Wednesday, 4 November 2015

My first KoW tournament - Smorgancon

After trying out my first larger game of Kings of War, the following day I went along to my first tournament - a small event called Smorgancon. I think it was the first time any of us were involved in a Kings of War tournament, so it was always going to be something of a learning experience for us all. 

I was actually a pretty late entry (a spot opened up when someone pulled out), and my list was not exactly a finely honed precision instrument. I had been toying with lists that might resist flyer-heavy armies, as a theme seems to have been developing in our games that big flyers are very powerful and can be difficult to counter. Rather than taking this as an invitation to go mad with power and field several monsters, I wanted to try making a list that might counter them and help buck the trend. The list below was what I came up with. 
  • Ax Horde
  • Ax Horde
  • Ax Horde
  • Ax Horde
  • Troll Horde
  • War Drum
  • War Drum
  • Gore Rider Regiment
  • Godspeaker with Bane Chant, Inspiring Talisman
  • Godspeaker with Bane Chant
  • Krudger on Winged Slasher with Medallion of Life
  • Troll Bruiser
The theory was that this army could anchor its flank on a table edge, put out a solid 4 feet of orc hordes with no room for anything much to get in between, and then have enough other stuff to both shield the far flank and lurk behind the main line to charge any cheeky flyers that hoped to get into my rear. So theoretically both my flanks and rear would be protected, which would largely negate the impact of the flying monsters. Of course, I didn't play any practice games with the list I came up with. So it was all theory going into the event.

The theory was then undermined somewhat by my own incompetence and lack of preparation. When I arrived (late) at the tournament, I discovered I had failed to pack something - an entire horde of Orcs. I only had 3 in my box. So some emergency changes were made; a Giant made a sudden appearance in my list, and I wound up going into my games 15 points short. Oh well.
Behold my "Giant". Alas, he was all I happened to have on hand! Well at least the base size was correct...

This will be a pretty rough run-down of my games. Where I happen to remember the magic items on the enemy units I will include them, but it's been over a week now...

Game 1: Invade!
Mike Crossman, Brotherhood

  • Exemplar Forsaker with Ensorcelled Armour
  • Exemplar Adjutant on Barded Horse
  • Order of Redemption Regiment
  • Order of the Abyssal Hunt Regiment (I think they had the Elite magic item)
  • Order of the Brotherhood Regiment
  • Order of the Forsaken Regiment
  • Order of the Forsaken Regiment
  • Regiment of Villein Spearmen
  • Regiment of Villein Spearmen
  • Troop of Villein Bowmen
  • Troop of Villein Reconnoiterers
  • Villein Siege Artillery
  • Villein Siege Artillery
First up I was playing Mike's Brotherhood - an army I had done little more than glance at in the beta lists. I guess playing against them is a good way to learn! I had at least played the scenario once before, so I was a veteran at that. The table was slightly unexpected, with a lot of blocking terrain. I was actually glad that I had to substitute a Giant instead of another Orc horde on this table, because there really wouldn't have been room to move. I nearly ended up overlapping them on deployment as it was.
Towers and big icy rocky mountainy things. There is another one just out of picture on the right - I couldn't have moved a horde through the gap between it and the tower. This photo was after my first turn.
Mike's army was very nice to see on the table. Many of the armies running around were unpainted, as there was no painting requirement for the event.
Mike's forces move up, somewhat carelessly in places. The regiment behind the Griffon (Exemplar Forsaker) is his best unit, the Order of Redemption. Their flank is within 14" of the "Giant".
The "Giant" hits the flank of the Order of Redemption, rolls pretty poorly for damage, then rolls really well for the rout test to compensate and the unit vanishes in a puff of smoke. So easy! Mike was not as impressed as I was.
My Gore Riders had spotted a weakness in the lines, and rode through the Army Standard Bearer and into the Archers. Killing them was a formality, but then they stuffed up by rolling a 1 for how far they could carry on. Which meant those Knights next to them could see them. Very bad...
For lack of a better plan (and given I needed to push across the table anyway), one of my Ax hordes pushed up hard on the left flank. I then set about trying to ensure that the flying Order of the Forsaken regiment couldn't get behind my lines without having to tangle with the Trolls.
Of everything I did in this game, trying to ensure that everything was covered was the hardest. Here you can see Elmo, King of Trolls, offering moral support for the Troll horde.
Part of the theory of this army was that hordes of Ax supported by War Drums and Inspiring would be enough to that few things could break straight through the lines. This proved to be true here, and the combined efforts of Mike's forces were not enough to rout or waver my units. You will note the absence of my Gore Riders on the hill. They did not enjoy being flanked by the Order of the Brotherhood.
The "Giant" paid a price for what he did to the Order of Redemption. He was immediately charged by Order of the Abyssal Hunt, who are basically monster hunters. This hurt a lot. I think he would have been wavered, but given he has Fury this didn't really matter. He would take revenge upon them for their taking revenge upon him! Tit for tat for tit for tat...
Actually, for all that my Giant might like to talk tough he didn't have all that much impact upon the Order of the Abyssal Hunt. They took a little damage, then smashed the Giant to pieces on the second attempt. Oh well, he'd done well enough.
Eventually Mike came to the same conclusion as I had: that I had covered by back field well enough to prevent those flying guys from doing anything too cheeky. So instead they charged into the Ax horde alongside the Villein scout dudes. The damage was nowhere near enough to stop all those Orcs...
The Ax horde dealt with the Order of the Forsaken before turning to glare at the Villeins. They had little choice but to charge in again, fail once more to have any real impact, and then get smashed the following turn. The left flank was mine!
Some time later (which is a nice way of saying that I had forgotten to take photos for a little bit)...

