Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Nagash vs Karl Franz Ascendant

James Brett and I decided to play a 6,000pt game on the weekend, pitting Nagash against Karl Franz Ascendant and Balthasar Gelt, Incarnate of Metal in a game where hopefully their power wouldn't completely dominate the game. 

This is not really a battle report, but I was taking some pictures with my phone as we went along, so I thought I would give an account of how things panned out. I apologise for the quality of some of the photos. Nagash wasn't painted anyway, so I didn't bother to bring my good camera along - and now I regret that decision. Obviously I need more practice with this phone camera if it is going to serve as my backup.

Empire Army
I knew Nagash would be in the enemy army, but that was about it. I decided fielding really large units of knights would probably mess up the game balance, so I focused on big infantry blocks instead. I figured a unit of 60 Halberdiers with 2 horde detachments of 30 would be good for a laugh (and potentially scary), so that was the most exciting thing in my list. Apart from Karl Franz Ascendant, I guess. He's OK too...

  • Karl Franz Ascendant
  • Balthasar Gelt, Incarnate of Metal
  • Arch Lector on War Altar with Armour of Fortune, Great Weapon, Shield
  • Ludwig Schwartzhelm
  • Warrior Priest with Great Weapon, Heavy Armour
  • Engineer
  • Captain with Full Plate Armour, Shield, Sword of Striking
  • Captain with Full Plate Armour, Shield, Sword of Might
  • Battle Wizard (Level 2, Lore of Light) with Dispel Scroll
  • 60 Halberdiers with Full Command
    • 30 Halberdier detachment
    • 30 Halberdier detachment
  • 16 Inner Circle Knights with Full Command
  • 16 Knights with Great Weapons, Full Command
  • 60 Greatswords with Full Command
  • 60 Flagellants with Prophet of Doom
  • 15 Reiksguard Knights with Full Command
  • 4 Demigryph Knights with Full Command
  • Great Cannon

The Cannon was basically an afterthought. I decided it would be worth having, just to give Nagash something to think about. Other than that, I had no shooting. There's not much point trying to shoot the Undead to death.

Undead Legion Army
James knew I would be taking both KFA and the fancy version of Balthasar Gelt, so decided to give Nagash a bit of backup in the form of a blender Vampire Lord. He also threw in the End Times Krell, figuring he was likely to tag along wherever Nagash went. The other main unit of note was the 15 Vargheists, weighing in at about 700 points.

  • Nagash
  • Vampire Lord (Level 1, Lore of Vampires) on Hellsteed with Ogre Blade, Talisman of Preservation, The Other Trickster's Shard, Quickblood, Red Fury, Heavy Armour, Shield
  • Tomb King with Armour of Destiny, Great Weapon
  • Krell, Mortarch of Despair
  • Vampire BSB (Level 1, Lore of Vampires) with Dragonhelm, Dispel Scroll, Heavy Armour, Great Weapon
  • 40 Crypt Ghouls with Ghast
  • 40 Crypt Ghouls with Ghast
  • 40 VC Skeleton Warriors with Light Armour, Shields, Full Command, Banner of Swiftness
  • 16 TK Skeleton Archers with Full Command
  • 16 TK Skeleton Archers with Full Command
  • 30 Zombies with Standard, Musician
  • 5 Dire Wolves with Doom Wolf
  • 5 Dire Wolves with Doom Wolf
  • 15 Vargheists with Vargoyle
  • 2 Fell Bats
  • 2 Fell Bats
  • Corpse Cart with Balefire
  • 6 Black Knights with Full Command, Lichebone Standard
  • 5 Hexwraiths with Hellwraith
  • Hierotitan
  • Casket of Souls
  • Necrosphinx
  • Terrorgheist
  • Terrorgheist
  • Varghulf

The list is notable for all the things I didn't bother with - magic standards, small disposable units with which to help control the game... Such subtlety was lost on me when I started thinking of units of 60 models.

The Game
Deployment, after James makes his vanguard moves. we didn't bother with alternating deployment. We were both a bit worried that James would run out of room on his side if he couldn't reshuffle things as he went along. I would not recommend a regular 6x4 table for games larger than this one.

