The following is a repost brought to you by me remembering I used to post on forums and finding some matter on Carpe Noctem that may be of interest…
The First Battle: Vampire Counts vs. Empire, 1500 points, Battleline
Edd and I are old foes from back home. It was his Dark Elf army that I’d recently purchased when I started blogging back in 2009, swapping it for the core infantry in the Empire army he’s using today.
Neither of us have played much Eighth Edition. Edd hates it because he hates changing his army list, but his old one doesn’t work too well any more; I like it [Future Jon laughs bitterly] but have yet to fully come to terms with the changes [Future Jon: and you never will]; we’re both relearning how to play competently. Since this is a learning experience, I’ll be pointing out the mistakes I made as I go along…
Vampire Counts: The Order of the Black Cross
Lord Ruthven – Vampire Lord
– additional hand weapon, heavy armour
– Nightshroud, Talisman of Endurance, Potion of Strength
– Aura of Dark Majesty, Beguile, Dread Knight
Carmilla – Vampire
– extra magic level, heavy armour, shield
– Talisman of Preservation
– Dark Acolyte
Guildenstern – Necromancer
– extra magic level, Master of the Dead
– Staff of Sorcery
Templehof First of Foot – 24 Skeletons
– flag waggler, bongo beater, Skeleton with bigger hat
– Lichebone Pennant
Templehof Levy – 20 Zombies
– pole and clanky thing
Templehof Militia – 20 Zombies
– big stick and musical leg
Children of the Night
5 Dire Wolves
5 Dire Wolves
Templars of the Black Cross – 20 Grave Guard
– great weapons
– all the trimmings
– Banner of Eternal Flame
Black Monks of St. Herod
Fairly straightforward, I think. Ruthven hangs out with the First of Foot, protected from spell-sniping by their Lichebone Pennant and from everything else by twenty-four bony bodies to catch bullets for him, and should ideally be fighting enemy characters as often as possible given that he’s built to rock the challenge. Carmilla and Guildenstern hang with the Zombies, bailing out if the poor blighters end up on tarpit/screening duty, while the Grave Guard grind upfield behind a Zombie and Dire Wolf screen, hammering one enemy unit at a time. The Wolves and Spirits also get up in the enemy grill and force awkward charges and overruns.
Empire: The Reikland Intervention Force
Reiksmarshal Josef Albrecht – Grand Master
– cavalry kit, Sword of Justice
Magister Zaphazra – Battle Wizard
– Lore of Light
– Rod of Power
– compensating for something
Reigar, Captain of the Empire
– plate armour, pistol
– Battle Standard
– Gryphon Standard
– dual standards
– all apparatus of leadership
– 10 Halberdiers
– 10 Halberdiers
5 Reiksgard Knights
– full kit, the wankers
– Magic Resistance 2 on a stick
– full command and armour polish
– 10 Handgunners
– 10 Handgunners
– invisible musician, token good shot
Edd learned his trade in sixth edition, and I don’t think he’s changed his army since he bought half of it off me in seventh ed. days. It stands still, waits until it can get the drop on you, and then the Greatswords charge forward and annihilate everything. It’s even scarier now that their charge range is extended and the Light Wizard can correct their small Always Strikes Last problem. The Pistoliers and Knights tend to run interference, getting around the side of you and being JUST troublesome enough to be worth bothering with…
Preamble and Deployment
Zarathustra scores Birona’s Timewarp and swapped the other ‘un for Shem’s Burning Gaze (or Shem’s Burning Fudge, as Edd likes to call it, for reasons I don’t dare explore). Meanwhile, after rolling and swapping, I ended up with:
Curse of Years on Ruthven, which I decide I don’t like and swap for Invocation. Fair enough. Double twos on Carmilla mean I could pick a spell, but for some reason, instead of picking a Danse and swapping the other Vigour for Invocation, I just… swap a Vigour for Invocation. Gaze of Nagash and Raise Dead on Guildenstern, neither of which I bother swapping for Invocation… which means twenty points on Master of the Dead just went down the plug’ole.
Deployment and Vanguarding look a bit like this.
Zappadee and Reigar are in the Greatswords, Carmilla’s in the Zombies on the left, Guildenstern’s in the Zombies on the right, Albrecht’s in the Knights, Ruthven’s in the Skeletons, the Vicar’s in the shrubs again and I’ve proper stuffed this up.
