Kings of War Battle Report: Basileans vs Twilight Kin

Following Clash of Kings (the event and supplement) I’ve decided to spend a bit of time with my Basileans, if only because I can’t face painting more rat infantry at the moment. I have a couple of tournaments coming up where I’m planning on using them, so this is a great chance to dust them off and give them a bit of a whirl.

Points: 2,300

Scenario: Raze

Clash of Kings changes

Going into this game I was generally happy with what I had seen in the new supplement. In terms of the Basilean changes a lot impact the Sisterhood which doesn’t really affect my army. I might one day add some of these troops but being brutally honest the current Mantic miniatures don’t get me excited. Sisterhood lancers were one of the first units I painted for the army and all that remains of them are their panthers.

In terms of the newness I’m bringing along, it’s not much. The Scythe of the Harvester is going on my mounted High Paladin and my Elohi Horde will take the Celestial Fury change. I’ll also be taking the Shroud of the Saint which received a bit of a rebalancing.

As you’ll see my opponent really embraced the changes to the Twilight Kin and has given quite a few new things a try. This was a really interesting game as he usually brings loads of fliers and cavalry to the table and I’m the one pushing the infantry around in circles. Not so this time, the boot was firmly on the other foot – but did it fit me as well?

Army Lists

Basilea

1 – Priest with Shroud of the Saint

2 – High Paladin mounted on a horse with Scythe of the Harvester

3 – Ur Elohi

4 – High Paladin on Dragon

5 – Regiment of Elohi

6 – Horde of Elohi with Celestial Fury and Brew of Sharpness

7 – Troop of Gur Panthers (2)

8 – Regiment of mounted Paladins with Potion of the Caterpillar

9 – Phoenix

10 – Horde of Ogre Palace Guard with Blessing of the Gods

11 – Horde of Spearmen

Twilight Kin

4 – Mikayel

5 – Summoner Crone with Sceptre of Shadows and Host Shadowbeast (10)

6 – Soulbane on Dread-fiend with Trickster’s Wand

7 – Horde of Blade Dancer Neophytes with Crystal Pendent of Retribution

8 – Regiment of Twilight Gladestalkers

9 – Troops of Cronebound Gargoyles (2)

10 – Regiment of Cronebound Abyssal Horsemen with Brew of Sharpness

11 – Regiment of Cronebound Abyssal Horsemen with Boots of Striding

Formation: The Crew of the Black Hydra

1 – Leiz the Soulless

2 – Regiment of Blade Dancers

3 – Troops of Blade Dancers (2)

The plan

My plan was simple enough. With two of the Kin’s objectives in front of my left flank I was expecting my opponent to put the bulk of his forces opposite them so they could force their way to their markers before turning towards the centre. On that basis I deployed my faster units to my right flank in the hope they could overwhelm whatever was left to claim their token, claim my tokens and then head to the centre for the final showdown.

Terrain, objectives and army deployment.

Scouting phase

The only scouts were the Twilight Gladestalkers who rushed forward towards their objective by the impassable terrain.

Turn 1

I won the roll off and the shuffling forward commenced. On the left flank there was the traditional cavalry stand off as both sides sought to find the best possible position to start the inevitable I take one of your units, you take one of mine. In the centre the panthers suddenly found themselves with a charge opportunity and went in against the Gladestalkers knocking off a couple of wounds. The mounted High Paladin headed over to support them in case they were still there the next turn.

I was quite surprised by the sheer volume of troops my opponent had dropped on my right flank. The high number of attacks combined with some very long charge ranges gave me serious food for thought. I was not going to have it all my own way just because I’d bought a load of things with wings. In the end I decided to put my Elohi regiment in a position to allow Mikayel to charge them and the Gargoyles were offered a choice of angel or dragon for supper.

The Twilight Kin’s response on the left flank was a bit more shuffling, whilst on the right things were about to get a little more exciting. The Kin moved up as one and the Summoner cast Host Shadowbeast on Leiz who gained all 10 attacks from the spell. It was at that point I found I hadn’t done my measuring thoroughly enough and Leiz was within charge range of the Elohi regiment. Unsurprisingly the regiment dissolved. Finally, the Gladestalkers hit back against the panthers who benefited from their Dreamslayers Venom rule, effectively getting a defence buff, which kept them on the table and unwavered. The gargoyles went into the dragon and in an attack round that surprised no one did about one wound.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

With my Spearmen and Ogres starting to get close enough to the enemy to start threatening things in the next turn I decided it was time to push my opponent a bit on the left. Keeping the panthers and paladins out of harm’s way I pushed the Ur Elohi as far as I could towards the gargoyles and horsemen (keeping out of charge range of the horsemen). In the centre the High Paladin and the panthers finished off the Gladestalkers and turned to provide some much needed support to my right flank.

Leiz provided me with a bit of a conundrum. If I charged him with my Elohi horde I would end up within charge range of pretty much everything else, really not good. If I tried to shoot him with the Phoenix’s fireball I was unlikely to kill him and any wounds would be added to his attack number. Combine this with Host Shadow Beast and the remaining Elohi could be taking an early shower. With the horde only having defence 4 I didn’t like the idea of an injured Leiz charging them (but only marginally less than an uninjured Leiz charging them)  so I backed off and left the Soulbane to its own devices.

The dragon killed off the gargoyles and then moved sideways to prevent Leiz from nimble charging my Pheonix (although we later worked out it would still have been possible for Leiz to run around the impassable terrain and get in if he had wanted).

Powered up with dark magic Leiz ran into my Elohi, a mere 13 attacks this time, and fortunately failed to kill them. A troop of Blade Dancers ran into the dragon and started to knock some wounds off and finally in an act of wanton destruction Mikayel trashed the panthers.

On my left flank the gargoyles swooped up in front of my knights to prevent them from charging either the horsemen or fiend mounted Soulbane as they advanced. Things were starting to move.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

Angered by the loss of his panthers the High Paladin avoided Mikayel and charged into the flank of the unengaged Blade Dancer troop as the dragon fought back resulting in both troops being removed. The Elohi charged forward and killed Leiz. There was a brief moment of celebrations.

On the right combat was finally joined. The panthers charged the horsemen, as did the Ur Elohi and the knights charged the gargoyles, routing them. All in all, a straightforward turn for me.

 The Kin, on the other hand had some decisions to make. The first was pretty simple. Host Shadowbeast was cast on Mikayel and off he went attacking my dragon with 22 attacks, in total, spreading little pieces of big beastie all over the battlefield. The Blade Dancer regiment now moved up and attacked my High Paladin leaving him wavered. Meanwhile the neophytes turned around in the hope that someone would want to play with them, or they might have a charge at some point in the near future.

On the left both regiments of horsemen backed away from their attackers to avoid double charges in the next turn that were highly likely to result in their demise. Finally, the Soulbane on Dread-fiend hurried off to support the horsemen under attack from the Ur Elohi.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

I was fortunate that following his decimation of my dragon Mikayel had not been able to flee outside of the Elohi’s charge arch, meaning the little menace could be given a taste of his own medicine. Whilst it wasn’t inevitable it did happen and Mikayel joined the dragon in the dead pile. The wavered High Paladin passed his headstrong roll and fought back against the Blade Dancers with the Phoenix joining him. Whilst they managed to do 8 wounds to the regiment it was not enough to break them and that would come back to haunt them very quickly.

