Thursday, July 11, 2013

Black Operations- Sedition Wars Strategic Scenario analysis, and Vanguard Opticamo

First off, a painting update.

The Opticamo models have a really nice material- I like the feel way more than the regular Sedition Wars plastic (at least roughly equivalent to the plastic Privateer Press uses). The only special treatment they needed was a light scraping over where I cleaned the mold lines, to dull the finish to match the rest of the surfaces. Regular super glue worked fine, and didn't leave any residue.

There was a small sprue that was great for testing different painting over the plastic but, ultimately, I felt that anything I did would just cheapen the feel. I ended up leaving them unpainted. Instead, I focused on the bases, and put a lot more variety and color into them than the basic troopers I painted for the core game. I'll be using a number of these techniques on the other Sedition Wars minis.

Strategic Scenario Analysis

I've been doing a lot of battle reports over on the Studio Mcvey forums for the starter campaign, and this has given me a lot of experience with the game, what strategies work, and what to expect.

With free reign on strategic points, there are some serious points to considerto consider. This is theory, still.

First, what are the most important aspects that players can pick, to consider for any scenario?

1- The Teleport Control
It can teleport 9 models to anywhere in a new 3x3 grid, at the cost of 1 tactic per model and 1 action from the model activating it.

-possibly the model's tactics limit (max 4 currently)... the language is unclear if these come from the model or the pool
-once per turn per pad
-2 pads, max

-the models can go anywhere, including objectives
-only one action total is used (everyone else gets their full turn)
-even if this counts as movement for purposes of reflexes, it's only the single active model moving. If you place inactive models to block vector, it won't trigger a reflex

2- The Cthonian
I've done a series of tests*. In practical game experience, it takes around 100 points of Vanguard 5 turns of focus attacks to take one out, when not fighting anything else (it will probably kill around its points in retaliation). In short, this model is pretty deadly and absurdly tough. If the Strain player knows what's best, they'll have it Fortify and attack once each turn.

This means that Strain can stall their way out of situations pretty easily, though cannot block an objective unless it's in a corner and they can block its square and the adjacent 3, because models can teleport past it or just sidle around and activate the objective from an adjacent and unoccupied square (possibly killing something less durable to get to it).

-high point cost means a minimum game size of 70 points (Cthonian and 6 Revenants), and restricted forces until you get to a very high point value. This also means you're not getting a Grendlr for expedited nano production.

-said durability/reasonable damage output

*I can cite this if anyone really wants to challenge this statement, I just didn't want to go through the details here

3- The Macrophage-Spore Engine-Exocyst trio
With the right placement, given the speed of Nano, it's possible to pump out 1 Phase 2 model (worth 6-10 points with current models) every turn, starting the third, at the cost of 1 3-point Revenant to prime it and a Revenant to maintain it (or this can start on the second turn if you prime the system with 2 Revenants).

In Campaign scenarios, it's very hard to counter this, because the Vanguard player will have fewer strategic points to counter with, but it's definitely possible to set it up. Strain players should work towards an ideal position for the Spore Engine so you're guaranteed space for it. Because blocking elements affect this distance, you're looking for a dense room: in an open room, it's easy for Vanguard to counter this with a well-placed second strategic point (see Denial below).

4 (added later from experience) Life Support
This will often take out more than half of the active nano in any given turn. The typical strategy of "throw Revenants at it, it's okay if they die" doesn't work, and it disrupts the nano factory, with infinite range.

Scenario analysis
First, notes on order of operations and setup
Strategic points and objectives are actually placed before forces are determined or placed (including even determining where each side deploys).

Some scenarios seem to imply that the deployment zones are determined before objectives are placed, but this isn't the case, due to a clearly laid out order of deployment. This means some scenarios will require players cooperate to set up objectives so that you can legally start the game, and also means that you will know where you're deploying in relation to strategic points, in some scenarios, but not all.

This means that there will be some scenarios where it's advantageous to spread out your points around all potential objectives, and some where you'll want to clump them around your best position.

Because you can alternate placement, and because there are limitations on proximity, placing a Teleport Control in the center of a tile is a fairly strong denial tactic:

A well-placed teleport pad will deny all but 0-5 squares on most tiles, with the most open being 10 squares. Spore engines can be used to similar though less dramatic effect.

Deployment on any scenario that doesn't have specific restrictions can also be abused pretty thoroughly.  If you place your forces on a center tile, you can decrease time to objective, and divide your opponent's forces if that works to your advantage. However, your opponent deploys after you, so can at least react.

Vanguard Scenarios
Trigger Happy: Vanguard breakthrough, Strain blockade; 80 point minimum (minimum 4 boards), 3 objectives (all required). Standard teleport procedure:

If the objective isn't occupied, teleport on, activate.

If the objective is occupied, teleport a Hurley and as much as you're willing to risk. Hurley focus attacks, that should create an opening. If not this turn, next should do it.

Repeat x3, consolidating forces to clear room for the adjacent tile, where possible.

If advantageous, set up the second teleport pad near the first objective, so survivors can start jumping again.

Remember to place the objectives in the open. The Strain player only needs to protect one point.

