With no tournaments in April, I was really excited to wake up very early on Saturday morning and hit the road. This time I was heading to beautiful Bexley for my first Shroud of the Reaper Tournament. Not only was it great to see some familiar faces, but the event pack included a couple of non-book scenarios which were going to make life interesting.
Having played a range of different lists from the start of the year with varying levels of success I decided to put something together that really played to the rat’s strength. To me that means as much rallying as possible, a handful of chaff, loads of melee 4, Scud and Cryza.
The List – 2345 points
Shock Troop Hordes (2) with plague pots, 1 with Brew of Strength, 1 with Blade of Slashing
Tunnel Runner Regiments (2), 1 with Brew Sharpness, 1 with Jesse’s Boots
Vermintide Regiments (3)
Mutant Rat Fiend
Brute Enforcers (2), 1 with Inspiring Talisman
In addition to the army, there was also a special character which was a large cavalry unit that generated random auras each turn. It was an interesting addition to the force, but I don’t remember it contributing anything overly impactful to any of my games.
Game 1 vs Ratkin Slaves
Scenario – Gold Rush: players place seven loot counters anywhere on the board. For each loot counter gathered players receive 1 VP.
I was facing off against Mark, the TO’s, Ratkin slave army. The army consists of a couple of Impalers, Cryza’s Impaler, Golek, an Overmaster on big flying beastie, the formation (exploding rats), and about 8 other regiments of exploding rat warriors. Having played the army before I knew just how devastating the Impalers can be when acting together, and Golek’s Rally (2) makes them really hard to kill. I wasn’t surprised to see them all bunched together at the centre of his set up, surrounded by regiments of warriors.
After deployment I had Scud and the Hackpaws on the left, facing his big flying beastie and a warrior regiment. My infantry hordes were in the centre, clustered around the Mutant Rat Fiend, with a Tunnel Runner regiment at each end.
I won the first turn and moved forward cautiously with my line. I really needed to find ways of hampering the Impalers, reducing their opportunities to triple charge anything, and hopefully kill them off one by one. On the left flank a good round of shooting, and poor regen, from Scud and Cryza did some damage to the big beastie, and it decided to risk a charge into Scud. I wasn’t particularly worried about it as the creature only has 9 attacks so was unlikely to do that much damage. In return Scud hit back causing a substantial number of wounds before rolling a double 1. It was unhelpful, more unhelpful was that the beastie then wavered Scud. Fortunately, I had been prepared for that possibility and the special character was facing the rear of the beastie, charged in the next turn and took it off the field.
In the centre the massed ranks of infantry closed together and a tit for tat removal of units began. Fortunately, I had enough chaff to slow down the Impalers, at least for a bit. One of the biggest issues with this army is deciding how to approach the removal of exploding warrior units. They can do up to 6 wounds on a unit, weakening it substantially and making it much more vulnerable to future attacks. In one case my Sharpness Tunnel Runners took a regiment off and received 5 wounds. Very unhelpful.
To a certain extent, you just have to suck it up. However, against this type of army the Mutant Rat Fiend really came into its own, munching though regiments and regenerating damage. Despite taking damage pretty much every turn, it never got beyond about 5 wounds.
With the big beastie gone on my left flank Scud turned to grab a token.The Hackpaws exploited a slight positioning error on the Slave Warrior Horde, managing to get a flank and wavering it. The next turn they finished the job and picked up a few wounds for their troubles. As the turns progressed the Slave Warriors were cleared out, but the damage they had left from their explosions meant Golek and Cryza’s Impaler were able to pick my own units off without too much resistance. I had gathered 2 tokens with Scud and a Vermintide regiment, whilst the Slaves held 5. Fortunately, one of the Slave Warrior regiments had 2 tokens and at turn 6 was within charge range of both my remaining Tunnel Runner Regiment and the Mutant Rat Fiend. Unfortunately, the clock was against me. With just a few seconds to go I charged the Tunnel Runners in and wavered the regiment, not thinking I would have time to move the Mutant Rat Fiend and complete the dice rolls for that combat as well. I finished the turn with 22 seconds on the clock. It looked like it would be a Slave victory, then a turn 7 arrived, the clock started again. This time I moved the Mutant Rat Fiend in, as it would roll less dice than the Tunnel Runners and I only really needed to generate a nerve check to have a decent chance of taking them off the table. Could I complete the combat in time?
