This was originally posted on the all new19 Dark Guidance Blog 21, but since then we’ve determined that we’re generally a lot happier over-running the Muse On Minis site since the podcast is already here!
So, I put a call out on twitter for ideas for articles and a fair number of suggestions came through.
The end result is this article, though it’s not exactly what anyone asked for.
It’s actually the first of it’s kind I think,15 which is probably because in order to make it work I had to make so many assumptions that it may well be fairly pointless.
Often people have asked me to write about a specific matchup. Actually let’s be fair, I’m not sure anyone’s ever asked. I’ve often considered how to do it.
The problem is that talking about a specific matchup is complicated. The game involves so many factors that it’s actually very very difficult to make a coherent article. Hence, I’d never really done it. I’d had a couple of attempts, but they spiral out of control super fast due to the rapid expansion of variables to discuss.
So I decided to try something I’ve often considered and never tried: Rule out all the variables through assumptions.
The actual question asked was phrased roughly as: “How do you tackle gunlines using a predominately melee list” This could be paraphrased as “OMG Cygnar OP, my cryx cant win plz nerf”
But only if you were being particularly uncharitable to the fellow who asked, since although the focus on gunlines as “detrimental to the game” is, in my opinion overstated, it certainly is a concern for anyone playing in a tournament these days.
I’m guessing it’s also a problem for those who don’t play in tournaments, but at the very least they have the option to simply say “I don’t feel like playing against sloan for the third time with my goreshade one list…..thank you”1
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, an opt-in version of tournament play would be a nightmare to do pairings for) for those in tournaments it’s a pretty safe bet that at some stage you’re going to run into a gunline. 2,3
So, what can you do?
Well loosely there are a few options during list construction 4 that can help you out, but that’s another article 5 because in this article I’m going to instead attempt to talk about it from an in-game strategic/tactical viewpoint for variety.
1. You either don’t have an “anti-gunline” list, were locked out of it, or just lost list chicken with someone…..explanation of those three options can be found here 7 since I guess there may be someone who wants an explanation. I’ve just spent more words explaining why I’m using a footnote to shorten this paragraph than I needed to actually explain the terms. You’ll get used to it. 8
2. Your opponent has a “gunline” – by which I mean a list that primarily relies on dealing damage from ranged to be able to win a game. It almost certainly has other elements (if it’s any good) that can assist it to assassinate or win on scenario, but first and foremost it’s going to try to blow away your hopes and dreams like a very localized tornado carving a path through your childhood toy cabinet.
Then I immediately run into complicating factors:
· Is it a live scenario?
· Are there trenches and forests to hide in?
· Do I have a sweet objective to hide behind?
· What if I can block their LOS, do they have a gunline that ignores LOS ? Well…are you using clouds or forests?
The scenario is going to be “Entrenched”
You’re going second, since that’s probably the worst option
There’s terrain as shown in the below picture (taken from one of the MK3 battle reports on youtube by “critdisruption”? It’s not super clear, but there’s a hill, forest and trench on the left hand side and a pair of forests plus a hill on the right. In the middle is a large water feature (whee)
We bought not-bunker as our objective, because we didn’t bring our anti gunline list.
Actually you know what, here’s our list (Provided by Ryan (Hobbit) Evans):
Asphyxious the Hellbringer – 24
Kraken – 36
Barathrum – 15
Cankerwork – 9 (10)
Darragh Wraithe – 9
Necrotech – 2
Orin Midwinter – 5
Ragman – 4
Satyxis Raiders with Sea Witch – 19
Objective: Not bunker
And while we’re at it, her list is going to be:
10 Grundback Gunner (hand-cannon bots)
5 Grundback Blaster (spray-bunnies)
Aiyana and Holt
Anastacia de bray
Objective : Bunker
(*Thanks* to Affie/Chris for the list )
Neither of these lists are necessarily the best or worst for this case, but they are what I’m using so hopefully it’s good.
STEP ONE: LIST ANALYSIS
Generally in a tournament I’ll briefly go over their lists before selection, then once again more in depth once lists are chosen.
In this case I’ve included some for our list also, since hey, I hadn’t seen it before now…
1. We’ve got a Kraken. I’m not sure whether to classify this as a “good” thing generally. I’m pretty sure in this specific matchup it’s a problem, since we have no relevant ARM buff against shooting and it turns out that 15 boosted POW 12s does an average of about 60 damage. Which is a dead Kraken. We’ll have to see if we can work out some way to make it’s death worthwhile.
