Friday, 13 September 2013

Axemaster 2013 Aftermath – Day 2

So my first day at the tournament had been less than ideal. I had scraped one very marginal win, but was on only 20 of a possible 60 battle points coming into day 2. At this point Nick's rather unusual comp system started to take effect, with half of everyone's comp scores applied before the draw was determined for round 4. The other half of the score would be applied at the end of the tournament. With my pretty poor list, this meant I would effectively be getting a bit of a boost up the tables. I guess this could be a good thing...

Game 4: Watchtower
Rhys McGlinn, Warriors of Chaos
  • Nurgle Daemon Prince (Level 4, Lore of Nurgle) with Chaos Armour, Scaly Skin, Charmed Shield, Sword of Striking, Dragonbane Gem, Flying
  • Exalted Hero (BSB) on Daemon Steed with Chaos Armour, Enchanted Shield, Talisman of Preservation
  • Sorcerer (Level 1, Lore of Metal) with Dispel Scroll
  • Throgg, the Troll King
  • 15 Nurgle Chaos Warriors with Halberds, Shields, Command
  • 15 Khorne Chaos Warriors with Halberds, Shields, Command, Banner of Swiftness
  • 5 Chaos Trolls
  • Chimera with Regeneration
  • 3 Skullcrushers with Ensorcelled Weapons, Standard
  • 3 Skullcrushers with Ensorcelled Weapons, Standard

Well, it turns out that the boost from comp meant I ran into a list that I was really going to struggle against. My only real chance to kill the Daemon Prince would be with Amber Spear. There were 5 other combat units that I was going to struggle to handle, and then there was a Chimera flapping about for good measure. All in all, things didn't look good.
The Chaos deployment. Definite Chaos home-town advantage on this table. Stupid Chaos Wastes...
Those blurry things at the bottom are my guys.
I “won” the roll for the Watchtower, which is a nice way of saying I lost the roll for first turn. I didn't deploy anything in it, as it just would have been charged in turn 1. Rhys moved forward aggressively, with the Khorne Warriors making a bee-line for the Tower. They were going in and there was no way I could intercept them. The Chimera swept around to my left and basically dared my Wild Riders to charge, whilst the BSB led a unit of Skullcrushers up alongside the tower. The Daemon Prince threw an irresistible Rancid Visitations at my Spellweaver, however she only took 1 wound and the Prince lost 3 levels and was left with only Blades of Putrefaction. So that was something to cheer me a little.
The Chimera gets up in my Wild Riders' faces.
The Daemon Prince is coming! Eeeek!
My right flank awaits the enemy. Not that they were taking a terribly long time to get there.
Seeing the insolence of the Chimera, the Wild Riders obliged him and charged straight on in, although I stuffed up planning the pursuit (I wanted the flank of the Skullcrushers) because of the whole middle-to-middle thing rather than fleeing directly away. I also cast Wyssan's Wildform on the unit, and managed to beat it in combat by 3, breaking it and running it down.
The Highborn goes it alone. Not that it was really the plan. Nor did it go very well.
Nearby my Highborn had downed his potion and gone straight into the Skullcrushers. I tried to send the Treeman and the Branchwraith-riddled unit of Dryads in alongside, however they both failed the charge. With the mess-up with the pursuit of the Wild Riders, it meant the Highborn was going it alone. He fought the enemy BSB in a challenge, however could only get 1 wound past his armour and ward save. Combat was drawn, and my efforts were stalled. Over the next couple of rounds my Highborn got progressively worse at fighting, doing his best to take his own eye out with his sword. I did manage to send in the Dryad unit the next turn, but failed to get Savage Beast of Horros through to give the Branchwraiths real punch. With the Highborn still flailing uselessly, they all broke. The Dryads escaped – not so much the Highborn. Served him right, really.

