Yes, I found that the harrower has a problem against harder targets as it only has the one initial attack and the base power is not very high. Slayers get away with the P+S 16 by being 10 points and having 3 initials plus an ability that allows them to hit once very hard. The harrower is more of a niche against infantry and mulitwound units and solos. Like you pointed out with your murder pony write up, they would be hard pressed to hurt the harrower in any meaningful way and they are its intended prey with POW 16 and a thresher, probably hitting at least 50% of them without boosting to hit. And POW 16 is going to drop most cavalry and infantry. Then you get the soul, activate quickwork if you are no longer engaged and shoot a high defense infantry guy.
I usually run stalkers in pairs (because that is how many I own) but they are more effective the more you use. As I pointed out before, threat saturation is a thing and unless the opponent really knows how to deal with them, you will get something to the caster, knock it down and shoot it to death. There are hard counters to that tactic of course (anti-knockdown abilities come to mind) but the pair of P+S 12 grievous wounds with rerolls can get work done too. But with mortenebra, especially in lower point games, a pair of leviathans will probably get you further.
It feels as if you're judging your opponents based on how much effort they put into being your teacher? I don't think that's entirely fair; this game is complicated and people often have their hands full just remember what their own pieces do and trying to figure out their own moves. And if you're discussing your moves before you make them, well, then it's more like a "practice" game than a real one, which I think is not what most people want; not after they've gotten the basics down. Discussing afterwards is a different story, but you in your last post you say a game was a mediocre learning experience because your opponent didn't explain until afterwards.
I mean, you're right. I've found that how good these games have been as learning experiences has really hinged on how much the other player participates in discussing tactics in-game. But I suppose plenty of people mainly see their games as play experiences, even when choosing to play a new player. There's nothing wrong with that, and I bet it'd be more pleasant for both of us if I kept in mind that most people don't spend as much of their time in a world as focused on teaching and learning as I do.
For this week's game I was thinking of saying "I'm a new player, so if I start doing something that's obviously a bad idea, feel free to interrupt me and tell me why". Then I can verbalize my thoughts as I figure out my moves. If my opponent wants to discuss, they can. If not, then that's just not how they want to play.
Whether you view "practice" games as "real" games depends on your perspective. If you're playing a competitive game to win, then I suppose it feels like riding a bike with training wheels on. But if you're playing to get better then it totally hits the mark, at least at the early stages of learning. People have different approaches, and you're probably right that playing a competitive game in a cooperative way is less common.
By "practice" game I mean that I will remind my opponent about important things I think he may have forgotten, warn him about threats he might not have seen, avoid quick wins that might feel unfair or unfun to him; basically my aim is not to win. That is not my mentality in a normal game , where I sure as hell won't warn my opponent about what I'm planning to do: the point of wargames is to outthink your opponent, if you explain your plans when he can still counter them you're not playing a game, you're practicing/teaching.
When I've taken the time and effort to make it out for a game (not as easy for some people as it is for others; I used to have to ride the subway something like 2 hours each way to get to the game store), and I've just put together a new list with some new models that I've painstakingly converted and painted and I'm eager to see if the list works the way I'm hoping; maybe that day my focus is on playing and testing my army, rather than teaching the game to someone I don't know.
What I'm saying is your opponent doesn't OWE you a teaching experience unless you've made it clear before he agreed to play that that's what you're after. He has his own stuff going on, and don't assume that he's not trying to figure something out himself, whether it's the game as a whole or just an aspect of his list - lists are ever-changing after all.
With a Slayer kindly gifted by my previous opponent, I could get up to 50 points now. I'm going to stay a while at 50 points, finish my conversions, maybe try out a few list options, and generally figure out the gist of the game before scaling up to 75 pts. The Reaper is there to make the most of Deryl's Tune Up on the harpoon shot. It can enable assassinations by moving things out of the way, or threaten 14" without Overrun to alpha strike a heavy (with help from a Scavenger to finish it off). I lost the Stalker to make the points work out right, but people like Tiberius here say they work best when running two or more. I wouldn't mind getting another eventually, since I really like its sculpt (when the back legs are turned around so it looks more like a spider than a flea).
My opponent was an intermediate player unfamiliar with Mortenebra. When he was explaining what his models do, I realized this must be what a bad matchup looks like. Field Marshall: Shield Guard can shut down Overrun plays by transferring a Leviathan hit onto a heavy. It can also shut down Reaper drags by transferring the hit to a model behind an obstacle or another model. And it can dilute the Leviathan's attrition work by spreading damage around, especially since Convergence grids are so resistant to crippled systems. The clustered brick of jacks that Destruction Initiative likes to run makes it hard to get models onto his caster. And Lucant's Watcher is pretty good anti-assassination tech, especially coupled with knockdowns from the Inverters. On top of that, Lucant himself is pretty tanky at ARM 17 with 21 boxes. After the game my opponent tried to apologize for playing Lucant, but I told him I didn't mind playing a bad matchup. I'm playing to learn.
