Wednesday, 5 December 2012

2012 Australian Masters - Day 2

This is the second half of my account of the Masters tournament I attended last weekend. You can find the first half of it here.

Game 4: Sealed Section
Casey Tabner, Dark Elves
Supreme Sorceress, (Level 4, Lore of Shadow) with Darkstar Cloak, Talisman of Preservation
Sorceress (Level 2, Lore of Metal) with Lifetaker, Tome of Furion
Death Hag (BSB) on Cauldron of Blood
Master on Dark Pegasus with Heavy Armour, Cloak of Hag Graef, Dawnstone
11 Repeater Crossbowmen with Champion
11 Repeater Crossbowmen with Champion
39 Dark Elf Spearmen with Shields, Full Command
5 Dark Riders with Musician, Repeater Crossbows, Spears
5 Harpies
5 Harpies
29 Har Ganeth Executioners with Full Command, Banner of Eternal Flame
War Hydra
Reaper Bolt Thrower
Reaper Bolt Thrower

Comp score: 1.5/5

Casey is normally a Skaven player, but she would be using Zac's Dark Elf army against me. For my part, I had inherited Sam's Chaos Dwarfs:

Sorcerer-Prophet (Level 4, Lore of Death) on Bale Taurus with Charmed Shield, Earthing Rod, Talisman of Preservation
Infernal Castellan (BSB) with Shield, Mask of the Furnace, Luckstone
Daemonsmith Sorcerer (Level 2, Lore of Metal) with Chalice of Blood and Darkness
20 Hobgoblin Cutthroats with Full Command, Bows, Light Armour, Shields
20 Hobgoblin Cutthroats with Standard, Musician, Bows, Light Armour, Shields
32 Chaos Dwarf Infernal Guard with Full Command, Great Weapons, Lichebone Pennant
Deathshrieker Death Rocket 
K'daai Destroyer 

Comp score: 1/5

I'm not going to lie to you - when I saw the match-up and had a look at the Dark Elf army list, I figured I had no business losing this game. It was a horrible match for the Elves - the K'dai Destroyer presented a massive headache for which the army had no real answers. The shooting was unlikely to threaten it, the only spell that might hurt it (Pit of Shades) relied on it failing an Initiative 5 test, and the Executioners were flaming, so granted it a 2+ ward save. The only real chance of killing it would be Mindrazor on the Spearmen, using Mystifying Miasma AND Pit of Shades, or (maybe) knocking 3 off its Toughness with The Withering before shooting it - not an ideal scenario. The Bale Taurus was almost as bad, and the Chaos Dwarfs would be well capable of dealing damage to the Dark Elves in return. All in all, this game was a bit of a gift for me.
Game 4 deployment (well, soon after)

Our deployment discounted the right-hand side of the table. Neither army was large, and so the deployment was pretty compact. I put the K'dai over on the right (actually, when it went down it was in the middle of the table, and then everything from both sides went to the left). It was not the best place for it, but it was OK. I put the Hellcannon on the front line in case I decided to rush at the enemy lines. You can see my deployment above. Casey put the Hydra hard on the left table edge, with the Spearmen containing both Sorceresses next to it. The Executioners effectively held the centre of the line, with the Cauldron behind them. The rest was peripheral units like Harpies, Bolt Throwers and Crossbowmen.

I lost the roll-off for the first turn, and the Dark Riders made good use of their head-start from Vanguard to get right up into my deployment zone on the right. The Harpies trailed behind them, sitting a lot further away (and out of sight of the K'dai). The rest of the line didn't move much. I think Casey realised her army was in trouble and didn't want to engage. Magic and shooting did very little, so it was quickly my turn.
The Dark Riders swing around the flank and find themselves facing 20 bow-armed Hobgoblins
For my part, I sent the K'dai rushing toward the enemy lines, standing on the small hill in the centre of the field. My Daemonsmith had second thoughts about sitting around in the Hobgoblins behind the Hellcannon (he had been planning to sit there to give the thing rerolls), and moved into the Infernal Guard instead. This prevented them from advancing, but that was no big deal. The Hobgoblins on the left had to take panic tests for the first 2 turns, as they kept rolling 1s on their animosity table. Thankfully they passed each time, with the help of the nearby Sorcerer Prophet on his gigantic flying, flaming bull - no doubt an inspiring (and intimidating) sight. The Hobgoblins on the right performed a swift reform to face the Dark Riders and shot one of them - not enough for a panic test. 
The K'dai prepares to destroy the world. Coz that's what he does, right? Note that I had a very small K'dai on a very large base. Don't let that fool you though, he still destroys everything he touches.
Upon discovering that it was flaming, I fired the Deathshrieker Rocket at the Hydra, but rolled a 1 to wound. The Hellcannon scattered 10 inches and missed everything. I did manage to cast Searing Doom at the Master on his Pegasus (the perfect way to kill him). However, I only did 2 wounds.