There you go, 15 Vargheists in horde formation. What every sensible Undead player needs.
The centre of the army, featuring Nagash the Black and Headless. Because clearly James felt using him unpainted was undignified enough, and he proceeded to swing him around the room by his head until something broke (this may be a slight dramatization of actual events).
The other flank, including the vanguarded Hexwraiths and the Necrosphinx (James was using a Dread Abyssal model). The Casket is hiding behind the hill, just like every other Casket in history. Lame.
My army, featuring little subtlety and zero Caskets of Souls hiding behind hills. See, that's the moral high ground right there in the centre of the picture. On my side of the table. Boo yeah!
Ludwig Schwartzhelm led the Reiksguard from the back of the lines. In front of them is the regiment of 60 Halberdiers, with their horde-sized detachments arrayed on either side.
Blurry blurry. My Greatswords and Flagellants, with the White Wolves settling for the flank (as it was the only space left).
I went first and moved up. Karl Franz was pretty aggressive, showing little concern for the possibility of enemy charges. 
The Inner Circle Knights on the left flank left both the Necrosphinx and Black Knights escorting the blender Vampire requiring moderate rolls of 8 or so to charge them.
Come at me, Undead-bro!
Whoa, they came at me. 15 Vargheists to the flank. At least the pack of Ghouls that tried to launch itself into the front found the distance too great. 
The Black Knights didn't make the charge, but the Necrosphinx did. It killed a Knight or two, took a wound, and nothing much happened.
The Terrorgheist has a song to sing to Karl Franz.
Mistakes were made: The Vargheists arrived in the combat all excited and hungry, but then they had to wait for Karl Franz Amazing to attack. 10 attacks, hitting on 3+. Oh, I hit with all 10? That's pretty cool. Auto wounds, no saves, D3+1 wounds per hit... 9 of them died outright, and another took 2 wounds. It was... spectacular. We barely noticed when the surviving Vargheists inflicted 3 wounds in return (I failed all my saves - Karl Franz Arrogant does not defend. He only attacks).
It was a close call as to whether the remaining Vargheists would crumble from combat resolution. Until it was pointed out that we couldn't count and had missed 10 wounds. It wasn't close at all. It was an obliteration. And it meant Karl Franz Appalling was free to pick a new charge...
Nagash decided he didn't like my Cannon and raised a unit of Wraiths to "handle" the problem. Unfortunately for them, the War Altar decided to turn and "handle" them instead with a blast of Banishment. It was very much a cameo appearance.
Karl Franz Accommodating kindly moved out of the way so that the Flagellants (with backing vocals from a detachment of Halberdiers) could go teach the Terrorgheist the finer points of doom-laden singing. Even without any sort of re-rolls on the Flagellants, the combat was one-sided.
So you're telling me that all I have to do is kill this Corpse Cart, and I'm nearly guaranteed to reach Nagash before my third turn? Karl Franz Aggressive approves of the plan of solo charging into the enemy lines...
... and comfortably completes the plan in order to reach Nagash.
The Demigryphs charged the flank of the Necrosphinx and between them my units managed to bring the thing down. Seeing the Vampire Lord eyeing them hungrily, the Demigryphs optimistically tried to overrun off the table edge, but fell a bit short (it was a long way). The Knights held their ground, right up to the point where the Black Knights and Varghulf declared charges. The Varghulf is apparently scarier than it looks, and my unit panicked and bolted at warp speed off my table edge. Such bravery.
Varghulfs are dopey and this one failed to redirect into the Demigryphs, but the Black Knights had no such issues.
See, if you guys had just rolled like my cowardly Knights, you could have made it off the table to safety. Now look what you have to deal with. Anyway, the Champion absorbed the worst of the charge (the blender Lord blended him), and because James had adopted a silly formation due to space concerns (probably unnecessarily), I was steadfast. My unit held and reformed.
There are benefits to the fact that nobody ever really uses detachments. People forget what they do. Like counter-charge. I think James was quite happy with his plan of sending the Zombies (led by a Tomb King to give them WS6) into my Halberdiers, until he got charged in the flank by the detachment. It became quickly apparent that this made it a very bad idea. The Undead were wiped out after combat resolution, with the Tomb King feebly cursing a few Halberdiers from each regiment.
Meanwhile, the Flagellants were making friends with all the Ghouls, ever. And some Skeletons. Doom-laden friendship for everyone! The Halberdier detachment had decided to flee when the Ghouls lined them up, leaving the Flagellants to party alone. With 120 of the new Undead friends.
