The Elusive Prey (Part 2): A river, in Africa

She did not read this article.

It’s worse than that, she’s dead Jim.6.

Article 2 in my long-running9 series of parallels to the “Patient Hunter” series.

Last article I started discussing assassination vectors and “keys” to assassination plans. In the finest tradition of University Lecturers I’m going to assume that my one lecture on the topic plus the four hundred pages of reading that I assigned is enough to make everyone an expert on that area and I’m going to move right along to the next concepts.

Actually, I’m intending to continue to develop those concepts through this whole series, I just wanted to lay them out in the first article so they wouldn’t be completely “new”4 in the later ones.

What this series is REALLY about is countering and avoiding assassinations.

To this end, I’ve identified four loose “strategies” that I think every player needs to be aware of so they’re available to them when they need them:

1. Deny
2. Nullify
3. Bait
4. Force

Today we’re going to look at Denial.

That joke never gets old.

That joke never gets old.

Denial has different meanings to different players, for the purpose of this article I’m using it to mean near-complete denial. Meaning it’s not actually possible for the opponent to attempt the assassination. If you have merely reduced their chances of success, then I’m considering that to be working towards “nullification” which is in the next article so wait your turn.

Since denial is such an all-or-nothing thing, there are only a few ways it can really be accomplished and those methods available are determined by the type of assassination vector.

Denial is a powerful tool, because it liberates you to play your game, while completely removing the opponents’ game. It does often restrict your ‘caster/’lock since it commonly sets where you have to play from, but at the same time it relieves you from worrying about the odds on an assassination, trying to work out all of the opponents tricks and traps that might enable her to get a better odds assassination than you’ve calculated….. This is incredibly important, particularly if the death clock becomes a factor later in your game.

It’s very hard to quantify the effect of a good assassination threat on the opponent’s clock and game-play, but I’d estimate from my experience that simply having a solid assassination threat on the table is worth 10 minutes of death clock across a game. It probably also (WILD GUESS) reduces their overall gameplay effectiveness by 5% (which is a completely unjustifiable number….but people play more conservatively when they might die). So if you remove the threat completely from consideration, then you’re gaining back that time and effectiveness.

The easiest options against ranged assassins are:
1. Deny line of sight using terrain, clouds and models.
2. Have Stealth.

Against melee assassins you gain one extra option:
3. Block path/landing zone.

Using Terrain, clouds and models

Terrain is an interesting thing. Some tournaments have none, some tournaments have huge amounts, others invent new varieties of terrain for the “enjoyment”1 of their players.

We call it the pain t(er)rain

We call it the pain t(er)rain

Generally the types of terrain that are most useful for denial of an assassination are forests, walls and obstructions. Note that walls are only useful for denial against a melee assassin where they can obstruct the ability to get in melee range. So mostly we’re talking about forests and obstructions.

Use of terrain starts at the first die roll of the game. If your opponent is playing an assassination list, then you need to immediately be looking for the terrain features that could potentially save your life. Most of us do this anyway for the purpose of nullification, where hills and walls are a great asset.

When you’re looking to deny though you need more specific items. If there is a forest, you need to be able to either stand completely behind it (and still be relevant to the game and in the killbox if required), or you need to be able to stand at least 3″ into it. If you can’t do those things, for whatever reason, then it’s no good to you.

If there is a building or obstruction, you need to be able to stand completely behind it, out of line of sight. Which means you need to establish with your opponent what that piece of terrain actually means for line of sight.

A rock might provide cover, or block line of sight, depending on your negotiations with your opponent. If you like you can call a judge to decide, whatever makes it clear and amicable.

Some lists can bring their own terrain. Generally either a wall (Baldur2, Trollbloods), obstruction (Mohsar) or forest (Circle Orboros primarily). If you’re lucky enough to be able to bring your own, then you need to factor that into your assessment of the table. Where will you be able to use the least of your own resources to achieve denial.

If you can’t find terrain to block the assassination, then another option (far riskier) is to use your own models. Using opponents’ models for this purpose is not recommended generally11. When you’re using your own models for this purpose it’s still a very risky strategy. There are a lot of ways to move/knockdown/kill models in this game and if you turn the game into a mini-game where all your opponent really has to do is kill one of your models to get line of sight….then you may well lose that game.

If your plan is to block with models, then I strongly recommend that you do NOT let your opponent have a hill. Or alternately give them a hill, and then remain annoyingly half an inch further away than they can shoot you while remaining on the hill.12

Essentially if you’re going to deny through model placement you NEED to know your opponents options at least as well as she does. If she has telekinesis, then you need to either have models that are immune to spells, have a way to prevent casting (Such as bestial), use models that cant be placed or come up with some other method to ensure that she can’t use the spell to create a line. If she has pKreoss, then whatever is blocking LOS had better also be immune to knockdown.

If she has Rahn then you also need that model to either be unable to be moved by a slam, or be positioned such that there is no way for it to move by slam (base to base with another similar size model) AND be immune to knockdown.

