Monday, 10 September 2012

Book of Grudges 2012 Aftermath - Day 1

Well it's Monday morning (actually, Tuesday by the time I am posting this) and I am starting to recover from another weekend of gaming. Book of Grudges was run at the usual Hampton club venue, and managed to attract some 54 players, which makes it the largest Warhammer tournament in Victoria for a couple of years.

BoG is not your average tournament - it is all about the grudging. For the uninitiated, grudge matches are really just a case of one player challenging another, and this taking the place of what would otherwise be a random or seeded match. Many tournaments allow grudges in the first round, so people can line each other up before the event and duke it out rather than playing a random opponent (before the swiss chess system has kicked in). BoG goes further, allowing players to grudge each other for the first 2 rounds, with everyone else playing random opponents. Even after this, at the start of each round, anyone sitting in a position that is a multiple of 5 (so 5th, 10, 15th, etc) can issue grudges throughout the tournament up until the final round, where people finally have to play people at their own level. 

The upshot of this is that results can be rather odd in BoG. Normally players and armies find their own level before the end of the event, but with so many interruptions and potentially uneven match-ups, it's possible for a player to get through until the very last round before actually having to play someone on a similar score. So long as you embrace the event it's really not a problem, but BoG is definitely an unusual beast prone to throwing up some surprising results.
My 2400pt Empire army for Book of Grudges 2012

I have talked already about my army list, and in the end I received a 4/10 for composition - suggesting that my list was marginally tougher than average (although looking around, I suspect the "average" score was probably below 5 anyway - there were some pretty tough lists on display). BoG used comp-battle, which means you compare the difference between the comp scores of the 2 players, halve that and add it to the softer army whilst subtracting it from the harder one. It means your score takes into account the toughness of the opposition, so it's a pretty fair system.

I don't tend to issue grudges, however a day before the event nobody had come looking for me either, so I issued a general challenge on the club webpage and a couple of the guys accepted, so I then felt like I was getting more into the feel of the event. I was ready!

A word of warning about the photos. As usual, I forgot for large parts of the tournament to take pictures. As an additional bonus, this is a new phone that I was really yet to play with, and I'm still figuring out its camera. As a result some photos were unusable, and others are... action shots. Sorry, I'll get better for next time. Promise!

Round 1: Meeting Engagement

Chris Hardy - Skaven
Chris' Skaven. Not the best photo of them, sorry.
Grey Seer (General) - Talisman of Preservation, Skalm, Dispel Scroll
Chieftain - Battle Standard, Armour of Fortune, Ironcurse Icon
Plague Priest on Plague Furnace (Level 2) - Foul Pendant, poisoned attacks
Warlock Engineer - Doomrocket
Warlock Engineer (Level 1) - Warp Energy Condenser
30 Clanrats - spears, shields, full command, Warpfire Thrower
26 Clanrats - shields, full command, Poisoned Wind Mortar
39 Slaves
40 Slaves
5 Giant Rats - 1 Packmaster
5 Giant Rats - 1 Packmaster
28 Plague Monks - full command, Plague Banner
5 Gutter Runners
Hellpit Abomination
Warp Lightning Cannon

Comp score: 2

Game 1 was the first of my grudges against guys from the club, in this case Chris. We had only ever played once before (his first ever game of 8th edition), so we were clearly overdue to meet again. The table looked something like the one below, except everything was white and snowy. Use your imagination.
A rough map of the table for game 1.
Meeting Engagement sees the players deploy diagonally across the table, with anything that rolls a 1 starting off the table and having to walk on in the first turn. Chris deployed first, and his Doomwheel and Plague Monks (with the Priest on his Furnace) started in reserve. He took the top left corner, so I was on the bottom right. He put his Warp Lightning Cannon, Clanrats (with characters) and weapon teams well back from the line toward his corner. The Hellpit Abomination went to might left, between the hill and the forest. One of the Giant Rat units went on the hill next to it, with the other unit and the Slaves taking up the main front line between the hill and the other forest.