2. We’ve got a set of satyxis, who are decently self-protected from ranged enemies. Note that their ability works against sprays as well as handcannons. Handy for this matchup. They also combo very well with ashen veil, meaning that the handcannon bots need 12’s to hit, while the sprays are still rolling 10s. This would make me feel a lot better if it weren’t for the fact that they get all their attack rolls boosted, so 10’s is about the same as 7s normally. Which if it’s sprays incoming, is a LOT of dead satyxis.
3. We’ve got backlash in two places, Barathrum and Satyxis. In this matchup that may actually be one of our best chances to win. There’s a bunch of warjacks on the table and if we can at least get barathrum on one (He’s only getting one round, if we’re lucky he might still have enough bits left to be able to actually hit one and damage it) then that should be 3-5 damage on Ossrum. If we can get five or more damage out of the satyxis backlash, we could get as much as 8-10 damage on Ossrum. That gives us at least a chance at killing him by either ranged attacks from the Kraken or spells from Gaspy himself. This isn’t a fantastic plan. But it might end up as our best bet.
4. Speaking of Barathrum, he’s also got some anti-gunline tech of his own with “dig in”. In this matchup that may actually be relevant and it pairs with counter charge to make him at the very least annoying. Interestingly if someone were to bulldoze him, pushing him back, and then end their movement, he’d be able to countercharge, which might keep him alive through some of the ensuing gunshots. Given that he’s likely to be dug-in, there’s a decent chance that our opponent might move spray-bots into the 6” countercharge bubble, which would be good for us also.
5. Gaspy is pretty solid defensively, 15/17 is a really good statline that can credibly survive a POW 12 based assassination.
6. Gaspy’s feat is pretty happy to see 15 jacks on the table against him, assuming we can get them in his control range, without dying (refer above).
7. We’ve got vociferon, who is largely useless in this matchup as far as I can see. He’ll be a contest piece for the scenario, but there’s really only four souls on the table for the opponent and it’s not a matchup where one or two extra souls will get Gaspy to a superior position.
8. We’ve got ragman, who’s always handy and at least means we probably get to kill a couple of jacks with the kraken if it gets a round of combat.
9. The necrotech will hopefully help make that a possibility.
10. Darragh is a great model, but in this matchup is doing very little. There’s only 5 living models on the table for the opponent and we’ve got precious few undead models on our side, so deathride and beyond death (or Mortal Fear as it’s now known) don’t do a lot. Between deathride and mobility we could get Gaspy himself out to a 13” threat, which may turn out to be relevant. Given that Ossrum doesn’t tend to do a lot of work with his own weapons or spells, getting Mortal Fear on him isn’t going to do a huge amount either unfortunately. At least Darragh has a RNG 2 scythe and high SPD, so perhaps we can use him to tie up some of the warjacks and get a couple of free strikes before he’s killed in a hail of splash damage from sprays.
11. Orin Midwinter is good simply because they have Aiyana and Holt. If the Kraken is to have ANY chance of survival, the kiss from Aiyana must NOT be an option. So we need to keep orin within 3” of the kraken and also as safe as humanly possible from the enemy warjacks. She has reinholdt, so stealth wont necessarily save him from the gunners. Nothing will save him from the blasters (spray) except distance. It’s going to be hard to keep him within 3” of the Kraken without being in the spray range of the blasters, particularly on feat turn where they can advance 10” and spray 8”.
12. We have Cankerworm. Always a great model, even moreso in Gaspy lists. Unfortunately in this matchup his stealth wont necessarily save him and his defence wont save him due to powerful attack.
Alright, that’s our list, so how about hers?
1. It’s fairly one-dimensional at first glance, but in reality it’s a horrifying combination.
2. There are five mobile spray platforms that are more accurate than pretty much any other sprays in the game due to powerful attack and RAT 6. These can kill satyxis pretty effectively which is a problem. They can also kill more than one thing at a time and can kill solos pretty effectively. Often they can do all of these things at the same time.