On the other flank things were going poorly. With no time and few options as the enemy advanced, I decided to gamble by charging Throgg and his Troll pals with Dryads in the flank and my flaming Glade Guard in the front. Unfortunately Throgg challenged, which meant my BSB was no chance to knock Regeneration off the enemy before the Dryads attacked (Dryads are faster than Glade Guard). Not that it mattered – I didn't even land a hit on Throgg, let alone a wound. The Dryads still killed a Troll, but overall the combat was a disaster with the Dryads fleeing the table and the remnant of the Glade Guard quickly mopped up.
Fly, my pretty! Go forth and buy me time!
Your sacrifice will be remembered...
I sent my Eagle to delay the Chaos centre, and planted a Treeman directly in front of the Daemon Prince, and he took the bait and charged me. He then cast his remaining spell with irresistible force again, and this time rolled Dimensional Cascade. Things were looking up. Unfortunately he shrugged it off and just wounded both himself and the Treeman. Then he rudely rolled a 6 and regained the lost wound and gained a Toughness thanks to the Nurgle Lore Attribute. That extra Toughness probably actually kept him alive as he and Treeman spent several turns laying into each other. In the end he emerged still on 3 wounds. I cheered myself up by immediately skewering him for 6 wounds with Amber Spear. No more Daemon Prince, yay! With this or (or maybe it was another) spell I also rolled Dimensional Cascade and managed to avoid it, leaving myself on 1 wound. The little Chaos Sorcerer took this as his cue, and rolled yet another Dimensional Cascade (wouldn't want to be left out). He did not survive, however he obliterated a Treeman with his irresistible boosted Searing Doom as he went. So Rhys was not unhappy.

The final stages saw my fleeing Dryads and Branchwraiths rally, only to be hit by the Skullcrushers again as they overran through my Glade Guard. I charged the Wild Riders into the rear and boosted Savage Beast of Horros to give the Branchwraiths some teeth. Unfortunately both of them (one was dead) were only in contact with the BSB, who had to challenge. The Branchwraith that accepted the challenge beat him down handily, however the other couldn't contribute and all my other stuff bounced off the armour of the Skullcrushers whilst getting obliterated in return. I lost both units, and was wiped out when the other Skullcrushers pulled off a 17” charge to reach my Spellweaver.
The Tower - she is not mine.
I had been tabled, and the 1000-odd points I got for removing the Chimera and all the enemy characters only cancelled the bonus for the Watchtower. Alas. It was a predictable result, but I might have put in a better show with a little more luck with that BSB's unit of Skullcrushers.

Result: 0-20

Game 5: Battleline
Phillip Hibgame, High Elves
  • Archmage (Level 4, Lore of Shadow)
  • Noble (BSB) with Halberd, Armour of Caledor
  • Mage (Level 1, Lore of Metal)
  • 35 Sea Guard with Command
  • 14 Archers
  • 24 Phoenix Guard with Command, Razor Standard
  • 24 White Lions with Command, Banner of the World Dragon
  • 5 Ellyrian Reavers with Bows
  • 5 Sisters of Avelorn
  • Frostheart Phoenix
  • Frostheart Phoenix
  • Eagle
  • Eagle

I'm afraid I didn't take any photos of this game. The High Elves were not painted, and the Phoenixes had both come off their bases (so they were just bases assaulting my units). The table had a river cutting it in half (yet again – somehow this as my fourth game on a table with a river, and there were only 4 tables with rivers on them!) My left side of the river had a few forests. The right was mostly open.

Phillip set up with an Eagle on his left flank, followed by the 2 Phoenixes, then the Sisters and Archers led by the little Mage, then the horde of Sea Guard, then the Phoenix Guard led by the BSB, and finally the White Lions right next to the river, with the Archmage in the unit. On the other side of the river were the token deployments of an Eagle and the Reavers. I put my Eagle and the Dryads on the left facing these token units, and had everything else over on the right, facing the main enemy line. I confess – I couldn't see how I could realistically handle the White Lions. With 2+ ward saves against all my combat units, they were untouchable.