Nagash on the hand, does not party alone. Or at least, he demands mood music. In this case provided by the duet of a Terrorgheist and a group of Wraiths with a Banshee that he summoned for the occasion. Karl Franz Acoustic took 3 more wounds (failing his saves again), as the music didn't suit his taste at all.
You start the Initiative chant at 10, counting down. Then you stop at 3. This is the point where everybody dies. More specifically, I think it was 32 Ghouls and 31 Flagellants. Plus the 4 Flagellants who whipped themselves to death to give their comrades maximum re-rolls and Toughness 4. The Ghouls kind of disrespected the enhanced Toughness by rolling an apocalyptic number of poison attacks. Oh well, it was worth a shot.
The Flagellants lost the combat and their frenzy, but of course they held their ground whilst the flanking Ghouls reformed.
Their reform was partly motivated by trying to put more distance between themselves and the super blurry Greatswords. Even so, it was not a long charge.
And of course it put the Halberdiers closer to their rear. Could be a problem.
OK, so this picture kind of gives the game away. Where is Karl Franz Absent? Oh right, he's dead. That would be because he stuffed up murdering Nagash like he should have. Only hit 3 times from his 10 attacks on 4+, then Nagash saved 2 of them. He took 4 wounds, but that only half kills him. Nagash landed maybe 4 wounds in return, I failed all but 1 save, and Karl Franz Ascended once more as I lifted the model from the table. Great. Now how do I kill Nagash?
My Demigryphs fought bravely against the Black Knights, and actually killed them all and left the Vampire Lord on a single wound by the time they perished. It was a very good effort, and they delayed him for several rounds of combat.
It would appear I didn't take a photo of the second round of the Ghoul combat. Sorry. The Halberdiers charged the Ghouls in the rear and the Greatswords went into the flank, with the War Altar moving up to affect both units. It was ugly. I won combat by about 20, and both Ghoul units vanished. The Greatswords overran and hit some Bats, whilst the Halberdiers could do little more than make room for them as they focused on reforming to put themselves within range to influence the detachment that had charged the Hierotitan. What little was left of the Flagellants held up Krell's Skeleton regiment.
In my turn I had taken a pot shot at Nagash with the Cannon and failed to wound him (the Cannon had been a bitter disappointment. By this point it had failed to make it to the Hierotitan, then done 1 wound, then failed to wound Nagash). Given he was only 3 wounds away from dead, he decided the situation was unacceptable and charged the Greatswords to deny me a target. Thus began an arm-wrestle that went for many rounds.
Even with hatred from their parent unit, the Halberdier detachment had failed abysmally to push through the Hierotitan. They then got flanked for their troubles. Fortunately they also had steadfast and Hold the Line from the main regiment, so they held their position despite this reversal. The Hierotitan capitulated surprisingly easily shortly thereafter, allowing the Halberdiers to reform and lay into the Skeletons.
Morghasts! And dreadful photography! Both enough to strike fear into the hearts of battle report chroniclers everywhere. These guys are preposterously powerful, with WS 5, Strength 6 attacks. And Toughness 5 with 4 Wounds! Of course, they cost something like 90 points each. So normally that limits their appearance. But Nagash cares not for such trifling matters, and raised 5 of them. My White Wolves had smashed through the Skeleton Archers on the flank and were preparing to make a nuisance of themselves. This put paid to that plan, big time. If they charged the Morghasts, it would be over very quickly. And not in my favour...
As it turned out, the timing of the Morghasts' appearance was perhaps more important than we expected. The Flagellants should have died that turn and freed Krell's unit to reform and face the incoming cavalry. Once the Morghasts appeared, they would instead have been free to turn and charge into the rear of the Greatswords. The Flagellants had other ideas. In a sudden burst of excitement, they flailed themselves down to the point where Krell and the Vampire BSB (both of whom were striking last with great weapons) could no longer reach them. In fact, a single Flagellant survived to hold the Undead in place. It was very cheeky.
Eventually the Vampire Lord disposed of the last of the Demigryphs and headed toward the centre of the field. He and the Varghulf both charged the Halberdier detachment, just as they were mopping up the last of the Skeleton Archers (and so could not respond). Oh well, at least I would be steadfast right? Hell no. I'm not even sure I had anyone left to take a break test. It was ugly.
