Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Cancon 2014 Aftermath: Part 4

This is the fourth part of my series of posts covering my time playing Warhammer at Cancon 2014. You can find the previous game here.

So after the 3 games on Day 1 I was sitting on 2 wins and a loss. If I could continue that sort of record I would be pretty happy – my nominal target was to get 5 wins from the 8 games. Day 2 started with a bit of a mix-up in terms of some incorrect scores and re-draws, but after the dust had settled I found myself across the table from another battle report writer – the Swordmaster himself, king of MSU (multiple small units)!

Game 4 – Battleline
Pawel Sajewicz (Swordmaster)– High Elves
  • Larry the Loremaster - level 2, Talisman of Preservation, Earthing Rod, Dragon Helm
  • Bob the Battle Standard Bearer - Dragon Armour, Halberd, Charmed Shield, Potion of Strength, Reaver Bow
  • 15 Archers - Full Command
  • 15 Sea Guard - Full Command
  • 5 Ellyrian Reavers - Spears, Bows, Musician
  • 5 Ellyrian Reavers - Spears, Bows, Musician
  • 5 Dragon Princes - Musician, Banner of Eternal Flame
  • 5 Dragon Princes - Musician
  • 12 Swordmasters - Bladelord, Musician
  • 12 Swordmasters - Bladelord, Musician
  • 10 White Lions - Full Command, Gleaming Pennant
  • 10 White Lions - Full Command, Standard of Discipline
  • Eagle Claw Bolt Thrower
  • Great Eagle
  • Great Eagle
  • 5 Sisters of Avelorn
  • 5 Sisters of Avelorn
What with all his reports online, I was able to get Pawel's actual army list rather than having to try to remember some 3 weeks after the game. Very handy. Not so sure about his choice of character names...

Anyway, I knew this game was going to be reported twice on the net – once from each player's perspective. That hasn't happened to me much before, and I figured it would be an interesting process. It also meant I was conscious of trying not to look too much like an idiot.
Deployment, including a ridiculously large forest on my left.
The "tomato plantation", as it was dubbed.
Naturally this meant that I started the game by stuffing up my deployment. Looking at the sheer number of units Pawel had at his disposal, I knew I was in danger of being seriously out-deployed and outmanoeuvred. I resolved to go for a pretty compact deployment that would protect my more vulnerable elements from the numerous longbows, bows and crazy-flaming-Elf-chick-bows arrayed against me. The Demigryphs went more to the right, partly because I needed the room, and partly because I thought they might cause any advancing Elves some concern. With all this cunning deployment however, I forgot the minor detail of where I was going to put my Wizards. Or more specifically, I failed to leave room for them to join units because there was no space to displace models. It was dumb. In the end I settled for deploying them behind the building, knowing that no missile troops (or magic missiles) would get a look at them in the first turn anyway.
The forces across from my left flank (ie most of my army)
The rest of Pawel's army, which was really only facing my Demigryphs.
What sort of idiot would deploy so tightly that there was no room to add characters to his units? Sigh.
Pawel had deployed a small selection of units across from my main forces, and I was of more than half a mind to go after those and leave most of his army until later, when I had culled his number of units a bit. This plan was stymied slightly when I lost the roll-off for the first turn (despite his having about 15 times as many units as me). He'd have a turn to try to get into position and try to whittle me down on my way in.

