lauantai 29. heinäkuuta 2017

Heroes For Beardlings


This third part of the tutorial has been coming for over a month now, but I finally managed it. As opposed to the two previous parts of this series, one of which explained the basics of the game while the other took a closer look at units, this tutorial will not be a blow-by-blow record of every single dice roll in the game. To keep it nice and short, this tutorial will focus on what is says on the title: Heroes and the hero phase. Every army needs a General to lead it, and heroes are excellent candidates for such a grand title as they bring extraordinary skills and tricks onto the battlefield!

In this battle forces led by an aelf Archmage face the warband of a Lord of Chaos, so a brief introduction for these heroes and their warscrolls is in place.

 This is an Archmage, a hero armed with his Seerstaff and not much else. His Saves are low, his Wounds are average and his weapon is pathetic. But he is a wizard, meaning that he can cast powerful spells and attempt to counter enemy spells to affect the flow of battle! Every wizard's Warscroll has a Magic-section that tells you how many spells the model may attempt during his own turn, and how many enemy spells the model may try to unbind in the enemy turn. It also lists all the spells available to the model.

Every wizard in the game knows at least two spells: the Arcane Bolt and the Mystic Shield, profiles of which you can find in the Age of Sigmar core rules. Many wizards also know additional spells that are usually written on their Warscroll for easy reference, such as the Elemental Shield in case of the Archmage.

This sinister character here is a Lord of Chaos. A complete opposite of the wizard, this hero is an absolute beast in combat. His plentiful Wounds and good Save keep him alive on the front lines while he carves a bloody path through the enemy ranks with his Daemon-possessed Reaperblade and Chaos Sword. Once per battle he may also perform a special attack that reduces his Attacks but inflicts tremendous Damage!

As you can see, he also has a special section on his Warscroll called Command Ability. Command Abilities are powerful special rules and effects that the army's General may use in the hero phase, and most heroes have one on their Warscroll. Whoever your General might be and whether they have abilities on their profile or not, the General knows the Inspiring Presence Command Ability in addition to any other ones he might have. As well as the common spells, this ability can be found in the Age of Sigmar core rules.

Now that the heroes have been given a basic introduction, let us personalize them a bit! The General's Handbook lists all kinds of different Command Traits and Artefacts for each of the four Grand Alliances, allowing you to customize your General in terms of magical items and different styles of leadership. You may pick one Trait and one Artefact from your Grand Alliance's lists as you like or to generate them randomly.

The Archmage cannot hold his own in personal combat so it would make sense for him to be a Strategic Genious, leading his forces from the back while being protected by a magical Phoenix Stone to keep him healthy.

In addition he has access to the Order Grand Alliance Battle Trait, which is an additional passive bonus allowing order units within 12" of him to re-roll Battleshock tests.

The Lord of Chaos is nothing short of a maniac butcher, causing fear in any enemies who have to fight within his Terrifying Presence. The chaos gods embrace such emotionless murderers as their greatest champions, bestowing upon them a Favour of the Gods such as a mutation that makes them more durable in battle.

The Chaos Grand Alliance Battle Trait allows a dice to be rolled for each chaos unit within 8" of the hero in the hero phase, conferring a +1 To Hit bonus on a roll of a 6.

That's already a lot of information to absorb, and we're not even in the battle itself yet. Luckily once again we have a narrative to walk us through the battle and make the rest of the trek more enjoyable. Let's get to it!


The first turn of the 1st Battle round goes to the Aelves.
Aydan Windcaller could sense it in the air. Foulness, the source of which could not be mistaken. Followers of the Dark Gods were on the move. He uttered a single word of power, summoning a gust of magical wind to gently sweep him up to the nearby altar to take a look at his retinue. Citizen militia sat cross-legged in small clusters around the site, breaking bread and supping from waterskins. His elite bodyguard, the Swordmasters, had dutifully spread out around the altar and showed no signs of any need for respite.

He had come to this place to meditate, to momentarily become one with the invisible magical torrents that flowed through this place and to find a peace of mind. The torrents weren't invisible to him. He traced one faintly multi-coloured stream above his head, all the way to the distant mountains where it disappeared into the horizon. Every aelf had the innate ability of mage-sight, but as an Archmage his was more honed than most.