My Demigryphs decided to turn up late to the game, so they started in reserve. Everyone else managed to find their places in good order. The Steam Tank went opposite the Abomination, about 14" away. The Volley Gun was to the left, wedged into the pointy end of my deployment zone along with attendant Engineer. The Cannon was somewhere back behind the line. The Crossbowmen went behind the Steam Tank, and were joined by both wizards. Next to them was my main horde of Halberdiers with my Empire General, Witch Hunter and Warrior Priest all in the mix (as they would be all tournament). In between the Crossbowmen and Halberdiers went the detachment. My BSB on Pegasus got nervous about the lack of protection without the Demigryphs, and hid behind the building over to the right.

I had the chance to steal the first turn on the roll of a 6, however I didn't manage this so Chris got to go first. The Abomination headed for my Steam Tank, but only managed to travel 7". The Giant Rats were not quite quick enough to intercept the Steam Tank in return, so advanced alongside. The other Giant Rat unit also advanced a bit toward my main lines, and the Warlock with the Doomrocket stepped out from the Slaves in a display of disdain for my forces, which were only about 10" away. The Plague Monks arrived at the top of the table between the 2 forests, whilst the Doomwheel rolled on over near the right and headed toward my BSB behind the building. The Doomrocket didn't do a whole lot (I think), but the Poisoned Wind Mortar managed to misfire and allow me to place it on the Giant Rats near the Abomination. This killed a couple and resulted in the rest panicking through my Volley Gun, near the table edge. The Doomwheel restrained from shooting because the Plague Monks were closer than my BSB and would draw the lightning that way, but it was a close thing. Magic did little, although Chris did manage to Skitterleap his Warlock in between the Steam Tank and the Abomination to ensure I didn't use the horrible beastie as a speedbump.

In my first turn the Demigryphs arrived behind my lines and rode over the hill toward the Plague Monks. The BSB flew back and joined them, as he realised how close he had been to being zapped the previous turn. The Steam Tank ignored the Warlock right in front of it, and turned to drive toward the newly arrived Plague Furnace instead. I don't think its cannon did anything, however. For some reason I turned the Engineer toward the Giant Rats right behind him, in case they rallied. I don't know what I thought he would do about it if they did. The Halberdier detachment charged the Warlock who had been waving the Doomrocket about, and to my surprise he held. Naturally he lost the combat (although he managed to survive long enough to flee), which panicked the second Giant Rat unit nearby and they fled 12" toward the Plague Monks. The detachment failed to restrain pursuit and instead hared off after the fleeing Warlock, running him down and crashing into the front of the Slave unit next to the hill. OK, not exactly as planned, but good and positive. I may have wounded the Abomination a couple of times this turn with the Volley Gun and Crossbowmen, however I think he shrugged off a cannonball.

In turn 2 the Abomination crashed into the side of the Steam Tank, whilst the Warlock Engineer couldn't believe his good luck and charged my Engineer in the rear as he watched the Giant Rats fail to rally and flee from the table. I think the unengaged unit of Slaves charged the front of my Halberdier horde, however the Plague Monks decided not to hit me in the flank and sauntered up to use the breath weapon of their Plague Furnace down my line instead. The Doomwheel headed back around the building toward the main line of combat and fired lightning at the Demigryphs, however it hit at Strength 2 which wasn't scaring anyone. The Gutter Runners turned up behind my lines and started to menace the Cannon, but they didn't manage to kill it. Magic was fairly unmemorable (ie I can't for the life of me remember what happened), however the shooting saw something like 20 Halberdiers die from the Furnace and the Poisoned Wind Mortar. It was painful. Of course, they still thrashed the Slaves, but they wound up reforming out of a horde at the end of it when the Slaves held due to Steadfast and the approaching leadership bubble of the Grey Seer behind them. The Halberdier detachment spent the next several rounds out-fighting the Slaves they were up against, although they did nearly manage to lose combat in one particularly inept round.

