Sunday 23 April 2023

Firefight: Control the Intel

Following on from last weeks musings about the scenario's on offer in Firefight we played Control the Intel this week. The scenario is based around holding 1d4+2 objective tokens with 1VP being awarded at the end of each round for each objective your side holds.

We increased the points to 1250 a side with the though of adding some armoured units in and filling up the table a bit more. It looks like the standard competitive game is going to be around 1500 points so it would be good to get that as our normal game size. At the moment we aren't getting through the turns very quickly as we learn the rules and look things up.

On the night we only managed to get through two turns in the end as we spent time trying to work out rules queries and how best to use our units at any one point. But as with the previous games lots of casualties had been caused in that time so the end was reasonably clear.

In the game itself Mr T put his two tokens on his right flank and I put my three tokens (we rolled for 5 tokens and took turns with me placing first) on my right flank as well. This meant that we had nothing in the centre to fight over.

In the game I took a Progenitor with smoke grenade launcher for the first time in order to try and cover the advance of my forces. I chose to activate it first and got lucky with the dice (1d10 needing a 5+) to lay out the smoke template I needed in front of a large portion of my army. With that in place it allowed my rats to move up without being shot into charge range. In most games you can't charge something out of your line of sight, but in Firefight you can. Doing so does 'Hinder' your charge which means you don't get a +1 to hit but the Veer-myn have a command ability that negates that and allows you to take the bonus. The smoke is only height 4 though so tall/flying units and hills will negate that advantage.
Whilst Firefight borrows from KoW in many respects including the term Hindered Charge it treats them in different ways, which I kept getting wrong. In KoW being Hindered makes it more difficult to hit so if you normally hit on a 4+ then you'd hit on a 5+. In Firefight being Hindered means you don't get the bonus for charging which would mean that if you normally hit on a 4+ you hit on a 3+ if Unhindered. As a player of a melee army this is one rule I really need to get right!

The game also showed me the importance of being able to activate after your opponent has run out of activations to a melee army. Most of the Forge Father units have Assault Reaction abilities that they can use if they are unpinned and un-activated. That means if they are charged after they have activated the assaulters can get in without fear of taking casualties or the opponent evading away in the case of the bikers. On my right I held back units to run the Forge Father activations down until they had to either sit and take the charge or retreat out of my range.

As ever with the learning games I/we got some of the rules wrong like the un-hindered charge bonus. I got two rules wrong on the Tunnel Runners as I'd not realised they couldn't charge into rough terrain and also thought they got a Scout move if deployed on the table at the start of the game. The scout move is actually for units with Aerial Deployment.

Other things to keep in mind is that Beast and Vehicle units cannot claim objectives so for army building the Veer-myn will need to be careful not to overload on both those unit types. The Rat Swarm is a really useful activation padder as it's a Troop choice for only 35 points. But they cannot claim objectives so you need other units to do that.

One unit that put an appearance in right at the end of the game was the Hammerfist Drop troops. I think this will be a really useful unit for the Forge Fathers as it gives them the ability to place a good shooting/melee unit anywhere on the table pretty much. This could be a real utility piece for them as it makes their opponent keep it in mind when moving about and allows some flexibility to react to the table situation.

Sunday 16 April 2023

Firefight: Scenario's

With no game this week and not much on the painting table at present I thought I'd spend a little time musing on the scenarios that are included with the Firefight rules. The book contains eight competitive scenarios and eight narrative ones. I'll concentrate on the competitive ones as they are designed to be more balanced and are likely to be the ones you'll see at competitions.

The scenarios fall into three categories, Kill, Objective control, and Area control.

Starting with the Kill scenarios we have Meeting Engagement & Last Stand, to win in these scenarios you need to have out-killed your opponent by >10% of the starting value of the armies. Last Stand adds the twist of only half your units starting on the table and the others arriving on Turns 2 & 3. 
I wasn't a fan of the Kill scenario in Kings of War as I didn't think it resulted in very interesting game play and as I'll most likely be using a melee army (my Veer-myn) for most/all of my Firefight games then I'm not sure I'll enjoy it in Firefight either. With no incentive to move forwards these scenario's should favour shooting armies who will be more than happy to hang back and shoot off whatever they can see. Advancing into the enemy killing zones as a melee army when the shooters are more than happy to keep backing up isn't much fun generally.

Refused Flank is a hybrid scenario that sits between Kill and Objective control. Six objectives are placed on the table and these are worth 100 points each at the end of the game to be added to your kill points total. To win you need to have out 'killed' your opponent by >10% of the starting value of the armies. 
It's said of Kings of War games that everyone plays the first 4 turns as Kill and then starts to worry about the scenario condition from turn 5 onwards, this is a scenario that fits perfectly into this. It will be interesting to see if players concentrate on the Kill aspect of this and then look at the Objective part in turns 4 & 5 in Firefight.

