Wednesday, 17 January 2018

State of the Meta - Wave 7 Edition

Rating the ships in Star Wars Armada 

Below is my attempt to give a summary and guide to help less experienced players make some good decisions when assembling fleets. As always you need to remember these opinions are just mine and there are plenty who would take different positions. Similarly these perspectives are heavily influenced by the Australian meta which may be very different to your own. Perhaps you can take some ideas to help mix up your own local meta or maybe they won't be compatible at all, take what you like and feel free to offer your own ideas below! 

(edit) since writing this the last of the Wave 7 gear has been spoilt but interestingly I don't think it changes my opinions much if anything it boosts big ships again and downplays squads to a certain extent, all good things. 


Part 1- Imperials

Imperial Star Destroyer 
Let’s start with the big fella himself. imperial star destroyers in my mind are hands down the best thing in the game right now. Yep, no grey area, just amazing. It wasn’t always so but with the upgrades from recent waves you’ve got boarding troopers avenger which has the highest damage output going and you’ve always had amazing options to make these guys supercarriers, gunnery team monsters or just whatever else you like. There is still a real debate between loading them up like a Christmas tree with every upgrade possible which leads to them being 170+ points or keeping them lean like the one I took to regionals recently which only had about 10points of upgrades plus Sloan. I don’t think there’s any magic answer to that question, more a case of personal preference. If you load it up it will be able to kill anything else in the game but if you lose it.. ouch... 

The new ones coming just make the ISD even more appealing. A huge long-range red dice checker just begging for Darth Vader to command it or a torpedo variant that does everything the BT avenger does but with more flexibility in upgrade slot. I think the only reason we would see the old ISD 1 after this wave is out is if you are super keen for a carrier so the squadron value means a heap to you. 

Overall rating - 10/5 

Victory Star Destroyer 
In my mind the most ironically named ship in the game, running one of these flying death traps will not help you achieve anything resembling a victory. Let’s face it, this guy was king of the tables right up until the release of wave 1 where it was quickly knocked off my the Gladiator and hasn’t ever really been able to regain its spot. Some people try and use it still and a few new upgrades have made it a possibly more interesting option but whether you want a gunboat or a carrier there are just straight up better options. For the points difference, I’d be taking an ISD any day of the week.

Overall rating – 1/5

Gladiator Star Destroyer
Another solid choice for the Imperials, Demolisher being the obvious choice here and the titles really do impact the value of the ship. Demo used to be an easy 5/5 but after the engine tech nerf it would drop to 4/5 in my books, still great but trickier to use. Insidious sits around the same spot as an untitled glad at 3/5. The biggest problem with Glad’s these days is that with the rise in prevalence of big ships even going last/first and doing a triple hit with Demolisher probably won’t kill off the enemies big threat. Squadrons are so powerful now too that Demolisher can easily end up out of position by diving past the enemy’s front line where it becomes super vulnerable to enemy squads whilst being beyond your own protection. I still love my Gladiators but I’d still stick to an ISD for the time being if I was only going to have a fleet with one big hitter, as soon as I decide for 2 this one is my next go to.

Raider Class Corvette
Definitely one of the ships that has bounced around in value depending on its upgrades. These days I think a nice cheap Raider 1 with ordnance experts and external racks (or possible flechettes) makes for an excellent backup threat to whatever your big hitter is going to be. The biggest problem with using them is just how quickly they will die to attrition damage from bombers or general shooters, a lack of redirect really hurts these guys. My best use for them is to hold it back at speed 2 with a token and manoeuvre order ready to jump up to speed 4 and do a big hit on something important in the second half of the game. Timing is everything because usually after that it becomes so beat up that it’s time to run away. The flechette variant can be a great place to gather your squadrons as a safe launching point too, not many people are going to be willing to engage your squadrons inside that bubble.

Overall Rating - 4/5

Arquitens light cruisers
Good little all-rounder ship, bringing in something unique to imperials through long-range broadside shooting. Some cheap upgrades like dual turbolasers and reinforced blast doors mean you can easily fit a couple of these into a list if this sort of build is what you are looking for. They do have some major drawbacks that you would need to plan for if you want to get the most out of these guys, the first being their appalling nav chart, but that is why they combo so well with Jerrijod as your admiral. The other big issue is how susceptible they are to big burst damage like Gladiators or MC30s. The trick is really to sit in that mid to long range bracket where you can maximise your damage output without much risk.  

Overall Rating – 4/5

Quasar Class Cruiser Carrier

On paper this is such a nice ship, great price point, able to do amazingly big hits with squadron combos and if you go the pricey option even a red dice flak that combos so well with Agent Kallus. On the table through it just doesn’t translate as well. It’s limited guns mean that very little is scared of getting close to this guy and it’s defence tokens are woeful. Titles like stronghold are great for the squadrons but require you to expose the ship to risk it can’t handle which makes it really counter-intuitive. Ultimately It’s a good little ship but the Imperials really don’t’ need it. They have the best relay options in the game if you want to use Gozanti’s as your squadron pushers and the ISD is a much better squadron platform if you want to go for expanded hangers/flight controllers etc.