In the second turn, the Dark Riders remained where they were so that they could better shoot at something (I don't remember what the target was, as they didn't hurt anything). The Harpies flew right up next to the Hellcannon, looking to throw themselves at the Deathshrieker the following turn. The Pegasus flew back behind the Spearmen after its brush with death, and the Hydra milled about nervously, watching the sky for more flaming rockets. A unit of Crossbowmen marched up and planted itself right in front of the K'dai, looking to drag it away from the main lines. The Sorceress cast Enchanted Blades of Aiban on a Bolt Thrower, which then managed to wound the K'dai with its magical shot. Unfortunately for Casey, it rolled only a single wound on the D3. Not much progress.

In my turn I charged the waiting Crossbowmen with the K'dai. The Bale Taurus got sick of where it was and flew over behind the hill the K'dai was still on, much closer to the enemy lines. The Infernal Guard advanced, but the rest of the lines held still. 

I got a decent magic phase and Casey was forced to fend off Caress of Laniph on her Sorceress and Doom and Darkness on the Executioners, which allowed me to cast Purple Sun of Xereus. It was a risky action given I was not in a unit for protection if I rolled a misfire. Potentially it was stupid, since I was a 1 in 12 chance to kill myself in a game I had in the bag thanks to the match-up. Anyway, I am an aggressive player and went for it, and was rewarded by rolling a 10 for the distance. I was rewarded. The Cauldron was... less rewarded. Being a war machine it died automatically, and suddenly the Dark Elves were without a BSB. 

The Deathshrieker misfired and failed to shoot, however the Hellcannon landed a hit on the Executioners and killed maybe 8 of them. They didn't panic, however. The Hobgoblins on the right killed another Dark Rider, but the remainder passed their panic test. They did decide to move away at that point however, and took no further part in the game. In combat the K'dai wiped out the Crossbowmen and overran across to the left, looking for more victims.

In the third turn the Harpies lurking near the Hellcannon charged the Deathshrieker, however they bounced harmlessly off the Dwarf crew, lost 2 of their number, then another as they fled through the Hobgoblins on the right. They were then caught and killed by the unit as they charged. It was just one of those games for Casey - the Harpy charge was the right thing to do, and she was unlucky to lose the combat. 
The Harpies bounce off Deathshrieker. It just wasn't happening for Casey in this game.
The other Harpy unit landed in front of the K'dai, angling him away from her main lines. For their part, the Hydra and Pegasus advanced along the left edge, looking to exploit the lack of support enjoyed by the Hobgoblins on that side. I think the lesser Sorceress cast Enchanted Blades of Aiban again, this time with irresistible force. For her efforts, the Sorceress lost all her levels, and the shooting failed to wound the Bale Taurus and rider anyway.
Feeding the K'dai: next on the menu, Harpies!
In my turn the K'dai charged the Harpies, wiped them out, and overran closer to the Hydra and Pegasus on the far left. They would need to smash through the Hobgoblins if they were to escape its fiery wrath. My general on his Taurus decided that the K'dai was having all the fun, so charged straight into the depleted Executioners. They passed their panic test and held bravely. My Infernal Guard continued their advance behind it, however they angled so the Daemonsmith could see the Pegasus.

In the magic phase I managed to get Searing Doom off again, however I did only 1 hit to the Pegasus and rolled a 1 to wound. My general cast Soulblight on the Executioners (just for fun). In terms of shooting, the Hellcannon misfired and ate 1 of its crew. However, the Deathshrieker was more successful, and took 4 wounds off the Hydra. The Hobgoblins watching the thing approach took aim in the hope of doing the final wound whilst its Regeneration was down, but it passed 2 armour saves and lived.

The Bale Taurus proved almost as brutally effective in combat as the K'dai, with the Blazing Body dropping 4 Elves and the Champion dying twice over in a challenge. Steadfast kept the Executioners in place, however.

