Monday, August 22, 2016

All the Games

I have recently returned from Gencon 2016 and found myself in a place where I am conflicted, overwhelmed, and incredibly blessed all at the same time. I'm finding myself the embodiment of "The Golden Age of Gaming", with too many games and not enough time nor groups of friends to play them all. It's a strange place to be, as my collection sis beginning to resemble one of those board-game box walls you see behind certain Internet game reviewers.

I realize how blessed I am overall with 3 regular gaming groups (2 weekly and 1 quarterly) plus a family that plays games. In addition to that I have a wider group of friends who enjoy games but do not play regularly, only when we sporadically get together. This leaves my choices of games split into multiple categories, my hard-core gaming groups, my family games, and party or lighter games my extended friends would enjoy. I can be fairly honest in saying Gaming itself has become my hobby. This is a shift from being focused strictly on miniature games where the "hobby" was defined as the gluing, building, painting side of the game activities.

Readers may wonder what type of expense my current game hobby carries. I've been very aware of this and watched it fairly closely over the past two years.  Kickstarter has helped a great deal in managing the overall expense of collecting games to play on both the board game and miniature side of gaming. I'll occasionally have spike of expense in a month where a really exciting kickstarter is coming to a close or where a lot of stuff is released all at once. Those months can push my totals up to $200 - $300 spent, although they are not overly common. On a regular basis, outside the spikes, I'm spending $50 - $100 per month on games. Add in a spike for Gencon or Adepticon then  two big kickstarters a year and I'm averaging a yearly gaming expenditure around $1800. Keeping in mind that's just to put new games or game accessories in my hands, not including any travel or lodging for events or such.

I don't think that's too bad. I could even take time to look at what I'm playing and how often to try and figure out if I'm getting that much value from my spending. I could, but it wouldn't make much sense. Overall I have the overwhelming feeling I with I had more time for games simply because I'm not playing all the games I want to play enough times. This begs the question, what are all the games?

All The Games

Miniature Games

Guild Ball is a tabletop skirmish sports game played with teams of 6 models. It's my primary miniature game currently, the one I play regularly and attend competitions for. I am also a pundit for the game company (Steamforged), which means I give demo's of the game, run tournaments, and generally support the local Guild Ball scene. I am really loving nearly all aspects of Guild Ball and it takes up a lot of my gaming time. I am regularly getting at least 1 game a week played and traveling for competitive Guild Ball events on a monthly basis.

Wrath of Kings is a steampunk fantasy army scale game played on an open table, typically 4x4 or 6x4. I have two armies for WoK, a Goritsi army comprised of Werewolves and Vampires, and a Shael Han army comprised of Monks and naked monk-women..... and a Dragon. I enjoy this game as it's mechanically light but tactical enough on the table to provide room to dig in. I have enough models to construct multiple different forces without adding anything new. I still pick up the random new model or book when it's released, but overall I don't spend much here. My group was playing a game every other week at the beginning of the year but this was sidelined due to involvement in a campaign board game (Kingdom Death to be mentioned below).

Arena Rex is a small scale skirmish gladiatorial game I've recently picked up. this was a kickstarter I was not involved and was exposed to at Adepticon 2016. The models are fantastic but I did not look closely at the game play during the convention. Mid-July 2016 I learned that a group of friends I see a couple times a year had picked up the game and dove in fairly heavily to learning to play. Keeping this in mind I gave the game another look and decided to pick up a force. I grabbed 7 models and a mat and was satisfied. At Gencon 2016 (early August) several people in both my regular local game groups became hooked and picked up multiple forces across the group. Although I was a bit earlier to the game they jumped in and it looks like a game we'll start getting to the table locally. Overall it's a very quick game lasting approximately 20-30 minutes per session. This means it can be a quick to play side game or one where we get multiple games in a fairly short period of time. I've gotten limited number of introduction games played but expect this to ramp up fairly quickly.


Dead Zone by Mantic just released a new version of it's rule set, making some key changes to how things work. My friend John has almost everything for this game and I tend to borrow his models when we grab a game. It plays fairly quickly, although not as quickly as Arena Rex. The new rules  seem to have streamlined the game a bit and we had fun trying out our first couple games. I only get to play this when John brings his set to the store and we have not predetermined on another game, but I would not mind getting more games in. I see an opportunity to use my 40K Eldar models as stand-ins for the Asterian forces in Dead Zone, which would be cool to see on the table.