The hits were rolled. The wounds were rolled. Not worrying too much about totting up the damage I went to roll the first nerve test… the clock beeped… the game went to the Slaves.
Whilst it’s always a shame to potentially lose a game to the clock (there’s always the chance of a double 1) playing to the clock is a skill in itself, and I came up wanting. Undoubtedly there were things I could have done better, Scud being a case in point. I’m sure he could have been put to better use in the centre, but that probably would have led to more thinking time, which would, in turn, lead to even worse use of the time that I had.
Game 2 vs Halflings
Scenario – Kill Zone: this was a slightly awkward scenario that involved securing four areas on the board, each delivering a different number of victory points.
This is my first game against the new halfling list, so it was quite exciting. Going into the game I was conscious of the clock, and the complexity of the scenario. Looking through my opponent’s list I wasn’t overly concerned by any one element of it, but I also wasn’t too sure about how it would work on the table. By the end of the deployment phase I was a little more concerned. On my left flank he had a horde of Braves. In the centre was a block of defence 6 with 2 harvesters, and the Iron Beast, accompanied by 2 hordes of Stalwarts and a host of individuals. To my right was a mass of shooting units, scouts, and Forest Troll Gunners, as well as Aeronauts and Ej Grenadiers.
I decided to try and grab the central scoring zones. On my right flank Scud zapped the Ej Grenadiers off the table in the first turn. Then, with the Hackpaws attempted to push around into the centre. The Hackpaws were lost to a flank charge from Aeronauts, and Scud proceeded to dance around behind the lines trying to avoid shooting whilst also looking for a charge that wouldn’t result in him taking multi charges in the flanks and rear if he failed to one shot whatever he went after. Whilst there weren’t many on offer, he did manage to tie up several units for a handful of turns which meant their focus was well away from the centre.
The centre was a far better affair for the rats. The Stalwarts either ended up hindered or ensnared from pots, allowing my Brew of Strength Shock Troops to work their way through them with the help of the Wretches and a Brute Enforcer. Next to them the Sharpness Tunnel Runners, Cryza and the special character worked through the Harvesters, whilst the Ironbeast stood its ground and ignored whatever I did to try and start chipping wounds away from it.
All in all, the plan was working. Helpfully my opponent held back his horde of Braves on my left flank until the final turns of the game, which took the pressure off my units in the centre but did mean they were able to walk almost unopposed onto one of the objectives, whilst the Forest Trolls took the objective on the other side of the board. That meant coming into turn 6 the Halflings were holding 2 VPs and I had one of the zones that would allow me 2 VPs. As a result, it all came down to the final zone which was worth 3 VPs. The only scoring unit the Halflings had in it was the Iron Beast, however, the centre had become something of a log jam throughout the game and that meant there was only 1 scoring unit I could move in to contest the zone and neutralise the Iron Beast’s unit strength. That made the game a draw, and a win for me could only come about from one shotting the unharmed, defence 6 Iron Beast with the Sharpness Tunnel Runners and Cryza. Alas, it was not to be, and so the game ended in a draw.
I enjoyed this game a lot because it was facing an army that I’d never played before. I was really impressed by how the force worked and it will hopefully give me some impetus to get on with my own short soldiers. I know there were a couple of things I could have done better, if only because my Mutant Rat Fiend spent most of the game stood at the back doing nothing because of the log jam in the centre. I think if I’d pushed him forward earlier, he may have been able to get stuck into the Iron Beast and maybe cleared that 3 VP zone out. That being said this was the first time I played this scenario, and it was quite challenging to keep track of where the central scoring zones were. All told there was a lot going on, together with some rule’s questions, which meant I didn’t quite have sufficient clarity of thought to pull off the win. I did manage to play to time though which I was really happy with, which put me into a good frame of mind going into the final game with a loss and a draw under my belt. Could the only way be up?