Turn 4 saw the critical play take place. Casey took the only chance she had, and charged the flank of the Bale Taurus with the Spearman horde (they could just see by the barest of margins). The Hydra and Pegasus charged the Hobgoblins. Impressively they passed their panic test, and stood and shot at the Hydra. Again, its saves kept it alive and the charge crashed home.
It's the Bale Taurus vs the world. Turns out that's not a fair fight...
The magic phase came along and Casey threw 6 dice at Mindrazor on the Spearmen. Here is her roll.
Mindrazor! Oops, or maybe not...
Not enough to cast the spell, let alone get it through my defences. It was a disaster. The Bale Taurus proceeded to rampage through the combat, setting fire to numerous Spearmen and wiping out the Executioners. It was quite the combat beast against low Toughness, low armour opponents. Again the Spearmen held due to Steadfast, but their hopes were fading and the Infernal Guard were only 11" from their flank...
The Hobgoblins are way outclassed...
The Hobgoblins on the left bravely absorbed the charge from the Hydra and Pegasus. They lost 6 of their number to the handlers and Pegasus, however they struck at the same time as the Hydra itself. As 5 more of them fell, one of them managed to jam a rusty sword into its neck and bring the thing down! These guys were heroes! They were then too busy gloating to fail their Steadfast test, which meant the Pegasus was still going to be there as the K'dai arrived in the rear...
The Hobgoblins are Hydra-slaying heroes!
The next turn turned out to be the last. The K'dai smashed the Master on his Pegasus, however the Infernal Guard fell one inch short on their charge into the flank of the Spearmen. It mattered not. The Bale Taurus did too much damage thanks to its Blazing Body and won the combat alone, and the Spearmen failed their break test (can't remember if I had Doom and Darkness in play or not). The Taurus ran them down, and Casey surrendered.

In the end I had lost 11 Hobgoblins and a crewman on my Hellcannon. The game had proven as one-sided as expected.

Result: 20-0 win

The match-up was not even and the result reflected that, however a player that was more familiar with that Dark Elf list might have managed to get more out of it. Once I had deployed the K'dai badly on the end, it might have been baited off to the right and significantly delayed. The firepower of the army could also have been better brought to bear - the Bolt Throwers found themselves shooting through friendly units in the first turn (and therefore missing), and Casey chose to sacrifice a Crossbowman unit straight up when there were Harpies that could have gone in first. Still, when all is said and done, it was not an even fight and when the dice didn't help either, there was not a lot she could have done.

Game 5: Blood and Glory
Jamie Payne, High Elves
Archmage (Level 4, Lore of Light) with Dispel Scroll, Folariath's Robe
Noble (BSB) with Great Weapon, Dragon Armour, Banner of the World Dragon
Mage (Level 2, Lore of Light) with Silver Wand, Loremaster's Cloak
19 Spearmen with Standard, Champion
10 Archers
10 Archers
14 Archers with Standard, Champion, Standard of Discipline
8 White Lions of Chrace with Standard, Gleaming Pennant
10 White Lions of Chrace with Full Command, Banner of Eternal Flame
24 White Lions of Chrace with Full Command, Amulet of Light, Banner of Sorcery
5 Sword Masters of Hoeth
5 Ellyrian Reavers with Spears, Musician, Champion
Great Eagle
Great Eagle
Great Eagle

Comp score: 3/5

The Sealed Section was over, and I had my own army back again. I figured Jamie's army was not the worst match-up for me, so this felt like my chance to get in another win. The Blood and Glory scenario had been altered for this event - games would always go for 6 turns, and sets of 200 bonus victory points were available for each of:

  • Getting the opponent to within 2 fortitude of breaking
  • Getting him within 1 of breaking
  • Breaking the opponent
  • Being the first to break the opponent