Accustomed as I am to Vampire Lords who are more competent at slinging spells around and less vital to the army’s survival, I decide to place Ruthven slightly back from the front lines, and to point him away from Edd’s Greatswords. This is a fatal mistake. Ruthven is designed to take on tough targets, but can’t make much of a contribution until he’s doing so. Lagging behind his zombies is not strictly tactical. In my defence, they wouldn’t have balanced on the front of the hill…
Anyway, Edd gets to go first.
Empire Turn 1
The Imperial movement is as dynamic and exciting as ever (Pistoliers move up, Knights move up, the Swordsmen and friends nudge forward toward the village on the right), probably because most of Edd’s guns are of the move-or-shoot variety. An eleven on the Winds of Magic lands Edd with more dice than he knows what to do with: Shem’s Burning Gaze goes off and blasts half a dozen skelegogs, while Birona’s Timewarp is dispelled because I don’t want an Empire army running double-tilt into my half of the board. He stores two in the Rod of Power and moves on to ineffectively shoot some Dire Wolves (a couple from each unit, I believe), while his cannon crew overdo it a bit on the black powder and send a ball flying clean over my lines, bashing the head off one Skeleton at the back of Ruthven’s unit.
Vampire Counts Turn 1
On my turn, I send the Ghouls off on an optimistic charge against Edd’s Pistoliers – eleven inches away, so I’ll hit them on an average roll – and the last Dire Wolf on my right into the Halberdiers, thinking that if I Invoked some more into play, they might actually accomplish something. The Pistoliers, naturally, flee and outpace the poor Ghouls, who stumble downhill scratching their thinking parts, while the Halberdiers giggle and stand their ground, laughing with ill-deserved confidence as I set up for the Magic phase.
Guildenstern was the only wizard who could reach the Dire Wolves with an Invocation without needing an 18 to cast it at maximum range.
Guildenstern was also the only wizard without an Invocation.
Perhaps fortunately, a bum roll on the Winds of Magic (a six and a one, perfect for a boring phase) sees Ruthven’s attempt at long-distance Invoking dispelled, and that’s the end of that. The lone Wolf, who I had every expectation would just bounce off… actually nobbles a Halberdier (I love Slavering Charge!) whose mates are sufficiently shocked to not hit the ravening devil-doggie back. Coupled with the bonus from charging, I win the combat by two, although fie and alas, the Halberdiers pass their Break test.
Empire Turn 2
Edd rallies the Pistoliers and, after a brief rulebook consultation, realises he can ram them back into my grille and shoot… wait for it… a Ghoul. One. Everything else shudders forward, lining up a few shots at the Dire Wolves (killing two) and Ruthven’s Skeletons (damned if I know). As far as magic goes, Guildenstern earns his continued survival by waving the Staff of Sorcery about and dispelling everything Edd tries to cast. Once again, the cannon crew overdo it a bit, and an overlong initial shot kills all of one Zombie. Unsurprisingly, the lone Dire Wolf is unable to repeat his previous performance, and gets deaded. Aww.
Vampire Counts Turn 2
At the top of my turn, we have what might be called an Interesting Situation.
The Pistoliers are now so close to the Ghouls that they might actually be caught if they run away, while Carmilla and her super-duper-Invoky-ness are in position to bolster the Dire Wolves should they fancy a run on Edd’s Knights. The hell with it, say I, and unleash the charges.
The Pistoliers flee, there is a brief consultation of the rulebook, we move, we measure, and thanks to those cavalry bases, the Ghouls catch up and invite the cream of the Empire’s young nobility home for tea and crumpets with a most unusual topping. The Knights, jeering and booing, accept the charge from the Wolf. On the other flank, Guildenstern develops a mild crisis of faith and decides that he’d rather cower behind a wall than in a Zombie unit, while the two units shamble on through the wood.
The Magic phase goes well – Dark Acolyte takes Carmilla’s Invocation to the “I can’t dispel that” level, which sees Ruthven’s bodyguards gaining a rank back and the Ghouls losing their lost model. However, and I didn’t realise this until this morning, I make…
My Fourth Mistake!
