[Confessions of an English Zombie Fancier] This Journeyman’s Day Has Begun

In the end, it turned out to be The Man himself, my old mate the Iron Lich Asphyxious. Had to be. A man as mojo-deprived as I can’t go faffing around with your fancy Covens or your dubious Venethraxes; a man in my position needs simplicity, elegance, and a fourteen-focus feat turn.

The list I’m running with for the first two weeks (my last post was slightly in error: it’s not four months but two, with a fortnight of play at each points level – perhaps they learned from the dropout rate in the previous long league?) looks a bit like this, and was the subject of some anguish.

Iron Lich Asphyxious

  • Cankerworm
  • Deathripper
  • Deathripper

10 Mechanithralls

  • 3 Brute Thralls

It was those five points to which the Cankerworm runs that killed me. Withershadow Combine, for the free upkeep and the ranged attacks? Six Bile Thralls for the infantry clearance that wouldn’t cost Asphyxious focus? In the end, though, I opted for another adorable murderbot, especially since we’re using the bonding rules and I like the thought of more tech for the Cankerworm.

Plus… look at ‘im. How could you not?

The first couple of games were something of a mixed bag. First up was Alyx’s Khador: the original-recipe Butcher, with a Destroyer and War Dog, Winter Guard Mortar, and ten Winter Guard with the Unit Attachment and Rocketeer.

This wasn’t going to be particularly easy – Asphyxious is hard to hide from ranged attacks and the Butcher’s feat turn makes for some particularly monstrous kaboom-kaboom – but I blew it quite spectacularly by opting for two Breaths of Corruption on feat turn instead of a nice safe Teleport out of range. Sniping the officer out of the Winter Guard unit wasn’t worth getting Asphyxious killed. Heigh ho. We do dumb shit sometimes. Simple mistake, easily learned from.
The second game was… an exercise in tilt management if ever I’d seen one. For those not in the know, tilt is that thing some of us do where we get so angry that we forget how to play properly; it’s a term I first encountered in Magic and there’s a neat article on it in that context here. Nice chap called Simon, running Cygnar: Siege, a Defender, a Minuteman (and ye gods, that thing rivals the Cankerworm in ‘best five points I’ve ever spent’ terms), six Rangers and Reinholdt.
Once again, feat turn was simple and early – move up, feat on second turn to strip the Rangers, and alas, have to Breath of Corruption a survivor to make it worth bothering with. So far, so good. The trouble came when the remaining Cygnarans hunkered down behind a linear obstacle (that’s Warmahordese for ‘wall’) and I realised that I had exactly one model who could reach over it – Asphyxious – and eighteen inches of open ground to cover if I wanted to get him there, with two of my Brutes already scraped off the board by Siege’s gun.
This induced a certain amount of brain-grinding ‘I’m fucked’, to which Simon took an unusual tack – offering me a good five minutes of unwarranted and unrequested advice. This is something of a hot button with me – if I want help I’ll ask for it – but it did have me looking at the board again, determined to find another way of doing things, staying in the game because I was damned if I’d let someone tell me how to beat them.
What I eventually spotted was a Brute Thrall shaped space next to the Defender, where I could just about run one of the big lugs in to engage Siege and the Defender itself. With Reinholdt Hellfired off the table, Asphyxious safely behind a wall 18″ away and Cankerworm in place to threaten a counter-charge, I felt marginally more secure, protected from some of the guns. Simon opted to feat and charge Siege into the Cankerworm and nearby Deathripper at the same time, knowing full well what would happen if they had free rein. What he wasn’t expecting was to have Siege left on three health and three focus once the Brute Thrall’s free strike had hit; the Worm was toast, the Ripper had lost everything but movement and weapon (crucially, no cortex) and the Defender had failed to quite finish off the Brute, though the Minuteman had chewed through half the Thralls with its frag field.
What I couldn’t quite work out was how to land a reliable kill. Siege’s DEF was good enough that I didn’t trust Mechanithralls or a Deathripper with no available boosts to hit it, and his ARM wasn’t looking bad either; I wanted to get Parasite up on him first and foremost, and Asphyxious was stuck behind that wall and wasn’t going to be charging in any time soon.
The eventual plan involved moving the Deathripper out of melee, bringing Siege’s DEF down to the point where I could safely Parasite him and then Teleport directly into melee, where I’d be safe from the Minuteman’s gun. The Mechanithralls went in and did what they do, scrapping both the Cygnaran ‘jacks (heigh ho) and failing to land any hits on Siege (thought so).
Now, what I could have done, and what I didn’t think to do (must have had my Warhammer hat on), was place Asphyxious between 0.5″ and 2″ away, i.e. engaging but not engaged by Siege, i.e. gaining a DEF bonus but ensuring that Siege would have to move and take free strikes from the Mechanithralls if he wanted to hit Asphyxious. Instead I parked Asphyxious in base contact like an idiot and had to suffer through one, two, three big hammer hits that made my earlier free strike look restrained… the last of which missed and left Asphyxious on one health box. DEF 15 ARM 17 (thank you Parasite) ain’t that easy to crack.
Very much a dice game, in other words, with some surprisingly skewy rolls that kept it going after it should, arguably, have ended. Simon was also courteous enough to apologise for his behaviour, explaining that he hadn’t meant to insult my intelligence but rather to get me off tilt and thinking again. It’s a novel approach, but it worked – worked a little too well, if anything, since the immediate result (that hardcore free strike) sent me from tilt to flow in under ten seconds. That I allowed myself to go on tilt is one thing, that I allowed myself to be played like that another – it indicates a vulnerability to gamesmanship that I think I’ll need to stamp out during this whole ‘remember how to play Warmachine effectively’ project. I’ll put it on the list, under ‘find new job’ and ‘finally buy new camera cable and upload pictures of models’.

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