I'm a little vague on turn numbers here, so I shall focus on the events I remember, rather than the timing. The mighty clash of the Engineers saw neither of them hurt each other, however I then managed to pass my break test on Leadership 4 (charge, rear bonus). Unfortunately I didn't manage to repeat the effort in order to reform to face my assailant, which meant in the following turn he beat me and broke me, despite me doing a wound. Before that however, I discovered that being in combat does not preclude an Engineer from assisting a war machine to shoot. I giggled slightly guiltily as the Volley Gun turned on the newly arrived Gutter Runners and wiped them out...

Over 4 rounds of combat the Hellpit Abomination half-killed the Steam Tank, but succumbed to its grinding attacks and breath weapon. This left the Steam Tank free to move in my fourth turn, however despite misfiring and overcharging, it didn't manage to do anything significant.

The Demigryphs charged the front of the Plague Monks as they advanced menacingly on the flank of my main Halberdier block, however the nearness of the units meant that only a couple of Demigryphs plus the BSB could make it into base contact. The Plague Furnace did a couple of wounds to both units, then they opened up on each other with attacks of all sorts. The BSB failed pathetically to kill the Plague Monk champion in a challenge (even with the Stomp of the Pegasus), which meant a lot of Plague Monks didn't get to attack for a couple of rounds. I won combat and knocked Frenzy out of them, but of course they were going nowhere with the Furnace making them Unbreakable. The Doomwheel hit the Demigryphs in the flank and killed one with a Strength 4 zap, then finished another off with Impact Hits. It was not enough to win combat however, as the Demigryphs went to town on the poor Plague Monks. In the end I broke the Doomwheel, but couldn't chase it because I was busy eating the festy rats.

My Crossbowman unit containing my wizards began to advance behind my main lines with nothing to shoot at, and Chris' Clanrat unit containing the Grey Seer was doing the same. His Warpfire Thrower blew itself up (from my experience, this is all they ever do - that and panicking your own units), and the Warp Lightning Cannon fired a couple of pathetic shots that weren't scaring anyone.

The game came to a head when the Great Wall of Slaves gave out. The detachment finally did enough damage to their opponents to knock Steadfast off them, which saw them pop immediately (I had maybe 13 Halberdiers left in the detachment by this point), and saw me reform to face the flank of the Grey Seer's unit. At the same time, my main unit dropped their Slaves below Steadfast level as well, so they also disappeared. This left my unit looking at the front of said Grey Seer's unit. 

The final turn (it was actually only turn 4 I think, but we were out of time) saw me charge with both units, then unleash boosted Speed of Light and boosted Birona's Timewarp (irresistibly, for no significant damage on the part of the Wizard Lord). It was a world of hurt for the poor ratties. My Witch Hunter had started the game by making wild accusations about the Skaven BSB, and he suddenly found himself with a chance to follow through. With WS 10, I 10, +1 Attack and rerolls to hit, he was incredibly dangerous. The BSB found himself trying to save against 2 Killing Blows, and didn't make it. The Grey Seer was dropped to a single wound, but he still fared better than the Clanrats, who lost something like 15 models. In the end there were 2 Clanrats and the wounded Seer remaining, and naturally they broke. Despite their swift scurrying away, I managed to catch them - it was a big boost of points at the very end of the game.

Result: 17-3 (which became 18-2 after comp).

I was slightly fortunate in places with this game. The Doomwheel and Abomination both rolled poorly for their movement in the first turn. Bigger rolls could have seen me charged in the first turn, and my BSB hoping for a low Strength roll on the terrifying lightning that comes from the Doomwheel. I was also lucky keeping my Engineer around as long as I did, given my mismanagement of him. Gunning down the Gutter Runners with the Volley Gun would have been much tougher without his guidance. That was probably my worst blunder however, so all in all I did OK.

I'm not really sure why the Grey Seer and BSB got as close as they did to my lines, which ultimately saw their demise when I broke through both Slave units at the same time. Even then he probably should have fled from the combined charge - he would almost certainly not have made it off the table. I don't know if we realised that would be the last turn when Chris was deciding, so maybe he figured he just wouldn't rally. 