I had the Wild Riders on my far right flank and used Vanguard to move them up. This got them charged in the first turn when Phillip won the roll-off. Both Phoenixes crashed into their front, killing 6 with their 8 attacks. I was still Steadfast however, so held my ground. The rescue party that flanked the nearest Phoenix consisted of a Treeman and my Highborn. They only squeezed through 1 or 2 wounds, but it was enough to break the other Phoenix from combat – not that anyone could pursue yet.

In his first turn Phillip had nearly wiped out one of my Glade Guard units, so I retaliated by wiping out the Archers with the help of the Hail of Doom Arrow. My Eagle on the left flank charged his, and eventually died without doing a wound (this was symptomatic of his entire tournament). The Dryads over there charged and caught the Reavers when they fled, but that was basically their whole game as they were not going to be able to work their way past the White Lions to the rest of the enemy.

In the second round of combat the second Phoenix broke and was caught, and the Highborn ploughed into the front of the Sea Guard, soon to be joined by the Treeman. The Wild Riders (all 3 of them that were left) pursued into the first Phoenix (which had rallied) and with the help of Wyssan's Wildform, managed to do a wound. This time the Phoenix didn't manage to get a wound through their ward saves, and broke again – this time getting itself pursued and caught.

My BSB got himself shot after failing to find decent cover and my second Treeman got roasted by Searing Doom (again – not sure if it was the same Treeman each time, but this was the third occasion it happened). However, the combat against the Sea Guard went well and soon they were all gone through the combined efforts of the remaining Treeman and Highborn.

The really dicey combat came when Phillip decided to send his Phoenix Guard straight at my lines whilst the White Lions held back. This enticed me to charge the Phoenix Guard with the Dryads in the flank (in front of the White Lions) and the Branchwraiths (who had left the unit to give me more options) into the front (although one failed, needing a 4). The Spellweaver then cruised up behind and cast boosted Savage Beast of Horros (which helped the Highborn chew through Sea Guard as well as the Branchwraiths). With the Branchwraiths having suddenly developed fangs, the Phoenix Guard tried to drop them before they could attack. The BSB did a wound to one, however 9 more attacks from the unit was not enough to get past her ward save and finish her off. This was slightly good fortune on my part, as I really should have been taking 2 saves to keep my last wound, instead of the 1 which I passed. The other Branchwraith was also wounded, but then came the return attacks. The BSB was hacked down and the Phoenix Guard lost, but they held their ground.

The White Lions flanked the Dryads and hurt and broke them, however one of the Branchwraiths survived against the Phoenix Guard and held her ground. This coincided with the Sea Guard being mopped up, and suddenly a Treeman, Spellweaver on Unicorn, Highborn on Eagle and the final Branchwraith all crashed into the Phoenix Guard. Another boosted Savage Beast saw them fighting a preposterous number of high strength attacks. In pretty short order they were worn away to nothing, despite their 4+ ward saves.

The Wild Riders eventually got past and into the Sisters of Avelorn, and over a few rounds of combat were reduced to a single model before being rescued by my Highborn in the end-game.

In the end I lost a unit of Dryads, 2 of the Branchwraiths, my BSB, Eagle and a unit of Glade Guard. In return I killed everything except the White Lions, Archmage and an Eagle.

Result: 14-6

That game was novel because it was actually the only real time in the tournament that saw the Beast magic work properly in conjunction with all the little characters. Luck was with me a couple of times (which was a nice change), but it was good to get a proper win.

