Monday, 15 August 2011

Book of Grudges: The Aftermath

Right, well I spent a couple of posts talking about the lead-up to Book of Grudges, so it only seems appropriate that I give a bit of a run-down on how the event went.

Apologies to anyone waiting for the next segment in my Skill in Warhammer series. I will get back on that after this post.

First up, I did indeed get my army ready in time. It wasn’t even a big rush. This feels like a break from tradition somehow – there wouldn’t have been many tournaments where I got a decent night’s sleep the night before. Anyway, below is a slightly blurry shot of my army as it appeared on the day. The army list is already on the blog, here.
My Empire cavalry army for Book of Grudges
The final model I painted for the army was the Ice Queen of Kislev, who was standing in as a Wizard Lord using the Lore of Death. The figure is probably older than some of the people who are reading this blog, but I’ve always kind of liked her.

The Ice Queen of Kislev, who is posing as an Amethyst Wizard for the occasion
The tournament itself was a funny affair. Traditionally the first round of a tournament will accommodate players “grudging” each other, in place of their just being included in the random draw. Both players need to agree to the match-up. After that, the Swiss chess system of players meeting others on similar levels of battle points applies. In Book of Grudges, the first 2 rounds were both random draws with players grudging each other. Then in rounds 3, 4 and 5, players who happened to be in a position that was a multiple of 5 (5th, 10th etc) were permitted to issue grudges to others, with no chance of refusal. It opens the possibility for bunny hunting, or for trying to gun down players well above you in order to catch up, and it was really rather amusing.

I figured I would give a brief run-down of each of my games, given I know there are some people who would like to hear it, and the rest of you can ignore me as you see fit. Bear in mind that this is all from memory a few days later, so there may be some slight inaccuracies in terms of army lists and the like.

The scoring system was slightly funny, so if the battle points don’t make sense, bear in mind there are bonuses for killing the enemy general, getting a standard into their deployment zone, killing half the enemy models, and killing the most expensive unit.

Game 1: Meeting Engagement
Hieu Lam: Skaven
Warlord Queek leading 30 Super Stormvermin with the flaming banner and Warpfire Thrower
Grey Seer with 4+ ward save
BSB with Storm Banner
Warlock Engineer (Level 1) with Doom Rocket
30 Clanrats
2x30 Slaves
6 Rat Ogres
6 Jezzails
Hellpit Abomination
Warp Lightning Cannon

Hieu grudged me before the tournament and I accepted. Last time we played, I was using Dark Elves and he was using Lizardmen. So this game was not going to be the same as the last one.

Hieu had to set up first, and both his Slave units decided not to rock up for the start of the battle (they would move on in turn 1). This meant I was able to line my units up against their most favourable opposition, so even though he got the first turn, it was going to be tough. My Pistoliers and Wizard Lord stayed in reserve, but that was OK. I lost a few knights to various shooting attacks like the Doom Rocket (fired at me from behind by a Skitterleaping Warlock Engineer) in the first turn. Then I charged and killed the Hellpit Abomination in the first turn with the flaming unit of cavalry (Hieu took particular offense to my horse kicking the Abomination in the face), the Steam Tank ploughed into the Rat Ogres, the other cavalry unit charged the Grey Seer’s Clanrats in the front, whilst the Outriders went into the flank and the Pegasus swept around through the Warp Lightning Cannon and joined the Outriders. The Warlock died to a volley from the late-arriving Pistoliers, and it was all looking pretty grim.

Very early on it was apparent that Hieu’s hopes rested on the horde of WS5, Strength 5 Stormvermin with Queek and the BSB. Unfortunately I hit them in the front and side with my cavalry units, and managed to cast Soulblight on the unit, dropping their Strength and Toughness. That was the killing blow, and the game was over.

