Last week saw me attending another Batman Miniatures Game event run by Animosity at the Holmfirth Gaming Centre. These are always themed events with teams rather than straight tournaments, but it creates a much more inclusive atmosphere as you work with people you don't know towards a goal.
For this tournament I deliberately decided to take something that has been a little bit controversial in BMG circles recently, namely the tournament exclusive card for Borj (one of Poison Ivy's plants) beefed up with the new Ancient Plant upgrade in therecently released Arkham Knight Campaign Book. The fuss revolves around the fact that with the right set of upgrades Borj can pop up on the first turn in the enemy deployment zone, beat up one or more enemy models and poison them, mind control another two to attack their friends, and use its roots to slow down the whole crew's advance.
I wanted to find out if it was as bad as the doomsayers claimed, and, as Poison Ivy is probably my favourite Batman villain, I decided to give it a test drive.
Poison Ivy (Comics) - Modified Pheromones
Deadshot (Arkham City)
Borj - Ancient Plant, Titanic Mutation, Large Roots, Corrosive Blood
Prisoner 1 (Tube)
Prisoner 4 (Bodyguard) - Corrosive Blood
Pavillion A Subject - Mutation Serum
Given that the Ancient Plant upgrade makes Borj large, I decided to use one of my homemade plants instead of the official model as it looked more impressive. One of the cool things about the Animosity events is that they apply the 'rule of cool' to conversions and suitable proxies.
My plan in games was simple. I would use the Early Bird strategy to get the first turn with Borj and use him to smash a hole in the enemy line, turn them on each other and slow them down. Calendar Man and the henchmen would work their way towards objectives to pick up points, and Ivy (protected by her bodyguard) and Deadshot would work clean up on enemies who got free of Borj and defend the opponent's objectives.
Let's see how it went...
Game 1: Patrol vs Jimmy's Bane Crew
Jimmy's crew was as follows:
Bane (Dark Knight Rises)
Deadshot (Suicide Squad)
Dallas - Extra Ammo, Night Vision Goggles
Cuchillo (referred to during the game 'Chewbacca' and 'Chinchilla')
Prisoner 3 (Axe)
Prisoner 4 (Bodyguard)
Although the footslogging Bane crew and the Patrol scenario really suited my strategy as I could pretty much guarantee that Jimmy wouldn't get to my deployment zone, I was very aware that I was significantly outgunned and outmatched in close combat. This meant that the central zone was likely to end up almost certain death for my crew. I resolved to send runners around the long way, hoping to sneak on to my objectives after Borj had done his work.
The game began with Borj popping up close enough to get pretty much all of Jimmy's crew in his roots radius to slow them down. I used him to attack Deadshot and put significant damage on him. However, Deadshot helps nearby characters with Willpower tests and this meant I was only able to mind control Smash, who promptly failed to do any damage to a nearby prisoner.
With Borj not having had the impact I was hoping for, rather than trying to escape his grasp, Bane and his veterans went on the offensive and mobbed the giant plant. Although they didn't bring him down, it was clear he wasn't going to last long. Meanwhile the rest of my crew began to sneak up the board.
The following turn, Borj continued to be underwhelming, as I split his attacks between two opponents and only damaged one of them (although the poison would later prove to be a death sentence for the bodyguard). He then mind controlled Dallas, who promptly missed Deadshot. An with that, Bane splattered Borj and I had to accept the consolation of Borj's corrosive blood damaging half the crew.
The game now had me back on the defensive. Ivy and the prisoners thought better of charging towards Dallas and Deadshot and moved back to back up Calendar Man, who had been grabbing Riddles and now had the entire enemy crew free to run at him. Meanwhile Deadshot slunk about popping off shots at enemy henchmen, and succeeded in bringing down Cuchillo.
Bane used inspire to get his crew moving quickly, and I foolishly left Calendar Man too exposed and got him killed. The end of the game saw Ivy risk the full might of Bane to mind control both Smash and McGregor and remove any chance of them reaching their objectives. She managed to avoid his attacks and danced away to safety.