Overall Rating – 2/5

Interdictor
Interestingly this remains the only Imperial ship that I’ve never bought or fielded. All of my experience has been against this guy and honestly, I’ve never regretted not buying one. Each of its unique upgrades offer interesting tactical possibilities but I’m yet to see any of them win games. Targeting scrambler will help your ships survive longer for example but the sheer expense of the interdictor in your fleet means the enemy can spend those points on far more effective killers than you will be able to have.

Overall Rating – 2/5

Gozanti Class Cruiser
Saving the best to last, these little gems have generated more internet rage than anything else in this game but I warn you to neglect them at your own risk. Imperials have incredibly good relay options for squadrons with either shuttle choice giving relay 2 linking perfectly with a Gozanti. The result being that you can run your Gozantis safe from the enemy guns using the full expanse of the table whilst they still have a valuable contribution. The abilities buff other ships through comms net or increase the reliability of your bombers through bomber command just makes these super versatile support ships amazing value. I consider two to be an absolute minimum in any fleet, the rest depends on how many activations you need and what value you can gain from more Gozantis.

Overall Rating 5/5 



Coming soon, part 2 - Rebels! 

Also, expect to see a semi-regular series of sample lists and bat reps to highlight interesting and competitive builds. Armada has a steep learning curve for the new gamer so if we as a community can do more to make it accessible that's to everyone's benefit! 

Signing out. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Epic - Cancon 2018 List Breakdown

Cancon lists 2018 - Can you smell the cheese? 

Well, it's that time again, time to see what varieties of craziness and filth have turned up for Cancon this year. I'm sorry to say that I don't foresee any great controversies this year, our TO Kendall Williams (actual photo Left) has done a great job using our DBAD (Don't be a Dick) comp system to keep the OTT lists in check which really limits my ability to destroy someone before the day :( 

This year I'm going to do a different format where I cut and paste the actual lists in and put commentary after each, it will help build up your scrolling finger, here goes... These are not in any particular order. 


Dark Eldar CANCON '17, 3000 POINTS
Dark Eldar Kabal of Pain's Way 2017 (NetEA 2017)
==================================================

KABAL COTERIE [350]
4 Incubi, 1 Archon character, 2 Wyches, 3 Raider, Ravager

KABAL FLOTILLA [375]
6 Ravager, Dracon

KABAL FLOTILLA [375]
6 Ravager, Dracon

KABAL SYNDICATE [275]
6 Warriors, 2 Scourges, 3 Raider

MANDRAKES [200]
6 Mandrakes

HEAVY BARGE [250]
1 Vessel of Pain

HEAVY BARGE [250]
1 Vessel of Pain

TORMENTOR [500]
1 Tormentor Titan

RAZORWING FIGHTERS [200]
2 Razorwing

VOIDRAVEN BOMBERS [225]
2 Voidravens


First off the bat looks to be some Dark Eldar. Let me be the first to admit my own ignorance to this list, I’ve had a few experiences but generally it all theory hammer to me, if you’ve got some good ideas feel free to let me know!
What I do know though is that DE toys are really good so the first things I’m looking for are how many Vessels of Pain and how many tormentor titans are around because the TK death coming off those will shred you. In this case the army has a nice spread of units and a most friendly 10 activations. It’s a tough army to play well but it seems to have a solid range of tactical options.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Star Wars Armada Regionals 2018


Regionals Roundup and Meta Commentary

Meta in Australia has been an ever changing feast. With a small but committed competitive community everyone knows everyone so what you ran last month for pure awesomeness will be countered by next month when you end up going up against the same crew. The result has been some huge shifts in Meta build, just consider this:

  • Two years ago… Our Nationals was utterly dominated by a pair of Garm led whales backed by a few rebel transports and 12 generic squadrons comprising equal amounts of Y-wings and A-wings.
  • Last year our regionals were utterly dominated by Imperials taking top 3 at both I attended, ISD’s taking 1st/3rd both times and demolisher being second twice with a mixed bag of squadrons.
  • Last year’s nationals saw Demo/raiders/max squadrons/big bid (18ish points) dominate every round of the swiss convincingly only to go down in the final to a brutally unsubtle Akbar double MC80 build with a couple of flotillas and only a couple of named A-wings to make any effort in the squadron phase, basically polar opposites of each other. You can watch the full replay here and it’s totally worth it just to see if you can spot the exact minute when our NSW hero realises that his best laid plans have gone completely up the creek.



Then of course we pause for another of those all to familiar grand canyons of dead air from FFG between waves… I think this is the biggest problem with our game, I don’t even care if its one major release a year but get some more content on the web dammit, bat reps, competitions, something! In Australia our regionals season is running now, but realistically they will all be current wave which is the same as our nats so I’m not expecting huge amounts of innovation here. In simplest terms I’d summarise our meta currently in these broad terms –

For Rebels it’s all about attrition fleets – By this I mean lots of small clumps of damage coming from multiple sources, could be whales, almost guaranteed to include a Yavaris Nebulon, sometimes it’s Akbar MC80s, sometimes It’s about corvettes. Sometimes more squadrons, sometimes less but almost never a big bid. There’s lots of variety in the fleets but they all tend to play the same way, bits of damage building up to big damage over 6 turns.