Psudeo-Boardgames

Currently I have five (six) games in my roster which fall under Pseudo-Boardgames. These are games with models that should be built and painted, some level of character or force customization, and are played primarily on a board of some type. I have 2 more "campaign" style games coming toward the beginning of 2017 which fall into this lot as well.

Aetherium is the game I consistently claim to be the best game of 2015, along with one of the best games not enough people are playing. Aetherium had a successfully kickstarter and released in 2015 with its starter box and 2 full factions of models. This Cyberscape miniature board game plays like a tabletop miniature wargame within the confines of a board game. 2016 saw the release of a third faction, with promises for 2 additional factions by the end of 2017. This is a highly tactical game thats a ton of fun to play and not overly complicated to learn the basics. I would love to get more games of this in, and expect that will happen now that 3-player games are easier considering 3 different factions in game. I believe Aetherium suffers from a lack of major distribution limiting exposure to a wider audience.

Kingdom Death Monster is an intense campaign style board game with some amazing miniatures as part of its line. This game pull's no punches when it comes to providing a high risk immersive experience to the players, very much targeting mature gamers. Violent death, horrible injuries, dismemberment, and soft-core porn style models combine with beautifully sculpted miniature for both the players and the horrible monsters they are fighting. This is one of the best games I've played in 2016, although the mature material, assembly and painting requirements, high price point, and limited quantities put this game out of reach for most gamers. The base game will cost $400 if you picked up one of the retail copies, $650 and more for the majority of people trying to buy a copy on Ebay. It's a campaign style game where you and your friends will play multiple sessions across weeks (likely months) before you reach the end of the game. Our group has completed one full campaign and are looking forward to playing our next campaign in the fall.

Drakerys is a new game to my collection which I kickstarted in conjunction with my daughter. We chose to go with the base armies, Humans vs Orcs plus added in a fantastic dragon which caught my daughters imagination. Subsequent to a demo at Gencon 2016 my wife decided to jump on board and chose the Elf army for herself. This is more heavily on the tabletop war game side of gaming than the board game side, but comes with some nice pre-printed mats (cardboard and neoprene) for playing the game on. This keeps the game partially in the board game space as I cannot see playing without the provided mats. Drakerys is firmly seated in the classic fantasy realm with magical elemental vortexes set-up at the start of the game which are used to summon elementals who serve in your force and fuel the magic spells cast by the army wizards. Additionally there is a massive dragon which can be hired into your force or can work as a dangerous neutral element on the battlefield. This is newly in my collection but I'm looking forward to getting more games in, even if its just with my family.


Star Wars X-Wing and Star Wars Armada fall firmly into this category due to being played on an open table (often on a space printed mat) but not requiring any painting or assembly of the models used. I picked up both of these games to play with a combination of my daughter and a couple key friends who played them. On both fronts the drive to play these games has dropped off but I'm not yet committed to selling off my collections. To be fair, my collections are fairly conservative in relation to some other games so if I get these games on the table twice a year with either my daughter or key friends then I feel like I'm ahead. 

Super Dungeon Explore has been in my collection for a long time, and was once among my favorite board games. I place this in the Pseudo-boardgame category because of the level of painting required to get this on the table. Painting up the SDE models makes such a difference in the enjoy-ability of the game I think it's necessary. The Forgotten King update for SDE was released in 2015 and changed my opinion of the game overall. I am very disappointed in that update, but am hopeful that the 2.0 update coming early 2017 will remedy the issues injected in the game with Forgotten King. There are signs that Soda Pop Miniatures has heard the complaints from the community and are taking strides to fix things, but only time will tell. Although I'm not searching for time to play this, I'd still step up to playing an original version game and look forward to seeing how they fix the 2.0 version of the game.

The Board Games

Zombicide is one of the games I wish saw table time more often. My family and I began playing through Zombicide last year, starting with the introduction mission of the first box set. We had backed the season 3 kickstarter which included both the base set and the expansion set. This was a great deal of fun, leading to us picking up the season 2 set (base plus expansion) as well in preparation for completing the mission thread in the season 1 rule book. Suddenly our regular play dropped off and now it's been a couple months since we've sat down for a game. This is a game I continuously look to get back on the table with my family as we all enjoy playing it.

