Southern Ontario Open 2018 – Recap

I alluded to this in my last post, but a couple weekends ago, I attended the Southern Ontario Open in Hamilton. For those that don’t know, the Southern Ontario Open is a three day con and probably the biggest Warmachine convention in Canada, and it features both a Masters and Champions tournament, Iron Arena, hobby programming, IKRPG, and some other events like Steamroller scrambles and Company of Iron. It’s attended by a lot of big names in the Warmachine community, and is getting more and more popular among Americans, in part due to the high caliber of competitive play and in part because the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar makes it a relatively inexpensive con.

I headed out on Thursday, and I decided that this year, I would moderate my goals. Last year, I went with high hopes, only to be crushed repeatedly by bad dice as well as my own suckitude. Protip: never say “All right, I need a six, so I’m going to boost to make sure.” I went 1-4 in Champions, lost a good chunk of my Iron Arena games, and lost every single game where I played a caster other than Harkevich. Knowing that the SOO has a very high caliber of player, I decided that I would just try to equal my previous record, and try not to get frustrated over silly things like dice.

Champions

Champions is an interesting limited format in Warmachine. The two big differences between Champions and other tournaments are that players are restricted to warcasters who are on the Active Duty Roster list, and official Champions tournaments have a painting requirement. I enjoy Champions, because the limited meta means that you don’t have to worry about some of the boogeymen out there and you have to worry less about tailoring your list to defeat the Mad Dogs, Una2, Denny1 Ghost Fleet/Coven Dark Host, Gaspy3 Nine Slayers, Nemo3, or whatever list is running roughshod over the meta at any given time. You get to see some casters and lists that you don’t usually see in other formats, and ironically, you might even have a little more freedom beacuse you don’t have to worry as much about whether you can deal with that boogeyman list out there. To quote Tim Banky from this year’s State of the Game address, one could say that the format is very Hegelian.

I know this is probably a controversial statement, but I also like that Champions is a fully painted format. The painting requirement is one of the big reasons why, when I decided that I would do one of the two tournaments and spend the rest of the time in the Iron Arena or hobby lounge, I settled on Champions instead of Masters. There is something about two fully painted armies duking it out that makes the whole experience a little more enjoyable, and it was nice that seven out of my nine games at the SOO (six Champions, and one Iron Arena) were against fully painted armies.

I know there is talk about removing the painting requirement from Champions, and I do kind of see an argument for it. After all, it can get awkward when you combine a limited format and a painting requirement because it is possible for players to end up in the unfortunate situation where they are limited to models they don’t have painted yet and aren’t allowed to play their painted stuff due to the restrictions in the format. However, I hope that PP keeps the painting requirement in at least one of their official tournament formats, both to encourage painting and to make it so that events with painting requirements are run once in a while. Even if they don’t, I hope people who run big events like the SOO will consider retaining it for part of their official programming. It’s nice to have the occasional fully painted brawl and a convention where there is plenty of other programming going on like Iron Arena and hobby classes is the perfect place to implement a painting requirement for one of the two big tournaments.

IMG_2684.PNG

Top secret tech; do not steal

Anyways, getting back to list construction, my choices were two of Sorscha1, Kozlov, Old Witch2, and Vlad3. Since I don’t have the model for OW2, and didn’t feel like acquiring and painting enough cavalry to make a Vlad3 list, my pairing was basically made for me. For Sorscha1, I went with a Winter Guard Kommand list, featuring a Grolar and a Demolisher in her battlegroup and a Juggernaut on Andy, as well as Aiyana & Holt because magic weapons are a thing these days. The battlegroup is a little unusual, however with this list, I was gunning hard for a pop and drop assassination so between the d3+2 POW 12 shots on the Grolar, and the two POW 15 shots on the Demolisher (as well as Bulldoze, Girded, and ARM 23), I figured I would have plenty of additional guns to finish off any enemy caster who survived Sorscha’s assassination run.

IMG_2690

Also, these lists barely fit on one tray, so that’s a bonus

When it came to Kozlov, my list build was relatively simple. Go in Armoured Corps, and take two of all the good models. Double Shocktroopers, Double Drakhuns, Double Kovniks, and Double Forge Seers. Fill out the battlegroup with cheap jacks, and take Saxon Orrik for Pathfinder and a unit of Kayazy Eliminators as my second merc choice because they are Friendly Faction and good. Kozlov is usually not considered a competitive caster, but I feel that the toolbox available to her basically gives an Armoured Corps list pretty much everything they need to get up the table, hit hard, and be obnoxious to remove.