Perhaps it was the presence of the Demigryphs, or maybe just the fact that my army was bereft of shooting, but the High Elves didn't really advance in the first turn, besides some Reavers moving around the building on my right flank. I wasted my Scroll of Shielding (probably the only time I remembered to use the thing in the entire tournament) on a small Searing Doom from the Loremaster that didn't manage to do any damage to the Demigryphs anyway. I think I took a wound from Spirit Leech, however.
High Elf Turn 1.
Some sneaky Reavers head around my right flank, using the building as cover.
Not much movement on the left flank, apart from some Reavers joining the party.
In my turn I advanced as much as I dared with the Demigryphs, looking to avoid being charged by the entire High Elf army in a single go. The White Wolf Knights advanced and were joined by my Wizards, with the unit ending up in a position to threaten both units of Sisters of Avelorn. I continued my plan of trying to wipe out the force to the left of the church by swinging round with my Inner Circle Knights, whilst advancing the Flagellants onto the hill. I wasn't going to be able to bring them to bear without facing a round of shooting. My magic was unimpressive (although I did manage to kill 3 whole Sisters of Avelorn with Banishment) and my turn was over.
Empire Turn 1. My forces move up to try to clean up the left flank quickly and take control of the game.
My right flank, with the Demigryphs trying to strike a balance between being menacing and not getting charged by every High Elf on the table at once.
Ah come on, there's not that many of them...
Pawel continued the grand tradition of High Elf players feeding their Eagles into the blender by landing one each in front of the Demigryphs and the Inner Circle Knights. The Reavers continued their sweeping advance around my flank and moved into position behind the Demigryphs. Then with an Iceshard Blizzard in play on them (I had to let through something), my White Wolf Knights got slaughtered by the Sisters and Bolt Thrower. It would be fair to say I didn't pass a lot of saves, since it left me with a single Knight “protecting” my Wizards. The group of them then panicked and fled (despite the general and BSB being in range – I don't think Iceshard Blizzard was even to blame), stopping right in front of my Arch Lector.
The forward elements of the Elves surround the poor old Demigryphs. It's not like they didn't see it coming, but there wasn't much they could do. I needed to close the gap because the alternative was sitting back and getting Searing Doomed off the table.
Great Eagle on a stick! It's finger-lickin' good!
Well that could have gone better. Even looking back at the rulebook now, I'm not 100% sure that this unit could have rallied. It was 10 models at the start of the game, then the 2 wizards joined it. The wording is unclear. Not that it mattered that much...
The horror did not stop there, however – the 25 combined shots from the Sea Guard and Archers on my left somehow managed to knock 16 Flagellants off my unit of 25, effectively rendering them inoperable as a combat unit against an army with Always Strikes First. Basically it was a disaster. I would be left trying to keep the remainder alive to salvage points, with no chance of making use of them later in the game.
What the hell happened to my unit? Surely bows don't hurt that much!
The White Lions advance through the tomatoes. I think it was actually a venom thicket, but White Lions have fancy tree-hugging skills and don't care.
After that rather depressing turn, I charged both the enemy Eagles. I also charged the Archers with my small Knight unit, although one of them died trying to negotiate the enormous tomato plantation (it was so rectangular and orderly, not to mention flipping enormous, that we figured it was a plantation of some sort).
Die, birdie!
My Knights charge in alone, with the bigger unit having been delayed by birdies.
My Wizards rallied, but because they were busy recovering, I would have no chance to move them to somewhere I could protect them. Basically they were defenceless. I would have to use them that turn or run out of chances. I threw Speed of Light and Wyssan's Wildform on the Demigryphs, and in the end Pawel elected to stop the latter. Probably the right decision, but Speed of Light would still help me. A little. Since it was somehow still not enough for my unit to kill (or even break) the Eagle they had charged. Awesome. So now I would not only be charged by half the enemy army, I would be flanked by some of them. The Eagle (which was now on one wound) looked smug and danced the Funky Chicken as it waited for its allies to arrive.