In all, a total of 800 bonus VPs on offer. Discovering that Jamie had 8 fortitude in his list was a little disappointing, but I figured it shouldn't make much difference. If my army had the advantage, a few bonus points shouldn't matter.
Game 5 deployment
I deployed fairly centrally, with the Cannon on the hill at the back of my line. I put the War Altar on the left, largely to try to make use of its Banishment to clear some of the light flanking units like the Eagle. Jamie's deployment was weighted more to the right, but only slightly. We'd be meeting in the middle.
The White Lion centre. Always a headache for my armies - only the Halberdiers could absorb their damage.
I won the roll for the first turn, so after the Reavers on the right began to sweep around the end of my line with Vanguard, I advanced. In hindsight I'm not sure I should have been in such a rush, but it was my natural inclination when I had a unit of 50 Halberdiers and he had lots of far smaller, more vulnerable units. My Cannons put on a great display, and removed 2 Eagles straight off the bat. The War Altar also managed to cast Banishment and drop the unit of 10 White Lions to a single model. I threw another spell at him, but I think a 6+ save kept him alive. It was a fantastic opening volley, and made me feel pretty confident.
And then there was one: my opening volley ensured there were fewer Eagles on the table
The High Elves shuffled a bit, but didn't make any big moves. The remaining Eagle hid behind the building to the right, whilst the Reavers considered charging the War Altar before thinking better of it and heading for the Cannon. Magic was relatively uneventful (apart from Net of Amnytok on the Archer Detachment, who were on Cannon-guarding duty), and only the Flagellants took any casualties from shooting, losing 4 of their number.
The standoff in the centre. I couldn't engage without Timewarp to level the field. That made timing difficult.
In my turn I tried a couple of speculative charges, as I figured the game would be heavily in my favour if they came off, and failure wouldn't be the end of the world. The Flagellants tried a 14" charge on the Swordmasters to the right, but failed. The Demigryphs had a go at the small unit of White Lions to the right of the main central regiment, however they needed an 11 (I think) and didn't make it either. The Steam Tank chugged along quickly, closing rapidly on the enemy lines. The Halberdiers wasted valuable distance cutting in behind the Steam Tank, in order to get the Wizard Lord within 12" of the Flagellants. I'd had to choose between Speed of Light and Timewarp when selecting spells, and had chosen Timewarp with its limited range. The War Altar ignored the Reavers and the threat to the Cannon that they represented, and kept swinging around the left flank. I had largely written off the Cannon, unless the Archers managed to panic the Reavers.

I needn't have worried about getting my Wizard Lord into position for the magic phase, as I rolled abysmally for the power dice. In fact, that was a feature of my game. I never rolled above 6, and only once did I hit those heady heights. By contrast, the High Elves didn't care when they rolled badly, what with the Banner of Sorcery and channelling often seeing me with 2 dispel dice to his 7 power dice (in other words, helpless). I got no spell off.

The Cannon failed to fire that turn, however the Steam Tank managed to knock off the remaining White Lion standard bearer who was lurking behind the lines. The Archers tried to shoot the Reavers, however they failed their Strength test for Net of Amnytok and lost 2 models, preventing them from firing. Jamie's fiendish plan had borne fruit.
I push on, and the Elves counter
In his turn, Jamie attempted a number of charges. The Reavers hit and killed the Cannon. The main White Lion unit charged the Demigryphs, however they decided to turn tail and flee through my Knights, rather than face the doom-laden music. The critical charge, however, was the Archmage charging out of the Archers at the Steam Tank (Folariath's Robe made him Ethereal and thus it was a sound plan). It wasn't far - I think he needed a 6 on the dice - but he rolled a 4 and fell short, standing alone and exposed. It was a pivotal moment.
Failed charges: the Elves pause to consider the ramifications of the Archmage's tripping on his robes. Teach you to wear a skirt then, eh?
Looks like another one of those games for the Cannon crew - stuck with a commander who couldn't be bothered protecting them.
The High Elves on the right swept around near the building, with the Eagle dropping right in front of the Flagellants. The Archers from which the Archmage charged stepped back, distancing themselves from his folly. Then came the magic phase.
The Flagellants are kept busy with a tide of small units on the right flank.
Seeing the writing on the wall and fearing for his safety, the Archmage threw everything he had at casting a Strength 5 Banishment at the War Altar. I failed to stop it and took 7 hits, 5 of which hammered into the Arch Lector. He failed 2 saves and was left on a single wound. That was bad. The Archmage hadn't quite achieved his goal of killing me, but he'd come very close.

In my third turn, I had a massive decision to make. This was my opportunity to win the game. I could sit back and try to fry the Archmage with magic, or I could charge him and pin him in place, outside his unit. If I tried to magic him and failed, he'd simply step back into a unit and the opportunity would be lost. I made the fateful decision and charged him with the War Altar, knowing I couldn't hurt him, although I would win the first round of combat by 1 (he passed his break test on the BSB reroll). The Steam Tank charged the big White Lion unit and that was where both units remained for the rest of the game. In hindsight I'm not sure it was the right choice - the Archers with the BSB were not a massive distance away, and would have presented a far more vulnerable target. Still, the White Lions would have been in danger of eating the rest of my army, so the Steam Tank took one for the team.
Tally ho, in we go
Elsewhere, the Flagellants charged into the Eagle, butchered it as you would expect, and carried on into the Swordmasters who were right behind. The Knights declared a charge on the small unit of White Lions, who held until the Hurricanum lined them up as well, at which point they decided to flee, resulting in 2 failed charges. The Halberdiers advanced next to the Steam Tank, ready to lunge at the main Archer unit or the flank of the Archmage. The Demigryphs rallied behind the Knights as they staggered to a halt due to their failed charge.
The Flagellants carry through the Eagle and into the Swordmasters
My magic phase was another fizzler, although I think I managed to kill 4 Archers from the small unit off to the left. The Steam Tank ploughed into the White Lions and killed about 10 of them, but then lost its momentum in the face of their Stubborn, re-rollable break tests. 