In the centre the ogres pressed forward to put pressure on the horsemen and the Ur Elohi charged back into them piling on a few more wounds. The panthers on the left charged back in against their horsemen, clawing at them viciously and sending them fleeing allowing the knights to claim the first Basilean token.

The Kin tried to fight back but options were few and far between. The Blade Dancers, now with 28 attacks, killed the High Paladin, over ran and wiped out the Phoenix. The neophyte horde held its ground to ensure its unit strength would prevent the Elohi from claiming the token in the woods.

In the centre the Soulbane charged into the ogres and a solid flurry of hits managed to waver them. The horsemen were not so successful.

End of turn 4

Turn 5

The Elohi flew to claim the token by the Blade Dancers, staying out of everyone’s charge ranges and arcs to keep them safe for another turn. In an attempt to take the pressure off the ogres the spears charged the Soulbane managing a mighty 2 wounds and not really achieving anything. The priest healed the Ur Elohi as he continued his fight with the horsemen, as the panthers sauntered over-looking for some more horses to get their claws into.

The units of the Kin that were in combat fought back and achieved nothing of note, even the ogres went from wavered to unwavered. On the other flank the Blade Dancers prepared for turn 6 by moving as close to the centre as possible which, if the neophyte horde moved, would set them up for a charge into the flank of the ogres.

End of turn 5

Turn 6

The turn unfolded reasonably predicatbly. The panthers charged into the flank of the horsemen and with the Ur Elohi took them off. The ogres, maybe a little embarrassed by getting wavered so easily the turn before, battered the Soulbane into submission. Finally, the Elohi turned to face the neophytes.

At this point we called the game because the ogres removing the Soulbane meant they were able to turn out of the Blade Dancer’s charge range. This meant there was nothing the Kin could do, even if there was a turn 7, to escape a Basilean win. Although the map doesn’t show it the Blade Dancers were able to move to contest the centre meaning the result came down to collected objectives of which Basilea had managed 2 and the Kin had managed just one.

End of turn 6

Cat of the game

Undoubtedly this goes to the panthers for their part in bringing down the two Abyssal horsemen regiments and the Gladestalkers. It is easy to underestimate just how flexible these units are and I certainly didn’t expect them to pull out such a stellar performance. It’s the first time I’ve ever fielded them as troop options and it certainly won’t be the last.

Rating Cok

Awkward pun time! Its not escaped anyone’s noticed this year’s CoK is sizeable, and there’s certainly a lot to get to grips with that should keep us satisfied for some time. In terms of what I’ve experimented with I think the Scythe of the Harvester is definitely a keeper. It’s the second time I’ve taken it and it makes the paladin into a much more reliable tool for dealing with troops and supporting other infantry and cavalry combats. Celestial Fury undoubtedly has its ups and downs. Yes it can make your angels super killy, but being a Ratkin player I know just how easily defence 4 units can get rolled up, especially if they are priority targets, and I would say the change makes them exactly that. That’s why I kept the Phoenix looming over them.

Based on the game last night it looks as though magic has the potential to really shape game play in 2022. I won’t lie, the number of dice being rolled for individual attacks last night were high, and the odd naughty word might have been uttered (in passing and under my breath). There are of course upsides and downsides to everything. For example, the package of individuals and spells required to make those dice numbers so high meant points weren’t being spent on scoring units. It’s also worth remembering that, wizards generally aren’t that tough and when it comes to magic it is the wizard that is the actual threat. So, if magic does start to play more of a part in games not only are there a number of new items that can help with that, but most armies include duellist characters, and occasionally units, that may find themselves with more valued roles.

All this leaves me quite excited about 2022, and really impressed with what everyone working on the supplement has achieved. A big thank you to all. The one thing that’s really occupying my mind right now though is what on earth we’ll see coming out in 2023. Is that so wrong?

The joy of random events and freelances in Burrows and Badgers

Over the last few weeks we’ve been running a little campaign at our club. Witch hunters, wild beasts and necromancers have been facing off against each other and it’s been a lot of fun. Even more so, since we started to include random events and freelances, so I thought I’d throw some gamed experiences on the internet to give an idea of how they worked for us.

When the rules were released for the new factions, it quickly became apparent there was a slight fly in the ointment. Anyone who’s in the Burrows and Badgers facebook group will know that the development of the rules for necromantic warbands has been something of a process (I think Michael is currently on version four and his perseverance is greatly appreciated).

In my first game against the undead they certainly seemed a smidge on the powerful side (I mean being a rubbish player can only account for so much right?). That being said, for a first game against a new power in Northymbria there was something suitably characterful about my beleaguered witch hunters being swamped by restless spirits from beyond the veil. However, as cinematically appropriate it may have been, such a bad defeat at the start of a campaign does throw up challenges and can create a bit of a downward spiral. Following the first defeat my warband went into the next game one beast down. Then, following a second defeat at the hands of the wild beasts, couldn’t afford to feed themselves before heading back out onto the moors to track down more ghosts.

So, after having a chat with the necromancer in chief we decided it would be a good opportunity to add in two new sets of rules. To help me out I sent for a freelance, using the rules from The Warren Percy Affair. We also agreed to introduce the random events table from the second edition of the Oathsworn Journal. Whilst I was a little worried that introducing the random events might blow up in my face, I was rather hoping they would blow up in my opponent’s face a bit more often.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

The decision to give freelances a try turned out to be wonderfully characterful. I’m not usually a fan of using allies or hired help in games, but the poor old witch hunters were pretty much as down on their luck as they could be. I originally looked at them because I remembered you can claim a free mercenary if you lose three campaign games in a row, and I felt I was highly likely to qualify for that in the not-too-distant future.

A freelance deals the final blow to the witch in the witch hunt scenario…

I think this is a great campaign mechanic even if freelances aren’t used outside of these circumstances. Yes, winning isn’t everything, but losing multiple games in a campaign on the trot isn’t always fun, so having a bit of support when you really need it is always helpful.

However, I had only lost two games at this stage so what brought my decision to employ a freelance forward? Word reached the witch hunters that the necromancer’s warband had grown in numbers following their previous game, and even though there had been a couple of rule changes to reduce the threat from the mist ghasts, I really needed more boots on the ground now, rather than after another loss.

There are two ways of paying for freelances, either using coins (of which I had none) or fate points. There is however an additional consideration. Not only do you have to pay for them, but they then also increase your warband rating; and depending on who you choose that increase could be substantial.

This requires a bit of thought. Especially if you are paying with fate points because not only are you reducing your own, depending on your opponent’s warband rating you are potentially increasing the number they have. For my first game I decided to go for the armadillo character. An absolute tank that increases your warband rating substantially and meant my starving zealots went from being the underdogs to a having warband rating which meant the necromancer, who was undefeated at this stage, was now getting additional fate points! Was I doing the right thing?

Make them earn their living

I had to remind myself that freelancers are only a part of your warband during the game, and not to get attached. They aren’t going to do any labouring for me, they aren’t going wondering for me and they could easily end up facing off against me in the next game. Yes, they can be expensive but equally they are expendable.

Consequently, I’ve recruited freelances with specific aims in mind (kill big nasties). Provided they manage that I’m not too worried if they go out of action because they’ve done something, and suffered the consequences in doing so, that a full time warband member would have had to have done.

In both games they’ve contributed, with the Armadillo striking the winning blow in the witch hunt scenario, so I’ve been really happy with their performance and more than happy to take a hit on the fate points.

