Sunday, 2 September 2012

The ETC - Day 3

This post covers the third and final day of my experiences at the ETC 2012, in Gorzow Wielkopolski. You can read about day 1 and day 2 from my previous posts.

And finally we get to day 3. My last chance to improve my personal tally, and maybe even get a win under my belt. Better late than never (although at this point, "never" was still a distinct possibility)...

Once again, in my wife's absence I failed pretty abysmally to remember to take photos, but I've included what I got.

Round 5: Team Russia

Aleksandr Patutkin, Empire 

Arch Lector on War Altar: general, heavy armor, Warriors Bane, Enchanted Shield, Talisman of Preservation
Wizard Lord: lvl 4, beasts, Fencer Blades, White Cloak of Ulric, Ironcurse Icon
Battle Wizard: lvl 1, beasts, Dispel Scroll
Captain of the Empire on Barded Warhorse: BSB, full plate armor, great weapon, Dragonhelm, Crown of Command, Luckstone 
11 Knights of the Inner Circle: FCG, lance, shield 
39 Halberdiers*: FCG 
*Detachment: 5 Archer 
Great Cannon 
Great Cannon 
27 Flagellants: Prophet of Doom 
Luminark of Hysh 
Steam Tank

My score for this army: Unfavourable

We started day 3 with a match against Team Russia, who had managed to place third in the previous year's ETC. Presumably they were not doing so well this time around if they were down playing us after 4 rounds. The players sported wonderful fluffy Russian hats, so were of course to be envied for that if nothing else...
Team Russia deliberate during the pairings

When I was scoring the potential match-ups, I tended to be quite negative about the other Empire armies in the field. The main reason for this was that they had more long-range firepower than me, often in the form of 2 Cannons as well as the Steam Tank. It meant there was the risk that they would sit out of range of my Volley Guns (thereby eliminating my potential edge), and snipe points from me with little risk in return. The Russian Empire army was no different here, although the rest of the list was potentially more favourable than most in that it was not packed with Demigryphs. So it was not the match-up I would have chosen, but it was not dire, either.
The table for round 5, with me deploying at the bottom
Conscious of my concerns about being bombarded from range, my deployment focused on trying to hide from the enemy Cannons. Somehow I managed this pretty well, so maybe Alex had similar concerns. Realising that they were unlikely to feature in the battle, I placed my Volley Guns deep in the right corner, behind the forest. The Cannon went nearby but slightly wider, to give it a reasonable line of sight around the hill in the centre. The Steam Tank went even wider to the right for a similar reason. My main unit went to the left of the forest, with the Demigryph units following suit. One of the small Knight units went wide to the right, whilst the other floated around behind the big rock column on the left - they figured Cannons would have better things to shoot at.

Alex's deployment focused around the opposite corner of the table - my left. The Cannons went quite close to the corner, meaning our artillery couldn't see one another at all. The Flagellants also went near the table edge, planning on wading through the field in front of them. The Halberdiers deployed 5-wide next to them, with the War Altar behind them. The Knights were closer to the centre, deploying in a wide, single line formation with the BSB joining them. The Luminark and Steam Tank were pretty much in the centre. Both Wizards deployed in the Halberdier unit, so were a long way from my lines.

Alex got the first turn and advanced with most of his forces. The infantry started to swing toward the centre, but had a long way to go (especially the Flagellants). The Knights were cautious and only moved forward a bit, staying well behind the hill. The Steam Tank headed toward my own Steam Tank, with the Luminark coming up close to the hill and angling for the Cannon. The Steam Tank's cannon did nothing (I don't think it made the distance), and the Luminark tried to fire its laser beam at my Cannon, but I dispelled it. A pretty uneventful turn.

For my part, I advanced toward the hill without actually cresting it. The Knights on the right swept around quickly, but everything else was pretty cautious. The Steam Tank moved at a respectable pace towards the other Tank, and my Cannon had a bead on it as well. I don't recall my magic doing anything, but between them my Cannon and Steam Tank managed to knock something like 5 wounds off the enemy Tank, putting a fair dent in it.

Alex's second turn looked much like his first. The Steam Tank started to try to head for cover behind the hill, but didn't have enough steam up and only shuffled 1 inch sideways. The Luminark moved up in front of it, but still behind the hill. The Knight line was close behind. I think his Cannons were walking sideways at this point, trying to make themselves useful. The magic was fairly ineffectual, although I think he cast Curse of Anraheir on my main unit.