Result: 20-0

Hieu went on to destroy a Watchtower with Crack’s Call, whilst it was occupied by a horde of 18 Kroxigor. 18 failed Initiative 1 tests later, his (and his opponent’s) place in Warhammer folklore is assured…

Game 2: Dawn Attack
Lachy McKenzie: Lizardmen
Slann with Lore of Heavens and reroll Miscast results
Old Blood on a Cold One with 1+ rerollable saves, flaming attacks with extra -2 armour save modifier
Scar Veteran with 3+ armour and a great weapon
Skink Priest on an Ancient Stegadon with the Engine of the Gods
Skink Priest
2x20 Saurus with spears
10 Skinks
2x5 Chameleon Skinks
Salamander Hunting Pack

Lachy also grudged me before the tournament, as a Cancon rematch. I didn’t remember how that game went, but apparently I won thanks to a double-1 leadership test at a critical juncture. In this game, deployment was dictated by rolling for each unit, and I ended up with most of my army cramped into the right corner (general’s unit of cavalry, Steam Tank, and both units of Fast Cavalry). The other unit of cavalry and the Pegasus captain were on the left – why would anyone want to roll a 3, 4, 5 or 6 and deploy in the centre?

Lachy started the game by shifting things across toward my weaker flank, which made it even more important that all my guys piled onto the right flank move quickly to respond. Instead, my Steam Tank overheated and my knight block was slowed by fleeing Outriders, who panicked after one of them rode face-first into a tree when charging Chameleon Skinks. Desperate to do something before I got picked apart, my Wizard stepped out of the slowed cavalry unit and lined up a boosted Purple Sun of Xereus. A roll of a 6 or more on the artillery dice would probably have won me the game – both Stegadons and a block of Saurus would have had a chance to exercise their mighty Initiatives (generally 1). Instead I rolled a Misfire and wiped myself out, like a true professional. At least I had left my unit…

The forces on my left managed to charge a block of Saurus with the Scar Veteran in their ranks (my cavalry in the front, my Pegasus in the flank). I smashed them, but they rolled double-1 and held (vengeance for Cancon?). I then lost the cavalry to a counter-charge from a Stegadon, although my stubborn Pegasus stuck around, having been flanked by the Old Blood (flaming attacks, eh? Meet my magic hat…).

I managed to clean up the remaining Saurus with a late-arriving Steam Tank, and the Old Blood with a heroic solo charge from my Arch Lector, but he then failed to finish off the Scar Veteran and both he and the Pegasus succumbed to his tender attentions (as delivered at Strength 7). I was pulling the game back, but Lachy had a big head start and I couldn’t catch up. The unforgiving scoring system meant I think I lost by lot, although it was only 900 victory points. Something like…

Result: 3-16

Game 3: Watchtower
Mark Skilton: Daemons of Chaos
Keeper of Secrets (Level 1) with Spirit Swallower
Slaanesh Herald (Level 1) with Siren Song
Slaanesh Herald BSB
2x25 Daemonettes
5 Furies
6 Seekers of Slaanesh
2x2 Fiends
6 Flamers

In keeping with the nature of the tournament, this was another grudge. Mark happened to be on a multiple of 5, and decided he wanted a go at my army. I think he felt slightly guilty when he realised he’d picked on an all-cavalry army for the Watchtower, but hey. All’s fair in love and war dollies…

The table was covered in forests, which boded poorly for my cavalry. In fact, Mark decided it would be more fun to goad me through all these trees than to just plant a unit in the Watchtower at the start of the game and mock me from the windows. I had to rush at him as quickly as possible in case he came to his senses and strolled into the tower with a block of Daemonettes, so sounded off a number of charges around the table. Naturally I failed all the rolls, so had to repeat my efforts the next turn. This time I engaged – my general’s unit heading 1 way into some Daemonettes, and my other unit going the other way into a Keeper of Secrets. The Steam Tank plowed into the other Daemonettes and proceeded to slowly grind them down to half a dozen models by the end of the game. The Pegasus charged the Flamers, expecting to work his way through them. As it turns out, he was cowardly and inept, and eventually fled near the end of the game.