The freelance subsequently gets killed proving the risks involved for other less skilled fighters.

Random events

Random events add suspense to the game and tactical challenge. They are the source of cinematic excitement where our heroes take advantage of cracks on frozen lakes and falling masonry to bring an otherwise undefeatable foe to bay. Of course, in a game they can be considered an interruption, disruption or at worst an unfair advantage.

Searching bodies for loot becomes noticeably more difficult when they are at the bottom of a sink hole.

So far, the experience we’ve had has been fun. It’s helped us get a better understanding of the rules as we’ve picked through what exactly the implication of each event is. They have definitely created a few surprises, and have impacted game outcomes. However, in the context of the campaign those outcomes have not necessarily been all bad. In one game the necromancer warband lost three of their members to holes in the ground in one turn, however when the beasts emerged after the game they did so with shiny rare items, not bad for taking a fall!

The events seem pretty balanced and certainly give items like rope and lucky charms a bit more value, as well as increasing the use of skills and stats other than those directly related to combat which brings a bit of a roleplay feel to the game, and I’m all for that.

Witch hunters form a conga line to avoid falling terrain.

One last observation

Our adventures with these new rules have been really good fun to date so I’d absolutely recommend them to anyone who hasn’t given them a whirl yet. There is one final thought I will leave you with though. Last night I sat with my freelance and six fate points wondering if I’d made the right choice as my new warband rating dwarfed that of my opponents, providing them with 18 and 15 fate points respectively. The feeling that I might not have done the right thing began to settle in once again.

However, as the random events occurred I made an interesting observation. A lot of the more unfortunate events on the random events table are triggered by rolling a 1. This makes the decision as to whether to use fate points for that all important combat a little more interesting. By rolling multiple dice you are not only increasing your chance of rolling those all important big numbers, but also your chance of ending up in a hole, or being possessed.

Consequently, as my mercenary finished off one of the big nasties I had hired him to deal with, without having to put my beloved beasts into harm’s way, I marvelled at the number of fate points being used by my opponents to get their fighters stuck in sink holes. I’m sure that was never the intention, but I guess fate has always worked in mysterious ways.

Book Review: The Wisdom of Crowds

What is it?

The final book in Joe Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy set in a fantasy world in the midst of an industrial revolution.

Who’s the writer?

Joe Abercrombie, a best-selling fantasy author of two trilogies and a further three standalone books all set in the same world.

What’s it about?

The industrialisation of the Union has created unrest. As the divide between the rich and poor expands exploited workers rise-up in the name of The Great Change. Revolution is in the air and blood runs in the streets.

Meanwhile in the north the seemingly eternal struggle for the throne continues, creating desperate alliances.

The structures that hold the world together are being shaken, even Valint and Bulk appear to be on shaky ground. Will they fall or will the old orders claw their way back to power?

Is it any good?

This is a thoroughly engaging and, in my case, highly anticipated book that rounds out the most recent trilogy in an explosive and unexpected way.

Joe’s world is increasingly becoming one of two halves. Whilst the Union advances away from the more traditional fantasy tropes the north, and beyond, seem to increasingly see the more traditionally recognisable elements of fantasy story telling returning. Not only does this create a dynamic environment for the Age of Madness trilogy, but also sets up an intriguing platform for future books.

Grow your Gnome: Saga Age of Magic

In my last post about the gnomes and night folk from Northumbrian Tin Soldier I talked about their adventures in Frostgrave. However, the collection has grown significantly and there is another bunch of models on the painting table. These characterful sculpts have absolutely captured my imagination and I really want to see them on the table more often, so when a friend suggested giving Saga Age of Magic a try I jumped at the chance.

What is Saga Age of Magic?

Saga is a skirmish game that uses forces of up to about 50 models. There is a core Saga rulebook that deals with the main mechanics (how to move, how to fight, etc.) and then additional books that provide the rules for armies from various settings. There are historical books covering the ancients to the crusades and then there is the fantasy rule set, Age of Magic.

At first glance what really stood out to me is how the factions are structured. Thought has clearly gone into how the system can provide options to field pretty much any fantasy army from any range without creating hundreds of different unit entries. There are six factions which all loosely align to fantasy factions we know and love:

The Great Kingdoms – think knights, griffons, high elves, gnome paladins on toads

The Lords of the Wild – think woods elves, tree people, centaurs

The Horde – think orcs, barbarians, marauders

Masters of the Underearth – think dwarfs, rat people, goblins

The Undead Legions – think we all know what this one is about

The Otherworld – think demons and angels

Each faction then has about 10 different unit options and some legendary units to give some extra flavour, which for me is what fantasy wargames are all about.

After giving the army options some thought I decided my gnomes would be best represented by The Great Kingdoms. Primarily this was because I liked the idea of my toad riders as paladins on winged mounts (who needs a Pegasus?)

How does it play?

The first two games have been great fun. Saga’s mechanics are very different from anything I’ve played before. The game uses an activation approach whereby units generate dice which are then used to activate troops and unlock special abilities. The special abilities vary between factions and reflect the way they fight.

This creates an interesting resource management challenge which impacts every aspect of the game. How you structure your army impacts the number of dice you get, and the number of dice impacts what units can do. It’s the first game I’ve played where its highly unlikely all your units get to do something every turn.

Add to that a fatigue mechanic that can have a massive impact on combat and you have a really interesting and engaging game. All in all, I’m really excited about adding this game to my “will play regularly” list and already eyeing up the adjustments I need to make to my army to have a Masters of the Underearth army option as well.

Introducing the Gnomes of The Great Kingdoms (an 8 point saga force)

Warlord and The Conclave
Gnome Berserkers and Fairy Hunters (2 points of hearthguard)
The Iron Expedition and Sir Grimbold (1 point of warriors and paladin on winged mount)
The Golden Guard and Lord Awegust (1 point of warriors and paladin on winged mount)

Battle report: Witch Hunters vs. Necromancers

The story so far…

After the last kick starter arrived it was only a matter of days before dates were in diaries for a game of Witch Hunters vs Necromancers. With another friend keen to get their lockdown project on the table, a wild beasts clan, we decided to run a little campaign and test out the new factions.

It’s fair to say that after two games the Witch Hunters haven’t been doing well. The first game against a necromancer warband was a bit of a slaughter, which resulted in the team heading into their next game a man down. The next game, against the wild beast clan didn’t go particularly well either. So whilst I have a full compliment of troops returning to the table they weren’t able to feed themselves so are all starting one wound down.

Undead rules

What’s definitely added some extra interest into the campaign is that the rules for the undead have been iterating as the campaign has progressed. My opponent has played three games with his undead, each with a different rule set. That means both of us have been adapting as we progress.

Because of that I thought it would be helpful to pull out a couple of the more important undead rules for this report:

Necromancy now works on Fortitude, it previously worked on Presence, this is a bit of nerf for my opponent because his warband was set up for Presence based casting. That means he shouldn’t be able to summon as many mist ghasts (absolutely no one should feel sorry about this).

Stable ghasts operate basically as normal beasts, but they have now become fearsome. That means one of my opponents stable ghasts gets a buff (the other is a wild cat so is already fearsome).