Mike's Siege Artillery started to find their range, and proceeded to absolutely hammer my army. The Troll Horde vanished in a single volley thanks to a high rout roll. Worse was to come...
The Villeins on the left were dealt with by my Ax horde, however I think it took me 2 goes to get rid of them. The Order of the Forsaken next to the Griffon bore the brunt of the counter-charge from my Ax horde and routed, whilst the Villeins from the same combat were demolished by my Winged Slasher arriving in their flank.
My Winged Slasher dealt with the Villeins, but then had to take a charge from the Order of the Brotherhood. They did some damage, he regenerated almost none of it (I think I managed to regain 3 wounds on about 24 rolls for the game), then charged back at them and did modest damage in return. It was going to be under control; I had a horde of Ax free to flank the knights. But then it went wrong when the Siege Artillery started firing again. They both hit the Orcs, did something like 12 damage, and the unit up and vanished thanks to some high rout rolls. So much for a rescue.

Meanwhile the other Ax horde was trading charges with the Griffon dude. I had Bane-chant. It was a fight I could win. Unfortunately my first charge into him yielded a single wound (25 attacks on 4s and 4s). This meant that when I went in a second time and actually rolled OK, he was too fresh and weathered the damage. Then the pesky Order of the Abyssal Hunt arrived to spoil the party.
Without the second Ax horde to effect a rescue, my Winged Slasher keeled over. Elmo had to rush forward to buy my other forces some time.
This could have gone OK. The knights were fairly dented already. Unfortunately Elmo took a fair bit of damage, wavered despite the War Drum, failed to regenerate any damage, and got cleaned up the following turn. So no, it didn't really go OK.
The remainder of the game saw a War Drum get hammered by yet another catapult hit, Elmo and the remaining Ax horde in the centre caving in, and my Godspeakers scrambling to salvage something. They combined for a massive Fireball roll on the Order of the Abyssal Hunt, took them up to something like 15 damage, and then rolled a double 1 to allow them to live. It was all rather frustrating.

After looking like I had the game under control, I lost 2 hordes to unexpected damage and high nerve rolls thanks to the Siege Artillery. It was enough to swing the game back in Mike's favour, and my remaining elements suffered due to the sudden absence of those hordes. In the end it turned out that the scenario was a draw because I still had some points' worth of units left and they were almost all on Mike's side of the table. But my army had taken a lot more damage and this told in terms of the battle points (all games were a combination of up to 20 battle points for killing the enemy, and 10 points for scenarios).

