Narrative Battle Report, Week 4: Shenlong vs. C. Hoffman

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Narrative Battle Report, Week 4: Shenlong vs. C. Hoffman

Postby afeinman » Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:24 pm

Zombie Matt matched his Hoffman crew up against my Shenlong rag-tag collection. It was...educational.

(you probably want to read week three first.

* * *

Shenlong carefully shook out his training gi and hung it on its rack to dry. Practice had been hard on the monks; but they would eventually forgive him. The Dragon trained his troops thoroughly, but not to exhaustion; not to the limits that Sensei Yu would find in them. Shenlong considered bringing in his old friend; for after the fiascos of the past few weeks, he was beginning to doubt his monks' commitments to the cause of the Ten Thunders.

"I would have words," a voice said out of the corner of the room.

Shenlong froze, considering his options; he could spin, burning fire in his eyes; but perhaps a more subtle approach was appropriate. He turned, nearly stumbling as his feet crossed, and lurched toward the voice. "Mistress Yamaziko," he said, his words slurred.

"Stop that foolishness," the old lady said. She had crept in unnoticed, perhaps while Shenlong had brushed the mat clean, and now knelt before him surrounded by yards of elegant blue fabric.

Shenlong straightened, and bowed deeply. "What is the honor due to me, that I am graced by your timeless beauty?"

"I have done you some disservice," Yamaziko said.

"None has been recognized," the Dragon said slowly. "Unless perhaps I see your strings behind the actions of young Katanaka?"

"Just so."

"Ah. No lasting injury, no unforgiveable offense; a misunderstanding, quickly resolved."

"One might hope so. But her shame is not so easily resolved."

"And who is our Mistress, to send you in her own place to talk to me?" The affront was slight, but palpable; he did not rate the courtesy of being able to apologize in person, not without the somewhat elaborate ritual that would be required were he to show up at the Katanaka compound.

"She is busy with clan affairs; I am in every way her envoy."

"Just so," the Dragon said, bowing his head slightly. "How may this shame be resolved?"

"It is a challenge," Yamaziko said slowly. "One most perilous; you will have my assistance."

Shenlong grimaced, And, no doubt, her spies. Outwardly he showed nothing but the most placid waters of the Low River, his bearing as calm and serene as its glittering surface. "I am at the disposal of the Mistress; I serve Katanaka without question. What is the challenge?"

"A new vein of soulstone has been discovered; a rich one, and close to the service."

"Surely this is the province of our Union friends, then?"

"It would be, were we to desire interference in harvesting it."

"You can't simply start up a mining operation without the Guild knowing about it."

Yamaziko made a flowing gesture with one hand. "The soulstone lies on the surface, where water pooled long ago; a pit of vile liquid, with treasures within; and to either side, a lesser concentration. The magic is strong there."

"The Guild might have things to say about this," Shenlong said, though his stomach was eager for the score. Easily obtainable Soulstone was worth a man's life; worth the life of many men. And the tyrant knew many men would would eagerly spend their lives in its pursuit.

"The Guild is on its way now; the brainchild, Hoffman, leads a small mechanical army to secure the strike." Yamaziko paused; she'd fanned his flame carefully, and now was the time to add the fuel. "Time is of the essence; take your men and go at one. Takoko will stay with you, if you wish."

"I do wish," the Dragon said, for he'd grown quite fond of the youthful oiran. "Am I free to keep what I find?"

"The clan claims seven parts in ten; the rest is for your crew." When Shenlong nodded--the terms were somewhat strict, but not overly so--Yamaziko continued. "You will also take along one of Collette's performers; for the information came from the Arcanist after a long matter of...persuasion. Her name is Adora; Takoko will manage her for you."

"I am most obliged," Shenlong said, in a tone that betrayed little of his true feelings; for he had as little use of a performer as a trout had for a penny-farthing. "Until sunset, then, when I shall return with good tidings."

