Monday, October 21, 2013

A Different Project: Bretonnia

Dear Reader,

Greetings from the Forge!  As we come off of the Hunters Red October Tournament this past weekend, I thought I'd take a moment to highlight some of the painting projects I've been working on before putting up summaries of each match (which will be forthcoming!).  I know that most of our loyal readership is not involved in the Fantasy side of the Warhammer profession, but I figured that even if you're not a Warhammer Fantasy person, chances are that if you follow this blog and are anything like the contributors, you may appreciate at least the theme and painting scheme that I'm doing, :)  With no further ado, a few things we've been working on here at the How:


If you love medieval chivalry and the Arthurian Legend, you should seriously look into the Knights of Bretonnia.  I love the models that GW has done so far (though the book needs an update.  Badly), and I'm looking forward to any new models they make.  The units highlighted above are Bretonnian Pegasus Knights, who are elite cavalry for the Brets, and naturally stand out to me as the Pegasus is one of my favorite creatures ever (up there with the unicorn and the centaur).

The color scheme is something I wanted to highlight in this post: my Bretonnian army will be composed of a number of the medieval military orders of the 13th and 14th centuries.  These Peg Knights are painted as knights from the Hospitaller Order of St. John, in their traditional colors (White Sicilian Cross on black).  All of the livery was painted free-hand (which I'm not very good at), so this forced me to make some hard decisions regarding which orders I took (as the Crusader Brethren of the Order of St. George have an almost identical red cross on white as the Knights Templar, which is almost exactly like the livery for the Knights of St. Santiago).  My plan for my other knights is to paint a unit of Teutonic Knights in the traditional black cross on white (another unit of Peg Knights), infantry with the Knights Templar colors (red cross on white), a unit of Knights of the Realm painted as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre (which will require a new brush for detailing; that one will be intense), and a unit of Grail Knights painted as Livonian Sword Brethren.  I'll update you all as I get more of them done, :)

In the meantime, I'm also working on finishing more cav for Rohan, a few Rohan infantry conversions (the guys from my post on mounted Rangers on the North), and putting final touches on a completely mounted Rohan force (so battle reports forthcoming!).  I'm planning on spending November working on Rohan, the first army I ever bought, and one that has been woefully neglected this year, doing both touch-up painting jobs and adding a few new units to my repertoire.  I'll also be painting up my Bretonnian units as I get caught up on Psych and re-watch the Firefly TV series (as Zorro purchased the new Firefly board game, which is extremely well-made and has me interested in re-watching the series, :) ), so yay for lots of TV time in November, :)  Until then, happy hobbying!

Watching the stars,

Glenstorm

"Lie back on the floor," said Firenze in a calm voice, "and observe the heavens.  Here is written, for those who can see, the fortune of our races." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Revisiting Magic: Ringwraiths in LOTR SBG

For our readership who is aware of our upcoming THRO 2013 tournament, I wanted to take some time to talk about magic in the army that I'm taking to the tournament. I've decided to do this (showing part of my hand for the tournament) for two reasons: first, the strategy I've developed for using magic against conventional forces is more an issue of artistry than anything else and I want to offer this up to the blogosphere for critique. Second, I spent a few minutes during my last game at the TMAT GT 2013 talking about magic theory with a buddy of mine who hadn't played against magic very much and needed my honest opinion about whether to attempt to resist a spell or not. Instead of having this discussion in every round, I figured I'd get my general strategy on the table now.

Targets of Interest: A Brief Taxonomy

Those familiar with the armies in the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (and the new Hobbit Strategy Battle Game) know that the kinds of warriors and heroes in the game vary a lot. Warriors can be cheap (like Goblin Warriors or Hobbit Shirriffs) or more expensive (like Uruk Berserkers and Wood Elf Sentinels). Heroes also can be blissfully cheap (like Rangers of the North or Easterling Captains) while others are heavy investments (like Aragorn/Strider or Elrond). How do we, with all this diversity, break up your potential foes into a reasonable set of groups?

The answer, for a Ringwraith commander, is rather simple (I don't include Fate points in the discussion below - I'll explain why later):
  • All Warriors/Heroes with 1 Wound and no Will points
  • Heroes with no Will and 2+ Wounds
  • Heroes with 1-2 Will and 1+ Wounds
  • Heroes with 3-4 Will and 1+ Wounds
  • Heroes with 5+ Will
  • Heroes that fall into any of the other classes that have specific anti-Nazgul benefits
Too simplistic? Perhaps, but let's go deeper into each of the six targets above and talk about how to deal with them. As a reminder, I'm using the following army as my frame of reference:

The Witch King of Angmar with horse, Crown of Morgul, 2M/10W/2F - 130 points
Khamul the Easterling with armored horse - 135 points
The Undying - 120 points
The Dwimmerlaik - 120 points
Ringwraith on horse with 2M/9W/2F - 95 points

Target: Warriors (and heroes with no Will and 1 Wound)

Warriors in this game, like cities in the world that are the target of a nuclear weapon, suffer the same result: they die. If a Ringwraith uses a Black Dart on any unit without access to Will points and only have 1 Wound, it doesn't matter what the unit is or what he does - he's dead. This is particularly true since most units of this sort are D7 or less, which means they're all wounded on 3s. Dealing with critical units of this class can be easily performed with Black Darts, but only by certain units.