Result: 13-17

Game 2: Dominate!
Nick Hoen, Elves
  • Dragon Kindred Lord with Medallion of Life
  • Elven King on Horse with Blade of the Beast Slayer
  • Mage with Bane Chant
  • Horde of Kindred Archers with Heart-seeking Chant
  • Regiment of Stormwind Cavalry with Maccwar's Potion of the Caterpillar
  • Regiment of Stormwind Cavalry
  • Regiment of Drakon Riders
  • Regiment of Palace Guard
  • Regiment of Palace Guard
  • Bolt Thrower
  • Bolt Thrower
Next up was Nick's Elf army. I had played against a slightly different version of his list a week or two beforehand, and my poor thrown-together Kingdom of Men army had been taken apart by the Dragon. So that guy was Public Enemy No 1.
I lost the roll for first turn, which was not ideal. I was feeling the Orcs' lack of shooting at this point. Nick's mage spent almost the entire game casting Bane-chant on the horde of Archers. In the first turn they targeted Elmo, who walked it off without too much fuss.
This flank was less than ideal. Too much speed coming at my lines, and a tower making supporting my units difficult.
In my first turn I managed to get a combo charge into the Dragon with my Winged Slasher and Gore Riders. Between them they did 10 damage and wavered him. Unfortunately he then regenerated half of the wounds in his turn.
For want of a better plan, I pushed up on the left.
The area around the Dragon at the start of Nick's turn.
The area around the Dragon at the end of Nick's turn. Note the absence of the Winged Slasher, which died to a single volley from the Bane-chanted Archers. Yay. Also the War Drum, which died immediately before that to a shot from the Bolt Throwers. Oh, and the Gore Riders, who died to a basic frontal charge from the Stormwind Cavalry. Nick was rolling well, in case you couldn't work this out...
And at the same time, a combo charge with all 3 of his units on my left his the Ax horde in the front and it folded immediately. So much for these units being resilient.
I did what I could in return. I charged the Stormwind Cavalry with Elmo and an Ax horde, but apparently that was not enough.  I don't think I even wavered them. The one thing that went right was the Trolls charging the Dragon and killing it.
The Giant hit the Stormwind Cavalry on my left flank, but didn't do much damage. He then got hit by both the Drakons and the Cavalry, held his ground for a turn, hit the Cavalry again and then got flattened when they hit him for a second time. The Elven King turned and charged the War Drum, making good use of the fact that it's a Monster and he had just the sword for the job. The Drum wavered on the first attempt and routed on the second, leaving that flank uncontested.
The Trolls were caught in a sandwich between the 2 regiments of Palace Guard, as Nick just managed to squeeze one unit into their flank. The Trolls couldn't take the punishment and routed.
The Ax horde took a second swipe at the Stormwind Cavalry and dealt with them before turning toward the Palace Guard.
I'm a little fuzzy as to what happened here. I'm pretty sure my units killed one of the Palace Guard regiments, and then Elmo got cleaned up. It doesn't really matter. All you really need to know at this point was that the elements that remained in my army were dying. I was struggling in the combats and the shooting was taking a constant toll too.
My final act of defiance was to turn back with the Godspeakers and blast the Stormwind Cavalry. I rolled abysmally, but due to a clerical error in my favour (we had lost the wound markers on the unit and incorrectly tallied how much damage they had taken), the unit routed anyway.  It didn't matter. Everything I had left fell over immediately afterward.
In the end I had taken appalling damage in Nick's second turn thanks largely to some impressive dice rolling, and struggled to recover. About the only thing that went right for me in the game was how effectively I dealt with the Dragon. With nothing left on the field, Nick obviously claimed the objective in the centre for the scenario points. I had been smashed.

