Why Steamroller needs corner deployment scenarios: an analysis of Black Tide Scenario 8 (Crossroads)

Welcome to Disgruntled Wargamer; I’m Tom, and I’m here to talk about why Steamroller should include at least one scenario with corner deployment. This comes after my most recent game in the Black Tide narrative, and I’ll go over that game briefly. But first, what is the Black Tide narrative scenario packet?

What is Black Tide?

The Black Tide scenario packet is found in the Warmachine App under Battlegrounds. Each scenario has some unusual objectives, some of which work very well competitively, and some of which can be hyper-meta-gamed for a quick win. The point of the packet is to give players a chance to play games involving the events of the current narrative. As the Orgoth invade, what you do in the game adds to your side’s total victory, and if you’re playing in a league, you get some cool prizes if your team wins.

Locating the Black Tide scenario in the app

How does the scenario work?

As you can see in the image below, the Invader (Player 1) and Defender (Player 2) have an equal amount of deployment space, split between the corners of the board. Objectives are in the middle of the board, and in this game, are treated similarly to flags.

Scenario layout

Additionally, two of the objectives are “on” for player 2, and two are “on” for player 1. Players flip the objectives to their side by securing the objective, with two models being within 1 inch of the objective. This is an important aspect of the scenario which also should be considered in the Steamroller packet – persistent scoring objectives, which I’ll cover later.

Our recent game

This game is scaled for 50 points, although I think a 100 point game could be played on this table. The packet requires 8 pieces of terrain, and although it has the players placing 4 each, 1 at a time, in a tournament setting, it’s assumed all the terrain will be placed by the Event Organizer (EO).

I added the craters, watch tower, steep-walled forested hill (forest-plateau), and a crate. Dessa added the gentle hill, mushroom, lake and trench.

Our game was quite fast, with both of us pushing models directly toward the center of the table. My Convergence claimed the tower with a servitor drone, and Dessa moved Cygnar’s Wolfe onto the plateau.

With only minor support from Iron Mother, a pack of Perforators took down a Stryker.

Wolfe retaliated charging the TEP with Wolfe, bringing down its servitors with elecro-leaps. Then the lances fired at the TEP, almost killing it. The Storm Legion claimed objectives, and put scenario pressure on Convergence, scoring 3 to 1.

Ultimately, the damage Wolfe sustained when his Stryker was hit, combined with the TEP, a Mitigator Quake at RAT 8 into DEF 20, followed by an Assimilator boosted POW 13, meant Wolfe took the assassination. Here’s the wierd thing!

The game continued!

While the assassination happened, I was completely caught off guard by the game continuing on. In this game, the “Last Leader” condition is only checked at the end of the second player’s turn. I placed the Iron Mother in a precarious position, and Dessa capitalized on it, charging in with her cavalry. Iron Mother took a knockdown from a crit, and got absolutly mobbed.

On top of that, Dessa positioned her army to claim more beacons, the objectives, and earned a total of seven points to my five. She won on points after neither player had a leader in play.

How did corner deployment help the game?

First, as promised, let’s look at the deployment. There is no way my whole army could fit into a 10×10 inch square. The TEP was too big, and the same goes for Dessa.

In a normal Steamroller, your deployment area is 48*7 or 48*10 inches, giving you 480 square inches max for deployment, slightly more if you have advanced deployment.

In this game, we had two 10×10 areas, or 20×10. That’s only 200 square inches of deployment. To push this to a 100 point game, 12 inch squares may be needed, giving a 24×12, or 288 square inches. It still seems small, but most armies don’t use their whole side in most games.

The corner deployment created a lot of excitement and decision making. Do you push to the center, or try to skirt the edge? Can you hit anyone in the corner after moving? How do I position to take control of objectives while still supporting my army and not becoming a victim to assassination?

How does corner deployment mess with the game?

The most obvious is the issue of supporting your army during turn one. Less obvious is during the list building. If corner deployment scenarios enter the steamroller packet, you’ll have to make sure your army fits in the reduced deployment area. That means you’ve got to make sure one of your lists has a smaller footprint than you may be used to.

Supporting your army may mean splitting a few mechaniks off into the corner opposite your warcaster, so that they can empower a warjack which might not get to power up until turn two due to separation from the warcaster. Beasts would almost always be forced to start near their warlock so that they can be … forced to run.

Your army build may need to include self-sufficient models like merc units or solos, or models like battle engines who don’t necessarily need support from an army’s leader. Fast units, like cavalry, would enjoy being in a position to flank to either side of their deployment area, challenging the enemy and rapidly closing with the bulk of your army.

This could be huge for Warmachine.

Let’s look at an Infernal army:

This Omodamus list is pretty typical. There’s different versions with a slightly larger Tormenter count, as opposed to the light horror and the solo build I have presented. The point is, this fits in a single 10×10. Not that I’m advocating for a single 10×10, but it’s worth noting that a game could be limited to two opposing corners, with an “L” shape being 14 inches from the corner, and 10 inches into the table. Just a thought. If I were to split this army, I might consider changing the list a little to add something like a Griever Swarm for the far corner, or stick a horror out there with a unit of cultists to support it along with a unit of howlers. It changes the opening moves, maybe forcing the army to run together on turn one instead of doing a straight-foward advance.

Let’s look at a Kolgrima Trollblood Storm of the North army.

Her army, at least this version of it, doesn’t have a lot of bodies. Some of her army has advanced deployment, so they have an extra 3-inches on their 10-inch square. She has plenty of room in one square, and if she wanted, she could stick some guys in the opposite square and really benefit by pushing the enemy into them during her feat turn.

Let’s look at a Borka army with the Hooch Hauler!

Borka has a larger footprint than Kolgrima, and he didn’t bring as much advanced deploy. Some Kriel Warriors and Raiders might be forced out of the leader’s square into the other. This might be okay, but they won’t benefit from Borka’s shielding feat or spells. It’s not hard to say that some lists might not appreciate this type of scenario. I prefer to play Borka as a tight army, generally within 10-12 inches of the warlock. Turn 1 would be rough, but turn 2 might actually work out, and the bears might actually want to ambush, just to keep off the table. It’s hard to say.

Persistent scoring objectives

Another aspect to this scenario that I though was interesting was the way objectives continued to score even though your models may have left that objective alone. As long as the enemy didn’t come along and flip it back their way, that objective could continue to score for you on each turn. That’s amazing for Warmachine, because currently things like flags require a solo to sit out the game, hanging onto a flag if that flag is far from the action. They become a useless model, except for scoring each turn.

The other thing here is that any model type could score. That is also huge. It basically kills zones, and opens up army creation possibility. In this type of scenario, you don’t need solos, or units. Maybe you just run battle engines and warbeasts!

Potential headaches

This isn’t to say there aren’t headaches. The Defenses pose a little problem that needs some touch to make work with the scenario. The scenario could be modified so that defenses are placed within 12 inches of the deployment squares. That might work out okay.

The other issue is the way steamroller tournaments play in the U.S. Each game session, the EO switches all tables to a new scenario. All tables play the same scenario. This means some table terrain pieces may need to be relocated in order to create a playable. Not really an issue, since that has to occur pretty regularly anyway. A lot of times, the flags and objectives cause obstructions and obstacles to be relocated. And most experienced EOs set up the terrain knowing more or less ahead of time what scenarios they’ll be running, so they usually set tables with the scenarios under consideration.

Hope for the future

I sincerely hope people try out something other than the typical Steamroller games, play with the narratives. The Steamroller packet in 2024 could really have a lot of variety and good gameplay opportunities. It’s time for some change, everyone.