The Hunters match up [kicking]
Hello Brewers Community,
In this thread, I would like to ask for your advice against Hunters and invite you to discuss the match up. There a lot of high-level players on this forum, so I am sure I can learn a lot. There might be errors in reasoning and misjudgments in the text below, but this is why I am here. I will correct these depending on your answers.
I regularly play against Bavarian Empire, currently ranked third best Hunters player in the world. Whenever I have to kick, he destroys me and leaves me clueless to what I could have done differently to avoid the loss. This is because he is an excellent player, but also because I lack the understanding of the match up. To make this clear: This is only when I have to kick. When receiving, I feel confident Brewers can do well due to having extended threat ranges and momentum to use heroics, heal and remove conditions. So this thread only focuses on the situation when receiving.
2. Hunters lineup and game plan
This is a typical lineup I see against my Brewers:
His game plan is straightforward: Use the ranged plays to do chip damage that adds up over time, generate momentum through passing the ball and Sun Strike. Always stay out of range to prevent a scrum, never score a goal unless it's for the final four victory points needed to win (why? Because that would give the ball to the Brewers who can then generate the momentum they so desperately need). He has an enormous amount of tools to generate and keep distance: Reducing the opponents' movement/movement options with Snared and Nature's Growth, Boom Box, Back to the Shadows, Swift Strikes.
He only goes in with Jaecar if he can dodge him back out to safety, preferably into cover (by scoring a double dodge with the last hit and using Back to the Shadows in conjunction) or if he can be sure to win initiative next turn.
Basically, the Hunters never give the opponent an option to do anything, most importantly they try to take away any chance for the Brewers to generate momentum. They run this attrition game as long as they can. When the lines finally meet, the Brewers usually have taken too much damage to win the fights.
You might wonder why Veteran Hearne is in this lineup. He uses him as a „bridgehead“ into one flank of the Brewers team. This way, he can tie up models. Veteran Hearne is very good for this purpose because he is fast (rough ground=fast ground), durable and his counterattacks are dangerous (push, knockdown, double push). Also, Last Light lets Chaska really shine with his Boom Box. Veteran Hearne is optional. The team also works with Minx or Hearne instead.
3. Brewers lineup and game plan
3.1 The beater approach with Tapper
The idea behind this approach is that Hunters will have a hard time against models with tough hide and that, once in melee, Brewers will win out in the scrum.
The „default“ three players that usually come with Tapper (Scum, Spigot, Friday) also need to be in this lineup. Hooper and Hemlocke are the last two choices. Hooper is in there because True Grit will remove any conditions and because he has tough hide as well as a two inch melee zone (a lot of Hunters only have one inch melee). Hemlocke brings mass condition removal for influence and the option of an occasional Blind.
When selecting sides, look for an option to kick into an obstacle that is close to mid field. Tapper is kicking. The closer the ball lands to Tapper, the better, because the model that has to retrieve the ball might end up in Tapper's threat range - or at least be forced to Give'n'Go in order to stay out of Tappers's threat range.
When having to kick, the first turn is tricky: One, ideally two points of momentum are required to extend your threat range to a level that allows you to reach the Hunters. One point is necessary to to use Time's Called, the second one to clear conditions on Tapper or to enable him to glide through a Theron forest.
The only way to get these two points of momentum is the Pat Cat move. Scum has one job: To generate two points of momentum.
Possible influence allocation for the first turn and order of activation:
Hooper: 1 influence – sprints forward (might not use the entire 7 inches to avoid getting into some of the Hunters' threat ranges, depends).
Friday: 2 influence – moves forward, uses Get Over Here! [Scum], uses Dirty Knives for the damage debuff, which will enable Scum to score more hits.
Scum: 3 influence – goes into melee and attacks. The way you do it does not matter, the only goal is to generate two points of momentum - if you manage to get more out of it, that's great, but two momentum is what you are looking for. The push result is more valuable than the momentous 2 damage if this puts the player you are hitting into threat range of Tapper.
Spigot: 0 influence: Uses Time's Called and moves up slightly, ideally within four inches of Friday if that means that he still is out of threat range of the Hunters models that yet have to activate. He absolutely has to stay within four inches of Tapper, naturally.
Tapper: 5 influence: Moves to engage the one exposed Hunter model that he can reach. Might have to charge for that. Ideally that model would be Chaska or Hearne as these two are easier to hit. The playbook result selection depends a lot on the situation. If you manage to score four hits early, Commanding Aura is an option (my personal rule of thumb: If you have three or more influence left afer the attack), but this depends heavily on the situation. The same is true when you score three hits on a knocked down model. Sometimes, two damage is better, most of the time, the momentous push will be better. Five hits should also not always mean three momentous damage, sometimes the momentous double push is the better option.
Hemlocke: 2 influence: Uses Smelling Salts. Stays in the back.
There are a lot of variations possible. Dirty Knives is not mandatory. Hemlocke might activate before Tapper does so that Tapper is the last activation. If you only manage to get one momentum out of the Pat Cat, it might be necessary to use Smelling Salts on Tapper before he activates to negate the speed debuff from being snared.
What is the goal of this turn one?
To be able to get into melee in turn two in order to generate further momentum. Debatable: Even if I had the option to take out the model that Tapper engages, I would never do that in turn one. Instead, I would leave it in the game to be able to generate momentum from it easily in turn two.
Things to avoid: Getting Tapper too far out, away from the rest of his team.
Up for discussion: Would it be feasible to stay back turn one and move everyone slightly forward, then do what you initially planned to do during turn one on the second turn? Depends on the Hunters moves, I guess. Could be a good option though, because everyone would be closer. Also might give you an edge on clock.
