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Louisville Heat of Battle...literally

Posted April 3rd, 2011 at 08:23 PM by Deroche
Updated April 4th, 2011 at 10:32 AM by Deroche
(Semi-battle report/observations/musings)

I don't think I've ever anticipated a tournament as much as the Heat of Battle event we just had here this weekend in Louisville. Then again, that's not really saying much given that I've only played in three tournaments total so far, so it's not like I have much frame of reference.

So why the excitement? Because this would be my first chance to attempt an all-melee army. As I discover more about this game, I've learned enough to know that many consider ranged armies are for wussies and because I have absolutely no clue whatsoever on how to safely advance an all melee force across a map, I've also learned I'm not too proud to be that wussie. Range range range, I love me some range. But the thought of getting to start close to my opponent with a mostly intact melee army was far too great a temptation to ignore -- I just needed to decide what to play.

And I already knew what I wanted to play, but the collective wisdom in the forums tended to frown on such an army idea more often than not in the HoB format...and for good reason.

So, being the good Heroscape student that I am (um, yeah...sure), I had read about how any squad with four figures on their card had a placement advantage, but it also helped if you could outcard your opponent and place whatever remaining figures you had leftover last; a difficult balance to strike. I looked over the obvious choices: Heavy Gruts, Knights, Axe Grinders, Romans. All great melee choices and all with lots of hero bonding options. I had also decided if I couldn't settle on a build I was absolutely in love with, I'd go with the Heavy Gruts and Grimnak as the core -- after all, that's the army that won GenCon's 2010 HoB and I'm all about stealing other people's armies. Thanks Dok.

Figuring out what to play, however, started to blur together a bit after awhile. Sure, I enjoyed the thought of Grimnak chomping away at commons, but I just couldn't get that excited about any of the bonded forces I was considering. Essentially it was a case of deciding whether to run four or five squads and which heroes hopefully boosted my attacks or defense up to that magical 4 attack/4 defense threshold if possible. But it all felt like too much of the same. This is not to say any of the armies I was considering weren't worth playing or I couldn't win with them, I was simply having too hard of a time figuring out which army had a signifcant advantage. Given that I have a monumental fear of failure when it comes to games like Heroscape -- over competitive jerks like me often suffer from this -- and that I don't know enough yet to appreciate the nuance of distinction between say, Knights vs Gruts, I ended up giving myself about three weeks worth of analysis paralysis and my indecision was starting to bug the hell out of me. By the way, this is what I call "fun" and I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, this is the heart of the game.

So I said screw it and decided to play what I wanted to from the beginning: Firestorm. After all, this was Heat of Battle.

And just to be clear, this wasn't some sort evangelical attempt to convert the unwashed masses over to the wisdom of playing a Firestorm army. It was mostly a case of me being stubborn and not wanting to let go of the idea. Another huge reason was the points total: Our HoB was 510 points and that makes a very big difference when comparing it to this year's GenCon 450 event, let alone last year's 400 event. The key to the Firestorm is Kurrok and if you're going to run him in HoB, you've got to keep him alive and sometimes Searing Intensity as an “offense is the best defense” approach isn't enough. Those extra points help in letting you field Raelin more easily or perhaps two squads of rats, etc.

It's already well documented how effective a Firestorm can be and thus there's no need to get into that here, so what were the consequences and concessions of running it in HoB? First, I had to make peace with the idea of giving up any kind of board control. In the end, I ultimately decided to use Raelin in my army, but not until I toyed around quite a bit with two squads of rats instead because I just didn't want to let go of at least putting down some kind of four figure squad at the beginning of the placement stage to deny some of the key spots. But when you think you're going to face five squads of Legos, then the rats aren't going to deny much anyway. And it wasn't like I was going to grab any treasure glyphs with my army either...that concept also wasn't easy to live with.

So if I couldn't have the board, I could at least place my remaining figures last. But to achieve that meant sacrificing two or three elementals. Good players know to balance their placements evenly throughout the board and to place their heavy hitters last: they want to deny you as much of the board as possible and they damn well want to know where you're putting Kurrok so they can get to him fast. This means you have to hold off as long as possible and stall by spreading out your elementals across the board and not tip your hand as to where you're going to eventually place Kurrok. Not easy to do if A) your opponent has close to the 24 figure limit, B) won the placement initiative and can cover more of the board before you can, and C) the map is relatively small and/or has lots of water. All this in the hopes of setting up a defensible start zone for Kurrok that's hopefully within the 8 hex line of sight space limit for as many elementals as possible.

And then there's the threat of range. The new change to HoB last year at least makes it more possible to field some kind range effectively. Any decent ranged pod could have been potentially disastrous for me. I decided I just had to take that chance and hope others were in love with the idea of melee just as much as I was. Otherwise I probably wasn't going to keep Kurrok alive that long.