In the army I've chosen, two units serve as Black Dart factories: the Undying and the Dwimmerlaik. The Undying is an obvious choice, since he regains Will points if any magic caster (friend or foe) casts a spell within 6" of the Undying. If the Undying uses 3 Will points to cast the spell (70% chance of success) and two other Ringwraiths cast spells within this range (say, the Dwimmerlaik and the unnamed Ringwraith), the Undying has a net loss of 1 Will point and so begins the next round with 19 Will.

The Dwimmerlaik has a whopping Will store of 16 Will, which means you should probably cast spells more carefully, but you can probably get off 3-4 Black Darts with 2 Will points each and then cast simple spells with 1 Will point each. These supporting Black Darts allow you to finish off strategic units (like those with the Bodyguard rule or a banner).

The result is that warriors who are capable against Ringwraiths should expect to be targeted by Black Darts. In the end, if the dart is successful, there isn't much that can be done (a Fury save or Foresight save could be used if available).

Target: Heroes with no Will and 2+ Wounds

Heroes who lack Will are the best targets for a Ringwraith to defeat: they are helpless against the magical barrage of the Ringwraiths and they are probably built for combat. What spells are best against these units? The options I choose to employ are Transfix and Drain Courage.

Transfix is a "gimme" spell for any spell-caster: it turns any power-house unit into an incapable fighter (at the very least, not dealing any damage this turn). If the mounted wraiths in this army are within charge-range of these sorts of heroes - and preferably if your opponent has already moved - transfix and a charge are a perfect combination. Generally, you want the Witch King and Khamul charging warriors, but never pass up a chance to charge a transfixed hero.

Armies who field heroes with no Will points (like a Dwarf Shield-Bearer or Theoden) should expect a nasty round if a charge is allowed if transfixing is deemed the best option. There is, however, a second option (and potentially a more sustainable option): Drain Courage. This spell is underrated by many players and is unique in that it remains in play after it is cast. If a Dwarf Shield-bearer is charged by the Witch King, for example, 2-4 Will points will likely be needed to transfix and charge him (one or two turns). Alternatively, the same Shield-bearer begins as Courage 4 and will become Courage 3. Spending two Will points against the Shield-Bearer makes him Courage 1, reducing the probability of the Shield-Bearer charging one of the Ringwraiths to ~25%. A hero like this can be killed at leisure and will probably take a maximum of 2 Will points to pull off.

In the end, if a general facing this army chooses to bring a hero without Will points, there will be an uphill battle to keep such a hero alive and capable. Dwarf Shield-bearers are a bit of a bad example of a target to Drain Courage against, as they allow friendly units to reroll failed Courage tests, but I hope the point is understood. Your options for this hero are next to null, but you can take advantage of their weakness by buying another hero time: will Balin's 3 Will points or Gimli's 2 Will points be hit hard if there is a 0 Will Courage 4 Shield-bearer hanging around? Any Will that isn't spent targeting your power heroes like Gimli or Balin and instead target unnamed heroes like a Shield-bearer is a good day for the Dwarves.

Target: Heroes with 1-2 Will

Heroes who begin with very little Will are not as opportune targets for Ringwraiths, but they are still excellent targets. A hero who has only 1-2 Will (especially with the Dwimmerlaik present) will be strained to resist a single spell. As a result, it lies in the power of the commanding general to determine which spell to resist. If we only look at the two spells provided above (Transfix and Drain Courage), if a wraith uses Drain Courage as the first spell, does the target ignore this spell awaiting a Transfix spell? Or does the hero resist this spell and take what comes later?

Generally speaking, I don't think there's a good answer to which spell you want to resist - you will be threatened with both. Against this particular army, as stated above, it may not matter which spell you try to resist - the Dwimmerlaik may make any resistance to magical spells impossible. So my recommendation: don't worry about it. If the spell is cast, it's not likely that you're going to be able to resist it. So live with it - try to resist, of course (choosing to resist a Drain Courage spell only if you are in charge range and resisting Transfix if you're going to be charged), but don't worry about it.

Target: Heroes with 3-4 Will

Against heroes with 3-4 Will, one step is added to the strategy used for heroes with 1-2 Will: cast Sap Will. I've generally been reluctant to cast Sap Will against 3 Will heroes, as most of his Will is going to be wasted resisting the spell. Against this army, though, this spell almost ensures that in a single turn, the target is out of Will. Since Sap Will is cast on a 3+, most successful casts will have a high dice of 4+ - requiring about 2 dice to resist effectively or the use of a Might point. With the Dwimmerlaik making these pips harder to use, you could get rid of 3 Will points (2 to resist +1 additional) or 1-2 Will points and 1-2 Might points (1 Will to cast, 1 to promote, 1 additional Will/Might if you get lucky). In either case, a good hero will be nearly wasted just resisting the spell! After that, you treat the hero like he has 1-2 Will left (or none) - easy.

My recommendation for dealing with this: hide your heroes. :-P Mounted heroes who have 3 Will (Eomer of the Pelennor, Imrahil, Elrond, etc.) are going to be hard to hide from a magic hero, but heroes on foot who can get Elven cloaks (Aragorn, Gildor, and Arwen for example) are much easier to hide and can keep the enemy from casting spells on him until he's really close. Beware though mounted Ringwraiths, as they can not only see units more easily from their height, but their movement gives them the ability to move wide around your ranks to see you and then inch close enough to be in casting range.