Result: 3-27

Game 3: Pillage!
Scott Hill, Undead
  • Vampire on Undead Dragon with Ensorcelled Armour
  • Revenant King on Undead Wyrm with Medallion of Life
  • Cursed Pharaoh with Wings of the Honeymaze
  • Lykanis
  • Horde of Revenants with two-handed weapons
  • Horde of Zombie Trolls
  • Regiment of Wraiths with Diadem of Dragon-kind
  • Regiment of Revenant Cavalry with Maccwar's Potion of the Caterpillar
  • Regiment of Revenant Cavalry
After an inauspicious first half of the tournament, I was battling it out on the bottom table with Scott's Undead. With 2 large flying monsters, Wraiths and a flying Mummy to boot, this army was the sort of thing I was worried I would be playing before the event - flying galore.
Scott's army was compact despite the Zombie Dragon and Undead Wyrm being on silly colossal Terrorgheist bases. The round black bases that were basically set up in a circle around a central one were the objectives.
The one on the right is the Vampire on Zombie Dragon.
I advanced fairly hard on my right flank, which I had stacked to swing around the tower and press across the objectives.
The Giant wandered up in the forest. Sorry about how dark these photos are getting. I didn't realise quite how dark it was in there,
Scott moved up fairly cagily, except the Lykanis which shot past the forest on my left flank, all the way to my board edge before turning back in the third turn. The Wyrm gave me a combo charge with the Winged Slasher and Giant, and I figured I had to take it. The damage they did was significant, but not enough to kill it (and so it started regenerating and lifeleeching the wounds back). The Winged Slasher then bore the brunt of the enemy retaliation, taking a number of wounds from the Wyrm and Wraiths.
This caught me off-guard. The Pharaoh flew across the field and into the flank of the Gore Riders in the first turn. I was fine with this; I figured Scott was making it easy for me. The Gore Riders turned and charged, whilst the Ax horde went in as well, aided by Bane-chant. I had no idea the Cursed Pharaoh's nerve value was so high (15/17). Nevertheless, on average I should have routed him straight off the bat with that many attacks. As it was I rolled terribly and left him standing and unwavered. This then became a massive problem as my flank choked up and I couldn't get things past my front line (the angles and distances were all not quite right to simply move through at double speed). Somewhat outrageously it took me 3 goes to kill this guy. Pretty much killed my game.
There is now a big gap in the photos. Most of the missing action was on my left flank. The Zombie Dragon flew up next to the Wraiths, which gave my Winged Slasher a flank on it by going over the heads of the Wraiths. I was not going to pass up 20 attacks on such an important target, and went in. I think I did 10 wounds. Unfortunately the Dragon spun and counter-charged me, did some damage and then routed me on nerve 7 despite Inspiring. Sigh. It just wasn't working. The Giant got into a colossal grind-fest with the Wraiths and a regiment of Revenant Cavalry. In the end I got worn down, and without removing anything from the enemy. That was bad. I was failing to trade all over the place.
With the Giant and Winged Slasher gone, Scott pressed up and engaged my main lines. My Ax hordes took a battering and did a bit of damage in return.
Look at all those damage counters on the big guys. When the second monster arrived in the fight it really drove home how much damage I had done and how little I had to show for it. Both models healing the damage as they went made it frustrating. At the bottom of the screen you can also see the Lykanis, who had finished his global tour and was gnawing upon the faces of my supporting War Drums and Godspeakers.
This impossibly dark photo shows that my Trolls and Elmo had finally skipped ahead of the units that made such a meal of dealing with the Pharaoh.
Eventually the Trolls made it around into the flank of the Zombie Trolls and tore them apart. My Ax hordes and the odd Fireball thrown over their heads eventually took down the Undead Wyrm, but the Zombie Dragon remained...
One Ax horde is gone (the arrival of the second Revenant Cavalry regiment was its downfall). The other has actually wound up pivoting 90 degrees as it ground away against the Zombie Dragon and its friends. Wraiths got into their flank, Elmo got into their flank, nobody was getting anywhere fast...
...and that was where the game ended. I remember wanting another turn to try to drive those units off the objectives (I still had at least the Gore Riders sitting behind the line, out of picture). The reality was that when the game stopped at the end of turn 6, I was well down in terms of units lost and I didn't have enough of the objectives either. So I had been soundly beaten again.
I'm not entirely sure what the final score was in the game. I might have been down 16-4 or something, or it might have been even worse than that. So much of the damage I had inflicted had failed to be converted into actual routed units. Much of the blame could be laid on my assumption that my stacked right flank would not be a problem. I needed those units. When that Pharaoh failed to keel over immediately, I experienced my first real traffic jam in Kings of War. Interpenetration is all well and good, but when you're dealing with horde units with large footprints, there is no guarantee that you can work your way out of trouble in a hurry.

Of all my games in the event, this was the one where I felt the lack of speed in my army's core the most. All of those Ax hordes having the same 5" movement allowed Scott to easily lurk outside of charge range, knowing that if I had pushed up to force the issue, I would be inviting combo charges that I might well not survive. Even giving one of the units the +1 movement item might be enough to resolve the problem, but my intention of fielding a solid wall of Orcs to stomp across the table was clearly flawed. Just something for me to think about.

Result: Somewhere between 4-26 and 2-28, I think...