The game was going pretty poorly until the Keeper had a sudden bout of the clumsies in the third round of combat and keeled over, dead. My general’s unit eventually ground their way through the Daemonettes and flanking units of Furies and Fiends. Unfortunately the knights that managed to deal with the Keeper were less fortunate when they were hit from both directions by Fiends and Seekers, although to be honest half the unit was probably flayed to death by the Wild Wood they were standing in all game (it was a very, very angry pack of trees. They were killing things every turn, and even turned on the Fiends and Seekers when they arrived). More unfortunately, when my sole remaining knight finally decided to flee, it dragged the Fiends within range of the Watchtower, who then wandered in on the last turn. This turned what would have been a 400 point victory into a 400 point loss.

It only occurs to me now that we completely forgot that Watchtower has a random turn length. Oh well, who knows what that would have meant…

Result: 8-13

Game 4: Battle for the Pass
Stephen Nash: Skaven
Warlord on Bonebreaker with Warpstone Armour
Plague Priest (Level 2) with Dispel Scroll on Plague Furnace
Warlock Engineer (Level 2) with Warp Energy Condenser
BSB with Banner of the Under-Empire
30 Plague Monks with Plague Banner
20 Stormvermin with Storm Banner and Warpfire Thrower
5 Rat Ogres
25 Clanrats with Warpfire Thrower
50 Slaves
Hellpit Abomination

This was Stephen’s first tournament, and his list was really pretty cuddly by Skaven standards. No Grey Seer, no Warp Lightning Cannon or Jezzails… It was not what I was expecting to see. Unfortunately, things did not start well for him.

I got the first turn, and started the game by sniping his BSB out of his unit with Spirit Leech. I then fired the Steam Tank’s cannon for the only time in the tournament, and was rewarded by knocking the poor Plague Priest off his perch and wounding the Furnace. I think these things helped inspire Stephen to advance, and this meant things got messy pretty early on. The general’s unit of knights charged and broke the Doomwheel, then carried on into the Plague Monks (where the Steam Tank was waiting for them). The Furnace was destroyed and the unit broken. My Pegasus charged the front of the Slaves, intending to pin them in place. I accidentally broke them instead, and they popped, killing a number of Stormvermin. The flaming knights once again charged the Abomination, which was right in front of the Warlock’s bodyguard of Clanrats. This time the Abomination barely survived the first round of combat, but the knights got to the Clanrats eventually.

The Steam Tank hit the Rat Ogres, who had just finished devouring my light cavalry. After a couple of rounds of driving over them, they broke and rallied right on the board edge. They then escaped any follow-up drive-bys thanks to the Steam Tank overheating twice.

The great shining ray of hope of the Skaven was the Stormvermin, who charged the flank of my general’s unit of cavalry. There were only 14 of them and they were reduced in Strength and Toughness thanks to Soulblight, so they didn’t kill anything. However, they did win combat. By 1. Leaving me Leadership 9, which was not enough. I broke and got run down by triumphant ratties, in an explosion of victory and battle points. I still came out on top; the only survivors were the Warlord and his one remaining pet Rat Ogre.

Result: 19-4

Game 5: Blood and Glory
Drew McLean: Warriors of Chaos
Chaos Lord on Chariot with Axe of Khorne, 4+ Ward
BSB on Chariot with 4+ Ward vs mundane attacks
Sorcerer (Level 2) on Chariot with Lore of Fire, Infernal Puppet
2 Khorne Chariots
50 Khorne Marauders with great weapons
2 Chaos Warshrines
2x5 Marauder Horsemen with throwing axes, standards
4x5 Warhounds

This time it was my opportunity to issue a grudge, and I decided that Drew’s Chaos chariot list would make for an interesting game. I admit I also decided it would not be the toughest game for me to “break” the army by killing its general and standards, but hey – this is the benefit of me getting to choose an opponent. As it turns out Drew was well above me in the rankings, so I even got a bonus point for being all brave (I didn’t realise this when I called him out).