Target: Heroes with 5+ Will

Very few heroes meet this criteria and they're almost all wizards. All of them use Will for something, whether it's casting spells or bribing enemy heroes (boo, Golden King, boo). Against heroes like this, Sap Will is still your go-to move, but in this army, you have another option against wizards: Your Staff is Broken. The Witch King casts this spell, which isn't great, since his Will store should be mostly used to fight battles, but you can completely remove magic ability from an expensive spell-caster. Against heroes like Galadriel, Lady of Light or the Dark Lord Sauron, you're out of luck (their free Will isn't tied to a staff of power), but against Gandalf, Saruman, or Radagast, you've got a chance. This spell, also, shouldn't be cast until the enemy's Will store is gone, making it very unlikely that he resists the spell.

Target: Heroes with anti-Nazgul Benefits

There are many heroes who can rock the world of Nazgul, so at this part of the post, I'm going to walk through each army list from the Free Peoples and Kingdoms of Men sourcebooks and talk about dealing with heroes that Nazgul fear - if I skip an obvious choice, it's probably because he shows up in another list.

The Free Peoples
  • Rivendell & Eregion: Gildor Inglorion - Gildor is a hero with a lot of Will (4 points), the Immobilize spell, and an Elven cloak. An Elven cloak is an expensive upgrade for any of your units, but against Ringwraiths it's essential: it allows you to strike first and since you'll have an army of Fight 5 units with good bows and shoot values, you can probably keep the horses of your foes at bay. Nazgul who want to deal with Gildor need to focus on getting the units in front of Gildor out of the way (dart-dart-dart, perhaps) and then get a turn where you are looking directly at him and BOOM, you take his Will out. After that, he's pretty weak with only Defense 4.
  • Lothlorien & Mirkwood: Legolas - This shouldn't be a surprise: he can take an Elven cloak, he has a 24" bow that can even pass through the defensive protections of the Shadow Lord, and he's got plenty of Might and Fate to ensure that he stays alive when the Dwimmerlaik's around. Dealing with Legolas is tough for any army, but trying to get a charge might be done by using the Witch King and Khamul together - one of them should be able to race through a gap and take down the archer if you can keep your mounts alive. If you can't, Defense 5 doesn't last against Black Darts from the Dwimmerlaik.
  • Durin's Folk: Balin, Son of Fundin with Durin's Axe - Balin is one of the best heroes in the game, with all the necessary skills of a great champion - reasonably cheap, high Fight/Defense values, throwing weapons (great for getting kills in the Move or Shoot phase), and 3 Might points. Unlike many other killing heroes, he also has 3 Will points - perfect for stopping one heavy damage spell from a Ringwraith or several small spells. The danger with facing Balin (or any Defense 8 hero for that matter) is that even if you transfix them, you may not be able to kill them. This means turn after turn of hacking at them or an equally long time keeping them rooted while you deal with everyone else. Though we'd all be tempted to use a Black Dart against a hero like this, perhaps the best way of dealing with this particular Dwarf is with speed - if he can't catch you, he can't kill you. Buzzing around the flanks with your cavalry, charging into warriors and retreating before the power house arrives can work wonders (may not always work, but it can be less costly).
  • The Shire: Farmer Maggot with Grip, Fang, and Wolf - To be honest, there aren't any units in the Shire list proper that are dangerous - most heroes/units have a single Attack, no one has Fight 4+, and the defense in the army is rarely higher than D4. So why Maggot and his dogs? First off, so long as Maggot is alive, they're all Courage 5, which means they're quite likely to be able to charge you unless you spend yourself to keep them from tagging you. Second, the dogs have 8" movement - perfect for catching non-mounted wraiths - and Maggot has a two-handed weapon. Though a two-handed weapon does make him less likely to roll the winning roll, it's great for killing a wraith if you can get Shirriffs, Militia, or the dogs into the same fight. Dealing with these guys can be simple - charge the dogs while mounted or kill Maggot first, but a good commander will screen them with keen hobbit bows to make sure you need to work to get to them.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the White - Of all the wizards in the game, there are none better (or more costly) than Gandalf the White (except for maybe the Dark Lord Sauron). This particular version of Gandalf is dangerous for several reason: first and foremost, he can choose between mounting a 12" movement steed or walking on foot with an Elven cloak. Second, he's a Courage 7 hero with a free Will point that casts a 12" Stand Fast - perfect for keeping your army together unless the wraiths really target him with their spells...at the expense of other heroes in your army. Finally, like Saruman the White (but not the Colorful?!?!?!), he can cast Sorcerous Blast on a 4+, which is not only a handy way of dismounting ringwraiths, but is also a means of dealing damage or assisting friendly units in dealing damage. One thing I should mention here is that a Ringwraith on the ground is the worst thing ever, because if you're going to lose a Will point for each combat you're in, you'd better be able to kill someone.
  • The White Council: Glorfindel, Lord of the West with Armor of Gondolin - Yes, I delayed posting on Glorfindel in the Rivendell & Eregion post because I thought Gildor needed mentioning. Glorfindel is a beast against any army - very high Fight value, very high defense with the armor, great Might/Will/Fate store, plenty of attacks and wounds AND the Resistance to Magic rule - what more could you ask for? I don't know what you do with Resistant to Magic and the Dwimmerlaik's special text, but Glorfindel should be a noted threat in any case. A Ringwraith's best strategy against him (and anyone with the Resistant to Magic special rule) is as follows: cast easy, one-dice spells against him before casting anything big. The reason is simple: you don't benefit from Resistant to Magic until your Will store is out. As such, if you cast a spell that only requires 1 dice to cast - say, Drain Courage - and he can resist it with one of his original Will store, eventually, he'll run out of Will and will be limited to using a single dice. This is when you want to pull out your big guns and make it hard to stop your barrage, even with a free Will point each attempt.
