Friday, April 24, 2009


After playing LotR Strategy Battle game for the past year, I have decided it is unbalanced. To explain why, lets start at the beginning. Why do any of us play any games at all? I believe firstly it is about how appealing the theme is to us. When i say theme i mean a composit of background over all, particular aspect of that background made personal, and of course the gaming pieces themselves. The first and biggest thing going for LotR is the background so many of us are familiar with from either the books and or the movies. If possible, we all want a little corner of the LotR universe.

Once we connect with the background then we look at the rules of game play. Face it, some game systems are clearly better than others. In this regard, from the GW major games, I believe the LotR SBG has the best rules compared to Fantasy Battle or 40k. Thus it is a win win so far with LotR from both background/theme and rules. So we enter the game and choose a force for us. There are two reason to choose any particular force: theme and competitiveness. It is hard to choose just competitiveness without theme, especially since theme is one, if not the first, reason we chose to play the game to begin with. But with any particular theme, we still want our force to be competitive.

Though the game is set as good versus evil, I believe most people view this as sides rather than theme. Theme includes such concept as a Mirkwood force of elves, a city of Gondor, a tribe of Far Harad, or a force of Orc Uruk hai venturing abroad in day light. Here is where I think the LotR SBG breaks down. If you want a theme force, in general Good themes are stronger than Evil themes, and game play is subsequently affected.

Lets look at the essential phases and aspects of the game.
Movement: Usually this is fairly balanced between good and evil.
Magic: Seems to me that despite having only three wizards available, these are really powerful Good wizards and typically superior to Evil wizards. Their spells have more offensive capability and their pool of Will slightly more available. Rarely a Good army ventures forth without a named wizard. The edge goes to Good.
Shooting: The forces of Good have superior shooting in terms of elven archers and or Grey companies. This discrepancy is exaggerated even more when considering the poor shooting ability of goblins and orcs. It is no contest, the shooting phase belongs to Good.
Fight: Again on average forces of Good has better and easier access to higher Fight value troops (not to mention anything about characters yet). From Elves to Dwarves to many human options, in most fight encounters, Good automatically wins when they roll a six. This means Good statistically wins 7 out of 12 times overall. While an argument may be posed that these higher Fight value models cost more to field, the same cannot be true for an argument that fielding more Evil models can compensate for a lower Fight value. Whether facing one or three evil models, Good still wins 7 out of 12.
Might: It should be obvious that the heroes of Good have greater access to higher Might characters than Evil. I do not believe the option to take monsters can offset higher Might (much like more fighters cannot offset higher Fight value Good models). Think about it, having more Might and Fate allows a hero to win over monsters, breaking any tie and surviving most losses. And those monsters Good does not want to fight they can always shoot or magic against. Heck, even having more Might can turn the neutral appearing movement phase to favor Good over Evil.
Thus in my analysis in nearly, if not all, phases and aspects of the game Good has the edge.

Yes I know we can all build killer combinations to win with, but these combinations typically will be "unfluffly" and stray, if not violate, the main reasons many of us chose to play to begin with, and that is theme. If the common Evil themes are uncompetitive, it really becomes a drag after a while, whether you play good or evil.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Table Top Tactical Thoughts: Mobility & Function

In my previous post on Table Top Tactical Thoughts, i expressed these considerations:

Force maneuverability means either out maneuvering your enemy to achieve and gain the objective, or limit the ability of the enemy to maneuver to achieve their own objective. Being maneuverable doesn't just mean moving further, faster, or even ignoring the effect of terrain. Being maneuverable means being able to move further, faster, and more effectively than your opponent. Always bear in mind that all movement has destinations, and the destination should be to acquire favorable terrain, achieve the objective, or limit your enemy maneuver. There are two ways to limit the ability of the enemy to maneuver. Firstly, use terrain defensively to channel the enemy to move down unfavorable pathways or slow them down from arriving at favorable destination. However, using the terrain favorably can be difficult as both sides will try to get the best terrain layout, and there is little control over the layout of terrain in general. A slow army can out maneuver the enemy by limiting a faster army effective movement.

My belief is that mobility is key to success on the table top regardless of unit types or function. Mobility allows strong units to engage their target of choice and allows weak unit to avoid being targeted.