While correctly noting that you don’t roll a d6 for restoring wounds to non-Infantry units, I totally forget that you still add your magic level, cheating myself out of two Skeletons and, more importantly, two Wolves! This will come back to haunt me later…
Guildenstern flings an opportunistic Gaze of Nagash at the Greatswords, but doesn’t kill any. A mighty THREE HITS, you see. Obviously he was tired out from all that energetic Dispelling. In combat, my two Wolves do disconcertingly well – or does Edd save dismally, rolling two ones for his 2+ modified saves? The answer is both, as it happens, but the Knights kill one and annoyingly stand their ground. Even more annoyingly, this means he’ll auto-gib the survivor in his turn and be able to reform, so the Ghouls won’t be flanking the tin-heads any time soon.
Empire Turn 3
Another boring Imperial turn, in which the only things of real note to occur are another overloaded Cannon shot failing to put a dent in Guildenstern but doing a number on a baby bird two hundred yards behind him, and a successful Timewarp going up on the Greatswords. Oh, and the Knights don’t even need their musician to gib the Dire Wolf, as Albrecht gets stuck in and introduces him to Justice. I wonder if he has two others called Truth and The Imperial Way? Anyway, they Combat Reform to face the Ghouls, and away we go.
Vampire Counts Turn 3
I cross my fingers and start rolling for charges. To help the Ghouls out, I figure Carmilla and her Movement 6 charge might be able to cross the woods and spank the Knights in the side; I’ve gotten away with it once, on that Dire Wolf at the start! The Ghouls make it, but Carmilla doesn’t.
On the other flank, I lose patience with the woods and the waiting game; banging their gongs and blowing their trumpets, the Undead infantry reform, advance, and generally make themselves ready for war, thusly.
Note that Guildenstern has decided that a wall is not enough, and that he’d rather cower in the tower. He tries and fails to Raise a unit of Dead in the path of Team Timewarp in the middle, while Carmilla does her best Nina Simone impression at the Ghouls.
Alas, it turns out more Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and the Ghouls whiff off a handful of fours and fives for Edd’s armour saves. The Knights kill five, and that’s enough combat resolution to see off the rest.
The nasty gits then Combat Reform to face Carmilla. Plops.
Empire Turn 4
I’ll show, rather than telling.
Guildenstern continues to brandish the Staff of Sorcery out the window, shutting down an attempt to re-Timewarp the Greatswords – in a fit of pique, Edd turns the cannon toward him, and we decide that, while Edd’s not technically allowed to put the ball anywhere where it could hit his own guys or any of mine who are in combat, Guildenstern IS in a tower and so all they actually have to do is angle up slightly, so he gets the shot. Yet another ten on the Artillery die (he never bloody stops!) but this one is dead on – alas, the 4+ Look Out Sir! save from being close to friendly units saves Guildenstern from certain death.
In combat, Carmilla decides what the hell, fighting one’s better than fighting two, and challenges the Grand Master. There is some brief tension, but – just as she did in all those sixth edition games – she whiffs her To Wound rolls and her Ward Saves in short order, and down she goes to the dead pile. The Knights overrun behind my army, to join Team Timewarp, who have done quite nicely without their bonus attacks and chewed through every single last Zombie for no losses to themselves.
Insult to injury mode, this is where I realise…
My Fifth Mistake!
You’ll love this one.
In every prior edition of Warhammer that I have actually played, Fear tests are taken when you’re charged by or wish to charge something scary, in the Movement phase. In eighth, they are taken at the start of EVERY combat phase in which you’re engaging such a creature.
Since neither of us have successfully taken this in, Edd has taken no Fear tests in this game. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No wonder he’s been having such an easy time of it. We agree that the combats are done and there’s no point in time travelling now, it’ll just complicate things, and besides, if we remember this game – and I will – we won’t forget again – and… well, you’ll see.
On the other side of the field, the Empire troops who’ve remembered that Undead are scary do not have such a great time of it. The Grave Guard mulch the ten Halberdiers and overrun toward the Handgunners on the hill, while the best efforts of thirty Soldiers of the Empire don’t quite remove all twenty Zombies. They get seventeen.
This might look bad, but I play Undead; they’ll be back, and the coward in the tower is the ‘mancer with the answe… No, wait, he doesn’t have an Invocation, does he? I refer you to my First Mistake, and then… well, let’s get on with the report.
Vampire Counts Turn 4
My turn is quite short and un-photogenic. The Grave Guard charge the Handgunners, who kill three with a Stand and Shoot but are still trodden into a fine paste under my purple armoured greaves, while Ruthven edges his bodyguard forward and tries for an Invocation, which he of course fails to cast. Guildenstern Gazes the Knights but discovers they have some banner that gives them Magic Resistance. The Zombies… well, let’s not speculate too much, shall we?