The Reiksguard charged through the small group of Wraiths and into the Terrorgheist in the hope of working their way through to Nagash, but they did little damage on the charge because they copped a hiding from the Terrorgheist's shrieks which cleaned off the whole back rank. Eventually they killed the beast, with a handy contribution from Ludwig himself and his Sword of Justice doing a couple of wounds. They never made it to Nagash, however.
The struggle between Nagash and the Greatswords was a funny one. In the first round I tried to crumble him by challenging with the unit champion (when I had 4 easy wounds off the Bats in my favour). Naturally Nagash racked up maximum overkill in the challenge (I really needed him to duff his attacks), so that plan failed. Next I did everything I could to beef up my unit's combat potential. I forced through Speed of Light and Enchanted Blades of Aiban on the regiment, but James was canny enough to ensure I couldn't get the Arch Lector's re-rolls to wound through. That probably would have done it. Instead it became a see-saw of James trying to cast Invocation to heal Nagash, whilst I tried to do wounds. He hovered around being mostly dead for a while. I got him down to 1 wound before he healed another one.
In desperation I ended up charging the rallied detachment of Halberdiers into the flank of the Morghasts to try to save my White Wolves from their halberds. The Morghasts reformed to face me and started laying into my unit, but they held very bravely without anything more than moral support from Balthasar Gelt (who really should not have landed there. Guess what would have happened to him if the Halberdiers broke). I got lucky when James changed his plan of charging Krell's unit into the Halberdiers alongside the Morghasts. It would have been enough to break me. Instead he decided not to, then seemed to forget why he had done that, and ended up cursing himself for a fool. Whatever, I was happy...
Having failed to assist the Morghasts, Krell and his friends elected to help Nagash instead, and went into the rear of the Greatswords. All this really achieved was making me take break tests instead of Nagash ignoring losing combat by 1 or 2. Somewhat amusingly, the nearest Greatswords spun about and murdered the Vampire BSB in a single round, and Krell himself passed two 6+ armour saves to avoid being half-killed. The Vargheist charged the War Altar and devoured the Arch Lector over a couple of rounds of combat. or rather, he redirected into the War Altar after my regiment of Halberdiers failed their terror test and fled his initial charge. Cowards. Meanwhile the blender Lord went into the rear of the Reiksguard and cut down the unit champion in the first round challenge.
Here you can see my Halberdiers bravely retreating. Along with their detachment, which is also bravely retreating. In a show of bogus luck on my part, the White Wolves decided to flank the Morghasts fighting the detachment, immediately before the detachment decided they were done and fled. That was excellent timing. It left the Morghasts free to reform and attack the Knights, but that also went better than expected. I did the odd wound, took slightly fewer than I thought I would, and over several rounds of combat, my unit held its ground - until I had all of about 3 White Wolves left by the end of the game, still fighting on.
I did it! I had all but given up when Nagash regained a wound and Krell and his mates arrived, but I didn't give my Greatswords enough credit. They suddenly fired up on what was probably their last chance, and forced 2 wounds through to fell the giant. Amazeballs! Balthasar Gelt was on hand to gloat.
Gloat, will you? Somewhat unfortunately, the Vampire Lord was not concerned by Nagash's demise. Maybe he was pleased and planned to take over. Anyway, I had a choice to make that turn about whether to fight the blender in a challenge with Ludwig (obviously losing him) and trust in the stubbornness of the Reiksguard to fight on, or decline and hope the remaining 5 knights could absorb the damage and maybe do the final wound to kill him. I went for the latter option, then watched as all 5 of them perished (I really need to work on my 5+ armour saves). Ludwig fled and died, and the Vampire was suddenly free to "pursue other interests". In this case that meant charging at Balthasar, who squealed like a little girl and tried to outrun him. As you can see, that didn't go so well. He dead.
The War Altar fled and perished when the Arch Lector died, and that freed up the Varghulf to flank my Greatswords. Here we are near the end, and you can see it wasn't going all that well for anyone. I think I was winning in terms of combat resolution, whilst simultaneously running out of guys as the Varghulf ate them all. Anyway, by the end of the sixth turn, the combat remained locked much like this.
By the end of the game, this is pretty much what remained (apart from 5 Dire Wolves and a Cannon and Engineer out of picture). Looks pretty even, but when you think that those Morghasts were not part of the starting army, it's slightly better for me.