  • The Wanderers in the Wild: Treebeard - There's no way getting around how powerful this elder of Middle-Earth is - he's got 6 Will points, Defense 8 with 8 wounds, and he chucks rocks on a 4+ from 18" away. Yes, there's no good plan for fighting him. The only strategy I can recommend is that, due to his point cost, you can get 2 Ringwraiths for his cost. So suck up a few turns of him throwing things, sap his will, and then charge him on one turn when you can get him away from his team-mates. Besides that, there is no plan...I mean, seriously - there's no plan.
The Kingdoms of Men
  • Minas Tirith: Boromir, Captain of the White Tower with the Banner of Minas Tirith - Yes, Boromir is the envy of all Middle-Earth, being able to become Fight 7 while wielding a banner with no penalty and having 6 Might points and plenty of Will and Fate. But the greatest benefit from this captain of Gondor is the benefit he gives to Guardians of the Fountain Court. The handy warriors are cheap for elite troops (you can get at least ten with shields for the cost of one Ringwraith) and have the Bodyguard rule. Their normal Fight 4 becomes Fight 5 - tying most Ringwraiths - when they're within range of the banner, and they've all got spears in their base equipment, so that makes them able to back each other up and fill in the gaps later. If they have a rank or two of Warriors of Minas Tirith in front of them (or Osgiliath Veterans) to keep Black Darts away, you could really be in for trouble in the Fight phase, when rank and file troops tie your powerhouse heroes. My recommendation for dealing with this hero is simple: Compel once per turn. If you could cast Compel more than once each turn and keep moving someone, I would here but alas... At any rate, Compel moves this 6" movement target a total of 3", effectively removing the benefit of the banner from most of the units he means to help. In order for this to work, though, he needs to be able to move directly to one side of the battle line, exposing the other side to your wrath.
  • The Fiefdoms: Angbor the Fearless - This cheap hero of men is one of the cheapest units in the game who has 3 Will points. He also has a high Courage rating (Courage 5), which makes him a devastating anti-Nazgul hero. In addition, as a Clansman of Lamedon, he has a great two-handed sword, perfect for taking Strength 4 blows to the next level and wounding on 5s (Ouch!). As great as he is, so long as you can see him through the ranks of units that will no doubt be supporting him, dealing with him in magical space is easy: sap will once or twice, Drain Courage the rest of the way. You could transfix him and kill him, but you will likely have other heroes that need your reckoning. Once he's low on Courage and out of Will, he's an average defense, average attack hero - not too bad.
  • Kingdom of Rohan: Theodred, Heir of Rohan - You could pick either Theodred or Eomer, Knight of the Pelennor for this one, but since Theodred is cheaper, I'm going with him. The type of horse that is picked has no bearing on the worth of this hero - D4 and D5 are not different against black darts and both are probably going to die in close-combat too. Theodred is average priced for a captain, but has a store of 3 Will points that you can use. This, added to the fact that you can mount him and give him throwing weapons (best way to utilize cavalry mobility) or a bow (best way to skirmish with infantry), makes him a persistent threat that can be hard to deal with. Yes, he may not be able to charge you if you drain his courage away, and yes, he may not be as great in close combat as other heroes, but he has the ability to wait you out until the rest of his army gets there - and potentially, suffer no damage from your own magical barrages. I would deal with him like I do any mounted hero: black dart the horse, then refer to the top for what to use against heroes of certain Will amounts. 
  • Arnor: Aragorn, Isildur's Heir - Are we at the end yet - NO! Got two great heroes left! Aragorn, Isildur's Heir is a great tactical and combat hero, giving his famous archer force movement bonuses when going through any kind of difficult terrain and serving as an army banner. In addition, he has access to an Elven cloak (if you want to pay 10 more points on him), has a bow, and gets a free Might point each turn. In close combat, he's a beast - his high Fight and Might values allow him to defeat all but the greatest foes and if he's equipped with an Elven cloak, it is unlikely that he will be targeted with magic until he's in range to do something great with it. When surrounded by rangers, he becomes even more dangerous, as a Ringwraith commander can't weight-out the arrows while they work magical fiendishness against the heroes of the enemy. My response against this hero? Drain Courage. You really don't want to mess with him, so make him spend his free Might point (keep the Dwimmerlaik close by so that he may not get that either) on passing Courage tests instead of calling heroic actions or promoting Attack/shooting dice.
  • Numenor: Elendil, High King of Gondor - The Numenor list isn't built for defeating Ringwraiths - your warriors are capped at Defense 5, they have above-average Fight values (which do nothing for you against this army), and their two named heroes are geared for melee combat almost exclusively. I can't pick Isildur, because as fun as it is to put on the Ring to avoid enemy archery, the Ring doesn't help you against the Nine - in fact, life becomes worse for you if you put it on. As such, I need to pick Elendil. In his own right, he's a dangerous hero - very high Fight and Defense values, great Might and Will stores, and can call free Heroic Combats (my kind of hero). But, at the end of the day, you deal with him the way you deal with everyone else: black darts are a good option (since his Fate store is low), but you can just as easily drain his courage down.
So...all that to say, there are heroes you should rightly fear (and we haven't even touched the warriors you should fear) but I hope you see how using Ringwraiths as the sole units in your army can make you a powerful force. I hope to demonstrate this when I write up a commentary on Ringwraiths after the tournament, using the games as an exemplar. Until then (and looking forward to the tournament next weekend!), happy hobbying!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Battle Report: Grey Company v. Host of Rhovanion


Hey Reader!