"Enemy approaches, Ifulvin. Prepare the levies," Aydan spoke out softly to the leader of the Swordmasters, who thumped his fist to his breast in acknowledgement before walking off to rouse the sitting aelves.
"This will be a bloody day, I'm afraid..." the Archmage muttered to himself as he let his gaze sweep across the landscape, trying to determine the direction from which the foe would come.

The Aelves begin their turn with the hero phase. The Archmage does not have a unique Command Ability listed on his Warscroll, but he still knows the one that is common to all Generals. He therefore uses his once-per-game Strategic Genious Trait to give both of his units the Inspiring Presence Command Ability until his next hero phase (marked by yellow dice next to the units).
Next the Archmage casts the Elemental Shield spell by rolling two dice and comparing the result to the spell's casting value. The total must equal or exceed the given value (in this case 6), so a roll of 7 indicates the spell was succesful. A blue dice is placed next to the Archmage to remind that the spell is in effect.
The Swordmasters move towards the Chaos Warriors, while the Spireguard hang back to protect the wizard. All Aelf units are still within 18" of the Archmage and can benefit from the protection of the Elemental Shield.
The marauding horde burst forth from the treeline, but the aelves were ready. Having placed his levy militia right next to his elites, Aydan knew the bravery of the soldiers was greatly fortified. They would not run.
"Keep your heads calm and hands steady, this warband may be savage but no match for an Archmage," he reassured his troops who seemed to draw courage from their leader's tranquility.

Mumbling a fluent stream of ancient aelvish, Aydan Windcaller conjured a great shimmering dome of elemental energy to surround himself and his retinue. They were ready to face the foe.

The Spireguard use their bows in the shooting phase to great effect, felling three Marauders.
The Swordmasters charge into the Chaos Warriors, going first in the combat phase as it is their turn. They manage to slay four Warriors (each with 2 Wounds) but take an equal punishment in return, suffering 7 Wounds (one of which was deflected by the Elemental Shield). The Warriors fail their battleshock test and two more run away.
The Spireguard drew their bows and took aim with drilled precision, obeying their watchmaster's barked orders without a second thought. Soon the air was filled with whistling shafts that struck the oncoming Marauders, many of which stopped dead on their tracks with arrows protruding from their bare chests.

The Swordmasters brandished their eloquent greatblades and surged into motion, closing the gap between them and the foe with a couple of nimble leaps. They spun into the fray like dancers, their swords licking out to open throats, impale helmets and sever limbs. Some of the northmen had seen enough and snuk away while their remaining comrades laid about them with weapon in each hand, their berserk fury accounting for many aelf deaths. Scale armours were rent by axes, helmets got caved in by hammers and jagged swords drew aelven blood, yet the Swordmasters' faith in their leader was such that none turned their backs to their duty.

Chaos begins its first turn and hero phase. The Lord of Chaos rolls one dice for each friendly unit within 8" of him, but no 6s are rolled (Chaos Grand Alliance Battle Trait). He then uses his Command Ability Aided by the Gods, allowing himself and friendly units within 10" of him to re-roll failed Save rolls of 1 (marked by the purple dice).
Both the Lord of Chaos and the Marauders move forward, the Chaos Warriors remain in close combat with the Swordmasters.
Titaharr the Executioner lifted a bundle of chain-bound skulls towards the skies, drawing roared cheers from his warband. The warlord leveled his gaze to the Archmage through the eyeslits of his hell-forged mask.
"Your head will be the next to join my collection," he threatened in an echoing voice, which changed into a hideous laughter as he saw the aelven spellcaster swallow nervously.
"Ha, coward! The gods are with us this day, and they need some entertainment! Kill the aelves, kill them all!"

His Marauders sprinted across the grassy plain towards the Spireguard, roaring in excitement. The Warriors were still exchanging blows with the Swordmasters, and even though the outcome of that fight seemed uncertain Titaharr dropped down from the rock and started after his Marauders. Today his  axe would feast on noble flesh...