Forbidden Stars is a Warhammer 40K based strategic control game with a semi-variable sector of space. It has Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, and Orks all battling for control of a sector which has recently become available via clearing warp storms. I had a fairly low expectation for this game due to it being 40K based, but was very wrong. This fantastic title from Fantasy Flight games has a great deal of depth to it as ships track through the open void creating paths for planetary assaults to be launched into enemy territory. I picking this up with the idea that if I played it once a year it was worth the purchase. I'm averaging 2 games a year at this point and am enjoying the game. I'd love to see it on the table more, but I'm getting the value I expected.

Castles of Burgundy falls into a category I like to call the "Damn you Adam" set of games. A couple times of year I get to take working vacations to New England (Northeastern USA) and get games with some friends in the area. Inevitably there is a couples game night with my friend Adam, who tends to introduce me to a new game (or 3). This typically results in my heading out and purchasing a new game. Castles of Burgundy is a Euro-style game where your worker placement is trying to picking up specific territories which can score you points. There's a fair bit of strategy and overall the game is determined by your strategy playing the game (little or no luck). This is a game that's a lot of fun but I have not tried it with my local group yet. My wife and I have also not decided to try it as a 2 player game, although we should.

Fireteam Zero is a light campaign game with limited character development but lots of monster killing goodness. The game comes with 4 heroes, 2 sidekicks, and three families of monsters which scale up across 3 levels (base, elite, boss). The heroes are part of Fire Team Zero, an elite commando team sent to investigate mysterious and suspected supernatural situations during World War II. Each monster family has it's own set of stories tied to it to play through. I had decided that I was not going to start introducing this game to my family or local group until I had the models painted up (considering it was a fairly small number of models to paint). Painting took much longer than expected, only recently completing. I have played through the initial mission of one monster family twice now and the game looks to be a lot of fun. Now that everything is painted I'm looking forward to seeing this on the table.

Xia is another "Damn Adam" game which was originally a kickstarter yet I picked up retail. Xia is a space exploration game with randomly laid tiles and pre-painted spaceship miniatures. This is a very fun game which some of my locals have compared to the video game FTL. The components for this game are absolutely fantastic which only enhances the already excellent game play. This is one of those games that my gaming group enjoys when I bring it to game night, but also a game that only makes it's way out periodically. There's an expansion coming in 2017 that will likely spur some increased play right after the release.

Tides of Infamy is a pirate themed exploration game with random sea/island tiles laid out in a random map each game. Players have 3 pirate ships which they sail out to discover islands, goods, and fight each other over goods. My wife absolutely loves this game with my daughters enjoying it as well. This makes it a very nice family game to pull out for an hour on a weekend afternoon. There are two styles of combat resolution for the game, both using a deck of cards. The first plays like the card game War, while the second is more akin to Poker. We're playing this as a light game so have stuck with the War style combat resolution. A lot of fun overall.

Blood Rage is one of the best recent games to be released, second to Aetherium last year simply because I'd choose a game of Aetherium over Blood Rage where possible. Blood Rage is a viking themed battle game that includes giant monsters, area control, card drafting, and card based combat resolution. It's an exciting mix of game mechanics that comes together for an incredibly thematic fast paced game. It's easy to teach to new players and has depths of tactics for experienced players which shift with every game. This is also a game where it's incredibly difficult to have a run-away win. Players feel like they are in the game all the way to the end, with a constant possibility to jump back ot the lead with just a couple moves. A great game that doesn't get played enough simply due to the pure quantity of good games on the market.

Scythe is the new hotness from Stonemaier Games, a kickstarter, a "Damn Adam" game, and one of the top rated board games from Gencon 2016. This is a fairly pure eurostyle game set in a post-"Big War" alternate history setting. This is a simple game to learn and a difficult game to master. The basics for game play are making a choice on the "action" playmat between 4 zones of actions. Each zone has a top and a bottom action which can be completed. Top actions are things such as producing resources or moving game pieces on the board. The bottom actions are things such as deploying a Mech or Building a new structure. There are 5 factions in the game, each with their own "faction" playmat and unique faction abilities. The "faction" and "action" playmats are randomized each game, providing a tremendous variety of gameplay even if you get the same faction. Overall a really great game and one that's good enough for me to start considering other Stonemaier games.

