Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tourney prep

Today I’ve not found time for a normal post because I’ve been working on getting ready for National Heroscape Day.  If you need a refresher, you can read my thoughts on Heroscape itself, read about my involvement with the customs group known as C3V, or about our experiences with NHSD for the past two years.  Executive precis: Heroscape is a game that combines building battlefieds out pieces that interlock much like Legos, and then fielding genre blender armies that you compose yourself.  Thus, you see, the two major areas that require preparation are map construction, and army building.  So, this weekend I’ve done a little of both, in an attempt to be ready for the upcoming tourney (which will be held on October 18th this year).

First, the map.  For the longest time, I had this monstrosity up.  Oh, it’s pretty to look at, but not very practical to play on.  So, to get some reasonable practice in, we needed pick a couple of new maps, tear down the existing one, and build the new ones up.  I got all but the very last step of that done.  I picked two BoV1 maps: Quasatch Playground and Burial Marsh.  The Littles2 and I tore down the whole big map.  And we rather quickly slapped together Quasatch Playground.  The other map will have to wait for next weekend, or possibly Wednesday.

Secondly, the armies.  I’ve been experimenting with several ideas, most of them based around my favorites among the custom units that our group has come up with.  One of my current favorites is also one of our newest: the Crypt Guardian.  The main idea behind him is to help out one of the worst units in the official game, a sort of mummified medusa figure.  With her Stare of Stone power, she can kill just about anyone ... but only if she gets lucky: she has a 20% chance of killing a hero.  Now, true: she has a 70% chance of killing a squad figure (meaning one of the cannon-fodder guys).  But only one every turn.  If you’re facing a giant mass of, say, zombies, or maybe orcs, it’s going to take you around 10 turns to kill 2 squads’ worth.  And that’s assuming you don’t use anybody else.  That’s pretty terrible.  Plus her average defense combined with averge-low life means she ain’t gonna last that long.

So she needed some help, and we thought it probably ought to be another mummy that gave it to her.  But of course we didn’t want to create a unit that did nothing but prop up one bad unit.  So we gave our Crypt Guardian two powers: one which helps undead units with a d20 power (which Sudema is), and one that helps heroes which are either guards or queens (which Sudema is).  So it helps quite a variety of units, but there’s only one unit that can benefit from both powers, and it’s the one that needs the most help.  Sort of clever of our designers.3  One of the funnest things is that many of the other units that are helped out by the Crypt Guardian (specifically, the short list of guard heroes) are also units that don’t see a lot of play.  So you can take three or four units that normally people think of as easy pickin’s and forge them into an army with a decent shot.

One of my other favorite units is a sort of forest sprite type thing called the Eilan Sidhe.4  This is a bit of a harder unit to place into an army, as it doesn’t have any obvious synergies, so I’ve been playing with a few different ideas.  One odd but intriguing pairing would be with the bugbears.  The sidhe can use the trees on the map (if there are any) to get into great position, and then the bugbears can use their “Barge into Battle” power to swap places with them and lay the beat down on some folks.  Of course, on a map with no trees (or few trees, spaced too far apart), you’d be screwed.  Plus you’ll need some ranged support.  But it’s in interesting idea.

The Smaller Animal is interested in trying out or newest dragon, affectionately referred to as “Big Blue.”  She’s a beast all right, but also a unit that doesn’t have too many obvious synergies.  We could bond her with the lizard men, of course, but they’re on our restricted list,5 and I’ve personally made the argument that Big Blue should be on the restricted list as well, which would mean they couldn’t be paired.  You can also bond her with giant spiders, but quite frankly they’re not that exciting.  So we’re still working on that.

So that’s how my weekend has been going.  And I see that, despite my initial pronouncement of not writing a real post this week, this one is nearly as long as a normal post anyway.  So count yourself lucky.  Unless you really don’t give a crap about Heroscape, in which case I suppose you’d best count yourself unlucky.  But then again, in that case, I’m sure you didn’t read this far, so I’m not really talking to you anyway.  As always, refer complaints to the masthead.

1 “BoV” stands for “Battlefields of Valhalla,” and it means maps specifically designed for tourney play.

2 This is a term invented by our Sister Family to mean the kids below age ten.  We each have 2 in that category; ours are 8 and 2, currently.

3 Full disclosure: I’m not one of our designers.  I’m an editor.

4 Note that “sidhe” is a Celtic word pronounced “shee.”  For instance, the proper Irish spelling of “banshee” is actually “bean sidhe.”

5 Many Heroscape tournaments maintain a “restricted list,” which is a list of units that most people consider a little too good in a competitive setting.  Each army is allowed only one unit off the restricted list.

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