3: To The Death - Dunedain vs. Isengard
The Men of the West squared off against the General Will in what I heard was an epic fight between Rohan (and Grey Company) and Uruk-Hai. Yes, back-to-back Rohan games for the Uruk-Hai, with Wood Elves to look forward to in the final match. The crossbows squared up in the center, but appear to be under-prepared to deal with all of those rangers, no? Hopefully those pikes and Berserkers will be able to help out...
Here's the flank, where Eomer leads some brave followers. There weren't many pictures taken in this game, but here's how it ended: both army leaders lived, both armies were broken (3 points each), and the Rohan banner-bearer (Halbarad, who was one of two sick banners present in these games - the other being Amdur in the Easterling force) was still alive. 
Final score: 5-3minor victory for the Men of the West - and the first victory for an Army of Good!

Fate of Merry: he stayed alive and got me an objective - thanks, son, means a lot to me. So, two rounds down and Good has a victory! The other five games have gone Evil, but what does that matter. We broke for lunch and I ran home to take my son from my wife so she could nap for a bit without a baby to worry about (and so I could indoctrinate him with how cool this is). By the time I got back, we were ready to roll and were off to the last set of games...

Round 3, Table 1: Hold Ground - Woodlands vs. Isengard
So, my Elves started at a disadvantage: all of the Uruk-Hai deployed on the board at the start and I started with my archers only. In the second round, I would get another warband, but Merry and my final warband would wait yet another turn. Really hurt in the race-to-the-center...but at least my archers were out in front, right?
My Elves held well in the center, but were having problems racing towards the objective because of the difficult terrain patches and the horde of D6 Uruks ("holding" isn't quite the idea for my army in this game). Thranduil risked having his Nature's Wrath be resisted (for the first time this tournament), and it was, burning the Will and both Might points of the Captain near the front ranks. Kinda hurt later in that round, though. I'll be sure to not make that mistake in the future.
The Uruk-Hai finished the game one unit away from breaking, but succeeded in keeping all but one Elf (and almost a hobbit) away from the objective. The 9 units that the Uruk-Hai had in range were more than enough to win the game for the Uruk-Hai. This simultaneously was my third loss of the tournament, putting me at the bottom of the pack...oh well.

Final score: 1-9major victory for the Fist of Isengard

Round 3, Table 2: Domination - Dunedain vs. Moria-Angmar
Final game for Glenstorm's Rohan and Grey Company was against the Goblins of Tavros on an objective game.  I really lucked out by not having to play objective roulette with the Goblins, but Glenstorm's boys were ready to take a chunk of those Goblins.
Eomer prepares to lead his warriors against the Goblins on one side of the map - DEATH!!!
You can see here that the Goblins did a good job of getting across the bridge, but Eomer wagged around for much of the game, helping where he was needed. Here one nearly-very-lucky goblin survived 3 blows from Eomer thanks to fury , only to have his celebrations cut short by one final blow.  The Wild Warg Chieftain swung around the other edge of the board to take one of Glenstorm's objectives, while Halbarad and a troop of Dunedain killed the lone defender of another objective with archery on the far side of the board.  The Goblins held two objectives uncontested, one objective was left with no one on it, Rohan held one objective uncontested, the center bridge was contested by held by the Goblins, and the Goblins were broken while the Men of the West were not.

Final score: 6-7minor victory for the Misty Mountain Alliance

Round 3, Table 3: To The Death - Rohan vs. Easterlings 
The armies wasted no time in jumping at each other's throats. The battle was waged and the pikes of the Easterlings (and the fact that they could span across the open space between mountains without a hole) really helped their effort and made it difficult for the Rohan to overcome the heavily-armored, spear-supported foe. A daunting task, worthy of song (Glenstorm Note: a song of lament, but a song nonetheless, ;-) ).
Gamling led a few of his men in a flanking attempt against the Easterling main line. It took a while, but they succeeded in getting around - more on their progress below.
After two rounds, the 50-strong Rohan army had lost 20 men...really not good when you have primarily Fight 3 D5 (against a primarily Fight 4 D6 foe), no spear support, and slightly-above-average Captain units as your heroes.
Shagrat did a real number to the Rohan Outriders, slaying two of them here...well, they were very, very dead. If you recall from the first picture, the Outriders were behind the battle line...Shagrat went rolling though the force and would go on to kill 25% of the force by himself!
Gamling's Royal Guards sprang from around the corner, speared the Easterling archers on the hill, but then were held up for 2-3 turns by a pair of Dragon Guard with a pike to support them...not good when the rest of your battle line looks like swiss cheese - see the background of the picture?
In case you missed it in the last shot, here's what the center looked like.  (Hint for translating what you see: the blue and black guys are not Rohan guys...neither are the red and gold guys.)
As the game started to wind down, Gamling's flankers were faced by a  larger group of the Easterling force, including Shagrat and one of the Easterling Captains.
On the other flank, the Easterlings dominated - read, there were 9 Rohan guys here at the start of the round before  the picture was taken...and now there's one. As the game came to a close, the Easterlings were not broken (lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 units?), Rohan was driven well below 25% (5pts for the Easterlings), Amdur was alive as the human-banner (2pts for the Easterlings), and Erkenbrand was dead (1pt for the Easterlings).