This is Centaur with another battle report!  As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm playtesting my list for the upcoming Hunters Red October Tournament, and last night I met up with Donatello to play an Arkenstone game (as it's one of the four scenarios for the THRO Tournament), using the following lists:

The Grey Company (Grey Company, LOME)
Detachment 1
-Aragorn, Isildur's Heir (Army Leader): 200 points
-1 Dunedain (Rosseloth): 24 points
-3 Rangers of Arnor w/ spears: 27 points
-9 Rangers of Arnor: 72 points

Detachment 2
-2 Rangers of the North (Culang and Dannassel): 50 points
-1 Dunedain w/ spear (Daerdan): 25 points
-1 Ranger of Arnor w/ spear: 9 points
-7 Rangers of Arnor: 56 points

Detachment 3
-2 Rangers of the North (Cadan and Torchirion): 50 points
-1 Dunedain w/ spear (Astiul): 25 points
-1 Ranger of Arnor w/ spear: 9 points
-7 Rangers of Arnor: 56 points

TOTAL: 603 points, 36 units, 10* Might, 36 bows

The Host of Rhovanion (Easterlings, LOME)
Detachment 1
-Khamul w/ Armored Horse: 135 points
-6 Easterling Black Dragons w/ shields: 60 points
-3 Easterlings w/ halberds/shields: 27 points

Detachment 2
-Easterling Dragon Knight: 70 points
-1 Easterling w/ banner: 32 points
-8 Easterling Black Dragons w/ shields: 80 points
-5 Easterlings w/ halberds/shields: 45 points

Detachment 3
-Easterling War Priest: 60 points
-6 Easterling Black Dragons w/ shields: 60 points
-2 Easterlings w/ halberds/shields: 18 points
-2 Easterlings w/ bows: 16 points

TOTAL: 603 points, 36 units, 6 Might, 2 casters

This will be an interesting fight, as it is quite likely that an Easterling team will show up at the tournament (guys in our gaming group really like using them, and for good reason).  My current thoughts as the tournament director for THRO is that the Arkenstone mission will be on Tiberius's underground map, so the terrain will be a bit different from the way it will look in the tournament.  As we laid out the board, we were both itching for a good game!

Strategy for Glenstorm: Both of us are sporting 36 units, which means that the game will come down to how much damage I can deal on rolls of 6s (as my men will be wounding him primarily on 6s at range and in close combat), and how much damage he can do on 5s in close combat (as he fields virtually no archery).  I'm planning not to abandon my honor by playing a massive game of "keep away," but will instead whittle down his main body of troops (in Detachment 2), overwhelm his third detachment because of its weaker stat line, and hold Khamul at bay on the flank long enough to break his army.  Since most of my force is Courage 3 (Courage 2 within 12" of him), I'm not trusting in being able to charge him easily, so we'll do our best to fend him off long enough to break his other elements.  So, to call the ball: whittle down his elements through archery, fend off his major heroes, break the blocks of infantry, and mop up as quickly as possible once we reach close combat.  I should have better spear support than him, so that may save me in this game.

Strategy for Donatello: Glenstorm is sporting a ton of D4, with a half-dozen D5 guys in the mix.  This makes Bladewrath very effective on his main infantry (wound on 3s!!!) and heroes (wound on 4s!!!), so I'll use that to my advantage here.  I decided to take the Black Dragon upgrade (like Glenstorm, Zorro, and the Black Prince do), because I'll need the F4 to match his men.  My plan is to hold down Aragorn with my large blocks of men (or Khamul casting Transfix, if he gives me a shot), and allow my Dragon Knight to seek out his lesser heroes, aiming to recoup Might points off of killing off the lesser heroes.  With a higher FV and a chance at 5 attacks (when supported by two halberds), taking down the rest of the force shouldn't be too difficult.

Scoring

Arkenstone games are scored as a To the Death scenario, using the following rules:
  • Game ends when one force is reduced to 25% or less of its starting models
  • 2 Victory Points are awarded for killing the enemy army leader
  • 2 Victory Points are awarded if a team has a banner remaining at the end of the game
  • 1 Victory Point is awarded if the enemy force is broken.  3 Victory Points are awarded if the enemy force is broken and your force is not broken at the end of the game.
For Arkenstone games, as you'll recall, there will be a marker in the center of the board (the Arkenstone) that will grant a 6" banner radius to the force with the most models within 3" of it.  The other force treats the Arkenstone as a 3" banner for their force.  For the purposes of scoring, the Arkenstone does not count as a banner for either team at the end of the game.