It needs to also be tough enough to not be removed by any of the ancillary items in the opposing list. If they have to use critical pieces from their assassination run to kill it, that may be ok….but if they can clear it out with anything they dont need to execute the assassination, then you havent denied, you’ve simply made it mildly more difficult.

Having Stealth

His chief weapon is surprise. Surprise and an inevitable sense of disappointment.

His chief weapon is surprise. Surprise and an inevitable sense of disappointment.

This one’s fairly self-explanatory, if your opponent has no way to see through Stealth (Which means you’ve made certain the usual suspects like Eyeless Sight, True Sight etc are not present), then your having Stealth is a pretty solid way to counter their ranged assassination.

There are a few things to add here though:
1. Most lists that have a good ranged assassination have a plan to deal with Stealth. Not all of them…but the vast majority. So make SURE they don’t, before you assume that you’re ok.
2. Be aware of what grants you Stealth and what can remove it. If you have Stealth by virtue of a spell (such as occultation or shadow pack) then there are many effects in the game that can remove it (such as purification or hex blast).
3. If you have Stealth innately then the opponent has far fewer possible ways of removing it, but they still exist (flare and hunting howls are two examples).

Blocking path and/or landing zone
This is only relevant if the opponent’s assassination threat is melee. Common examples would be Molik Karn historically and Bradigus in the contemporary meta.
It’s also a risky proposition and I’m not entirely sure it counts as denial rather than nullification.
Since I’m going to deal with the idea of obstruction in the Nullification article, I’ll leave that discussion for then.

Which makes it a wrap for this week. Tune in next week8 for the nullification article!

Please discuss on the forums in the “Patient Hunter” thread since I’m trying (and failing) to hijack it.

Oh, I’m on twitter. As @bobliness. I could probably link, but I’m not going to.


1. Pro-tip: If you need a powerpoint slideshow to explain your new terrain to your judges….you shouldn’t be using it.
2. And the footnotes! Oh, the poor footnotes. Butchered before their time.
3. Funnier but less likely to be believed if they are playing Ret. That said, if they think that you think that their Halberdiers are Pikemen, then you’re probably onto a winner. Just dont accidentally get charged by Halberdiers, those guys have a sweet minifeat. 15
4. New in this case simply meaning that someone somewhere might not understand them. In retrospect “Primary Vector” does kind of make it sound like CoC is involved….but if I was in this to make everything clear, I’d probably not be writing this where it is.
5. I’m a poopy-head.
6. Colin didn’t even have a footnote 6, that’s how little he cares about your sanity. No worries dear readers, I am here to save you – Ed.
7. I like to measure the melee threat to random enemy models that have no way to get to my caster except through the most ludicrous of combinations and then move my caster to a location that is just out of the REAL threat’s range, while expounding how I need to get away from the Iron Fang Pikemen.3
8. Or considerably after that, depending on how long it takes to get back to writing post WMW.
9. Long-running in this case meaning at least two articles. We have a new editor and he’s an absolutely merciless mad-man with the cutting axe. If I told you how many thousands of words of beautifully written prose he had denied you ever seeing2 you would froth at the mouth with angst.
10. This one also wasn’t used and in an effort to reduce my general time spent per article I’m not going to go back and fix it. I have an editor now. He can deal with this crap. I’ve seen Deno’s articles, not a single picture. No wonder he can monster out an article like it’s no-one’s business. Stream of consciousness? What is this jazz? I’ll show you stream of consciousness. It’s going to be one long paragraph of garbage about how I can or can’t deal with Molik Karn interspersed with the occasional query on whether or not I should be paying attention to this teleconference call about the project estimate.I mean his ability to sidestep is only part of the problem, particularly if he’s in a list that has access to decent shooting which, recently, I’ve seen a lot more of. Thankfully I’ve also seen less of Molik himself, which is madness, speaking of madness, 20 hours per instrument stand just to grout it in seems damn high to me. Not as high as PP clearly were when they designed the Blight Wasps, but high nonetheless, more like pot high vs crack high. God only knows how high you have to be for the Blight Wasps, possibly Blight Wasp-high.
11. I’ve seen it done, and if you have a method to 100% lock a model in place, you can certainly do it. Unfortunately to get real certainty in LOS blocking using models you generally have to stand right next to them….which is a drawback if they are a really angry enemy model that you’ve shadow-bound in place to act as a sort of portable screen.
12. Bonus points if you can do this without ever revealing that you actually DO know their exact threat range and you’re doing it deliberately. Things like measuring to a different enemy model and pretending THAT threat range is the real fear and you’re positioning to avoid that threat.7
13. Downsized as part of the budget shift.
14. Removed from scope due to late client change. We still charged them for the engineering because “it was already done” – spoiler alert: It wasnt.
15. They get to advance and go into Shield Wall!

 

Author: bobliness

I'm an Australian living in Houston, Texas, I started playing Warmachine/Hordes in March 2012 and I consider myself to be on a continuous learning curve that I'm not sure will ever end. I play for strategy and combinations, I am in no way a qualified hobbyist or painter though I admire those that are. No, I dont know Chunky, but the other five people that live in Australia tell me he's really swell.

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