I was lucky enough to get to the Iron Moot this year. This is the continuation of the story of how I did, the people I met, and the craic I had!
Day 2 Part 1- The Gauntlet Is Thrown
My experience at the WTC taught me one important lesson: however hungover you are, you’ve got to get a good breakfast in. Unfortunately in Szczyrk the breakfast constituted the elements more common to a lunch salad, which is not what you want to see with a rebellious stomach. In the Hotel Quality Winn, the breakfast buffet is is about 20 metres long, and it has all sorts of good stuff like bacon and pancakes and pickled fish (still a better sight than the suspicious scrambled egg). I resolved to bring some teabags with me in future, but aside from that it was a successful start to the morning, and I headed over to the Folkets Hus in a good frame of mind.
Today was the Iron Gauntlet. I had sent in my lists beforehand, and so I was back playing my three theme forces. Thankfully there was no danger of me actually qualifying, which would mean I’d have to make one 75 point list out of the three wacky lists I had brought. That’s the one problem with Iron Gauntlet this year, it’s a semi-mythical format for the less skilled player. Anyway I was expecting to go two rounds and then drop for the Hardcore in the afternoon, so it was much of a muchness.
My first round opponent was none other than my casual opponent of the night before, Mr Michael Dick playing Circle from Scotland. What was he playing? Two guesses. Since I had failed to make a dent with the Harbinger the night before, I figured I’d go with my Severius1 Legion of the Faith theme force, especially once we discovered the scenario would be Fire Support. Michael expressed the usual confusion and surprise at seeing the Deliverer Sunburst Crew, and then he proceeded to smash my army to bits. I got some good use out of the Ammunition Cache objective, which meant the Sunburst Crew pinged about a third of one of his Wold Guardians, but the rest of the list didn’t perform too admirably. I had a Reckoner and a Vanquisher, but they both went down to teleporting Wold Guardians. I think when you’re playing against Circle Orboros with Protectorate you need to bring all of your tricks. Enliven is all well and good, but you need to guarantee your ‘jack will be standing after their initial assault. It’s important to decry the presence of Exemplar Errants in each and every list, but when there’s rough terrain all over the place it’s a very powerless feeling to have to give ground.
Anyway Michael is a gracious opponent and between the two games I learned a lot about Bradigus and how his theme force works. I’ll definitely have to borrow some wolds off our local Circle players and take it out for a spin sometime myself…which is really the first time I’ve ever thought of that after seeing a non-Protectorate list in play! Could this be the first faction swap after 8 years of Warmachine & Hordes play? Maybe!
My second round was against a charming fellow called Kaspar Bie from Denmark (nationality #4, wooo!), playing Trollbloods. The Iron Moot was Kaspar’s first ever tournament experience, which made the Iron Gauntlet his second ever tournament! He was playing Runes of War, and I decided to play Harbinger’s Army of the Righteous theme force. This meant that at deployment there was nine walls on the table. Of course he had Janissa Stonetide in the list, so there was another wall on its way. The question was where it would go, the amount of table space that wasn’t walls was rapidly shrinking.
I have a block with playing Trollbloods, for which I blame MkI and the regular hidings I would receive from Stuart “Donkey Pedlar” Gorman. Since Kaspar is a nice guy, however, this game was lots of fun! Kaspar was very unlucky with his dice, meaning my Avatar and Reckoner got to live a lot longer than they had any right to. I was discovering the power of Martyrdom at last due to some jammy rolls, the Paladins and Vilmon were toeing into the zone with their Stances, and although Kaspar’s Mauler would throw one of them out every round, they would stay standing and just move back in again. Also, I got to kill Mulg, which always counts as a win in my book. I had learned to keep my Devout back at last, and so the Runeshapers had very little to do other than advance slowly up and threaten to physically charge the Harbinger. Without a robust unit to clog up the zone I eventually began to lose the scenario battle, especially once my Hierophant died and I couldn’t just Martyr to my heart’s content anymore. I went for an assassination on Doomshaper that failed due to his high ARM. That gave Kaspar a well-deserved win, and it was time for lunch prior to dropping for Hardcore.
Day 2 Part Deux – The Legend Of The Rent Was Way Hardcore
I’d never played Hardcore before. There was a bit of a craze for it in Ireland about two years ago, but at the time I hadn’t got any fully painted army, and I had the schedule of a penniless but overworked college student, so I could never make it along. Now here I was, two Play It Painted drives later with a proper Harbinger list (non-theme force at last), ready to kick ass and take names.
What I have been playing for the last two years is Deathclock. Obviously this has lots of advantages, that inevitable long second turn has room to stretch and get maximum effectiveness. Deathclock breeds long pauses and what I would call “contraspection”. Contraspection is this: paralysed by fear that you will make the wrong move and doom yourself, you spend whole minutes staring at the board, mouthing to yourself and attempting to do trigonometry and probability in your head. When this has been your habit for two years, going into Hardcore is like getting out of a heated swimming pool and diving into the cold plunge pool. It’s shocking, and it’s exhilarating.