By contrast Imperials are all about the Death Star – It started with a Demolisher Triple tap years ago and it’s now more commonly headed by an ISD1 Avenger combo but the basic principle is the same. Higher activations, higher bids, maybe squadrons, maybe not but ultimately designed to get a huge burst of damage onto a given target and blow it to hell in one impressive blast. None of the patience so common amongst rebel builds. At the 2017 nats for example consider that 1st in the swiss was 6 activation demolisher with a 20(ish) point bid… and in the 5th round it was outbid by a 4 activation Avenger ISD who had a 20+ point bid… There were at least 2 other imperials running either Demolisher or Avenger who also had huge bids.

So what happened to these two guys? 

The recent FAQ and clear use of the nerf bat by FFG had two significant impacts on the Aus Meta, we almost never see Reikan anymore nor do we ever seem to see Major Rhymer. Now while neither of these were a great loss to us it does seem to make us quite unique compared to many other sites. To us the big hitting Imperial lists are the obvious counter to the attrition based Reikan lists and visa versa. Competitive builds here either have lots of squadrons or a clear plan on how to deal with lots of squadrons and you really wouldn’t expect to get far with less than 4 activations. The flotilla rage so common on the internet here has been met with a healthy dose of flotilla acceptance and we tend to just shove 2 in by default at a minimum. One of the most interesting lists from Nats contained 8 activations including and Avenger ISD, 1-2 raiders and the rest made up of red dice toting Gozanti’s led by Vader, and it did very well overall. 

Fast forward to this year’s regionals

At the most recent regionals this is what I ran: 


A few notes on my list - For anyone seeking to use the list I ran here’s a few thoughts – The ISD is big enough to take on anything smaller than a similar ISD. So basically if the enemy is cheaper than you, you can kill it. The big activations are more of a defensive measure than anything else, to help prevent getting alpha struck yourself. There is an interesting argument though to drop one goz and go for a stupendous bid… About 1/3 of the bids at this week's regionals were over 10 points with the highest being 25pts. The squadron ball is also really good when using Sloan, if you’re running a different commander you can make a better ball. It hits enemy squads hard but you do need to be careful and it can be tricky dropping it in piecemeal via relay. In one of the games I fought another local player using the identical squadron ball but by the end of turn 3 he had zero squads left and I lost 2 aces overall, timing is everything, engage at the wrong time and you will dissolve.

  
Taking on the Reikan deathblob in the final round

In the end some solid wins saw imperials taking home the trophy with two rebels completing the podium. Some of the other highlights were a double whale + 12 y-wing horde, a double MC30 build that took second and even someone bravely taking a Reikan Aceholes list (which is really quite a novelty downunder).

  



Time for some cool new toys! 
But of course this meta is about to get turned on its head with some cool new stuff coming. While I’m still expecting some awesome new upgrades that will no doubt shake things up more I’m already thinking there will be some interesting new builds, these are just a few of my early thoughts, no doubt there are many others floating around and I fully expect that some of these will flop badly when I actually put them on the table…


Sato Hammerheads – (not so much a new wave as an interesting idea)  http://armadawarlords.hivelabs.solutions/view_list.php?token=156047&key=f4570309335bde3a4e13e558379e6d18


You know there are still some out there who disparage our game, they think of it only as the poor cousin of mighty X-Wing. I feel sorry for those players. Our game has a much steeper learning curve and is easy to give up on as a new player without a supportive crew. It takes a hefty investment of time to master the complexities of movement and activation order but for those of us who persist it offers a deep and strategic interplay of really amazing mechanics. For me it has one of the most balanced and interesting metas of any system (something increasingly challenging in an online netlist age) and has just gone from strength to strength since the Corellian Campaign set. We lost so many potential players in the beginning thanks to some appalling delays with early wave releases and I watched entire communities just disappear but if you’ve taken the time to read this maybe its time to get some more games on the table and see if you can’t drag some of those fence sitters back in. At least we can count on a stable and developing meta which won’t be flipped on its head every 6 months by a new radical errata! 

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Decisions Decisions - Getting ready for Cancon 2018

So Cancon is just around a month away and people have been asking me all about what I'm going to run this year, they think I'm being cagey with my responses but in reality I'm just rusty as hell. Having missing Castle Assault I've not played more than a half dozen games since las Cancon which puts me in a wierd spot. Usually I'd be totally prepped and organise but this year it's going to be super last minute. Here's my thinking process at the moment:

I have no idea about current meta or if there even is one... last year it was all about activations and Eldar, that seems to have settled down so what will this year be?

