keskiviikko 13. syyskuuta 2017

Battles For Beardlings


We're nearly in the middle of September and I have yet to post anything this month! My usual about-10-days-in-between-posts rule has been bent yet again as two weeks have passed since the last one. How to make up for all that lost time? Well, I might as well finish my For Beardlings tutorial series with the 4th and (thus far) the final part!

In my previous tutorials I've discussed the basics of the game, delved into Warscrolls and units and taken a better look at heroes and their capabilities on the field. What next? The bigger picture, so to speak.

Rather than going over all the stuff from the other parts again in a "summary" of some kind, I decided to take a different approach for this final tutorial. I recently played a 1000p Matched Play game at my local club that in my opinion has much more to teach us than any artificially set up tutorial battle I could ever make. So in this tutorial I'll walk you through this real pick-up battle and the tactics involved, from the army lists to Battle Traits and artefacts, all the while reflecting upon the choices made and the strategies used.

There will be no storylines or narration this time, only tactics and gameplay. Shouldn't matter, though, as most of all the other content here in my blog includes storytelling in one way or another!

To kick things off let's have a look at the army lists. The game was 1000p Matched Play, using Open War cards to set up the scenario.

My opponent's Dispossessed force was made up of the following:
- Warden King (Battle Fury, Teardrop of Grungni)
- Runelord
- Unforged
- 10 Warriors (handaxes & shields)
- 5 Slayers
- 10 Irondrakes
- 10 Hammerers
- Cannon (Ironweld Ally)
[Grudge: Shoddy Craftsmanship]

Quite an interesting list, a very efficient one! There are very few "loose parts" in this force and this is very much thanks to the new General's Handbook and the updates it brought. The Battleline requirements here are filled with Warriors and Hammerers which make for a very muscled core for the army, while still leaving plenty of points to be used elsewhere. The Warden King and Runelord are both solid (and almost obligatory) choices for the faction's heroes, whereas the Cannon alongside with the Irondrakes provides deadly long-range support for the infantry's advance. The Slayers and the Unforged are perhaps the closest things this list has for filler, and even then the Unforged is still a nice melee hero and the Slayers do well against monsters... which my general unfortunately classifies as. The army's Grudge allowed all Dispossessed units to re-roll failet Hit rolls of 1 against units with Save characteristic of 4+ or better, meaning that only my Spearmen and Bolt Thrower crew were safe from this bonus.

My own Aelves marched to war with:
- Dragonlord (Master of Defence, Phoenix Stone)
- Loremaster
- 5 Dragon Blades
- 10 White Lions
- 10 Highborn Spearmen
- 10 Highborn Spearmen
- Highborn Bolt Thrower

The idea behind my army was to practice for the upcoming local Path to Glory league that is about to start, so I picked units that will probably see use in the games to come. I equipped my Dragonlord to soak up hits so he doesn't die immediately after the first enemy volley, he is the main punch of my force after all. The Loremaster was there to buff the Bolt Thrower and the Dragonlord, while the Dragon Blades provided some mobility in case of an objective-based scenario. The Highborn Spearmen were in the list purely for Battleline/meatwall purposes, and the White Lions were the infantry unit I placed the most faith in. As a mixed up Order allegiance my sole army-wide benefit was the ability to re-roll Battleshock tests.

Here are the cards we picked up from the Open War deck. The Deployment was a spearhead-style one that favoured placing one's units towards the centre. The Objective was killing as many enemies as possible, with the added bonus of doubling your points if the enemy General was slain in the battle. The game's twist enabled both players to heal wounded units at the start of their turn.

A very interesting scenario in which my Aelves had a clear advantage over the opposition. My general had 14 Wounds while his had only 5, and I had geared my Dragonlord towards survival anyway. Yet a clear advantage does not necessarily mean a clear victory. On to the deployment!

As I do not have a pic of the beginning of the game, I had to doodle up the battlefield in Battle Chronicler to show you how the deployment took place. I won the roll-off to see who gets to pick the table side and put down the first unit, so I begun by placing my Highborn Spearmen on the right. My opponent then went on to deploy his Warriors, Slayers, Hammerers and heroes, while I placed my second Spearmen unit, White Lions and Loremaster, Bolt Thrower.

Importantly, my opponent held onto his Irondrakes until I had placed my Dragon Blades. He deployed them right across the open space my cavalry would have to cross, high up on a hill where they had a perfect view of the field. I deployed my Dragonlord last, behind a ruin in the right-hand corner to hide him away from cannonfire should the first turn go to the duardin.