* * *

Shenlong raced through the compound, rousing whom he could; for his men were winded, and some were away on other errands. He looked at the rag-tag crew as it trooped through the wood; two of his more junior monks, one of the Brotherhood of the clan, and the pair of strange figures who had been following him for weeks. The emissary had yet to reveal his true mission, but Shenlong tolerated his presence for its heartening effect on the minions; the other, whom Yamaziko had called 欲望, Yokubo, still upset Shenlong to be near, but seemed especially interested in his relationship--such as it was--with young Takoko.

Adora led them unerringly; the performer's strides, even in slender heels, even through the forest brambles, were rhythmic and confident. She and Takoko nattered in quiet speech, seemingly inseparable. Shenlong whistled lowly, tiny sparks visible in the dusk light. The forest gave way suddenly to a hilly area; a riverbed, dry in most places, ran through it. The air was stagnant and charged with an almost electric smell, as of a generator burning, or a storm before the lightning struck. Ahead, a thick greenish pool burbled and oozed; within he could see the faintest glow of buried soulstones.

"Here," he said, the breath of the dragon speeding his troops and shoving them to the four corners of the area. "Begin the ritual of preparation!" Yamaziko had given him small scraps of paper, which, when read, would blanket the area in a fog thick enough to mislead seeking eyes.

His men surged forward, almost too quickly; to the left, Austin flung himself in a great leap, the Wandering River monk nearly quicker than the eye could follow. His drinking companion, Federic, joined Brother Knife in a loping gait to the right; the bulk of the force pushed forward, hunkering at the edge of the forest, where the force of time had reduced an abandoned stone building to a single wall.

"I don't like this," Yokubo said; her shimmering form had settled, for the nonce, on a two-pistoled cabillera who would look not at all out of place alongside the Ortegas.

"I concur," came a shadowy voice from beside them. "'Ware danger; I feel a storm coming on." The emissary crept forward slowly; his presence seemed to hearten the women, though Shenlong felt nothing but an unnerving sense of doom.

Ahead, light flickered; then two winged figures flew out of the darkness, one to perch atop another stone ruin, the other deep into the woods after Austin. Shenlong recognized the mechanical contraptions, and cursed; he was ill-prepared to confront the Guild's master of mechanics. Electricity crackled as Hoffman remanufactured his contraptions; then the wall of metal lurched forward toward the soulstone river.

Out of the mist burst a many-legged shape, the fearsome killing machine called Miss Step. She stepped easily and nimbly through the undergrowth, relentlessly pursuing Austin. Though the Wandering River monk was able to leap away and speak his words, his actions were quickly undone. One of Hoffman's drones came through with a dispeller to remove one of the cornerstones of the ritual; and a charge from Miss Step left the monk lifeless on the ground.

Shenlong swore to the heavens, torn between helping secure Austin's corner and reinforcing the remnant of his force. Takoko and Adora hid in the forest, luring Hoffman's beasts forward until they could prey upon them; the Warden, its pneumatic fist clenching and unclenching, stumbled through the soulstone bracken with barely a pause. Takoko set upon the metal beast, her bladed fans slicing again and again at its metal hide, but a vicious smack from the machine sent her flying.

The shadowy emissary threw its spear, felling the beast and robbing Shenlong of revenge; instead, angered, the Dragon shouted and enveloped himself in a wreath of flame. His charge took him forward into the pack, a flaming kick shattering the mechanical attendant Hoffman had at his side; but the blast of flame disappeared as soon as it formed, the attendant's suppression field draining the flame of its energy even as the creature shut down.

Nonplussed, Shenlong looked up just in time to see Miss Step bearing down on him, her vicious snippers reaching eagerly for his unprotected hide. He dodged and ducked, straining to get away from the monstrosity. A swipe low made Shenlong jump--straight into the rear set of claws, which grabbed him around his waist. A snip, and Shenlong fell to earth, blood pouring from his headless torso.

