Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Border Wars: Beastmen vs. Skaven Warhammer Fantasy campaign games

I got together with my old pal the Consul for some Warhammer Fantasy Battle last weekend.  We started gaming together with Clan Wars, the L5R miniatures game that died a horrible death, but we both have a long love/hate relationship with GW.  GW was my first miniatures wargame company.  I started 40k with Rogue Trader and Fantasy with the big orange book of 3rd edition.  I still have my Black Legion Chaos Space Marines and Skaven from those days going forward.  I doubt I will ever get rid of them barring some life tragedy.  The great news for me is finally, after 20 plus years, both my Skaven and Chaos Space Marines are fully painted (barring new purchases, of course) and I can put them on the table with some pride.  Basically my inner 15 year old can look out on these big painted armies and sigh in contentment,  It took a while, but we are finally here!  

Enough reverie!  We decide to play the 3-battle campaign called Border Wars which can be found on iTunes and only purchased for iPad.  Luckily the Consul has an iPad so away we went.  For the first game we played 1500 points.  I took my Skaven and the Consul his "in progress" Beastman Army (in progress since 2002 or so!) and the first scenario was a river crossing and we used an impassable river with two fords.  We used a matrix to determine the scenario, me choosing Full Attack and him choosing Right Flank, and we got "Flank Attack" result which put me in a tiny box and him attacking from a short table edge.  The winner was the player who scored the most victory points after 6 turns. Not exactly a "flank attack" in the traditional sense but whatever.  We were both learning the latest edition (8th) after a long hiatus so mistakes were no doubt made.  

My army at 1500 was Warlord, Battle Standard Bearer (BSB), Warlock Engineer, 2 blocks of 40 clanrats (one with spear), one black of 40 slaves, and a block of 30 Stormvermin.  Accompanying these bricks were 2 Warfire throwers, 1 Warp Lightning Cannon, and 5 Poisoned Wind Globadiers.  Oh, and 5 tasty Jezzail teams.  My basic tactical approach involved having way more troops and using panic checks from flamethrowers, etc. and a little magic item called "Sacred Standard of the Horned Rat" to mess with the Beastman leadership, which runs low.  In short, I wanted to weather their attacks and try to get them to run.  

The Consul's list was, very roughly, 20 Bestigor with level 4 shaman, 40 Gors with BSB and level 2 shaman, 2 chariots, and 2 units of 5 Ungor skirmishers.  I apologize as I really don't know Beastmen well.  I believe his basic tactic was to use Wyssan's wildform and the Beastman Primal Fury rule (re-roll missed attacks) to smash me to bits.  

My fragile ego requires me to point out that my Skaven stuff is all painted, which makes my inner 15 year old very happy, while the Consul has a ways to go with the Beasties.  I recommended this paint scheme: 

Classic Beastman!  

Here is the initial Skaven deployment.  The slaves are meant to hold that side of the river and delay.  

The Beastmen are split mostly on my left flank with the bestigor herd on my right, across the river.

Both armies in perspective...ignore the stuff in the way back it's not for this game!

The Beastmen rumble forwards, chariots in the lead.

The Skaven scuttle up, spreading out to use their war machines to best effect.  The little unit of Jezzails on the hill would take a toll in the coming turns.

Meanwhile the slaves on the far side of the river prepare to slow down the Bestigors for as long as possible.

The Jezzails put a few wounds on a chariot, while the Beasts advance.  I am positioning warp-fire throwers to cover the big blocks of beastmen approaching.  Yum, pani tests are great with low leadership, right Consul?  :)

The Bestigors go up a hill while some UNgors skirmish with me.  They can't seem to hit anything.

The crazy slaves charge the Bestigors, passing a terror test due to a magic item (or spell?) Consul had on them. This was mistake as they could only fight in 3 ranks instead of 4 but what the heck.

4 Bestigors died but the Slaves lost 7 guys and were broken and run down.  I forgot about the "slaves blow up" free attacks but oh, well.  We figure that the 82 point slave unit killing 50+ points of Bestigors and holding them up was well worth it.