I did manage one other spell that turn, which was a blast of Banishment from the War Altar. In an efficient display, it vapourised 7 of the 10 White Lions lurking amongst the tomatoes on the left. That was good progress. Nearby, the Inner Circle Knights actually managed to kill their Eagle (unlike the idiot WS 10 Demigryphs), and reformed rather than being pulled out of position. The small Knight unit struggled a bit against the Archers, losing one of their number and barely winning combat. But they were doing a job. At least they were still there.
Banished! Cop that, sneaky White Lions!
In his third turn Pawel did his level best to unleash hell on the Demigryphs. Swordmasters went in next to the Eagle, Dragon Princes came in on its other side, and the Loremaster's White Lions arrived in the flank. He had agonised somewhat about that last unit, because the White Lions were going to be standing in a pond that we had determined would be a Boiling Flood, which inflicts a Strength 4 hit on everyone standing in it at the end of the turn. So the whole question became: would he break my unit? If I held my ground, the White Lions would cop a hiding from the water. Obviously in the end he elected to take his chances.
The Demigryphs are under attack! And why is that stupid bird still there!?
The combat didn't quite go as either of us expected, although it is important to note that the damned Eagle survived again, despite me allocating attacks against it. There was something altogether unnerving about that chicken and its mocking chortling. I killed a Dragon Prince and a whole swathe of Swordmasters, and (perhaps more remarkably) I passed a pretty good number of armour saves. Pawel had also rolled an impressive pile of 1s to wound with the White Lions. That helped too. I lost a Demigryph and an extra wound, but managed to win combat by something like 5. The Dragon Princes fell off the end of the combat due to me removing my casualty, but unfortunately none of the High Elves broke and fled, including (or perhaps especially) the Eagle. The Boiling Flood then went berserk and fried all but one of the White Lions. It was all looking rather good, but unfortunately I would not be WS and I 10 the next turn...
Haha, bet you didn't see that coming, suckers! I know I didn't...
The reason I would not have Speed of Light on me the following turn was that I didn't have any Wizards left. True to their merciless display the previous turn, the Sisters and Bolt Thrower executing both my Wizards, although somehow the sole remaining Knight survived. This time he didn't flee which was good since he wouldn't have been able to rally. In my turn he turned and headed for my back table corner, where he eventually went and hid under the corpses of my dead pile, cuddling his precious victory points like a security blanket.
The remaining White Wolf Knight runs and hides in the corner. I think he survived Pawel's efforts to kill him later, but I'm not actually sure.
The Ellyrian Reavers to my left moved up and took the place of the Eagle that had delayed my Inner Circle Knights, buying more time for the Sea Guard and Archers on the flank. The Sea Guard elected not to try to rescue the Archers and instead shot a few more Flagellants as they were backing away behind the hill, looking for cover. For their part the Archers didn't need rescuing as they continued to fend off the Knights with relative ease (I believe they killed another one, making a mockery of my 1+ armour).
Reavers take the place of the Eagle, blocking my Knights for another turn.
In my turn I continued to be aggressive where I could. I took a chance and ploughed the War Altar straight into the giant tomato patch in order to flank the 3 White Lions who had turned to look at the flank of my little struggling Knight unit. I managed (by the barest of margins) to kill the 3 of them outright, which allowed an overrun into the Archers. Surely now I would bust through them. But no. My unimpressive rolling against the White Lions continued against the Archers, and now I had 2 units bogged in the combat instead of one. Yay! At least the White Lions were gone.
Nasty tomato trees do not concern me... The Arch Lector flanks the White Lions and very nearly embarrasses himself by failing to wipe them out. 
The model wouldn't balance, but at this point the War Altar had carried on into the Archers. To save the remaining Knight from himself. They did put their armour on that morning, didn't they?
My Inner Circle Knights charged the Reavers who were right in their faces and wiped them out, however I was forced to reform again because Pawel had seen fit not to goof up and give me a convenient path for my overrun. Man, some people are just take, take, take...
The Reavers are cleared out of the way. Now they're out of chaff on that flank.