I decided it was time to make things happen this turn, so my Demigryphs crested the hill right in front of the Luminark. The Knights had a charge too, but only if the Steam Tank died and the Luminark went in first in order to get out of the way. My other Demigryphs remained on the ground, but advanced to be in line with the ones on the hill, eyeing off a potential charge on the oncoming Wizards with their Halberdier entourage. I cast Harmonic Convergence on the Demigryphs, because I foresaw things happening to them the next turn. The Steam Tank and Cannon managed to finish off the enemy Steam Tank (and claim a bonus Knight with the bounce), which meant only the Luminark was between Alex's Knights and my Demigryphs.

My Demigryphs arrogantly strutting about on the hill was apparently too tempting a target for the enemy, and the Luminark hit them before the Knights and BSB followed it in. The line hung well past the end of my Demigryph unit, with the BSB sitting on the end. The infantry continued their advance, as did the Cannons (I think - or maybe they just didn't do much to the Steam Tank). The combat went pretty well for me, with my Demigryphs only suffering a couple of wounds and doing more damage back to the enemy Knights. I held easily (which was good, because a failure would have made a real mess of my lines), and things were looking pretty good.

In my turn 3 the Steam Tank thundered into the Luminark, whilst the Knights on my right hit it in the flank. The unengaged Demigryphs crashed into the front of the Halberdiers and prepared for lunch. My main unit advanced up closer behind the main line of combat, but were not expecting to do much. I may have managed to cast Harmonic Convergence again, but I don't recall (sorry, this game was more than 2 weeks ago now, so some details become a bit vague).

It was at this point that a rules dispute arose, because Alex was under the impression that Steam Tank impact hits never occurred in the combat phase. This is a misinterpretation of the rules, and the fact that they do occur in the movement phase if the Tank was already engaged, but it was eventually cleared up. Once it was settled, the Steam Tank did something like 9 wounds to the Luminark and splintered it comprehensively. The Demigryphs easily outfought the Knights who were already missing their lance bonus, but because the BSB was Stubborn, the unit wasn't going anywhere. My Knights overran through where the Luminark had been and into the flank of the Knights, ensuring the combat would continue to go in my favour. The other Demigryph unit ate the lesser Wizard (the other one was too hard to hit, so I ignored him), along with a whole gaggle of Halberdiers. They won combat by a ton, but Steadfast and the general's presence behind them ensured the Halberdiers stuck around.

In turn 4 the Flagellants continued their advance toward the flank of the Demigryphs (who were no longer so far away after their charge), whilst the War Altar moved out from behind the Halberdiers so that it could have a go as well. The Cannons finally got a good look at my Steam Tank and half killed it before it could get away. The magic phase saw Alex generate a lot of dice, and as such a number of spells got past my defences. The Halberdiers were granted a 5+ ward save by the Arch Lector, whilst the Wizard Lord cast Curse of Anraheir on the Demigryphs right in front of him. The combat then went poorly for me, as he passed something like 5 out of 7 ward saves thanks to the spell (it might have been more). Anyway, I lost combat by a small margin and broke, but managed to outrun the infantry. The other combat saw me win handily once more, but Stubborn was holding the enemy Knights in place. Casualties did mean that the BSB had to slide across into contact with 2 Demigryphs however, which boded poorly for him.

In my turn, the retreating Demigryphs rallied slightly behind the gap between the rock pillar and the hill, and turned to face the Halberdiers who were only 2" behind. They were going to have to brace for another round, and this time the Halberdiers would not be alone. The Steam Tank tried to retreat into cover behind the hill, but blew a number of its steam points due to it misfiring, and didn't managed to get out of sight of the Cannons. The combat on the hill continued to go my way without being conclusive, and the Knights held again with the BSB holding out against the attacks allocated to him. He would be mine...

In turn 5 the Halberdiers crashed into the Demigryphs and the Arch Lector rode in alongside them. The Flagellants crept up behind them. The Cannons fired again and managed to finish off my Steam Tank before it could make it to cover. The charge on my Demigryphs looked impressive without actually being bad for me. The War Altar did no damage, and the Halberdiers fared little better. One of the Demigryphs managed to damage the Altar a bit, whilst the others partied on at the expense of the infantry. I won the combat, but nobody fled. The combat on the hill was a different story. The BSB was devoured by the frustrated Demigryphs and his friends immediately broke from combat. The Demigryphs chose not to pursue so that they could reform to face the side of the War Altar, and the small Knight unit failed to catch the fleeing enemy. There were only 4 left, but they were worth a lot of points.