It wasn't entirely clear who had won the game by the end. I think we would both have been content to call things a draw, but someone wanted to know what the final scores were, so we worked them out. 

Empire - 4948
Undead - 4186

So with an advantage of 762 points, I guess that probably counts as a marginal victory to the Empire. But with Karl Franz and Balthasar dead, and some of the surviving units pretty badly crippled, it really didn't feel like much of a win. 

Karl Franz had burned brightly and briefly, with his opening exchange with the Vargheists drawing gasps of amazement from onlookers (probably as much from my rolling as anything else), and looking like he was going to crash straight through Nagash and allow me to dominate the game. The fact that he dropped the ball at the critical moment was somewhat amusing, and his demise swung the advantage dramatically in the other direction. I assumed I would be in trouble, especially when the cannonball bounced off Nagash - I didn't think I would be able to kill him. The 4 wounds done by Karl Franz and the presence of the Cannon were telling however, as James felt compelled to push him into combat in order to improve his survival chances. Few characters would willingly charge 60 Greatswords alone, but Nagash nearly got away with it. By the time he fell, I had all but given up hope of removing him.

The real heroes of the game for me had been the Demigryphs, who delayed the blender Vampire Lord far longer than we really expected and just about kept him from swinging the game back in James' favour single-handed. His other great hope was the Morghasts, who really are horrifying. I was lucky to hold them all game with the tag-team efforts of the Halberdier detachment and the White Wolf Knights. They could easily have broken free several times, and their speed and power would probably have made the difference.

All in all it was a pretty entertaining game. Nagash never really got to show what he could do in terms of his magic, but his defiance in close combat was a thing to behold. Not a bad character to have on your side.


  1. Epic battle! I would love to play a large scale fantasy game such as this.

    1. Yeah, games like this are good fun. And still only took us about 5 hours to complete.

    2. lol first game against Nagash I had was only 2500point battle but it lasted for 9 hours :P of course we didn't stress and lots of banter in between rounds. Warhammer maybe is a fun and pretzels game, but it wouldn't be fun if it was not competitive and if at every rule we were unsure we would just say "fuck it" anything goes.....

  2. What an epic battle! Thanks for posting!

  3. 'Nagash is not bad' is probably the best piece of Warhammer advice I've ever read. I strongly agree.

    1. He still didn't wreck up the game with zillions of raised units or anything, the way I was half expecting him to. Especially when backed by a Casket and Hierotitan. The turn when he had 10 power dice to my 4 dispel dice was a little scary. That may have been when the Morghasts turned up - I don't quite recall.

    2. I've had the same experience. He's so scary in the magic phase, I tended to sit very hard on anything he tried relatively successfully. He's a very competent combat monster too, though, I think that's even more of a strength to him than players expect. I suppose you don't want to risk him in combat for those points, apart from anything else!

  4. Epic battle! 15 vargheist is in a single unit was a pretty awesome sight.

    This is the second time I've seen Karl Franz dying to Nagash and not quite sure how it happens. Those auto hitting D3+1 wounds should make mincemeat of him but it just doesn't happen.

    1. I have a confession to make. I could have cast Enchanted Blades of Aiban on him to make him hit on a 3+, but decided to leave it to fate so that I could have a go at turning Krell and his unit into shiny golden statues with Final Transformation. It would appear that trusting Karl Franz to deal with the problem on his own was a mistake. Sigmar reincarnated, indeed!