The Starving Crazed Weasels write about their Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Hero Scape battles
Friday, May 27, 2011
Prove It: Basketball, Warhammer, and Chihuahuas
This was a common phrase when we were playing Horse or Pig, the final shot was too difficult for the person about to be eliminated and they had already missed their first shot.
So instead of attempting it a second time, knowing they would miss it, that person would calculate the chances and decide there was a greater chance of their opponent missing the shot than the eliminatee had of making it.
So instead of chancing it, they would go to the time-honored "prove it card."
The amazing thing is...typically the person challenged to prove it would. If it was a twisting, turning, spinning reverse off the opposite foot, they would calmly and complacently throw it up and watch it go in the basket, thus allowing them to label the loser a horse.
Or if it was a long bomb they almost always watched the basketball swish through nicely and cleanly. It was as inevitable as rain in Oregon, lies from politicians, or me purchasing the new Weird Al cd when it is released.
There is a reason this worked. Most basketball players have a comfort zone. If one person has better range, they will step outside their opponents' range when time for that key shot. Conversely, if they make their living in the paint then a difficult lay-in will be a piece of cake for them but virtually impossible for their opponent.
And if one player has better range and is also comfortable with the most spectacular work around the basket, they would win nearly every time.
So what does this have to do with Warhammer?
There was a Warhammer event in Portland not too long ago that was a little bit off the beaten path. I suspect it owes a fair amount to one I have seen mentioned from the United Kingdom. Essentially, you take a smallish army and play each opponent twice. The first time you use your own army, the second your opponent's.
The idea behind this is that this will determine the better player by comparing the outcomes of the two games. It is also an oft-suggested resolution among the Starving Crazed Weasels.
The problem with the concept is similar to the problem with resorting to "prove it" in a game of Horse.
Though the army list might be the same, the results will seldom be equal.
For example, my standard finishing move in Horse started with a right hand dribble, 360 degree double pump lay in with the left hand.
It could trip people up many places...the dribble, spin, double pump, or especially using the left hand.
Often when that was the challenge shot, I would have to walk the victim through the steps several times and even then they seldom got it correct. Did not matter because it was even more rare that they made the shot.
Army construction often has a similar principle. Picking up a list and seeing "47 dudes with weapons, 18 different dudes with piercing eyes, firm jaw and a lock of wavy hair, and dude with a staff" might tell you what is in the army but not why.
A lot of times it has to do with play style. For example, a player who works to minimize casualties and protect themselves from shooting and magic through judicious entry into close combats will struggle to play a shooting based High Elf army well (why you would make a shooting based High Elf army is an open question).
By contrast, the person who relies heavily on magic to buff their troops, move them around the field, etc. will struggle mightily to do well when handed a Dwarf list, even if it has Thorek and a host of war machines.
Two players with the same list will not have the same results. I am a fine example.
Give me a list I put together and I will typically know which unit is supposed to perform which role. I have a sense of how long my troops will last before being swept aside...or sweeping aside their opponent.
Hand me the identical list, but put together by someone else and odds are good I will struggle with it and, in fact, will lose the majority of the games I play with it, even against inferior lists.
But there is something else to consider. When we played previously back in the last millenium, I used a Bretonnian list. Great armor saves, great mobility, and a beastly dragon rider.
When we restarted, I took to the Warriors of Chaos like a Beagle to rabbit hunting.
They fit my style very well. They are rugged, fast (the way I build lists), and reliable.
I tend to find when I use other styles of lists that I am less successful not only in the game, but in figuring out how to use the troops to hand.
It is not just that the troops die in droves...I do that with the Warriors. I cannot count the number of times my 5 strong Knight unit has lost 3 of 5 members to a 4 wound barrage or my Chaos Warrior unit has been shredded by a trebuchet or scraplauncher.
Ironically, losing 3 knights is much more costly than losing say...22 Lothern Sea Guard as I did not too long ago in just one turn. I have lost far more in potential combat ability by losing 60% of my frontage than I have by losing 0% of my frontage.
But the plan for how to use them changes. One thing I have noted in my list-building is that regardless of what troops are available, I know what roles I want my troops to play and often shoe-horn other troops into that role when my preferred troop is unavailable.
Thus in recent games with both the High Elf and Beastmen army I have had uncomfortable moments when key troops were in the wrong place. Once I lost a Watchtower game to the Lizardmen because of it when I planted deadly but too few in number Swordsmen in the Watchtower instead of the larger, less lethal but much sturdier Sea Guard block. (Arguably I would have lost it anyway, but that made the outcome certain.)
It is a mistake probably nobody else in the Starving Crazed Weasels would make. This is largely because they tend to mix up the army styles they build more frequently than I mix my builds.
I seldom take Chaos Marauders or Chaos Warriors in any numbers larger than the bare minimum because when I look at them I tend to maximize their disadvantages and minimize their strengths.
I like a mobile army. Typically facing one of the various Elven armies, Skaven, Lizardmen and Ogres, I find that M4 is just too slow. 20 - 33% slower than the opponent, the blocks of Marauders and Warriors all too often fail to get where they need to be when I need them to be there.
Conversely, Chaos Knights, Marauder Horsemen, Shaggoths, and Dragon Ogres are fully capable of following Nathan Bedford Forrests' dictum to "get thar fustest with the mostest".
My brothers, Kev and Liam have mastered skills that I envy. They all make much heavier use of infantry than I do and are far more effective with it. Whereas my Marauders, Chaos Warriors, Lothern Sea Guard, and other miscellaneous blocks of infantry often see little to no meaningful combat, they seem to get their infantry blocks into combat almost every game*.