I ended up going 3-3 in Masters, losing to Denny2, Heretic, and Vlad3, and defeating Borka2, Kozlov, and Rhyas. While going into the tournament, my theorymachine told me that my Kozlov list was probably kind of meh, I actually really enjoyed playing it and ended up dropping it five times, playing my Sorscha1 list only into Heretic. I went 3-2 with Kozlov, and I’m happy with my 3-3 overall record. It’s probably better than I excpected, and definitely exceeds my goals for the tournament.

In my Vlad3 game, I was cursed with bad dice, but I also had good dice in the Kozlov mirror match and my opponent’s dice in the Rhyas match absolutely went out the window and his Blightbringer couldn’t kill anything. I also had two games go down to tough rolls – Kozlov failed his tough roll against Deathjack, but had he survived, Denny2 was about to get POW 22 Juggernaut to the face, but next game, Borka2 failed his tough roll after almost facetanking an entire unit of MoW Shocktroopers and a Juggernaut, both with Fury cast on them.

I’m not going to do a play-by-play of all my games, because quite frankly, I don’t think those are all that interesting and the details are starting to fade from memory, but I have five general things to take away from my experience in Masters.

1.   Warmachine is a lot more fun when you aren’t getting frustrated over things like dice. Last year, I didn’t have the best time because after getting my face kicked in four times in a row, I was starting to get a little frustrated. This year, I resolved not to get salty and to try to stay positive no matter how bad the game was going, and while I got frustrated my first game over losing Saxon early to an arced spell, I was able to recognize that and get myself back into the proper state of mind to enjoy the game by the end of that game.

2.   Dice happen, but while I had individual games where they didn’t do what I wanted them to, in the long run, it all averaged out. It’s important to not get frustrated over them, and try not to get yourself into situations where you really really need to make any single roll. It’s easy to say you lost because of dice, as in my game against Vlad3 when there were a couple important rolls that I didn’t make. It’s more productive, if you want to get better at Warmachine, to ask yourself what you could have done differently to not have your game hinge on a single die roll, no matter how good the odds. In that game, I missed some critical die rolls and flubbed some damage rolls, however, I could have been a bit better at playing the scenario and then I wouldn’t have been so far behind on points that I needed everything to go right on my turn to not lose.

 

kozlovmiror.JPG

Kozlov mirror match? Only in Champions…

kozlov3

My Kozlov. Yes, the axe is unrealistically large, but this is Khador.

3.   Kozlov might be better than everyone thinks she is. Yeah, she is your average, kind of dull, straightforward battlebox caster, but she can give an Armoured Corps list a lot of what they need to pose a serious threat. Under her feat, Shocktroopers can charge with a threat range of 13” which isn’t bad for a slow unit. Unyielding is great on Shocktroopers, as it can give you a turn of ARM 23 against melee in shield wall. Fury makes them hit harder, and Tactical Supremacy can help them get up the board without running and lets them stay in shield wall. No-knockdown and pathfinder on your battlegroup is legit, and a no-knockdown tough warcaster is just icing on the cake. Pending soon-to-be-released CID changes, something like this list might actually make it into my competitive pairing for unrestricted formats.

4.   Especially on Spread The Net, you need to consider the scenario starting on deployment. In my game against Vlad3, I managed to win the list chicken and get a favoured matchup and also take a commanding lead on attrition, but I still lost in scenario. No doubt part of this was due to dice (see what I said above about not saying “I need a six, so I’ll boost to make sure” – it’s hard to win any game when you roll multiple triple ones in a turn), but had I managed to position my solos a bit better from deployment and either score one more point or contest the opposing flag one more time, I wouldn’t have lost on scenario and then with a massive attrition advantage, I would have likely been able to come back and win.

5.   Models with 2” reach are really good at denying countercharges. In my game against Borka2, I managed to only take one countercharge the entire game, and I had factored that in when I moved my unit in. Part of this was because of experience playing into Karchev, but part of it was the fact that I had a lot of models with 2” reach. It gets easy to prevent enemy models from being able to countercharge by engaging them when you can take advantage of long reach to engage multiple models at a time, particularly if you have fast models like Drakhuns who can get to the sweet spot they need to tie up multiple beasts.

Iron Arena

I managed to get three Iron Arena games in this year, playing Kozlov twice and my old Strakhov1 list once. I mentioned in my previous article how my Strakhov1 game was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a game of warmachine, but the other two games were pretty good as well. The first was playing the brick of MoW into Circle, where I managed to win by scenario via attrition. Finally, the last game was also without a doubt the drunkest opponent I’ve ever played against in Warmachine. He could barely move models or do math, but since it was on Spread The Net, I figured that accurate math or measurements didn’t really matter because he was also too drunk to effectively play scenario, so I won 5-0.

By the time I went to trade in my Iron Arena points, the prize table was pretty picked over with a most of the stuff there being for factions that I don’t play, so I picked up something for a friend I thought he could use and which I know he will enjoy painting.