All in all I was pretty happy with my start to the tournament.

Round 2: Dawn Attack

Drew McLean - Orcs and Goblins
Happy Drew. Well, he was happy to begin with. By the time I had stopped taking horrible blurry photos with the new phone, this was more of a rictus...
Black Orc Warboss (General) - Armour of Destiny
Savage Orc Great Shaman (Level 4) - Fencer's Blades, Lucky Shrunken Head, Obisidian Trinket
Black Orc Big Boss - Battle Standard, Talisman of Preservation
20 Savage Orc Big'Uns - Full command, 2 choppas, Big Stabba
20 Night Goblins - Full command, short bows, 3 Fanatics
20 Night Goblins - Full command, short bows, 3 Fanatics
5 Spider Riders - Standard, Musician
5 Spider Riders - Standard, Musician
21 Black Orcs - full command, Banner of Eternal Flame
Spear Chukka - Bully
Spear Chukka - Bully
River Troll
Doom Diver
Doom Diver
Rock Lobber - Bully
Drew's Black Orcs, Savage Orcs, Troll, Night Goblins and some artillery. This is the closest I came to a full army shot, sorry.
Comp score: 7

My second game was another grudge against a guy from the club, in this case Drew. As one of the founding members of the club, he has been around forever - but despite this we have not played very frequently. Drew's army was relatively soft, hence the much higher comp score than I received. It resembled a standard Orc tournament army in some ways, but the Savage Orc unit was under-sized, and Drew was still using old school options like Fanatics rather than newfangled tricks like Mangler Squigs. Basically his list needs an 8th edition update - much like my own greenskin army, which is busily gathering dust at home.
The table for round 2. I was along the bottom. There are a couple of rocky impassable areas on this table, as well as a big statue of a Hipposphinx (yes, that it totally a thing!) over on the right

Dawn Attack is a scenario that might as well be designed to mess with Orcs and Goblins. You have to roll to see whether each unit will deploy on the left, right or centre of your lines. Without the general's bonus, greenskin leadership is terrible. My army should be able to cope much better. I took the table edge at the bottom of the map above, and promptly rolled the right-hand side for my main unit and detachment. This was awkward, as there was barely room for the main unit to get out between the giant statue and the impassable rocks. The detachment ended up having to deploy looking sideways, along my table edge towards the rest of my forces. They would have to swing around the rocks and play catch-up if they wanted to contribute. My Demigryphs went in the centre, so deployed near the detachment, looking out across the little oasis. My Crossbowmen and wizards went in the centre with the Volley Gun to their left (and the Engineer even managed to land in the centre with it!) The Cannon went on the hill, and the Steam Tank was on the left, but went as close to the centre as was permitted (so it wasn't that far from the hill). Basically the only thing that went wrong was the biggest unit landing in the smallest place. All in all, not the worst result.