My turn 5 saw the victorious Demigryphs on the hill crash into the flank of the War Altar, whilst my main cavalry unit crested the hill and prepared to charge the fleeing Knights when they rallied (I figured they would). The small Knight unit moved across a bit to make room, and looked at the same target. The Arch Lector found that 5 Demigryphs and their riders made for a lot of attacks, and the War Altar was smashed out from underneath him. The Halberdiers continued to dwindle, but retained their Steadfast and held. The Arch Lector was not so brave, and fled through the Halberdiers and out the other side near the rock pillar. My Demigryphs failed to catch him with their pursuit, so had to make do with the flank of the poor old Halberdiers, who were well and truly sick of the sight of Demigryphs by now - now they had to fight them on 2 fronts!

In turn 6 Alex did indeed rally the fleeing Knights, but they knew they were in trouble with my main unit bearing down on them. The Arch Lector rallied next to the Halberdiers and turned to face the only thing that would get to charge him - my remaining small Knight unit. The Flagellants finally found a viable charge target and hit the front of the Demigryphs who were flanking the few remaining Halberdiers. The Cannons tried to snipe off a character from my main unit, but only got a few Knights for their efforts. The combat went very well for my Demigryphs once more, with the Halberdiers finally dropping below Steadfast level and fleeing, only to be eaten by the unit to their front. The Flagellants were braver (more foolish?) and fought on against the Demigryphs, but they made no significant progress and lost their Frenzy and their flail bonus - their chance for glory was over.

My final turn saw my main unit declare a charge on the rallied enemy Knights. They fled, but didn't manage to get out of range of my small unit, so they declared a charge as well, and that saw the target flee from the table. My other Knight unit charged the Arch Lector, but did no damage and failed to break him. The Demigryphs chowed down heartily on the Flagellants, but there were too many of them for it to make any real difference.

The battle was over. Alex still had a somewhat maimed Flagellant unit, an Arch Lector who no longer rode in style on his pimp mobile, and 2 Cannons. For my part, I had only lost my Steam Tank. It was a very solid win.

Result: 19-1

The team overall fared less well, with a 75-85 loss. It wasn't a thrashing, but it was probably not what we were hoping for. We'd need a strong finish. It also continued a trend for much of the tournament, where my personal result seemed to have no real bearing on the team as a whole. Clearly not a team player at all...

Round 6: Team Bulgaria

Pavel Janachkov, Skaven 

Grey Seer,General,lvl4,Dispel Scroll,Obsidian Lodestone
Warlord,Rat Ogre Bonebreaker,Great Weapon,Talisman of preservation,Skalm, World's edge armor
Chieftain, BSB, Great Weapon, Storm Banner
Warlock Engineer, Brass orb
Warlock Engineer, Ironcurse Icon
Warlock Engineer, Dragonbane Gem
Assassin,Two hand weapons,Trowing Stars, Weeping Blade, Potion of Strength
40 Clanrats.FCG
40 Skavenslaves, Champion
40 Skavenslaves
40 Skavenslaves
40 Stormvermin,FCG,Razor Standard
5 Gutter Runners,Sling,Poisoned Attacks
5 Gutter Runners,Sling,Poisoned Attacks
1 Doomwheel
1 Hellpit Abomination
1 Warp-lightning Cannon

My score for this army: Average

And we come at last to the final round. Bulgaria were at the ETC for the first time, and due to this and organisational issues, were not sporting the fancy shirts and custom dice that a lot of teams had. I would be playing Pavel, their team captain. I had rated his Skaven army as an average match-up, where things could go either way. He had no Screaming Bell, but he did have the Storm Banner. He also didn't have tons of throw-away units, so I thought I might be able to get through to the valuable stuff.