"Threat neutralized. Crew decapitated." Miss Step said mechanically.

"Threats hunted. No survivors," the Hunter said, reporting in from the right flank.

In the shadows, Adora fled, leaving behind only a single scrap of runed paper glowing in the darkness. Behind her the shadowy emissary floated through the trees, bearing a grisly burden in two parts.

* * *

Shenlong awoke with a gasp and a start. His head had been returned to his body--by what fell magic, he didn't know, but he suspected he owed the Ten Thunders once more.

"Where?" he said, focusing his energies inward to heal his shattered arteries and broken bones.

"The Dragon rests with Katanaka," a famiiliar voice said.

"Mistress," Shenlong said. "My apologies for doubting you." His ears burned; this had been a calamity, nearly a life-ending one.

"Some lessons are harder to learn than others," Misaki said. "And even a Dragon may find itself a debtor."

Behind her a familiar aged figure stood slowly, her long blue robe cascading around her. "Thanks to your incompetence the Guild has control of the stream, and Hoffman has grown even more powerful. Worse, our hand has been tipped, and we will need to exercise exceptional discretion for the next while. You will accompany me now, Dragon, and learn the fine art of strategy."

* * *

Behind the Scenes

Week 4 of our local league. Strategery: Squatter's Rights; Deployment: Corner

Scheme Pool:
* A Line in the Sand
* Assassinate
* Spring the Trap
* Power Ritual
* Bodyguard

My Crew
* Shenlong + 3ss (Wandering River Style)
* Shadowy Emissary (Shadowy Conflux)
* Lust (Recalled Training)
* Wandering River Monk
* Oiran
* Fermented River Monk
* Ten Thunders Brother
* Performer [Mercenary]

His crew:
* Hoffman (Arcanist Assets, Field Mechanic, Remote Mines?)
* Mechanical Attendant
* Miss Step
* Guardian
* Hunter
* Warden
* 2 Watchers

* * *
Knowing nothing about Hoffman except 'he stands near his models and they all have armor', I brought a mixed-up crew based on what I'd been painting, plus a Performer, because it was another mission requiring you to be near stuff. As it turns out stocking both the oiran and the performer was overkill for the mission, and left me with precious little that could _kill_ stuff. And Miss Step is very killy...and so was the Hunter, unexpectedly.

I didn't like the Scheme pool one bit, and ended up revealing both Power RItual and A Line In The Sand. I was hoping to stay away from his models as much as possible; this turned out Not To Work. He revealed aLitS, but kept Power Ritual hidden; it was quickly clear what he was up to, however.

The board was mostly 2" hills, with a small forest in one corner, about 12" in. Matt made me deploy first, so I selected the forest, which hindered me rather a lot--I was still stuck on needing to hide from archers! but against Hoffman, no need for cover. We put a pool of nasty liquid in the center, with one of the Squatter markers on it, to force us how to play Hazardous terrain.

Turn 1

I promptly forgot I'd selected Power Ritual and didn't leave anyone back to claim my home corner. Oops. The rest of turn 1 was a similar ill-conceived, poorly-planned mess; Shenlong wasted some good cards to Fast the oiran and the Performer, but while they were able to lure the Warden halfway across the board, it only took minimal damage from the hazardous lake. I hadn't realized hazardous only applied once per turn, and had been hoping to rake a model over it 3 times or more. Then the oiran ran out of Crows, and the lured model stopped short--and after flipping the Squatter token, no less!

I flung the Wandering River Monk out to my left to put pressure on that corner; Matt responded by nimbling his Watcher, who flew into position there; programming the other; and giving extra armor to a third model. The hunter went right, and the rest of the Hoffball moved up the center. I sent Brother Knife and the Fermented River Monk to the right, expecting the two of them to be able to handle the Watcher and claim that corner.