Final score: 0-8major victory for the House of the Rising Sun
Final standings:

  1. The House of the Rising Sun - 15 points (3 major victories)
  2. The Misty Mountain Alliance - 12 points (3 minor victories)
  3. The Fist of Isengard - 11 points (1 major victory, 1 minor victory, 1 minor loss)
  4. The Men of the West - 7 points (1 minor victory, 1 minor loss, 1 major loss)
  5. The Wardens of Rohan - 5 points (2 minor losses, 1 major loss)
  6. The Silvan Alliance - 4 points (1 minor loss, 2 major losses)
So...my thoughts on the tournament? What did I learn?

1) My Wood Elves, though an epic army and a formidable force, wasn't well-fit for the constraints of the tournament. They rely on having lots of space to operate (so objective games are not always their thing) and having time to work down the enemy (which they didn't have in the 75-minute constraints). Given another 15 minutes or so, I likely would have killed another Uruk-Hai Warrior (breaking the enemy and not being broken) and gotten more units near the objective and probably would have seen many of the Goblins on my left flank flee (due to no Fury on that side), but we work in the time we have and you need to call it somewhere.

2) I think we came up with a way to ease into the new scenario rules, with a few adjustments here and there. From what I could tell, no one from the tournament saw the scenarios as heavily-favoring one side (at least, not more than the original versions of these scenarios did). Since two of the scenarios were objective-based, my army (or any army that wasn't a stand-and-slug army) was at a disadvantage, but since I chose my army and the scenarios for the tournament, there's no blame for that.

3) I succeeded in introducing Thranduil (commonly viewed by most players before the tournament and possibly afterwards by a few as way overpowered for his cost) as a beatable but valuable asset to a Wood Elf team. As mentioned above, we moderated his "Circlet of Kings" special rule to make it a little easier to resist and more "fair" that way - even though it comes at the expense of an already squishy team. In the end, I'd rather have a player to play against than an endless winning steak, so I don't mind making the rule a little less awesome.

4) In a contest among peers, it's no shame being the loser. I felt like Mr. Malorian of the Orc Tactical Team, who gives weekly podcasts on Warhammer Fantasy and recently did very poorly at a tournament with his famed Orc and Night Goblin army. Finding the weaknesses in your army is important for any good general, and unfortunately, that doesn't often happen without defeats. In this particular contest, I got beat all day long, but it hit home how important game constraints are - will definitely keep this tourney in mind next time I pull them out in a timed game.

5) We probably got another consistent player in our ranks. At the end of the day (as the facilitator of two tournaments he attended), I count that as a win. Also, the General Will has now played around with a horde of Goblins and a beastly army of Uruk-Hai Berserkers - I doubt he'll be at a lack of armies to borrow in order to have a good time. I'm also happy because Glenstorm's Men of the West were the highest-scoring army at this tournament for Good and last tournament, his Raiders were at the bottom like mine was this tournament. Well met gents, I look forward to kicking back while someone else runs the next tournament and starting a new hobbying month focus soon!

1 comment:

  1. Fun tourney with good friends and some interesting armies. Plenty of epic moments that make for fun memories.

    I would definitively say the rule tweaks helped, but I'm still not sold on the new ruleset. They favor armies that are high def, downplay archery and seek to get into melee quickly (as evidenced by the dominance of the particular evil armies that came to this tourney). Hard to complain when you come out on top, but I really thought the rules set puts armies that rely on ranged attacks and skirmishing (Rohan, Elves, Grey company, Harad, etc) on their heels from the getgo.
    Major hat tip to Glenstorm's rangers though. Despite the unfavorable rules, they proved their mettle. The way they were rolling 6s had me very concerned for most of the game.

    And yes, Thranduil is still overpowered. beatable, yes. but overpowered. The casting tweaks help manage that though (not that I ever had a chance to resist).

    Great job on the tourney T. Looking forward to the next iteration.

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