3. The other 10 models are boostable handcannons. Only rather than boostable, they are just boosted. All the time.
4. The jacks are surprisingly sturdy (pun. Ha) at 12/18(16), fortunately they’ve only got 18 boxes, which is some relief. Unfortunately it’s pretty hard to reliably cripple their gun (Minimum realistically of 8 damage to make it happen)
5. Aiyana and Holt give the threat of making all the hand cannons POW 14 and sprays POW 1217, which is frankly unmanageable. Once that happens, whatever got Harmed/kissed is dead.
6. Ossrum has a feat that gives +3 SPD and +3 ARM and pathfinder. In this case it takes the jacks up to SPD8 and makes them even more difficult to knock out of commission for a round.
7. He’s also got energizer, meaning they can effectively run 12” in a turn without feat, or advance 7”. With the feat they can advance 10”. Putting the handcannon threat out to 22” on feat turn. That makes it pretty unlikely we can stay out of threat if she goes first, we’re going to be taking shots from turn two onwards no matter what we do.
8. We’re fortunate that this list doesn’t have a mortar, and therefore doesn’t really have a fantastic snipe target, or a fantastic fire for effect target. In fact Holt is probably the best target of those two spells. Which is not a terrible target by any means, but at least he’s someone we can credibly kill.
9. Ossrum also has a spell called “unstoppable force” which gives his whole battlegroup bulldoze. This means on a live scenario, like this one, he could credibly move anything other than the kraken out of a zone unless we have something to stop it happening.
She wins the roll (She’s got Anastacia, so fair enough) and elects to go first. So we get to pick sides.
SECOND STEP: CHOOSING SIDE
First consideration – Scenario:
This is a live scenario, which means that:
We can potentially win by simply dominating our zone repeatedly, with a hopeful shot at destroying their objective and controlling their zone once to win the game.
Much more likely than the above, we could dominate our zone once or twice while taking as few casualties as possible (somehow) and thereby force the opponent to commit into our melee range to avoid scenario loss. If she doesn’t have very many models, this can work to force her to sacrifice relatively high value pieces plus give us a handy “in melee” bunker halfway up the board where all our models can at least be engaged and thereby mitigate the ranged damage coming in.
The converse is also true, our opponent can dominate her zone repeatedly to win. Which means that we will need to offer her something every turn at a minimum, just to stay in the game. At least we get to score first.
She is probably much better at clearing a zone from a distance and also much better at killing our objective unless we bought bunker which…we didn’t. So if she ever gets to 3 points, she is much more likely to close it out than we are unless we can deliver something to her objective (and preferably deliver something significant to her army)
She has the option to give her whole army bulldoze. So the only thing in our army that can reliably stay in a zone is the kraken. Which has a lifespan comparable with that of particles only found in the large hadron collider.
Second consideration – Terrain:
o Both sides of the table have forests in positions that restrict movement directly after deployment for those that don’t have pathfinder.
o We have Cankerworm and a Kraken, which have pathfinder. We have Satyxis Raiders who can pray for pathfinder, as long as we don’t mind them all dying.
o On her side, fortunately there is no pathfinder with the exception of Ossrum’s feat, which she’s unlikely to use for early game setup.
So, since her list is 15 warjacks without pathfinder and she wants to run them all directly forward to maximize threat at the bottom of turn one, anything we can do to disrupt her ability to get the whole set where she wants them, is valuable.
From the pathfinder perspective, we probably want the side with a single forest. The other side of the table has two forests that effectively funnel anything moving on one half of the table (the half that supports “your zone” if you are that player) and will likely work to push the entire deployment to the side of the table that doesn’t have forests.
If she does deploy heavily on her left flank to reduce the impact of the forests, then we can counter deploy either directly opposite her to increase the chance of getting our stuff to her and minimize the distance she can push up without letting us run to engage……or we can deploy on the opposite side and threaten to overwhelm her zone first (since we go second and get to score before she does) and try an force a scenario game.
o There’s a LOT of shooting coming our way. Some of it is sprays and we cant really do much to mitigate that in terms of table side since the forests are way too far out of the zones to be relevant for hiding behind (We could keep our stuff alive….but we couldn’t win the game, we’d just lose on scenario with less dead stuff…a moral victory perhaps, but not an actual victory).
o The handcannon shooting though, we can work on that. We have ashenveil, which will most likely be on the raiders, we have dig-in on barathrum and we’ve got a couple of stealth models. Our opponent has sprays and reinholdt. For her to win though she needs to get good value out of the handcannon shots as well as the sprays, 5 sprays isn’t going to kill everything (11). So any way to gain a little bit of extra defence needs to be considered. The trench is the most obvious one, since it’s positioning means it’s very unlikely the opponent will ever get a hand-cannon jack into the trench with our models to negate it’s effect.
o The hills also give us protection from both spray and direct shot, which is an improvement on forests.
o Hills stack with concealment (and dig-in) which makes them preferable to forests.