Then the epic music started playing (maybe it was just in my head), and we went to the Demigryphs. They had done themselves proud in the previous round and were now fighting barely a handful of Elves. And an Eagle. An invincible Eagle. Well, I would deal with him this turn... Or would I? Turns out no, I would not. In fact after their heroic performance the previous turn, the Demigryphs were completely uninspiring. Without Speed of Light they were now swinging after all the great weapon-wielding High Elves, and that was a very bad thing. With the 4 Strength 6 attacks from the flank (the sole remaining White Lion and the Loremaster) and the 9 Strength 5 attacks from the front, Pawel somehow managed to do the 7 wounds he needed to wipe out my unit before they could swing. I'm not going to lie to you – my rolling for their armour saves might have been part of the problem. The epic music kind of petered out depressingly and I removed my heroic doggies from the table. It had all been going so well.
Alas, poor doggies!
In Pawel's fourth turn, the Sea Guard hiked their skirts and skittered into the church with a swift reform (boo, hiss). They were now safe from my Inner Circle Knights. As it turned out they would have been safe anyway, as his Bolt Thrower decided to take a chance with a single bolt down the line of my unit – and killed 4 Knights and wounded the BSB on the far end of the unit (at Strength 2)! Thankfully he only rolled 1 wound, as I would have been somewhat sad to lose a model with a 1+ re-rollable armour save to a Strength 2 hit that ignored it. Anyway, after that debacle, I was down to a single Knight and a BSB on one wound. That was bad.
High Elf Turn 4.
Yeah, that's right. Run and hide...
Oh man, did that ever hurt! Bolt Throwers are not meant to do that.
The Archers were kind of mocking me too.
Nearby my little Knight unit was also down to a single model (those Strength 3 Archer attacks are killers), and he and the War Altar continued to make hard work of the High Elves.
The Eagle continues to mock me by its improbable survival.
The Elves who had teamed up to take down my Demigryphs dusted themselves off and breathed a collective sigh of relief that the combat was over. The wounded Eagle took off and landed right in front of my still-respectable Flagellant unit, blocking their advance toward the High Elf lines to the right. The Loremaster abandoned the sole remaining White Lion and instead went for the relative safety of the handful of Swordmasters. The White Lion turned and ran away from my army, and despite a couple of cheap attempts with the Hurricanum (which were dispelled), I couldn't bring him down and he lived out the game in an un-heroic fashion similar to my White Wolf Knight. White Lions, White Wolves... they're all yellow in the end.
Empire Turn 4.
In my turn I was somewhat pleased they my War Altar and Knight still couldn't break the Archers, because it meant I would be safe from shooting in the High Elf turn. My BSB and his remaining companion decided their part in the battle was over, and headed for Pawel's back corner, where they spotted a little hill that would offer some protection if they could get there. In turn 5 they did, and they lived out the game in the shadow of the hill.
Haha, you can't shoot us! We're busy not killing your Archers.
My Flagellants managed to restrain themselves and elected not to charge the Eagle, instead reforming to a deeper formation in order to allow them to turn to put the advancing Dragon Princes in their front arc. My Hurricanum declared charges on both units of Sisters, but they both fled. Unfortunately they also both rallied in Pawel's turn, so I gained nothing from it. Pesky Sisters.
The Flagellants manage to restrain the charge and reform onto that square movement tray (they were a little tardy in actually following the order), whilst the Hurricanum rattles along nearby, trying to charge multiple units unsuccessfully.
The Sisters fled and rallied without a care in the world. Would have been nice if one of the units had gone away.
At the end of turn 4, we suddenly discovered that we were out of time. I'm not sure if the round was shorter due to the mix-ups at the start, or if we had just been absorbed in the game. Regardless, we were told that it was dice down. After some pleading with the TOs however, they agreed to give us special dispensation to finish the game given that it was a game between two battle reporters and it would have been a bit of a let-down to cut it so short. Big thanks to Tom and Dave (the organisers) for their understanding.
High Elf Turn 5.
In turn 5 Pawel continued to try to push for points, and started chasing my crippled Flagellants around with the Reavers. My unit was down to 5 models and looked like it was not going to make it. A charge in the last turn would be the end of them.
The end! Doom! The Reavers are coming!
My Hurricanum was reduced to 1 wound, possibly from the Bolt Thrower (I think the Loremaster was busy trying unsuccessfully to kill off my last White Wolf Knight with Fireball). With immaculate timing, the War Altar and Knight finally killed off the last Archer, leaving them free to move in my turn after using him as a meat shield in the Elf turn. Very smooth.

