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Hex and the City: The Herbaceous Checkerboard

Decision: Should you play the New Board "The Herbaceous Checkerboard"?

 TL;DR

The warbands likely to get the most use out of this board are ones that have a small number of models and easy-to-score passive/defensive objectives; ie. the Sigmarite warbands.  Small aggro warbands like Orcs and Magore's may also benefit from using this board.  Other warbands likely have better options.

Prelude

Today, we'll be taking a look at one of the two new boards being released for Shadespire - The Herbaceous Checkerboard (the other board - the one with the blue - is called The Lachrymose Tetrahedron).  For the purposes of referring to the board, we'll be using the above orientation as the default, and referring to specific edges and directions using a NESW system based on this orientation.

Factor: Edge Hexes


Right out of the box, we get to look at what is probably the most attractive feature of this board.  While having 4 starting-edge hexes is not particularly impressive, the Herbaceous Checkerboard is the first board to have 3 of those starting-edge hexes lined up along a single edge.  A lot of folks in the community have been expressing excitement about this board's potential to start 3 models next to your opponent's board by lining up in the short/rectangular setup with the northern edge connecting your board to your opponent's board.  While this may prove to be a viable tactic for small, aggressive warbands, perhaps more exciting is the ability to place 3 defensive fighters along the back edge of a diagonal/maximum-offset board.

For example, if you were playing Steelheart's Shining Shieldboys with this board, you have the potential to line up all your models along the back edge and be well situated for scoring several placement objectives (Skirting Danger, Alone in the Darkness, Perfect Planning, etc) without any real effort at all.

Factor: Blocked Hexes



The Herbaceous Checkerboard doesn't really have a lot to offer in terms of blocked hexes.  The Shyishian Stardial, Shattered Tower, Animus Forge, Penitent's Throne, and Soul Refractor all offer more blocked hexes for someone looking for the disruption they provide.

There is one small advantage to be gained from the blocked hex on this board.  If the boards are placed in a diagonal/max offset setup, with The Herbaceous Checkerboard's southeast corner providing the link to the other board, the blocked hex may provide some cover and disruption against enemy models trying to access your board.  As any Skaven player can tell you, the Stardial is the ultimate board for utilizing this tactic, but a smart defensive player may prefer the Checkerboard if they are piloting a small enough army.

Factor: Lethal Hexes


Near the southwestern corner of the Herbaceous Checkerboard lies a cluster of three lethal hexes.  While we've seen boards with 3 lethal hexes before (The Arcane Nexus and The Ruptured Seal), neither of the already available boards had all three lethal hexes bunched up in one place.

Not unlike the blocked hex on the Checkerboard, the lethal hexes can be used to impede the enemy's attempts to reach your board.  In either the diagonal/maximum offset (southwest corner linked) setup or the long/hallway setup, the 3 lethal hexes can provide a significant obstacle to models trying to cross onto your board.

For warbands who want to be able to damage their own models should they need to, the Herbaceous Checkboard may also provide some utility.  Running an Orc or Mollog over the lethal hex may provide a necessary boost to your attack, while using the hexes to seppuku a straggler in an aggressive deck can allow you to score Conquest in situations where you wouldn't be able to normally.  For this (admittedly, edge-case) purpose, the Checkerboard is ideal, as no other board will allow you to do damage to a model equal to it's own move characteristic through the use of lethal hexes.


Finally, the cluster of lethal hexes can be used with knockback to increase the damage of your strikes.  In the above image, any model in a "dwarf" hex can be knocked through two lethal hexes with Knockback 1.  In some board setups, you can also knock models in the "orc" hexes through the lethal hex cluster for an additional 2 damage with Knockback 1.  Since Knockback is often viewed as an underpowered ability, we are glad to see anything that gives us more reason to use it.

Factor: Objectives

We've already covered a few objectives (Skirting Danger, Alone in the Darkness) that are easy to score when using the Herbaceous Checkerboard, but there are a couple more worth mentioning.  Prior to the most recent SBAR list, this would have been an excellent board for Extreme Flank - but we don't need to worry about that anymore. The board's excellent potential for defensive armies can be particularly exploited by the Shieldboys, as objectives like Consecrated Area and Sigmar's Bulwark are almost guaranteed to be scoreable in the first round against many warbands. The cluster of lethal hexes can also be used to facilitate scoring Nowhere to Go with as few as 4 models.  Finally, if you insist on playing Master of Terrain for some reason, this is probably the board to play it on.

Factor: Placing First


The Herbaceous Checkerboard offers a number of advantages to armies pursuing certain specific strategies - most notably the Defensive/Control archetype.  However, we would like to include a disclaimer here : because of the way that the starting hexes and lethal hexes are distributed very unequally across this board, we believe it to be a very bad board to place first.  If you lose the rolloff for board placement, we strongly recommend against choosing this board.  You'll be much better off with a more balanced board like the Mirror Well or Soul Refractor.  If you do choose The Herbaceous Checkerboard after losing the placement roll, you're very likely to end up with the board flipped so that what were your best options for starting hexes (regardless of your plan) are very likely now your worst ones - the board is just too lopsided to pick every time.

Summary:

Of the two new boards, The Herbaceous Checkerboard will probably see more play than the Lachrymose Tetrahedron.  First, it may offer solid options to small aggro armies.  However, where it will truly shine is in Defensive/Control and Midrange decks looking to avoid conflict for the first round of play.  In particular, the Sigmarite Warbands should look into how this board can facilitate their strategies.  Just make sure to have a backup in mind if you lose the placement roll.

Also: no, it isn't really called The Herbaceous Checkerboard.  We don't know what GW really calls it, and I tried to follow their Adjective-Noun naming scheme as ridiculously as possible. 

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