In his turn, Jamie decided to charge the BSB out of the Archers and into the War Altar, alongside the Archmage. Despite my having Van Hortsmann's Speculum (giving him only 2 Attacks and no re-rolls to hit), he figured he'd be able to do the last wound to bring me down. With only a 5+ armour save for protection, he'd want to be right there...

On the right flank, the Spearmen charged the Hurricanum which had rolled too close in its failed charge. The Archers moved up close behind the Swordmasters, as the small White Lion unit rallied behind the Spearmen. The Archers on the left stepped up to block the charge of my Halberdiers and buy the more important elements more time.
The Spearmen charge the overzealous Hurricanum
The Archers block the advance of the Halberdiers as the BSB sets to work on the Arch Lector. Either the tension was getting to Jamie, or he needed to pee...
With both his mages in combat, Jamie's magical options were limited. He cast Light of Battle on the 6 Archers blocking my Halberdiers, but I figured I would be able to wipe them out, so their being Unbreakable wouldn't matter. He also cast Birona's Timewarp on the White Lions in an attempt to speed up the breaking of the Steam Tank.

In combat the Flagellants removed the Swordmasters, but not before they blended 9 of my models in a brutal display. The loss of the Swordmasters panicked the Archers right behind them, however the Flagellants didn't overrun fast enough to catch them.

The Arch Lector challenged the charging High Elf BSB, however he promptly rolled 2 hits, 2 wounds and I failed both my saves, so the challenge was over quickly. The horses pulling the War Altar managed to do a wound in return, and then held despite losing the combat and having to use their own Leadership.

The Spearmen fighting the Hurricanum were unable to do any wounds, and lost one of their number in return. I then (rather luckily) rolled a 3 on the break test, which was just enough to hold.

In the fourth turn, the Halberdiers charged the Archers and made short work of them, with the help of Birona's Timewarp, which I cast for want of a better target (in hindsight I should have cast it on the War Altar, as 4 horse attacks might have been the end of that BSB. Regardless, the War Altar held again that turn and the BSB survived). The Flagellants charged at the Archers who had to flee again, however the charge roll was terrible and they didn't even get close. The Knights charged in alongside the Hurricanum, looking to rescue it from the Spearmen. They were successful, winning the combat and then running down the Elves when they failed their break test. The Knights and Hurricanum both pursued 11 inches, which put them right in front of the rallied White Lions.

It was at about this point that we started getting time warnings. I admit this was slightly unexpected. I didn't think we'd been played particularly slowly. Jamie charged the White Lions at the Hurricanum, which fled. He then redirected onto the Knights, who had to hold since they were less than 2" away. The fleeing Archers rallied in front of the Flagellants, but given the time constraints, that wasn't going to matter.

Magic was largely uneventful, but the combats were important. The horses of the War Altar again failed to finish off the BSB, and this time I broke from combat. Thankfully I was able to outrun the girly Elves on foot, and escaped. My BSB was less fortunate. Only 8 White Lions could reach in combat, 6 of whom attacked the BSB. 5 hits, 5 wounds, and then my 1+ armour and 5+ ward did me no favours whatsoever - I failed 4 times. I lost combat and the Knights broke. They didn't get caught, but they did drop their banner, and with that, just as we were out of time, I was broken.

The fact that I had escaped with the War Altar and Knights actually meant that I was ahead in the battle, before the Blood and Glory bonuses kicked in. Unfortunately Jamie had swept the pool there, and that pulled him up into a solid position, some 400-odd victory points above me.