At 510 pts, I decided to field:
Fire Elementalx8
Air Elementalx1

Match #1 vs El Diabolo


The map was Adamant and El Diabolo won initiative and claimed both ends of the elevated roads that were walled in. His remaining placements mostly focused on the center portion and the building of a wall of zombies around his two heroes. Given that he focused so much on the center, that allowed me to set up a defensible position off to the side without much fear from any immediate threats. I don't remember much of what happened after that mostly because it all ended fairly quickly. I got a bunch of elementals into the middle and SI'd his zombies so fast that he didn't have much opportunity to resurrect any. With the zombies gone and some pretty unlucky rolls from his heroes as follow up, our match finished first with plenty of time to spare.


Quote of the match: "Gordon, your army is really annoying." I'll take that as a compliment...I think.

Match #2 vs NecroBlade

Next up was NecroBlade, the back-to-back winner of our past two tournaments this year.
I find him annoying to play against because he's better than me. What nerve. And he brought a melee army I didn't want to face because of the sheer volume of it all. We set up on Burial Marsh and he took all the height and everything in the middle. I think he made one mistake by not taking advantage of his numbers and wasting a roman or three by placing them on other parts of the map so that it would be more difficult to set up my Kurrock/Raelin/AE.

If you'll recall, he cheated his way to victory last month by somehow surviving against all mathematical probability. As for this match? Talk about the law of averages...er, averaging out. It was like he offended God or something because he constantly threw four attack dice for most of the match and rarely landed more than one skull. And when he did land more than one hit, I of course got lucky and matched with the necessary shields.

They say it's better to be lucky than good. They're right.

Had Necro's dice been better, I think it would have been a close match that could have gone either way at the end. And to be honest, if I had to play him again, I don't think I'd win.


Quote of the match: "One frickin' skull? Again?? Seriously???"

Match #3 vs Oden

I don't remember what map we were on, but it was big, elongated, with the Hive in the middle as the primary LOS blocker. Oden is a young man (10 years old, maybe?) who is a gifted Heroscape player. Mark my words: if he's still playing a few years from now, he'll be the favorite heading into each match; the kid is good. Oden had never even heard or read about a Firestorm army, let alone face one. I took quite a bit of time explaining how it worked before we started to place...but understanding Firestorm isn't fully realized until you've experienced it. Nonetheless, Oden was the first opponent to do his best to deny me any decent placement anywhere on the board. I was lucky in that this was the largest map I had played on so far and that he only had three squads of dwarves. Still, finding a spot that let me set up Kurrok within a decent amount of FE's that wasn't near one of his heroes wasn't easy.

Furthermore to Oden's credit, his closest hero went after Kurrok as best he could right from the start and this was the first match where I was threatened right away. Unfortunately, his army was never really effective. The dwarves didn't do much against the FE's four defense dice and I was eventually able to wear down his multi-lived heroes with SI alone. In fact, I ended up doing more damage to myself by having to park a fire elemental adjacent to Kurrok in an effort to keep one of his dwarf heroes away.

Towards the end of the match, I took greater losses to my points total than necessary because I wanted to finish off his last hero. I couldn't get those last twenty points due to the match getting called because of time, and those lost 20 points proved later on to be "interesting."


Quote of the match: "It should be called Searing INSANITY."

Match #4 vs Sean

Tagawa Samurai
Kozuke Samurai

Sean is a good player who lives in the past. He doesn't have a large collection (that's what El Diabolo is for), he thinks RotV is the pinnacle of squad design (Common Squads? Meta-what?), and he doesn't even have a heroscapers.com account. I know, I know...blasphemy. (crap...he made one today. There goes a perfectly placed insult. Everyone say hello to our newest member "enkidu") But he really is a good player who perhaps falls in love just a little too much with his unique squads. What can I say, the man loves his samurai.

I've played him three times now and each time I see his army, my inner-monologue is a full blown dismissive rant, laced with snobbery and arrogance. "He'll never win with that...that's sooo 2007." (ahem, just never you mind that I didn't start playing until 2010 and no, I have no clue if his army is sooo 2007) Before we even got started, Sean practically conceded the match. Although we're both 3-0, he's been paying attention to my matches and he knows what he's in for. Welcome to Wave D1-D2! Hope you enjoy your stay!!

We set up on Fulcrum and I let Sean place first. He takes the high ground and mostly stays there, but subsequent placements tended to stay away from my FE's. Hmmm. He continued this trend to where I began to feel like he was making a huge mistake by intentionally avoiding me, so I started to place on a part of the board that clearly revealed where I was obviously going to place Kurrok. Oops. His last placement was a lone samurai right in the gap that would have been a perfect spot for Kurrock. Ugh...that was dumb of me to think Sean wasn't capable of that move.

The result was that I couldn't set up an ideal defense and it turned out to be a costly mistake. That lone samurai got to Raelin or Kurrok right away (don't remember who) and scored three wounds. Ouch.

But that lone samurai didn't last, nor many of his WoA, all thanks to well above average SI rolls. After two rounds of order markers, more than half of his army is gone. I've lost maybe just one or two elementals, if that? It was all going according to plan and Sean knew it would be over soon. All I needed to do was take out that last squad of Tagawa.