Really don't have the energy to paint, Star Wars Legion is going to drop soon so most of my effort is going into that, luckily I have about 10 painted Epic forces! Nothing new has grabbed my attention, list development in Epic seems to have stalled badly and even the new model ranges are coming along super slow. I love that companies like onslaught are producing new stuff but there are just so many frustrating gaps in collections. I'd love to do a dark eldar army for example but without the super heavies and Titans it's not worth the energy, so I'll be sticking to something I've got.

Here's the three options I'm largely considering at the moment... of course some of you will think these are deliberate attempts to distract you from my actual master plan... #zacmanning

Option 1 - Chaos Cult 

Incompertus, 2995 POINTS
Lost And The Damned - Redux (0.3 - Experimental)
==================================================

COVEN [460]
Daemonic Pact, (Chaos Undivided), Demagogue, 11 Cultists, 6 Land Transporter, Technical, Chaos Altar

COVEN [310]
Daemonic Pact, (Chaos Undivided), Demagogue, 11 Cultists, 6 Land Transporter, Technical

COVEN [225]
Daemonic Pact, (Chaos Undivided), Demagogue, 11 Cultists

PLAGUE ZOMBIE INFESTATION [175]
3D6 Plague Zombie Units

PLAGUE ZOMBIE INFESTATION [175]
3D6 Plague Zombie Units

NURGLE PLAGUE TOWER [300]
Plague Tower

NURGLE PLAGUE TOWER [300]
Plague Tower

TZEENTCH FIRELORD [250]
2 Firelord

TZEENTCH DOOMWINGS [150]
3 Doomwings

HELLFIRE CANNONS [200]
4 Hellfire Cannons

HELLFIRE CANNONS [200]
4 Hellfire Cannons

DAEMON POOL [250]
2 Greater Daemon, 10 Lesser Daemon

Pros - Nobody is going to prepare for it - actually surprisingly important in my experience, if you're doing what everyone expects it never goes well. I don't think anyone has run chaos cult at an Aus comp in my experience...

Looks awesome on the table - dead sexy army if I do say so myself. Greater Daemons - one of the great strengths of the cult is the flexibility to summon daemons where needed and with relative ease. Really hard for your opponent to stop.

Tougher than it looks - yeah the average trooper is a bag of pus but with the plague towers, excellent bombers, macro battle cannons and other other goodies the list hits harder than you might think originally. Also covers all the usual bases like suitable flak, shooting flexibility etc.

Cons:
Easy, I've played a grand total of one game with them which I lost... then again it wouldn't the first time I'd run an army at a comp with no prior experience...

Option 2 – Necrons

Incompertus, 3000 POINTS
Necrons (NetEA Tournament Pack 2013)
==================================================

INFANTRY PHALANX [425]
Necron Lord, 6 Warriors, Immortals, Pariahs, 2 Tomb Spyders

INFANTRY PHALANX [225]
Necron Lord, 6 Warriors

INFANTRY PHALANX [225]
Necron Lord, 6 Warriors

VENATOR MANIPLE [275]
6 Flayed Ones, Necron Lord, Tomb Spyders

VENATOR MANIPLE [275]
6 Flayed Ones, Necron Lord, Tomb Spyders

PYLON [200]

PYLON [200]

WARBARQUE [350]
Supreme Commander

MONOLITH PHALANX [275]
3 Monoliths

MONOLITH PHALANX [275]
3 Monoliths

MONOLITH PHALANX [275]
3 Monoliths

 Pros: Super flexible and quite tough, necrons are hard for your opponent to plan for in some respects because though most necrons lists play with similar tactics those tactics are stupidly flexible given the mass teleport options. I have had some games with them! In fact I've had a bunch, some of which I even won!

Capacity to engage all enemy objectives - although it's easy to fall into the trap of spreading thin you do have an amazing ability to choose which ground you will fight over...

Cons: Paper scissor rock - Necrons are great at clipping engage but that's pretty much it. They can't outshoot an orc so if you rock up a table and you're going up against Titans you know that your basic plan is going to struggle. Last time I played against rons I was using my feral orks and it just went so bad for the rons even I was surprised.

When they lose...they lose big - I remember being suprised at how steep the learning curve was with rons after hearing everyone complain about how OP they are but that auto phase out for broken units is just brutal if your opponent knows what they are doing. You can end up with a whole pile of suddenly uncontested objectives and have easily the weakest BTS in the game since you don't actually have to kill it to get the point. Definitely a gamblers army and not forgiving in a comp setting.

Option 3 – Cadians

Incompertus, 3000 POINTS
Cadian Shock Troopers (NetEA v1.5 *DEVELOPMENT*)
==================================================

CADIAN REGIMENTAL HEADQUARTERS [600]
1 Imperial Guard Supreme Commander unit, 7 Kasrkin units and 1 Leviathan Mobile Command Centre, Sabre Platforms (3 Sabre Platforms), Commissar

KASRKIN INFANTRY COMPANY [175]
1 Imperial Guard Commander unit and 7 Kasrkin units

KASRKIN INFANTRY COMPANY [175]
1 Imperial Guard Commander unit and 7 Kasrkin units

