The joy of small things

In the UK we’ve slowly been creeping back into the comfort of artificial light, enclosed spaces and real models. It started in back gardens, then gaming clubs and now tournaments. Of course, this has all been under the auspices of the “not quite sure what’s going on” normal. In sunny Bristol (this is not irony we’ve been bathed in the damn stuff for weeks) clubs have been back for a while, but tournaments had yet to reappear.

A few have been taking place in the UK and I’d been considering packing up my toys and venturing abroad in the hope of getting some practice in ahead of Clash of Kings. Chief amongst my many weaknesses and shortcomings are clocks, so I really wanted to get in at least one timed event before October. Fortunately, local tournament supremo Matt James (also of rules committee fame) decided to organise a 750 point a side session the Sunday before last.

It was an unusual sized event, but Matt had put some thought into it, and in addition to the points limit there were a number of additional restrictions on army selection, such as only one flyer and a further points limit on units.

Initially, I was excited about the event because it was a chance to get a day of gaming in, and to remind myself of the joys of clocks. However, as the day approached it started to dawn on me just how much of an interesting challenge it was going to be because deciding on an army list was damn near impossible.

Army selection

My immediate reaction was to go for my tournament faithful – the Ratkin. However, after a lot of thought I couldn’t really get my head around what an army I’d be comfortable playing would look like. I love my synergies, but with a low point count and the other restrictions in place it became difficult to see how these could be maximised. There was an additional impediment due to me and my rats not being on good painting terms. This further limited my options in terms of what I would have ready, and what I would be prepared to rebase.

The other thought that took roost in my mind was what other peoples’ armies might look like. I had a hypothesis that most people would go for a list that favoured winning the charge. I was expecting to see knights and flying characters. I didn’t fancy facing off against those sorts of lists with an army primarily composed of defence 4 and a reduced nerve due to a lack of rally.

So no longer convinced the rats could handle it I reached for the Basileans and went in completely the opposite direction to what I assumed the rest of the field would bring. A Spear horde to provide a big slug of unit strength and discourage cavalry and fliers, supported by foot Paladins with shields to provide another slug of nerve, unit strength and a predictable (if not wildly exciting) damage output.

The army would be led, and healed, by a Priest with the Shroud of the Saint – I figured having heal 6 would wash away most chip damage from shooting as well as keeping the infantry in the fight. A regiment of Elohi would provide a seriously irritating roadblock to stop faster armies having an easy time choosing their charges. They would also have a chance at knocking off thunderous charge, which I expected in abundance. The final choice was quite difficult because, to cut to the chase, I wanted an Ur-Elohi but points and restrictions wouldn’t allow it – the answer came in the form of an Ogre Palace Guard Captain. Not a go to for many but as a scoring unit, that self inspires, has brutal, crush 2 and is pretty much all round rufty tufty, it struck that in a pinch this was the budget angel I was looking for.

The List

Priest with Shroud of the Saint

Ogre Palace Guard Captain

Elohi regiment with Pipes of Terror

Knight Paladin regiment on foot with an Aegis Fragment

Spear horde

The Games

Six games were played in all and so many things prevent a blow by blow account (such as your sanity), so here’s a brief overview.

Game 1 – Goblins, Control – win

This game came down to a grind off in the centre of the table between the Spear horde and a Rabble legion, and a charge on the Paladins by a mincer mob troop. The Paladins withstood the charge, and with the help of the Elohi destroyed the Mincer. The Spears, supported by the Priest stayed in the fight with the legion, the grind continuing to the end of the game.

Game 2 – Kingdoms of Men, Pillage – draw

The choice of a Spear horde really came into its own. A regiment of Knights and General on flying beast stripped out all my other units, but the horde was able to hold two objectives whilst presenting a really unattractive target for the mounted warriors who backed off to claim two other unguarded tokens.