Hobby Lounge

img_2699.jpg

WIP: My Fenris conversion. This is going to be fun to transport…

I spent a good chunk of my time at the SOO in the hobby lounge, working on my Fenris conversion and trying to pick up what I could from the more talented painters in there. The hobby lounge at the SOO is a little out of the way so there are a lot of people who don’t set foot in there the entire weekend, but it’s a great place to have a seat between rounds and paint some models to unwind from an intense game, or just to hang out and learn from the masters. It’s almost criminally under-utilized by the mass of attendees, and I think more people should at least pop in check it out over the weekend. Personally, I got a lot of progress in on Fenris, probably getting the mounted version at least half-finished there alone. Which is good for me because I don’t paint mounted models very often and tend to get frustrated when painting horses.

Painting competition

I also entered in the painting competition again this year, entering Nancy Steelpunch in the small models category, Mary Read in large, one of my Man-O-Wars in Medium, and a whole pile of Man-O-Wars in the group category. The competition this year was more intense than last year, but I managed to eke out a victory in the small models category, and win a Bradigan Pitt model, which I will probably convert into a Kayazy Assassin Underboss because I’m not a huge fan of the movie Fight Club. Will from Moosemachine won best overall with his Borka bust, and there was an amazing Cyclone in the medium category. More importantly, I got some really good feedback, particularly on Mary Read to help me get the bird right and on doing eyeballs. The only suggestion I might have for the painting competition is that since it takes place in the out-of-the-way hobby lounge, it might drum up more interest in the hobby aspect of the game to have a display case in a higher-traffic area for entries.

Overall

The SOO was a blast, and I would say that if you are anywhere remotely near Southern Ontario and vaguely interested in Warmachine, you should really consider going. With Masters, Champions, Iron Arena, and the Hobby Lounge, the SOO has a little bit of something for everyone. I had a lot of fun, and in terms of my win/loss record, I exceeded all my goals and had a lot of fun and got some experience with a new list. The event definitely re-ignited some passion for Warmachine that had been fading as of late, and I would definitely give it five Hegels out of five.

hegel

You don’t even know who I am, do you?

Paintlog — Mortar Crew, and a year of progress

Khador is a faction blessed with a lot of interesting infantry models, from our stealthy Kayazys and redneck Kossites to our heavily-armoured Iron Fangs and Man-O-War. Many of them exude the strength of the motherland, but there is perhaps none that typifies Khador more than the humble Winter Guard Mortar Crew.

The Winter Guard are Khador’s mass conscript infantry, going into battle with little more than basic armour and mass-produced cheap weapons.  They make up for thiswith their bravery and resilience; Kovnik Jozef Grigorivich can grant them the Tough special rule, and in their theme force, they are willing to sacrifice their very lives for Khador, taking bullets meant for warcasters.  The Mortar Crew, perhaps, typifies the Khadoran attitude towards problem-solving more than any other.  While our engineers haven’t quite perfected an accurate mobile light artillery piece that can reliably score hits, they’ve decided that that doesn’t matter so long as it can deliver a lot of high explosive into the general vicinity of the enemies of the motherland.  And, of course, they have the ubiquitous handaxe, which gives them a plan B against anyone who makes it behind the lines to their position.

With that in mind, I figured it was time to get started on my second Mortar Crew.  This unit consists of two models; the mortar itself, and a second crewman with a telescope who serves as a spotter.  They are the old metal models, so a file helps for cleaning mold lines.  Also, when assembling the mortar, I’ve found that it goes together a bit better if you make a small hill out of green stuff to place the mortar itself on, such that it is elevated slightly above the guy firing it.

IMG_1979.JPG

Note the lump of green stuff on the base under the mortar itself

From then on, it was a matter of painting it up in my usual Winter Guard theme.  Grey coats, brass armour, and purple shoulder pads, which various straps, buckles, pouches, and other bits painted in appropriate colours.  The mortar itself was mostly brass and silver, with enough of each that they would complement each other and balance out, and a bit of wood-grain on the frame.

Since this was my second mortar crew, I decided to do a little freehand on the shoulder pad to distinguish it.  For a symbol to distinguish them from their Winter Guard brethren, I borrowed the NATO symbol for a mortar crew., and for this second unit, I freehanded on a roman numeral II and a couple of random shapes that look vaguely like Khadoran runes.

Then, we get to the basing.  I’ve gone with an autumnal theme for most of my army, because I feel like it contrasts the purple of my warjacks, and is a little different than the green grass and trees you see all the time in wargaming.  The first step is applying some texture.  You can use glue and sand for this, but lately I’ve found that I much prefer to use artist mediums with pumice aggregate mixed in with craft paint.  I find it to be easier to sculpt a little to add some variation to the base, but more importantly, it’s a lot less messy and I’m not vacuuming sand out of my apartment for a week.