Drew then proceeded to show that Orcs could avoid being messed up by the scenario, with nearly everything landing in the centre. On the hill at the top right went a Spear Chukka and a unit of Night Goblins. Just off the hill was the Giant, with both Spider Rider units going next to him. The other Night Goblins were next, with the Doom Diver behind them. The Troll was next, with the Savage Orcs and Black Orcs filling up the lines to the small house. The Rock Lobber was pretty much behind the house, and the remaining machines went to the left of the building, looking for cover from my Cannon thanks to the larger house in the centre. The Spider Riders used Vanguard to advance toward my lines in a V formation, stopping just before the oasis.
The big squeeze: The Halberdiers just manage to get out between the Hipposphinx and the rocks
I had the first turn (Drew failed to steal it with a 6), and I started the game by charging one of the Spider Rider units. The Demigryphs splashed straight through the oasis for the loss of a single wound (as nice as the pond looked, it turned out to be made of necrotic ooze). My Halberdier block advanced up to the gap between the statue and the rocks, whilst the detachment wheeled around at full speed... and failed to escape the deployment zone. This would in fact be the story of their game. I didn't bother moving them after this, as they were too far from any possibility of action. Magic saw me cast a boosted Shem's Burning Gaze at the Troll, killing him. This resulted in the Night Goblins panicking (despite the general and BSB being nearby), which meant their Fanatics were out of the game. Excellent! Then the unengaged Spider Riders were wiped out by the Volley Gun, the Doom Diver in the centre was killed by my Cannon, and the Demigryphs made short work of the Spiders they had charged. The abrupt demise of the Spiders proved too much for the Night Goblin unit on the hill, and they also fled, then failed to rally and they left the table. Drew's luck wasn't really with him here. The Demigryphs reformed to face the fleeing Night Goblins in Drew's centre, although the Giant would still have to hit them in the front if he fancied a go.
The Demigryphs do bad things to the Spider Riders
Drew decided that his Giant really did not want anything to do with the Demigryphs, and he moved around behind them, toward the Halberdiers and the statue on the right. The Night Goblins in the centre did indeed rally, and reformed wide in the hope of being further from the Demigryphs and getting a few more shots with their short bows. The Savage Orcs and Black Orcs advanced down the centre, eyeing off my relatively useless combat troops in that area (great as Crossbowmen are in a stoush). Magic was uneventful, however the Rock Lobber managed to smash my Volley Gun to pieces and panic the Engineer (who had nearly lost his toes in the incident). Finally something had gone right for the Orcs. The Doom Diver began shooting at my Demigryphs - something it would be doing all game.
Drew's Black Orcs advance
In my second turn the Demigryphs were found to be slightly closer to the rallied Night Goblins than Drew had at first thought, and I decided it was worth a try. They made it and shrugged off the stand and shoot reaction. My Halberdiers also found that the Giant had rather carelessly strayed well within charge range, so they declared a charge as well. The Giant decided to flee rather than face the music, and headed back through the Spear Chukka, which panicked and so would miss a turn of shooting. My Engineer realised the Rock Lobber had no interest in him now that the Volley Gun was dead, and rallied behind the Crossbowmen. In the magic phase I managed to cast Banishment on the Savage Orcs, killing 9 (we both forgot he had Magic Resistance in the unit - he probably would have lost a couple less if we had remembered). A few more dropped to Crossbows, and the unit was starting to look very thin. In combat the Demigryphs did very bad things to the Night Goblins, scared them off the table and then reformed to face the rear of the Savage Orcs.
Demigryphs behind enemy lines
In Drew's turn the main line of Black Orcs and Savage Orcs continued their advance (in the hope of eluding the charge of the Demigryphs behind them), and the Giant rallied on the hill and tried to pretend that he was big and mean and not the great cowardly nancy boy we all knew him to be. The Doom Diver managed to finish off the wounded Demigryph, but it was not enough to make any real difference. 
Maintaining his erection: The Giant rallies in a precariously balanced position, so Drew disassembles him in order to keep him upright.
Savaged Orcs: There are very few Savage Orcs left to keeping rushing my lines...
... and it's not going to get any easier with a reception like this.
In my turn I stood up and realised Drew had managed to expose the flank of the Black Orcs to the Steam Tank, which was a great display of mismanagement. He told me he had seen the Tank and tried to avoid giving it the flank charge, but had to admit he had got it badly wrong. Poor Black Orcs - so much choppy death, so few attacks on the target...
Drew realises he can't steer Black Orcs properly...
The Demigryphs also made the charge into the rear of the crippled Savage Orc unit, which was not at all good for the greenskins. The Halberdiers continued their advance toward the Spear Chukka and Giant on the hill. I fired the Cannon at the Giant as well, but did no damage. The combats in the centre were ugly. The Steam Tank smashed about a dozen Black Orcs, but they held their ground thanks to Steadfast and turned to face it. The Demigryphs mauled the remaining Savage Orcs, broke them and ran them down (including the Great Shaman and Warboss). Things were not going well for the Orcs.
It's all bad... The Black Orcs and Savage Orcs cop a belting from the wrong direction
In Drew's turn the Giant advanced toward the Halberdiers, trying to pretend that he hadn't squealed and run the first time around. The Doom Diver and Spear Chukkas rained death down upon the Demigryphs and killed another, but they were appearently unconcerned. The Black Orcs failed to make any real headway with the Steam Tank.