There’s an achievement in Hardcore called the Mage Hunter Award, which after this year’s Iron Moot they may have to rename to the Who Can Kill Siskey’s Warcaster In Five Minutes Or Less Award. Each successive round saw fewer and fewer casualties on my side apart from the Harbinger. It was interesting though. The Irish meta is tending more and more towards attrition (aka the most boring strategy of all time), so I hadn’t gotten to see a lot of these assassinations in action before.
My first round was against Stefan Benediktsson playing Retribution, who I was counting as an Icelander for my Iron Arena points. Imperatus is a badass, let me tell you. I was struggling mightily with the timed turns, and scared to death of getting pressure points on Harbinger’s squishy self. Retribution’s newest addition waltzed up and Sidestepped its way to victory.
I had a bye for my second round, which gave me my first victory of the day. When you’re at my level you take everything you can get!
While I was waiting for the next round, I went looking for a friendly game, and I found a willing opponent who I think was Johan Ljungström from Sweden, but I’ll check once I dig up my notes. He was playing Legion of Everblight, and shockingly he was playing Vayl, Consul of Everblight with a bunch of warbeasts. I was playing the Harbinger theme force again because I wanted to get some more table time with it. I think there are some scenarios where all the walls could be really helpful, and Incursion would be one of them. Unfortunately there was a huge obstruction next to the right-hand flag, which meant that he could use the Angelius’ repulsion animus to push my Paladins away from the flag in a diagonal fashion pretty handily. Johan also had two Raeks who could muck up everything, and had high enough DEF to evade any counter-attack. I’d like to get more practice against Legion, and this was a good game, even if Harbinger eventually died to an inevitable Ravagore/Vayl2 assassination.
After that game it was back to Hardcore, and my next opponent was Dan Alf playing Cryx, more specifically Goreshade Lord of Ruin. I had just been playing a Deathclock game, so my timing was even poorer than in the first round. After Round 2 Dan started with his routine checks, and he was very willing to give me the benefit of a doubt. “So the Covenant has used Power of Faith?” “Ehhhhh, no.” “But the Harbinger has Spell Barrier from the Devout?” Every fibre of my being wanted me to say yes, but you have to be honest in these scenarios. No, Harbinger was not protected in any way shape or form. Siphon bolt, siphon bolt, lather rinse repeat. That was quick!
Last round was against Teemu Aro from Finland, playing Baldur the Stonecleaver. As I’ve said above many of our local players favour attrition, in particular our local Circle Orboros player was VagrantPoet. He’s moved on to playing monotonous Menoth lists, but for a while he was playing repetitive Circle lists, where every turn he would kill three inches of models and then have the temerity to brag about it. The long and the short of it is that I had never seen the double-teleported-Ghetorix-to-the-face before this game. And I blame VagrantPoet. I thought that Harbinger was safe a mere 20” away from Teemu’s frontlines. How wrong I was. How misguided! Take away this lesson from this game: Don’t Do Attrition.
After the game Teemu and I discussed the game for a while, and since it had only taken 15 minutes for him to kill Harbinger, we decided to rack up again, but as a Deathclock game. I won the roll again, and now armed with bitter experience, I went first this time. In the second round my crusader’s call-ed Reckoner with Menoth’s Sight and the Hymn of Battle on it was able to snipe out one Shifting Stone from each unit with some nice dice rolling, so the assassination potential of the list was curbed. The Harbinger feated in that second turn too, keeping the central zone free from critters. Thus began a grinding game, but with one interesting aspect. Because we had both been playing Hardcore games, none of our turns were taking longer than 7 minutes. Norbert began watching the game around Round 5 or 6, and he was shocked to see we both had over half an hour left on our clocks. It didn’t feel like we were rushing, or making hasty decisions, but it just felt natural to make speedy and effective moves. We were playing with the Hardcore scenario still, so when I started dominating the central zone Baldur began to look vulnerable. Gorman got to Black Oil Baldur a few times too. It was a complete contrast to the previous game, with both of our armies decimated in the end. When we finished we both had twenty minutes left, after playing about 7 Rounds. It’s the best game I’ve played in a good while, helped along by a nice win after a day of dross!
After that day of Warmachine & Hordes, it was time for some other games. I had brought Love Letter, which amused us for a while. It was followed up by a real doozy. Hermanni had brought a great little game called “Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre”. The idea is you compose a ludicrous spell and inflict damage upon your bitter enemies: the other players around the table. Each player has a vanilla wizard with a silly name, like Trogdor or Krazztar. I was given a card named Fey Ticklebottom the Enchanter. Guess what fantasy race he was meant to be? That’s right, a frickin’ leprechaun. And when you’re meant to read out your spell name in the silliest voice possible? They just wanted me to read it in my own voice. I’m just a circus act for these Nordic trolls, a stage Irishman to toi-tee-toi my way to the bottom of a beercan. Well they can all stick their accurate stereotypes where the sun don’t shine, because I won, and reign supreme over Mount Skullzfyre!
4-11 (+1 boardgame victory)
While we were playing we had a great view of the final of the Iron Gauntlet, with Fraser once again playing 27 hours of Warmachine & Hordes in a single day. Watchmachine when you’re properly seated and can make all the cat-calls you like is a much better activity than stooping over a gaming table making whispered comments! That game lasted until at least 5 o’clock in the morning, then it was back to the Hotel Quality Winn, to sleep and dream of one or two victories the next day, and the march towards 20 games!