22 April 2011

UNBOUND--Preliminary Thoughts

By Saerko

So one of the cool things that's recently been announced is UNBOUND for Warmachine/Hordes. The basic idea is that it's a more fun way to do huge, 150+ point games and simulate epic battles that occur in Caen. One of the best examples of this from a Trollblood perspective is the defense of Crael Valley by Grissel Bloodsong, Calandra Truthsayer and Grim Angus against the traitorous Cygnarn 4th army. Normally, games like this suck because you spend an hour waiting for your turn while your opponent wails on you, and whoever goes first ends up with a serious advantage because they can tie together massive and ridiculous combos that kill everything on your side by the end of turn 2. Having played these games in the past, I wasn't entirely a fan.

Unbound has me excited though. The concept is thus: you divide your force by battlegroup, and each battlegroup then can activate X number of solos and units--let's call them detachments--each round. It's alternating activations by these detachments (i.e. you-go-I-go). You can't activate the detachment used at the bottom of the last round at the top of the next, preventing nasty double-dipping. Games are typically played on a GW-size board, so 4x6 feet. Initiative changes every round, so you never can be sure if you'll be reacting or leading.

The scenarios are said to be more narrative focused than the ones for Steamroller, and very much reward the player for advancing on all sides rather than plowing up the center whilst his/her flanks collapse. We don't have much detail yet (and won't until NQ 36 drops), so I'm just running with what I've got.

The first thing that struck me about this whole shindig was the board size--it's not exactly huge. With my typical 50 point T2 Grissel list, I can fill a 4x4 board from edge to edge with Kriel Warriors, and we're only adding about a foot on each side. With the game size about three times as large as the cap for that, it's pretty much a given that you'll need to think about coverage and deployment when list-building if you're a infantry fan like me. Since activations are staggered, you won't necessarily be able to maintain a cohesive line--it's possible for the opponent to rush in prevent an entire flank from pushing forward, so each detachment needs to almost be a self-contained army that just shares some space with the rest of the force.

There are some lingering questions that need to be answered, too:

  • Are detachments fixed, or can a battlegroup temporarily "borrow" some units from somewhere on the table?
  • How do effects that last an entire round work? Do they persist in the game round, or just the activation period?
I'm going to make a couple quick assumptions when getting into the tactics. The first is that effects that last a round truly last the entire game round--otherwise denial feats are crap. The second is that detachments include some flexibility. Soles seemed to indicate that this was the case when he talked about a charge including three units of cavalry against some battle engines, so that's what I'm running with.

My initial impulse is to say that rather than thinking of the game in terms of flank and center, it might be more useful to think of activations in terms of waves or ranks. You want to maintain a cohesive line as not to give up ground, but the heat is going to be so intense on that first rank with the size of the board and the armies that play on it that those initial groups are going to dissolve by the second turn, and after that you're going to need a second group to finish them off. Since most of us probably don't have loads of duplicates units, that's going to mean that everything gets its time to shine, and Advance Deploy models are going to take on some additional value. So break out those Scouts, Burrowers, Bog Trogs, etc., because you'll need the space. Layer single wounds on the front line, multi-wounds and support at the second rank, and have your beasts and warlocks bring up the rear.

The other thing that will be an adjustment for Trollblood players is going to be managing support pieces--your lone KSB can't cover the whole table anymore, and your Fell Callers are going to be seriously overstretched. That means additional buff sources are mandatory to replicate those functions, and most likely that load is going to fall to the Warlocks. Your damage buffs are going to be stretched thin--most of us are used to taking a Pyre/Slag to the party and calling it good on that front, but not only will you need the Pyre AND Slag in there, but you'll probably want to recruit your Mauler for that duty as well.

Players who tend to have heterogeneous forces will find that most of their points for infantry will be soaked up by the time they hit 75-100 points, and that's going to leave at least 65 points worth of beasts needed to fill the space. Your opponents will be in a similar boat most of the time, so having heavy-hitters to deal with their jacks and beasts is a must--think Mulg, EBDT, and Bomber to start things off, and move out from there.

Warcaster selection--this is probably the toughest part of building an army for an Unbound game. Assuming a 150 point list at the minimum, you're looking at a main-line warlock for the center where your buffs and support are concentrated, and then two friends to hold up the flanks. and provide some overlap on the center. Your center warlock doesn't have to be self-sufficient, or even have the largest CTRL area, but they have to be devastating in their effect, and a defensive focus isn't necessarily a bad thing. Glass cannons won't do--you need some blanketing resiliency; eDoomshaper and Grim do not belong in the center. Gunnbjorn might work, as he's got a killer feat for defending against the ranged onslaught that some lists might bring, as would Borka. For getting the first strike, eMadrak is the best in the business, and can use the crowded field to his advantage with Tide of Death.

I think that's enough generalities--so what would one of these lists look like? For the heterogeneous player, I'm thinking of this:

Unbound 150:

Grissel Bloodsong
-Runebearer (attach to who you like, Grissel gets it because she'll be filling the KSB)
Calandra Truthsayer
-Dire Troll Bomber
-Dire Troll Mauler
-Troll Impaler
Madrak Ironhide, World Ender
-Slag Troll
-Earthborn Dire Troll

Bog Trog Ambushers (10)
Boomhowler & Co. (10)
Kriel Warriors (10)
-Caber (2)
Trollkin Fennblades (10)
Pygmy Burrowers (10)
Trollkin Scouts

Second Wave
Trollkin Champions
Champion Hero
Trollkin Long Riders
Krielstone & Scribes (6)
Fell Caller (2)
Stone Scribe Chronicler
Trollkin Runeshapers (magic attacks--you will need them)
Back Rank
Farrow Bone Grinders (4)

In this list, Grissel is on my center with her battlegroup, while Calandra and eMadrak support the flanks. The idea is that Grissel is very flexible and can jam up the opponent, while Calandra and eMadrak can operate independently or support the center equally well. The Fell Callers will go to the flanks, with the SSC and KSB up the center. The next layer is your multi-wounds, with the Champs straddling the center and Calandra flank while the Long Riders straddle the eMadrak center-flank. After them you've got your skirmishers, with Boomhowler in front of Calandra (she can support minions, and he's tough as nails), the Kriel Warriors dead center with Grissel and the Fennblades with eMadrak. Ahead of them will be the Scouts covering the eMadrak center-flank while the Burrowers cover the Calandra side, providing a nice disincentive to the opponent's advance. 

The Runeshapers should be placed wherever they'll be of greatest use, preferably against any incorporeal nastiness that hits the table. The Bog Trogs fill a similar role, and are mainly there to keep armies that have a heavier infantry concentration than you from running riot on your flanks. They'll also tend to clump the opponent a little closer to the center of the board, which is a net benefit to you. Whelps are your choice--with all of the AOEs that might be flying, I'd keep them off the table to start, and the Bone Grinders should float near whoever might need them--my tendency would be to keep them near Calandra.

From there it's going to come down to who's got the initiative and who you're facing, but with a solid infantry core backed up by some of our heaviest-hitting warbeasts and warlocks that are pretty resilient to assassination, you should be ready to throw down large-scale.

STAY TUNED--my next post will look into Unbound a little more, and showcase a 200 point army I'm planning. Fair warning--all three full units of Kriel Warriors WILL be in attendance.

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