In my turn the Halberdiers charged the Giant again. Seeking to redeem himself, the Giant held his ground and decided to jump up and down. However, he tripped on his own girly skirt and instead landed face-first on my unit, killing 9 Halberdiers. It was almost enough to win him combat, but not quite. The unit wounded him several times in return, and things were looking pretty grim for the big guy. The Demigryphs turned to face the rear of the Black Orcs, who lost a couple more models due to the Steam Tank's grinding. I wounded the Spear Chukka with a spell or the Cannon, I can't remember which.
Fighting to the last: The Black Orcs turn to face the Steam Tank and fight to the bitter end.
The Giant managed to stand up and brush off the smeared remains of Halberdiers, however before he could do anything more, the characters in the unit stepped over and finished him off. With a final pathetic wail, he fell sideways and squished a few more humans on the way down. The Orc artillery continued to bombard the Demigryphs, leaving them with just 2 models and the BSB remaining. The few remaining Black Orcs continued to climb all over the Steam Tank, wondering how to get in.

In my turn the Steam tank ground all but the Black Orc BSB into the dirt, whilst the Demigryphs charged into the rear and did... nothing. Nothing at all. It was pathetic. The Black Orc BSB mocked me, turned around and killed my own BSB on his Pegasus. In the end I only managed to kill the Orc with yet another round of Steam Tank grinding, which freed up the sole remaining Demigryph to run and hide behind the building before a Doom Diver could finish him off. The Spear Chukka on the hill on the right managed to blow itself up, I think I managed to kill one of the other machines with a magical barrage, and the battle was over.

Result: 19-1 (which became 17.5-2.5 after comp)

Well that game did not go well for Drew. Both units of Night Goblins panicking without releasing a single Fanatic may have been exactly according to plan for me, but that doesn't mean it should have happened that way. The Demigryphs swept very quickly around Drew's line, and with him already missing several units thanks to the early damage, he couldn't react. Not his best ever game, methinks.

Round 3: Watchtower

Dom Holloway - Lizardmen
Dom's Nipponese-themed Lizardman army. The Temple Guard are on the left, the big cats at the back are Stegadons, the Ninja are Skinks, and the Giant Fu Dogs are Salamanders. The Slann is front and centre.
Slann Mage Priest (Level 4, Lore of Light, General) - Battle Standard, Focus of Mystery, Becalming Cogitation, Cupped Hands of the Old Ones
Skink Priest (Level 2) - Dispel Scroll
30 Saurus Warriors with full command
21 Saurus Warriors with full command
21 Temple Guard with full command
10 Skinks
10 Skink Skirmishers
Ancient Stegadon
7 Chameleon Skinks
Salamander  - 4 Skinks
Salamander - 4 Skinks

Comp score: 3

By this point we had all waded through the rounds of grudges and random games, so it was time for me to face someone on a similar score. That man was Dom, who I believe I had only ever played once before, when a single unit of Men-at-arms killed something like 1200 VPs of my poor Skaven army. Hopefully this game would go better. This time I had Empire and he had a beautiful Samurai Lizardman army, so things would be a bit different regardless.
The table for game 3, with me at the bottom and the Watchtower in the centre. The 2 clumps of foliage on the right are swamps.
Neither of us really wanted control of the Watchtower, but Dom won the roll-off which really just meant that he lost the first turn. He placed his unit of Skink Skirmishers into the tower and they prepared for a tough game of it. I deployed my detachment immediately in front of the tower (I was deploying along the bottom of the map as usual), with the parent unit ready to move around the right of the building. The Crossbowmen went on the hill with the 2 wizards, and the Cannon just behind. Off the hill to the right went the Volley Gun, with the Engineer behind it. The Demigryphs and BSB went on my left beyond the Steam Tank which went nearer the tower. Both units were intending to swing around the tower and through the forest. 