As an interesting side-note, the use of infantry blocks is more of a finesse tactic where the majority of my tactics revolve around blunt force trauma. I also find it is quite difficult to go from blunt force trauma to the tactics of parry and thrust required to play fragile troops well, whereas I do believe it is easier to adjust finesse tactics to bft. But not always.
I think the last Watchtower game was a case in point. In the magic phase, I would have immediately gone the blunt force trauma route of throwing max dice at the power spells every turn and most likely ended up with two dead Slann due to miscast before they could ever have gotten through my Temple Guard with Chaos Knights, Chaos Warriors, etc. if the roles were reversed....in fact, that is what I did with my magic phase.
I am willing to bet they would have taken Pandemonium as one of their spells and spent more time trying to get that cast than Infernal Gateway. I believe this because both brothers are better at finesse, long-term thinking like that than I am. They use those tactics far more often and effectively than I do.
Yet I have also seen them commit the bft style attacks as well. Both use Cold One Knights (one for Lizardmen, the other for Dark Elves), chariots, and "glass cannon" characters quite well.
I am not always certain the reverse is true. The most finesse I use is heavy use of blocking forces and the occasional diversionary attack.
I am far better at the blunt-force tactics that result in bringing overwhelming force into any given combat...and, indeed, if you go back and read through a typical battle report, you will find that most combats I get involved in see me allocating far more points at any given point than the opponent.
I find that all of us in the group have different strengths and weaknesses. At the risk of angering someone, I will suggest some things of that nature I see;
Liam is the best at avoidance and casualty minimizing. He does this through keen analysis of defensive positions and using mobility. His greatest weakness is the occasional lack of aggression.
Kev is great at spotting the right moment to attack a weak point in the enemy lines. His weakness tends to be rotten timing on lousy dice rolls. Whereas he will make a ridiculous number of 6+ saves, at the key moment his war machines will all blow themselves up, he will fail the re-rollable 10+ leadership test, etc.
Fullur is great at movement and thinking ahead. His weakness is being unwilling to press his advantages.
Fixed Dice is an extremely strong player. I would argue he has the best list-building skills of any of us, His greatest weakness is he occasionally will put a lot of points into a model, then be unwilling to use it for fear of losing those points.
I would say my greatest strength is getting the right troops into the right combat at the right time. My greatest weakness...and there are many...is a fear of losing ANY model, even a little 4 point pointless guy.
I will go out on a limb here and say that those who are used to using finesse tactics will do better at adopting to using better troops than someone used to using high quality, resilient troops will do with good quality, fragile troops.
Someone used to using hordes, on the other hand, might do more poorly with an elite army than someone with an elite army would do with hordes. Empty space can be scary.
The key point, though, is tournaments/games where you switch armies might be a "truer" test of skills...but it is not a true test of skills that have been developed.
I love the thought of the Empire army detachment system. I would love to build an army revolving around a Steam Tank, couple units of knights, block of swordsmen with handgun detachments.
And I am willing to bet the first few games would be disastrous for me. I would commit the wrong troops at the wrong time, probably have the wrong units in the wrong places and could get taken apart by 60% of the points in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing.
Plain and simple, as much as I like the idea of the detachments, I have not developed the skills needed to use them effectively.
I have, however, developed the skills to use the Warriors of Chaos effectively.
Here is an example; There is a lvl 4 Wizard on disc, block of 18 Chaos Warriors with shield, mark of tzeentch, horde of Chaos Marauders with Great Weapons and mark of khorne, 2 5 man units of Chaos Knights, one with mark of tzeentch and banner of rage (always frenzied), the other with mark of khorne and war banner, 3 dragon ogres and a dragon ogre shaggoth. Last but not least, there is an exalted hero on Chaos steed with the banner of chaos, giving him terror and making every troop within 6" stubborn. Where do you place the bsb?
Some people would say there is no right or wrong answer. To me, there is a blatantly correct answer (and one I never use).
The Chaos Warriors have a 3+ armor save, 5+ parry save. They are there to occupy any enemy for a long, long time. They are unlikely to win combats on their own. The Chaos Marauders have no save whatsoever, are T3 and modest weapon skill. However, they will dish out a large number of S5 attacks.
Everything else in the list is fast enough to force the combats it wants to get into...which, theoretically, means they will WIN those combats the vast majority of the time.
Thus the BSB is clearly designed to hang out close to or within one of the infantry blocks which, themselves, are designed to work in concert with each other.
Coming up with that scenario and how each unit should be used took me about a half second. Yet time and again, I have looked through some of the other army books, found absolutely no army I wanted to put together...but when I see some of the lists put together by the Starving Crazed Weasels, I know how it will operate in their hands, know I could not use the list that way, and know they made a good list that works for them.
So when I see "prove it" tournaments, I know before I ever set out I have no interest in doing that. I know how good I am with the type of lists I like to take...and how poorly I would fare with just about any other.
In fact, I am willing to wager that if anybody in the Starving Crazed Weasels ever takes me on in a game where we switch lists, they will wipe the floor with me. I will almost guaranteed get tabled. Every time. Regardless of scenario, list, etc.
I also know my dog will still love me.
* One exception to this is hordes. I like to think I have quickly and effectively mastered the use of hordes. Properly protected on the flank, they can occupy so much space they can effectively force the opposition to accept battle. And being a horde, I will almost always have the advantage of numbers, and being the Warriors of Chaos, even the Marauders are almost always the equal of if not superior to the opponent's base troops. Smaller blocks of infantry have oft proved to be wastes of points, but hordes have been awesome for me.
Interestingly enough, the very immobility of a horde, considered a weakness by some, are, in my opinion and experience easy to turn into one of their greatest strengths.