Mist ghasts get summoned by the necromancer. When I played them last time they were very tough to take out, they could attack and you could also have up to ten on the table in addition to all your warband members. If you chose a bit of a gamey necromancer (which my opponent did) summoning was pretty easy and you quickly found yourself having to deal with lots of multiple combats. Not masses of fun. Mist ghasts have now had a few changes, the biggest being they no longer make attacks, but any of my models in base to base contact with them at the end of a turn will lose a wound for each ghast they are in contact with. Additionally they still contribute to multiple combats. This is a little unhelpful given that my warband was unable to feed itself after the last game and starts with each member already down a wound! However, they are a much easier prospect to deal with.

The scenario  – Witchhunt

Additional rules:

5 turn limit – having had some experience of necromancers we decided to limit the game to 5 turns. This gave me a target number of turns to survive, helpful because the additional models the warband can create means lots of multiple combats. In the past these have meant that the turn the route test is called most of my beasts are out of action which then impacts the campaign rolls as there is no one to do any wandering or labouring!

Random movement for the witch – we decided to randomise the witch’s movement rather than have her move directly towards which ever side controlled her and wanted to kill her.

Random events – this campaign we have been going out of our way to introduce as many new rules from the journals as possible, these look fun.

Mercenaries – as my warband is starting the game hungry I decided a mercenary was necessary, using the rules in the Warren Percy Affair. I decided to go for the big guns and called up Necalli, the armadillo, given I was expecting a lot of multiple combats his melee master and tough 4 was expected to come in handy.

Warbands

Lists only include things in addition to base stats and skills.

The Witch Hunters

Secondary objective – Secure

First – Otter with hand weapon, light armour, light shield, Maleus Malificiarum, burst of speed

Second – Fox with double handed weapon, slippery, fearsome, killing blow, holy zeal

Weasel with double handed weapon

Mouse with spear, healing hands, blessing

Attack grubs (3)

Necalli, the Nine-Banded Armadillo (See The Warren Percy Affair for details)

The Necromancer

Secondary objective – Loot

Necromancer – Toad with gifted, weak, delicate, invocation, hand weapon

Apprentice – Rat with tough, weak, delicate, mage focus, magic staff, doom bolt

Thrall – Shrew with one handed weapon, light shield, weapon skill

Thrall – Shrew with one handed weapon, light shield

Stable Ghast – Wild Cat with double handed weapon

Stable Ghast – Otter with one handed weapon and light shield

Rat with master smithed sword, crossbow, light armour, tough

Captain Dies (pronounced Dees) and his band of the faithful had tracked the witch to the abandoned village. The attack grubs had been hot on the evil beast’s scent, and now they had her cornered somewhere in what looked like an old mining village. The witch hunters spread out to search the buildings and soon they had spotted their quarry. As they closed in a dark bolt of magic flew through the air, striking Necalli. Knowing the magic could not have come from the witch Captain Dies looked up to see a recognisable rat in the distance with a smirk and a ridiculously oversized hat. Clearly the necromantic warband Dies had been chasing for some months were also interested in getting to the witch. The race was on…

Turn 1

Random event: Drifting Fog

The mist hung low in the village as the warbands moved forward searching for the witch. Conscious of the enemy, most clung to the side of buildings with the exception of the mercenary who spied the witch cowering behind the central building and made for her. As he advanced the apprentice necromancer unleashed a dark bolt of energy at him, hitting him squarely on the chest, fortunately his toughness saved him from serious injury.

The necromancer used the calm before the battle to summon 2 medium mist ghasts in front of him. Unnerved by the approaching armadillo the witch made a break for it, running for the edge of the broken-down village. Through a gap in the buildings, she spied a shrew warrior and cast a fireball at him, injuring him but not taking him out of action.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

Random event: Nothing

The fog cleared and the shrew who had been hit by the witch retaliated, charging into her wounding her, but failing to kill her. Seeing the witch and the shrew fighting Necalli decided to take advantage of the situation and steamed into the combat which he won, decisively, killing the witch and giving the scenario win to the witch hunters.

Despite the fight that had erupted in the town centre the witch hunters continued their search of the town cautiously, avoiding immediate confrontation. The mouse, however, seeing the mercenary had left himself exposed called on the old gods to bless him and the mercenary would be granted a +3 to his next roll off. Seeing the mouse in prayer and concerned where it might lead the rat with the crossbow took the opportunity to fire at him, hitting and wounding him. The toad summoned another small ghast. Finally, the wild cat ghast charged the armadillo swinging his double handed weapon at him. The armadillo took a hit, but fortunately the blessing from the mouse staved off the worst of it.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

Random event: Nothing 

The undead took the initiative and the stable ghast wild cat took another hack at the armadillo using up a few fate points and getting a critical hit for its troubles. The creature’s axe made quite a mess of the poor beast, well and truly taking him out of action.

With the mercenary out of the picture so soon Captain Dies could no longer hold himself back from his trademark act of stupidity and used his burst of speed to reach the necromancer. The tough old toad took some damage, but unlike so many wizards before him failed to back down and returned an attack once a mist ghast and the crossbow rat had been charged in for support. Between the three dastardly beasts the noble, yet foolhardy captain was left badly injured.

In the ruins with the shrine another melee erupted as an attack grub charged the stable ghast otter, followed up by the weasel. The stable ghast survived the onslaught and fought back against the weasel, dropping it with a single blow. Finally, the fox moved in against the nearby shrew. Wounds were traded, but no decisive blows landed.

In a final act of aggression the necromancer’s apprentice shot a doom bolt at the mouse who took damage, before muttering a prayer that saw much of the damage undone.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

Random event: Old Tunnels

As the beasts exchanged blows they could not help but notice the village had undoubtedly seen better days. Badly injured Captain Dees made a heroic sacrifice in an attempt to rid Northymbria of the old toad. Unfortunately it did not go quite to plan and the toad survived as the otter went out of action. As the necromancer knelt down to pick over the body of the unconscious captain the crossbow rat charged towards the melee in the ruins, keen to lend a hand. As he ran the ground suddenly opened up. He fell, and with no way out took to nosing around to see if there was any hidden treasure to be found.

Cracks were now opening up across the village and whilst the mist ghasts were oblivious to the dangers their altogether more corporeal cousins, the stable ghasts, found themselves disappearing next. Reinvigorated by the sudden disappearances the witch hunters redoubled their efforts attacking whatever was left.

The mouse, uncertain what the best direction was to move in decided to support his brothers and charged the shrew, jabbing at her with his spear.

End of turn 4

Turn 5

Random event: Collapsing Terrain

With the ground opening up around them it wasn’t long before the buildings started to shake. With the witch dead, the original reason for coming to the town, both warbands decided discretion was the better part of valour and started to run from the crumbling village. As masonry thudded into the streets the attack grubs’ training took over. One attacked the mist ghast closest to the building they had to secure whilst the other bolted for the door completing the witch hunter’s secondary objective.

In one last act of zealotry the fox saw the necromancer stuff Dies’ belongings into his pouch. The heretic would die. He ran, dodging falling rubble, raised his mighty flail and brought the weapon down on the toad. The evil beast crumpled as the village finally collapsed and the warbands retreated.

The aftermarth

Over the course of this campaign we’ve used as many of the new rules as possible in a bid to stop the games becoming melee traps around the objective, as well as using lots of scenery. This was a really fun, and inadvertently narrative driven game, thanks to the random events. The collapsing village really impacted decision making and outcomes, admittedly more for the necromancer. Its something I really love in campaign games because it elevates the overall fun level. From my point of view it also meant I had a much higher survival rate than usual and the scenario win means the warband gets to eat. Obviously, I’m not going to get too smug about this as next time I might be the one who has half my warband disappear, random is as random does!