Game 4: Loot!
Sam the Gumby, Ogres
  • Warlock
  • Army Standard
  • Army Standard
  • Red Goblin Biggit on Fleabag
  • Red Goblin Biggit on Fleabag
  • Horde of Siege Breakers
  • Horde of Siege Breakers
  • Horde of Boomers
  • Horde of Shooters
  • Horde of Shooters
  • Regiment of Red Goblins
  • Regiment of Red Goblins
Well this was embarrassing. Coming into my last game I had not only failed to win a game, but I had been thrashed twice. I was a good chance to come dead last in the event at this rate. Fortunately I ran into Sam's gumby army, which had been thrown in for the last round because someone had to leave early. Never has someone's care factor about their army been lower than Sam's was here. The list was written by someone else and it was cunningly packed with magic items. Sam chose to ignore the magic items and ended up fielding what should have been 2 hordes of Goblins as regiments because he was supplied with such a paltry number of models for the units. He was probably playing a few hundred points down straight off the bat...
This was how many Goblins Sam was handed to represent 2 hordes of 40... No wonder he downsized them.
The left flank saw a showdown between Elmo and his Troll buddies, and the Ogre Boomers supported by a Goblin Biggit and an Army Standard Bearer. I got first turn and the Trolls hurried forward to scoop up the loot counter over there.
The Siege Breakers were deployed over on the right.
This is me realising I had missed taking photos at the start of the game again.
Elmo rushed to engage the Boomers after being shot at. He took damage, and just to be different he actually spent all game passing regeneration rolls. Eventually the other Trolls caught up (after swatting away the Army Standard Bearer) and helped him deal with the Ogres.
In order to get a shot in, the Shooters stood their ground which allowed the Winged Slasher into their flank. They had been trying to bring it down on the way in, but it was a bit tough.
A combined charge from the Gore Riders and Giant dealt with the first group of Siege Breakers.
The second unit then went in, seeking revenge.
The Goblins actually managed to roll a freak 12 after wounding my Ax horde, wavering them against all expectation. The Goblins regiments were clearly the star performers in Sam's army. Unlike the Goblin Biggits, who decided to ignore their obvious role as diverters, and rushed off around to my rear so they could charge things from behind. Sam had clearly forgotten that Individuals do not triple their attacks. 
Shooters went into the flank of one of the Ax hordes. I don't remember why I gave them the flank. I think I got wavered though.
The Siege Breakers were joined by an Army Standard Bearer, and together they wavered the Gore Riders. You can just see the corner of the Goblin Biggit attacking my War Drum. Which seemed like a less great idea when it turned around and smacked him about the following turn.
Evasive action as the horde backs off to let the War Drum buy some time.
Rather than finish off the Shooters, the Winged Slasher went over their heads to help finish off the resistance from the Siege Breakers. I then made the mistake of reforming everything to face back onto the field, which meant there was nobody to help rescue the Gore Riders, who got repeatedly wavered by the Army Standard Bearer all by himself.
I think my Godspeakers might have used Fireballs to deal with the Shooters the Winged Slasher had neglected to finish off.
I didn't take photos of the closing stages. The Shooters died, the Warlock next to them managed to rout the Ax horde that was backing off and briefly claimed their loot before being devoured by the Winged Slasher, and eventually I think the Giant turned around and rescued the Gore Riders from the terrible predations of the Army Standard bearer.
By the end Sam had nothing left, which is not overly surprising he had nowhere near enough when he went into the game. I had lost one Ax horde, but was otherwise intact. Finally, something to cheer about! Yay!

Result: 30-0

All in all it had been a good, fun experience. My list had proven a bit lacklustre and the dice had at times been unkind, but I'm sure it could have been worse. Next time I will probably try a few things differently - either with a different army, or a few key tweaks to the Orcs to give me more to work with.


  1. Hi Greg!

    Thanks a lot for the write up! What I really like about this tournament that the armies look fantastic, in particular if painted. It simply looks fantastic to have these huge hordes and when you look at deployment there are real battle lines!

    Can't wait to see pictures from similar events after a few months when people have time to paint and model more and the numbers of participants grows.

    How do you like KoW as a game at the moment?


    1. Yeah, it will probably be a while before fully painted armies become the norm again. Right now the focus is on making it as easy as possible for people to turn up and play.

      I like KoW. I like its simplicity, although there are still times where its efforts to keep things simple backfire a bit and it becomes unclear how things are meant to be handled (generally around charging and fitting things in). I still feel as though my gaming mojo has had the stuffing knocked out of it by the events of the last year however, so I'm still trying to find my feet and rebuild my enthusiasm. So I'm still taking it easy a bit both in terms of playing and hobby work.

  2. Thanks for the write-up, Hoods!

    After giving AoS a handful of games and trying to get it to stick in my mind - and playing a lot of Malifaux in the meantime - I've found myself finally giving KoW a proper look. And you know, list scheming hasn't been as boring as I first thought it would be. There are certainly fewer granular options (no command, limited magic items and unit upgrades) than Warhams, but all of the armies have considerable depth, which has been good for a hobbyist like me, who often builds armies based around models I want to use, and the rules come second (so often does victory :P)

    Admittedly, I also miss doing BC reports of my WHFB games, and KoW certainly lends itself to it much better than AoS (or MF). And I also miss reading recaps of square-base tournaments, so here's another cheers for this one ;)