Friday, 17 February 2017

Star Wars Armada Field Test #1 Big deadly ISD

Star Wars Armada Field Test #1 Big deadly ISD

Now I know what you’re thinking, what’s this shit and where is my Epic Armageddon! But like many players I actually play multiple game systems and Star Wars armada is one of my absolute favourites so I’m going to write a series of articles which I’m calling ‘field tests’. The basic premise of these reports will be that I’m trying out new builds post the regionals season and exploring some different ideas. I’ll post the list and the general idea/plan of the list before each report and ask my opponent to do the same. You can then see whether or not the plan worked out as it was supposed to or fall completely apart as tends to happen. I think its always interesting when you think you have a totally awesome combination on paper but then you pop it onto the table and work out it just doesn’t work as you thought it would.

The forces of the legitimate government

Checkout the Armada Warlords link here

Faction: Galactic Empire
Points: 400/400  
Commander: Admiral Motti
Assault Objective: Precision Strike
Defense Objective: Fire Lanes
Navigation Objective: Sensor Net
Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer (120 points)
-  Avenger  ( 5  points)
-  Skilled First Officer  ( 1  points)
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
-  Leading Shots  ( 4  points)
137 total ship cost
Raider-I Class Corvette (44 points)
-  Agent Kallus  ( 3  points)
-  Ordnance Experts  ( 4  points)
-  Flechette Torpedoes  ( 3  points)
54 total ship cost
Gozanti-class Cruisers (23 points)
-  Suppressor  ( 4  points)
-  Minister Tua  ( 2  points)
-  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points)
36 total ship cost
Gozanti-class Cruisers (23 points)
-  Comms Net  ( 2  points)
25 total ship cost
[ flagship ] Gozanti-class Cruisers (23 points)
-  Admiral Motti  ( 24  points)
47 total ship cost
1 Darth Vader ( 21 points) 
1 Zertik Strom ( 15 points)
1 Major Rhymer ( 16 points)
1 Maarek Steele ( 21 points)
1 Lamda-class Shuttle ( 15 points)
1 Tempest Squadron ( 13 points)

The basic premise of this build is to form up around the ISD. The suppressor Gozanti is to sit close to the ISD and supress enemy ships as they approach to ensure that Avenger gets maximum usage of its abilities. The ECM on suppressor means it has a higher chance of surviving in that horrible death zone between my ISD and its target which would normally be very unhealthy for a Gozanti.
        The squadron ball is also designed to shelter under the protection of either the raider or the ISD but has been selected for maximum flexibility. With Rhymer in there its easy enough to threaten targets and soften a few ships up prior to the ISD hammer time but there’s enough anti-squad shots to give most enemy balls a headache too. The shuttle means that my other two Gozantis can pump squadron activations through from anywhere on the board helping to reduce some of the clutter around the ISD. The raider is super flexible, in theory its there for squadron support but it’s not against zooming forwards to put some serious threat on a target or go for a transport either, flexible but fragile sums up this guy.

Rebel Scum


Checkout the Armada Warlords link here

Faction: Rebel Alliance
Points: 400/400  
Commander: General Dodonna
Assault Objective: Most Wanted
Defense Objective: Contested Outpost
Navigation Objective: Solar Corona
[ flagship ] GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  General Dodonna  ( 20  points) 
-  Bomber Command Center  ( 8  points) 
46 total ship cost
GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  Toryn Farr  ( 7  points) 
25 total ship cost
Modified Pelta-class Command Ship (60 points)
-  Flight Commander  ( 3  points) 
-  Engine Techs  ( 8  points) 
-  Rapid Launch Bays  ( 6  points) 
77 total ship cost
MC30c Torpedo Frigate (63 points)
-  Ordnance Experts  ( 4  points) 
-  H9 Turbolasers  ( 8  points) 
-  Assault Proton Torpedoes  ( 5  points) 
80 total ship cost
Nebulon-B Escort Frigate (57 points)
-  Yavaris  ( 5  points) 
-  Flight Commander  ( 3  points) 
65 total ship cost
1 Shara Bey ( 17 points) 
1 Tycho Celchu ( 16 points) 
1 Jan Ors ( 19 points) 
1 X-Wing Squadron ( 13 points) 
3 B-Wing Squadrons ( 42 points) 

Bidding: Neither side had a bid so a roll off gave Imperials first turn and they would choose Most Wanted as the mission. The targets would be the Imperial  ISD vs Torryn Farr’s transport 


As I mentioned in the plan above my deployment would be all about castling up around the ISD and letting it do the heavy lifting, suppressor is the gozanti on the left whilst the comms net is on the right and Motti himself is on the extreme left preparing for a tour of the sectors station and asteroid options.