The Chaos Warriors manage to get the upper hand as the Swordmasters fail to inflict a single wound, and three aelves are killed in return. Even the Elemental Shield didn't give enough protection against the amount of attacks!
The Marauders charge to challenge the Spireguard along with the Lord of Chaos, but of all three combatants only the Chaos hero caused any damage. The Aelves suffered no desertion due to Inspiring Presence.
The boasting of the warlord seemed to have distracted the nearby Swordmasters who got cut down in short order by the armoured northmen, leaving only Blademaster Ifulvin to keep the four towering brutes at bay.

The Marauders crashed into the Spireguard shieldwall head-on, avoiding the thrusting spears but failing to reach their axes and maces past the long shields of the aelven soldiery. Titaharr had no such trouble. He rammed his armoured shoulder into the gap between two shields, taking both of the aelves down on their backs. A wide swing of his axe beheaded the next spearman in line, and before the two aelves on the ground got back up the Executioner visited ruin upon them both with his chained skulls and plated boots.
"Weaklings..." he mused as he stepped over the corpses in search of more carnage.

Aelf turn two. The Archmage casts Arcane Bolt (casting value 5) and inflicts one mortal wound on the Lord of Chaos. He also gives Inspiring Presence to the Spireguard as the numbers of the Swordmasters are too depleted for it to be of any use there.
Aydan watched in horror as the armoured giant of a man jumped down from the rock and struck his militia shieldwall like a comet of doom. As the warlord was dispatching the spearmen one by one, Windcaller tapped into the rapidly flowing energies of this holy site and sent forth a bolt of white flame from his outstretched hand. The magical missile struck the wildly swinging Lord of Chaos to the flank, momentarily staggering the man but doing no apparent damage beside some battered armour.

Surely this creature was protected by great powers, thought Aydan, for resisting the cleansing flames of Asuryan was a clear sign that darker deities had some interest in this butcher.

In the Aelven combat phase the Spireguard were chosen to strike out first, inflicting 2 wounds on the Marauders. Next to swing were the Chaos Warriors, and as they slew the only remaining Swordmaster left (who would have attacked next), the Lord of Chaos was activated right after them. By using his once-per-game Ability Reaperblade the Chaos hero skipped his axe's 3 Attacks to perform only one, which upon hitting and wounding would inflict 2D6 Damage. The Lord of Chaos hit and wounded, the Spireguard failed their Save and a whopping 11 was rolled for Damage, evaporating the Aelven unit immediately!
The Chaos Warriors were activated in combat after the Spireguard but before the Lord of Chaos. They managed to slay the lonely Swordmaster, thus ridding the Aelves of their only other combat activation besides the already activated Spireguard.
The Chaos Warriors surrounded Blademaster Ifulvin and rained down blows from all sides, a downpour of violence that was too much even for such a skilled individual to parry or deflect. A mace to the chest and an axe to the back delivered the brave aelven bodyguard to meet his makers, his battered form falling to the ground to lie among  his fallen brethren.

The Spireguard had reformed their ranks after the impact of the Chaos Lord, their silverwood spears transfixing careless barbarians as they tried to push through the aelven shieldwall. The Executioner was not done yet, however, and as he strode over the carcasses of those he'd already slain he called out to the malevolent entity residing inside the blade of his cursed axe.
"Heed my call, daemon M'enash! Bring forth the destruction of those who oppose me and feast on their pitiful souls!"

The upraised axe begun to resonate and a single menacing eye opened in the fleshy growth on the flat of the blade.
"Yessss..." a faint voice hissed, seemingly coming from nowhere. 
"Yeeeessssss....." the voice grew in power until Titaharr swung his weapon once more, slicing a Spireguard in half. An orange screaming orb shot out from the Executioner's reaperblade and bounced from aelf to aelf, each time sinking into their chests before blasting out of their backs in bright flashes of sparks. In a matter of heartbeats the screaming ceased as the orb returned into the blade of the axe, the entire line of pale-skinned Spireguard tumbling into a lifeless heap at the feet of the northmen almost at the same instant.