In my turn I allowed the Flagellants to have their way with the annoying Eagle, whose demise was about 3 turns overdue. He vanished in a cloud of feathers, and my unit managed only a pitiful overrun of maybe 3 inches.
Ding dong, the Eagle's dead!
My Hurricanum looks for cover, but ultimately perishes.
The shattered remnants of my Knight units look to hide behind the legs of various bystanders.
The Sea Guard had moved out of the church once more in an effort to do something about my retreating BSB and Knight, but my War Altar moved to block them and knocked a few off with Banishment (not as many as I had hoped) in an effort to make them vulnerable for a last turn charge.

My crippled Flagellants did their best to deny the Reavers their points, but their options were slim. In desperation I marched them straight into the tomato plantation. The Reavers would have a rear charge, but they would have to take their chances with the dangerous terrain. It was all I could do.

In his final turn, Pawel did indeed charge the Flagellants, and somewhat amusingly, 2 of the Reavers died to the fury of the tomatoes. 3 Reavers to kill 5 Flagellants. Would it be enough? Not quite, as it turned out – a single Flagellant survived to strike back, and clearly upset by his unit's treatment all game, he turned and swatted 2 of the Elves from their saddles. That meant each unit had a single model left... Who would claim the points?
I'll take you with meeee!
The Sea Guard decided not to take their chances with the War Altar and backed into the church once more. The other Elf units decided not to take a chance and charge the Flagellants, with every unit I could see backing away out of charge range instead. Wimps!

Sadly my Hurricanum died that turn, I think it was claimed by the Bolt Thrower (might have been a Fireball). Ah well, it had nearly survived. I had not quite been able to hide it behind the church as I would have liked.

In my final turn there was little I could do. My War Altar couldn't get together enough power to threaten the Loremaster and his Swordmaster entourage – there were a lot of points I couldn't claim there.
Everyone is running away from my Flagellants!
But wait! I can see that church!
The Flagellants were frustrated by the cowardice of the retreating Elves, however they did spot one opportunity – they could just see the church, which was once more full of Sea Guard! They charged in enthusiastically, and only lost a few models to the Elf attacks. The real problem was going to be the building granting the Sea Guard stubborn, however the Flagellants found a convenient solution to the problem by slaughtering the whole lot of them in an impressive display of gore.

And then of course was the main event, Ellyrian Reaver vs lone Flagellant. Without the spear bonus I had some hope that Pawel might fluff his attacks, however it was not to be. In truth my guy may even have flagellated himself to death before we got to attack – at this point I don't remember. The important thing was that my Flagellant didn't make it, and the Reaver did. Boo, hiss!

In the end I had cleaned up both Eagles and a unit each of Archers, Sea Guard, White Lions and Ellyrian Reavers. Not that much to show for the damage I had done to some units. In return, Pawel had killed by my Wizards, the Demigryphs, the Hurricanum and a unit of Flagellants. Still not all that much (again I had multiple units with a single surviving model), but it was enough for a marginal win. He had better resources (speed, shooting and spells) to try to clean up points at the death, and it was probably the telling factor.

Result: 8-12

Another win for the MSU High Elves! Alas that it had to come at my expense. Ah well, it was a good game. I'm not really sure how I would have done things differently. I think stacking my flank and trying to cull the large number of High Elf units was a sound approach, but a couple of devastating early volleys from the Elf shooting crippled my army from the get-go. I had to put the Demigryphs out to the right in order to try to get Pawel to spread his forces a bit (and I was out of room on the left flank anyway), and it had nearly gone wonderfully when they fought off half his army so well in the first round of combat. A bit of luck in the second round (or if my Wizards had still been alive to buff the unit) and the game might have looked rather different. Next time, Swordmaster!

You can read Swordmaster's own account of the battle (complete with maps!) here.


  1. Replies
    1. Cheers. If only they were all done, rather than only half-way through... :(

  2. Again great story telling, fine pictures- and THX for the proof:
    High Elf cowards hiding in a church of Sigmar deserve to perish..