Turn 1 
Cautious advance on both sides with a general speed 2 advance from most ships whilst the ISD slows to 1 aiming to keep the enemy ships within arc as best as possible, also it hasn't decided where to commit for maximum carnage. 
Rebels have a solid battle line of advance, we will see how long it lasts once the proverbial hits the fan. 

 Note: At this point it's worth explaining the big red arrows... These are the best way I can think of to illustrate movement during the turn. The number of arrows represent speed e.g. ISD went 1 and their position gives you an idea of movement path. So in this case the ISD went 1 straight ahead and the raider did a jink to the right at speed two in order to give the big boy some more room. 

Turn 2
A more aggressive advance sees the mc30 finish in range of suppressor and some really wierd positioning occurring on the imperial side. Currently it looks like a complete mess to counter the delicate manoeuvres of the imperials. Surely this must be a ruse...

Little happens for most of the turn, the ISD and some bombers take a few shields off the mc30 but little else of consequence happens until the end of the turn when yavaris advance. Some really ordinary red dice shots limited any significant damage occurring but it launches 2 awings after moving (flight commander) to tie down my remaining squadrons  taking two hits off Darth.  

That MC30 has black dice range to supressor but only one arc so next turn is going to be interesting because basically everything is within red dice range of the ISD but sadly the MC30 is about 2mm out of blue dice range. Motti in his lifeboat is happily waving out the window as the rebel fleet passes by knowing that the shuttle allows him to still be relevant. 

Turn 3
 Lots of things are threatening lots of other things right now and it's really scary if you are a transport.  That said the transport holds tough and Motti activates first sending two squadron orders through the shuttle relay to order Martek and the shuttle to bomb another 2 shields off the mc30 which is now looking decidedly thin. 
        There is much consternation on the rebel side deciding what order to do things, a mistake at this point would be horrendous. Dodonnas transport would decide to go first but ultimately do nothing but deliberately crash to avoid moving forwards. The imperial gozanti on the right would follow, banking a Nav command and doing little else. Torryn would sneak forwards only to be countered by a raider moving into position for a big hit next turn. Now the big ones come...
        Yavaris would lead the opening of real hostilities making both a-wing characters double attack killing earth Vader and an x-wing would zoom in for a single hit. Yavaris flak would take a hit off rhymer but little else. It's front volley would cause suppressor to use its scatter token, time to move little gozanti! Yavaris ramming the raider would finish the deadly activation.  
        Suppressor would snipe another shield off the mc30 and force torryns transport to burn its scatter with 2 hits (most wanted) before sneaking into the tiniest of gaps next to yavaris ensuring its survival against the mc30. 
        The Rebel Pelta pushed forwards for the next activation doing little with its guns due to more ordinary dice (so many accuracies and blanks so far tonight. It would move forwards but do little else, the launch bays glowing ominously. 
        The ISD represents the final shot for the imperials starting with 6 damage on yavaris (medium) thanks to no brace or evade options and 4 on the mc30 (boom) thanks to avenger meaning it couldn't use any of its 4 exhausted defence tokens. Ouch rebels. 
         Squadrons would see the imperials pinned by rebel a wing characters and refusing to shoot in order to avoid the nasty counters. 

End of Turn 3 and everything is brutally close. The ISD is unscathed though and Yavaris is down to 2 hull against the ISD that could go first. Damn unsafe positioning. The A-wing characters though are tying up the outside of my squadron ball easily because I lack the critical hitting capacity to get through their scatter tokens without taking too much damage from counter. Currently it's a losing situation for the imp squadrons. 