It looks like an overwhelming victory for us taking the left hand side of this table.
STEP THREE: DEPLOYMENT
As shown in the photo (I’ve copied the photo again so you don’t have to scroll)12
Conveniently through the process of choosing sides we’ve done most of our deployment planning also (without using any clock!)
We’ll take the left hand side.
We’ll hope our opponent deploys to the closest half of her table edge primarily, probably with 5 or so jacks poised to run through the gap between the two forests on the far edge, and the rest clustered to come as tight on the edge of the forest as possible (the central forest)
If she does follow roughly that deployment, we’re going to deploy something relatively shooting-resistant on the close end of table to stand in the trench while toe-in the zone, use the hill to make the raiders and/or barathrum unshootable while threatening the zone we want to score in, get Gaspy up behind the forest (probably slightly on the far side of it so that he can still charge to their objective and feat turn two)
Anyway, if we manage to get the above setup or something near it, then this is how I would be hoping to play the game out:
STEP SOMETHING: PLAY THE GAME!!14
energizer and fail charge with ossrum, perhaps put up snipe on holt. Run all jacks as far forward as possible, putting five just past the forests and a couple toe-in her zone. The ten will end up split by the water, which will probably force a feat next turn, since if she doesn’t, she’s going to have to walk around the water which will be super annoying. I’d guess that seeing our deployment she’d split with more heading towards her zone and maybe 3-4 headed towards our zone.
If she splits the other way to put pressure on our zone, I think we end up with a better chance of winning by scenario.
We’re going to advance cankerworm and darragh to a position that can get into the zone (toe-in, in the trench) next turn when we need to contest. That probably means they can stay right in the furthest points of the trench from the enemy models possible. She cant get models into the trench (at least not that can still shoot) next turn, so plan hide-in-trench is go.
On the other side we’re going to setup Barathrum as far forward as a mobility-advance-digin can get him on the hill. Hopefully that puts him threatening the objective and the entire zone, while staying safe from any real shooting aside from sprays. The satyxis raiders will pray for not dying (Force barrier), get ashen veil and run such that they flank pretty wide on the far side and as many as possible are on the hill. So gaspy is basically allocating nothing, casting mobility and ashen veil and moving up behind the forest, sticking to the far side of it if possible, such that he cant be shot by stuff on the other side of the table, but he can still readily charge the opponents objective.
The Kraken is the big decision this turn. We could advance it as far forward as possible (which could be 14” if we run with mobility) and force the opponent to kill it this turn (which she will, since orin wont be near enough to stop the kiss from Aiyana. If he is near enough at that point, then he’s dead) which might create enough space to let us dominate and feat the following turn…..or might lose us the game. Alternately we could advance it less aggressively, putting it in range to charge into either zone, with Orin probably safe behind the forest but within 3” of the back of it’s base. We probably don’t get to shoot with it this turn, since we need the extra couple of inches of movement more than a simple advance. Ideally we probably want it positioned between orin and the nearest spray-bunnies. I’m guessing the end result of the turn is something like:
So this is going to be feat turn and a bucketload of damage is going to go somewhere. She can quite literally choose to put said damage wherever she wants, but at least we’ve made some aspects of it difficult. Ossrum is probably going first, allocation is minimal and it’s feat into energizer into advance and shoot the kraken with his handcannon. I think the most likely target of all the blue jacks and red jacks is the kraken. Between them plus holt with fire for effect, there’s going to be 10-12 boosted pow 12s and an unboosted pow 12 straight off the bat, plus whichever spray-bots get involved. That’s enough to put the kraken on the ropes (roughly 47-49 damage). I’ve never met anyone willing to leave a colossal with less than 10 boxes alive, so I’m going to predict that basically everything needed to kill it will go into it and the remaining 3 jacks to shoot will probably be spray-bunnies that go hunting satyxis raiders. With their effective SPD 10 advance they will likely get 2-3 each on sprays and that means that we probably lose 4 raiders or thereabouts 13
We really have no choice but to stick with the plan. There’s now probably 5-6 jacks in the zone we want to clear, we have no kraken and we’re down four raiders, but other than that we’re doing …ok? We’re not in danger of losing on scenario any time soon, though it’s probable that several of the jacks from the near side are now toe-in our zone, simply because it’s a habit for most players. With the Kraken gone we cant really threat ossrum, who’s probably standing just on her side of the water feature.