Getting an early blow in against the necromancer really helped stem the flow of mist ghasts and their impact on this game was pretty minimal. I did, however, completely forget that my fox had killing blow, which was a shame but given the sink holes wasn’t really an issue.

Necalli definitely helped no end in this game. I think getting someone in to deliver the decisive blow to the witch without the extra body would have really caused my warband problems. Of course, the downside was that my lack of funds meant I had to pay with fate points and choosing such a powerful character meant my warband rating rose well over the necromancer’s rating. This meant I had a grand total of 5 fate points whilst the necromancer had 13, and they played a part in quite a few combats.

What’s next

The story will continue… Captain Dies made a full recovery whilst the weasel lost a dice level of speed. The little wandering I managed resulted in some fairly unimpressive knowledge being attained about future scenarios, whilst the necromancer warband managed to get a cheap shrew knight on a stag beetle to enlist in one of the shrews’ home towns and found a magical bow in one of the old tunnels!

There are plenty of experience advancements to be had though, and I’m planning an extension to the town house which should help sort out the finance issue. Excitingly, the next game is already planned. The necromancer has been making a lot of enemies and there are rumours abroad that the witch hunters are already in discussions with a local wild beast clan about where, and how best to visit a painful vengeance on the evil wizard.

If you want to find out more about Witch Hunters read my first impressions here.

Event review: UK Clash of Kings (and the final steps of manticisation)

It’s been said so many times in so many places, but there’s no harm in repeating it:

It is so good to get back to face to face gaming.

This year’s UK Clash of Kings unfolded at Firestorm Games in Cardiff. It played host to almost 100 excited Kings of War types with as many fantastic armies on display (and of course in action).

Excluding lockdown, I’ve only really been playing a couple of years, and this was my fifth tournament. The previous four were all comparatively small events with no more than 20 to 30 players, so this was a massive step up in terms of numbers. It definitely felt a bit daunting going into the venue on Saturday morning.

Add to that it was my first event with the new edition, not to mention an increased points limit on armies of 2,300. I was all set for an interesting weekend.

This weekend also marked a completion of some personal hobby goals as well. At the beginning of the year I decided to scrap my GW rats and replace them with the new Mantic range. As part of that project I decided to try and do a bit of fancy (for me) multi-basing and a display board (a definite first). Painting a new army from scratch always has its challenges, but all was completed and ready to go a couple of days before the tournament.

Time well spent completing a couple of hobby goals.

My army list:

Warlock with Boomstick

Warchief mounted on fleabag with Blade of Slashing

Master Scurrier with Boots of Levitation

Scud

Mutant Rat Fiend

Shock Troops Horde with plague pots and Brew of Sharpness

Warrior Horde with plague pots

2 Hackpaw Regiments

2 Weapons Teams

Vermintide Regiment

The games

Saturday

Game 1

Varangur – Pillage – win

This game really set the tone for my weekend. My opponent was friendly, welcoming and had a great looking army.

Varangur are a hard-hitting army, and this was no exception with plenty of punchy units, some hard as nails individuals and a couple of Magus Conclaves for support. My shooting served me well this game keeping a horde of snow trolls wavered which allowed Scud, the Tunnel Runners and a unit of hackpaws to creep around the back whilst my centre did its best to fend off some heavy hitters.

The body count was high and in the end the Tangle and Scud held the winning objects in an excitingly close game.

Game 2

Northern Alliance – Plunder – loss

This army was essentially an Ice Elemental build with four hordes of the things, a giant, a couple of Frostfang Lords and a Chimera (with a couple of extra bits thrown in). My first discovery was how annoying Ice Elementals are. Eighteen breathe attacks with surge creates the need for some serious thinking time.

As a result, for my part, the game could best be described as cagey. The rat advance was slow, but it kind of happened after a fashion, and it worked well, after a fashion. My army controlled the board and the areas where 4 out of 5 of the loot tokens were… but… my mind was not on the scenario until the end of turn 5 when I realised (only because my opponent picked one up) that these were Loot Tokens and not objectives. Consequently, by turn 6 not only had I not picked any up, I also had no chance of picking any up. Fortunately, for my opponent, he had a full working knowledge of the scenario and the presence of mind to pick up a token and take the win.

Game 3

Twilight Kin – Fools Gold – win

It was good to see some Twilight Kin over the weekend and this was a really beautiful army. It was a good mix of Elves, Nightstalkers and Abyssals and had a fair amout of punch. Unfortunately, this was one of those games where things just didn’t go well for my opponent from the start.

Shooting claimed an Abyssal Horseman regiment before it had done anything. An Archfiend lost its life after some charge shenanigans against my Warlock ended up with him getting charged by Hackpaws to the front and Tunnel Runners to the flank (you can guess how that ended).

My Shock Troops one shotted a Shadow Hulk, and another regiment of Abyssal Horsemen. Scud went through a regiment of Impalers in one, whilst another regiment was lost to shooting. By the end of the game the Kin had no scoring units on the table.

All in all, I think it’s fair to say the Twilight Kin have had better days.

Sunday

Game 4

Free Dwarfs – Invade – loss

With two wins under my belt I felt cautiously excited about what Sunday would hold. My enthusiasm waned somewhat when it became apparent it held badgers – lots of badgers. Dwarf Brock riders pack a huge number of attacks and have loads of threat range so the poor old rats simply couldn’t respond quickly enough. It all fell apart when the Tangle accidentally offered a flank charge to one of the regiments and the rat lines dissolved quickly after that.

It was a really fun game, but there weren’t many rats to pack away by the end.

This game has given me quite a lot of food for thought because its the first time I’ve seen an army made up of pre-dominantly defence 4 cavalry. I’ve always fancied playing with a Hackpaw army, and this morning that seems several steps closer.

Game 5

Salamanders – Push – draw  

This was my very first game against Salamanders, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better opponent. Playing a wide range of armies is one of the best things about events, especially when you haven’t played them before.

Push, being a Loot Token scenario was never going to be a great one for me. I think this might be the first time of played it and I just had no idea where to put the Loot Tokens. Consequently, they spent most of the time in my deployment zone trying to avoid Tyrant Hordes. Eventually a path was cleared, but despite reducing my opponent’s forces to a single unit of Ancients I just couldn’t get two of the three tokens I ended up with over the halfway line. His Loot Tokens were on the surviving Ancients regiment that managed to cross the line fully in the seventh turn equalling our points. All in all, it was a really hard fought, fun game and a great introduction to playing Salamanders.

Game 6

Undead – Dominate – loss

This had to be the perfect way to round it all off, facing a fantastically painted, fun undead Halfling army.

The game took some interesting turns. My shooting dice, which had all but deserted me in the previous game were now exhausted. Add to this general tiredness and a lot of silly mistakes were made. However, my opponent also made at least one error which occurred around turn 4 when he took one of his werewolf hordes off the table thinking it had died. Knowing there was no way I could have reached or damaged the horde to that point in the game I reminded him they weren’t dead, just forgotten, and they rejoined the game and promptly wiped out my warrior horde!

Despite everything this game turned out to be really close with the Tangle and a Revenant Cavalry regiment sharing the circle whilst my Tunnel Runners were stuck just outside with a wavered Vampire in front of them!

