Sunday, 21 July 2013

Portugese Pontification...

Greetings fellow wargamers, and welcome to my little haven in the sun. I have left behind my study of stifling stuffiness, and taken a much needed break from the rigours of regular routines. While I sit, Bugmans Best on the table and Piri Piri on the plate, I am free to ponder on the hobby we all love.

I will begin by confirming that to date, I have kept my vow to not purchase any more models until I have a fully painted army for Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. I can also proudly declare that I have made a start on the painting portion of the pledge, having completed a block of 40 Skeleton Spearmen for my Vampire Counts army, with only a little trimming of the hand painted banner required to finish them off (pics to follow). This effort was encouraged in no small part by my participation in the 'Astro Painting Survivor Series 7', which alas I have had to withdraw from due to an appointment with a swimming pool and no small quantity of ale. As soon as I make it back to Blighty, I plan on painting up a coven of three Witches to use as Necromancers, and a sweet mini my better half bought me from Hasslefree Miniatures for Valentines Day.

Next, I will clear up the loose end left by the first couple of posts I published on our club 40K League-tournament-thingy. At last posting, I had played two games, having once been tabled and once dished out a tabling of my own. After that things got a bit hazy, with several attempts made at arranging my remaining two games meeting with utter failure. It seems some of the other guys met a similar lack of success in pinning their remaining foes to the field, and with other events looming, play was abandoned. I am assuming that a couple of the participants must be concealing pointy ears, as the old Imperial Navy adage that 'you may as well try to catch starlight as bring the Eldar to battle' holds true.

On a more positive note, I can report that my 'Eye of Morrslieb' narrative campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Battle is more than half way through, the first two of three games having been completed, and the planning for the grand finale coming on apace.

The first game went well enough, with all eight players managing to get their games in over a two week period. The result saw four armies victorious and no draws. I lost my battle against an army of Skaven, but managed to put up a fight before losing my Vampire and Vargheists to a Doomwheel. My overperforming Zombies however managed to reduce said Doomwheel to a single wound, while also holding up two fifty strong units of Slaves and still hanging in there till the end of the game, just! In a previous battle against the Skaven (the same opponent in fact) I also managed to lose the Vargheists to a Doomwheel, and so resolved not to allow this to happen again in the future.

Vargheists just don't have the hitting power to take out the Doomwheel before its multiple special attacks whittle them down (not a unit of three anyway), which is easily compounded by crumbling and the Vargheists being Vampiric, and so only being able to recover a single wound from the Invocation of Nehek, plus another from the Lore Attribute under the right circumstances. I have discovered that Vargheists are actually a little tricky to use, as they are Frenzied, which means they must declare a Charge against the nearest viable enemy unit if they fail their restrain test, but they are also a Flying Unit, so you can't just block their charge arcs with other friendly units because they can make a Flying Charge straight over the top of them!

There are a couple of tricks I have picked up for trying to keep them under control until they are in a position to attack where you want them to, which include placing them so that there are no enemies in their front arc to declare a charge against, keeping them further behind your line to keep them outside their maximum charge range of the enemy, and declaring charges against the enemy unit closest to the Vargheists with another unit, so that after Charges have been declared, if they were forced to declare a charge, the unit they declared against is engaged by another of your units across their entire facing, preventing the Vargeists from Charging them as well. The best use of the Vargheists has to be into a unit of Infantry (which they can Stomp) and preferably into a flank or rear of a unit already engaged with another unit, to accumulate combat bonuses and reduce the number of attacks coming back at them. If you can throw them into the flank of an Infantry block with a save of 5+ or worse, they can really add to that combat resolution.

Of course Vargheists can shred most chaff units as well, but they will need to eat a fair bit of chaff to justify their points cost in this role. In my first game the Vargeists did in theory have a fair chance of killing the Doomwheel, probably more so than any of the Infantry blocks in the army, they just didn't manage it on the day. Conversly, the Doomwheel was probably also the enemy unit that had the best chance of taking out the Vargheists. A really unlikely string of movement rolls and a 'misfire' by the Doomwheel saw it smash into the flank of my Ghoul unit led by my low level Vampire, and they just kept failing to win a round or pass a Combat Reform test to turn and get more attacks on the Doomwheel. With only two wounds and the Doomwheel dishing out strength 6 attacks, the Vampire was in real danger.