Game 3 vs Nightstalkers
Scenario – Protect and Raze: similar to Raze, but points can be scored for keeping control of opponent’s objectives not razed.
The Nightstalkers were a really nice balanced army, although there were quite a few butchers! There was a little bit of everything with 2 regiments of Shadow Hounds, a regiment of Phantoms, a Terror, a Scarecrow horde, a Doppleganger regiment, 2 Horrors, a Banshee, troop of Needlefangs and 2 hordes and a regiment of Butchers.
All the Nightstalker’s fast units went on my right flank, with the Horror and Dopplegangers. The Scarecrows went in the centre, and the Butchers and Needlefangs to my left. I set up similarly to the previous game. Wretches and Shock Troops in the centre, Sharpness Tunnel Runners and Cryza on my left flank and Scud, the Hackpaws and the other Tunnel Runners on my right.
My big concern was the Horror. Ensnare is a really useful thing against an army where hardly anything hits on anything better than a 4. I could see a scenario where it could quite easily munch through the centre of my army. On the plus side though with Nightstalkers their lack of inspiring is something I felt a lot more comfortable trying to exploit given the number of high nerve units and pots I have in this list.
An opening blast of lightning bolt took the Needlefangs off the table in my first turn. My right flank moved forward, but I decided to keep my left flank back, choosing to offer a charge to one unit of the Shadow Hounds on my wretches and the Hackpaws to the other. Both of these were hindered, and the hounds took them, failing to route either unit. The result was a counter strike to one unit from some Tunnel Runners, which removed them, and a lack lustre fight back from the Wretches. The downside was that my Tunnel Runners would be taking a charge from the Terror in the next turn.
Having the Terror charge into my Tunnel Runners meant I had a big beastie, that was going to be hard for me to kill, behind my lines. Some tough decisions had to be made. In the centre I decided to throw one of the Shock Troop hordes forward into a Butcher Horde and put the Mutant Rat Fiend into the Scarecrows. The Shock Troops dropped their plague pots, expecting to be in for a bit of a grind as they were making a hindered charge but between a reasonable amount of hits and a high nerve check the Butchers never got to fight back. The Mutant Rat Fiend managed a few wounds, but would take another turn, and another high nerve check, to rout the Scarecrows.
Slowly the Nightstalker centre dissolved, Scud tore through the Phantom Regiment, the Hackpaws stole a flank on the remaining Shadow Hounds, before heading off to grab an objective, and on my left flank Cryza’s battle group dismantled whatever resistance they found. The only real remaining fight was around the Horror, as I threw units into it in a bid keep it penned in.
By turn 6 the rats had secured 4 objectives to the Nightstalker’s 3. It was great way to end the day and meant the rats pulled into 9th place overall.
What a day! I actually couldn’t be happier with the way it went. This was my best set of results since January. The army could not have been more different than what I took for Staines of Blood (quite aside from the fact there was a points difference between the event). The army I took in January gave me far less confidence as the day went on, this time though I felt with each game I had a much better handle on how it all worked. Yes, there was a bit of a timing issue on the first game, and a lack of familiarity of scenario in the second game, but these are all weirdly enjoyable parts of the game. I’m now looking forward to my next couple of events which will be 2,300 points a piece. It does mean that I will have to drop 45 points, and I have a fair idea as to where that drop should come from.
All praise has to go to the Mutant Rat Fiend, which was undoubtedly the rat of the match. Fiends are a typically Ratkin Unit. In many ways pretty decent, but decidedly squishy for a titan. I’ve long held that Fiends can be one of the best titans in the game if you control the number, and quality, of attacks they have to face in any given round. Today’s games absolutely allowed the Fiend to shine.
And really finally…
A massive thanks to all my opponents for a great series of incredibly close games (the absolutely best type regardless of outcome) and a massive thanks to Mark and Grant for organising the event. I’m now really looking forward to the December instalment of Reaper related joy.