Dom deployed most of his units to the right of the tower. The smaller unit of Saurus anchored the line on the far right, behind the swamp (he may have gone around it - I can't remember). The Skink unit led by the little Priest was next, with the Temple Guard behind them and the Slann floating in the centre of the unit. The Stegadon was next, with the horde of Saurus warriors ranking up close to the tower. One of the Salamanders was nearby, whilst the other went in the far corner, behind the forest. The Ancient Stegadon deployed in the clear ground between the forests. The sneaky Chameleon Skinks scouted to just outside 12" of the Volley Gun.

Having the first turn, I immediately charged the Skinks in the watchtower with the detachment, whilst the parent unit advanced nearby, anchoring its flank on the tower and ensuring they were close enough to the detachment to grant them various bonuses like Hatred (which I would need to try to wipe out the Skinks). The Steam Tank drove straight at the Ancient, fired its cannon, and killed the beastie outright. Woohoo! So that's how talented players do it? I had always wondered. The Demigryphs swept around next to the tank, ensuring they didn't angle so much that the Salamander could sneak around their flank and out of sight. The smaller Wizard left the safety of the Crossbowman unit, stepping behind so that he could see the Chameleons and try to roast them with a magic missile. Thus began a bizarre game of Who Is The Most Frustrating, as the Volley Gun, Wizard and Chameleons all failed repeatedly to do significant damage to each other. This went on pretty much all game, although I think Dom might have finally managed to kill the Volley Gun near the very end. The Crossbowmen fired on the Skink unit containing the Priest, killing 6 of them.

The combat in the watchtower was a bloody affair, mainly on the part of the Skinks. They might have killed 1 or 2 Halberdiers, but thanks to Hatred they lost 9 of their number. The remaining Skink climbed the top of the chimney and thumbed his scaly little nose at me, pushing my unit an inch backward.

Dom advanced on the right of the tower, with the Saurus horde preparing to charge the building, and the Temple Guard and Stegadon moving with intent toward my main unit nearby. The remaining Saurus went straight forward, toward my Volley Gun and Crossbowmen. The Salamander in the middle lurked near the back of the forest next to the tower, whilst the other one decided to move well away from the advancing Demigryphs, heading across the table toward its allies. The Skink priest saw the writing on the wall and left his unit, moving to lurk behind the lines. Magic saw me nearly lose the little Wizard who had left the cover of his unit to Shem's Burning Gaze, but I dispelled it and the Banishment directed at the Crossbowmen.

In my second turn I charged the tower again with the detachment, and the remaining Skink had no hope of survival this time - the tower was mine (for now)! The parent unit remained nearby, with its flank against the tower  and the other end pointing toward the hill in my deployment zone. The Steam Tank couldn't get a line on the Saurus horde to prevent their impending charge on the tower, so continued to make its way around the tower. The Demigryphs decided to ignore the Salamanders and head around on a line that would take them just above the tower, toward the Saurus horde. The BSB left the unit however, flying back a bit to watch the flank of the Demigryphs. The Crossbowmen wiped out the remaining Skinks, but nobody nearby cared.

In Dom's second turn the Saurus horde charged the tower, which saw them wheel around to align to the right of it, right in front of my Halberdier block. That was fine however, because the Stegadon charged into their front and held them in place. The other Saurus blocks advanced as before, with the gap between the lines getting very thin. A Salamander moved to intercept my Demigryphs before they could charge the Saurus horde, whilst the other wandered around and got ready to shoot at me (which did nothing much). The Stegadon did a ton of wounds on the charge, but took some damage in return and the Stubborn Halberdiers held their ground. The Saurus assaulting the watchtower did considerable damage for the loss of a few Saurus in return, however the detachment held its ground thanks to Stubborn.