So, cankerworm’s doing very little this turn, he gets no allocation. Barathrums’ going to have to do something (despite the fact that it’s the worst time in the world to have to do it…all at +3ARM) and so he gets two plus powerup. We need mobility because Gaspy is going to have to get to the objective, so we’re only going to have three focus on gaspy to work with. That’s a problem because at ARM 21 the raiders probably need calamity to reliably deal damage to the bunnies. Fortunately they are DEF 10, so if we want to hard-roll the calamity it’s pretty safe.
Gaspy actually needs to go first so he’s going to feat, cast mobility and charge the objective. He’ll throw a calamity at whichever bunny we are sure we can get four raiders on. He’ll hit the objective for a bit of damage and call it a day engaging at least one bunny.
Barathrum can hopefully walk to a non-calamity bunny, where he’ll be hitting at dice-4. Likely that he’ll do about 15 damage, crippling it and dealing probably 4 damage to Ossrum in the process.
The raiders will charge, four onto the calamity-bunny and the rest to engage as many as possible of the remaining jacks in range. With a bit of luck we’ll get another 5-6 damage on ossrum and cripple the calamity’d bunny. We’ll do probably non-meaningful damage to the others, but the aim is to tie the spray-bunnies up with as many melee ranges as possible to avoid them being able to spray next turn.
If they’ve given us a target for cankerworm to charge, then he activates before all of the above, charges and then repositions to engage a spray-bunny if possible. If they didn’t give him anything to charge then he can activate now and run to the tip of the zone closest to gaspy. Darragh wraith can advance to toe zone while in trench and throw a hellfire at whatever the heck he can see/reach.
Orin will run to the other side of gaspy, within 3” in the hardest spot to hit that he can manage. The necrotech can advance and make some scrap thralls from the Kraken-token and those scrap thralls can try to engage anything they can reach.
We’re going to pass turn camping zero in the middle of a cluster in her zone, with our feat up and Ossrum on about half health.
Game state will almost certainly look exactly like this.
TURN THREE ONWARDS:
That’s the best scenario I can see us reaching. We’ve sacrificed our Kraken for the chance to tie up as much as possible in a melee scrum at a location where our opponent can’t easily win by ignoring it. We’ve contested our own zone as best we can and limited her options as much as we can.
Her turn three will likely decide the game. She could either go for the kill on Gaspy, through his feat, which is pretty much the best case you can hope for in this game since if she fails, you win. Or she can play attrition and likely kill off all of the satyxis raiders and cankerworm. That positions her to then kill darragh in order to start winning the game. Then it becomes a race for Gaspy to try and clear the zone before she can clear his and start winning.
The things in our favour here are if she DOESN’T kill gaspy this turn, she’s got to either not spend focus and therefore not kill as much, or give gaspy a lot of souls, probably in the order of 10 or 11. That’s enough souls that he can credibly kill 2-3 jacks himself the following turn or have a good shot at killing ossrum by spells.
So there you have it. My best shot at predicting the outcome of a hypothetical game using two lists provided by the community.
What I was hoping to demonstrate here was:
1. It’s really difficult to limit a single match enough to be able to talk through the whole match from a theory perspective.
2. If you DO limit it enough to make an attempt, then some people are going to feel that it’s too “setup” and no longer realistic (which is probably valid)
3. Bad matchups can be made playable by virtue of scenario and terrain.
Please let me know whether this format works and is interesting/valuable. It’s kind of hard to tell from where I’m sitting because there is so much supposition that….well it’s not very realistic in that sense right?
I’m hopeful that in the course of the supposition generation, there were some bits and pieces that were of value or interest in terms of how I look at the game and how I view a table and a matchup.