Rat of the Match

This honour absolutely has to go to the Hackpaws. They get thrown at every kind of nasty alpha strike unit going and whilst they usually die, they generally hold out long enough to keep big nasties at bay for a couple of turns. What was great about bringing two regiments is that I got the opportunity to see what else they could do.

Their nimble movement really helped to get them where they needed to be and they have (on a good roll) enough in the tank to do some real damage. Their stand out performance was against the Salamanders where they managed to one shot a horde of Tyrants and a regiment of Lancers, as well as carry one of my Loot Tokens over the half way line.

Final thoughts

It goes without saying I had a great time. Kings of War has a great community around it. Incredibly talented artists, gamers, and just all around great people. I’m hoping to get out for more tournaments next year knowing that where ever I manage to drag the rats along to will reflect this experience.

Tournaments are always a great place to improve you’re gaming, but seeing so many fantastic armies on display has also given me bags of inspiration for my next project.

And Finally…

All in all this was a massively fun event. My thanks go to the lovely people at Mantic for putting on a generally slick event and my super relaxed opponents who put up with my faffing around. I have to mention the little trinkets as I’m especially proud to now have a Troll Dojo Gate in my work area, as well as an impromptu present from the lovely Steve Hildrew of the plague pots from his Ratkin army. Very gratefully received. And a final question for the Moonrakers – if anyone manages to get a trophy from each of you at a single event is there a bonus achievement trophy on offer?

Great mementos of some great games.

How the rats came to be:

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – A brief discourse on why Nightmares aren’t like Boomers

Part 3 – What’s the difference between a Skaven and a Ratkin?

Part 4 – Getting back to gaming

Kings of War Battle Report: Ratkin Vs. The Order of the Green Lady

With Clash looming in the UK I managed to squeeze in one last practice game. This is my third game with clocks, which I need because I am horrendously bad when it comes to timing. Fortunately, I’ve managed to get through the last two games without timing out, so practice has indeed resulted in progress. That means I just need to work on plans, tactics and strategies!

Points: 2,300

Scenario: Raze

The armies

Ratkin

1 – Warchief on Fleabag with Blade of Slashing

2 – Master Scurrier with Boots of Levitation

3 – Warlock with Boomstick

4 – Warrior horde with Plague Pots

5 – Shock Troop horde with Brew of Sharpness and Plague Pots

6 – Hackpaw regiments (2)

7 – Vermintide regiment

8 – Tunnel Runner regiment with Caterpillar Potion

9 – Weapons Teams (2)

10 – Mutant Rat Fiend

11 – Tangle

12 – Scud

The Order of the Green Lady

1 – Unicorn with Lightening Bolt and Heal

2 – Unicorn with Lightening Bolt and Heal with Boomstick

3 – Beast of Nature with wings and extra attacks

4 – Men-at-Arms Retainer hordes (2)

5 – Order of Redemption

6 – Order of the Forsaken (2 – one with Helm of Confidence)

7 – Order of the Brotherhood regiments (3 – one with Mead of Madness and one with Brew of Haste)

Set up and objectives – Ratkin are in red, Brotherhood are in dark yellow.

Turn 1

I won the roll off and decided to go first. Facing such a fast opponent I felt I needed to if I was to have any chance of getting into his half to start scoring. With the exception of some lightening bolts from the Warlock and Scud at the knights facing them the rats managed nothing more than a slight shuffle forward.

The Order of the Green Lady sallied forth in a guarded way, but with so many long charge ranges there wasn’t much required to start putting pressure on my little bundles of cuteness. The Beast of Nature predictably flew up to growl down my flank, however I had intentionally positioned the Hackpaws and Warchief so they could benefit from rallying and use their speed to respond to a wider variety of threats.

End of turn 1

Turn 2

Alpha strike armies tend to get you thinking hard from the very beginning of the game, and already the left flank was giving me a bit of a headache. My Hackpaws could either charge into the Order of the Brotherhood or the Order of Redemption. I knew they weren’t going to be able to kill either, but they are intended to be a delaying unit, and on that basis the most important unit to delay was the Redemption Knights. I charged them into the Order of Redemption hoping to hold them up for a turn to allow my Shock Troops to move forward without being in too many charge arks. With the Beast of Nature staring at me down the flank there was only one response, so the Warchief charged in wounding the Beast, preventing it from flying. The Vermintide charged into the Men-at-Arms, whilst the rest of the units in the centre ordered themselves to make receiving charges from the Foresaken as comfortable as possible, with the Shock Troops dropping their pots to really discourage any charges at this early stage in the game.

The Master Scurrier charged into the Unicorn and managed 4 wounds, failed to kill it, but disordered it ensuring there would be no casting from it in its next turn. Finally, the Warlock and Scud zapped away at the same unit of Knights.

The Brotherhood’s response was rather limited. On the left no chances were taken with the Warchief. Knights and the Beast of Nature charged into him and took him out. The Order of Redemption struck back at the Hackpaws, showing just what a difference knocking thunderous off a knight unit makes, and failed to even waver them.

The Unicorn with the Boomstick plinked a couple of wounds off the closest Weapons Team and the other Unicorn backed away from the Master Scurrier to allow the last knight unit to charge him, killing him instantly.

End of turn 2

Turn 3

This turn started with one of those very painful moments where you realise you’re likely to end the turn offering rear charges on a couple of your best units. Fortunately, luck smiled briefly (I want to take credit for this next bit, I really do).  My Shock Troops and the Mutant Rat Fiend charged the Men-at -Arms and routed them. I decided to move my Fiend forward, and fortunately rolled sufficiently high so the beast could, with some tactical wiggling of the Shock Troops, block the Foresaken’s line of sight to them. The tactical wiggling extended to a turn that meant the knights on the left flank now had a front charge which would be hindered (for good measure I had also cast weakness on them using the Tangle) and unlikely to go their way. Sighs of relief were breathed by the rat warriors.

On the right flank one of the Weapons Teams fired at the Men-at-Arms, further chipping away at them, and Scud moved up to cast an eye on the centre. The knights on the far right had moved up slightly to bait the Hackpaws, and as they were now quite badly wounded from the shooting the mounted rats went for it, but only managed to waver them. Finally, the Warlock chipped away at the remaining unit of knights with his lightening bolts.

On the left and in the centre the Brotherhood now went in for the kill. The Redemption knights finished off the Hackpaws, turning to threaten the flank of the Shock Troops and Fiend. The Brotherhood Knights charged the Shock Troops and managed a grand total of 2 wounds. The two hordes of the Foresaken launched themselves at the warriors and tore them apart, whilst the Beast of Nature charged the Tangle, determined to shut it down. The Unicorn with the Boomstick again lashed out at the Weapon Team, wavering it once again. On the right the unengaged knights repositioned to be able to offer support to either the Men-at-Arms or their wavered bretherin.

End of turn 3

Turn 4

The rats turn to do some damage (kind of). The Shock Troops destroyed the Knights and turned to face the Order of Redemption in such a way that if the knights charged them they would be hindered. The Tangle struck back against the Beast of Nature but failed to wound it, annoyingly making flying an option in the next turn. Scud charged a horde of the Foresaken, hurting them but not getting the kill, and the Hackpaws on the right finally killed the knights. In a final act of preparation the Fiend turned to face the back of the Foresaken.