The Demigryphs charged the Salamander standing in their path and made short work of it, but reformed because their overrun was not going to be useful. The Steam Tank still didn't have a good angle on the Saurus, so drove straight at the Skink Priest back near the table edge instead. It revved its engine and went a whole lot faster than expected, getting dangerously close to the little guy, who was looking nervous. The Tank managed to do a wound to him with its cannon before the driver pulled out his repeater pistol and gunned the poor little lizard down. The Volley Gun realised that the Saurus were getting dangerously close and that it might be time to shoot at something it could hit. With a roar, it killed about a dozen of them - more than half the unit. The Crossbows wounded a few more, but it would not be enough to stop them. In combat the Halberdiers and attendant characters managed to finish off the Stegadon, but could only sit and watch as the Temple Guard approached.

In Dom's third turn the Saurus horde knew they were running out of time and charged the tower once more. The Temple Guard ploughed into the front of the Halberdiers, however the remains of the other Saurus unit failed a very short charge to the Volley Gun and ground to a halt. I think it was at this point that the Chameleons finally killed the Volley Gun, so the Saurus shifted their attention to the Crossbowmen on the hill. Both of our magic phases were seeing a number of augment spells being thrown back and forth, however Dom had the better of it thanks to Becalming Cogitation interfering with my efforts. All of his combat units spent the next couple of turns with WS and I 10 thanks to boosted castings of Speed of Light, however half the time my Halberdiers had the exact same effects in play. Such a skillful and talented combat has never been seen before.

For all his efforts at improving things, Dom couldn't get the breakthroughs he needed. The Saurus attacking the building cut down all but 4 of the Halberdiers defending it, however they refused to yield and the Saurus had to step back and accept that they probably wouldn't get another chance as the Demigryphs and Steam Tank approached. My main unit spent the next few rounds getting utterly pounded by the WS10 S5 Temple Guard, although once or twice they fought back with real gusto and killed a goodly number of their enemies. Stubborn and Hold the Line! kept them in place, and the fight continued.

Predictably the Steam Tank (flank) and Demigryphs (front) smashed into the Saurus horde, however their effectiveness was stymied somewhat by all the augment spells going off. They cut the unit down to 15 models, which was slightly frustrating - 14 would have seen them lose Steadfast, and now I had lost the bonus of my Impact Hits. This combat ground on for the rest of the game, with the loss of a Demigryph or two and all but a handful of Saurus, who refused to break. The clash between my main unit and the Temple Guard also continued until the end of the game, however by the end it was the Empire General alone who kept fighting - he was leading nothing but a very large pile of Empire corpses. The BSB flew up behind to ensure the General would not be testing without a reroll, and then charged up onto the hill, where by the end of the game a single Saurus champion fought my Wizard Lord and 3 Crossbowmen. It was bloody and units all over the table were about to give up their points. Dom's real final effort was for the remaining Salamander to step up and breath fire into the tower, however he only killed 3 Halberdiers - leaving 1 alive, who climbed the top of the chimney and directed victorious pelvic thrusts in the direction of the Salamander as the game ended on turn 5.

Result: 16-4 (which became 16.5-3.5 after comp)

I think this game was only the second time under 8th edition that I have actually managed to retain control of the Watchtower, and it saw me net 1000 bonus Victory Points, hence the solid score from the game. I suspect it was a frustrating game for Dom - I too have watched a single model take the points away from me. In this case I had the next closest models as well, but it would all have come down to fractions of inches (which sucks). Dom nearly did enough to break through my lines in the critical places, and if he had done that, it would have been hard for me to respond convincingly. The line felt brittle by the end, but it had held and carried the day. Huzzah!

At the end of day 1, I had a rather surprising 52 points. The leader was only 2 points ahead, and it seemed likely we would be playing in round 4 to determine the outright lead. However, this was Book of Grudges, and you have to expect the unexpected...

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