Force neutralizing typically means either inflicting unacceptable losses to the enemy while limiting your own losses, or limit the enemy ability to inflict losses on your own forces as they strive to achieve and gain the objective. Typically there are two kinds of forces: melee and ranged. Melee does not necessarily means hand-to-hand but close eye to eye combat. Ranged forces is just as it appears, with missile weapons of some sort. While there are two kinds of forces, there are actually three ways to utilizing and neutralizing forces: take the fight to the enemy to destroy them with pure close up power (strong melee vs weak melee), stand and barrage the enemy into oblivion (ranged strong vs ranged weak), and deny the fight confrontation avoidance (weak vs strong). Most units are not capable of being strong melee and ranged strong, and if that does happen, they can potentially be neutralized by fight confrontation. In addition, we want to avoid similar match up of strong vs strong or even weak vs weak because this increases the chances of an uncertain outcome. We want to increase the odds toward victory, not leave things to chance alone, though chance is always a player.

The permutations are as follow:
Strong Melee and Strong Ranged = Alphas
Weak Melee and Strong Ranged = Betas
Strong Melee and Weak Ranged = Deltas
Weak Melee and Weak Ranged = Gammas
I used semi-generic designation because i want to applies the terms accross different game systems. When considering what is strong and what is weak, it doesn't apply to just what your forces can field alone but must also be referenced against what your opponent can field.

What are their roles on the table top?
The alphas should target either the enemy's betas or the deltas depending on which is the bigger threat to your forces. The alphas should not target other alphas as the chances of success are less in this regard. While conceptually the alphas can inflict great losses against the gammas, the time limitations of each battle/encounter/game means that what losses inflicted is unlikely to be the winning factor. To be selective, they need to be mobile.
The betas should target firstly the enemy's alphas or deltas. Targeting the enemy alphas first make better sense because a weakened alpha can be finished of with your own deltas or even gammas. Many gamers have an over reliance on their own alphas so weakening his game plan can provide you with a psychological edge. However, if your own force is light on deltas, then targeting them and ignoring the enemy's alpha might be preferable. Mobility is necessary only in so much as moving to get that shot.
The deltas should move forward and engage whoever is closest. Against alphas they will likely lose, against betas and gammas they should win, and against other deltas it will be a toss up. As they main strength will be close combat/melee it ultimately won't matter too much. Mobility is essential.
The gammas have two functions. First is to occupy objectives/terrain and let others fight the battle. The second is to sacrifice themselves as mobile terrain, sort to speak. Thus for both functions they should be mobile. More on this later.

Friday, April 17, 2009

BFG: Imperial, Chaos, and Space Marine.

Last night at our club night gaming I introduced a few folks to BFG (using my Chaos and Imperial fleets). Happily, I have sparked interests and have been requested to provide input on 500 points fleet for Imperial, Chaos, and Space Marines. Here are my thoughts.

Imperial Navy.
When it comes to building the imperial fleet, i think the most important first consideration is what combination of 2 cruisers you can build from the plastic kit (which allows 2 cruisers but due to limited weapon options, it cannot be just any two cruisers you want). The combination are:
a) Carrier build: two Dictators or a Dictator + a Lunar or a Gothic
b) Cruiser build: two Lunars or a Gothic + a Tyrant or a Dominator
c) Battlecarrier build: two Dauntlesses and a Mars

Fleet build option A. The Dictator (220 pts) i think is a great ship because it is an all purpose ship with batteries, fighter/bombers, and torpedoes. All fleets in my opinion should have a carrier. Two dictators would be 440 pts allowing 1 admiral at 50 pts.
Alternatively you take a Dictator and a Gothic or a Lunar. If you companion a Gothic (180 pts) with the Dictator this would be a great combination as the batteries from the Dictator would take down shields allowing the 4 lances to follow-up for the hits. The Lunar (180 to 200 pts) has both batteries (to take down shields) and lances (to inflict damages) thus allowing it some independent action on its own. The Lunar can also be modified to carry a nova cannon (though somewhat unreliable, has great power and a range of up to 150cm!). Total would be 400 to 420 points leaving 80 - 100 points for an admiral or escorts.

Going to 1000 points you can again load up on Dictators but balancing the fleet out with attack cruisers like a Gothic + a Tyrant would be good as well. Between the Tyrant and the Dominator I think the Tyrant is a better ship with more upgrade options. Total of 375 to 395 points and thus room for escorts. More on escorts later.
Alternatively going to 1000 points you can get a Dauntless (110 pts) light cruiser and a battleship (335 - 365 pts). More on battleships later.

