Good afternoon everyone!
I have had a particular part of the game in mind lately. In my local meta (about half a dozen people currently), we have several people who enjoy the game, but are a bit down due to constant losses and frustrations. I have been sitting down with one in particular to go through a game beginning to end, focusing on the choices leading into the beginning of the game. I was very impressed with the player as he saw drastic improvement from this process. The largest issue he was facing was the crew selection process. Too often he would plan on a gimmick or be set on a specific list without adapting it. Now for a new player, sticking with one list can help learn, but once you have a handle on the game you need to adapt to improve you skill. Thinking about it, I have decided to share this process and get feedback and discussion about it. So after reading this please provide your own feedback as to how you go through these decisions. Is there anything I do not bring up that you factor in or do you disagree with any of this? Regardless, I figured this would be a helpful thread for new or struggling players.
Step 1: Opponent disclaimer
So I must bring up that this is all my personal experience in my local and limited meta. Every meta has players who favor tactics and crews specific to them. Knowing those players and facing them often factors in a variable that you cannot objectify. Please note this is the process treating my opponent as an unknown, a new acquaintance if you will. Also remember that the best laid plans can be totally nullified as soon as the game enters turn 1. You cannot fully plan out a game without knowing the terrain and deployment positioning. But the following the next steps you can plan out the game without being at the table. Just keep in mind you will need to adapt in the middle of the game regardless of the next processes.
STEP 1: The Initial Flip
So the first flip in the game in the game decides attacker, defender, deployment, and strategy (you have already declared faction, and for this article I will be coming from the perspective of outcasts). This is right off the bat one of the most crucial points in decision making. Right now you know who will pick deployment (which we will have to ignore as we do not have a table set up), and you need to pick a keyword to adequately handle the strategy and you must consider the deployment for how close you will be to scoring zones and the opponent.
Example: Having declared Outcasts (lets say facing Ten Thunders), now we have flipped and determined I am the attacker, we are using Turf War and Wedge Deployment. Right off the bat I need to determine possible masters that can adequately handle the strategy. I could declare Leveticus, but his crew relies heavily upon "Demise" abilities. One of the greatest strengths of Ten Thunders is their access to Charm Warders, a model who specializes in stopping those "Demise" abilities. Already I need to have a basic knowledge of the opponent's faction in order to plan accordingly. Know that those would greatly harm my crew, I instead choose Von Schill and his Freikorps keyword. Von Schill is a good pick because his keyword is incredibly durable and runs fewer models than many, giving the opponent fewer targets to kill in order to flip the Turf Markers. Von Schill's crew like to "bubble" a bit (keep from spreading out too much). This lends strength to him fighting for the middle zone giving him a positional advantage in Turf War should he be able to establish control of that area. Wedge does not harm the crew but will force me to split a couple models out at the beginning to grab the objectives.
But we haven't declared yet, we only have selected a TENTATIVE choice. We want to have a game plan just in case but schemes could decide a lot.
STEP 2: Schemes
For schemes, we flip Vendetta, Outflank, Claim Jump, Take Prisoner, and Power Ritual
Man what a scheme pool. We have options between focusing in the middle of the board or chase the edges. Now I could pull and audible here for a more mobile crew, but I am flexible enough with Von Schill that I decide to keep him.
Now at this point we have locking the leader in and declared him.
Now my opponent is also planning against me. He decides to play Asami and her Oni as they are an incredibly adaptable crew, both able to spread out or fight over a specific zone.
The challenges I face here is that Asami is far more mobile than me for schemes like Power Ritual and Outflank. Instead of fighting her in a area where she has an advantage, I would be better off picking 2 of the other 3 schemes.
STEP 3: The Crew
Now is the hardest part, actually locking in a crew. This is going to vary a bit based on who you pick for your leader, but you always want to think of the schemes in mind and roles for the models to play.
First of all you want to pick the "auto-include" models. This is mostly subjective, but there are often models agreed to be taken in most of those crews.
For me that means Hannah, Arik, and a Librarian. These I always bring as Hannah brings power and cards to my crew, Arik is my preferred beater and will deny the summons in his "Gravity Well," and the Librarian is one of the best healers in the game.
Next we look at the schemes and select models that will lend to them.
I pick the Scout as it allows me to position in advance for grabbing a nearby turf marker (yes I have to wait till turn two). The plan would be to use his "From the Shadows" to deploy on the table half where I think I want to focus my efforts and movement. Terrain greatly affect this choice.
I pick the engineer as it helps me stay alive. I have 11 stones left to use and I have a couple options. Buy a cheap model or an upgrade or two.
Outcast upgrades can be meh, but I do something specific here. I buy Soldier for Hire for the Scout, making him a decent choice for Vendetta by giving him "Hard to Kill."
My last choice is to dip into my versatile models as I hire a Prospector. Never forget your versatile models as they are some of the most useful models in your faction. This brings me down to 3 soulstones which would normally make me very nervous, but this is not a crew that needs them for triggers and the prospector will be adding one to my pool every turn. He has another use as well: defense against Power Ritual. I can move him to block and stop my opponent from scoring that scheme should they select it.
Note that most of my decision making is with my own plan in mind. Yes I did a little planning to counter my opponent, but I need to make sure I have my own plans covered first. This varies in its application as some keywords rely so heavily on something (such as "Terrifying") that by teching specifically to them you can shut down a large part of their functioning.
STEP 4: Pick the Schemes
Now has come time to declare the crews. I declare mine but my oppoent declares the following (hypothetical here, going off previous games and copied from the web app):
Asami Tanaka Crew (Ten Thunders)
Size: 50 - Pool: 8
Ama No Zako
This list gives her threats for both the spread out schemes and the more groups up ones making it hard to predict. The two Jorogumo shut down my healing, keeping me from charging efficiently and have high enough damage to mitigate my armor. The Akaname and 2x Tengu lends me to think they are going for Power Ritual but also outflank is possible. The Jorogumo could also be picked for Vendetta as I have two models eligible. Asami's summon pool also lends incredible flexibility to her crew.
From here I pick Vendetta on the Scout targeting a Jorogumo. I was initially going to choose Claim Jump, and I could still do that choosing Arik or Hannah and moving in last minute either with an Arik charge or the "Rocket Boots" equipment on Hannah. I could decide instead to choose take prisoner on the second Jorogumo. If they flicker and kill him then I would score the second point easily. This is where your preference and confidence would come in. I would be comfortable with either scheme so I just need to choose based on other factors (board layout for example, how easily is it to defend the middle, etc.). For the example I will go with Claim Jump on Arik. He is mobile and his "Gravity Well" will help defend the middle a bit. Add in his innate durability and he is a great choice.
I did not plan for any marker based schemes as that is a weaker point of my keyword and Ten Thunders have a lot of anti-scheme marker tech.
STEP 5: The Game
Now comes the game. From here it all goes to how well you deploy, play the game, and play your cards. But you took all the necessary steps up to this point to set yourself up for success. Going through this process, discussing the variables and changes along the way helped my local players to grow in their gameplay.
What do you all think? Anything you disagree with as far as decision processing? Any steps missed or unknown factors i didn't mention? Let me know and start a discussion!