We agreed to the following terrain, as both of us were open to having a more open map with a few pieces at the edges, mimicking how Tiberius likes to setup his underground map.  For this game, Don didn't want to play with stockpiles, primarily because 1) most of them would only be able to be used by his heroes and two bowmen, and with a 25% of getting a barrel of tar and a 50% chance that it would end up on my side of the board, he didn't want me landing hits with archery wounding on 5s instead of 6s (which I can understand).  Once all of the terrain was placed, we rolled off to see who deployed first, I won the roll-off, and deployment looked like this:


And with that... (For death and glory!) (Something stirring and brilliant that Glenstorm would not have thought of, because he always says the same thing before battle!)

Turn 1 (P: Grey Company)


By the way, as you'll likely notice, the pictures are different in this post than in my past posts (especially in terms of width/clarity.  I recently got a new phone (major props going out right now for the Droid Ultra), so hopefully the quality will be better than other reports in recent history, :)

In the Move Phase, the armies advanced toward each other, with the Easterlings making a dash toward the Arkenstone, and the Grey Company advancing 3" toward their foes.  You'll notice that, after taking notes from my game with Zorro recently, that my detachments are closer together than they were in that game, so that they can support each other more effectively.  I'll need this against his F4 D6 front line, as he will have a wider spread of spear support.


In the Shoot Phase, my three volley teams block out the sun, concentrating on the War Priest's detachment, and they take down one of the Black Dragons.  Don had no shots at this range, so we moved to Turn 2.

Turn 2 (P: Grey Company)

The armies advanced further (not much to see - you'll see the full layout after the Shoot Phase), with the Easterlings forming up a battle line near the Arkenstone.  The Grey Company pulled up another 3" and prepared to fire normally on the advancing horde.


In the Shoot Phase, I opted to take a gamble: on the far end, Culang (Ranger of the North) and Daerdan (Dunedain w/ spear) landed hits on two Black Dragons, and both rolled 5s to wound.  I opted to spend their Might points to convert those to kills (1/1M for each), which is not normally my play style, but since he only has a F4 front line, my thinking was that if I can whittle down his front line this turn and next turn with archery, I'll win ties even though he will have the 6" banner radius from the Arkenstone (which I can't take from him now - he'll have it all game).  With over 2/3 of my archers still to fire, I wonder if I made a mistake paying out those Might points early.


Turns out I didn't, :)  The next set of archers under Aragorn brought the pain, knocking down four more of the Black Dragons with 6s to wound (that bites).


Gwonil (Dunedain) took down another without the aid of her Might point, and another ranger took off one of the swordsman on the end, causing 8 casualties this round (You know: Glenstorm likes to say in his battle reports that this is not normative, and I suppose it isn't, but still...).  The Easterling bowmen returned fire, and both shots failed to wound.  At this point I did some measuring, and discovered that Khamul was just barely out of striking distance from my flank.  With Aragorn locked on the lower section of the map, I suddenly began to panic about how to stop a F5 3A S4 guy from overrunning me on the far side.  Next turn, I'll need to create a troop to stall him.

Casualty count: 9/36 Easterlings (9 from break point), 0/36 Grey Company

Turn 3 (P: Easterlings)


The armies continue to rush forward (well, my army rushed forward; Glenstorm's stayed back) (true, :) ), with the Dragon Knight placing himself behind the Arkenstone to shield him from archery (Hey: when you only have 2 wounds and 0 Fate points, you protect your heavy hitter) (Fair point - though I'm not so dishonorable as to take him down with archery, :) ).  Khamul goes flush against the rocks, with the horse's head poking around the corner (we can see! :D ).  I rearranged and formed up my battle line, with Torchirion (a Ranger of the North), Astiul (a Dunedain w/ spear), and a random ranger moving 3" to take shots at Khamul (and to brace his charge next turn, as I'm not confident in wounding him on 6/5+).


In the Shoot Phase, the Easterling bowmen did nothing, and while I thought about returning fire against them, the fact that they are D5 means I want to wait to take them on until melee combat, where I'm wounding on 5s instead of 6s.  We ended up only doing 2 wounds, though he's now lost half of his F4 fighting line, which is pretty decent.  The three shots at Khamul were all on-target, all of them were on the rider, and all of them failed (not surprisingly).

Turn 4 (P: Easterlings)


As we moved up, I was in charge distance this round.  But as much as I wanted to charge, I restrained because his men were still within 6" of the Arkenstone, and because his banner was within 3" of the Arkenstone he still had dominant control over it.  So instead I moved forward about an inch, and formed up a solid battle line to meet the oncoming hoard.  Khamul charged Torchirion and the Ranger of Arnor and attempted to cast Transfix on Torchirion on a 4+ and failed (1/12W).  I attempted to charge two rangers in, and one of them failed his courage test because of the Harbinger of Evil rule that reduced his Courage by 1.


In the Shoot Phase, the Easterlings did nothing, and the Rangers of Arnor responded with one final hurrah, taking down 4 Black Dragons.  Gwonil and Dannassel (Ranger of the North) took down 2 more without the aid of Might (I'm down to 3 Black Dragons...this is not good...).