Game 6: Battleline
James Brett, Vampire Counts
James goes for the whole mild-mannered "not the sort of guy who would field 3 Terrorgheists" vibe
  • Ghoul King (Level 1, Lore of Vampires) on Terrorgheist with Ogre Blade, Red Fury, Dragonbane Gem, Beguile, Aura of Dark Majesty
  • Vampire (BSB, Level 1, Lore of Vampires) on Hellsteed, Dawnstone, Dragonhelm, Heavy Armour, Shield
  • Vampire (Level 2, Lore of Death) with Heavy Armour, Shield, Flying Horror
  • 25 Ghouls with Ghast
  • 20 Zombies with Standard, Musician
  • 20 Zombies with Standard, Musician
  • 20 Zombies with Standard, Musician
  • 20 Zombies with Standard, Musician
  • 5 Dire Wolves
  • 5 Dire Wolves
  • 2 Fell Bats
  • 2 Fell Bats
  • 2 Fell Bats
  • 4 Vargheists
  • 5 Hexwraiths
  • Terrorgheist
  • Terrorgheist

My final game was against all the Terrorgheists. James had clearly built his army to a theme, and the theme was Terrorgheists. This was a bit of a concern, although the combat prowess of the Ghoul King was more worrying.
After deployment and Vanguard
Oh man, look at that.
James lazily deployed a thousand things he didn't care about whilst I deployed, then planted the 3 Terrorgheists on the hill, front and centre. I had put my best stuff around the centre anyway, so neither of us were really out of position. James won the roll-off for Vanguard and moved the Dire Wolves on either flank forward, so I chose not to Vanguard and instead charged the Wild Riders into the dogs on the left, and the Eagle into the ones on the right. The Hexwraiths had advanced in the centre, so my Dryads tried to charge them (would have been an easy fix). Unfortunately I didn't make it, and my backup plan of Stranglerooting them failed when I rolled a misfire. Curses.
The Hexwraiths advance and mock my attempts to respond
My Treemen move up in anticipation of a Terrorgheist assault.
My Eagle continued to embarrass himself against the Dire Wolves and took a wound. Its blushes were saved only by a Stomp attack. The Wild Riders dealt with their opposition more easily, but needed an 11” overrun to sweep into the Vargheists. Worth a try, but they didn't make it. They did manage to get into the Wild Wood nearby though, and lost a couple of models. I wasted all my shooting and Hail of Doom Arrow knocking a single wound off the Ghoul King's Terrorgheist.
My mighty Eagle. Can't even take some dead doggies.
The Wild Riders fall short of their ultimate (somewhat optimistic) target.
My Highborn bravely deployed with a house between him and the Ghoul King.
James' first turn was nothing if not aggressive. The Vargheists leapt into the Wild Riders and all 3 Terrorgheists landed right in front of my lines and prepared their best singing voices. The Hexwraiths moved through the Treeman nearby and knocked 4 wounds off him with their flaming, magical hits. There was a reason I wanted them dead.
The terror! The horror! The horrific singing!
Hark, little Spellweaver! He sings for yooouu...
They're everywhere!
In the screaming phase (other armies call it the shooting phase), the Terrorgheist howling in the ear of my Highborn failed to do any damage. The one shrieking at my Spellweaver was far less generous, and rolled an 11. So that was 17 – my Leadership of 9. She was very dead and I was a little sad. The undamaged Treeman also took 4 wounds from the horrific singing of the Ghoul King's Terrorgheist. It had been a costly phase.
The Vargheists charge the Wild Riders
The Wild Riders failed to do the damage they really could have against the Vargheists and only did 4 wounds. They then lost 5 of their own number, failed their Steadfast test (I forgot the stupid Gleaming Pendant, but might have failed anyway), and fled. At least they got away. The Eagle on the right flank didn't kill any Dire Wolves. I think it was a pacifist birdie.
Well that went well.
By my second turn things were looking grim. So I did what any sensible person would do and ordered by Highborn to chug his Potion of Foolhardiness and charge into the flank of the Ghoul King. Hey, it's only a Vampire Lord, right? Behind him, the Dryads charged the Terrorgheist that had been sitting next to him, whilst the Treeman in the centre charged the remaining one. The other Dryads charged and wiped out the Hexwraiths and reformed. The other Treeman jumped into the forest nearby and used Treesinging to surf it out of the arc of the Ghouls led by the army's 2 lesser Vampires. He then Stranglerooted a pair of Vampire Bats off for good measure.
Trying to respond to the badness.
The Dryads and Treeman both met with limited success against their Terrorgheists. Neither lost combat, but nor did they do more than a couple of wounds each.