Empire Turn 5
This will be the last turn as Edd has some sort of highly competitive pub quiz league thing to rush off to (but he’s winning, why is he making his excuses and leaving?). His assorted troops mostly mill around, although…
… the surviving Halberdiers do try for a charge on Guildenstern in his little wizard house. Edd’s magic phase is another dice bonanza, with ten or so available, and so he goes to cast a big fat Burning Gaze on Ruthven’s Skeletons and…
Alas, he doesn’t roll up a unit-gobbling Dimensional Cascade or anything that might give me the game back; instead he notches up a pitiful little farty thing that doesn’t even hurt Zappacrappadingdong but at least kills three Greatswords.
The Cannon crew continue to overstuff their metal death tube with sheer, wilful abandon, and its expulsion flies clean over the Grave Guards’ heads.
Out of sheer spite, Ruthven chugs down his Potion of Strength and orders a charge on the Swordsmen. In the ensuing (mandatory) challenge, 370 points of killing power are brought to bear on a 15 point Empire Champion, who doesn’t even know what hit him apart from a failed Fear Test (thanks, Aura of Dark Majesty!). The Skeletons marmalise a few more and the Swordsmen run away, only to be pulled down and handed recruitment letters for the Army of Sylvania. The Halberdiers successfully pull Guildenstern out of his tower and take his Staff of Sorcery away – broken-hearted, he slopes off into the night and leaves the game to end.
So, we count up the Victory Points, and that’s when I realise…
My Sixth Mistake!
It helps, all things being equal, if you don’t leave 90 points of prime Ethereal chaff in your figure case for the whole game. I only noticed the Spirit Hosts’ absence without leave when I picked up my roster to count the points left on the board.
In The End…
Edd has scored 685 points (we decided to give him the VPs for the Spirit Host – if anything counts as “losing at Warhammer”, being a numpty and not using your whole army does), I’ve baggsied 400 on the nut. 335 points in it. Less than half my army, so it’s a DRAW.
In the final analysis, that’s probably more than I deserved. Lessons learned? Well, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know already, but let’s sum up, shall we?
- When you get to choose or swap spells, actually think about which characters will get the most out of them, and make your choices accordingly. Especially if you’ve spent points on an upgrade for one spell.
- If you’ve spent 370 points on a challenge-winning armour-piercing killing machine that’s lousy at anything but fighting, point it at the enemy’s expensive characters, and don’t make it walk any further than it has to.
- If you have been a numpty and picked the wrong spells for your wizards, don’t play as if you’d picked the right ones.
- Make sure you read your entire spell card.
- If your entire army runs on Psychology tests, you should probably be reminding your opponent to take them.
- Make sure you put your entire army on the board.
Oh, and a special bonus: never put every Zombie you own in the army list at the start, you’ll need some for Invoking with.
The only other cock-up in my army selection, really, was the Vampire Lord himself – he was kitted out for a role which doesn’t come naturally to me and really needed him on something that moved fast and kicked ass. My ideal Vampire Lord buries himself in the lines, casts spells, and charges in to help mop up in the final few turns. A level 1 wizard with all his available points spent on challenge trickery isn’t really suited to that. The only one of his upgrades that actually mattered was Aura of Dark Majesty, which was definitely worth a punt, but beyond that he was utterly useless. Everything else that went wrong was, frankly, my own fault.
The Second Battle: Vampire Counts vs. Skaven, 1000 points, Battleline
This is Simon. Simon is my loyal rules monkey for the Pathfinder RPG, and a competent tactical-combat GM for anything d20 based. He is also one of the nicest, most generous blokes I know, and genuinely tolerant of little incidents like booking a game two weeks in advance, then forgetting and turning up with some other fellow and an Empire army.
By the time I’d finished ineffectively mauling Edd’s Imperials, we didn’t have time for anything other than a 1000 pointer, and that was going to be bit tight. Fortunately, I’d already written a 1000 point list, and Simon’s scales down simply by removing his Plague Monks and their associated toxin-belching artillery piece. If we didn’t stop for photos, we might just be able to get away with this…
Vampire Counts: Sylvanians Playing Sewerjack
Mannfred the Acolyte – barded Nightmare
30 Skeletons – sword, board, full command
5 Dire Wolves – claws and paws
5 Dire Wolves – inferiority complex
7 Black Knights – barding, lances, full command, willing to die for Sylvania
5 Cairn Wraiths – creepiness, kookiness, mystery and spookiness
Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they even exist!