Being the last round, there was a lot of talk from the team about trying to win big, and being the first one to rush units to the far table edge, etc. I fear that sort of talk confused me, as I was just starting to get the hang of tightening up my game and not fussing about forcing results. I did not play this game well. Anyway, here is what happened...
The table for round 6. Again, I deployed on the bottom
I deployed with a Volley Gun hard on the left flank, with a unit of Knights next to it and Demigryphs behind them. The main unit was behind the hill in front of my deployment zone. Next to them were the other Demigryphs and the Steam Tank. The Cannon was behind the Demigryphs on the right, with the second Volley Gun and Engineer nearby. They also had a small unit of Knights as some form of cover from Gutter Runner attack. This deployment was probably my first mistake. I'm not sure why I split up the Volley Guns. I think by the time I was putting them down, there didn't feel like a good place for them. I don't know. I think I was also confused by finding a Skaven army that clearly wanted to come after me, after how cagey the last one had been.

Pavel put the Doomwheel over on my left, with the Stormvermin in horde formation next to them. Then came some Slaves, the main Clanrat block with several characters in it (the Grey Seer and BSB being pushed back into the second rank), the Hellpit Abomination and more Slaves. The Warp Lightning Cannon was back behind the Stormvermin.

I honestly don't recall who got the first turn in this game. It may have been the Skavem. I remember the Abomination travelling 16" straight at the Demigryphs in my centre at the start of the game, and it flipping me out a bit because I didn't have as much time to prepare as I had expected. The Doomwheel just drove itself into the table edge over on the left and sat there, whilst the Skaven advanced. I did a couple of wounds to the Doomwheel with the Steam Tank's cannon, but I don't think the other Cannon did anything. I'm fairly certain the Warp Lightning Cannon blew itself up in the first turn.

The Knights on my left flank charged the flank of the Doomwheel up against the table edge, but lost 2 of their number to its grind attack and only won combat thanks to their musician so the thing held its ground. Meanwhile the Demigryphs on my right shifted back to ensure the Hellpit needed a big roll to make combat. Both Gutter Runner units appeared on schedule and began an annoying game of running in circles with my Knight unit that was trying to protect the war machines. I kept them away for a while, but eventually they got through and my Knights ended up being flanked by a Slave unit and being broken. I don't recall if that's how I lost the machines or if they were already doomed before the Knights got flanked. Anyway, that was the sum total of the game on my right flank.

On the left, the Demigryphs got themselves charged by the Stormvermin, who also included the Assassin who drank his Potion of Strength. If I'd thought it out better, I would have forced him to make a longer charge and thereby potentially waste his potion. But I didn't think of that, despite assuming that the Assassin was there. I don't know why I was advancing at all, to be honest. As I say, I was a bit confused. The Assassin wound up killing one Demigryph and crippling another, which the Stormvermin finished off. It left me with only 2 to fight back, and then ended up losing combat my 2 or something. I fled and got run down, then the Assassin leapt from the unit and charged the Volley Gun on that flank (which had only one chance to defend itself in between, and found that 10 dead Stormvermin was not enough to avert its fate - they didn't panic). 

In the centre, the Steam Tank got charged in the flank by the main Clanrat unit, and the characters with their great weapons set about trying to dismantle the thing. Pavel cast Death Frenzy on them in the hoping of speeding things up a bit, but it still took a long time. 

The Abomination moved right in front of the Demigryphs on the right and I basically had to charge it. It was shielding the flank of the Clanrat bus, which had swung around quite a lot to engage the Steam Tank. I think the Demigryphs won combat each turn, and after 3 rounds of combat they managed to kill the monstrosity for the loss of 1 of their number in return (Pavel failed a lot of saves - something like 8 of 10. So on average perhaps he should not have died, but he was close). This opened up the flank on the Clanrats, and would have changed the game. The the Abomination rolled a 6 and got back up on 2 or 3 wounds, blocking the path. Damn. It then ate the unit, whose spirits were presumably broken by its reappearance.
Too horrible to die
My main bus got bogged in the centre of my line fighting Slaves, and made harder work of it than they needed to. Had they killed them one round earlier (which was entirely possible, had the dice been cooperative), they would have been able to turn to face the Stormvermin for a charge in my turn. Instead it took until the small Knight unit on the flank finished off the Doomwheel (it fled the table), turned around, moved up and charged the Slaves in the flank (all 3 of them died from the resultant exploding Slave unit. Aww yeah) The main unit then copped the Stormvermin charge, and were hit in the rear by more Slaves and the flank by the re-invigorated Abomination. They then ensured that things were properly bad by rolling poorly in the combat and being comprehensively beaten. They broke and were run down, just as the Steam Tank succumbed to the attentions of the Clanrats and their enraged great weapon-wielding leaders. 