I quite enjoyed writing it, so if it is relatively well received, I’d be interested in doing it again for a different set of lists/scenario/table.
Feel free to suggest a combination of the above if you like, no guarantees.
1 I said good day sir.
2 If you look around the room and don’t see gunlines, then you are probably the gunline.
3 The only way to be sure of not hitting gunlines is to bring two completely anti-gunline lists to a two list event.
4 The person who asked was, I think, specifically looking for in-game advice rather than list construction advice…..I’m hopefully going to get there.
5 There you go that guy, I’ll push doing construction until another article(6)
6 Ok, so it turns out I looked back at my twitter and what do you know, Ryan asked essentially for list building advice rather than tactics, but I’ve already written the sentence up above and now I’m headed down the tactics path so lets see how far that gets me. Then I can always come back and talk about cloud walls in cryx afterwards.
7 First: don’t have a list that is “anti-gunline” – In this case anti gunline probably means a list that is specifically built to be difficult to damage significantly from range. This could be by use of stealth (which works in some cases), so much armour that ranged damage is insignificant (Helena sentinels and jacks at ARM 25+ against shooting is an example) or by use of something like a cloud wall or forest wall to restrict targeting. It can also include feats like Rask’s feat that can severely limit ranged attacks, or even lists that have significant numbers of shield guards Second – locked out of it – refers to the divide and conquer rules commonly used in tournaments that require a player to use both of their lists during the course of the tournament. If you have run into gunlines every round, then you will drop your preferred list for that matchup every time and hence when you come to the final, most important game….you could be forced to play the list that is less equipped to deal with the enemy listThird – Lost list chicken – refers to a situation in a two list event (both players have two lists) where you think your opponent will drop their non-gunline list, so you drop the right list to respond to that list. Then they drop the gunline list and you are playing your less equipped list
8 As it turned out the paragraph for (7) was a lot bigger than the tangent in the main text body. So wins all round really.
8.3333 Yeah, we’ve got decimals now. Fractions are hard to do in this context and frankly, irrational.
9 I’ll go back to doing actual superscript and stuff when I can be bothered. For now it’s brackets and numbers… 18
10 All he does is work work work
10.5 Labrynthine is an aspirational goal. We all need something to work towards.
11 Probably. We hope.
12 Actually done so that I could stop scrolling while writing this damn thing
13 Yup, we’re wildly guessing. I’m just doing what I can. You can always let me know if it’s meaningless or helpful by tweeting at me, commenting wherever you found this article/post…or just yelling mindlessly about it to your friends. It’ll get back to me eventually. If I’m your friend, please don’t yell at me about it.
14 Or in this case I guess imagine playing the game?
15 And almost certainly the first to open with a quote from Jesus. Which in retrospect might have been an awful choice.
16 Edited after publication. I never bothered to check their defensive statline since i knew they were ARM18….why would they be def anything other than 10? I mean they are dwarf jacks…..sigh.
17 So I also didnt check the POW on the sprays….sure, I guess a real author might have done that, but I was trying to do this thing fast….it didnt end up fast, or accurate….but i guess it was cheap?
18 Turns out it’s easier for me to do it on the muse blog program (since I already had the script) and so if you’re reading this, then 9 probably didnt make too much sense.
19 “new” in this context being entirely dependent on timing. If you’re reading this anywhere near October of 2016, it’s pretty new. If you’re not in 2016 it’s no longer “new”. If you’re in anything beyond 2020 I’m amazed and if you’re anywhere before October 2016, I’m confused…and I also need to speak to you urgently.20
20 Particularly if you’re in 1998 or thereabouts, there are some things I need you to tell a guy about what happens career-wise if he goes to uni and does an Engineering degree. Specifically you need to tell him that it’s overwhelmingly dull and he’ll end up writing labrynthine21, 10.5, 8.333 footnotes in a desperate effort to amuse himself while stuck in outback Queensland.
21. Things escalated far more rapidly than expected, it’s now the defunct Dark Guidance blog and we’re all coming to muse!22
22. So now if you’re reading this any time after October…it’s no longer new i guess. If you’re reading this in 2020, then to be honest you should probably invest your time more profitably.
23 There’s some interesting stuff on there. I mean Steamroller 2020 looks like it’s REALLY going to shake up the meta!
24. I need to ask Randall Monroe how to do mouse-over text9