The game somehow went really slowly, despite neither of us realising what was going on. My knights charged a marauder cavalry unit that was goading me into a forest to lose my steadfast, but I decided it was worth it to kill a banner. I shielded the flank of the unit from the massive horde of crazy men with my Steam Tank, and they spent the rest of the game flapping at it impotently. Drew’s general decided to charge the knights in the forest, but given that I had cast Soulblight, this was a mistake. I killed the chariot and ran down the general, thus “breaking” his army and gaining 800 bonus victory points. My Wizard picked off Drew’s BSB with magic, and my other cavalry unit worked their way through one of the Warshrines before being counter-charged by more chariots. Again, Soulblight meant they didn’t really hurt, and were lucky not to be broken from combat.

By this point, combats had been grinding on for a bit and we realised we had little time left. As it turns out, we could have played another turn, but we didn’t know that at the time. Still, the Marauders were stuck fighting something they couldn’t kill, most of Drew’s chariots were now bogged in a losing combat, and there was not a lot else of substance left to threaten my units, so I think continuing would only have prolonged the misery of the Chaos-worshippers.

Result: 17-3

Game 6: Battleline
Toby Wicks: High Elves
Archmage (Level 4) with Lore of Light, Folariath’s Robe (ethereal), Silver Wand (extra spell)
BSB with Armour of Caledor (2+ save), Dawn Stone (reroll failed saves), great weapon
Noble on Eagle with 2+ rerollable armour, great weapon
25 Sea Guard with flaming banner
21 White Lions
20 Phoenix Guard with the Banner of Sorcery (+D3 power dice)
6 Dragon Princes
14 Archers
2 Eagles

Last up was Toby, with his rather beautiful High Elves - they won Player’s Choice (I should have been taking pictures, sorry). His was another list that really didn’t have the teeth it could have – hordes of High Elf elites scare the hell out of my knights, and a different magic Lore (almost any other magic Lore) would have been more menacing than Light. In his defence, I think Toby knew this and was deliberately fielding a nice army. Unfortunately, it meant he had a struggle on his hands against my tin-clad Empire army.

Toby set up very, very deep – almost against the table edge. I advanced as fast as I could, whilst swinging around the flank with my Pegasus. He tried to slow my advance by planting the Eagles right in front of me, however his plans were stymied somewhat by how close my units were to each other. He couldn’t twist them properly off-line because the backsides of the units were swinging into each other. Realising this ploy had failed, he managed to hold my general’s unit in place for 2 turns with irresistible castings of Net of Amyntok. Unfortunately, this resulted in him losing 10 White Lions.

Seeing things were getting dire, Toby declared charges on my other unit of knights with the Eagle hero and the White Lions. The White Lions failed the charge, leaving the Eagle all alone, and he got run down. The White Lions and mage then got charged by the knights, with the Steam Tank in the flank. This was bad, and the knights pursued the mage off the table.

The rest of the game largely involved the Phoenix Guard charging the Steam Tank that was right in front of them, and eventually being broken by a flank charge from the returning knights. They escaped, however – leaping through 2 units and rallying on the table edge, despite Doom and Darkness enveloping them. Kudos to them – the most expensive unit got away.

Result: 19-0

In the final standings, I managed to get to 6th position out of 47 players, which was not bad. My army performed better than expected, partially because none of my opponents had a spell that could simply remove the Steam Tank. I really assumed I would lose it in 2 games, but nobody got close. This would normally make me feel rather guilty, however the Steam Tank is a funny case. Generally impossible to get points out of it, however it can only ever do damage in your own turn, can’t overrun or pursue, and can be crippled with a little bit of damage. Despite it not dying in the tournament, I am less opposed to fielding it in the future than I thought I would be.

The other big success in my army was Soulblight. This spell made a massive difference in keeping my knights alive when their 2+ saves would otherwise not have cut it. I have stated before that this spell is a game-winner. Well, I think I cast the upgraded version of the spell 10 times in the tournament, so I think we can safely say this was a contributing factor to any success I enjoyed.

The final results for Book of Grudges were probably a bit skewed by the grudges flying thick and fast. It meant there was not as much opportunity for high-flying armies to get dragged down by other contenders. There was at least one army I was surprised to see so high, and I attribute this to the grudges. However, the atmosphere of the tournament was excellent, and the whole grudge system was really rather funny. I look forward to coming along again next year.

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