Result: 8-12 loss

Well that was a slightly strange and frustrating match. I think I made a fundamental mistake in this game, and that was to engage in close combat. White Lions are a massive problem for my armoured troops, and everything (including Archers in combat) is a threat to the Flagellants. Given how well I started out with knocking off Eagles and the small unit of White Lions, I could probably have won the game marginally with a conservative approach. However, conservative does not really describe my general approach to Warhammer, and I would have felt a bit cheap trying to take the points that way. Also, the excessive magical defence Jamie had loaded into his 2 largest units meant I could never realistically kill either of them or any of the characters at range - so there was no hope of a big win without engaging properly. Looking at his list I had come to the conclusion that I had the advantage, which made me automatically inclined to try to squeeze every point from the game. Didn't really work out for me.

During the game I made a couple of key mistakes, as well as one or two debatable decisions. The choice of charging the Archmage or trying to fry him didn't really work for me, but then he would have survived regardless. My power rolls were extremely weak and Jamie was still sitting on a Dispel Scroll at the end of the game. I couldn't have killed the Archmage that way. 

It was a mistake to pursue the fleeing Spearmen with both the Hurricanum and the Knights. I did want to catch them, but it put both units in danger with the White Lions waiting to pounce. The really big mistake in the game was fleeing with the Hurricanum at the end. It should have held the charge from the White Lions and died. This would have kept the BSB alive and the Knights' standard intact, and I would have saved myself 400 victory points by not breaking. Oh well, I think I lacked focus toward the end, especially when I became aware of the time issues.

Game 6: Battleline
Rowan Keating, Tomb Kings
Arkhan the Black
5 Skeleton Horse Archers with Champion
5 Skeleton Horse Archers with Champion
3 Skeleton Chariots with Champion
3 Skeleton Chariots with Champion
17 Skeleton Archers with Standard, Musician
3 Carrion
Tomb Scorpion
Tomb Scorpion
3 Sepulchral Stalkers
3 Sepulchral Stalkers
5 Necropolis Knights with Standard, Musician
Casket of Souls
Screaming Skull Catapult
Screaming Skull Catapult

Comp score: 2.5/5

My final game was against Rowan and his Tomb Kings led by Arkhan the Black. It was a combination that had made the trip down to Melbourne for Empire in Flames earlier in the year, and returned triumphant. With a whole lot of units and some menacing magic, it would be an interesting game.

The table had 2 buildings on it, which was not at all ideal from my perspective. Arkhan would almost certainly disappear into one of them and never be seen in the open again. It also gave some of his more important magical support elements some serious cover from my shooting. Rowan predictably deployed Arkhan and the Skeleton Archers right behind the building, making no attempt to hide his intentions. The Hierotitan and Casket of Souls also went over in that corner, shielding themselves from most of the table. A unit of Chariots also went on the left, to babysit these vulnerable elements. The Necropolis Knights went to the right of the building, with a Skull Chukka (Screaming Skull Catapult) behind them. The other one went behind the hill in the centre, with the Carrion sitting in front of it. The remaining unit of Chariots went over on the far right, next to the mass of rocks.
Taking cover: the elements I most wanted to target were making good use of the terrain.
I deployed much as you can see in the picture below, although that was after a turn of moving forward. I put the Cannon on the far right to give it the best chance of seeing past the building. I put the Flagellants next to them, with the rest of my forces around the centre, ready to move around the forest. The Steam Tank went on the left to give it a shot at the stuff hiding behind the building. Once we had finished deployment, Rowan placed a unit of scouting Horse Archers hard on the right hand side, just over 12" from the Cannon. It was in trouble. The other unit popped up maybe a foot in front of the Necropolis Knights. I managed to get the first turn despite Rowan getting the +1, and we were off.
Game 6, after my first movement phase
I started by failing a Frenzy test with the Flagellants and wheeling around toward the Horse Archers on the right (I was absolutely certain that Flagellants were Leadership 10, and had been treating them accordingly. Turns out I was wrong, and I now have no idea what it was that I looked up the other day, expecting to see Ld 7 and finding Ld 10). Anyway, they were busy wasting their time and not looking after the Cannon. The Steam Tank moved pretty quickly toward the Hierotitan, but its shot plugged in the ground right in front of it. The rest of my stuff moved forward more cautiously, although the Halberdiers were hurrying around the forest, realising it would be up to them to flush Arkhan out from the building once he got in there.
Weak right flank: The Flagellants fail to protect the Cannon
My magic and shooting went remarkably well. The Great Cannon killed one of the Skull Chukkas straight out. Banishment accounted for the other one. Another spell claimed the unit of Horse Archers in the centre, and even the Hurricanum got in on the act, killing 2 of the Carrion thanks to the Lore of Heavens attribute against flyers (the spell itself did nothing). I had knocked off Rowan's shooting and removed a chaff unit already. It was a good start. I also cast Birona's Timewarp on the Flagellants, with the sole intention of trying to get them back in the game.