Thoughts

I am blessed to have the disposable income and understanding family that let's me obtain, own, and play all these games. I'm blessed to have the available leisure time to do so much gaming. A big part of the second has to do with a combination of multiple groups of great friends plus making time to exercise my gaming hobby. I set aside specific time each week to join friends at a local store and game. This is similar to TV time for most people, I just cut back and don't watch as much TV.

I'm both intrigued and mildly concerned that I cut off my board game list with at least 4 additional games plus a category of party games still to go. I felt this overall article was getting pretty long for reading. I'll definitely revisit the part game portion in an article of it's own, as I think readers would be interested in a list of good games for 5+ players.

I often consider my experience gaming and my contacts in the gaming industry with an eye toward moving my career and livelihood into that space. I've not yet found a way to maintain my current lifestyle and income level moving into the board and tabletop gaming space. Although it's a large industry it's still made up of low margin and small increments of income when compared to the executive management of IT and IT Consulting space I'm currently in. It's staying as my retirement plan for now.

Rome Rise to Power

The Group Games - Front Line No Komrades, Dark Dealings, Nevermore, Evil Baby Orphanage, Libertalia, New Salem

Machi Koro

Takenoko

Xenoshyft

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rise of the Kage - Revisit

Last December I wrote a review of the board game Rise of the Kage and it's associated expansion, Docks of Ryu. I shared this review to Board Game Geek in February of this year, receiving a couple replies. Anyone interested can go back and check out either of those links for my original review. In summary, I felt there was a good game potential but was unable to recommend the game due to imbalance between the two sides and nearly incomprehensible rules.

In March of this year (2016) an update set of rules (2.1) was released for the game. Along with requests from the company and recommendations from others who support the game I was interested to see if things had been fixed. I agreed to work on my gaming group to get this back in circulation with an eye toward revisiting my earlier review. It's took several months but I've gotten two games in with the new rules, one as the Guards and one as the Ninja's.

What is Rise of the Kage, Who makes it?

Nothing in this section has changed since my review, the game is still a stealth themed board game with a host of miniatures. It's listed as supporting 2-4 players, with 1 player taking the role of the boss and guards while the other 1-3 players take the role of the Ninja's.There are 3 Ninja's and 2 Boss's in the base game, with another 3 Ninja and a Boss in the expansion plus 1 extra Ninja from the kickstarter. Ninja players will pick 1 Ninja from each of 3 clans to settle on their team of 3.
  • Game: Rise of the Kage (and Docks of Ryu expansion)
  • Company: GCT Studios
  • Website: http://www.riseofthekage.com/
  • Players: 2 - 4
  • Play time: 45 minutes 
I'm not in complete agreement that this is a game for 2-4 players. The refinement of the rules for 2.1 have further convinced me that this is a 2 player game that can accommodate up to 2 additional players for a maximum of 4, but plays ideally with 2 players.

Whats changed with how it plays?

Some of the basics for how the Ninja's work within the game have changed. First, the Ninja equipment cards have been clarified to be placed "into play" either face-down or face-up on the Ninja play mats. This limits the amount of cards they can have "in hand", additionally making even face-down Ninja cards targets for some guard actions. A second change, which is a fairly major change to the game, is the removal of the "pathing" originally required. Now, instead of predetermining the path the Ninja's will take, the Ninja's can take up to 6 squares of movements with an additional 2 upon sacrificing dice on the turn. This removal speeds the game up marginally without removing any key portion of the game. Overall the pre-pathing was an innovative touch but not necessary for the feel of the game.

Noise tokens work the same as before in relation to the Ninja's, but have changed in how they function for the guards. First, only a single noise token may be used on each guard for an extra action. This limits the blitzing of several noise tokens on guards that could occur previously. Additionally, Noise tokens are required in order to play guard cards during the Ninja turn. This significantly limits what the guards can do in reaction to the Ninja's. Although Noise tokens can be saved over rounds, there are other changes in place that create an environment where stockpiling is not the best choice.