The second game went better. After discussion between the participants, we decided each player would be allowed to add 250 points to their 750 point list from game one, and also be allowed to change round the equipment selected for their characters to allow them to fix any major errors they felt they had made with their earlier choices. We also decided that a single Magic Item worth up to 35 points could be included. All of this combined would ensure we got the chance to learn something new and different in comparison to the first game. I would have loved to have had the points to fit in a Hero Banshee, but just didn't have the points for her plus the Vampire and Necromancer.

In addition to the extra points, I decided it would be good to include some rules to represent casualties sustained in the first game, so after a couple of drafts, we decided that any characters killed in a challenge in game 1 would roll on a simple table to see if they carried any injuries into the second game, which would reduce one of their stats by 1. I also decided we should roll a die for characters that fled the field, with a chance that they would play game 2 with a reduced Leadership chracteristic, which represented their own courage being shaken as well as affect their ability to inspire their own troops. They had seen them run away once already after all.

Units that were wiped out in game 1 would start game 2 as if they had taken 10% casualties (wounds) on a roll of 1 to 3 on a D6. I did suggest to the gang that this did give my army an advantage, as I could regenerate the wounds with magic, but it was graciously agreed that this was simply an inherent advantage of the Vampire Counts army. As it turned out, all I lost was a single wound from the Vargeists, which was easily replenished.

After working out who won in game one, players all rolled their D6's and applied modifiers depending on how they faired in their first battle. Players added one if they won their game, two if they routed the enemy, and minus one if they lost the first game. This gave us an order in which the players arrived at the crash site from 1st to 8th.

The first four players to arrive had a decision to make: they had to decide where to concentrate their efforts. Did they focus on the glory of their Master by high tailing it back to their Master's main army as fast as possible with their full force and report what was at stake to give their Master as much time as a they could to raise a larger force and return to claim the Eye? Or did they send back a token messenger who would take longer to get back to their Master as they flitted from bolt hole to hole to get back, if they made it at all, but attempt to secure the Eye with the meagre forces at their disposal?
Option 1 would would allow players the chance to deploy further onto the battlefield and therefore closer to the objective in the final game, as their Master's army arrived quicker. Option 2 would more than likely result in their Master's army arriving later and starting the final game further from the objective, but would allow a single unit from the scouting force list to be deployed on the objective at the start of the game.

The earliest arriving players would decide in secret which option they wanted to go for, after which the later arriving players declared which of the earlier arriving players they wanted to attack. Only after players had declared which army they were attacking did we reveal which scenarios they would be playing. Unfortunately, as I had neglected to bring along my 6th Edition rulebook containing the Ambush scenario, we had to substitute in the Battle for the Pass from 8th, which represented the ambushers blocking the path of the enemy at a bottleneck. As a final proviso for selecting opponents, I decided that players could not choose to attack the army they already fought in game 1, just to prevent things becoming repetitive.

In the event, I rolled high and arrived second of eight players, I picked the makeshift Ambush option, and my Vampire Counts found their path blocked by a force of Lizardmen...

The game went well, though ended in a close fought draw. I had a plan and pretty much stuck with it as far as what I wanted each unit to do. My Zombies did their job once again, by engaging and holding up a unit of Saurus Warriors led by Skar Veteran while my Vargheists and Vampire leading his newly arrived Black Knights smashed clean through a second unit of Saurus Warriors and then cleared up the enemy back field.

My Ghouls seemed to be wading through treacle for the first few turns, taking ages to make it into combat with a unit of Saurus Cavalry. I think I underestimated the staying power of the Saurus cav though, as the the Ghouls had a really hard time getting through their thick armour. In the end, the last couple of Saurus managed to finish off the Ghouls, but at least by that point the Saurus cav weren't in a position to affect the rest of the field.

I think the only big mistake I made was the positioning of the Skeleton Warriors and Neceomancer. When the Zombies finally folded, the Saurus Warriors and Skar Veteran they had been fighting overran into the front of the Skeletons, and the Necromancer went down to allocated attacks in the following combat round. I should have repositioned the Skeletons before the Zombies died to take them out of the overrun path of the Saurus Warriors, or at the very least move the Necromancer out of the unit. Either of these two things could have netted me a narrow victory instead of a draw.

In any event, I think things are going well so far, the players seem to be enjoying it, I just need to make sure I am better organised for the final game, making sure there are enough copies of the big rulebook around on the night, as the scenario I want us to play (The Dark Monoliths of Zhulgozar) isn't in the small rule book...

There are already plans evolving for a 40K campaign to follow this one, fingers crossed this first attempt goes out with a bang.

Thanks for reading...