I managed to get my Dragonlord where I wanted him, but the deployment of the Irondrakes right across my cavalry was very unfortunate for me. I had planned on flanking these small and slow halldwellers with my Dragon Blades but my opponent picked a good unit to try and stop my little plot.

The first battleround begun with the Duardin turn. His forces in the centre shuffled around for better positions while his Irondrakes advanced, loosing a volley at my Dragon Blades. He had boosted the unit with Forgefire from the Runelord, resulting in a number of -2 Rend shots coming my way. One aelf was wounded, causing me to withdraw the unit towards the centre on my own turn, thanking the entirety of the aelven pantheon for sparing my cavalry any further damage from the monstrous shooting of the Irondrakes. I sent all my infantry up front to gain some ground and to tie down his units, bringing my Dragonlord a bit closer from the rear. I wanted to save him for the killing blow, to go for the enemy general as soon as an opportunity presented itself. My Bolt Thrower gained re-rolls to Hit and to Wound from the Loremaster's Hand of Glory spell, taking down 1-2 of the Irondrakes on top of the hill. I was using the Repeating Bolts that gave me 12 Attacks, but the Rend of -1 was totally negated by the Irondrake's Forge-proven Gromril Armour.

What we saw here was either a misjudgment from me or masterfully tactical gameplay from my opponent, or both. My flanking plans collapsed as soon as the Irondrakes opened fire with their Forgefire-buffed guns, reminding me what a meatgrinder awaited my cavalry should I dare cross the clearing ahead. Perhaps I should've just charged in and hoped for the best, or perhaps that would have been like giving away free kills for the enemy and it was a good call to retreat. Be that as it may, my opponent had just denied me the advantage of my army's mobility by a simple placement of a single unit and a buff, forcing me to focus more on the mid-field conflict in which he had the majority of his forces.

I charged into his Warriors with my Spearmen, hoping to thin them down or at least hold them in place. Alas, the duardin suffered not even a scratch while I lost 3 aelves as casualties and 2 to the ensuing battleshock. Ouch!

I managed to roll the first turn of the second battleround for the Aelves, giving me an opportunity to react to the sudden change of plans. My remaining 5 Highborn Spearmen from the right flank retreated into the forest behind them, while the White Lions charged into the Duardin Warriors to fill the gap. My other Spearmen unit climbed into the cover of the middle altar, making them a bit tougher nut to crack if the enemy charged in. My Bolt Thrower, once again buffed by the Loremaster, shot into the Irondrakes but didn't cause any damage at all. Meanwhile the Dragonlord and the Dragon Blades just ate grass as I was waiting for the battle to develop further before committing them.

My opponent's answer was a robust one. His Hammerers charged into my Spearmen on the left and his Slayers along with the Unforged charged into my White Lions on the right. His Irondrakes came down from the hill and together with the Cannon rained death upon my cavalry and Spearmen, taking down 2 Dragon Blades and 1 Spearman. The combat round of my own turn saw the White Lions thinning the enemy Warrior unit with no casualties of their own, but in my opponent's combat phase aelves started to drop as well.

I had now tied down the vast majority of his troops but I knew my lines couldn't hold out for much longer against the tougher duardin. It was time to go for the general.

I got the initiative again at the start of the 3rd battleround and went in for the kill. My Bolt Thrower fired Ithilmar Bolts (Rend -2) and managed to take down two Irondrakes, after which my Dragon Blades charged into the unit. My White Lions were down to the champion, so I brought my previously retreating 5 Spearmen out of the forest and into the cover of the middle altar. My Loremaster cast Hand of Glory on my Dragonlord (allowing the whole model to re-roll Hit and Wound rolls) who then swooped in to charge the lonely champion of the enemy Warrior unit.

In the combat phase the Dragonlord piled in so that he could reach the enemy general, pouring all attacks on the Warden King. I began rolling with the Dragonlord's sword which slew the duardin noble in one swing, wasting all the dragon's attacks that would have come afterwards. Oh well, at least the enemy general was slain!

Both sides were roughly equal in scored kill-points up until I took down the Warden King. Now the Aelves had the tide of battle turn greatly in their favour, for their own general was still at full 14 Wounds.

My opponent charged my Dragonlord with everything he had, even using all his shooting to take down the monster. My general took quite the beating and didn't even manage to kill any foes despite my efforts to direct attacks against his Runelord and Unforged before they could strike, leaving my dragon at alarmingly low 4 Wounds!