Sean finally started to take out some FE's. At some point in a match, one possibly difficult decision a Firestorm player needs to make is when does one spend an order marker on trying to summon back a previously killed elemental instead of pressing the attack with three phases of SI? My assumption was to always press on with the SI as long as enough enemy figures were adjacent to make the risk worthwhile. He was starting to close in with his last remaining squad, but I think I still had four FE's left. It didn't matter. Suddenly I couldn't a roll above a 14 anymore, and he was getting dangerously close to Kurrok. I alternated back and forth between an order marker's worth of failed SI or failed attempts to summon back a dead elemental. Suddenly I'm all out of elementals. Sean's plan to play the Tagawa as an endgame squad is working to perfection. I finally managed to resurrect one FE back and it dies before I get to use it. And just like that it's over. He hasn't suffered any wounds to his Tagawa or to his Raelin and I'm wiped out. After the fact, I'm not sure if I should have played it differently or not. There were a few Order Markers where I kept pressing SI instead of repositioning/resummoning with Kurrok, but that's a hindsight argument. Live by SI, die by SI I guess? I'm stunned at the loss, Sean is equaly stunned at the win. What the hell just happened? Regardless, way to hang in there Sean...you earned a great win after enduring a very rough start.


Quote from the pre-match: "Can I just quit now?"

Quote from the post-match: "I can't believe I lost."

Match #5 vs Megasilver


This is the second time in a row where we dance together for last match of the day and we're playing on Midnight Lagoon. This fight ended up being a sort of repeat of the match I had against Oden. One less hero, but one more squad. Like Oden, Megasilver spread throughout the board and denied me many of the good spots, but I still had enough room to set up off to the side. Again, I'm lucky to get a large enough map so he can't cover it entirely, but he's got his heroes in the middle that can get to where they need to in a hurry.

And yet there's something about the Axegrinders not quite getting it done against the FE's. He knew to go after Kurrok right away, and was close enough from initial placement to get there fairly quick. He even got through the Air Elemental's swirling vortex a few times and got some hits in, but he could never really sustain the pressure.


Quote of the match: " ... " (Tommy doesn't talk much during his matches )

The end result to all of this was that I ended up in first place among 16 participants for my first tournament win. Technically it was a tie (remember when I mentioned not being able to get those last 20 points against Oden? ugh...so close!), but the person I tied with -- jschild -- declared himself as 2nd place because I had a better "strength of schedule" if going by the records of the opponents I defeated. Thanks John, the check is in the mail (A whole dollar! Just for you!!)

I would love to play Firestorm again, but I first need to improve greatly as a player if I'm going to try it in a different format. If you're capable of moving your army successfully across a map, I highly recommend you give it a try.
Total Comments 8


I Hate Atlaga's Avatar
As I discover more about this game, I've learned enough to know that many consider ranged armies are for wussies and because I have absolutely no clue whatsoever on how to safely advance an all melee force across a map, I've also learned I'm not too proud to be that wussie. Range range range, I love me some range.
It is.
Posted April 3rd, 2011 at 10:19 PM by I Hate Atlaga I Hate Atlaga is offline
MegaSilver's Avatar
Yes Deroche, I tend to talk less and study the board more.

That was THE army I was afraid to face during the entire match; in fact both armies I lost against I knew I would have trouble with.

My army just couldn't deal with the SI's, since I had almost no way to deal with them.

But still, the game was good.
Posted April 3rd, 2011 at 10:35 PM by MegaSilver MegaSilver is offline
enkidu's Avatar
I really didn't think my army could beat yours (what good are all my defense dice and counterstrike against SI!), and it looked bad for awhile. My Tagawa really came through in the end, once they got their experience.

BTW, my army preferences maybe so 2007, but they are all still shiny new figures to me (Like Deroche, I'm still new to the game). As I play more, I may get bored playing samauri and move on....what am I saying, how can you get bored of Samauri?!
Posted April 3rd, 2011 at 11:11 PM by enkidu enkidu is offline
NecroBlade's Avatar
I'll say it again

Firestorm should've beaten Samurai/Ashra
Samurai/Ashra should've beaten Romans
And Romans should've beaten Firestorm

But the Heroscape gods played an April Fool's joke on all three of us.
Posted April 3rd, 2011 at 11:15 PM by NecroBlade NecroBlade is offline
dok's Avatar
Nice report. I agree that summoning Elementals is something you do when you can't get SI hits off.

If I played firestorm at 510 in HoB, I'd play ratsx2 and a water elemental in stead of Raelin and an Air Elemental. You can place the rats in the early turns to stake out some real estate for yourself.
Posted April 4th, 2011 at 12:39 AM by dok dok is offline
Deroche's Avatar
Oh now you tell me...
Posted April 4th, 2011 at 01:27 AM by Deroche Deroche is offline
Arrow Grut's Avatar
I'm gonna say it now. It is NOT fun to play against the firestorm with the wrong army. Esp. Marro Dividers...
Posted April 4th, 2011 at 04:01 PM by Arrow Grut Arrow Grut is offline
dok's Avatar
If you think it's bad with Dividers, ask Daniel what it was like playing against the firestorm with five squads of Minions at Colorado NHSD. He won every other game he played that day (and won the tournament) but our game was over in a blink.
Posted April 4th, 2011 at 08:34 PM by dok dok is offline
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