In the Fight Phase, Khamul paid 1 Will to add +1A (2/12W), won combat on a 6, and knocked down all three of his combatants.  With 2A +1 for the charge, Khamul sported 6 attack dice, rolling 4s to wound the rangers (which he got for both, bringing him back up to a full Will store), and 5s to wound against Torchirion.  He made 1 of the 2 die rolls, which Torchirion saved with a Fate Point (1/1F).  Khamul paid his 1W for being in combat (1/12W), and as we headed into the mayhem and carnage that is the first round of full melee combat, the casualty count looked like this:

Casualty count: 17/36 Easterlings (1 from break point), 2/36 Grey Company (Yeah...this isn't going very well...)

Turn 5 (P: Easterlings)


...And we have melee combats! :)  The Easterlings charged in, engaging a number of the front ranks, and screening Aragorn off with the bowmen (because they haven't done anything all game for me yet, and I don't care about them that much).  Khamul moved around the flank to hit the rangers from behind (as I wasn't going to waste him just attacking Torchirion - I need raw damage count right now), and the War Priest successfully got off Bladewrath on the Dragon Knight (on a 6, 1/3W expended), making him S6 until the end of the round (on a 2+, this is one of my favorite spells!) (it's high on my list, too - especially if you plan to call Heroic Combats) (Oh, I will, :) ).  Khamul cast Black Dart at one of the Rangers of Arnor he charged (on a 5+) and failed to cast it (2/12W).  Aragorn and his men wrap around the end of the battle line, crashing into the Easterling bowmen and pikes on the south end of the battle line.  Torchirion stood up, and a few of the rangers attempted to charge Khamul and failed.


In the Shoot Phase, I took a few shots using spear-supporting rangers, and they landed two kills on the pikes (so his force will be broken next turn), and took a few shots at the banner from the guys on the ledge, but none of them hit.  As we entered the Fight Phase, three Heroic Combats were called: Aragorn (Free/3M), Gwonil (Dunedain, 1/1M), and the Dragon Knight (1/2M).  The Drag Knight won the roll off, and the combats were resolved in the following order: Drag Knight, Aragorn, Gwonil.

The Dragon Knight was supported by two pikes, which meant he was sporting 5 attacks (yes, that's right - 5 dice at a higher FV) that wound on 3s (such a boss).  He won his combat, slashed through both rangers handily, and moved on to engage two more rangers (which you can see in the Shoot Phase picture above).


Aragorn and Dannassel handily defeated the shielding pikeman in their fight, Dannassel wounded him on 5s, and pull off the pike support in the fight nearby (as I'm pretty sure the overwhelming number of rangers from the south can handle the rest of these guys; I'm going to start moving the heroes toward the center as they wound on 5s instead of 6s).


Gwonil and Rosseloth won their fight and finished off one of the last of the Black Dragons (who did a valiant job shielding, by the way - he forced us to a roll-off, and the girls won the roll), and then moved in to engage the pikeman protecting the banner (I would have engaged the banner, but there was no way to get to him past the control zone, and I don't want to take the chance of losing a hero by doing solo battles.  I'll play more conservatively and let the other heroes wrap around next turn).


For the rest of the Fight Phase, Aragorn and Dannassel take down their pikeman, and the rangers take down the bowman that they swarmed.  Otherwise, in the south there were a lot of lost combats that resulted in no wounds, so things pretty much remained the same.  In the center, the Drag Knight easily cut through the two rangers in his fight (I need an answer to that; Aragorn is too far away, and the Drag Knight will eat up my minor heroes, too.  Make a note of this for future games...).  Khamul paid 1W to add +1A (3/12W), won the fight on a 6, knocked over all 3 rangers in his fight, and wounded 2 of them before paying his 1W for being in combat (bringing him back to 2/12W used) (such a fun combat nazgul - and one of the most underrated of the named ringwraiths) (I know, right?).  Heading into Turn 6, the current total:

Casualty Count: 23/36 Easterlings (broken, 4 from game), 8/36 Grey Company (10 from break) (Good showing that turn, guys, but it's a little too late)

Turn 6 (P: Easterlings)

So...we were so into the game that we didn't take a picture, :P  Aragorn called a Heroic Move, as did the War Priest (since he probably won't need that Might Point for anything else if Aragorn is charging toward our general location).  Aragorn won the roll off (...which means I probably wasted the Might Point; oh well, it was worth a try, :) ), and the rangers surrounded the bulk of the Easterling army.  I tagged the Drag Knight with a Ranger of Arnor (sorry man: someone's got to be the fall guy this round), and charged another Ranger of Arnor and Torchirion into Khamul to remove his charge bonus.  By the end of the Heroic Move, Don had two Easterling pikes near the top of the map left to move, which he threw against the spears involved in one of the combats (I need to keep myself from losing guys, and get into one-on-ones that I can win; we're running out of options here).

In the Shoot Phase, nothing happened (it's about time, ;) ), so we moved into the Fight Phase.  Three Heroic Combats were called: Aragorn (1/3M), Astiul (1/1M), and the Drag Knight (2/2M).  Aragorn won the roll off, so they were resolved in the following order: Aragorn, Drag Knight, Astiul.


Aragorn won his fight against the banner and the pikeman on a 6, and then rolled low to wound.  I paid my last two Might Points to slay them both (which I didn't think was too bad, since the game is pretty close to over, so I figure it's okay to burn my Might store here), and then moved in to engage the War Priest.