When I ran up at the top of round one, I remember being a little concerned that I had only a vague idea of where I should be putting models. Turns out that nagging feeling was justified, as turn two I realize I placed my Seether behind a forest so it didn't have line of sight to charge. I'd also placed my Scavengers behind the forest, or a little too far back, so they couldn't reach anything either. I managed to salvage the situation a bit with Overrun and get the Seether through the forest so it could finish off an Inverter, but things went south from there.
I sent the Slayer after a Conservator on the far right, thinking it was the best tool to get through high armor. But the Slayer couldn't destroy it alone and died soon after. After the game my opponent said he'd have been really worried if he lost both Inverters, so I guess that would've been the right target---the things that would do the most damage to my heavies. Which appears to usually be my opponent's heavies.
When Lucant feated to give everybody +4 ARM, my opponent suggested that sometimes the best thing to do is just back off for a turn. It was was such a different game flow from the fast-strike games I'd been playing that I had trouble taking it to heart. Like, I could've moved the Reaper to just out of the Conservator's threat range but instead I tried for some drag thing that didn't work. That cost me the Reaper next round.
I lost, of course. There was a moment near the end when I could've gotten a Scavenger onto Lucant, but with Watcher up and possibly some camped focus it wouldn't have done much. I think Spectral Steel would've had to go on the Scavenger, so I couldn't disengage-and-shoot with a Leviathan like my earlier Iron Mother game.
Going into the game, I knew most of Morty's tricks weren't going to work. Instead of throwing myself against the brick wall anyway, I could've played differently. I could've tried for fewer Overrun plays and used that focus on the melee jacks that could reach heavies. The Leviathan could've focused on sending damage down-range, clearing out Shield Guard Servitors and giving the Scavengers Finisher options. The Reaper would've been much more effective if it charged in and stopped trying to make drags happen (drags aren't going to happen). I don't have much experience yet with games that are mainly attrition and piece trading, but it looks like it'll be important for some matchups.
My opponent knew I was a new player and was really helpful about tactics, which I really appreciated. It helped me see and learn about options I didn't realize I had, like running Deryllis up to block a charge lane from an Inverter while also contesting a flag. Similarly, I realized I'd forgotten about the Warwitch Siren's Venom when a guy observing our game called her "the spray lady". That would've come in handy on turn two for clearing out some of the Servitors that were taking Shield Guard hits.
This game also drove home to me how important it is to place models so they can be effective the next turn or two. After the game, I did some practice deployments on my kitchen table, figuring out where I want models to be at the end of turn one so they'd I'd have good options on turn two. Right now this is where I'm at: The melee heavies are my front line, in two groups on either side of the central terrain piece. The Reaper will pair with the Seether to maximize shenanigans. The Scavengers will both be forward central in/behind the central terrain for assassination pressure and lots of options to finish off heavies, remove solos, etc. The Leviathans will be behind the heavies on either side, possibly sitting in the backs of zones, shooting the place up. Deryl will in the middle of this jack arc, ideally with 6" lanes to all of the melee heavies to Tune Up or Repair before they go in. Morty will be a little behind Deryl, in range to put Overrun on the Leviathans or Scavengers, and perhaps Repair if it'd help. The Warwitch Siren will be forward near the Slayer, in place for a feated Venom if it'd help clear the way. The Scrap Thralls will be together a little behind Morty, placed so they can run to hold near-field flags or contest zones before eventually get sacrificed for focus.
After the last game my metal Harrower's thresher hand broke off. In retrospect, it was bound to happen eventually. A large metal hand supported by a skinny, soft metal arm? Kind of a design flaw. But now that it wouldn't create confusion I ran it as another Leviathan, which would be more consistently useful. When I fix the model I'm going to magnetize it and scratch-build parts as needed.
Having fewer types of models also makes it a lot easier to learn them and remember all their abilities. Later on I can add in new types one or two at a time so I'll be dealing with new rules and use cases in smaller chunks. In Errol Morris' documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, a lion tamer says that chairs work because their four legs distract lions from their original murderous thought, and they take it out on the chair instead. I feel like that lion a lot of the time, and this game's chair has like a million frickin' legs.
Ironically, the Harrower would've been pretty useful this game.
My opponent is a veteran familiar with Mortenebra. I don't remember anything else being on the table, so maybe he was playing 49 pts out of theme? He made this list right before the match.
This was my first time playing against screening infantry. On my left, the Kayazy moved up in a dispersed blob with a Nomad among them. My melee jacks couldn't reach the Nomad, and MacBain's Countermeasures on the Kayazy prevented the Leviathan from getting range to shoot anything. Clearly a considered, practiced tactic. I wasn't really sure what the biggest threats were, and not knowing what else I could do I charged everything in and tried to kill as much as possible. The Slayer charged in and killed a couple Kayazy. The Warwitch Siren's feated Venom caught three Kayazy, including the underboss, but only managed to kill a single trooper (dice do sometimes roll low). I wrote off the Leviathan's gun and charged it in, as well. Some of his models died, but not many. And when his turn came around I lost a lot more, points-wise. Kayazy tied up jacks, and the Nomad stepped in behind them with 2" POW 20 melee attacks to do serious damage, downing the Slayer. Then he feated, giving ten models "Stupid Tough" so they couldn't die (since I had no Grievous Wounds).