SUPER HEAVY TANK PLATOON [200]
Shadowsword, Commissar

SUPER HEAVY TANK PLATOON [200]
Shadowsword, Commissar

SUPER HEAVY TANK PLATOON [200]
Stormsword, Commissar

SUPER HEAVY TANK PLATOON [200]
Stormsword, Commissar

FLAK BATTERY [150]
3 hydras

SENTINEL SQUADRON [125]
6 Cadian Sentinels, Commissar

WARLORD CLASS TITAN [825]

THUNDERBOLT FIGHTERS [150]
2 Thunderbolts



Pros and cons Interesting I think the Cadians are the opposite of the rons in many respects. They can outshoot pretty much anything. Have the safest BTS you can get (I mean how much of a muppet are you to lose a Warlord Titan) and are still awesome in FF. The downside is though that they are super slow... it's a grind army in a game where board control is vital. You're setup needs to be gold but if you remember to basically feed the warlord two objectives 30cm apart just in front of him he can do a solid job of dealing with chunks of the board. I also suspect I'm some cases that a big Titan/gargant BTS might be a solid counter to activation spam. They can dance all they like but if they can't kill the big boy you can really force the issue. So there's my choices, if you're read this far you might as well drop your thoughts somewhere on what I should run!

Monday, 25 September 2017

5 Reasons to play Star Wars Armada

In the down season from Epic Armageddon I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about another awesome game system that I'm obsessed with, there's always room in the cupboard for one more system right! With that in mind here's 5 reasons why you need more plastic crack in your life: 

  

1) Deep strategic play - I’m someone who goes back decades with tabletop gaming, I’ve played an array of systems and recognise that every game is different. Some games a quick and tactical, knock out a game in less than an hour and move one, Armada is not that game. I was someone who loved 7th edition Fantasy because every game was determined by a solid movement mechanic, Armada is much more like that. In Armada there are advantages to going first and advantages to going second, there’s advantages to more activations and advantages to less. Turn order is determined as part of list design so there is no randomness involved. It comes down to this basic principle, you can invest heaps of points making your Imperial Star Destroyer akin to a Death Star but if your positioning is rubbish you’ll never get to fire those big ass cannons, these mechanics are why I love me some Armada.

2) Great variety in builds - I always worried that with only 2 sides the game would stagnate quickly because I came from a Warhammer universe background. What I’ve discovered instead is a wide variety of ships and squadrons with so many usable options that I’ve played at least 1-2 games a week and never felt that it was the same game. The missions help heaps with this too, they are essential to the way every match plays out as opposed to many systems where missions feel kind of tacked on.

3) Amazing game balance FFG has done a brilliant job right from the start recognising issues with balance and taking steps to balance things out brilliantly. Mostly they do this with the new waves bringing out gear and ships to fill gaps but recently they hit us with an errata that solved pretty much any remaining issues in balance.

4) Amazing competitive circuit – Tournaments certainly aren’t for everyone but if you’re keen on the competitive side of things the Good Games stores and other local games stores run regular comps at all levels. There is at least one per quarter plus store champs, regional champs and national champs every year which cater to everyone’s needs. The best bit is that the entry fees are always cheap ($10-15 for the regular events) and you get freebies just for coming.  

  

5) Solid price point for buy in Some players have talked about being turned away from new games because of the expensive buy in, coming from a GW background I think many players have a warped idea of expensive! But not everyone is made of money so here’s a basic idea. Armada stuff comes in “waves” of new ships, the earlier waves are available from online shops much (Book depository/Amazon etc) much cheaper than in the stores while the more recent stuff is comparatively priced in either venue. A pretty comprehensive buy in price for an imperial admiral would look something like this (from Amazon AU$):

  • 1 x Starter set ($105.00)
  • 1x Squadron set 1 ($29.00)
  • 1 x Squadron set 2 ($26.00)
  • 1x Imperial Raider ($26.00)
  • 2 x Imperial Assault Carriers ($52.00)
  • And I couldn’t find a Gladiator star destroyer on Amazon for some reason but you can get one in store for $50 or cheaper online.  
So all up you’re looking at around $300 including postage to get your hands on enough ships and squadrons to build something competitive and to give you a few different options to experiment with. Another $100 would get you everything else for imps that’s not on this list and you would spend about that again when they release a new wave 1-2 times a year. The only thing you would lack are certain upgrade cards that only exist in Rebel packs which is why ultimately most players end up playing both teams but for our purposes that starting price is realistic, you don’t need every single card just to play socially, proxy for a while until you decide whether you want to dive in or are just happy with the toe. There’s no hidden costs like terrain and tables etc because that’s all covered by the core set.

      And one bonus reason: It’s Star Wars – I mean we all love our GW created universes no doubt but there’s something so incredibly satisfying when you blow up the big fat ship at the centre of the enemy’s fleet. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and some games are all about the little explosions on the periphery but damn its good when a plan comes together…. Just saying.

      If you’re still interested check out some of the awesome bat reps online, there is an amazing series produced here in Aus that are well worth watching. This one has Admiral Akbar going up against Darth Vader and is a classic example of how amazing our game is. Hopefully you start thinking about what you want in your stocking this Christmas…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtBOJCVjLsE 





Sunday, 10 September 2017

Let's make Epic great again! Castle Assault 2017

Letting loose the dogs of war...