Chaos turn 2. With no enemy units on the field except for their General, the Lord of Chaos uses his Aided by the Gods Command Ability again to allow himself and his followers re-roll failed Save rolls of 1. Each unit walks towards the lonely Archmage.
The Lord of Chaos charges the Archmage, and activates first in the combat phase as it is the Chaos turn. He misses all his attacks, however, but so does the Archmage and no damage is caused by either side.
Kicking dead aelves from his path, Titaharr walked to the bottom of the altar's steps. His followers were approaching right on his heels, equally afraid of the Archmage's power and the punishments the Executioner would mete out if someone stole his kill.
"How kind of you to wait so patiently for your turn, your pathetic underlings were overly eager to fall to my blade," Titaharr taunted, swinging his axe casually back and forth across his chest while his eyes followed the thin blood dripping from it.
"Now hand me over that head of your's and we're done here."

"Come and get it," Aydan replied, holding his seerstaff in both hands.
The Lord of Chaos charged up the steps, roaring, his axe missing the mage by mere inches as the aelf sidestepped and brought down his staff on the Executioner's head. There was a dull clang and Titaharr begun to laugh once more.
"Why do you even TRY?!" he bellowed as he lifted his axe up for another strike.

Aelf turn 3. The Archmage casts Arcane Bolt once more, succeeding in casting the spell but only inflicting 1 mortal wound on the Lord of Chaos, who still has 5 Wounds left.
In the combat phase the Archmage misses his single attack, but Lord of Chaos manages to inflict 2 Damage on the wizard.
As Titaharr turned to his adversary, his axe high above his head, another bolt of white flame struck his breastplate. Blinded by the flash of light and feeling his flesh begin to sear beneath the armour, the Chaos Lord took another bash to his head from the defiant mage's staff. He swung his axe downwards, raking the blade across Aydan's left shoulder and almost severing the limb. The cry of pain from the aelf was music to his ears.

Chaos turn 3. The Chaos Warriors and the Marauders charge into combat to surround the dueling heroes.
The Lord of Chaos activates first in the combat phase, delivering 4 unsaved wounds to the Archmage who only had 3 left. The Aelf forces have now all been slain to the last and victory goes to Chaos!
The warband could no longer hold their excitement as they charged to the altar, surrounding it from all sides and looking for a chance to land a blow. Titaharr would have none of that, this kill was his, and his alone.

With the mage still staggered from the grievous wound, the Executioner brought his axe down on the hapless aelf with all his strength behind it. The blade sunk in right beside the neck and carved its path down to the chest, taking Aydan Windcaller to his knees before the towering champion of chaos. Titaharr raised a plated boot and kicked the Archmage down from the platform to free his axe, the aelf falling limply to the grass below.

A voice begun whispering inside the Executioner's head. A voice promising immortality.
"Bring me the spellcaster's head, we have a ritual of our own to perform now, and this is the perfect place to do it," he commanded, his underlings scurrying off to obey his will.

Their master would now ascend to daemonhood.


That was that!

The game itself was very short but it demonstrated the actions and use of heroes on the battlefield. Of course, in a game as small as this the heroes seem invincible, but bear in mind that larger games with larger units reduce the influence a single hero can have on the course of the battle.

Right at the end of the tutorial game the Lord of Chaos slew the enemy General, activating his Glory or Damnation Ability that would have transformed him into a Daemon Prince had the game not ended at the same moment. Thematic abilities like this one make heroes even more attractive and fun than they already are with their enhanced statlines and Command Abilities, giving the game a nice narrative feel that spices up the gameplay.

There's still one final part of this tutorial series planned thus far, Battles For Beardlings, which takes a look at Battleplans, deployment and very basic tactics, as well as draws together everything we've learned in the previous tutorials.

Allegiance, Battle & Command Traits and Artefacts were already discussed to some measure in this tutorial and will be taken to account again in the next one. I might some day continue this four-part series with further additions that delve deeper into that specific subject, or things like Battalions, advanced tactics, faction introductions or even hobby aspects like assembly or speed painting. Anything a complete beginner might need!

But before I get too much ahead of myself I should see that part 4 gets done in time, preferably without over a month's wait like with this one....
Luckily I have many things to show you in the meantime, from new terrain to heaps of painted models.
Until then!

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