Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Warzone: Atomic Empire Recap

Weekend before last I played in Warzone: Atomic Empire, in Durham, NC. I got to play five great games against five awesome opponents, and spoiler, I managed to win my group for the first time in my tournament career.

Warzone: Atomic Empire was a two-day, five-round event based on the Warzone: Atlanta concept of total hobby, and put together and run by some great players and ambassadors of the game in the Southeast, lead by Mike Twitchell and Horton Doughton.

As mentioned previously, I brought my bugs. While my first game with the actual list itself was Round 1, I did manage to get everything painted that I had on my list. Here's my to-do list from just a week before the tournament, with what I accomplished crossed off:
  • Must Complete:
    • 2 Hive Guard
    • 6 Ripper Bases
    • 2 Carnifexes
      • 8 6 Deathspitter Arms
  • Stretch Goals:
    • Neurothrope
    • Hive Fleet Markings:
      • Neurothrope
      • 9 Ripper Bases
      • 4 Carnifex
      • 6 Hive Guard
    • Squad Markings:
      • All Rippers
    • 1 Genestealer
    • 4 Hormagaunts
I honestly didn't expect to complete as much as I did, so I am very happy with that. The WZAE Painting Rubric was designed to be nearly impossible to max for most players, meaning it could create some divide in the overall scores. With the difference in overall scores between first and fifth being less than 4 points, and 18 players within 10 points of first, picking up just an extra 2-4 points on the painting rubric could mean a lot when it came down to overall score.

Now, on to the games. I won't re-post my list, but you can find it here. Round 1 I was matched up against Josh and his Custodes and Guard. Josh and I had previously played in the first round of SCARAB 2014, my second ever GT.

The mission was a Kill Points primary, so I wasn't thrilled with my matchup, but the game was still reasonable. We rolled up Vanguard Strike deployment and I deployed my Flyrants on the table, only keeping some Rippers and the Stealers in reserve.

Josh won the roll for first turn and I did not seize. He managed to nuke one Flyrant in his turn, along with the Meiotic Spores. In the bottom of the turn my Hive Guard double fired to take out one of the Leman Russes and I picked up a couple infantry squads as well to ensure a point on First Strike and some easy KP. I also brought my stealers up from one of their Nodes, which in hindsight was a mistake. I managed to pick off several of the Bikers, but not all, throwing both surviving flyrants into the fray and fighting in the middle.

In turn 2 the Allarus Terminators dropped in and went to work. All the bolters took out my Genestealers and the Allarus charged the Hive Guard, Neurothrope, and Hormagaunts, wiping out the Hive Guard and removing most of the Hormagaunts. At least one flyrant also died to a Captain and Leman Russ fire. As the game progressed from here, I really didn't have much of any answers for the durability of the Custodes in my face without the Flyrants, Stealers, or Hive Guard. The Carnifexes bopped around for a bit, but eventually died to concentrated attacks.

In the end, Josh took the victory 39-7, essentially tabling me. In hindsight I made some target priority mistakes and some pretty glaring positioning mistakes that Josh capitalized on and tilted the game into his favor.

In the second game I was happy to be paired with Joe B. and his gorgeous Custodes and Grey Knights. Joe is the reigning Best Painted Winner from NOVA 2017 and would go on to rightfully win Best Painted for WZAE as well.

We were set up on an alien table with terrain that reminded me of one of the first terrain pieces I ever made, inspired by an old GW tutorial. The mission was basically a scrum over a center objective which was scored turn by turn, and we rolled up Hammer and Anvil Deployment. Joe deployed on the line with his Custodes squads, ready to mix it up, with his Grey Knights largely in reserve. I deployed to block out my deployment zone and left the Flyrants on the board again.

Joe won the roll to go first, but then I seized and it went downhill from there for Joe. I moved forward with everything and between Smites and shooting, I killed off 7 of his 9 Guardians. Then, to cap off the turn, the Meiotics killed off a Shield Captain on foot.

Forgot to take a photo until after my turn - there were more custodes on the board earlier
Joe moved up with what he had left, his one Grey Knight unit on the board shunting forward. In shooting they whittled down the Hormagaunts and then, going for glory, the Victor of the Blood Games bike captain charged in and managed to wipe out the Hormagaunts, just barely, clearing me off the objective in the center.

In my turn 2 I wiped out remaining Guardians and the Purifiers, but could not take down the two characters left on the table. In the bottom of 2 the Grey Knight reinforcements arrived and laid down fire and destruction, but when the smoke cleared only a single Carnifex had fallen. I was then able to concentrate my forces and killed off most of what Joe had left, leaving cleanup for the bottom of turn three and top of turn four. In the end, I wound up with a 31-12 win.