Next up was the 4th battleround and the Aelves would enter it closer to victory than their adversaries. My forces were shattered, however, with only 5 Spearmen and 2 Dragon Blades, the Loremaster and the Bolt Thrower remaining. My opponent still had a couple of Irondrakes, 6 Hammerers, the Runelord, the Unforged and a single Slayer, as well as the Cannon. I had to get my general out of there quickly.

I won the initiative on the 4th battleround and my Dragon Blades (only the champion remaining, out of the pic to the left) slew the remaining Irondrakes and charged into the Cannon but didn't kill more than 1 crew member despite charge bonuses.

As soon as I could I retreated my Dragonlord out of the fight (5 Wounds remaining as the Phoenix Stone healed him) and moved my remaining 5 infantry to block the duardin from giving chase. I was in the lead in points now, all I had to do was to keep my general safe and the day would go to the Aelves!

Alas, it was not to be. My opponent charged the Spearmen with the lone Warrior and the Unforged before circling around with the rest as best as he could. Even the Hammerers waddled closer on top of the mid-field altar, and when it came to charges they amazed everyone.

The Hammerers rolled a 10" charge that took them into combat with my Dragonlord. On top of that his lone Slayer and the Runelord both managed their charges too, surrounding my general in a ring of potential death. The Hammerers swung their heavy weapons and took 5 Wounds off my dragon, exactly the amount he had left.

The Duardin scored all those 14 Wounds as kill-points and doubled their total score by having slain my general, taking them way ahead of the Aelves. As the dust settled and the battered form of my dragon begun growing cold on the ground, we called it a day and shook hands.

What is there to be learned from this (partially very poorly) documented battle?

1. Never Give Up: My opponent acted true to his faction's racial characteristics by not throwing in the towel when all seemed lost. He played it bravely to the supposedly bitter end, which then turned out to be a glorious victory! In a game of skill and chance like this, everything's possible.

2. The Game Starts Before the Game Starts: When the very first dice are rolled to determine who gets to pick a table edge, the game of Age of Sigmar is already on. Scan the battlefield and evaluate the advantages terrain could offer you and how you could use it to support your playstyle. When deploying units one by one, taking turns, start with the most obvious and common choices. Battleline units and harassers usually take their place as close to the enemy as possible, usually on the centre section of the field. There are very few surprises to be had when deploying them, so putting them down early on will give you time to counterplay your opponent's toughest units with your own elites when you see where they deploy theirs. Remember that you use a turn of deployment even when setting up units in ambush/reserve/other off-table methods, so play them after your obvious choices to gain even more time to observe your opponent's army formations.

3. Balance Is Everything: Each faction has its strengths and weaknesses, and the same applies to different army lists. By thwarting your opponent's attempts to play their strengths (like deploying a hard-Rending missile unit across flanking cavalry, as seen above) and pushing your own (like forcing the action of the battle to dissolve into a mid-field melee clusterf*ck where your troops revel, as seen above) you can influence the flow of battle and turn it in your favour... if the dice gods allow it. Throw your opponent off-balance by efficiently, confidently and calmly countering his/her most obvious favourite strategies. This should push him/her out of his/her comfort zone and into the wide wild world of improvisation where careless mistakes are often made and only those who adapt may survive. Just make sure you're the one who adapts and survives. This is psychological warfare, baby!

4. Play the Objective: Always, always play towards the objective of the scenario. It might get tempting to start chasing down shattered enemy forces and toying around with them, but as we saw in this battle nothing's ever to be taken for granted. Even if you're clearly coming out on top, do yourself the favour of still sticking to the goal you army is after, no matter how clear everything might seem. Even when you're up against a foe that you are sure to lose against, just play the objective as best as you can and you have the best chance of winning. The enemy may get all absorbed into the limitless power at their disposal to wreak havoc among your lines, but in the end they might end up standing on a mound of corpses only to find out that you hold the artefact/objective/capture zone or whatever it is the game has as its aim. Butchers rack up the kills, but tacticians win the battles!

My Duardin opponent also wanted to give you some friendly advice from the lips of a fresh victor:
"Your warriors should exercise daily, three rounds of jogging around the clan's Hold each day really keeps their physical condition top-notch and helps them achieve those sweet 10" charges when needed."

That's all for this tutorial series for now, the journey from basics to battles has finally drawn into a conclusion. All four parts will always be easily available on the sidebar menu, under Tutorials. Perhaps some day in the future there will be additional parts to this series, but for now I'm starting a Path to Glory league which I'll record in its entirety here in the blog as battle reports and stories.

Until next time!

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