A Skaven warp-fire thrower blew up amusingly as it attempted to stand and shoot a chariot charge.  It died and took two Globadiers with it.  The resulting redirect form the chariot killed the remaining Globadiers and saw the chariot hit the flank of my rear Clanrat unit.

Hey, where did my warmachines go?  My warp cannon blows up below after rolling a second misfire and accomplishing nothing. It was not the warp cannon's best day.  Note the chariot on my unit's flank. My warlord moved to engage it and killed it before it could act, as all combats are in initiative order these days and it got no impact hits on an overrun combat.

The chariots now gone (one to Jezzail fire), the Beastmen advanced with their main units, with the Bestigor attempting to cross a ford to reach the action.

But after taking a second hit from the Warpfire thrower , the Bestigors panicked and ran off with a level 4 shaman in tow!  This was aided by the Sacred Standard of the Horned Rat, which gave -1 leadership to all enemy units with 12'.  Between the low leadership of the Beastmen in general, that banner and a number of panic-causing spells and weapons, I was able to keep the Consul nervous most of the game. They did rally next turn but never rejoined the battle.

Undeterred by the Bestigor retreat, the Gors charge in one massive wave.  The Jezzails fell through their friends but all panic tests are passed thanks to the Warlord's leadership and the Skaven rank bonus.  The huge unit can't help but hit the Stormvermin at the same time.  Ungor shooting finally eliminates the other Warpfire thrower.  Consul has Wyssan's wildform up and the Gors geenrally pass their Primal Fury test so they are fighting as S5 T4 which is hard on my widdle rats.

The Gors defeat the lead Clanrat unit and the Stormvermin over two turns of fighting, and the Clanrats break and run (escaping off camera) but the Stormvermin hold on.  My warlord and his unit of Clanrats then charged in and the two forces slugged it out for the rest of the game to no result, other than the death of the Beastmen battle standard bearer and level 2 shaman in the unit.  We ended on turn 6 and counted VPs.

Tallying the kills the Consul had scored for the slaves, two warpfire throwers, and the warp cannon.  I was sure I had lost, but when we tallied the points for two chariots, the level 2 shaman, and the battle standard bearer I actually had a marginal win (less than 100 vps) and so we moved on to the next scenario.

In the second scenario we elevated the points level to 2500.  I had previously chosen the list so I dropped the Stormvermin for a block of 40 Plague  Monks, which I thought was a mistake (It wasn't.).  I also added a Grey Seer, 2 units of 12 night runners to skirmish (Why I don't know, useless gits!) and a unit of 7 Gutter Runners to cause trouble behind enemy lines (They did!).  I also added a 3-base unit of rat swarms and the Doom Wheel!   The Consul added a third shaman, a third chariot, and a huge unit of 8 Minotaurs!  He also took a Herdstone, played here by a fish tank fluorescent pink rock thing.  If anyone can recommend a better Herdstone model I missed the Consul's birthday, so throw me a bone.   :)

For this scenario I chose a Pursuit Move on the matrix and he chose a Counterattack which meant we played a death match, essentially.  However, we had to roll for every unit and on a "1" the came on as reserves.  Consul had to deploy a chariot and the Minotaurs as reserves, while I didn't roll a single one. This was portentous, as it turns out.

Here is the initial deployment.  The rats are numerous but there are plenty of Beastmen to oppose them.

The Consul had the first turn, his reserves coming on immediately and so not losing out much.  However he did deploy the Minotaurs on my far left, behind a rock pile.  Not sure what he was thinking but Minotaurs aren't known for tactical acumen anyway.  (Maybe a flanking attack?  Nah!)
Anyway one of his charitos immediately charged and smashed my leftmost skirimish unit, who did do a wound with their slings before getting ground into mouseburgers.

The Beastmen advanced in the middle, casting some spells at me that the Grey Seer dispelled very well.  However one went of with irresistable force, killing 8 Clanrats but inflicting a wound on all 3 Beastmen Shamans. (Shamen?  Shemen?) In my first turn I shuffled forward a bit, doing little damage but picking off a few models with Scorch in the magic phase.  My thought was to whittle down the big units with ranged attacks as much as possible before we got stuck in.

