Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reflecting on High Elf versus Brettonia

Saturday I had a fun game against Liam. I was using the High Elf army again against his Brettonians. Worked on the battle report last night but was having some issues with the Picasa-blog interface, so that report has been delayed a couple days.

Meanwhile, a few observations from the game.

When I built my list, it was done in my standard style. I love Knights so took a unit and, in light of my habit of failing or not even getting ridiculously large numbers of saves, I decided to take 10. I also mounted my BSB, planning to put him in that unit so they could lose a guy and still have a rank bonus.

That is one thing that makes a huge difference. When a lance of 10ish Brettonian Knights loses a model it loses little to nothing in terms of effectiveness. No single casualty ever cost him a rank bonus.

But when my beloved Chaos Knight 5 man units lose a model, they lose 20% effectiveness. 5 man units are simply too small when facing things like double trebuchets, 50 man Repeater Crossbow hordes, Jezzails, Engines of the gods, Waywatchers, etc.

Sure, there might be just one or two wounds suffered in crossing the field...but that is 20 - 40% effectiveness lost.

Liam took 2 I believe 2 casualties to his Grail Knights before getting them into combat. I think that cost him 1 attack and maybe a rank bonus?

He did take about 4 wounds to his knights total in crossing the board...but I made the same mistake I have benefited from others making, spreading my fire across units so I reduced the effectiveness of none of them.

So first off, units need to be bigger for WoC to deal with the loss of effectiveness. Second, I need to concentrate my fire.

I also took 10 Swordmasters...all I have painted...and 17 White Lions with a champ giving the unit magic attacks...all I have painted. I also took two Repeater Bolt Throwers.

It is an "all-comers" list...I need to be able to deal with Lizardmen, Ogre Kingdoms, Skaven, Empire, Dark Elfs, Wood Elfs, Brettonians, Tomb Kings, maybe even Vampire Counts or Orcs and Goblins.

So I put in some flaming and planned to use the Swordmasters and White Lions to deal with stuff like the Hydra, the Plague Furnace/Doomwheel/Abomination, etc...anything with high T.

The irony is I did not want to use the White Lions. 1 attack each just does not cut it.

After all this, I still had points I had to put into core units. There just are not any core units I really want to use since they are all pretty ineffective.

So I horded 50 Lothern Sea Guard, then spammed level 1 mages with Shadow and Beasts. The idea was to have the stubborn, re-rollable 9 LD Sea Guard blast everything in sight with 35 shots per turn, get into combat with some buffs from Wyssans Wildform and Life (my level 4) and then have the Dragon Princes and Swordmasters blast the flanks to build combat resolution.

So the list design is simple; 4 total wizards buffing the LSG and keeping it stubborn, everyone else to protect/atack the flanks. Oh, and the RBT to deal with hard to damage stuff.

During the game, however, several things went wrong.

First off, the amount of space 10 wide, 5 deep + 5 heroes takes up a LOT of space and when you roll large quantities of terrain...sometimes it is not possible to set up to protect the flanks with cavalry as forests might be in the way.

Second...if you pay the points for a mount...REMEMBER TO USE THE MOUNT. Instead I forgot the BSB had a horse and put him unmounted in the LSG.

Third...if you build your army around the idea of having a re-rollable stubborn horde unit full of buffs, make sure you can run that strategy and make sure your tactical decisions do not remove it.

Case in point; On the first turn, I buffed the unit with Wyssan and Flesh to stone. Thus when his dual Trebuchets went off, I would have good survivability; T6 troops survive much better than T3. But we made a rules error and let him dispel both buffs.

This was 7th edition thinking. They cannot be dispelled. They are not remains in play spells.

It changed my tactics in subsequent turns. Knowing I would never have the buffs on the unit when he shot or charged, I refocused my magic elsewhere and it became ineffective. So half of the strategy I built the army around was shot down immediately. And having launched 35 shots to do zero wounds...forgetting I had given the Ellyrian Longbow to my BSB and never using it in the game...I thought there was no way to touch the various Knight units he had.

It was also at this point I discovered the RBT did not have S10 as I was thinking. So instead of firing at his Trebuchets as I planned, I shot at his Pegasus Knight, only to see him have some 2+ shield that discounted the shot.

So my first turn saw a great deal of my strategy shot out of the water, partially through rules error and partially due to poor tactical decisions. I have mentioned others splitting their fire...I did the same thing all game long, cnging my mind as to what the target should be from turn to turn.

But the biggest error I made was not knowing what equipment was on what person and/or not using it at the right time.

Case in point 1) NEVER using the S5 bow.
Case in point 2) Never using the Wand of Jet, Power Stone or Power Scroll. I had the dice to use. But the plan was to use Mind Razor on the LSG when they got in combat, guaranteeing it through use of the Power scroll, to have the unit buffed with double Wyssans using the Wand of Jet and Power Stone to provide the extra magic dice punch, and use most of my magic dice for a key Stone to flesh/regrowth combo that would mean on the key turn when his Grail Knights charged in I would have S9, T6 troops striking first with a re-roll to hit.

But I changed magic focus knowing he would just dispel them the turn he charged because I did not know the rules, ended up never using any of those items, and then made a far, far worse error.

Case in point 3) Perhaps the most egregious mistake I made. Not knowing who had what item. I built the list around taking a charge from any and all comers with heavily buffed and, more importantly, STUBBORN with re-roll LSG.

This would let me side-smash him with my stronger units and I had no fear I would be running away. I was effectively unbreakable.

Until I forgot the Crown of Command was on my Level 4 Life Wizard, not on my BSB. So I fled my wizards out of the unit...I still am not sure why I did that....which removed the Crown of Command. And since the unit would have T3 against charging S5 and S6 knights...I was looking at losing 15 - 20 models. Insane Courage is rare.

Instead of rock hard anvil my ignorance of rules, lack of knowing who had what in my own army, and forgetting how the army was built turned it into a marshmallow.

Only his ill-timed Comet of Cassandra saved me from disaster.

I could have saved myself from the final disaster. After I wrecked his peasants, the correct move was to crush his trebuchet. Cutting his firepower in half was the single best thing I could do to help myself. Instead I saw the tempting target of his knight unit.

Now, on the one hand charging them was fun. It was destructive as my White Lions absolutely destroyed them. Arguably, it was a fine decision as it gained me a banner in the Death and Glory scenario.

Realistically, however, it was a poor decision. The dual trebuchets were chewing my LSG to pieces. If it broke I lost and since he started with ELEVEN banners, taking out a second banner did not help all that much.

Taking out a second trebuchet would have halved the damage my key unit was taking. I saw a shiny target that might make sense in a last man standing scenario but meant nothing in this one. They were a tempting, shiny soft target. But they were the wrong target.

I had assigned that unit the role of taking out the trebuchet. I had the chance of doing so. I chose a different target. Bad move.

All of this is just prelude explaining these things which will improve my army and play. In truth, after the first couple of games with the High Elfs I really was looking at them as an extremely sub-par list.

The truth is, I was hamstrung by sub-par list design and sub-par play. If I just correct the following things, that list actually can compete with a lot of things.

1) Know the rules.
Having a good plan can easily be invalidated if it is illegal or if it is legal but you forget a key rule that makes it effective.

2) Know your strategy.
Make your tactics fit in with your strategy.

3) Do not panic.
Bad tactical decisions can wreck good strategy.

4) Do not get distracted by unimportant side issues.

I had all the tools in place to compete with a pretty stout, tough Brettonian list. I just mis-used or did not use them at all.

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