The final score was 7-5 in my favour, but this was still a draw, which was appropriate for such a cagey game. However, I had learned a few things about who Borj should target to get the most out of him.
Game 2: Dirty Money vs David's Joker Crew
David's crew was as follows:
Joker (Arkham City)
Prisoner 1 (Tube)
This scenario was part of the campaign and each turn we controlled one of the central objectives, we would not only gain 2vp, we also contributed to earning bonuses for our team in the final climactic round. I'd also worked out that Borj would be better off going after the three henchmen rather than Joker (with his rerolls), Mr Freeze (with his armour) or Croc (who could destroy Borj with a push).
We were on the Joker's Fun House board and this didn't have much cover in the centre where the scenario objectives were, and so I was happy that David only had a similar amount of shooting to me, and Deadshot was able to operate fairly freely.
Borj popped up, clobbered Triston into unconsciousness and mind controlled Punker and the Prisoner into inactivity. Over the following turns, the plant prevented David's henchmen from really getting forward, killed both Punker and Triston (Deadshot later capped the Prisoner) and kept one side of the board free for the Bodyguard to grab loot and the scenario objective, and the lunatic to run across the board to grab my ammo objective.
The other side of the board was more challenging. There was not much I could do to prevent Mr Freeze reaching his primary target loot, and all I could do was use Calendar Man's disarray (a trait he only has in May) to prevent Mr Freeze reaching another objective without dropping his loot.
Between them, Ivy, Calendar Man and the Tube Prisoner battled over the central objective with Joker and Killer Croc. Ivy fluffed a set of defence rolls and was torn apart by Croc in one round. Joker was successfully bullying Calendar Man and the Prisoner, and so I used the regrowth strategy to move Borj over to help them. This was risky because if Croc could pull off a charge at Borj, he would destroy him without having to attack.
However, Deadshot was able to inflict significant damage on the giant reptile and drove it into cover on an objective. This left Joker alone, and so not only did Calendar Man survive, but the Clown Prince of Crime was ultimately beaten to death by the giant plant.
Despite the ferocity of the battle, being able to totally control one side of the board meant that I came out with a 42-29 victory. Ancient Borj suddenly felt a bit dirty...
Game 3: Race For Glory vs Scott's Justice League Dark Crew
Scott is the guy behind Animosity, and despite going to numerous events, this was the first time we'd played. He had a themed Batman crew based on the Justice League Dark:
Batman (Modern Age)
GCPD Detective (Zatanna)
GCPD Detective (Played by Liam Neeson)
This scenario saw all of our objectives being placed one one side of the board, and our crews starting in the corners on the other one. We would then race to our objectives. This, combined with the fact that not only did Scott have three Detectives who could essentially start on top of the objectives, he also had a large model who could kill Borj instantly, I changed my usual plan and deployed Borj amongst Scott's objectives, contesting all of them. The only one he would be able to score off without killing Borj would be the infamous Bat-signal.
Borj popped up and immediately began beating up and mind controlling the three Detectives that Scott had grouped together. He essentially took them almost completely out of the game. His attacks were surprisingly ineffective, but poison claimed two of them and they were pretty much unable to do anything. Scott wasn't helped at all by the fact that I kept getting first turn.
This essentially left Batman and Swamp Thing (and a single cop) to try to stop my whole crew from running across to score at will from my objectives.
They almost managed it.
Deadshot, who thought he was popping off a shot at Swamp Thing as they went past, was surprised to find both of them double back and beat the snot out of him. He managed to last a round longer than I thought he would, but was ultimately taken out.
Next they headed off after the easy picking of the prisoners who scattered. Swamp Thing chased down and beat down the lunatic who had grabbed some loot, and almost got his claws into Calendar Man on the last turn.
Batman chased Ivy into a corner (who had sneakily mind controlled the cop into arresting an unconscious detective), and again she was completely unable to defend herself and Batman took her down in a single round. The cop made up for his earlier error and arrested her.
