Tournament report (and a bit of reflection on army changes): Slay Bells in Poole

It’s been a whilst since I’ve written one of these. Loads of reasons why not, so I’m not going to dwell, but I really wanted to put pen to paper for this event because it’s the first event this year that I took my beloved rats too, and I had an absolute ball of a time.

Going to tournaments this year has been, as aways, a great experience. I want to give a massive thanks to everyone who’s run an event I’ve attended. Having started running tournaments I now know the work that goes into it. The odd thing about this year though is that it’s the first year I haven’t played Ratkin (at an event).

The reason has something to do with the army changes that were made in 3rd, but definitely not the ones you might be thinking if you’re familiar with the changes. I think it’s important to say this because this is not a moan about losing Blight or Slave regiments. Truth be told I really like the new (well not so much anymore) ratkin list. It’s made them super interesting to play, and whilst I haven’t brought them to tournaments this year, I’ve played a casual game with them every month or so to see if I could find a list I’d enjoy taking to a tournament.

To be clear, I’m not a top player. I lack the cold consideration and in game cool to be one of those. Units tend to make it into my army because I like the look of them, or their fluff, or they don’t require much painting. Never because of how efficient they are, or even because I have a particular role in mind for them outside of taking up points. That being said, I do want to try and hold my own at tournaments and a little progression is not unwelcome. It’s for this reason I stopped playing rats at events at the end of 2021, because I didn’t feel I understood the army well enough to build a list I could enjoy playing and make progress with.

Whilst I wasn’t feeling so good about rats, the verminous villains were doing brilliantly in the hands of others. What was awesome to see was the range of different winning lists that were out there, shooting ones, MSU ones and horde ones; this made me realise it was me… not the rats. So, after a lot of faffing around I settled on a list I was excited about, and just about made it through a couple of test games.

The event

Slay Bells was at the impressive Poole hobby store Entoyment. We played 1995 points and there was a choice of chariot special characters. I went for a killy one that had Clock of Death amongst its abilities. My list was:

Skud

Mother Cryza

The Tangle

Warchief with Vicious Aura and Axe of the Giant Slayer

3 regiments of Shock Troops with Plague Pots

Horde of Warriors with Plague Pot

Regiment of Hackpaws with J Boots

Troop of Hackpaws

2 regiments of Vermintide

Mutant Rat Fiend

The games

Game 1 vs Northern Alliance

Scenario – Push

The Northern Alliance army was a bit of a two of everything affair. Two regiments of huscarls, two hordes of ice elementals, two regiments of ice gladestalkers, two troops of tundra wolves and two lords on frostfangs. The Northern Alliance spread out in a solid line with the Frost Fang Lords together on my left opposite my fast-moving units.

I won the first turn and moved everything forward as fast as I could. Although there was a reasonable amount of shooting, the strategic use of a hill and a plague pot meant it was fairly limited and my army made contact fully intact. Scud and the hackpaws shut down the left flank temporarily whilst my infantry made short work of the right flank. The shock troop regiments really came into their own here setting up multi charges to smash a whole in the line, which then allowed them to steal flanks.

By turn 5 I had all the tokens. Two were on a shock troop regiment in my opponent’s half and three were on a shock troop regiment in my half. Unfortunately, a troop of tundra wolves had snuck to the back of my half and the regiment carry three tokens found itself between the wolves and a frostfang lord. The wolves had three wounds on them, and the Tangle was nearby. The shock troops turned to face the lord and dropped their plague pot. The Tangle took aim at the wolves and completely missed with eleven fireballs. Even with the shock troops ready to take a double charge I still wasn’t worried because the three tokens in my half were only worth three points… way to completely miss read the scenario! Naturally enough the shock troops disappeared, and the lord took the tokens – now worth six points because he was in his opponent’s half!

Despite my stupidity I was really happy with this game because I really did throw it away. There were a number of things I could have done from turn 4 to protect my token carriers and simply failed to do. It was a weirdly promising start to the day.

Game 2 vs Orcs

Scenario – Invade

I was a little unsettled going into this game because Orcs are a faction I find a bit of a challenge to play against because there always seems to be so many of them. This list had Gak, my least favourite hero, a horde of great ax and a legion of ax amongst it’s ranks and I was worried it would turn into a very one sided grind. Fortunately, the dice were with me. My lightning bolts managed to waver Gak in the first turn which helped my fast units get a good position. Scud managed to one shot the two regiments of gore riders, both with front charges, one after the other. The hackpaw regiment got an early flank on a troll horde and took them out, whilst the shock troops managed their usual shenanigans with a bloody flank and front charge on the great ax horde. Finally, the rats mobbed the legion leaving a godspeaker feeling quite alone.

The dice were very much with me this game gifting the rats a win.

Game 3 vs Ogres

Scenario – Control

I found myself facing a shooty MSU ogre list, which is a great army for this scenario. The list featured some allied ice gladestalkers and a theign on frostfang, alongside Nom, two warlocks, three ogre regiments, two shooter sergeants, a shooter horde and two shield breaker hordes.

I really didn’t know what to do against this army and I fluffed my deployment, putting Scud behind a regiment of shock troops because I ran out of space. I did manage to win first turn and pushed everything forward as far as I could. The ogres shot pretty much everything at the mutant rat fiend which managed to survive, however my deployment error with Scud quickly became apparent. He was meant to be chasing down the ice gladestalkers. When the gladestalkers wound something, they reduce its speed by one. Because of this and because Scud had started a bit back from the front of the deployment zone he didn’t get into the archers until turn 3, slowing down his potential for carnage.

The ogres pretty much dominated the table with steady shooting and a load of units I found it hard to put damage on, and slowly my rats dissolved.

I think its fair to say this game was always going to be challenging, but my error with Scud, combined with an early double one (of three in this game) which meant an ogre regiment with 17 damage on it didn’t leave the table, really didn’t help my cause. Despite getting tabled I really enjoyed the game and took some valuable learnings from it about shooting.

I take no small amount of cheer from the fact that the Northern Alliance army went on to win the event, whilst the Ogres came in second!

All in all, it was a really fun day, very well run, in a great location, made all the better for taking the rats.

Thoughts on the list

I’m genuinely happy with how my list performed. Although it’s taken a while, and a lot of experimentation, to find an army that I find enjoyable and feels like a good foundation to build on for next year. The shock troop regiments are the real engine of the army, they are surprisingly resilient, seem to easily pick up flanks, and work really well with the Mutant Rat Fiend. Cryza is an absolute legend and Scud is just Scud.

One of the questions I did want to answer was how hackpaws would work without the Caterpillar Potion as we head into next year. I think I’ll be using them primarily to support Scud on multi-charges with the newly polished J boots.

The really interesting one for me was the Warchief with the fury aura. Having the aura and inspiring in one package is really useful. I had envisaged using him to ground flyers, hence the slayer axe, but not a single flyer was fought against. More than that I think his primary role commits him to hanging around the infantry rather than chasing angry flapping beasties around the table. Consequently, the one change I’m going to make is to use the fifteen points for his axe on a plague pot for the hackpaw regiment. With so much shooting around pots are now even more useful than ever, and if the regiment is going to be hanging around with Scud their nerve will generally be 14/16 which will make them a lot more survivable – that’s the theory leastways! It won’t be long until I find out with Staines of Blood just around the corner in January.

Published by Eddie Bar

Fantasy storyteller, reader and wargamer.

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