Game 3 – Northern Alliance, Invade – win

This was my first-time facing Ice Elementals, and they are a pain. Fortunately, they spent most of the game chasing my Elohi, who with a little help from the Priest, managed to stay alive and keep them occupied. This game was really close, as a ruck in the centre of the table involving almost all my troops and a horde of snow trolls prevented all but one of my units from crossing the line, but fortunately that was enough.

Game 4 – Basileans, Dominate – win

My opponent had gone for the alpha strike version of the Basileans. Mounted Paladins, Ur Elohi and Gur Panthers. It was a close game that came down to foot Paladins slugging it out with each other. I had one of those moments around turn 3 where I accidentally moved the Priest out of inspiring range of my foot Paladins, fortunately they survived their combat, and having realised this mistake I promptly, but also accidentally, moved the Priest out of inspiring range of my Spear horde who were not so lucky!

Game 5 – Forces of the Abyss, Loot – loss

The Forces of the Abyss carried the day going completely unbeaten and tabling everyone! Brave Basilea was the exception. The Priest survived! The rest of the army was completely shredded in short order. This army was one of the few that didn’t depend on cavalry for its punch, instead relying on a Chroneas and Abyssal Fiend (wingless) that chewed their way through everything on the table without having to worry about phalanx.

Game 6 – Kingdoms of Men, Kill – draw

This became a bit of an infantry off in the centre of the table, as both armies consisted mainly of human infantry. For me it all fell apart because I failed to take into account what I would do if a regiment of Shieldwall I flank charged with the Spear horde and Paladin regiment double 1’ed. Of course, they double 1’ed.

With the benefit of hindsight there was so much more I could have done differently, but it had been a long day. Overall, I think this game could have ended up being very different, but I think both I and my opponent were a bit tired by the end of the day. In another stunning example of “oh yeah, should have thought about that” his Foot Guard scrapped with my Paladins whilst our respective sources of inspiring duked it out. He opted to resolve the infantry combat before the commanders. The inevitable happened – my Paladins survived on the second role of the nerve dice before his Warlord slaughtered my Priest. Let’s quickly move on.

Takeaways from the day:

Clocks are still my weakness – there never seems to be enough time! I timed out on two occasions although, fortunately neither affected a final result. Timed games are still something I’m relatively new to, having played just 4 tournaments previously. I don’t have an issue with timers, it’s just something I need to work a bit more on and it was good to get this event in before Clash to remind myself to get a damn move on.

Ogre Palace Guard Captain – whilst this guy doesn’t get seen that often in larger lists he made a great addition to this force. He was intended to play a similar role to an Ur Elohi, and for the most part it worked (although speed was somewhat lower). It’s certainly given me an insight into how he could fit into a larger force. Also, it gave me the excuse I needed to paint up Mantic’s awesome Paymaster (all that remains now is to find an excuse to paint up the Matriarch, Brave Bully and Goblin Slasher, surely there must be some kind of army that would allow me to field them all together).

Getting to know a different army much better – although I’ve had my Basileans for a little while they’re an army I’m only just starting to warm too. Probably one of the most challenging things about this kind of event is not just the restrictions on the lists, but the further restrictions that are self-imposed. In my case this meant units I had available for use and how far I was willing to go in terms of building new stuff and rebasing existing elements. Consequently, my choice of army was driven more by necessity than anything else, but I was really impressed by their performance and my interest in the army has been rekindled. In addition, the experience will definitely have an impact on my army build in the short term.

Exhaustion – It’s been a long time since my first, or even last event, and I genuinely forgot just how tiring it can be on the old brain.

A really fun day out – played competitively Kings of War can be quite unforgiving and the smaller the army size the less opportunity you have to fix mistakes or oversights. These games certainly required a fair bit of thought and I definitely felt the presence of the clocks. But just as in pre-covid times a good event is always more than the sum of its parts. Between the overall organisation, some friendly opponents and some games that got the old brain in gear it was a good day out and I’m feeling excited about Clash.

Published by Eddie B

A blog about fantasy wargaming and literature.

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