We then have three Objective only scenarios Control the Intel (D4+2), Take & Hold (7), & Stop the Signal (D4+1). Unlike the Objective scenarios in KoW points are scored at the end of each round in Firefight for the objectives you hold. This could mean that some games are effectively over before the full five rounds are up. I would expect in a competition you may score more tournament points for a bigger points margin victory, but some work on straight win/loss so you could end up stopping play early. In Control the Intel and Stop the Signal players take turns to place the objectives in the opposing half of the table, this should mean that shooting armies are going to have to move forwards to win them. In Take & Hold the position is predetermined with two in each deployment zone and three along the centre line, the objectives in your opponents deployment zone are worth four times those in your own deployment zone. 
The Objective scenarios look to be more friendly to melee based armies than the Kill ones, purely as the shooting armies need to be on the move to score victory points. As a melee army player you will want some units that can sit on back-field objectives who are either dirt cheap or who can chip in with some shooting. Scoring points on each turn (like in Deadzone) means that an aggressive player who scores heavily early on could potentially win even if they have barely any models left just because of the lead they have built up in the early turns. I've had a look and cannot see a rule to state you automatically lose a scenario if wiped out so even if you have no models left you are still in with a chance of a win. 

The last two scenarios are pretty much straight out of Kings of War with Occupation being KoW Dominate and Secure the Sector being a variation of KoW Control. Secure the Sector sees both sides start with 50% of their units on the table and the rest arriving turns 2 & 3. The table is sub-divided into 24" squares with the side at the end of the game controlling the most squares (by superior unit strength) winning the scenario. As the number of squares will always be even it may have been nice to see a single Objective in the centre for tie-breaks. The objective in Occupation is to have the most Unit Strength within 12" of the centre of the table at the end of turn 5.
An interesting difference in between Firefight & KoW is the way that unit strength (US) is calculated. In KoW the unit strength is linked to the unit type and cost. So for instance a Horde of expensive infantry could be 4 US whilst a Troop of cheap infantry only 1 US. In Firefight the numerical size or cost of the unit doesn't seem to influence the US, as far as I can see only the height and unit type matter.

So for instance:
Unit of 10 Steel Warriors with dual missile launchers, 230 points, 1 US
Unit of 5 Forge Guard, 160 points, 2 US
Unit of 2 Brokkr Valkyr, 60 points, 2 US
1 Iron Ancestor, 130 points, 2 US
1 Sturnhammer Tank, 140 points, 2 US / 0 US in Beta version 

Unit of 2 Rat Swarms, 35 points, 1 US
Unit of 10 Stalkers, 85 points, 1 US
Unit of 5 Nightmares, 160 points, 2 US
Unit of 2 Tunnel Runners, 160 points, 2 US
1 Tunneller, 125 points, 2 US

It will be interesting to see if the proposed drop in US for the Sturnhammer Tank is spread over to other vehicles that currently have US like Tunnellers and the Asterian flyer. If the change goes in then I think for Forge Father players they would be more likely to take Iron Ancestors over the tanks.
As we can see on a purely numbers front the side that can field cheaper units is almost certainly going to field a greater unit strength than their more elite opponents which will of course be spread across more units as well. This feels like it should be big advantage in Secure the Sector if you can keep your units alive to contest the sectors at the end of the game. 

I think at an event you will want to see a spread of scenario's being played and the fact they can be split into three groups means this should easy to achieve. Two other big factors in how the scenarios will play out are the terrain on the table and how 'killy' the game is. These three factor do all feed into each other but I do have concerns about the lethality of the combat meaning that the scenario becomes a more minor consideration in the games. I really need to play more games to get a better feel of how these factors play off against each other but first impressions suggest that after 5 turns (or probably less) one side or possibly both are going to be pretty much wiped out. A lower kill rate would mean more units on the table towards the end of the game and that the amount of terrain present doesn't tip the balance between shooting and melee armies to far towards one side.
That's a question I'll need to come back to once I've had more games with different scenarios across multiple terrain densities. 

Saturday 8 April 2023

Firefight: Initial Game

For our first play through of the Firefight rules by Mantic Games Stu popped over from Cirencester and took control of the Forge Fathers against my Veer-myn. The Dwarfs specialise in ranged combat whilst the Rats like to mix it up in melee combat.

For this first game we kept it very simple with no tanks or buildings and 1000 points per side. The Forge Father units are pretty expensive compared to the Veer-myn so they tend to have smaller units armed with a special weapon or two.