Note – This is largely a stream of consciousness, if you don’t feel like a long read skip straight to para 5…

  

First things first, check out the army gallery here... it's absolutely worth it. http://imgur.com/a/Vfu7R 

I’ve been someone who has really loved Epic Armageddon since my first into game. In that game some Imperial guard I borrowed got absolutely reamed in 2 turns by a well refined Orks list run by a mate of mine who graciously pointed out every mistake I made at the end of the game, I took notes. One thing I took away from that game however, the thing that has defined my experience with Epic from that point is that the balance in this game is garbage. This is a paradox which I have been unable to reconcile with fact that I’m also a highly competitive gamer who will inevitably invest much time and energy building, refining, practising and generally getting gud with any system that I play.
      If you’ve been following the adventures of the Australian Epic scene you have seen this scenario played out over and again, in no small part due to my own fault. What I learnt in that first game is that you might want to run a company of Leman Russ battle tanks because they are so cool but in reality a selection of smaller cheaper formations will probably crush that unit because of odd rule mechanics like clipping assaults where a unit like shining spears can jump out shoot that company of Russ with shiruken pistols in FF and somehow make all the tanks explode because they are so inspired…
      In tournaments we have seen this played out over and again, Cancon being taken out by my Squat force that was deemed so bad the entire race has been extinct since, Castle Assault being stomped by Feral Orks where I absolutely min/maxed the hell out of a list abusing orkeosaurus, and again at Cancon this year where the Eldar we had only kept out by the skin of our teeth took the inevitable win with massive activation spam. The result I realised was that the highly competitive players of the Aus scene had essentially dug their own graves driving away many new players through our own efforts in breaking a game which was fragile to begin with.
      All our efforts to restore balance to the game met with failure, any attempt to gain traction in the quagmire that is Taccoms just led to massive frustration with the intransigence of an elite few and if anything that forum has pushed more players out of our game than any other factor. The attempts to balance internally though composition systems at out comps also didn’t take well so we reached a point where I personally thought we were pretty stuck. I found myself less and less interested in the competitive side of Epic and watched as even the efforts of our most passionate advocates couldn’t stop the stagnation, then came Castle Assault 2017…
      I didn’t make it to CA17, I was shattered at that fact but it clashed with another major comp on my calendar and I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I saw the lists when they first came out and sadly with only a couple of days lead before the event I didn’t have the time to do a full write up but the first thing I noticed was that there was no bullshit lists in there, no orkeosaurus, nothing with more than 12 activations, no Biel Tan at all either. In fact there was a beautiful spread of lists and races and I actually struggled to call a winner straight up. It seemed that though all the efforts to enforce balance from the top down had failed the community had developed a solution that I had never considered, they decided to just stop being dicks.
      It actually made me wonder how much the meta is impacted by the presence (or absence) of the most competitive players. I know that when I’m going to any given comp I’m looking at whose on top of the food chain and trying to predict (and therefore counter) what they would run. Given that I wasn’t going this year and that this year’s Cancon winner was the TO it cut down the pool of such uber-competitive players to a much smaller group and those that did come brought really balanced and quite friendly armies.
      The link to the lists is here and I would encourage you all to check them out, the final results saw the closest finish that we have had in years, a far cry from the typical result where one player is so far ahead of the pack that the last round is really irrelevant. Spoiler alert we ended up with marines taking the crown which is amazing just of itself. But the most exciting bit was still to come, when the winner was announced and in the following days the response was universally positive…. There were no cries of “yeah but he only won because of the list” or anything of the nature. People were genuinely happy with the results after having genuinely enjoyed themselves for the weekend, it was so refreshing for their not to be controversy.
     It is my sincerest hope that CA2017 has set a new standard for play in Australia, the solution is simple, don’t turn up with a hideous concoction of game breaking gimmiky crap, turn up with something that everyone would enjoy playing against and if you win, so be it. This is a community driven game and we have so long forgotten that, it is really easy to point fingers at lists and Taccoms forums and blame our shortcomings on overseas groups but ultimately if we want the game to improve it’s up to us.
      Here’s to more results like this, more new players joining up to our glorious game and a bit more inspiration for anyone who is involved.



Friday, 7 April 2017

Tactica Tau - Unleash your space commie!

Tactica Tau - Unleash your space commie!

If you're a follower of this blog you will no doubt have read up on my Tau at this year's Cancon. I know that many other players at the comp were left scratching their heads as to why I was bringing Tau to such a competitive competition but their was a logic to it. I've long stated unequivocally that in my mind Tau are a weak force in comparison to the top tier lists available and with a request from the TO that I show a degree of restraint with my list this year (as opposed to last year!) I figured I'd kill two birds one stone. 

I really enjoy my Tau, I like the fluff of the space commies and the model range that is coming out of onslaught is really fantastic in my mind so they are an army I would like to see do well.  We have a history in Australian comps though of seeing almost no Tau and that is largely a reflection of the list rather than access to minis. That said I really like what Matt Shadowlord is doing in his Viorla edition of Tau and I think his efforts could just lead to a version of Tau that is more competitive. This article then will focus on Matts revision rather than the approved version which like many others lists I rate as complete rubbish. There seems to be no realistic possibility of that list changing though so I'd suggest if you are a keen player of space commies then backing Matt with the reports and data he needs is your best chance. 

Core unit options

Fire warriors - with Tau more than many other lists we see lots of debate surrounding the most effective options and builds. Personally I prefer suits to fire warriors but I've seen fire warriors used to great effect too. If I were looking to include them I'd be focusing on them as a solid place to hide my ground based AA by throwing a skyray in with the devil fish. It could be s great place to hide your sup com as well though it doesn't have the advantage of being super tough or fearless and if you add a sup com odds are it will become a BTS so be careful in that respect. You will need to watch out for air assault formations especially. I've seen lots of versions where you throw in pathfinders for the markerlights, an ethereal for fearless or coordinate them with a tetra formation in order to do a hard hitting alpha strike unit. In my mind however you want to avoid failing into the trap of pouring points into this unit and just keep it simple. 

Crisis suits - My favourite core option by far but the warning here is that if you want to run lots of crisis suits you need to basically build your army around this structure. My Cancon build for example was all about suits in orcas dropping down to wreck stuff and it worked to some degree. Suits on the ground without an air transport option are just too slow and don't hit hard enough to really threaten much so I think their points are wasted and would be better spent on fire warriors.  I always invest in drones and sometimes invest in the cadre fireblade but that's about it unless you want to include a sup com. 

Support options
One thing about Viorla is that we are somewhat spoilt for options here, the real skill is in finding an effective synergy between units and then using them on table to maximise that potential. 

Xv104 riptide suits - they caused quite a stir when they dropped with lots of calls of OP (including myself much to my shame) but Matt has done a great job giving us a functional unit here that will feature in many Tau lists. They are expensive for what they do in my mind but no more than most things in Tau. 

Gunships - though there are a few options here in my mind the one that fills an obvious gap for Tau is the hammerhead variant. Long range Titan busting death that combines well with markerlights if you can arrange it. I generally take 1-2 units of these guys in various sizes, often with a skyray included 

Scouts - tetras and pirannas both have their uses to me, if nothing else they are cheap activation padders who add the always useful scout ability and markerlights if you can make them live long enough to put it out use. Experiment with your combinations and see if you would prefer units what rain down missiles at long range or units that focus on putting little red dots on important formations. 

Broadside battlesuits - these guys have always been a bit awkward to me. Given that we are looking at Viorla I'd suggest your points are better invested in either hammerheads or riptides rather than this unit that seems to sit on the fence between them. 

Skyrays - absolutely essential to include but much like hydras for gaurd I'd suggest you go with integrating a single into bigger formations than taking a unit of them all together because it's too vulnerable to breaking. 

KX-139 Supremacy Suits - these guys are fantastic, my Cancon build this year was lacking them largely due to laziness in modelling and I totally regret that. I consider taking two of them to be absolutely compulsory now to give you some long range hitting power. 

Stealth suits - one of those units I keep coming back too. I've tried them as deepstriking ambushers and now I run them with a fireblade in an orca for engagement. I wish they had an AT gun option to back their AP ability but I reckon they are a unit worth exploring. 

Pathfinders - much like skyrays I think  pathfinders are a good unit but you will find better synergies if you add them to core infantry rather than running them as full units by themselves 

Vespids - cool concept but not worth the points in my mind. Any sort of engage based unit that has zero armour won't find a role in my army and I reckon that fire warriors are a better option. 

KV-128 Stormsurge suits - much like vespids, I like the concept but there are better big suits for your points. 

Air caste formations 

Baracuda fighter bombers - much like thunderbolts these are a nice flexible unit that I tend to include every time. Lots of flexibility to use for CAP or ground attack 

Razorshark fighters - must admit I've never used them, to me barracudas have always looked the better option because of their flexibility 

Manta dropship - big fat war engine of death. Worth experimenting with for the assault support and interesting tactical options but overall to me it doesn't hit hard enough for its points. Certainly not as a shooting focussed unit. 

Orca transport - whether or not you include these will really depend on your build. I love orcas because they are cheap and effective for delivering crisis suits and stealth suits. Adding in the possibility of a sneaky turn 3 drop down to contest and objective they are great value in my build. I wish they had the extra hitting power of the thunderhawk because you can be stuck with something to do with them at times but they are still great. I totally recommend the pickup turn 1 drop turn 2 or 3 because that can be great for padding activations. 

Spacecraft - cheap and potentially effective, another auto include for me. Yes it sucks when the shots miss but the double TK shot is useful to me in basically every game. 

Tiger shark AX-10 - so good I wish I could take multiples. You will tend to only remember all the times it misses but with its hitting power and range it really covers what would have been a hole otherwise. 

Sunshark bomber squadron - personally I've never used them but I know plenty of Tau players who like these guys, especially if you are going super air heavy rather than the more engagement driven approach of my build. For me I think that the supremacy suits recently added give you enough long range artillery support without the risk of being aircraft. Sun sharks don't have the special rules like disrupt or ignore cover that others do which really makes a difference. 


Sample builds 
I've never mastered tau or found anyone who is hugely successful with them to tap into for tactics and builds but the best I can offer is a few builds assembled by myself and a guy named Norto who easily wears the crown of the best Tau general at this year's Cancon. 

Sample Build 1 - Castle Assault 2016

CRISIS BATTLESUIT CADRE [325] 4 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit, Shas'o
FIRE WARRIOR CADRE [225] 6 Fire Warriors, 3 Devilfish
FIRE WARRIOR CADRE [225] 6 Fire Warriors, 3 Devilfish
ARMOUR SUPPORT GROUP [375] ***BTS 4 Hammerhead Gunships (Ionhead), 2 extra Hammerhead Gunships (Ionhead), Skyray
ARMOUR SUPPORT GROUP [225] 4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead)
ARMOUR SUPPORT GROUP [225] 4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead)
ARMOUR SUPPORT GROUP [225] 4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead)
RECON SKIMMER GROUP [175] 5 Tetra, Piranha
RECON SKIMMER GROUP [175] 5 Tetra, Piranha
RECON SKIMMER GROUP [175] 5 Tetra, Piranha
RECON SKIMMER GROUP [175] 5 Tetra, Piranha
RECON SKIMMER GROUP [175] 5 Tetra, Piranha
BARRACUDA SQUADRON [150] 2 Barracuda Fighters
BARRACUDA SQUADRON [150] 2 Barracuda Fighters

This was the build I fought against at Castle Assault last year, the bat rep is on the blog so you can check it out for yourself. You will note the veritable horde of tetras in the force which helped it do some interesting coordinated fire attacks. Note that technically this is not a Voir'la list it's standard Tau which is why there is that odd crisis suit team. You could easily adapt it to the new option and put your Shas'o into an infantry unit where he is much safer. 

Sample Build 2 - Cancon 2017
4 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit unit, Shas'o Commander, 2 Gun Drones

CRISIS BATTLESUIT CADRE [325]
Shas'el Commander, 5 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit unit, 2 Gun Drones

CRISIS BATTLESUIT CADRE [325]
Shas'el Commander, 5 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit unit, 2 Gun Drones

ARMOURED SUPPORT GROUP [325]
4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead), Skyray

ARMOURED SUPPORT GROUP [325]
4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead), Skyray

ARMOURED SUPPORT GROUP [225]
4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead)

RECON SKIMMER GROUP [150]
3 Pathfinder Tetra, 2 Piranha

RECON SKIMMER GROUP [150]
3 Pathfinder Tetra, 2 Piranha

BARRACUDA SQUADRON [150]
2 Barracuda Fighters

ORCA ASSAULT DROPSHIP [150]

ORCA ASSAULT DROPSHIP [150]

TIGER SHARK AX-1-0 [175]
1 Tiger Shark AX-1-0

SPACECRAFT [200]
1 Protector Class Cruiser

This was my build from this year's Cancon and although the theory was sound it didn't come together well. The basic principle is to do the real damage with well timed orca drops full of crisis suits but I found it lacked hitting power. Post Cancon I'm experimenting with more supremacy suit artillery support and putting stealth suits in to replace at least 1 crisis team to allow for a better engage hit out of the orca. 

Sample Build 3 - Cancon 2017 
FIRE WARRIOR CADRE [350]
6 Fire Warrior Units, 3 Devilfishes, Cadre Fireblade, Skyray

FIRE WARRIOR CADRE [225]
6 Fire Warrior Units, 3 Devilfishes

XV104 RIPTIDE FORMATION [525]
4 XV104 Riptides, Shas'o Commander

XV104 RIPTIDE FORMATION [350]
3 XV104 Riptides, Shas'el Commander

KX 139 TA'UNAR SUPREMACY [225]
1 KX 139 Ta'unar Supremacy

KX 139 TA'UNAR SUPREMACY [225]
1 KX 139 Ta'unar Supremacy

KX 139 TA'UNAR SUPREMACY [225]
1 KX 139 Ta'unar Supremacy

BARRACUDA SQUADRON [150]
2 Barracuda Fighters

BARRACUDA SQUADRON [150]
2 Barracuda Fighters

TIGER SHARK AX-1-0 [175]
1 Tiger Shark AX-1-0

SUN SHARK SQUADRON [200]
2 Sun Shark Bombers

SPACECRAFT [200]
1 Protector Class Cruiser
Weapons: 2 pin point attacks

This was another build from Cancon this year and did a little better overall than mine. Note that its far more focused on artillery and long range hitting power than orca drop attacks. Lots of air as welll and plenty of heavy armour options with a bit of infantry support too. Ultimately a very different design philosophy but it helps to illustrate the flexibility that Tau can present.