In his first turn, Rowan charged the Great Cannon with the Horse Archers on the right and killed it easily. His other forces hedged a bit, with the Hierotitan stepping properly behind the building once Arkhan and his lads were safely inside. The Steam Tank had missed its chance there.
No more Cannon. This was starting to become a habit.
Then came the magic phase - the real strength of Rowan's army. If you don't know what Arkhan does, he is a level 5 wizard using the Lore of Death, and can carry up to 3 unused dice over from the Dispel phase. When you consider that he was adding D3 power dice thanks to the Casket, and D3 to casting rolls thanks too the Hierotitan, it makes for a brutal magic phase. I spent all game trying to fend off the worst of it, but generally at least two thirds of it got through. In this case, Rowan knocked 3 wounds off the Steam Tank with Spirit Leech (I dispelled Doom and Darkness first), and then killed my BSB outright with Caress of Laniph. Bummer.

My turn again. I didn't have any charges, but advanced quickly where I could. The Flagellants marched 16" straight at the Chariots over on the right (Timewarp, baby!), whilst the Demigryphs stepped well forward toward the Necropolis Knights. I was basically forcing things to charge me. The Steam Tank altered its angle and drove toward the Casket, but not before overcharging its steam and knocking another couple of wounds off itself. It was now half dead. Once again its cannonball plugged in the ground. It also failed to wound a Chariot that was directly under it. Its failure was complete. The other Cannon was gone, so my shooting was done. In terms of magic, I commenced trying to cull the Skeletons accompanying Arkhan in the building. The War Altar managed to fail to cast with a triple 1 (oops), but the Wizard Lord killed a few with a poor roll for hits.

In Rowan's turn there were a couple of charges, as I had forced the issue with a very fast advance. The Chariots on the right hit the Flagellants, whilst the Necropolis Knights went into the Demigryphs right in front of them (who had Hatred from the War Altar, but no other advantages). A Tomb Scorpion appeared from underground and blocked the advance of my Halberdierds, menacing my Wizard Lord with its snippy claws. A unit of Sepulchral Stalkers also emerged, behind the Steam Tank.
It's the end! For someone...
Clash of the Monstrous Cavalry
Where the devil did that Scorpion come from?
Rowan didn't have the best magic phase. He knocked another 3 wounds off the Steam Tank, but got excited about Purple Sun of Xereus and failed to cast it with a poor roll. I think this turn he had actually used all his Dispel dice, so wasn't feeding his Power pool quite like he normally would. In combat the Flagellants lost 14 models against the Chariots, but easily wiped them out in return. They then reformed on an angle, looking at the flank of the Horse Archers who had ridden onto the hill in my deployment zone after finishing the Cannon (presumably they wanted a good position from which to gloat). The Demigryphs killed one Necropolis Knight and took a couple of wounds, but made no real progress.
The Horse Archers ascend the hill and gloat over their glorious victory.
In my third turn the Steam Tank completed its poor game by misfiring and overcharging again, taking 3 more wounds and killing itself. 
All eyez on me: the Steam Tank was beginning to feel unloved, so the driver packed up and went home.
The Flagellants made the charge into the Horse Archers, hacked them apart and then overran over the hill and stayed up against my table edge for the rest of the game. The Halberdiers charged the Scorpion. My Knights swung around toward the left flank, seeing the arrival of the Stalkers. The War Altar also angled that way a bit.
There and back again: can you believe they started the turn over next to those rocks in the background?
Rowan managed to deflect the worst of my magical shooting that turn, given the Wizard Lord was in combat. Instead, I managed to cast boosted Speed of Light and Birona's Timewarp, ensuring the Halberdiers made short work of the Scorpion and the Demigryphs carved up the Necropolis Knights without them getting to strike back.
My forces close the noose around Arkhan and his friends
In Rowan's third turn the second unit of Sepulchral Stalkers appeared behind my lines. The Chariots and Hierotitan advanced a bit toward the Knights, whilst the Stalkers they were eyeing off stepped back a bit toward the left table edge and tried to buy time. Arkhan managed to knock my Arch Lector off the top of his War Altar, so I was now without a general and a BSB. 

