Thursday, 14 August 2014

The ETC in Review (Part One)

The ETC is done for another year, a year of test matches, matchup analysis, training montages and frantic last minute painting is once again complete, thankfully to be replaced by another year of exactly the same thing :)

This is going to be a multi-part post. There is a whole heap of stuff I want to discuss about the ETC including giving you guys a run down of my games, discuss how our team went over the weekend and give my thoughts on the event itself in 2014. Thankfully I pre-wrote almost the entire set of posts during the ETC awards ceremony, which only ended today.

Part One: Lead up, Practice and The Ashes.

As a team we really concentrated on our lead up to the tournament this year. We put a lot of effort into testing lists, coming up with new ideas and honing established ones. We started practicing and testing early in the piece, but we weren't scared to make late changes if they were required and good reasoning could be given. We had two late reshuffles of our army set with myself moving to WE and some other players shifting around to accommodate this. Late in the piece Jamie also switched from Bretonnia to Daemons due to the potentially negative environment for Bretonnia after the drop of the new Wood Elf book.

Our final line up was:
Akhter (c): Orcs & Goblins
Ivan: Empire
Mick: High Elves
Alex: Skaven
Jamie: Daemons of Chaos
Nick L: Dark Elves
Sam: Chaos Dwarfs

and myself with Wood Elves.

Going into the event I believed us to have one of the top list sets in the event, and the quality of our set was remarked upon by a number of people. In hindsight there were some issues that we hadn't identified, and these caused us a bit of grief over the weekend.

For reference, my full list was:

Nick "Father of Lies" Hoen, Wood Elves
Spellweaver on Elven Steed: General, Lvl 4, Death, Obsidian Lodestone, Dispel Scroll, 310
Glade Captain on Elven Steed: BSB, Asrai Spear, Starfire Shafts, Hail of Doom Arrow, Enchanted Shield, Dragonbane Gem, 156
10 Glade Guard: Musician, Trueflight Arrows, 160
10 Glade Guard: Musician, Trueflight Arrows, 160
10 Glade Guard: Musician, Trueflight Arrows, 160
5 Glade Riders: Starfire Shafts, Musician, 125
8 Wild Riders: Shields, 224
7 Wild Riders: Shields, 196
6 Wild Riders: 156
7 Sisters of the Thorn: Standard of Discipline, Standard Bearer, 207
3 Warhawk Riders: Windrider, 145
8 Waywatchers: 160
7 Waywatchers: 140
1 Great Eagle: 50
1 Great Eagle: 50
Total: 2399

On the list, I think it represents a really good balance of elements. The Wood Elf book particularly with the ETC comp is all about getting the right mix of effective shooting, speed, problem solvers and combat power into the list. For me this meant not wasting points on any shooting that wasn't top notch, so I stuck to trueflights and waywatchers for the majority of it. I hit the ETC limit on those, and could have had more normal shooting to go with it, however the issue was less about the comp on the shooting and more about the points I would have to spend. The problem solvers are the lvl 4 and the warhawk riders. Two issues with the list are high toughness units that can shrug off the shooting and a wild rider charge. Things like beasts of nurgle, plague drones, trolls etc. Between soulblight and purple sun the mage gives me options for dealing with these.

Something else I identified was that a large number of small-medium combat units was a potential issue for my list. The army does well focusing on the major targets one at a time and eliminating them, but units like screamers, chariots, small cavalry units etc had the potential to come in under the radar and be a problem. The Warhawks are one of my favourite units in the lists. They can be used as a stubborn blocker in a forest, they can go after war machines, they can handle a lot of medium-light units in combat and if really needed can just be a diverter. They were consistently useful all weekend, and I'm very glad I took them.

In Serbia we played three practice games. Two were just internal team practice, I 20'd Sam in three turns to give him a display of what the Wood Elf book could do, and rolled some sweet dice against Legrand to put him down 16-4. In our practice round against Spain I again played through a quick 3 turn 20, so I had some good form going into the ashes. Overall it looked like things were coming together fairly well, we drew with Spain who are decent opposition and everyone seemed to be playing alright.