Deciding a hindered charge into reasonably fresh horde of Shock Troops was not the better part of valour the Knights of Redemption cantered past the elite rat warriors. The Foresaken fighting Scud struck back, but failed to make a significant impact. The remaining horde of Foresaken charged into the flank of the Tangle, fighting with the Beast of Nature to destroy the delicate mobile monument to Rat Life.

On the right the remaining knights made a dash for their loot token, riding down the Warlock in the process, whilst the unicorn knocked a couple of wounds off the Hackpaws with its lightening.

End of turn 4

Turn 5

The race was on. At this stage both sides had secured two objectives each and things were looking promising in the centre (for the rats). Things looked good. I turned the Shock Troops to bring them back in for turn 6. The Fiend rear charged the Foresaken with Scud and wiped them out before turning to face the threat from the Redemption Knights. Finally, Tunnel Runners charged into the front of the Men-at-Arms, with the Hackpaws going into their flank, driving them from the field. Both units then turned to face the threat form the Foresaken and the remaining knights.

Looking for an easy fight the Redemption Knights destroyed the final Weapon Team, the Unicorn charged Scud to stop him flying off to claim the objective on the far left, and the Beast of Nature claimed the final Brotherhood objective. The remaining Foresaken charged the Tunnel Runners, but failed to break them, whilst the final knight unit turned to face the combats in the woods.

End of turn 5

Turn 6

With Scud unable to fly there was no chance of me getting the win, so it became about salvaging the draw. The Shock Troops charged the unicorn but failed to kill it. The Fiend charged the Redemption Knights, wounding them and robbing them of their thunderous and most importantly wavering them (which stayed after a failed headstrong roll) ensuring its survival if there was a turn 7. Scud turned away from the Unicorn and walked towards the woods from where, if there was a turn 7, he could fly to the final objective. The Tunnel Runners struck back at the Forsaken, but despite some hefty wounds weren’t able to shift them. Finally, the Hackpaws killed the Unicorn.

With few options open to them the Brotherhood also prepared for a potential last turn. The Beast of Nature flew to threaten the Shock Troop’s flank. The remaining knights joined the Foresaken against the Tunnel Runners, wiping them out. The units then turned so the Foresaken could see my Shock Troops and the knights prevented a rear charge into the Foresaken from the Hackpaws.

By this stage the Brotherhood had claimed all three of their objectives, whilst I had two of mine and superior unit strength in the centre. We rolled…

End of turn 6

Turn 7

Scud flew to the far left objective and claimed it, landing just within the 3 inches. The Fiend bashed up against the Redemption Knights, but failed to do anything useful and the Hackpaws charged the knights for a final bout of fisty cuffs. Finally, the Shock Troops killed the Unicorn and turned to face the Foresaken and the Beast of Nature. Having taken only two wounds and facing hindered charges I liked my odds for a draw.

When the Redemption knights failed to kill the Fiend I liked them even more. When the flurry of blows subsided my opponent needed a 9 or more on the nerve check for the win. I liked my chances. The dice fell. 9.

End of turn 7
So the Fiend has survived, now the Brotherhood just needs to roll under 9…

Final thoughts

What a close run game! I’m really not a fan of playing alpha strike type armies because they have the potential to pile the pressure on from turn 1. For a timed game I was really happy with how it went, and regardless of outcome, I always think when a game is as tight as this one it’s so much more enjoyable than a relatively easy win. That’s why I’m looking forward to Clash, a chance to spend a couple of days playing against some great competitors.

This game reinforced a couple of areas where I need to put some focus. I’m really happy with my list, so that’s a win, but I really need to get better at using the Weapons Teams. I’m not entirely sure why I thought it was a good idea to put one in front of the warriors in turn 2 to get shot at and wavered for half the game. I should have moved them both down to start wearing down the Men-at-Arms. This might have freed up either my Tunnel Runners or Hackpaws to run interference on the Brotherhood objective the Beast of Nature picked up. The other mistake I made was there was an opportunity to shoot at the Foresaken in turn 4 that I just forgot to take. Just one wound would have meant they would have left the table at the hands of the Tunnel Runners in turn 6 (all other dice rolls remaining the same) which would have given me the draw in turn 6 and a win in turn 7.

The other issue is deployment. I’ve noticed this in my last couple of games I don’t seem to have quite the right things in quite the right places so I’m hoping having some back to back games at the weekend will help me work out what’s not quite right.

All in all though, a great game and I can’t wait until the weekend.

Grow your own Gnome: Frostgrave with Northumbrian Tin Soldier

During lockdown I stumbled over Northumbrian Tin Soldier, and their fantastically characterful miniature collection. It’s unusual for me to pick up miniatures without a specific game in mind, but then again lockdown wasn’t usual.

The miniature designs really got me excited, and since the first models showed up on my doorstep my collection has grown steadily. As the time came to venture outside again, I really wanted to find a game to use these fab little dudes in.

After doing a bit of research Frostgrave became the game of choice. It’s miniature agnostic and requiring 10 models per warband it allowed me to use a fair bit of my collection.

The first minis make it off the paint table.

What is Frostgrave?

Frostgrave is a skirmish game set in a frozen city where wizards and their hired swords fight each other for lost treasures. I’ve never played a game that has been designed around wizards, which was another reason I decided to check it out.

Getting to grips with the rules has been easy enough, and it’s also helpful that there is a really friendly community around the game in my home town. What was slightly daunting was creating my wizard as there are 8 disciplines to choose from and 80 spells. This meant I ended up choosing a discipline on the basis of a hunch and vague liking, rather than a solid knowledge of what was the stompiest power gaming spells. I wasn’t really worried about that though, because I just wanted an entertaining game I could use my Night Folk and Gnomes in.

The current crew.

There was one element of the game I was a little cautious of, wandering monsters. Frostgrave rules introduce wandering monsters (generally when treasure is picked up) which can vary quite significantly in power, appear from random table edges and attack any adventurers they can see. It introduces a really interesting tactical problem to be dealt with that elevates the game above a straight me vs. you. Overtime it’s becoming my favourite feature.

One potential downside is that only the wizards, and by extension the apprentices, progress. There is no progression for other warband members (with the exception of captains which is quite slow). There are, however, a number of different warband roles that do allow you to construct a narrative around a hired sword progressing in ability and equipment, but there isn’t an actual rule mechanism to support this. So, by hiring and firing henchmen you could put a narrative together about a thug becoming a man-at-arms, and then a Templar. For me the lack of progression for the henchmen isn’t an issue, its 8 less individuals I have to keep track of, and that’s reflective of what I like most about the game; straight forward rules combined with loads of narrative potential and some cool scenarios.

How it’s going?

Overall, I’m really enjoying the game, primarily for its simplicity, but also because the game always feels like its driving some awesome narratives. I also like the warband structure as it makes it easy to change the hired swords up, which means more of my growing collection gets to the see the table top.

The hall of fame.

Over the last few months my little warband has had quite a few adventures into the frozen city so here’s a quick round up of the big names.

Old Rot Tooth

Soothsayer extraordinaire. Old Rot Tooth is considered one of the best employers in the frozen city providing warm lodgings and as much food as can be eaten between adventures. Many believe he is a bit of a soft touch, but in reality he simply believes a full tummy makes a successful adventure. That, and he is generally aware of an employee’s impending doom several days before they are and often feels some responsibility. Which is reasonable as his favourite spell is transpose, allowing him to swap warriors holding treasure who are in trouble with empty handed warriors who were not previously in anywhere near as much trouble. Consequently there is quite often some substance behind that feeling.