Guard cards is one of the largest changes I saw in the 2.1 rule set. Guards now only receive a single card at the begining of the game. Following this first turn, Guards can onlyl draw new cards by purchasing them at the start of the Guard turn with either noise tokens or guard action tokens. In this way a limit on the guards power has been put in place, restricting guard resources by providing the 3 choices of:
  1. Buy guard card to play
  2. Take actions with a guard on the table
  3. Recruit new guards to the table
The guard deck is still a massive deck, despite some limited trimming of the cards with the 2.1 rules. Although this will ensure nearly endless replayablity it also means that the guard have a hard time digging for cards they may wish to play.

Quality: The 2.1 Rules

The cards are still a little thin but the boards and models continue to be wonderful. I'm happy with the plastic quality, despite needing to rebend some of the weapons with hot water. What everyone should be focusing on for this revisit is have the rules been improved?

 The rules have undergone a significant improvement in both clarity and streamlining. There are clear sections that walk through the set-up of the game, with pictures that help clarify the process and explanations where you would expect them to be. The step by step process of a turn is much clearer to understand and it's finally clear what a Ninja and Guard can or cannot do during their activation. The rules have been split into basic and advanced rules, with some sections (such as guards becoming alert) being added to the advanced section. This provides two levels of play for easier access to the game.

There are minor areas where we still struggled to find a reference to how a specific action or situation would be resolved, but overall the game has cleared things up tremendously. Additionally, there is an index which is pretty good (although could still use some improvement). A lot of work appears to have gone into improving the original rules, with clear evidence that the public was listened to during the process.

Recommendation and thoughts

I still like this game and believe I could get it onto the gaming table with new players for at least a first try. It's a challenging game but is no longer completely one-sided in favor of the guards. It's moved to being a mid-length game for 2 players who want to face a challenge.

I'm not confident there's enough improvement to overcome the initial bad feelings my gaming group had toward this game. In the current age of gaming it's tough to recover space on the table after a poor first impression. My own group does not have any other stealth style games to compete with Rise of the Kage, which increases the chance of this being played. In those groups who have another alternative and were disappointed in the original, I'm not sure the changes are enough to recover from the early misstep.

I can't say this is making it to circulation in my group, but I can say it's back to being an option. This is an improvement and completely due to GCT taking the time to rewrite the rules for the game based on community input.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Guild Ball Tactics - Shock and Awe

It's a balmy early July here in the Washington DC metro area and I've been thinking lately. I've been thinking about Guild Ball, specifically playing it competitively. All this has come about for a couple reasons, including a series of recent tournaments and the upcoming US National Championships at Gencon. At the time of writing Gencon is 3 weeks away.

I mentioned writing this article and my thoughts for it to my wife a couple days ago. She agreed it was likely an interesting article to write, but warned that I should not sabotage myself by publishing it prior to the US Championships. I am taking her advice, scheduling this for release on the Monday following Gencon. I'm not sure if there's anything here that would make a difference for my opponents or not, but there it is.

The idea's that I espouse in this writing are applicable to real military maneuvers along with the full range of tabletop miniature war games. In this article I'm going to focus on Guild Ball specifically and how to achieve these tactics using the Guild Ball rules, models, and typical situations.

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe is a "real life" military tactic technically known as "Rapid Dominance", a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy's perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight. I've been thinking that this plays out in some of my preferred tactics when playing Guild Ball, across the majority of teams I play. I've recently contemplated how important this tactic has been to my relative success within the Guild Ball competitive environment.

Shock and Awe in Guild Ball is often achieved through a surprising play (or series of plays) during the first turn of the game. Successfully executing this tactic results in your opponent being put on their "back foot", scrambling to string together a series of plays to recover their perceived position in the game. Many times (but not always), this results in generating a large amount of the in-game currency "Momentum" in addition to gaining play momentum in the game.  

Shock and Awe within Guild Ball is characterized by a couple key factors:
  • It's Fast
  • It results in a scoring lead over your opponent
  • It's difficult to counter
Although a Shock and Awe play (or series of plays) can be executed at any time during a match, typically the best results will be obtained when it's successfully executed turn 1. The effect is compounded when the triggering player can follow-through with their execution of plays into turn 2, taking the initiative and compounding the impact of the first turn plays. 

Opponents on the receiving end of this tactic shift their plans to a focus on how to recover from your play. They become responsive opposed to pushing their own game plan and agenda. This shift to responsive play surrenders control of the game to you, opening an opportunity to push your own plan forward. It does this in a way that's not entirely conscious for your opponent, generating the feeling that they are "starting the game behind" or "starting out losing".  It's important to be aware of this and capitalize on it by executing your plan for generating victory points, not returning control of the game to your opponent. Basically, don't get comfortable thinking you have an unassailable lead, your opponent will recover. What you need to do is capitalize on the time before they recover to cement your lead in the game.

