So as promised, Mike took me under his wing and we made our first attempt at DZC mentoring. We started with looking at the pre-game and list comparison, [Warning. This article will have a Scourge slant].
Above: A moodily lit game at Mike's. Please note that some office workers have decided to work late (artificial tea lights inside buildings).
Sharing Lists - Up until now my assessment of an opponent's army before the game begins was to take note of which units had anti-air capability and during the game to work out what their 'effective' range was (movement plus weapon range). However, there is much more you can glean from the humble army list. Other considerations could include:
1. Does my opponent have fast movers and, if so, how effective are they? I should rightly fear the PHR Athena and laugh derisory at the Scourge Corsair*.
[*My colleagues at the Orbital Bombardment Blog and Podcast (OBBAP) have made their low esteem of the Corsair well known in the past. I had the audacity to argue that despite its limited chance to actually destroy something in a game (a successful reserve roll, a +2 roll to come on, a fifty fifty roll to hit with its one shot, the wound sticking, and finally, the opponent's ability to save (Curse you Shaltari!), its actual effectiveness, despite its 60 points cost, came from the slim chance of destroying a game changing one DP drop ship. And therefore, the humble Corsair should make an opponent tremble in their boots and compromise their whole plan. Mike disagrees, and refused point blankly, with the vocal support of Ed and Dan, to allow me such an addition to my list, and If I was to try it, explained that I would be drummed out of OBBAP immediately. Apparently using a Scourge Corsair is considered beyond the pale].
Above: Corsair sad face.
2. Is building demolition available to my opponent? If we are playing an objective game, how quickly can the enemy bring down a 20 or 30 point building?
In scenarios like Targets of Opportunity and Take and Extract Where you have an objective in a building on your side of the table what chances does you opponent have to destroy the offending building before your forces can get the objective out? Should you be playing a Scourge army, the answer is not at all, but for other armies you may expect to see important 20 point buildings at the end of turn 2, or beginning of turn 3, collapsing. Make sure you are not in them, or within an inch. There is no need to give free victory points away.
What you will need to do is assess risk. Depending on how your battlegroups are arranged, you may be able to get a couple of searches requiring a six, before you need to check-out to a neighbouring building, explaining to the landlord politely, that the decor could do with some touching up, and the neighbours are very noisy.
So, in those circumstances, perhaps You should focus your attention on a more central objective. One which your opponent also has his beady eyes on. At least if you get there first, you will get the jump on the search and your opponent will need to destroy you in combat to get their chance to begin his search.
3. Do you know what the enemy does? This will come with time as you experience other factions as opposition. Personally, I only truly understand an army if I have played it myself. For this reason I can look at a PHR army and have a fairly good idea what I am facing, but I have little clue about UCM. (Mike currently plays them - I might see if he is willing to swap armies with me for a game). Mike may also take a different approach with my Scourge against me and give me some new ideas on using them.
I also plan to create quick crib sheet on each faction, answering some pertinent questions on particular models and their pros and cons, and hopefully this will help me to identify the relevant parts of my opponent's force before they pull a rabbit from their hat.
A useful activity I found in my attempts to be a better player was to teach someone to play the game. Bryan came over to the club for his first DZC experience armed with two starter box sets of models, built, and ready to play. He had also been through the rules at home, which made my job a lot easier, and had also pushed some models around his kitchen table to better understand the mechanics and appreciate the distances involved. (Good thinking Batman).
We played with just the starter sets in a simple three objective game, Bryan taking UCM, and me taking the Scourge. I was very surprised with what a good game you can have with minimal models and only three battle groups. We played without headquarters or command cards. It gives you a very good initial perspective on the game, and although we had some rules discussions, we were able to finish the game easily in the evening.
In the game Bryan doubled up his infantry into one building, and the six stands of legionnaires easily despatched three stands of Warriors, who had made the mistake of searching, and finding, the objective with a roll of six before close combat began! [Lesson learnt - never search for the objective if you know that the subsequent combat will be lost along with the objective. Let your enemy do the heavy lifting].
However, whilst the UCM troops were celebrating with their objective inside, the UCM tanks were suffering to the quick moving Scourge skimmers outside, and in an uncontested building the Scourge Warriors had found, and where removing an objective of their own. In turn five I moved my Scourge anti-air Reapers to a position to intercede should Bryan try and get his objective off the table in turn six.
The remaining activations of turn five and all those in turn six focused on Bryan attempting to destroy the Reapers before his inevitable dash to the table edge with the Condor carrying his valuable prize.
The Scourge managed one wound on the drop ship and the last remaining Reaper failed to wound with its opportunity fire in turn six, and our very enjoyable game ended in a two all draw.
With huge thanks to Mike and Bryan I plan to put my learning to the test in some games coming up.