VIP: Vanguard breakthrough, Strain blockade, single target, minimum 40 points (2 tiles). (Nominal Strain objective but almost certainly unwinnable).

Same teleport strategy, but requires less fighting. Even easier b/c you can use a Teleport pad and make it nearly impossible to defend. Impossible for Strain to win (because the overridden model can kill itself, forcing a draw).

...Effectively, it's the same scenario, except Strain isn't tempted to spread out forces Vanguard have one model they need to keep alive. Also, deployment rules don't require it to be at least 80 points on a side.

Tested several times. Even without the teleport pad, it's very easy for Vanguard to reach, at least at 60 points. Broken.

The Cthonian is not a factor in either Vanguard scenario: Vanguard places the objectives, so just don't place them in a corner where the Cthonian can sit on them. Adjacent doesn't require unoccupied, so a Cthonian can't actually prevent victory by outlasting the attackers: as soon as there's any opening, the Vanguard can act, because teleportation doesn't happen before the active phase.

Strain Scenarios:
Overrun: Strain breakthrough, Vanguard blockade, multiple objectives (all required), exactly 60 points (requires 3 objectives, one objective on each), Vanguard minimum of 9 models (3 by each objective)/maximum of 12 (60 point cap, cheapest is 5).

This is basically the Strain version of Trigger Happy, but a little smaller.

The difference is, Strain don't have guns or teleportation, which makes things harder.

Play experience: if Vanguard keep 2-3 models on an objective that isn't in the corner, they can keep multiples from getting hit in one blast. Also, they can put a strategic point in the middle for a lot of utility (can't use it more than once a turn, but any model can use it). Vade also benefits from not needing to move, so he can heal and shoot/strategic point or focus heal.

The middle objective is the strongest defensive position, esp. if you don't know which side the Strain are coming from (if they're deploying second), with nominal defenses at the other 2.

The timer prevents Strain from playing the attrition game, which is refreshing.

All in all, a fun and pretty balanced scenario. Balanced.

Quarantine: Strain breakthrough, Vanguard Blockade, minimum 40 points (2 tiles)
This follows similar rules to either Vanguard scenario, in that Nano, like teleporting models, can simply ignore intervening models.

All Strain have to do is produce a ton of nano, and spread it out enough that the Vanguard player can't nuke it all with Life Support, and keep them busy enough.

Note: this assumes Strain have the same 8 turn limit to produce 4 infected, otherwise it's practically an auto-win because Strain produce a ton of nano and usually have time on their side.

Note 2: it doesn't state who places the objective- this could dramatically alter the win conditions.

Head to Head scenarios
Death Match: damage output (and, by extension, survival), minimum 20 points (no tile restrictions, need at least 1 to play)

Strategic points and models that heal forces, work towards attrition, or deny attrition tactics are going to be the most important.

Strain have Cthonian, spore engines, Grendlr. Revenants aren't great, here, because even though they effectively regenerate, you lose their points each time. The Cthonian will break this scenario.

From experience: Strain can use Macrophages to mess with the points-based win condition, and are just plain better at attrition, so will likely win. Balanced.

Vanguard have Hurley (which makes models that aren't worth points), auto-doc, Havok, Life Support. Vanilla Samaritans are a decent option, too, and heroes, if you have Vade to prevent death by nano.

Extraction: blockades and breaking through, minimum 60 points (3 tiles defined as separate), civilians

From experience: this is basically just Hazard Duty (below) but favoring Strain. Also broken.

Hitman: one target per side, minimum 24 points (current smallest legal strain force that includes a model worth 15+ points)

This would probably be an interesting scenario, but only at certain point sizes. Big enough and a Cthonian breaks the game. Small enough and you can't help but stick your neck out there.

Hazard Duty: multiple objectives per side, speed, unlikely to break through. 

From experience: totally blindsided by this one, removed the original stuff I put down. The spacing on corpses makes it so, at least at 60 points (minimum game size) the Vanguard are effectively guaranteed a win if they run the first turn, because they can walk up and shank those corpses, typically 8, which is far past what's needed to win. Even if Strain have ideal conditions and 2 unharassed macrophages, Vanguard will still get it done faster. Broken.

Kill-Count: weird version of assassination.

This scenario rewards low cost models and swarming tactics. It's also entirely possible that no side will win this one, and actually discourages killing expensive models, and, more importantly, discourages getting close to the objective, because that just allows your opponent to get the winning kill.

One issue with this scenario is the role of nano.

First, it's one of the only ways to wipe a model out without another model attacking. Second, Vanguard can actually gain points from killing their own models. This means infecting Vanguard Characters that have killed anything at all an incredible liability: if they increase to level 3 in their own turn, another model can kill that one to win.

From testing experience: your options are basically, keep kill count low and force a draw, or increase it and have each attack be a higher and higher stakes gamble. Also, during regular play, it's very easy for a draw to be forced, and the side that's winning in kill will actually have fewer ways of winning, while the other side will have better options.

Tactically interesting, at least in part because of how counterintuitive it is. Broken?

Door Crasher: board control, break throughs/blockades.

Again, I expect the Teleport Control will be a major point in this scenario. If Vanguard can control 2 objectives, it just requires a teleportation to the 3rd, making the job, in theory, easier for Vanguard than Strain.