In almost every case of this tactic being successful I see some type of activation control in play. This happens most often through the inclusion of Avarisse & Greede into a Guild Ball team lineup. Considering how Guild Ball is balanced, a Shock and Awe play will rarely be the first or second activation of turn 1, but require some level of set-up to be effective. Assuring that the play is the final play on Turn 1 provides the time to set it up and increase the chances of success, cementing the Shock and Awe impact. The extra activation Avarisse and Greede provide makes this critical and allows your opponent to make positioning mistakes during the turn, contributing to your plan. 

 

 Turn 1 Goal Scoring

Many teams will delivery a Shock and Awe tactic via successfully scoring on turn 1 from their deployment line. Every team has the capability to do this, however Fishermen, Masons, Alchemists, and Engineers  do it most often. There are three keys to successfully delivering a turn-1 goal score from your deployment line and you should aim to understand all of them.

First, is distance to your opponents goal. There is a minimum of 20 inches between the your deployment line and your opponents goal. This is if you set-up your goal-scorer (striker) directly across from the goal on the front edge of your deployment line and there is clear path for you to get there. Modifications need to be made to your plan based on rough ground, obstacles, and opponents models placement during the opening turn. It's key to understand your chosen strikers threat distance on the goal and the positioning you'll have to use to get there.

Second, momentum is going to be required to make a shot on goal. You're going to have to generate momentum during your turn prior to making the final shot on goal. Additionally you should make sure to consider the requirement for an influence when making the shot, as this is sometimes forgotten. Returning to momentum, you'll likely want a second momentum available to bonus time the goal shot. Missing your first turn goal shot is unlikely to create a sense of Shock and Awe in your opponent.

Third, you'll need the ball in order to make a shot on goal. This may seem like a small thing to mention, but its important. If you did not receive the ball and retrieve it on the kick-off you're going to need a way to take the ball back from the opponent. The kicking player often has a difficult time retrieving the ball after kick-off, with only their kicker positioned properly to reach the ball once the opponent has taken possession.

 Let's take a look at a typical Shock and Awe 1st turn Goal for the fishermen. Assume that the Fishermen team has received the ball and allocated influence. We've places at least 1 influence on each model and plan to pass the ball twice before getting it to Shark. Shark will be loaded up with 5 influence on turn 1 to accomplish the tactic. We'll also position Shark to the left side of the field, half-way between the board edge and the middle of the field to avoid some obstructions near the midfield. We're going to make sure he's 24 inches from the opponents goal. We draw out the passing the ball until the second to last activation.

On this activation we want Greede to pass the ball to Shark, generating a momentum which we immediately spend for a Team Play 4 inch dodge for Shark. Shark dodges 4 inches toward the opponent goal with the ball then begins his activation since the opponent has used theirs. Shark's first action is to spend 2 influence for "Quick Foot" and look for a target model 13 inches away in the direction of the opponents goal. Shark spends 2 influence to charge that model, ending as close to the goal as possible but at least 1 inch away from the target. Assuming the average model has a 4 defense, 1 armor, and uses defensive stance for a 5df, we get 2 success on average. This is enough to dodge Shark 2 inches toward the goal and out of engagement with other models. Shark should have moved between 16 and 18 inches toward the opponents goal, leaving him between 6 and 8 inches from the goal. This is within Sharks kick range so he then takes a shot on the goal, rolling 5 dice due to bonus time. 

Capitalizing on this and winning initiative on turn 2 can create severe problems for your opponent. You're up 4 victory points from your first goal plus your starting turn 2 with an additional influence to allocate. You're striker is typically very good at tackling the ball away from opponents and is in a prime position to take the ball away from where ever the goal kick landed. Load your striker with max influence and look for a way to retrieve the ball, generate a momentum, and make a second shot on goal. Even if you cannot bonus time this second shot, it's worth the attempt. If you cannot get into position to shoot on goal after retrieving the ball, send it toward your own team and aim for another model picking it up and getting in a turn 2 goal.