The Consul's Minotaurs are stuck behind the rocks on my far left as my rat swarms move out to slow down the chariot.

In the second turn a combination of warp cannon fire and two warpfire thrower hits cause casualties and a panic check on the big Gor unit.  Despite the presence of the BSB they fail and run!  Elsewhere on the flanks my Jezzails destroyed a chariot and the Doom Wheel almost kills itself shooting lighting at some Ungor skirmishers.

Oh dear, in Bill's third turn that unit failed to rally, out of range of the general in the Bestigor unit and unable to re-roll with the BSB fleeing along with it!  At this point maybe we should have called the game, but we were too into it to do so.

Serious oh noes!

A huge gap appears on the Beastman left (my right) where his huge unit of Gors once stood.  The Beastman chariot charged my rat swarms but gets stuck on them (they are unbreakable) despite winning the combat.

Skaven shooting and artillery pound the Bestigor unit as the Shamans call in big magic attacks.  The Purple Sun spell, which would have wrecked me, is prevented by Grey Seer using his Dispel Scroll.

The Plague Monks charge the chariot and destroy it, overrunning into some unfortunate Ungor Skirmishers in the woods.  In the very back my secret infiltrating unit of Gutter Runners ran out and assassinate the level 4 Shaman with ninja-rat-warpstone-throwing stars!

The Beastmen, thoroughly pissed at all this Rat nonsense by now, charge forward the Bestigor unit with Beast Lord and anticipate massacring Skavenslaves by the truckload.  And in the greatest luck-fest of almost all time, the slaves inflict 5 casualties on the Bestigors!    he Bestigors and Lord butcher 9 in return, winning handily, but the slaves benefit from the Warlord being within 12" and being steadfast due to having more ranks, and pass their test.

The Skaven clanrats charge the flank of the Bestigors while the Plague Monks, having massacred the Ungors, turn to await them.  Anotehr lost combat for the Skaven fails to see them off and the Bestigor casualties are mounting.

In a shining moment for the Beastmen, a single Shaman manages to inflict more wounds on the Gutter Runners than they do (although they killed a second shama) and runs them off the board!  Take that ninja rats!

In a moment of pure hubris the rat swarm charges the chariot...

...and yes kills it.  The Consul insisted this picture be taken as "emblematic of the game in general."

But at any rate here come a big honking horder of Minotaurs which surely will chew a huge hole in the Skaven lines?

Well, that was the idea but teh Plague Monks, striking first (after impact hits) used the once-per-game Plague Banner to re-roll all misses and wounds (like a better Primal Rage?) and score an ungodly 17 wounds, leaving only 3 Minotaurs alive.  Yes, one wound had already been inflicted by a Jezzail earlier.  The Minos inflicted 8 wounds overall, losing by a margin of -10 or so.  The Minos need a double one to stay in the fight...and get it.  Wow.  Crazy or what?

At this point we called the game with one turn left to go.  The Beastmen were going to die to the last model and everyone knew it.  We thought the Minotaurs might turn the tide but they were soundly beaten by the Plague Monks with their magic banner effect.

We didn't bother to count points as it wasn't really relevant to the campaign.  We will be playing a third and final battle to decide the overall winner sometime soon and it will be a 3000 point monster, so tune in next time! (Hint: Vermin Lord incoming!)

                                 Yes, I finally painted him after having bought him back in 1995.  Seriously.

In conclusion, although the second game was not close we both really enjoyed the games and are having a good time with 8th edition, late as we are to that party.  Having old collections of models softens the pain of GW's high prices.  I also have to say their printed publications are fantastic, as the 8th Edition rules are gorgeous and full of great ideas for themed play scenarios, etc. They really seem to have re-focused the game on casual and theme play rather than tournaments, and I find that attractive given that is my focus these days.

Thanks very much to the Consul for hosting and setting up the terrain!