At that point I was pretty much wiped out, so I gave up (I think I had a unit of fleeing Knights left). The few points I got for the Doomwheel, Slaves and Warp Lightning Cannon got me nowhere near registering on the battle point scale, so it was a comprehensive thrashing.

Result: 0-20

It was a disappointing way to end the tournament. I don't think the match-up was terrible, but in hindsight it did have its drawbacks. There were 5 units my regiments would all get bogged against, and my choice of Magic Lore wasn't going to help with that problem at all. It meant I was going to struggle to control the game. But Pavel definitely played it better than I did (he did things like wearing a volley from the Cannon and Steam Tank before engaging the Storm Banner in the second turn when the Volley Guns could have come into play). The dice were unforgiving as well, but I didn't play well enough to deserve much more. I had failed to group the Volley Guns so they could concentrate fire which had left them exposed, I had advanced when I didn't need to, and I had failed to try to get the Assassin to waste his Potion of Strength which meant he could butcher my Demigryphs. All of these things would have made a difference.
Pavel does an admirable job of not smirking at the pitiful resistance I put up in the last round
After round 5 I had actually started to hope that I might get to the "par" score of 60/120 battle points, but this last game had put paid to those hopes. I finished on 47/120, which was sufficiently abysmal to make me the "Team Anchor" - the worst performing player in the team. I wouldn't have minded that so much if I hadn't deserved it, but after the final game, it was hard to feel otherwise. Oh well. 

Overall, our team got a maximum 100-60 win in the final round (apparently the aggressive attitude that the others were talking up worked well for those who could adjust). Once again my efforts meant nothing much in the scheme of things. In some ways that's nice to know - I got done 20-0 and it didn't matter - but in the end it felt like I didn't participate in the team's final standing very much.

The final results put Team Australia in 17th place of 34 teams - so top half, as the guys were immediately fond of saying (by the barest of margins). This was a dramatic improvement on last year's result of 25th out of 28, so people were generally pretty pleased. It was nice to come out of the event with people satisfied, and no doubt the expectations of next year's team will be raised. Whether I will play any part in that is yet to be determined.

You can see the full final results here.

So, was I happy with my army list? In the final wash out, I would say no. I had fielded a mix of elements, with some long-range guns, the short-range firepower of the Volley Guns, and the combat punch of the Demigryphs. I don't think the Volley Guns really contributed at all - or if they did, it was in helping determine the match-ups. I didn't really hit any players who wanted to advance within range of them (except in the last game, when the Storm Banner and my deployment rendered them irrelevant when it mattered), and it meant that all I achieved was forcing people outside of 24" when they didn't much care about it. I had spent a lot of points on something unimportant, and then often wasted them in my efforts to bring them into the game.

My choice of the Lore of Heavens was probably the wrong focus for the event, too. It has a bit of everything, but doesn't offer any real mass stopping-power. I only ever really cast 1 effective Comet for the tournament (I didn't even get the spell against the dense Dwarf deployment), as it was generally going to be too slow to hit the thing I needed to cut down. Heavens is great for enhancing the ability of the Demigryphs and Knights, but there were not a lot of times when that was what I really needed. I think something more direct might have been in order.

Basically, if I had my time over I'd make a different list. I didn't play this list to its fullest potential, but I would have rather had other tools at my disposal. The fact that in my best games the Volley Guns didn't fire a shot in anger suggests that something wasn't right.

And what about how I scored the match-ups? I am reasonably satisfied with those, although it looks somewhat odd that my only win came in an "unfavourable" match, and the only "favourable" one resulted in a heavy loss. In both of those games however, the manner in which I played had a big impact on the game. The Empire match was one of only 3 games I played right (I played the Dwarf game right but was punished by not paying proper attention to the FAQs and not sticking to my guns, and the NZ Skaven match was a reasonable performance), and of all the games, it was the Empire opponent who made the biggest mistake in going for the bait on the hill and committing to unfavourable combats. That all skews the results. I think in general I assessed things alright, and it was certainly a worthwhile exercise.

The ETC is a very interesting tournament, and far-removed from anything I would normally play in. The team environment is fun, and it's cool to meet players from all over the world. The atmosphere was not as cut-throat as I feared it would be, and although the lists were as tough as they could be, you know to expect that going in so it's OK. I'd happily go again if the planets align, and maybe next time I can steal a few more points and avoid being Team Anchor once more...

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