Everyone else pushed forward through that damn forest, with Lust tagging along with Shenlong--and failing in her flips to move people around. The emissary squatted in the middle, trying to spread his bubble of minion-plus-flip goodness.

Turn 2

Crap hand; 5-high except for a handy Jack of Crows.

Shenlong needed to be in two places at once; poor tactics by me. He pushed up to Fastify the TTB and Fermie, then walked back toward the Performer and Oiran to give them free focus. Lust trailed along behind, hiding behind the stone remnant of a building and trying to get close enough to lure people.

The TTB pushed forward and, fast, was able to flip the Squatter's Rights marker. The Fermented River monk moved into position to flip another but was mostly playing 'target', out in the open.

In the other corner, I out-waited Matt; he brought his Watcher in, but then got off a single attack with Miss Step after she made three walks (Fast + Nimble = holy shit). The Wandering River Monk managed to survive--barely--but I'd placed him poorly, again opting for useless cover instead of standing within 6" of the corner, so his Df trigger was useless. (I did it anyway, because.) But then the WRM was able to leap out of combat, punch the Watcher off the Squatter token (sadly not killing the drone), and flip it. Point for me! Point also for Matt, as he had the central tokens, and he managed to drop some scheme markers on the line.

Turn 3

I won initiative, and activated the Wandering River Monk, trying to save his ass. He dropped a scheme marker, blew at the Watcher (still failing to kill it), then leapt up on a hill to get away from enemies. This didn't work; Miss Step, with her Ht3, was able to find a place to charge to, and made short work of the very-injured model.

In the other corner, the hunter got a good shot in at the TTB, a fight that was entirely one-sided over the next few turns. Even when I disengaged, the mechanical beastie pulled left and yanked the drunk monk off the marker and into injurious combat. Total mess in that corner, with neither fighter able to put a wound on the Hunter!

In the center I kept luring bits forward, but mostly ran back and forth and back and forth purposelessly.

Turns 4-5

I pull a very decent hand--all 9s, 10s, and a Jack. Not the right suits, of course...

With half my crew dead, and the rest out of position, things weren't going well. I moved Lust out to try to support the right corner, but things had gone so poorly up there I brought her back to the middle. She yanked the Guardian off Hoffman, sending him off to smooch a Watcher, but it didn't really matter.

The shadowy emissary didn't really prove effective at all; I kept forgetting his plus-bubble, and his ranged attack was barely able to scratch the Warden. With help from the Performer, the lured Warden finally made it into the forest, where the Oiran promptly pounced on him. Her flurry went on for four attacks, each able to do a point of damage, but did not kill him. Argh.

Finally, I saw what looked like an opening; Hoffman and the Attendant had moved up, and with the Guardian back a ways I figured I could charge Shenlong in, drop a few blasts, and rack up some damage. Shenlong switched to High River style, and charged, and flipped well--Severe damage, in fact, which should have meant two 3-damage pie plates falling all around. I'd forgotten the Attendant's aura, however, so instead I killed the totem and was left sitting there staring at a nimble Miss Step. What followed was an epic series of dodges and cheats that kept Shenlong mostly unhurt, but at high cost of cards.

Hoffman saw how low on resources I was, and puppetted Miss Step to decapitate Shenlong; with only one card in hand, and no remaining soulstones, my mostly-uninjured Master bit the dust. The game was already lost at this point, but I considered conceding here; it was doubtful I could score even another point.

The emissary finally put a final wound on the Warden; meanwhile the Performer ran for it, streaking toward my corner to place the marker I forgot at the end of the game. Hoffman solidified his win in the middle of the board, robbed of further models to kill...

Wrapup and Scoring

I'd scored one point on turn two for Squatter's, and one point for the Power RItual token in my corner.

Matt scored all his points, and with another turn would have taken away that last scheme marker, for even more domination.

Final result: 10-2 victory for Professor C. Hoffman and his School For Exceptional Robots; and Shenlong has some healing to do.
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