By Nick Harrison– May 9, 2012
WARNING! WARNING! <ER><ER><ER> Long Post. Proceed at your own risk. <ER><ER><ER>
For the most current round of the email tournament, I got paired up with the mighty Spazzfist. I had managed to get through the first few rounds with Ultra Tharsis, only dropping one game, and so I wanted to see how far the giant claw could take me. Then I get the email from Spencer with Spazz’s monster choice: Mega Mucustos. My heart sank. Twelve health, immunity to radiation, and worst of all, two plus damage at range with the ability to self screen. I’d be lying if I didn’t think “auto lose” at various points. But, the foreboding aside, a battle needed to be fought. And a battle was fought, indeed. One for the centuries (or it at least seemed to take that long). Without further ado, I’ll introduce the contenders:
In the blue corner: Mega Mucostos! The Savage Swarm Slime Master.
Strengths: A powerful alpha form with seven health, crunch on a long range blast with three native boost dice, summon, and radiation immunity. The mega is a bit more focused, but against a low defense monster, a true beast with a possible three damage grind attack at short range with power strike to make sure his opponent has no p-dice. He also has summon for that self screening, and that ever present radiation immunity. Both forms are sporting a solid six defense, burrow and a hyper cost of a low three. On the unit side of the coin, he has one of the best brawl teams with the Razor Beetle / Explodomite. Quick Spy Flies that synergize well with the range heavy Mucky with their spotter. Cruise missiles in the form of Explodohawks. Rifa, Vice Pinchers, Cliff Hoppers, threats and tools everywhere one looks.
Weaknesses: Not much. Probably the biggest one is that he’s slow, with speed five in both forms. On the right map, that could be a non-issue. The alpha has low boost dice on power attacks. The blasting units are flying with low defense, which means that they’re easy pickings in terms of counter blasting teams. Razor Beetles can be a double edged sword with their hazardous. And he goes through tissues like no-ones business…
In the red corner: Ultra Tharsis! The Martian Machine of Mayhem.
Strengths: Huge potential damage on the Ultra, with crunch and beatback on a brawl. With the right board positioning, that’s a potential forming attack from full for a lot of monsters. Backing that up is a solid brawl stat with three boost dice, a seven defense, radiation immunity, and a backup of a solid power attack stat (also with three boost dice). As is a common theme with the Martians, there’s unit support in a blue energy drain blast trigger. The alpha isn’t as flashy, but he does have some benefits. To go with his radiation immunity, he has armor. He’s also supporting blue energy cycle, which can be useful given a bit of dice luck. Both forms fly and have super rampage, so pdice generation shouldn’t be a problem. On units, there’s little lacking, as the Invaders have some of the best units in the game. Lots of strong blasters in Vanguards, Nautalus Blasters, Maco Subs, Hunter Kor’al, Marauders, and Glass Spiral Relays. When mobility is needed, go with the Martian units. Otherwise you can stick to the Tritons and their higher defense. Lots of red abilities to go around: power gorge, synchronized move and sprint. All useful in many situations. Besides the offense, there’s the utility team: Spadefin with tow, Power Pod with amplify and refuel, and Nullifier Pod with mire and weaken.
Weaknesses: Five health if both forms sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s a common Martian weakness. Both forms are also fairly slow. The alpha is ok at a speed of six, but the ultra moseys along at a speed of five. Perhaps the biggest weakness, though, is the five defense on the alpha. No-one is going to have trouble hitting that, so as a meat shield, it’s not going to last long. Both forms are geared for close combat, so their ranged options are limited. The mobile units are flying and low defense, and the defensive units are ground bound and slow. And spare parts are a real pain to get a hold of, being foreign models and all….
The game plan: To have any chance, I had to achieve several things. I needed to limit his pdice to keep his attack options down. If he managed to get a decent pool, his mega could cut through my alpha like a hot knife through butter. And if I could limit his options to power attacks, I’d only have one attack vector to defend against, that being the ranged crunch. I also needed to make sure I could get close enough for a counter attack, which meant that I had to open up his screening pockets, or be in a location where he’d need to expose himself to a counter attack to land any damage on me. With summon, he’d have an easier time gaining board control, so countering his unit advantage was also key. And I had to protect my ultra at all costs, although, oddly, it’s also my best method of defense with it’s seven defense. Once the ultra went down, I’d lose just about any offensive capability I had. I needed to keep up the damage, since I was starting down two health. So, basically, I had to do about four things all at the same time. In practicality, I’d have to decide between maybe two of those things at a time, and hope the things that I was neglecting didn’t get away from me…
Setup: I won the roll, so Spazz got map choice. I was a little surprised and kind of pleased that he chose Killer Canals. While that map would give him plenty of pockets to blast from, it negates one of the big weaknesses of my units: mobility. All my Macos and Nauts could now reach anywhere on the map that I’d need them. Even my Power Pod could get most places on its own. Also, with the dense spread of buildings, Mucky might have trouble getting around, particularly with my Arsia’s no fly zones. All in all, I couldn’t have chosen a much better map myself.
