Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Battle of Vanhaldenschlosse: Total War

Having played through the Battle of Vanhaldenschlosse on the tabletop, the plan was then to go back and try to recreate it in Total War: Warhammer – The Grim & The Grave. Well, two of us did go through with the plan. The results were… interesting. 

For starters, although we’ve both played the game (James has played it a lot more than me), neither of us had ever played a multiplayer battle before. It was cool to see all the options, including being able to have up to 4 forces a side with either PC or human controllers. We decided to make use of this, as we realized that the battle we had fought was loaded with plenty of Lord choices, but you can only have one per army in TW. We also figured that it would be helpful to have PC allies controlling some of the forces to take the load off us a bit. We then set about roughly recreating the forces. The balance is a bit whacky given that unit sizes can vary wildly on the tabletop, but are set in TW. We went with what we felt best represented a TW version of the armies, which basically meant filling up all 80 available slots on either side. 

We chose the Castle Drakenhof map as it seemed a reasonable fit. We had no control over late-arriving flanking forces, which was slightly disappointing given that it’s something that happens regularly when you’re in the campaign. So we were not able to recreate the flanking element of the tabletop battle. Oh well, we figured we would just line things up and see what happened.
The loading screen. I was using Volkmar. James' lord was actually Vlad, so I assume he must have set a PC player as the no 1 player on his side for Ghorst to show up here. Or the game just moves in mysterious ways.

And then we launched the battle and my PC wept bitter tears of overloadedness.

It turns out 160 elements on the field all at once was a bit of a burden on my PC (I assume the load was on me, as I was the host). It meant the battle probably played out at about half speed, with each second taking 2 seconds in real life. But it worked, and it was funny to watch. I took some snapshots and thought I would talk through things a bit.
Just a few banners. That is my stuff, nearest the camera.
Vlad wandering about with his shiny sword.
A Strigoi Ghoul King on Terrorgheist, in honour of the Horror of the High Fells who so capably caught cannonballs on the tabletop.
Helman Ghorst, lurking behind the Undead lines.
Volkmar the Grim, flanked by Flagellants and the Knights of the Blazing Sun.
Without actually discussing where we were each deploying, I somehow ended up on the right flank of the Empire lines, whilst James was sitting opposite me. This meant that the rest of the battlefield consisted of a 3 vs 3 battle of PC-controlled elements. I figured things would intermingle and that even if they didn't to begin with, someone would come out on top somewhere and then be free to move across and lend a handle elsewhere. It didn't really work out that way.