To end day one, I was paired against John and his Necron big boys; a Pylon, two Tesseract Arks, a unit of 6 Destroyers, a Cryptek with Veil, and 2 minumum units of Scarabs.

The mission involved five player placed objectives that would be scored end game. I "won" the roll to determine deployment, rolling up Vanguard Strike. John then got to pick sides and opted to put me in the one corner without a full line-of-sight blocking ruin or objective.

We both deployed along our lines, with John dropping the Pylon early I was able to deploy most of my monsters out of sight of the immobile behemoth. John won the roll for first turn and I failed to seize. The arks moved forward and wiped out the hormagaunts. The Destroyers were Veiled forward with the Cryptek and wiped out my Hive Guard. Finally, the Pylon nuked the one Carnifex I was unable to hide. In my turn my Flyrants and Carnifexes moved up, keeping the large center ruin between them and the Pylon. I managed to do about 20 wounds to one Ark between Smites and shooting.

In his second turn, John continued to press the Arks forward around either end of the center ruin. The Pylon nuked a second Carnifex I'd walked out and they Arks started plinking mortal wounds on just about everything else, and combined with the Destroyers, took down one Flyrant. In my second turn I split my forces a bit, bringing the Stealers up for a 9" charge on the damaged Ark, which I then failed. My psychics and shooting went cold and plinked only a few wounds here and there. Then in combat my dice continued to disappoint, with one flyrant failing to even wound the Cryptek, and the other failing to strip the last couple wounds off the damaged Ark.

From there, it was basically cleanup. John was able to take out both Flyrants and a third Carnifex, as well as just about all of the Stealers. In my turn I failed for a last time to strip off the last few wounds on the damaged Ark, and then John tabled me on turn 4, taking a 40-0 win.

My biggest mistakes in this game were in deployment. I frankly deployed terribly, putting the Hive Guard much farther forward than I needed to, and holding the Genestealers in reserve when I could have just deployed them out of range. Deploying the Stealers 33" from the Vaults would have made them pretty safe from their shooting, and keeping the Hive Guard in my back corner, 13" back from my front line, would have ensured the Destroyers couldn't jump on them turn 1. Then, in my turn 2 I made some poor target priority choices in a couple different ways.

All that said, it was a fun game, and I learned from my mistakes. Rounding out the day I was toward the bottom third of the field. My expectation going in was to have a 3-2 record, with my goal being a 4-1, so already having two losses I was definitely a bit down.

However, I was able to identify the mistakes I was making in overall gameplan and deployment in particular. In my few practice games, I've almost entirely played against lists that out-ranged me and wanted to hold back, leading me to plan and play as an aggressor needing to close the distance. My two losses were against lists which I largely out-ranged and needed to be more aggressive than I did - but I then played into their aggression with my own. If I could be more mindful of that and play a bit more conservatively, I was confident I could win a rematch of either of my losses, and my two games on Day Two.

Kicking off Sunday, I was paired with Matt and his Thousand Sons. Matt's list included two units of Rubric Marines, a unit of Scarab Occult Terminators, a blob of Tzaangors, two Helldrakes, a Mutalith, Ahriman, a Daemon Prince Warlord, and then Daemon backup in the form of a blob of Pink Horrors, Changeling, and a couple Heralds (I forget their new fancy names).

The mission was a fairly true Progressive primary of 1-point per objective, each centered in a board quarter. We rolled up Dawn of War deployment and I won the roll for first turn, but Matt then Seized and took first turn.

He jumped the Helldrakes into my lines, and used the Dark Matter Chrystal (relic - think that's the name) to teleport the Tzaangors forward. Shooting took out some of the Hormagaunts and then, despite pulling from closest to the Tzaangors, they made the long charge on their reroll (from the Mutalith). However, they didn't wipe out the Hormagaunts and secure First Strike. In the bottom of the turn I jumped on one Helldrake with the Meiotics, and circled the other with a couple flyrants while the Stealers moved forward to attack the Tzaangors and Helldrake. Psychics, shooting, and combat saw me take out most of the Tzaangors, both units of Brimstones in the backfield, one Helldrake, cripple the second, put a bunch of wounds on the Mutalith, and touch the Horrors in combat.