2 * Steel Warrior Huscarls
2 * Steel Warriors- 4 * Rifle, 2 * Missile Launcher
1 * Steel Warrior - 4 * Rifle, 2 * Autocannon
1 * Thorgarim - 8 * Hammer & Pistol
1 * Brokkr Valkyr - 3 * bikes
1 * Jotunn Weapons Platform with Hailstorm Cannon

The Veer-myn tend to have larger units with their main Troop options locked to 10 rat units rather than having the flexibility in unit size many other factions have.

2 * Master Creeper
3 * Stalkers - 1 * Chem Thrower, 9 * Ray Pistol & Dagger
1 * Crawlers - 1 * Heavy Ray Gun, 9 * Ray Gun
1 * Nightmares - 2 * Heavy Drill, 4 * Twin Drills
1 * Clawshots - 5 Long Rifles
1 * Tunnel Runner - 2 * Tunnel Runners
1 * Rumbler - Super Heavy Ray Gun

Both sides had two commanders of the same type who generate command dice and offer re-rolls on nerve checks. Command dice are rolled at the start of each turn and give you Command Points to spend as the turn plays out. Each faction has it's own special command abilities that tie into it's play style. So the Forge Fathers have abilities that generally help with shooting by way of re-rolls. The Veer-myn have abilities that help with melee again via re-rolls or helping them get into combat in the first place.

Games are limited to 5 turns with players taking turns to activate a unit each. This trading of activations can be interrupted, at the price of 1 command point, to allow you to immediately activate a second unit before your opponent gets an activation. This allows you to land a quick one-two on an opponent before they can react.

We managed to play out 3 turns in the morning with plenty of flicking through the rule book to check rules which I think we got mostly right. The rules benefit by being written by someone (Andy Sharp) who has played all the other Mantic systems so they have a consistency of rules naming and conventions from their other games. For instance, Weight of Fire (re-rolls for missed ranged shots) works exactly as it does in Deadzone and Vicious (re-rolls to wound) works the same as Kings of War. For people who have played the other Mantic systems this makes it very easy to pick up what a rule should be doing and get into the game.

I'd read on the Firefight Facebook Group that the game was very bloody and units tended to be removed very quickly, and this proved to be the case in our game. I won't go through a blow-by-blow but in general the Forge Fathers managed to shoot off the rats if they put more than one unit into the shooting and the Veer-myn managed to take off the Dwarfs if they could get a decent number of bodies into contact. 
One area the Forge Father had a definite advantage was in nerve rolls. If at the end of a turn a unit is at less than 1/2 of it's models remaining it rolls 1 dice (the game uses D8 for everything) needing to equal or pass it's nerve roll or be removed from the table. The Forge Fathers tend to have a 4+ nerve and the Veer-myn a 6+. If you have a leader or other Inspiring source nearby you get a re-roll (just like in Kings of War).

The game was fun over-all and as I've said the fact that many of the concepts are familiar I think it won't take many games to be able to dispense with the rule book for 99% of play. Hopefully Mr T will be over on Monday for his initial game so we will be using the same forces and table for that as I've just left them all out.

Once that game is played we can then start to play around with the force composition. I think I will certainly be looking to maximise the use of tunnelling vehicles to deliver my key melee units into combat. The fierce beating my rats took trying to cross open ground has convinced me of the need to avoid that if at all possible. We did play with the beta list adjustments which almost entirely removed the Veer-myn's access to smoke which would have meant they could more easily traverse the open ground. In the absence of that smoke then heavier use will I think need to be made of Tunnellers with transport sections. 

Sunday 2 April 2023

Deadzone: Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer sees the two Strike Teams battling over four 2 point objectives split between the flanks of the board. For this game I went with the Forge Fathers who I'd not played with before and Stu brough over his freshly painted Enforcers. I won't do a blow by blow but the Enforcers started strongly with their sniper taking out the Forge Father bomb- bot which in turn killed their biker. From that point on it was a bit more even and ended up a pretty bloody affair with both sides reduced to just a few models at the end.

I think we got as far as Turn 4 which ended with both sides over the 20 VP's threshold so the game ended in an honourable draw. It was a fun way to pass the morning before we headed out to watch the football, which ended in a disappointing draw.

On the painting front I've completed a second Tunneller for my Veer-myn to use in Firefight. This is in preparation for the beta lists changes coming in which will remove almost all the smoke the rats currently use to shield their advancing melee units.

Also this week I signed up for the newly announced King-Kon run by the Northern Kings who are extremely experienced gamers and tournament organisers. This promises to be 2 1/2 days of Mantic based fun. Hopefully I can meet up again with many of the players from last years Deadzone tournament and also some of the lovely people from other Mantic games.