We do a relatively standard setup, with about 80% of the buildings providing a radiation hazard. The only ones that don’t are a pair of Apartment Buildings on Spazz’s side of the map, a pair of Radio Telescopes, and a single Oil Company HQ he placed back next to one of my starting zones. It’s actually in a decent spot for an opening rampage on my end, so I don’t mind. I place my Arsia’s in a rough arc through the middle of the map, and scatter the remaining Nukes and Sewage Plants relatively evenly. He places directly across from me. In the end, things look like this:
Turn’s 1-4: I spawn a Nautilus Blaster, a Glass Spiral Relay, and Hunter Kor’al, move them all mid board, and blast the central radio telescope. I hit, and sync move the Relay to a power zone in my backfield. The end of the turn sees me with three power zones, and two p-dice. Spazz counters by spawning a pair of Spy Flies, a Tanker Truck, a Razor Beetle and an Explodomite. They Flies stick around the right most apartment building. The Tanker grabs a power zone, and the Beetle and Mite go for a tag team on the Naut. They hit (with pretty much all super strikes), but the blitz onto Kor’al misses. Spazz has a power point with amplify, a negative zone, and I’ve got two power zones. My first monster turn, Tharsis powers up for two, takes a couple of steps forward, and then rampages through three buildings, leaving me with eight p-dice. When Mucky finally gets to go, he powers up for one, and I lose one. He then summons an elite Hopper, securing the apartment building, advances forward and takes a shot at Kor’al, but rolls considerably less super strikes than earlier, missing him.
Turn 5: I see a chance here to gain a big advantage in board control. It needed a bit of dice luck, but would use a good amount the abilities available to me. I spawn a pair of Nauts, move one of them to a negative zone in range of the Tanker, the other to a teleporter near the Spy Flies. The Relay gets moved in between the Naut near the Flies, and Kor’al. I open with the Relay and an Arsia who has radar from Kor’al on a Spy Fly. I manage to hit, and get back one of the a-dice from energy cycle. Kor’al gets synced to a negative zone in range of the Tanker. Then Kor’al and one Naut blast and hit the Tanker. Lastly, the remaining Naut blasts the Hopper, and sync the Relay to a power zone in my backfield. The dice went with the odds this turn, and so I pulled off everything just about perfectly. It’s turns like that that reminds me how much I love popping flying units with a single a-die from a Naut.
Turn 6: Spazz spawns a regular Spy Fly, and a Glass Spy Fly around the apartment, securing it. He then uses discount to bring in an Explodohawk. The Flies and the Beetle then form up to screen Mucky, and the Hawk finds its target, and smacks Tharsis for 1 (4/5). First blood (er, coolant fluid) goes to Spazz.
Turns 7-8: I power up, removing two of Spazz’s p-die, hyper up for a bit of protection from units, and making him spend most of his dice to hit my high defense so it makes it hard for him to back to back. I advance up midfield, and swat the Mite into Mucky (6/5). Nothing flashy, just trying to not fall too far behind on the damage race. He skips the power up, since he’s got nothing secured, steps once and summons Rifa onto a teleporter, and lands a crunch blast attack on Tharsis (4/3). Things aren’t looking good at this point, although I do see a small opening.
Turn 9: I spawn a Power Pod and a Grunt Maco (because I had an a-die left over from what I wanted to do, and I like throwing those into future unit turn capabilities). I advance the Pod to the negative zone next to Tharsis, one Naut to a power zone, and the Relay next to Kor’al. A Naut blasts one of the Flies screening Mucky and hits. The other Naut does the same. Kor’al and the Relay try the same thing but miss. But, the opening is big enough, and I refuel Tharsis in next to the big bug. At this point, there’s not much Spazz can do to keep Tharsis from getting in a nice big hit, which I sorely need to do to keep in this game.