Captain Brodrick the Discreet

Brodrick is a recent addition to the warband. Despite his questionable approach to leadership, which he believes to be best undertaken from a ruined building as far as possible from the actual fighting, he is incredibly handy with a crossbow. In his first outing he took out three enemy warband members and a necromancer.

Gorium the Undivertable

Slow but steady the Templar has undergone more than the odd transposition. He is regularly the last one off the table as he does his best to prevent wandering monsters and enemy fighters getting at the treasure. He is currently out of action for the next game having taken a heavy wound.

Teddy

Teddy started life as a thug. In his first game he rubbed a lamp, waking up an ancient demon. Fortunately, Old Rot Tooth transposed him with another fighter, and he made it off the table still clutching the lamp. In the second game he successfully carried off another treasure chest and received a promotion to treasure hunter. In his last game he decided to attempt to take a treasure chest from under the noses of a couple of bears and a couple of enemy fighters, it did not end well.

Mulling stuff over: What I think about double 1s in Kings of War and a bit of a challenge…

Every so often double 1s become a topic of conversation and people get quite excitable. In fairness I have been known to get quite excitable about double 1s in a number of my games, as have many of my opponents. In fact, I would wager a small chocolate bar that no one who has ever played Kings of War has not got excitable about double 1s at some point. Double 1s have undoubtedly given me some interesting moments, so here are some choice four letter words (and slightly longer words) I associate with them:

Hope

I think it’s a flaw of human nature that we tend to remember the bad rather than the good. A bad gaming experience seems, so often, to accompany polite suggestions that double 1s is a silly rule and should be cancelled. However, the chances are that as often as the icy claw of double 1s have stolen victory from the dice bags of the righteous, so the hot flush of hope has been felt as an opponent double 1s and the gargoyles (insert unit name of your experience) survive to hold up not one, but two regiments of Soul Reaver cavalry (insert nasty, vicious enemy unit of your choice here) for another turn.

For some reason people are programmed to remember the bad stuff (I’m assuming some sort of primitive survival instinct). It’s also why just about every customer service course I’ve ever attended goes to great pains to point out customers are 10 times more likely to complain than give a compliment.

Perspective is a frustratingly relative thing, but the truth is that this rule is as beneficial as it is detrimental to all players (in the grand scheme of things).

The joy of Scud surviving as a result of a double one, wiping out a nasty big thing and then turning to threaten stuff, not bad.

Golf

Bear with me because this maybe a bit of conceptual reach. I’ve noticed this with friends I play regularly that double 1s can be considered a bit of a golf handicap style barometer (I did say a reach) of how much extra I need to do to start getting the odd draw or even win. When I’m playing someone better than me and double ones come up in my favour I like to keep a mental note. In particular, how many of them contribute towards a not quite so bad loss, an unusual draw and an inexplicable win. This might be one of those things that really is “just me”, but double 1s always stand out to me and I tend to have a view at the time on just how influential they’ve been.

That being said, I think it’s important to stress that I don’t think winning a game because of double 1s doesn’t count. I also don’t think it in anyway invalidates the achievement, as I’ll explain below.

A bad gaming experience seems, so often, to accompany polite suggestions that double 1s is a silly rule and should be cancelled – the alternative thumbnail for this article.

Self-Improvement

Double 1s often lead to a lot of deep breathing and deep breathing is great for mindfulness (apparently) and mindfulness is great for self-improvement (also apparently). No?

Also, Kings of War is a game of probability. What I mean by this is: if you are better than your opponent at list building, managing scenarios, movement, etc. you will probably win (there’s probably some official maths statisticky thing way of putting this, but that’s not my area of expertise). Yes, it’s a dice game, but its not a game of chance. Yes, you can have a bad dice day, but that won’t be everyday (although it’s possible your bad dice days could just happen to align with the days you play Kings of War). In addition to this the double 1 rule is something that’s printed in the rule book, and we know about it. That means, just as with any other rule, we can learn to minimise its impact by taking account of it in the decisions we make on the table-top.

Are we even sure they really make that much of a difference to the outcome?

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed writing battle reports is that even though double 1s, at the time, might seem pivotal in a game very often when you consider the game as a whole they are not. Interestingly many of the games I lost that involved “pivotal” double 1s were games, if I’m honest, I probably would have lost anyway. In the same vain, games I won (particularly where the double 1 was not in my favour), I may have had to work hard to pull back, but I actually had the tools and the ability to get the win.

The point here is meant to be a positive one – my experience makes me believe that double 1s are very rarely pivotal in deciding the ultimate outcome of a game, but you might have to think a little harder to get there.

Narrative loveliness

Kings of War doesn’t have separate health and morale stats. They are brought together in the nerve test mechanic. This means that the nerve stat and tests are not analogous with how many survivors there are in a unit following an attack. A great thing that comes out of this of course is multi-basing (intended or not), which is something that seems to be a real stand out when it comes to Kings of War as a hobby, rather than just a game.

What this rules mechanic acknowledges is that a unit’s decision to stay in the fight will be based on a number of things, such as casualties and bravery, consequently failing a nerve test does not mean the unit has been slaughtered. Therefore, it opens up narrative options to explain the decision to stay, or go.

And this, dear reader, brings me to what I believe to be the fundamental reason why double 1s should be in Kings of War. Whilst this is not intended to be a historically accurate representation of how goblins operate in theatres of war against sexy demons (Yeap, talking about you Scud, definitely not Succubi) it is still a representation of sentient beings hitting each other and so needs some reference in reality. So, just as most will make the sensible decision in the face of overwhelming odds, some won’t – and that’s what double 1’s represent: heroic last stands, evil generals so fearsome their soldiers would rather die than run or just plain bewilderment about all the spiky things being pointed in their general direction.

Clearly this giant is not about to die, but having secured some lunch may decide snacks are better than fighting – for now.

And so, to the challenge…

I’m going to close with a bit of a challenge, especially if you’ve stuck with this and still believe double 1s are the work of the devil. Why not, the next time you play, give you and you’re opponent the chance to throw in a guaranteed double 1 once during the game.

Yes, it might make the game an unmitigated disaster, but it might also help keep the rule more front of mind in your game play (because the reality is it is possible it could happen in every game) to help improve how your army responds.

It might also change the way you think about key combats, because for every ruck involving several hordes and regiments in the middle of the table there is a chaff unit that wins an objective or rear charges a titan that can change the course of the game. Having the option to throw in a double 1 means you can use it tactically against your opponent, so you have to think carefully about where it could have the biggest impact and that in itself might produce some interesting insights.

Book Review: The Ghost Tree

What is it?

American small-town horror, set in the 1980s.

Who’s the writer?

Christina Henry, a horror writer with an increasing back catalogue of great reads including the fantastically gruesome Alice and the terrifically twisted Lost Boy.

What’s it about?

Smith’s Hollow is charming little town. The sort of place you would go for a quiet life. A great place to raise kids, but it has a secret. Unknown to them, Lauren and her little brother David are at the centre of a bloody mystery which will make Lauren see the Ghost Tree, her favourite childhood hang out very differently.

Is it any good?

Of course. Christina Henry’s work goes from strength to strength. Blood, gore and spine-tingling suspense. In short everything you could ever want from a horror book.