3.2 Esters with... no idea
[To be filled in – Edek said that he preferred Esters into Hunters, I'd be keen on his input]
3.3 Footballing Brewers with Esters
A kicking team with Esters, Quaff, Friday, Veteran Spigot, Mash and Pintpot looks promising. But some key players of this lineup will not be in the tournament ten, so it's not an option.
3.4 The „Anti-Hunters“ team with Esters
Recently, I tried Esters, Scum, Friday, Spigot, Stoker and Hemlocke. This selection basically is everything that has counters to the Hunters on their card.
It was a failure because that team lacks punching power and in a one versus one, most of the Hunters models outclass these Brewers. To be fair, I also misplayed some.
As kegslayer13 said: Trying to play the Hunters' game versus the Hunters isn't a good idea.
3.5 Some mixed thoughts
Hemlocke has proven valuable because she can remove conditions without momentum (Smelling Salts). She also has Magical Brew.
Stoker seems like a good idea because of Magical Brew. I am not using him correctly though, rarely get much out of him.
Esters seems like the better captain choice because of her Soothing Voice heroic. Every column on her playbook has a momentous result and wraps are possible (two momentum per influence is huge). Gluttonous Mass helps against ranged character plays. Her songs can give out valuable speed buffs to extend threat ranges. Then again, I rarely get to use her heroic effectively and I feel that I really miss Tapper's Commanding Aura in order to enable the rest of the team.
Quaff and Veteran Spigot might be really helpful. Quaff's Second Wind could be really valuable, and Veteran Spigot is an excellent striker. But both are not part of most people's tournament ten and thus cannot be chosen. Adding them only for the Hunters match up feels weird, I am sure you have better suggestions.
Pintpot is one of the few Brewer models that is quite self-sufficient. His heroic, which can be activated with beer tokens, is a one-turn Gluttonous Mass. Taking five attacks from him (at the cost of only two influence) will hurt any Hunters model. It's a shame I did not have him in my last tournament ten.
Scum: The Pat Cat move does not work well agains the Hunters. I like it against other teams when kicking to gain momentum which then enables Time's Called. Scum's pushes also move one enemy model closer.
With Esters, it is also possible to send out a tooled-up Scum with another +1 damage from Empowered Voice that can reach very far. It usually does not pay off. The damage you did can be healed. The momentum gained rarely is decisive.
Maybe I am playing this incorrectly.
Hooper: I am torn about this one. True Grit is really nice, but it requires momentum. Also, he is quite slow.
4. Things to keep in mind about the Hunters
Always respect their threat ranges. The ball gives each of their players four additional inches, it is essential to keep that in mind. If you carelessly position a model within 14'' of a stacked Jaecar, in the first turn, you will take a huge hit that could easily have been avoided.
If Theron ever gets start his activation within 8'' of an enemy model, he can use Pinned on this model, then use his regular movement to get away. This can destroy the activation of the pinned model and any influence on it might be wasted. Try to avoid this as much as you can.
If you position a model too close to the board edge, Chaska can Boom Box twice to push you out.
Jaecar is a glass cannon with 1'' melee. There are Brewers models which he cannot engage as long as you can counter attack. Stoker will reliably hit his double push counter attack, then Jaecar's remaining influence is wasted. This requires a point of momentum, though. Other examples are Spigot (it's a 50/50, with two momentum and bonus time, it becomes somewhat reliable) and Mash, given that his Unpredictable Movement has been used.
Wide vs tight formation: Egret's Flurry punishes models that are placed too tightly. But on the other hand, tight placement gets the most value out of Soothing Voice and Smelling Salts. Not really sure which is better. In my most recent games, I went wide and it really did not pay off.
The Hunters player will need time for his movements and sometimes will spend time to think about the situation. Hunters are not an easy team to pilot. Thus, if you are fast, you may be able to build up a clock advantage. This is extremely important because the Hunters' attrition game takes a lot of time until it reaches 12 victory points. Maybe winning on time actually is the best approach to this match up - I do not have enough experience with this, though.
Chaska and Hearne are good targets because they have worse defensive stats than the the other Hunters.
5. Brewers moves versus the Hunters that work
Ball retrieval with Friday: Friday is kicking. She stays within four inches of Spigot so that she gets to DEF 5+. Friday is allocated four influence. Later, Esters buffs her up to DEF 6+. Being positioned forward will usually make her the prime candidate for any Hunters ranged character plays. DEF 6+ will make the Hunters player think twice, though. Ideally she survives all Hunters activations without being hit by a character play. She will be the Brewers' last activation. If the ball-bearing Hunters player is in range, she can directly go for him, tackle the ball, then kick it back to the Brewers. If that is not possible, she should try to generate as much momentum as possible (momentous push on two) to enable you to go first next turn. This back-to-back Friday activation will almost always get her in range to get the ball (just Shadow Like out of melee).
There are variations to this, Second Wind and Bag of Quaffers on Friday make it much better, for example. Also, this is costly, Friday will get taken out. If this enables you to get the ball back, I feel, it is worth it, though. The Brewers game will get much better once you have the ball because you will be able to generate momentum and increase your threat range.
6. Video content?
Are there VODs of this match up? Van Valzah versus Gray? Or even VODs of high-level Esters players? I have not found anything and this makes it hard to understand the match up/come up with a plan.
If you have made it this far: Thank you for bearing with me! I am really looking forward to reading your replies and will update and/or correct this first post according to your feedback. Maybe this thread can become a resource to other players as well.