Then, accompanied by epic music (with vocal backing from an entire chorus of Terrorgheists), the Highborn and Ghoul King laid into each other at Initiative 8. The Highborn had 6 attacks on 3s and 3s, and managed to wound the Vampire 3 times. James picked up the dice for his 5+ Regeneration... and failed all 3 rolls. The Vampire was dead! Even as the Elf drove his blade into his cold, dead heart, the Ghoul King struck back. He also inflicted 3 wounds, and I picked up the dice for my 3+ ward save (until failed). As you would expect from a pro like me, I failed the first roll, and so I too died. The 2 army generals toppled from their saddles. The Eagle flew off and the Vampire Counts army took a round of crumble tests.

The Eagle on my right flank suddenly found himself victorious as the Dire Wolves vanished (and took all the credit in an entirely unjustified manner). Zombies fell off the back of each unit, but the Terrorgheists with their terrible Leadership managed to lose all of about 2 wounds between them. Then the Vampire BSB assumed command of the army and the crumbling stopped. My best chance for clearing off (or at least crippling) the Terrorgheists was gone.

In James' turn the Vargheists ignored the newly rallied Wild Riders and charged into the Dryads alongside the Terrorgheist. The now-riderless and unengaged Terrorgheist howled the Treeman off the flank of its friend, leaving it also out of combat. The Dryads fighting the remaining Terrorgheist allocated a number of attacks to the Vargheists, but rolled miserably. They did manage to kill the Terrorgheist, but broke anyway and were run down.
The Vargheists try to rescue the Terrorgheist. Or just eat my Dryads. Their motives were not entirely clear.
In my turn I decided to gamble to salvage a win from what was looking like a losing situation. My remaining Treeman charged into the front of the Ghouls, aiming squarely for the Vampire BSB. If I killed him, the army would crumble. His 2+ re-rollable save wouldn't look so great when it became a 5+. The other Vampire stepped across to help and between them they levelled 8 Strength 5 attacks at him. This resulted in 2 saves, and I failed them both and died. Alas. Gamble failed.

The rest of the game involved a fair bit of chasing each other in circles. The remaining Dryads eventually killed both of the remaining Terrorgheists, although by the end there were only 3 of them left and they got cleaned up by the Vampire BSB. The Vargheists were behind my Glade Guard and making menacing noises, but both units turned around and in a dazzling display of rolling, wiped them out with wounds to spare. We were both somewhat shocked, I admit.

My Wild Riders got themselves charged by 2 units of Zombies, getting worn down but killing the first before eventually the sole remaining Rider broke from the second and eluded the pursuers when there were only half a dozen of them left too.

By the end of the game, James had his 2 little Vampires, the Ghouls, and 3 units of Zombies left. I had 2 units of Glade Guard and a fleeing Wild Rider. It had been a bloody affair.

Result: 8-12

So, by the end of the tournament I had only 2 wins to my name, and a paltry 42 battle points of a possible 120. This was not a great showing. In the final wash-up it turned out that I had the highest comp score in the event. So the comp judges figured I had the softest list there. It meant I finished 15th of the 30 participants.

In the end my list did have some potential, but there were some major flaws with it. The Branchwraiths are useless until they've been buffed by a bit of magic, but too often my (admittedly very vulnerable) mage was already dead, or my opponents had sufficiently fast armies that combats were being fought and lost before the mage could intervene.

The other problem was how many people seem to run about with supporting wizards with the Lore of Metal. Searing Doom is brutal against Treemen, and 3 times I lost one to an irresistible version of the spell. When I am often looking to the Treemen to shore up my army in the absence of serious combat units, that sort of thing can result in the game falling apart.

All in all, the list was not really a success. On the bright side I came away with the Best Sports award, so I do have something to show for my weekend. That and a parking ticket. Dang, yo...

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