Got an unexpected reprieve from some family commitments last night (a last minute rescheduling), and managed to get out to the Dueling Grounds for the first time in three weeks. Some of the THMG guys were running games for the Song of Blades and Heroes campaign we're setting up, and I managed to squeeze in three (!) games with my Bretonnian warband. Based on the fact that I won all three, I'm starting to wonder if I've discovered some sort of secret weapon, or if it's just my opponents haven't figured out how to counter a core of fast moving elite troops.
The first two games were against Foxlington's slightly updated beastmen. He's cut the scruffier elements he'd crammed in for our last game, along with his mage, in favour of more hard hitters.
I kept the same warband I'd had before, with my mage leader, two knights, and a couple of disreputable peasant archers. It had worked well for me, so I didn't see any reason to switch it up.
Our first game was a "Place of Power" scenario on a swamp table, with (IIRC) Foxlington as attacker. The scenario calls for a randomly determined player to choose one terrain feature as the eponymous place, with mages getting bonuses while on it, and victory points awarded for kills and possession of the Place at the end of game. Being a gent, Foxlington went for a bit of terrain in the centre, although you'll have to admit, it looked the part (that would be the trilithed upon which Lady Hawk has her sights).
The game got off to a rocky start when I rolled two ones on my first activation. My knights are quality three (quality is your "do stuff" stat), and get a bonus when in proximity to the Lady, so I generally roll the max dice for them. Two failures ends your turn, but it's not usually a problem, though last night, that came back to bite me more than usual.
Foxlington promptly rolled two failures on his first activation roll, and once I stopped laughing, I sent the lady with some peasants to guard her on the right, while my knights beelined towards the mysterious trilithid in the centre.
Foxlington moved up his beasts while the Lady took possession of the Place of Power, leading with his minotaur. This guy causes me problems. He's better in combat than my knights, and denies them the combat advantage they derive from being Mounted (+1 vs the same size or smaller non-mounted).
In order to have a chance to beat him, I either need to transfix him with the Lady (which means exposing her to the risk of combat, something she's not great at), or go two on one with my knights, which reduces things to an even combat. I gambled with the lady, and she managed to hypnotise the Minotaur with her grace and beauty (which leads to trains of thought best unexplored), and sir Blue (I know, I know) charged home. Transfixing the minotaur gave my knight a +2 combat advantage, and it meant I only had to beat the minotaur to kill it (rather than doubling its score). First blood to Bretonnia!
Things went quickly from that point on. Sir Purple charged in, and after some to-ing and fro-ing (including a lucky break when a few of his beasts teamed up against a knight), I managed to get a gruesome kill on one of his ungors (lesser beastman). This caused a few of his other troops to run, and Foxlington decided to opt for discretion, high-tailing his warband from the field. With VPs from both possession of the objective and kills, I had the win.
We rolled for gold, and I did quite well, though my exploration phase was uneventful. I did use the campaign point I'd gained from the win to pick up the warband skill "Seize the Initiative", which allows me to ignore a turnover once per game. Foxlington's beastman casualty recovered, I think, but his minotaur was out for a game. We had time for another, as we were waiting for the guys on the other table to finish, so we quickly set up a "Seize the High Ground" scenario. I think I attacked this time. The scenario requires a hill in the centre, and victory points are awarded for exclusive possession and kills.
With my speed advantage, I was able to get a knight onto the hill quickly, though again I had some atypically bad luck on early activations, and one of my poor knights was looking a little lonely. On the plus side, it meant I racked up an early VP.
With his usual point-beast off nursing it's wounds, Foxlington adopted a rather clever testudo formation, that protected some of his figures, while retaining the option to charge (as you can always move freely through your own figures).
To be honest, I was a little non-plussed. In order to break up his beasts, I needed good activation rolls for both my knights (1 success to move, plus ideally 2 successes to generate a powerful attack). I know from our other games that if he can get numbers on me, Foxlington's beasts can quickly turn the tables. As it was, while I rolled okay, I didn't roll well enough for an alpha strike, and Foxlington charged in.