As the battle started out, the first thing my nearest PC ally did was abandon me. All his forces did a sharp left turn and marched away from where our forces were overlapping.
Sneaky Dire Wolves hiding in the forest. James initially thought they might have been the reason my allies ran away from me, but after watching it again, I'm pretty sure it was incidental. They were clearly abandoning me. :(
That shiny blob on the left? That's all the guys that were previous deployed with my missile troops here.
James seemed to have an awful lot of Varghulfs, Vargheists, Terrorgheists and general nasties under his control. Things that hit hard, and are also fast. The speed was an issue for me, despite me having a fair bit of cavalry on my flank. I pushed up on the flank to respond to a wave of onrushing stuff, and then James suddenly folded that stuff back into his lines and I was left out of reach for a bit, scrambling to respond. Meanwhile various flying things were heading straight for my exposed gun line.
It's nice to know that even when the PC is controlling stuff, things can look like a shambles. Behold the clear and ordered lines in the Empire centre. Totally under control. What on earth is going on?
And then James and I got into a tangle. A nasty one. Things piled in on both sides, and Volkmar decided to unleash every trick at his disposal. Soulfire is bombarding the lines here. Hopefully it only hurts the Undead stuff, right...?
In the centre, the Empire combat lines were looking a bit thin compared to the Undead swarming at them. Basically they seemed to have a lot of missile troops and not enough solid troops to keep them from being overwhelmed. The balance was off. And there was a Ghoul King on a Terrorgheist in amongst the artillery at the bottom of the screen...
Having abandoned me, my allies decided it would be entertaining to rain a continual bombardment down upon the combat containing most of my stuff. What could go wrong?
Vlad forced his way through the mess and started attacking Volkmar in a sneaky fashion. To be honest, I completely lost track of him during the battle. He disappeared in a sea of banners and Varghulfs. Man those things are huge.
In a true show of disdain, Vlad then wandered off and ignored Volkmar, attacking other things that were more worthy of his time. You know my general is still alive and fighting your stuff, right? Don't care? Fair enough...
Maybe Vlad was right to ignore me. Shortly thereafter you can see that Volkmar no longer stands on the War Altar. He has gone off to be grim somewhere else, probably. He certainly wouldn't be dead. Inconceivable.
The scrum in the centre looks pretty dire. A lot more black banners than Empire ones.
Good luck making sense of that. For some reason Ghorst drove right into the middle of it. He was actually mostly dead by the time he emerged, having been dive-bombed by a couple of Griffons. Or the same Griffon, more than once. Who can tell?
My flank looking rather poorly, as panic sets in and nearly everyone who is still alive runs away.
Honestly my flank was more or less holding its own, but things turned nasty when a couple of Black Coaches and some Terrorgheists and Vargheists arrived behind me, having either finished up my missile troops, or moved across to assist from the Great Clash of the PC Players. I got no assistance from that direction, so the extra stuff really ended my resistance.
But wait, I am not done yet! I still have a Steam Tank up on the hill. James realises this and sends a couple of Terrorgheists to "handle" the problem.
One of the Griffons dies as the last Empire resistance in the centre crumbles. It's just one of those things. Look at the amount of damage some of those Undead units have taken, but they're still standing.
Brave brave Sir Robin, he boldly ran away...
So. What did we learn here? Well for one, I am not terribly good at Total War. For all that I have played my way a long way into the Empire campaign, I struggled to get my hands on some of the more powerful troops like artillery, Steam Tanks, Demigryphs, Griffons, etc. I have also only ever clashed with the Undead a couple of times. I have spent most of my time fighting Chaos. It meant that this battle was a learning experience for me in terms of how these things operate. I suspect James was a lot more familiar with what he was using, and what he was up against. He certainly seemed more in control.

The free-flowing nature of a Total War battle is very different from what you get in Warhammer on the tabletop. I am more used to regiments with clearly defined positions, and limits to what can reach what at any given point in time. I'm also used to having a clearer view of how well a unit is positioned in terms of whether it is going to win or lose a fight. I don't have that in TW, and I don't know if that is just a lack of experience, or whether it's just part of the game that you get used to.

We may well have another go at this battle, with greatly reduced forces in order to help things flow and maybe improve the balance. Clearly I could use the practice.

13 comments:

  1. Such a recursive adaptation:
    A video game scenario inspired by a table-top scenario inspired by a video game based on a table-top game.

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    1. It's like Inception, with more undead.

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  2. Maybe I can help a bit when it comes down to who "is going to win or lose a fight." in TWW, even if there are vaste differences between the teams.
    Spears and halberds are generally good against "large targets". Like in tabletop, this means giants and griffons, BUT in TW, cavalry is also considered "large target" so you want spears on flanks.
    All the things we call handweapons in tabletop are good towards infantry level enemies.
    Great Weapons are usually also good against infantry (heresy) except that they are slow and armour piercing, so they can be useful against knights, but can lose to fast handweapon infantry. Most knights have the anti-infantry keyword. Thus they are good against infantry. Their biggest strength is of course their charge for massive damage, but in TWW, units like spears and halberds negate the enemy's charge bonus (Oof!) thus making cavalry very weak against these units.
    Halberd units are generally better than their non-halberd counterparts.
    Shooting units are either high damage armour piercing (guns, cannons), or cheap low damage (crossbows, bret archers). Low damage shooting can still tear through low armour enemies, or support by shooting into combat: If they shoot at an enemy monster engaged with friendly infantry, they will only damage the monster. High damage shooting can do roughly the same, but also packs a punch against heavily armoured units and monsters. Flying units are usually poorly armoured, and good targets for ranged units.
    While this is basic rules, we also have some army specific knowledge (I'll only write the stuff on VC and Empire, since that is what you need)
    Skeletons are weaker than their living counterparts, but they will stay in the battle longer, unless they suffer heavy morale damage.
    Zombies are only there to bog down your troops. Their damage output is close to nothing. Unlike in tabletop zombies can provide useful rear charges without making your good units crumble to dust.
    Empire troops have poor leadership and require the presence of their general. They often rally (but note that in TW units can only rally if the general is still alive) so get them back into the fight. Empire's biggest strength is demigryph knights and allroundedness. Demigryphs with halberds will counter ALL of the opponent's monsters. Unless they've received a nerf.
    Oh well, that was my few cents. Hope for a better result next battle :P If you can, get some more people to control the additional armies. Might make it more entertaining to share some tactics and such.