Myself setting up during our round against Spain.
Ashes 2014.

Match ups were interesting. According to our ratings their list mix edged ours, with our pre-pairing predicted score being somewhere around 77/160. I felt we got the best of the match ups, at the very worst they were a tie, with a few players in good match ups and not very many poor ones.

Match ups were:
Myself vs Dan Thomas (Empire). Down as a small to medium positive.
Nick L (DE) vs Daemons: Down as a small positive
Sam (ChD) vs ChD: Mirror, down as a draw.
Jamie (DoC) vs WoC: down as a small positive
Mick (HE) vs O&G: down as a small negative
Akhter (O&G) vs DE: down as a small to medium negative.
Ivan (Empire) vs Lizards, down as a small positive
Alex (Skaven) vs Skaven: Mirror, down as a draw.

So mostly positives with a couple of draws and a couple of negs.

Dan was running empire with heavens and light lvl 4's, a halberdier block, some archers, 5 + 4 demigryph, a tank, a cannon and a hurricanum.

I set up in a position where my archers would have shots on most of the unarmored stuff, with some Wild Riders and the hawks in a position to go down the flank. I moved up cautiously, and knew I was in for a tough one after watching Dan's first movement phase. Sometimes you can just tell a player is really good based on how they move their units, and Dan's movement was precise, purposeful and well thought out. Game on. We also discussed the match up and were fairly open with the fact that it was edged my way, I was looking to expand on it and Dan was looking to contain.

The break came when I got a purple sun off with IF, killing the steam tank. I lost the spell but didn't mind that, although I was less thrilled with losing Doom and Darkness. From here I had a path into his back line and got the cannon with my hawks. It was all fairly safe from here, although I did make a stupid mistake in choosing the order of combats in the late game. I elected to resolve my warhawks vs his bunker first, in an attempt to kill his general (i got excited) which failed. This allowed the halberdiers to reform and get their BSB into range of the 5 Demigryph. I then resolved the charge of my WR and Sister units against the Demigryph, and while he didn't hold despite the BSB re roll (testing on a 3 or something), I missed out on the overrun into the flank of the Halberdiers which I could have had otherwise.

Dan holds up his Steam Tank after I remove it from play.

Thankfully Dan failed a clutch redirect test with his unit, which meant he couldn't claw back any points in the final turns.

Result: 18-2 win.
Team Result: very little to quite a lot. We got capped :(

Tbh I still don't know what happened. According to our players, my own gut feel and a lot of people in Aus and the UK we had a good set of matches which should have carried us through. We just couldn't execute the plan. Akhter, myself and Mick all improved on our predictions, Alex was set for a safe 12 but got asked to push after we were well down while Ivan and Jamie dropped points for a pair of 8's. Nick got 20'd in a positive match up, and Sam got 20'd in the mirror.

England win the Ashes... again.
Afterwards I was absolutely gutted, the last two ashes had been so close, it was all set up this year and just came crashing down big time. Its amazing what an effect two big losses in the 8 games can have. I was shattered, the team was pretty disconsolate, but we knew we'd have to pick ourselves up for the next days games.

Personally I want to thank a lot of the people back at home. We got a lot of messages of support from the community back at home and that really lifted me for the next day. You guys were really great all weekend, and while we might ignore you when we are winning and having a good time, when things are down the stuff you all say really helps. In the morning I was ready to kick some ass (as opposed to contemplating knocking over my toys and having a tantrum the night before) and got up early to plan my match ups against the Swiss.


  1. That's the really odd thing about the ETC scoring, while 100-60 sounds like a big difference, when you play it on the table it's actually only 20pts because every point counts double. So you could have all your pairings perfect but 2 bits of bad luck can result in you getting capped.

    I've been doing some analysis on the scottish results and chatting with the guys and basically that's what happened with them vs Ireland. NZ we just got one matchup horribly wrong, player thought it was good but hadn't played it on the table, ended up down 0-20 due to being too positive and not knowing how it played out in reality.

  2. England may have won the ashes (curse them!) but Team Australia managed to wear more tasteful shorts.