Fleet build option B. This would be an attack cruiser build at 500 points, relying on Lunars or Tyrant + Gothic. The Lunar being armed with both batteries and lances allow it to work independently. But since each ship has to finish firing before the next, they cannot effectively combine their weapons (unless squadroned togehter). In addition, they only have 30cm weapons other than the nova cannons. Two Lunars would be 360 - 400 pts.
A Tyrant and Gothic combination will allow the Tyrant's batteries to take down shields and the Gothic lances to finish the job. The Tyrant also has 45 cm batteries which will be helpful against pesky eldars. This build is 365 to 395 points.

Going to 1000 points the fleet will need a carrier of some sort, either a Dictator or a Mars. Again you can alternatively get a Dauntless (110 pts) light cruiser and a battleship (345 - 375 pts). The Emperor would be tempting as a fleet carrier at 365 points.

Fleet build option C. The alternative to fielding a Dictator as your carrier would be to field a Mars battlecruiser (270 pts) and take the required two cruisers to be Dauntless (110 points each). The Mars is not a larger carrier than the Dictator, nor does it have torpedoes to combine with the bombers, but it does have better ranged batteries, lances, and the nova cannon. The Dauntless are sufficiently mobile to protect the Mars' blindspots. This would be 490 points.

Going to 1000 points you can add a Gothic (as the Mars has the same modeling requirement as the Dictator) or a Lunar. Then you will have to either buy escorts, more Dauntless, or buy another plastic cruiser set but be able to only field one (if you are undecided between different cruiser this might be a nice option to build one carrier, one Gothic, one Tyrant, and one Lunar) .

Regarding escort
s, they must be squadron from 2 - 6 ships. Thus when you look at their profile you should multiply the weapons value by the number of ships in the squadron as they fire act act in conjunction with each other. All three are pretty good but the Firestorm seems unpopular for some reason.

Regarding battleships, there are actually 4: the Emperor (365 pts is the correct value based on updated FAQ), the Retribution (345 pts is the correct value based on updated FAQ), the Apocalypse (365 pts) and the Oberon (335 pts). Only the Retribution has a move of 20 cm, the rest is at 15cm. The significance is that battleships has to move 15 cm before turning, and their move is reduced by 5 cm by blast marker. The 15 cm move battleships also cannot turn by "come to new heading" special order or if they move through even one blast marker. Of the remaining ships the Emperor is popular for the +1 leadership and the 16 points of batteries it can focus (which may be better than the Retribution). The Oberon is like a more powerful Dictator/Mars and the Apocalypse a more powerful Lunar.

Chaos fleet.
At 500 points take a Devastation (this is absolutely the best carrier in the list, perhaps in the game, based on points). Then take either a Murder or a Carnage. The Murder has lances but it cannot combine with the batteries; the Carnage has only batteries but can get a pretty good amount together). Two cruisers would be 360 or 370 points. Add a chaos lord at 50 points will take total to 410 or 420, leaving 80 or 90 points for upgrades or escorts. For escorts, the Infidels (2 for 80 points) lets you have torpedoes (rare in the chaos fleet) or the Idolators (2 for 90 points) which has superior batteries.

At 1000 points: since you already have 2 cruisers, you can then take a heavy cruiser. The Styx (at 275 points) is generally considered inferior to the Devastation for points value. The 2 remain heavy cruisers are essentially mirrors of each other; the Hades is a batteries ship supported by lances while the Acheron is a lance ship supported by batteries. Between the two, i would probably take the Acheron as it has more turrets and can concentrate both batteries and lances to the front (the Hades cannot). Thus you will have 310 points left. Since you now have 3 cruisers (2 standards and 1 heavy) you can now take a Desolator battleship or a Repulsive grand cruiser. However, since the plastic cruisers come 2 per box, you may want to build either 1 heavy cruiser and 1 standard cruiser (Acheron + Devastation = 380 pts) or 2 standard cruisers (2 Slaughters at 330 pts) along with a warmaster (50 pts), another escort (they come 3 per blister pack (40 or 45 points). The Slaughters are faster than the other chaos cruisers but also have numerous though limited ranged weapons.

Space Marine.
For a Space Marine fleet i would recommend at 500 points take 3 strike cruisers and 1 fleet commander (leadership 10). At 1000 points add 1 battlebarge, leaving 90 points for rerolls or upgrades. In my opinion there is little need for escorts as the strike cruisers can turn 90 degree like escorts and are much more durable in a fight. All strike cruisers and the battle barge can launch fighter-bombers so the fleet will be well protected against other carriers.