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    1. Well I want to add that most of VC units inspired fear or terror in empire's troops so I think there is a lack of balance. And that choc cavalry is more powerful if you just charge in and then get back and charge again if they stay in fights they will be less powerful as long as their charge power is really high. I wish you to win next time.

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    2. Thanks guys, these sorts of things are indeed helpful. I had gathered the very basic concept that there was something of a rock-paper-scissors thing happening with spearmen-infantry-cavalry-monsters etc going on, but a lot of the details escaped me. James suggested I might have held up better against his stuff with more spearmen or halberds, but then I had no idea I would be fighting a flank so stacked with larger stuff.

      I'm not at all sure how the fear/general's leadership thing works in the game. I had assumed it would be a bit like the tabletop, where a unit would shake off the effects of fear sooner or later, but I haven't noticed it happening.

      Breaking cavalry out of combat to charge again is something that scares me. I see enemy chariots doing it against me, but I always assume that if I try to pull something out of a combat, it will get murdered when it turns around due to free strikes or something. Maybe it doesn't work like that, or is less pronounced if the enemy is still engaged by something else?

      A lot of this is just down to experience. I need a lot more practice at TW if I want to be able to go into an even battle and expect to come out on top.

      Thanks for the tips!

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    3. Well you have nearly everything you need with the gold triangle: cavalry>swordsman>spearmen>cavalry but with the monster it's a bit harder because it is not in the triangle, so you have to deal with it by focusing heroes or elite units (like halberds even if empire soldiers have low moral)
      Fear and general leadership impact the moral which is the grey bar under the health one. Fear,terror, being charged (more effective in the flank and even more in the back) will make the morale of your units fall appart. But heroes and rare elite units give a bonus in morale thanks to their aura that is represent as a blue circle and some skills can also help.
      You should not fear to leave a fight with a cavalry units when you face units with less speed, more over choc cavalry is more efficient while charging. You will lose moral while leaving the fight but it will be short except the moral of your units is already low in this case they may run away.
      Finally you should hire more heroes in the fight your opponent had 4 of them it helps you to hold the regiments more over they have powerful abilitys that can give you the victory.But of course training is also the key (don't forget that heroes don't like ranged focus fire!)

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    4. A better understanding of things like the morale boosts would doubtless have seen me divide my forces more carefully. There were a number of heroes on the Empire side, but most were under AI control because heroes and spells were just extra details I suspected I wouldn't have time for. Next time...

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  3. I know the time difference between us is likely a factor, Mr Hoodling, but should you ever fancy an internet match against me in Sweden I'd be delighted to report it via the blog. I go under the steam handle Kraken Vaknar (Swedish for the Kraken Wakes, roughly) - send me a friend request if you'd like!

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    1. PS - I've only played the campaign too. I suck at MP.

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    2. Sure, I'll add you. Whether we will ever get past the time zone hurdles remains to be seen. :P

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  4. I enjoyed this quite thoroughly

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  5. Thanks, a fun read, good screen-shots too!

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