Turns 10-12: Spazz spawns a Vice Pincer and an Explodomite. He moves the Pincer, Beetle, Mite and Rifa around Tharsis. Then they brawl him, hit (4/2), and blitz through and get Kor’al as well. What neither of us caught at the time was that Tharsis flies, and all those bugs were ground bound. Turn 11 I power up to full p-dice, and empty out Spazz’s. Tharsis then takes a swing at Mucky, hitting both the brawl and the crunch, and beat him back through the glass Fly and the Sewage Plant to the West (3/5). I hyper down and save four a-die in case he leaves me an opening, and try to keep him on the defensive. I must have had him rattled, since he tried to power up, even though he didn’t have anything secured. He missed the roll, so neither of us noticed that until a bit later (although at this point I did realize that I shouldn’t have been hit by that unit brawl). He then scurries off to a corner where he’s screened by buildings, summons in a Beetle, and takes a shot at the Relay, but misses. In a brief discussion, I decide to keep the damage from the unit brawl, since I missed it at the time. Oh how I wish I had that health back later in the game….
Turn 13: I see another opening here, and take a unit turn. I moved the Nauts, and took a shot with them and the Relay on the radio telescope. If I hit, I’ll be able to refuel Tharsis in next to Mucky and go for form on my next turn. It’s a decent shot, at 87.5%. It would totally open up the game for me. So, of course, I miss. I use the remaining dice to try the blast again with an Arsia. Much worse odds, and I wont be able to start my turn next to the big bug, but it will still open up the pocket and remove his ability to beacon. I miss with three strikes.
Turn 14: He goes for a double whammy this turn. He spawns an Explodohawk, and sends it flying into Tharsis (3/2). He also moves Rifa and the Mite next to the Power Pod, and brawls it. He hits, but just misses the explosion on Tharsis. He does help me by getting rid of the Mite, Rifa and the Pincer, though.
Turn 15-17: I skip powering up, then hyper up and advance to a nuke and brawl it, healing one (3/3). I save three a-dice. He’s got an opening here, but to take it, he has to leave himself open to a counter attack for form. He doesn’t take the bait. Instead he summons Rifa, blasts and hits the Relay, sapping an a-die from my unit pool. He saves two a-die himself. I take another monster turn, advance to block one of his spawn zones, brawl another nuke, healing up another one (3/4).
Turn 18: Spazz takes a unit turn here. He spawns a Tanker, which he then moves onto a power zone just a bit north of Tharsis. Then he gets fancy, and pulls off a very impressive turn. He moves a Beetle to secure the Sewage Plant. He then TKs one of my Nauts into the radiation zone nearby. He then moves the other Beetle and Rifa, and brawls my other Naut, and blitzes to a power zone on my side of the board.
Turns 19-21: I notice that with three units, I can basically pin Mucky in place unless he rampages. With two units, I can at least keep him from getting near Tharsis for an attack. I’m not sure what I’ll do with that position, but I go for it anyway, because how often do you get to basically dictate your opponent’s move? So I spawn a Spadefin, grunt Vanguard and a Naut. I tow the Beetle off of the p-zone, then move the Spadefin and Vanguard to block Mucky’s approach to Tharsis. I move the Naut to a power zone, the Maco to a negative zone, and together they blast the Tanker Truck. He powers up for one, and not having much else to do, heads up the edge of the map, where he summons in an elite Hopper to screen himself, and brawls a nuke to heal (4/5). I then power up for one for me, and minus one for him, advance up next to Rifa and swat him into the Beetle on the power zone. I’m in a spot where he’s got a safe pocket to shoot me (north of the radio telescope), but I plan to blast that open on my next turn.
Turn 22-24: This turn, Spazz goes for preemptive unit denial. He spawns a pair of Flies, a Tanker Truck, Explodomite and a Pincer. He moves the Tanker to a power zone, the Mite blocking the teleporter next to my Naut and Maco, a Fly next to Tharsis (go spotter), and the rest plus the Beetle already on the board over three of my spawn zones. He then takes a swing with the Mite vs my Naut, and wiffs. There is the sound of a sad trombone in the distance. I then go to bring my plan to open up his pocket into action. I spawn a Naut. Then I move the Spadefin to a power zone, and tow the Mite into the radiation, opening up the teleporter for my other Naut and Maco. I then move the Maco, a Naut and the Vanguard and take a shot at the radio telescope. Same odds as before, so between the already missed shot and this one, there’s a better than 98% chance that the ‘scope is toast. I guess in this case, though, I fall into the one percent, as I miss again. After forgetting that I’ve already used an action and try to beacon, I instead blast the Fly who’s spotting Tharsis with the remaining Naut. Spazz then neatly misses a power up, moves into that nice little pocket, and blasts Tharsis for two (3/2), saving a pair of a-dice. My ship is taking on water fast, and my bucket is only so big….
Turn 25-26: Not feeling very confident here, but I need to keep the pressure on, so I advance next to the nuke between Tharsis and Mucky, and brawl it, healing one (3/3) and making him spend at least part of a unit turn screening, or taking a monster turn and doing nothing but screening or running, as I saved three a-die. He takes a unit turn, spawning Rifa and a Fly. He screens with Rifa, moves some Flies around to threaten spotter, and brings in a Beetle next to a Naut. Together, he and Rifa brawl the Naut, but miss on the Blitz to the Spadefin.
Turn 27-28: I take a unit turn, again trying to open up some of these pockets. I spawn a Naut, and then move the other Naut and the Spadefin into the hot zone, both on negative zones, with the ‘Fin also next to the radio telescope. I then tow Rifa out of his screening position, and take out a Fly and the elite Hopper with a pair of single shots from the Nauts, but miss the other Fly with a shot from the Maco. Since he no longer had a safe pocket to blast from, Spazz opts for a bit of healing. After powering up for two, he moves north and brawls the nuke, healing one (5/5) and summons in a hopper to screen his north side. This turn surprised me, as he was basically giving me a free shot, although if I wanted three damage on him, I’d have to beat back into myself.
Turn 29: I see a shot at opening this thing wide up here. I can back to back, since he’s entirely on units next turn, hit him for 2, position him with the beat back, and then beat back him through that damn radio telescope next turn for form. I need this, as I’m feeling very behind at the moment. So I advance up to kitty corner to his south east, and then brawl. I hit, pulling him three south, and causing two damage (3/5). I’ve got six a-dice in my monster pool, six p-dice in my power pool, and have a load of confidence as I pass the turn over to him.
Turn 30: Staring down the threat of a form killing attack, Spazz was up against a wall. But apparently that’s when he does his best work. He spawned a Spy Fly and an Explodomite. He moved two Flies and the Hopper to screen, and the Beetle, Rifa and Pincher swarmed around the Spadefin. Rifa and the Beetle sink their mandibles into the ‘Fin, and at the end of the blitz, they had the telescope secured. And with his last a-die, he beaconed Mucky to safety. Damn you radio telescope! <shakes fist>
Turn 31: Instead of taking an ineffective monster turn, I decide to see if I could open up Mucky’s screen with a minimum unit turn. If I could get the two Flies down, he shouldn’t be able to blast me without facing retaliation. So I spawned a Naut, moved him to screen Tharsis’s north from a power attack, and then took a pair of one a-die shots at the two Flies. The first one missed, the second didn’t.
Turns 32-35: Without any significant threat, Mucky powered up for three, and summoned a Fly to both screen and get spotter. Then he took a blast and hit Tharsis, crunching yet again (3/1). He saved three a-die, hoping for a follow up that’d take out my ultra. As that would be certain death, Tharsis did the manly thing again and retreated across the map to brawl another nuke (3/2). It placed him far enough away that Mucky couldn’t get a shot at forming him. So Spazz took a unit turn instead. Getting tired of watching all his hard work get undone by all that plutonium Tharsis had been consuming, he sent Rifa and the Beetle across the board, and together with the Mite, they brawled one of the two remaining nuke plants. They hit handily, and the Beetle blitzed across the water, and with just as much zeal took out the last of the nukes. With my feet to the fire, I needed to ramp up the offense, since I was now down to a total of five health. And I also needed to somehow protect my ultra. So I spawned an elite Marauder, a Power Pod, and a Glass Relay. The Pod advanced and refueled Tharsis, sending him directly across from Mucky, with a pair of Arsia’s in between. Then the Marauder, Naut, Relay and Maco all blasted the Fly, and got enough strikes to tag Mucky in the explosion (2/5).
Turn 36: Instead of spending the five a-dice needed to get into blasting range and trying to end it quick, Spazz decided to try and play it a bit safer. He powered up to full, and advanced next to an Arsia and swated the Naut into the Relay, saving four a-dice. I must have really spooked him with my other Relay, since this one managed to attract so much attention on the turn it was spawned. So add that to the list of things they are good for: decoy. But it was enough to save me, and to give me the opening I need!