Turn 1 Take Out

The Turn 1 Take Out is a much tougher play to put together for the majority of teams. The Masons are the best at doing this, coining the "Chisel Missile" play. Morticians, Union, Butchers, and Brewers can all string together a Turn 1 Take Out but it's a little tougher for them. Many times this requires the use of either Gutter for her Chain Grab or in the case of Morticians, Lure and/or Puppet Master. One advantage to the Turn 1 Take Out is the generation of Momentum and positioning for starting turn 2 strong.

In nearly every case we want to make a series of attacks with a model who does not need to charge into combat. This is done in order to maximize the number of attacks on the target, maximizing damage and generated momentum. Because of this we're looking for a way to force a reposition onto the target to bring them into range of our hitters. Gutters chain grab, models with push/dodge and push playbook results, and models with access to lure all facilitate this movement. Specifically for morticians there's Obulus with Puppet Master and for Brewers there's Stave's Lob Barrel.  However it's accomplished we want to pull the target into range. Once we reach that point it's time to launch our damage and kill the target. When possible take the target out although it's sometimes just as useful to leave the target low on health (1-3 health) if you can assure initiative on turn 2 to finish them off.

The example we'll use for this is the Masons Chisel Missile play. There are multiple ways to drag out activation with Masons including both Avarisse & Greede and using Honour's Superior Strategy. When nearing the final activation Honour will use her legendary play and Superior Strategy to give Chisel 2 additional influence and another activation.Prior to the activation Marbles will use Tooled up on Chisel. Ideally the Masons will also have Decimate on the team to have given Chisel Second Wind, although this is not critical to the play.

Chisel will activate last with 6 influence and make her first move down the board. She wants to move toward a target model with average or less defense and around 12 health. During her first activation she will activate Crazy, taking 3 points of damage. If she has second wind she will move an additional jog toward the target. On her second activation she will activate crazy at the start of her turn taking another 3 damage, then move into combat with the target model. Her range between these two activation's is 14 inches from her deployment line, 18 inches if she has second wind.

Chisel can now make 6 attacks (2 inch reach) against the target model, averaging 14 points of damage and netting 5 momentum if that takes out a model. She can reduce that damage by 1 if it will not take out a model and still net the 5 momentum. Provided this is enough to gain initiative on turn 2, Chisel should be given 4 influence again. She will start the turn by using Crazy and taking 3 more points of damage, triggering her Painful Rage ability. This lets her deliver 4 attacks averaging 12 additional damage.

Countering Shock and Awe

  How does on deal with an opponent who plans to deploy a Shock and Awe tactic against them? The first thing to do is determine if it's coming. If a Masons player starts giving buffs to Flint or Chisel while they're playing Honour, you can safely assume they are planning a Shock and Awe play. If a Union player is giving Mist a "bag of coffers" and/or Second Wind, you can safely assume they are planning a Shock and Awe play. If an engineers player is using Ping Vise and they recieve the ball, expect a Shock and Awe play.

Once you begin to predict and expect the plays it's time to see what can be done to counter them. The first step is to counteract the activation control. This is impossible to do when facing Honour led masons, just accept that. Aside from that specific team, adding Avarisse & Greede to your own roster evens up some of the activation's. I dread saying that as I'm already seeing A&G in almost every tournament list, but it's a simple fact (and likely the motivator is exactly what I'm describing here).

The second thing to consider is counter-play. Shock and Awe requires an aggressive play-style and this can be thrown off by using effective counter-play. Offering up targets which are not ideal choices for the Take Out focused S&A player then protecting the soft targets is one choice. Any model which has Fear can eat into the required influence necessary to execute the attacks. Areas of Rough Ground slow the attacker down (goal scorer or melee attacker) and Rising Anger will generate momentum for counter-attacks. Using traits such as Gluttonous Mass and Unpredictable movement to hamper your opponents plans are great ways to counter a S&A play series.

Finally, try to stay balanced in your view on the game. If you can keep an eye on your objectives and not fall into the "Shock" portion of the tactic then you may be able to recover quickly and move forward with your plan. This will minimize the impact of your opponents play.

Share your Shock and Awe stories in the comments below, I'd love to hear what people have seen in their games. If I'm blessed then I should be on the road home right now with the US National Championship under my belt. More likely I'm on the way home from Gencon without that title and just had a fantastic time at a great convention.