In his second turn, Matt continued to press forward, moving several characters into the middle and dropping his Terminators in on my left flank. He attacked one Flyrant with his Daemon Prince Warlord, but didn't hurt him too much, and in return I rolled two 6s to wound. Matt promptly failed both saves, resulting in 8 Wounds and a dead Warlord. Other combats went a bit better for Matt with the Genestealers and Hormagaunts finally getting wiped out.

In the bottom of the turn I finished off the damaged Helldrake and the Tzaangors. The Carnifexes on my right began damaging the Rubric Marines on that flank, while my left flank focused on taking out the Terminators and support characters. I also took down the Mutalith with my Flyrant who had just killed the Daemon Prince. Fully confident in himself, he charged into the blob of Horrors, Herald, and the Changeling, but only made it to the Horrors and Herald. I was then surprised when Matt chose to Heroically Intervene with the Changeling and proceeded to kill off the Herald anyway. Then Matt mentioned the Changeling was an odd duck in combat and I only then remembered what the he does in combat. The Changeling copied my Flyrant and proceeded to nearly kill him.

In the last turn Matt had few options left and we cruised through the turn, with him killing off that flyrant with the Changeling and Horrors, but then I tabled him at the end of the turn, earning a 34-6 victory.

In the final round, I was up against Joe and his Crimson Fists Primaris brigade, led by Pedro Kantor. This final round had 4 player-placed objectives that would be scored end-game, with each one worth more the further out from your deployment zone it was.

In this game, I kept two of my Flyrants in reserve, along with the Genestealers and Rippers. Joe deployed mostly aggressively along the front edge of his deployment (board quarters) with overlapping bubbles of buffs from Pedro, a Lieutenant, and an Ancient.

I won the roll to go first but deferred, allowing Joe to start. In his turn he wiped out the Hormagaunts and managed to get some wounds on my Flyrant and a Carnifex, but the -1 to hit on all of them also saw some Hellblasters die to their guns overheating. In the bottom of the turn I spread out a little, but held back from the middle. My shooting took down a Scout squad, a Hellblaster squad, most of a second Scout squad and two of three Aggressors.

In the second turn, three units of Inceptors dropped on my right and targeted down a chunk of my Hive Guard. The Hellblasters also took down a Carnifex and the wounded flyrant at the cost of a couple more of their number. In the bottom of the turn, the remaining Flyrants dropped in and the Genestealers popped out of their hole, greeted by a hail of plasma. I took down two of the Inceptor squads on my right, the scout squad in the back, and some various Intercessors. The Stealers made it to combat with barely half their number, killed off and Intercessor unit, then died trying to tie up some Hellblasters that fought twice.

In turn three, Joe's depleted center pushed further forward, killing off a second Carnifex. The remaining Inceptors drove in on the Hive Guard and took them down to two remaining. In response, I moved my Flyrants around to his rear objectives, picking off some of the backfield units, while the surviving Carnifexe and my Neurothrope plinked away at the center after wiping out the Inceptors in my backfield. I also dropped my Rippers around the board in position to move toward objectives.

Turn four Joe moved some of his remaining core back to try to deal with the Flyrants, while the Lieutenant and single remaining Intercessor squad made for my objectives and the Rippers holding them. His shooting just failed to put down one Flyrant and in combat his Lieutenant took as many wounds as he dealt to my rippers. In the bottom of the turn, the Neurothrope picked up the Intercessors with a mega-smite and my flyrants picked off everything that wasn't a character.

We played two more turns but despite his best efforts, Joe couldn't remove the last couple wounds on one Flyrant. The game ended with a mostly healthy Flyrant and Pedro Kantor squaring off in a duel for the ages... that lasted two rounds before Pedro was smashed, leaving me with a 39-1 victory and a 3-2 record for the weekend.

As I mentioned before, WZAE was focused on being an all around event, and so the overall scores were determined by Battle Points, Paint Score, and Sportsmanship each being considered as one third of the overall score.

I wound up getting 4th place overall, which was absolutely stunning to me. My late push to finish my army paid off, with me managing to score 34 out of 40 on the painting rubric. I had expected a 30-32, with even that feeling possibly optimistic, so picking up a couple points were big, meaning the difference between my astonishing top 5 finish and just barely squeaking in to the top 10.

Overall, Warzone: Atomic Empire was a lot of fun, and very well run. The communication during the event was spot on and judging was solid. Really a great event, and I'm looking forward to WZAE II, which I know already has some wheels turning. I'm feeling reinvigorated to play and hobby, and I'm looking forward to getting some more games in before my next event, ATC, in July.

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