Turn 4
Imperials kick off with the raider opening up on the most wanted torryn Farr who evaporated to a powerful short range side shot thanks to no evade token. Quickly followed by yavaris which would succumb to a short range volley from the front guns doing 3 damage (brace to 2) which finished it off. Imperials are surging ahead now thanks to the power of first turn. 
The rebel pelta would seek revenge on the suppressor gozanti who has earned the shit out its points this game. A side and front volley would see the scatter token disappear leaving him feeling very vulnerable followed by a speed 2 advance, drop off 3 b-wings from the rapid launch bays which wreck the poor ol suppressor and the 3rd takes 2 shields off the ISD.  
        Imperials would now take their time with the major threats removed. Motti would order the shuttle and zertik to plink a couple of hits off the x-wing who was boosted by Jans brace being used to protect him. The gozanti on the right would chuck a concentrate fire token over to the ISD and move up. 
         My ISD would announce its presence with a point blank volley on Dodonna reducing his space dust to space dust... Then it decided to drop to speed zero in order to avoid crushing enemy squadrons and hopefully getting some more solid anti squad shots off. Don't be fooled though this wasn't a normal sort of move, I knew I would cop serious damage as a result but ultimately a full ISD takes a stupid amount of punishment before anything bad happens. 
In the squadron phase Martek and tempest would team up to finish off the x-wing and rhymer would plink a hit off Jan ors only to take one in return. 

Rebel ships are squishy... but the engine techs on the pelta have kept it just out of the front arc so it won't be going down. Squadron phase is starting to balance out as the ISD brings in the flak but sadly the raider is just too far away to hit the full ball with its damage. 

Turn 5 
Raider with flechettes opens up on two b-wings in range activating both with crits and doing some damage as well. 
Rebel pelta activates squadrons using tycho to kill tempest squadron, a b-wing to bomb the ISD for 2 damage and Jan doing another hit onto rhymer. It's double ark shooting would do reasonable damage thanks to the speed 0 meaning no tokens could be spent, in the end it was 3 shields and 5 hull points down. Motti ISD shrugs it off. 
With the rebels out of activations it's all over to the imperials now. It's not a question of who will win but s race to see how much I could kill before they escaped at the end of turn 6. 
ISD would open up with much flak forcing the awing characters to use their scatter tokens and taking a few hits here and there. 
Motti order two imp squadrons to kill off Jan. 
Gozanti on my right hands over a concentrate fire token to the ISD. 

It's all about the squadrons now, the ships are largely passing in the night at this point and there's no objective points to be gained so the only way to affect the totals now will be to bring down the remaining squads. Sadly that raider is again a few milimetres away from being useful 

Turn 6 

Gozanti in the middle decides to get out of the ISD's way and orders rhymer to have one last volley at Shara before he died to the return fire. 
Rebel pelta would order those pesky b-wings to continue to hurt my ISD which was no longer enjoying this getting shot at game. It's side guns would strip the remaining shields but it would survive the game in one piece. 

The rest of the turn was largely mopping up, Martek would kill a b-wing and zertik would die to the combined efforts of the a-wing characters. 

 Final washup would see a few more squads fall but the a-wings were too resilient with their scatter tokens and the B-wings being crushed allowed 2/3 of them to sneak away 

Final score would be rebels 101 and imperials 240 points including 18 bonus for the transport! 

Is it time to take the nerf bat to Biel Tan?

Is it time to take the nerf bat to Biel Tan?

So it’s a bit of a Cancon tradition, each year we see one particular army rise above the rest slaughtering all before it to take out the trophy followed almost immediately by the mob armed with torches and pitchforcks calling for it to be struck repeatedly with a nerf bat because it’s so overpowered. In 2015 it was DKOK under review because siege transports were about ½ the points they should be for balance, in 2016 Squats were considered so OP they haven’t been seen again in the competitive circuit because they are still under revision.
        Now down here in Aus we have watched an absolute resurgence of Biel Tan Eldar, we watched as they took out Western Australia’s biggest comp in 2016, Victoria’s Heavy Bolter went next and Biel Tan took second at Cancon in the same year and first in 2017. In each case with different players at the steeting wheel. It seems though that every time an Aussie dares mention on Taccoms that Eldar are overpowered the response is always that we have no idea what we’re talking about because there is at least one player in another country who seems to consistently win games using loyal marines or Chaos. We down here can’t imagine how this is so given that the Biel Tan lists we are seeing would outgun, out assault, out activate and generally out do marines of any variety you can build. We watches as one of the best players anywhere (Matt Shadowlord) took a space wolf assault force up against our top elder player only for the game to be over in the first turn as the maries bounced so hard. All the evidence from our competitions are saying the same thing to us… so the question I put to you now is simple, isn’t it time we stop kidding ourselves and actually address Eldar…
        Since the day I started playing Epic I’ve been hearing the same complaints about the overpowered nature of Eldar breaking the balance of the game. I’ve been on the receiving end of it enough times to know it’s more than just a poor players having a whinge and yet in all that time I’ve seen no action, or even an intention to explore the issue properly. In fact there seems to be a consistent response of either, there is no problem, or you need to demonstrate it with data. The result of our tournament results represent solid data in this respect, in my mind especially since it was so easy to predict the winner of this year’s Cancon based purely on lists before a single dice was rolled. In fact for interest sake I wrote this article before Cancon… just added some data examples after a result that I considered as inevitable as rolling 1’s when shooting death strikes.
        The problem with the data driven approach is that bat reps don’t reflect the skill of the players and unless the players are deliberately attempting to break the list it’s not demonstrating the potential. My gaming group are regular tournament players and love a competitive game, so I find myself wondering if the disconnect between our group who can see the massive imbalance and other groups, including the elder AC comes from a lack of regular competitive gaming in certain groups.

I was on taccoms the other day and I saw this comment that sums it up perfectly:

"kinda feel like we are trying to keep lists balanced whilst Eldar smoke us."

So what I’m going to attempt below is to spell out the issues exactly as I see them. As always these are just my opinions so take them as you like but in my mind the overpowering advantages of Eldar are the worst thing in Epic right now.
        Have a read of my thoughts below and see if you agree it’s time to assemble some data to demonstrate the point. If you do then it’s simple build the most powerful Biel Tan army you can contrive and put it up against opponents running their own top builds, record the data and submit those reports on taccoms. Specifically you need to be testing the combos that I’m presenting here, it’s no point running a bunch of war walkers and then saying the army is fair and great. My suggestion is that you start with the core list I’ve presented in my article on Eldar here and then go with either a titan or some other variation but with a minimum of 13 activations in every list.
As always post up your thoughts wherever you like if you agree or not discussion is great so let’s get to it. Before you drown the forums with anecdotal evidence of how you can’t win a game with elder though bear this list in mind. If you want to argue anything start by finding me a list that can match this list of inbuild advantages. Most armies are strong in one obvious area, marines have engage but weak shooting, Tau have good shooting but horrible engage, titans and Feral orks are almost the extremes of the spectrum. But who else can confidently complete in every field that matters, speed, activations, shooting and engagement. Read the list and then see what you think.

Advantage 1 – Core to support ratio
Almost every force in the game that has a core/support setup (i.e. not marines/orks) has a 2-1 ratio, Eldar have a 3-1 ratio combined with one of the cheapest core options that exists. I’m sure there is some fluff argument about them having more access to elite troops etc but this is where player quality comes in. A fluffy fun player uses that 3-1 to make a thematic force, a good player abuses that 3-1 to min/max crappy guardian core choices (which actually aren’t crappy thanks to the Avatar…) with the far more effective elite choices and pad the activations with cheap scout formations making it super easy to get to 13-14 activations.

Advantage 2 – The best artillery in the game
For 275 points Eldar can get a void spinner which drops BP3 at 120cms with disrupt. By contrast, Imperial Guard (renowned for their shooting) can get 3 basilisks for 250. Now you could argue that with the basilisks being a bit cheaper and having longer range this is a balanced scenario. Here’s where player quality comes into the equation. A good player recognises that with 120cm 2 voidspinners can cover every centimetre of the board, more importantly with the Eldar’s strat rating of 4 and an easy ability to out deploy the guard player what actually happens every time is this – Eldar player positions his voidspinners after the guard artillery, uses the +2 strat roll to win the roll off and destroys the guard artillery before it ever fires a shot. Hell even if it did fire a shot being a DC3 war engine with RA5+ armour makes it almost invulnerable to those basilisks whilst every scrap of damage on the guard unit will cut down its shooting and break them with little effort.

Advantage 3 – The best assault troops in the game
Shining spears are one of those units with a phenomenal combination of characteristics. They have an effective 50cm engage range and of course can jump out ad jump back so won’t be exposed to the usual risks that assault troops face. In an army with heaps of potential for activation spam and a much higher than average strat rating the options for when to engage are limitless. Combine this with skimming which is a huge advantage against most assault troops and ready access to inspiring and even double inspiring which makes them ideal for clipping engagements. With speed, hitting power, flexibility and no real risk this unit is easily better than any other engage troops I can think of.

Advantage 4 – The best scouts in the game
Cheap as chips, easily available thanks to the 3-1 ratio, more resilient than a sentinel what more could you ask for.

Advantage 5 -  Free Avatar
I can’t imagine who ever thought this thing being free was a good idea… I’ve watched it carve a swathe through units and make decisive moves time and again. It combos so well with the triple retain it’s ridiculous. Assuming your list includes two guardians to make its deployment reliable you really can’t fail. A solid player will take advantage of its BC attack capacity where possible or just use its inspiring and resilience for a clipping engage. At 50 points it would still be a bargain. 

Advantage 6 – Move shoot Move
An entire army of skimmers so terrain is literally no obstacle, backed by the best artillery around and yet they need another shooting based advantage. Good players will design their list around this ability, Scorpions, titans and the various forms of falcon grav tank are all able to use their speed and range to jump forward, blast something and then fall back into terrain making it almost impossible for the enemy to stop them. The only counter to this for most players is artillery since they aren’t going to fly into a range where you could engage them or something silly like that but artillery won’t work for the reasons above. Flyers or flying engage is an option of course, expect they are all skimmers and bring their own free AA (which is also some of the best in the game… just for a change)

Advantage 7 – Triple Retain
Just like the force organisation chart, nobody in the game gets a triple retain, except elder. I can’t even imagine what the justification is for something this fundamentally strong combined with their strat rating of 4 which gives them a huge advantage over so many armies. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of a turn 3 triple retain that decimated your army you just aren’t playing against good enough Eldar players.

Advantage 8 – Full move after engage
Just like with all the others I’m sure the justification is some fluffy thing about them using strike and fade tactics as if Eldar are the only force in the game that does that but a top player can use this to an amazing degree. The ability to hit and then disappear without any real repercussions is huge, every other assault comes with the inherit risk of being vulnerable afterwards… not Eldar. Of course my favourite use for this was watching an Avatar run 15cm through terrain after an engagement (where it butchered a full strength warhound btw) so that it wouldn’t be seen by the rest of the Eldar army if it died (as in no blast marker). It was a beautiful strategy but I’m struggling to comprehend that this was the intention of the creators.

Advantage 9 – Holofields
The irony of this is that for a lot of Eldar players there aren’t many stories of how holofields have saved your day or ruined it. Its mainly because decent players worked out a long time ago that there is no way to achieve much against them other than being stupidly lucky, so don’t bother, save your shots and maybe go for a break. We saw plenty of Warlord titans and Gargants going down at this year’s Cancon but does anyone want to guess how many Eldar titans died… People complain plenty about knights having 4+ invulnerable saves but personally I’m ok with them, after a few games I worked out that there are weaknesses to exploit and with good planning you can overcome them. After many more games against holofields I came to the conclusion there is nothing you can do which impacts them in any meaningful way so focus your energy somewhere else. I really love it when people say ‘just crossfire them’ as if reducing it to a 4+ invulnerable after managing to setup crossfire somehow it such a big difference. I also love the irony that the army most able to setup the crossfire due to their implicit speed and move/shoot rules is absolutely other elder

So overall I think the evidence is totally definitive, random anecdotal comments about this player or that player doens't balance out what you can see here but as always discussion is healthy so lets have one. I'm interested to hear how people will counter what we think is so obvious.