Despite these heroic efforts, the steady flow of victory points from the Bat-signal, loot and late the ammo that the Tube Prisoner had used sewers to get to saw the final score being 29-17 to me.
Borj had been ridiculously effective, but ultimately quite dull. I have to commend Scott on his good humour as Borj robbed him of half his crew. What was becoming apparent, however, was that Ivy was turning out to be a bit of a weak link, Calendar Man was tough but not especially dangerous, and Deadshot was not the force he once was. Basically, my crew was really dependent on Borj.
Game 4: Fight For Gotham vs Reuben's Batman Crew
I've played Reuben three times before at these events and they are always tight affairs. He usually brings a Law/Batman crew and he knows what he's doing with them.
Commissioner Gordon - Heliport
Nightwing (Arkham City)
Catwoman (Arkham City)
Again I was out-gunned, but I'd worked out that I needed to use Borj to neutralise Reuben's ability to dominate the ranged battle given that the board we were on had long sight lines. I positioned him where he could influence all three of the SWAT cops, however, I knew that there wasn't much I could do to stop Catwoman getting her primary target loot, and if Nightwing got stuck in, I could be in trouble.
Again, Borj popped up and began by clobbering Gordon into unconsciousness. Gordon's Heliport upgrade allows him to shoot anybody on the board and I wanted to neutralise this if possible. He mind controlled Delta and Alpha closer into his roots zone whilst Calendar Man moved on to loot. Deadshot took the opportunity to sneak round the corner and injure the Detective (a job he finished off the following turn).
Reuben wisely aimed to get his SWAT out of range of Borj as quickly as possible, starting with Bravo (who later knocked out Calendar Man), but over subsequent turns Delta also managed to esacpe, but Alpha was ultimately killed. Catwoman and Nightwing met in the middle to eventually get the loot into her hands, and then in a potentially game winning move, Nightwing swung in to attack Ivy...
...and missed. At last her defence rolls worked.
She then used confusion to allow her minions to gang up and beat Nightwing into unconsciousness. The Tube Prisoner sneaked through the sewers to grab some points from my Ammo, before Catwomn ran over to knock him out.
The final score was 15-8 to me, although I was fully aware that things could have been different.
So it was time for the prizes, and with three wins and a draw I found myself in third place. Second was Jimmy, who I'd played in the first game and so we'd clearly had very similar days. As ever, the prizes at Animosity events are excellent and I won Arkham Origins Deathstroke (a model I've wanted for a while), some resin Secret Weapon bases (the kind I'm using for my TMNT project), a Shadowstorm tournament card, some League of Shadows tokens, a 20% off voucher for Multiverse Gaming Terrain, a snazzy bronze dice and a certificate saying I'm ace.
In the spirit of generosity, and because I wouldn't use them, I ended up giving the tokens back to use as prizes for future tournaments and I gave the voucher to the Bradford Gaming club (which many of the the attendees are part of) to help them buy terrain. I also gave the Shadowstorm card (which I already have) to Rob who makes all the excellent boards that I've enjoyed playing on at the Holmfirth Gaming Centre.
Here's me with my loot...
In terms of my experiment, I found that Borj is very powerful, especially against henchmen heavy crews which haven't encountered him before who don't (or can't) spread out. However, I don't think he's over-powered (any more so than other strong combinations) because without rerolls, he does miss a lot of attacks, there are ways to counter his effectiveness and he leaves the rest of the crew significantly weaker. If you can avoid him having a major impact on the first round, then fast and aggressive models can really get stuck into the rest of the crew.
My major issue about this combination is that it's not especially interesting for the player. I pretty much did the same thing every game, and I'm fairly sure having half your crew immobilised for much of the game wasn't much fun for the other player either. There is apparently a change coming via FAQ (soon...)which will either prevent Borj using Ancient Plant, or limit him to a single upgrade. This should force players to at least have to think a bit about how or whether to use him.
As ever, the event was a really fun day and I highly recommend that you attend any Animosity events that might pop up in the near future. 'Watch' out for one coming up in July...