IMG_1999

Because I put a tree on the base, this means I always have concealment, right?

Give it a wash and drybrush, add a bit of turf and flock, and a couple tufts, and we’re just about done.  The catch is, in this case, I want to go a little further and add a tree to my base.  No problem!  I have some tree armatures from Woodland scenics that just need some cleaning up, priming, and a little paint to make the branch structure of the tree. From then on, it’s just a matter of gluing on some clump foliage, and then dabbing on some washes such as a sepia or an Athonian Camoshade to take the brightness down a bit.

That said, while I like these trees on my models, I realize that that I still have some ways to go on them.  I’m not sure clump foliage quite works at the 28mm-ish scale that games like Warmachine are played at, as it doesn’t quite give the impression of actual leaves. Further, the canopy of this tree ends up being way too thick, not letting even a crack of daylight through in between the leaves.  I will be experimenting more before I do any display-quality models with trees and leaves, but I do think this is fine for now for gaming pieces and to bang out some terrain so that the 40K players don’t make fun of us as much for having tables that look like crap.

My progress…

Even if it isn’t perfect, I still think this Mortar Crew shows a lot of progress.  Here, I’ve got it next to one that I painted over a year ago, while I was still getting into the hobby.  Since then, I’ve learned a lot about basing and highlighting, and have tried to push my tabletop standard higher and higher, and I think the difference between last year’s job, with not much highlighting aside from some dry-brushing and minimal edge-highlighting speaks for itself.  The newer piece just “pops” more, which is a testament to how much difference some highlights can make, even on tabletop pieces.

IMG_1992.JPG

Note the blue lens on the telescope, and the more interesting base work on the new one on the left.

IMG_1993.JPG

You can clearly see how the highlights on the body of the mortar on the left give it a little more volume and shape to it than the flat silver on the right; I probably simply gave it a wash and maybe a quick drybrush a year ago, and now, I’m starting with a very dark silver and highlighting up to something brighter.  On the telescopes as well, you can see the difference that the TMM makes.

IMG_1994.JPG

Much better highlighting on the brass armour plated and the cloak on the newer version…

On the table…

So, now that I have two Mortar Crews, I have to think of a list to go with them.  They are available in the Winter Guard Kommand theme force along with every other Winter Guard model, so playing in theme is an obvious choice.  As for a caster, plenty of possibilities spring to mind, but there is one in particular that stands out above all others.  It has been a long time, too long in fact, since I have fielded her, but one can only resist the siren’s call that is Kommander Sorscha for so long.

sorschapic.png

Fun fact:  Khadoran wardrobe engineers have found that high heels dig into the surface of snow and ice, preventing soldiers from losing their footing.  Why they’ve only been issued to female soldiers, however, remains a mystery.

Like many Khador players, Kommander Sorscha or Sorscha1 was my first warcaster. She has a number of ways to freeze enemy models, and her Wind Rush spell, which grants her a free full advance, makes her beautifully mobile. Additionally, Fog of War can help push the DEF of your army up just enough to give them the help they need to get up the field.

Between Freezing Grip and her feat, both powerful effects that can freeze entire swaths of an enemy army, it’s no wonder that Sorscha1 gets the nickname “the ice queen.”  Of course, one of the side benefits of having your opponent frozen in a block of ice is that it drops their DEF down to 5, which means that a Mortar Crew, with its effective RAT of 1, can actually hit things! This makes it a great tool for following up on a bunch of frozen infantry, or perhaps getting those last few hit points in on an enemy caster during an assassination attempt.

So, what is in my list?

Theme: Winter Guard Kommand

Kommander Sorscha (Sorscha1)
– Victor

Kovnik Andrei Malakov
– Grolar
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich
Winter Guard Artillery Kapitan

Winter Guard Mortar Crew x2
Winter Guard Infantry with Officer & Standard
Winter Guard Rifle Corps with 3 Rocketeers
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew

Basically, the point of this list is simple — I freeze stuff, and then stuff that normally can’t hit the broad side of a barn actually can.  Both Victor and the Mortar Crews suffer from the inaccurate special rule, which lowers their RAT to an utterly pathetic level.  Sorscha fixes that by freezing her enemies, bringing their DEF down to 5 so they can actually hit things.  With Victor, you can actually have the hilarious situation of watching your enemies get frozen in a block of ice and subsequently burn to death with an incendiary shot.  The Grolar, as well, is a warjack with a really good gun, but with a RAT of 4, it’s hard to actually hit things with it, a problem that Sorscha fixes.

Hmmmmmm… looks like I know what I’m playing on Tuesday…