The Drag Knight lost combat against the Ranger of Arnor (Dude...you had triple the attack dice and a higher FV, and the highest you can roll is a 3?!?!), and the ranger failed to wound, ending the Heroic Combat (Fall Guy: "I survived!!!" :D ).  Astiul, Gwonil, and Rosseloth finished off their pikeman, and, while I probably didn't need this to win the game, I decided to go for the moral victory and fling everyone at Khamul (as I already had 2 guys facing him, and 5 guys trapping a Nazgul is pretty fun).  Astiul and Rosseloth rolled 5s, and while they are usually Courage 5, the Harbinger of Evil dropped their Courage Tests to 9s, causing them to use up their Will points (1/1W each).

In the rest of the Fight Phase, things were crazy: the Easterling pikeman near the War Priest lost combat, but was not wounded, giving the War Priest a drop option for retreating in his combat.  We went to that combat next, and the War Priest rolled a 6 to win the fight, compared to Aragorn's high dice of 3 (Dannassel and the other ranger didn't do any better; wow.  Just, wow...)...so, by a strike of amazing luck (Yes!!!), the War Priest wins combat against Aragorn, Dannassel, and the Ranger of Arnor, and struck at the Ranger of Arnor to wound on 5s (as he's only S3, unlike the other heroes who are S4), and rolled a 4 (Yeah: I was really missing that wasted Might Point right there...figures the one chance I'd have of wounding someone, I'd roll just low enough to miss, :P ).  Up top, the two Easterling pikes both lose combat, but neither of them are wounded (and, by the way, I was starting to worry at this point, because I only need 1 more kill to end the game, and none of my guys - including Aragorn - are converting).  Then, as if understanding my worry, the Black Dragon to the south successfully shielded against 3 Rangers of Arnor (picture of him in the wrap-up photo), and the Easterling pikeman nearby also successfully shields.  The bowman, on the other hand, did not have the boon of shielding, and was slain in combat (which means the game will end).  This left on the battle against Khamul at the top.  So, Khamul rolled to win the fight:


...And he rolled Snake Eyes. :)  (*Facepalm* Seriously, man?  Seriously?) (*Soft happy smile*)  I rolled higher than Snake Eyes, as you can imagine, and then we rolled to wound:


The S4 guys (everyone other than the Ranger of Arnor on the eastern side of the picture) needed 6s, and the ranger needed 6/4+ to wound.  The RoA failed, Rosseloth landed a wound with a 6, and the two Dunedain who rolled 5s (Astiul and Gwonil) both expended their Might Points earlier in the combat, so they could not promote their attacks to wounds...meaning that on 10 dice, I landed 1 wound, with 2 Fate Points at the disposal for the Black Easterling.  So, feeling excited about his odds, Don rolled for Fate:


Yes - you saw that correctly: Snake Eyes again (that bites. :(  ) (...that's rough, dude...).  So, with that one wound I caused, Khamul goes down.

A bit blurry; sorry about that!
As you can see, there weren't very many kills that round following the Heroic Combats, but it was enough to end the game.  Final count:

Casualty Count: 29/36 Easterlings (game), 8/36 Grey Company

So, final score: 3 Victory Points for the Grey Company for breaking the enemy without being broken, and 2 Victory Points for killing the enemy army leader, resulting in a 5-0 Major Victory for the Grey Company.

Conclusion

Glenstorm's Thoughts: Wow - that was a wild ride, :)  A lot of factors worked well for me in that game, including the archery game coming out in force and being able to keep my heroes from being bogged down against his power units so that I could focus on kill count.  I'm glad we didn't have the stockpiles, as not only would they not have helped Don's force much (except maybe the throwing weapons, though Turn 4 was the only time he was setup to use them well), though there's a side of me that wonders what would happen if the bowmen could have picked up shields or 2Hers, and whether that would have changed anything.

Donatello's Thoughts: Wow - I really thought wounding on 6s would be harder for this guy, :)  The Easterlings are a very one-dimensional civ, especially when you opt to focus all of your points into casters, killing heroes, and a solid phalanx.  He did a good job of whittling down my forces and choosing where we fought, and there were a number of amazing rolls he got off.  On the whole, I wouldn't have changed much about my approach or decisions in the game.  Well fought, Glenstorm.

Stellar Unit for Glenstorm: Rangers of the North, no question.  These guys consistently held down the fort, whether that was by knocking down front ranks at range, curving around the end of his battle line at the end, or stunting Khamul and holding him off of the main body long enough to break the enemy force.  At D5, they will be wounded by just about anything short of an Uruk Captain or a Troll on 5s or better, and with a Fate Point, you have a bit of room to move in case you need it.  These guys are consistent and proven, and I appreciate that.

Stellar Unit for Donatello: Wow - everyone had their fair share of fails in this game, :P  The Black Dragons are usually my stellar unit, but there were only three left once we got into melee combat, so they didn't really shine, except inasmuch as two of them survived to the end, :P  As half of my kills went to Khamul and the other half went to the Dragon Knight, I'd likely pick the Drag Knight solely because of his predictability and dependability in breaking the center.

I'm hoping to get a few more games in (maybe with Tavros and Glot, if I can setup a time to meet up wtih them), which will likely be Domination or Ill Met by Moonlight sceanrios.  With only a few weeks to go until the tournament, I'm getting excited about what the tourney will hold!  Until then,

Watching the stars,

Centaur

"We watch the skies for the great tides of evil or change that are sometimes marked there." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix