Breaking the Bulwark
It’s crunch time. You’ve got a brand spanking new deck with some of those passive objectives everyone keeps moaning about and the odd movement ploy to make sure no one thinks you aren’t trying to get in a fight. You match up against the dishonourable, anti-fun, great concussion abusing defensive deck. There’s still hope however, all you have to do is use these new tools to disrupt your opponent as you fly toward them, cackling manically at the thought of their imminent demise. Blood for the Blood God!
In Part 3 I’m going to look at some of the key considerations when you actually end up on the board against defensive decks. I’ll talk about some of the crucial decisions you’ll have to make, and how to try and make sure that the odds are stacked in your favour when you make those all important dice rolls. One thing to take into account through all of this is that truly defensive decks now tend to pack a bit of counter attacking punch since the relics got Beta’d to death, so proceed with at least a modicum of caution into the belly of the beast.
First of all, the draw!
Think of something you really want. Really really want. Maybe it’s a new puppy, or a nice holiday. Maybe you want Half-Life 3, a new President of the Unites States or another Brexit referendum. Maybe you just want a cuddle.
You want Turn 1 glory more.
You need glory Turn 1. You need it more than Rebecca Black needs to forget Friday ever happened.
If you won board setup and you have avoided the dreaded long board you might even get in range of a kill early. This means you’ll have more potentially scorable objectives to draw into your hand. Regardless, you need to be honest with yourself when you look at the three objectives you draw and make sure you can definitely score something. If you can’t score glory then bin the cards, regardless of what they are. The last thing you need at the bottom of turn 1 is the enemy getting Soultrapped and Deathly Fortituded to high heaven whilst Gurzag is still tripping over his own feet.
The most difficult part of the draw for me however is always the power cards. You’ll look down at ready for action and twist the knife, but have to admit in your heart of hearts that you ain’t making it to the enemy this turn to use them. If you need to fight, then you’re gonna have to bin these cards and dig for hidden paths or spectral wings. Having said that, if you can score glory without fighting feel free to hold onto these cards and just advance nice and slow, content that you can fly in next turn with some beefed up fighters that can take advantage of your cards.
Just make sure you score some Turn 1 glory please. Do it for Rebecca.
Nice Objectives to see turn 1
- Alone in the Darkness (hopefully + Great concussion or Distraction)
- One of your sweet Shardgale combos
- Change of Tactics
- Shining Example
Nice Ploys to see turn 1
- FIRSTLY – Anything that scores you objectives – Great concussion/Shardgale
- SECONDLY – Anything that gets you into combat – Hidden Paths/Spectral Wings
- THIRDLY – Anything that buffs your combat – Twist the knife/Trap/Time Trap
The first and second categories can overlap if you have combat oriented objectives in your hand, just be aware that the combat objectives are always going to be riskier than the passive objectives as you need dice rolls. You also need your opponent to not knock you back/Quick Thinker away. The combat objectives will however net you immediate glory and heavily deny your opponent. Weighing when exactly to charge is the crucial choice of the game.
As a side note, never feel obliged to hold onto any upgrades in your first hand. These are dead cards turn 1 until you start the glory train rolling. If you don’t have the ploys you need bin the hand.
Turn 1: Get some Glory
Turn 1 is first and foremost about good setup for turn 2. You want money in the bank and models in range. Hopefully you’ve also managed to deny some glory and blow some of your opponents push cards. If you managed to start taking enemy models out of action then at this point it’s your game to lose.
So what key decisions do we have to make in Turn 1?
To move or to draw?
If the enemy are out of charge range you have a choice. You can advance a model toward the enemy, or draw a card in the hope that you get a ploy that will let you charge or score an objective. You have to balance ensuring you get glory with ensuring you are in charge range with sufficient models in turn two. I’d advise trying to pain a picture on the board of where you want to be at the top of two. Which models do you absolutely need to be in range? Move these models in your final activations. Every spare activation you have draw cards. This way if you happen to draw a good movement ploy you can adapt your strategy early on and you minimise the amount of activations your opponent has whilst your models are exposed.
So you’re in turn one and against the odds you’re in a position to charge. Maybe you got board set up, or a good draw. Maybe your opponent drew Quick Thinker Turn 1 and is baiting your bloodthirsty ass in. Bottom line is you’re an aggro player, you’ve built both your decks primarily to fight and you’re not gonna start rolling through the glory until you get stuck in. So how can we make sure that your charge is going to be successful?
- Leave it as late as possible – there is a school of thought that says charge straight away before your opponent has time to draw, but to be honest – they have a 50-50 chance of drawing Quick Thinker first turn (assuming they’re running a 20 card deck). Even if you charge and your attack is successful and you get the kill (best case scenario), the enemy will pounce on your now overextended miniature and possibly tear him to pieces. Maybe you have Ready for Action/My Turn/Time Trap and your one man wrecking crew will tear the entire enemy warband to pieces turn 1, but for the majority of the time, minimise the risk. In this case minimise the number of activations your opponent has left to hit back at you.
- Try and set up two models for a charge – By this I mean if you have one model that can charge, and we’re waiting till activation 4 to charge, draw some cards to see if you can send another chap into the fray. That way if your first attack whiffs you have back up.
- Are you going to score an objective from the kill? – if not, if you already have 3 or 4 glory in the bag come the end phase, it MIGHT be worth waiting until your boys have their upgrades on. You could potentially hand over one of your models and a glory for a relatively small gain. It might be worth moving into position for a turn 2 charge from 2-3 models rather than a turn 1 overextension from 1.
- Weigh up the odds –There’s a great table of success odds for different attacks in Shadespire. Have a look (https://boardgamegeek.com/image/3828459/karl69). A 2 hammer attack against 1 shield has a 54% chance of success, which means when your dice feel like they’ve turned against you, the odds were actually only barely stacked in your favour to begin with. Plus if you happen to be against Steelheart and his crew, each attack could inspire them, making them even harder to kill! So really think is it worth the risk this turn, are the odds actually in your favour?
- Above all, every activation, consider the alternative to the action you’re thinking. Try and play out what could happen. Once you’re stuck in combat your committed. If the first charge goes well then you have turned the game on it’s head and are more than likely going to end up taking home the victory. If the first charge misses, defensive decks can start to pick off your models one at a time until you don’t have enough left to win in a fair fight.
- Roll a crit.
- Don’t let them roll a crit.
- GG EZ
Remember that your pushes can also ruin the enemies plans, and the way they play the first turn can sometimes make it painfully obvious what they want to score. Remember try and drop a damage on them, try to force them to move, and try not to let them line up on edge hexes! If you can get the glory lead in turn one then turn 2 will go much better for you.
- Play Distraction or Great Concussion – break the models apart and get them off edge hexes – block Skirting Danger, Unbroken Wall, Well Guarded
- Play Shargale, Raptor strike, or try to at least get a knockback where you can react with trap – do some damage to block Sigmars Bulwark, Bloodless
- If you do get a charge out you can possibly force a quick thinker from your opponent early – feels bad but blocks them scoring Perfect Planning
- Hidden paths someone in Adjacent to them – stop them scoring Consecrated Area
Denying the glory from a defensive deck will prevent them stacking defensive upgrades turn two and leave them in a more tenuous position than our current Prime Minister. Theresa would definitely play defensive Stormcast.
The End Phase
The enemy is going to focus on putting every +1 wound under the sun on his models, along with Soultrap and Tethered Spirit. This is why denying glory from your opponent is every bit as important as scoring your own. Each turn you get more killy but the enemy gets more tanky. The matchup is incredibly tempo based (although I know it doesn’t feel like it) so if the defensive deck gets ahead early they’re going to be harder and harder to kill.
Watch where their defensive upgrades go, play your aggressive upgrades on the fighter who has the best chance of scoring a kill. Remember think about when exactly you want to spend this. If you’ve got Escalation in your hand then you’re going to seriously want to consider waiting till the following action phase to spend it. This obviously comes at the cost of cycling your power cards. Another consideration is Ready for Action. Don’t spend your glory if you have this card in your hand! This one doesn’t need weighing up with an alternative. If you have Ready for Action, keep a glory spare for a double hit.
Please say you scored some glory.
Turns 2-3: No More Waiting
Keep a weather eye
This goes for Turn 1 as well. Look at what objectives your opponent is burning through. In a best of three this will come in handy. You need to know what they cap at and what they need to avoid. If you see Eternals/Complete Victory go down early suddenly the pressure is off you to score big. You spot some combat objectives like Lightning Strikes get binned that might pique your interest as to just how ‘defensive’ the guys will be once you’re in range. These little clues from game one will help you in successive games. The same goes for power cards, there’s no point being terrified of a My Turn reaction if they actually binned it Turn 1. Remember you can ask to look through opponents discard piles, they’re meant to be face up for everyone to look at.
This really goes for every game, not just for defensive opponents. Learning the opponents objective and power deck and watching what they discard will help you predict what they need to do to win. If your nervous about being Quick Thinkered just check the discard pile, make sure it didn’t get mulliganed while you weren’t watching!
Pick your targets
If you’ve set up well you will have multiple enemies in range after you sprinted pell mell across the board Turn 1, much to your opponent’s dismay. Now we have a choice, who to charge and when. These are some of the things to consider when choosing your targets:
- Charge your weakest dude first – burn their reactions, potentially set up a support dice for your stronger fighters.
- Charge the model that earns you the most glory – got Victorious Duel? Look at your objectives and make sure the kill you get will snowball you ahead.
- Charge the model that’s easiest to kill – this sometimes conflicts with the above, in this case you should look at the glory count, look at what objectives your opponent has lost, and work out how big of a risk you need to take. Look at the board, will one charge leave you massively more exposed?
- Charge the closest model – it means its easier for the rest of your crew to follow up. Normally however, the opponent will have put Soultrap/Deathly Fortitude on the closest dude, so he will be a bit harder to take down.
Defensive decks feel oppressive, but due to the low model count and lack of combat ploys will start to crumble once you get kills. Once the melee has started you will earn glory faster than the enemy, you just need to make sure you haven’t fallen too far behind and that the enemy aren’t too tanky by the time the fight starts.
Have I already won??
This will be easier to spot in game 2 and 3, but if you keep an eye on what your opponent can score and what you have in your hand you’ll notice when the games over. You might be sitting on a 5 glory lead ready to score another 5 points and you know your opponent has binned his big scorers/you’ve denied them. You’ve killed one enemy, they cant score Complete Victory, you’re sitting in their board to stop Denial. Superior Tactician is a pipe dream thanks to your superb use of your ploys to counter the enemy’s objectives.
Don’t gift the game back with an overzealous charge.
You’ve won, keep trying to deny them glory, get kills if its safe to do so, but there is no point taking any risks. This decision needs to be made carefully. If you do have some doubts about whether your lead is great enough to win then you should always try and score more glory. If however, you know its game over, then play like it is.
You won!! (Hopefully)
Thanks for reading my incoherent waffle! Playing against defensive decks alters the pace and decision trees in a game, and if you’re not used to that it can catch you off guard. As long as you adopt the right mindset going into the game, and bring a deck with you that gives you plenty of options, you’ll stand a good chance of breaking the bulwark down!
Let me know if you have any thoughts on what to write next. I’m currently messing about with a Bloodreavers deck, and after that I’m going to try out Fyreslayers for a bit. Having said that, we’ve got the new leader pack of cards to try and make sense of first!
BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!
It’s a joy to read an in-depth analysis of Shadespire. The Do-over is such an important part of the game, your work makes good sense here and makes me begin to reflect over my own (greedy) playstyle. The game has so much depth. Where it gets harder is when trying to juggle all the cards and decks, sound advices here.
Thanks for writing and sharing the 3-part article.
And no there aren’t any incoherent waffling.