In Turn 4 the Knights charged the Stalkers on the left, however they suffered from the traditional rubber lance syndrome, with half of the hits failing to wound on 2+. It meant they did 1 wound not enough to crumble the unit, and were trapped with their flank facing the Hierotitan and Chariots. They reformed closer to my table edge to increase the charges required, but were in trouble. The War Altar had moved up in support and fired off a Strength 5 Banishment on the Hierotitan, however it lived on one wound. The Demigryphs swept around the building toward the Casket, and the Halberdiers performed a swift reform to advance toward the building in a column.

In his turn, Rowan charged the Hurricanum with the Stalkers behind my lines, and it chose to flee through the Halberdiers. The Stalkers redirected onto the Halberds and managed to hold them up for a turn, buying Arkhan valuable time. 
Curses! Bogged again.
The Hierotitan and Chariots both made it into combat with the Knights, who found it all a bit much and were crushed. Arkhan managed to drop the driverless War Altar to Leadership 2 before hitting it with Spirit Leech, and it succumbed to the bombardment and was destroyed. I was running out of units.
The Knights' demise: it wasn't meant to end like this!
In my turn the Hurricanum failed to rally and fled from the table, courtesy of the remaining Carrion carefully placing itself in my path to help me along. The Demigryphs charged the Casket and killed it, but were now out of the game. The Halberdiers were pinned in place thanks to the Stalkers, however they were seen off and the unit reformed again. I wasn't going to get to the building if I was blocked again...

The final Tomb Scorpion appeared in Rowan's turn and blocked the halberdiers, as did the single Carrion model. The Hierotitan moved back toward Arkhan to ensure he got the D3 casting bonus. Arkhan focused his efforts now on removing my Wizard Lord, however she survived on a single wound. It was going to be tight.

In my last turn, I decided not to charge the blocking units. Instead I would try to finish the game with magic missiles. I moved the Wizard into a position that the Scorpion wouldn't reach if it charged, and commenced bombardment. Unfortunately my Banishment did a pitiful number of hits on Arkhan's Skeletons, leaving 7 of them alive. Enough that Shem's Burning Gaze could not get through to the man himself (who had taken a wound from an earlier miscast, and was Flammable). I had failed to do what was needed. I had also stupidly focused so much on keeping my Wizard out of combat, that I didn't have a crack at finishing the Hirotitan - the easiest source of points at this stage. Oh well, silly mistake.

Of course, Rowan had no intention of charging my Wizard with anything. The remaining units gathered around to watch as Arkhan fired up once more, and blasted my final wound off with magic. I'd lost my last character and quite a lot of points. The game was over.
How it ended.
Rowan finished the game with Arkhan, half a unit of Skeletons, a Sepulchral Stalker on one wound, a Hierotitan on one wound, a single Carrion and a Scorpion. I had my Halberdiers, my Demigryphs and half of my Flagellants left. It was not enough. I had lost.
Arkhan emerges with his remaining entourage to celebrate his glorious victory

Result: 8-12 loss

That had been an entertaining game without spells being thrown everywhere and both of us largely powerless to stop it. Things started dying early, and there was not much left by the end. The mistake in the final turn with not lining up the Hierotitan had potentially cost me the draw, however if I'd rolled a decent number of wounds with Banishment, things might have ended very differently. Arkhan had gotten away with a very thin shield of Skeletons. If I had my time over, I wouldn't have charged the earlier Scorpion - I would have trusted more in my magic, which served me well all game with decent Power phases (the exact opposite of the previous game). Oh well, live and learn.

I finished the tournament on 56 of a possible 120 battle points, so I had failed to break even. Once comp scores were taken into account, I ended up in 12th place of the 16 competitors. This was marginally better than last year, but still nothing spectacular. On the other hand, I was fortunate enough to be given the Man of Honour award, which was the players' choice for best sport. Everyone also got a participation medal with their name on it, so I would not be returning home empty-handed.
Hey, I won something!
Winner of the event overall was that old egg Chris Cousens, my nemesis in the third round. This is the first time a Victorian has won the Masters, so well done Chris.
All in all it was a great event, and the games were all played in good spirits. It was a pleasure to attend the Masters this year, and thanks to all my opponents, Shane for organising things, and Brad at Good Games Canberra for hosting the event.


  1. Well done sir. For your efforts have this Liebster Blog award nomination. May it bring you luck and more followers (it's brought me three over night!)

  2. Nice writeup Greg!
    Thanks for The Dwellers Below podcast mention.
    Episode is up, hope it does Masters 2012 justice.