In the middle, Eyriss1 put a Disruption shot into my Seether while his other two Nomads held back. He put Failsafe on the furthest-forward Nomad and deliberately placed it just within the Seether's 11" charge range. Maybe he was baiting me? It worked. I had Deryl Empower the Seether so it'd have two focus after Sacrificial Lamb, then charged it and the Reaper at the Nomad with Failsafe.
The middle became a brawl. I was able to down one of the Nomads down but lost the Reaper. The Seether was left with 4-6 boxes but still had a working cortex and movement. He jammed the Seether with Reinholdt, but a Scavenger freed it up to charge MacBain. The Seether used focus to shore up his broken arms and do some serious damage. An un-boosted tusk attack let MacBain Dodge away, and I forgot about Countercharge (which would've made one Dodge a good thing).
My opponent made more good use of his 2" melee ranges here, trapping the Scavenger between a Nomad 2" to one side and two Halbediers 2" to the other. That's either one 3d6+7 free strike (17.5 average damage) or 2x 3d6-2 free strikes (17 average damage if they both hit). In-game I decided that one was better than two, but now that I look at it taking the Halbedier strikes would've given me more chance to do work against a model that mattered. The Scavenger didn't have an angle on MacBain, unfortunately.
MacBain hid in the nook of an obstruction, where the Seether pinned him in and lost a 50/50 roll to kill him. Honestly, I was surprised it got that far. After that, the remaining Nomad killed the Seether. The Halbediers had the right Leviathan tied up. The Kayazy and Nomad had killed off the left-field Leviathan and Slayer. Eventually the Kayazy got Morty.
This was another game where I kept throwing myself against a brick wall because I didn't see or understand my other options. Against the Kayazy screen on my left, I could've tried to make space for the Leviathan to do ranged work against the Nomad or Bailoch. I could've used the Warwitch Siren's Venom on the front-most Kayazy or even Seduced one to move back and attack another. The Slayer could've cleared more in the front, too, instead of trying to leave a space for the Leviathan to charge in.
In the middle, I definitely shouldn't have thrown two heavies at the Failsafe Nomad, since it was hard to remove and couldn't be crippled. Instead, I could've left the Seether disrupted, since it could still charge or Countercharge for free. With Berserk it'd still be useful next turn against the Halbediers that were going to charge my right-side Leviathan. That would've freed Deryl to Tune Up the Reaper, who had an angle and range (with Overrun) to drag out the back Nomad. A Scavenger could've finished the Nomad off then maybe Sprinted up to jam the other. As long as I got Eyriss down (with the other Scavenger if I recall) and kept up Spectral Steel that would put the Seether in place to Overrun backfield against MacBain later on.
At times my opponent tried to be helpful. After the game he pointed out that his Nomads did most of the work and the Kayazy and Halbediers were mostly there for harassment. He also suggested that instead of charging in turn two I could've thrown in a Scavenger and waited to commit my heavies until he opened up more. Or I could've used Overrun to move the Slayer forward after killing the two Kayazy in front of it, using its remaining focus on the Nomad behind.
Some of his advice would've been better suited to someone more experienced than me. When it was time to allocate on my turn two, and I was looking around trying to figure out a plan, his advice was "Don't overthink it". For someone in my position, still learning what I should be trying to do and what my options are, "Don't overthink it" is terrible advice. "Play on instinct" only makes sense when your instinct isn't to throw yourself at a brick wall.
He later mentioned the time I took on turn two and suggested I play with a clock to see how long I'm taking. That seems like good advice for an intermediate player, but not so much for one just starting out. When you're learning to play a musical instrument, the advice you often hear is to first practice slowly and correctly, then work on speeding it up. In fitness, they say something similar about strength exercises: practice good form first, then work to add reps. Otherwise you learn bad habits. Obviously I don't want to be so slow that it spoils my opponent's enjoyment of the game, but that's why I'm playing small-point games. In chess, speed games are a thing, but they're recommended as a way to gain a lot of experience in a short time so you can re-examine those games later in more detail and learn their lessons. Steamroller Tournaments seem like they'd be good for this. Slow chess is for learning to build plans and think ahead; fast chess is for practicing and honing what you've already learned.
After the game I set up my models and a few proxy bases to where they were at the beginning of my turn two so I could think about what else I might've done. My opponent came back, said "still overthinking it?", and told me I played fine. Maybe he was trying to be funny and was genuinely trying to be helpful. But really I just needed to see the other options.