Turn 37: I was rather nervous at this point. I’d been taunted before by hope, and I didn’t want to be stung again. I counted things out several times, and the numbers worked. Tharsis advanced, then took eight steps. At the end, he was aligned to Mucky’s north. With the last a-die, and all eight p-dice, he threw Mucky south, past an Arsia, and onto a Sewage Plant (and a Vanguard, who took one for the team). When the dust settled, he was finally down a form (0/5), and I finally had the advantage. Although it was still anyone’s game.
Turn 38: Not having much to work with here, but also needing to keep in the game, Spazz took a monster turn. He couldn’t get in range to blast, but he coul get in range for a swat. So he advanced up next to my Maco, and sent it careening into Tharsis (3/1). He had two a-dice left in his monster pool and five p-dice when he handed the turn back over to me.
Turn 39: If he back to backed here, I was done for. If I lost my ultra before I could get in a good hit, the Mega would chew through the last of my alpha without any trouble. Do or die time. To make it through to the end, I was going to need to play well, and get a bit of luck on my side as well. I spawned an elite Maco, a grunt Maco, and a Naut. I advanced them all next to the accursed radio telescope, and blasted Mucky. Three star five vs a five. Decent odds. And this time, they went with me, and I hit (0/4). The damage was nice, but the important thing was the energy sap, bringing him down to one a-die in his monster pool, which wasn’t enough for him to attack me with, as I was out of blast range, and there was nothing next to him to swat. Now I needed a little bit more luck….
Turn 40: With nine a-die to work with, he needed to take out my ultra, and to screen up. He spawned two grunt Hoppers and a Fly. He advanced the Fly into spotter range and the Hoppers all form up around the Arsia, and within range of Tharsis. He also brought over the Beetle to protect Mucky’s east side. Assuming the Hoppers hit, Mucky’s would be protected from a power attack counter, and the game would basically be over. The odds weren’t great, but it’s all he had. There was a 75% chance that he basically would win it here. The e-dice were rolled, and they come up with five strikes. So close, but a miss.
Turn 41: I’d been given a chance here. Perhaps that miss was karma for my various misses on the radio telescope. Whatever the cause, I had no intention to squander it. I made my power up roll, taking one of his p-die. Tharsis advanced kitty corner to Mucky again, and went all in for a brawl attack. I didn’t have many p-dice to throw into it, but it was enough, and I hit, crunch, and beatback east through the Beetle screening for him (0/1). I hyper down just in case, although in retrospect, I probably should have sacrificed the ultra at this point. If I had that one health back from the brawl by the ground-pounders, I would have been much more comfortable here. But I didn’t have that luxury.
Turn 42: Mucky finally had the perfect grind chance here, and he took it. He powered up for four, one of which came from a Hopper on a power node who had ground control from the secured Arsia. He advanced into range, threw down all his dice, and grinded down Tharsis’s alpha to scrap (0/1).
Turn 43: Things were finally down just to the dice. And there were no p-dice to be brought in, as both of use were staring down a unit turn. I spend time looking for a way to get the Maco team in range, before I realized that the elite was next to the Pincer, and his pesky halt! The Marauder was nestled up next to Mucky, so he couldn’t take a shot without moving. It didn’t look like I’d be able to get particularly good odds. But then I saw it. I spawned Kor’al on a zone in range of Mucky. And the key thing, I bump spawned a Nullifier Pod under the Marauder, moving him into blasting range. I then moved the grunt Maco and the Naut through a teleporter. The last four a-dice went into the attack. Four star five vs a four defense, thanks to weaken and armor piercing. It’s wasn’t all superstrikes, but it was enough. Mucky goes down in a hail of little green bolts of light (0/0).
In the end, Tharsis was victorious, but by the skin of his teeth (his commander has teeth, take my word for it). If any number of dice rolled on the other side of their target numbers, the game would have been very different. Spazz played very well, and I feel like it was only luck that I managed to pull this through. I still don’t like the match up, but the Canals was probably the best chance I had. And while I do think I owe the W to luck, I also feel like I played pretty well myself. If I had made any mistakes, Spazz would have not been forgiving, I’m sure. I haven’t enjoyed a game this much, or had such swings in optimism and pessimism, in a long time. I find it interesting that all of my Arsia’s survived the game, all 43 turns. And so did that damned radio telescope.