He tried something a little new this time, moving figures in to surround my knights, but not attacking with them until one had a significant combat advantage. He won the combat, but I caught a break. Rather than knocking me down (leaving me as vulnerable as the minotaur in our first game), he made my knight recoil, which actually took him out of danger, and opened up a charge opportunity for sir Purple.
On my turn, I was able to double team one of his models, I think producing another gruesome kill (i.e., I tripled his score), and several beasts retreated from the hilll.
Things got a little sticky, as the beasts surged back, but my peasants had finally trudged their way to the hill, and I now had a numerical advantage.
It was enough to get another kill, which took the beastmen below half strength, and Foxlington opted to retreat. The chivalry of Bretonnia had won again.
I picked up not quite enough gold for another knight, and rolled (for something like the third time in 4 games!) "Murder of Crows" on the exploration table. The resulting bad omen meant that I'd gain half gold next game.
By this point, the guys on the second table had finished, and we swapped players. I now had a game against ernieR's dwarf warband. We ended up playing an assassination scenario on "regular" terrain, with ernieR as the attacker.
Win conditions were straightforward - if he took out my leader, he won, otherwise, I did. This is, I think, a rough one for ernieR's dwarfs, as they all have short move. While he has very high quality troops (an even better mage than mine, and a tough as nails elite fighter, long with rock-solid "basic troops"), the slowness of his warband makes it difficult for them to "chase" an opponent, especially when the opponent has fast movers like my knights.
Instead of coming after me, ernieR opted to take up a defensive position, using terrain and a shield wall to protect his leader, and present me with little in the way of easy targets. My knights advanced quickly, while the rest of my figures slogged their way up the field.
I actually forgot to take pictures at this point, because ernieR was presenting me with a real problem. In order to win, I had to end the game without losing my Lady. Unless the game ended because I retreated (which meant I'd have lost more than half my figures), I had to take out more than half of his. The way he'd set up, there was not way to get the kind of combat advantage I needed to pull that off. His basic dwarfs fight almost as well as my knights (same stats, with me having a slight advantage with Mounted), and his elite fighter is better, even with mounted factored in. He also considerably outnumbers me, unless I bring in my peasants, and only one of them fights comparably.
Ordinarily, I'd do what I do vs. Foxlington's minotaur, either gang up or use the Lady to transfix. The problem was his numbers meant he'd be able to "out-outnumber" me, and his troops are high enough quality that transfixing was likely to be ineffective. I tried manoeuvring to open up gaps in his line, but he wasn't having any. When I said to hell with it and closed in, he managed to get a transfix off on me, and took out sir Purple!
In the end, to be honest, I caught a break. I managed to get lucky against his elite fighter (beat him, and rolled the "fall down" outcome), and then followed up with one of my peasants ( I think Salvatore), who between the outnumber and "fall down" advantage managed to beat the tough little bugger (killing him as he was vulnerable). That opened things up, I got a few more kills, weathered some counter-attacks from ernieR (who was rolling rather poorly) and in the end, managed to get my remaining knight in on ernieR's leader (who, though crafty, can't fight his way out of a paper bag). With his leader and elite fighter gone, ernieR pulled the rest of his warband out, and I'd won my third game by the skin of my teeth and the blessing of the Lady.
The game ended up being a little one-sided in terms of casualties (ernieR's mage leader ended up brain-damaged!), but during the game felt like a slog. Just figuring out how to attack him was a puzzler, as though my knights are nifty, they're few in number, and not so dominating in combat that I can send them in without support. Without catching that break and knocking down his elite fighter, I suspect things would have gone differently. I might not have lost (he still had to catch me), but I would have lost more troops for sure.
As it was, I picked up another campaign point, just enough gold to recruit a new knight, sir Purple survived his wounds with only a few scars to show the ladies, and I'd accrued enough xp to give a few of my models a boost. Next week I'm scheduled (finally!) for a Maurice campaign game, but I definitely want to get in some more SBH. It's tons of fun, plays quickly, and allows for light travel. Plus, I want to see what happens to my warband next!
On a related note, I just got the updated version of the SBH rules. I'll try to get in a review post on the weekend, if I don't have a painting post ready.