Warlord – Dwarf-Gouger, heavy armour, shield, tail spike, ploughman’s lunch
Warlock Engineer – extra magic level, warp-energy condenser, warplock pistol, some sort of magic sword, death-wish
30 Clanrats – spears, shields, full command
30 Clanrats – spears, shields, full command
7 Jezzails – smugness
Doomwheel – spare hamster
I didn’t need to roll for spells, as Mannfred knows the entire Lore of the Vampires off by heart, having stayed in memorising it while his brothers were playing at Wild Beasts in the castle cellars. Simon got Crack’s Call (buggerbuggerbuggerbugger) and Warp Lightning (bzaaaat!).
I set up my stuff in a long line, with Mannfred outside the Black Knights (the idea was, they’d ride through the woods, since they ignore them, and then he could join up with them in turn one, without slowing them down on his stupid non-ethereal horse), and the Wraiths behind the Black Knights, because they’re scared of Jezzails.
Simon got to go first. The Dire Wolves rushed forward, one unit in the general direction of his Doomwheel, the other straight for the Jezzails. Wouldn’t be able to charge them straight away, might just be able to hold them back.
Simon advanced both his infantry units, cast Crack’s Call on the Skeletons (I laughed and let him kill the ONE SKELETON the spell reached), and Mannfred said no to any Warp Lightning that happened to be going on. The Doomwheel zapped a lone Dire Wolf (you go, Doomwheel!) and the Jezzails bagged a couple from the middle unit.
After working out exactly where I wanted the Doomwheel to go (not ‘straight into the flank of my Black Knights’ for starters), I moved the rightmost Dire Wolves over to herd it around the wall and wood before it got to do anything – or Simon could take his chances and drive it over terrain. The Skeletons and Knights advanced, Mannfred joined up with them as planned, the Wraiths ran into the woods behind them, and I sent the other Dire Wolves up the Jezzails’ noses. They wouldn’t be shooting anything else next turn, not unless Simon wanted to waste his magic on killing a few zombified puppies. My magic phase was a damp squib – when I told Simon what Wind of Death did (d6 S3 hits per rank in the unit contacted, ignoring armour saves) he threw all his dice at dispelling it, and Mannfred actually failed to cast Invocation, so no extra Wolves for me.
The Skaven advanced cautiously, uncharacteristically cautiously, with the Warlord’s unit taking point and the Warlock’s lagging behind them a bit (I see what you’re up to, Mr. I-can-cast-my-doom-spells-into-combat). Simon decided a living Doomwheel trumped a dead one and drove around the wall, zapping two Dire Wolves along the way. Mannfred couldn’t quite stop Crack’s Call, but since I’m a jammy git, I passed all the Initiative tests for the Dire Wolves, and they avoided falling down a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it crevasse. Warp Lightning hit the Black Knights too, killing one.
Now, if I were a sensible man, I’d have tried to charge my Skeletons into the Warlord’s unit, and sent the Black Knights into the Warlock’s, or possibly reformed the Knights and booted Mannfred out altogether.
I did not do this. Instead I charged the Black Knights into the Warlord’s unit, penned the Skeletons in, and, hoping for a repeat performance, sent the lone Wolf into the Jezzails. Mannfred managed to cast Raise Dead and put some convenient Zombies in front of the Warlock’s unit to deter flank charges, but he was at the wrong end of the Black Knight unit to Invoke more Dire Wolves without needing more dice than I had to cast it, and like a bloody fool I’d lined him up on the flank of Simon’s Clanrats rather than using Make Way to shimmy him up to the other end where a piddly six-to-cast version would do the job.
The Black Knight champion issued a challenge, hoping to keep the Warlord honest, but he couldn’t quite get a Killing Blow or indeed a normal wound on the Skaven, and got smashed into tinfoil for his trouble. Worse, Mannfred only killed one Clanrat with four attacks, and the Knights only managed a couple more. Although only one Knight was pulled down, the combat was overall a draw. Oh, and the lone Wolf didn’t wound anything, but he didn’t take anything either.
Simon’s Warlock and friends obligingly charged the Zombies in front of them, and the Doomwheel continue to roam around the back end of my army, only having range to blast a couple of Skellies. Mannfred’s lacklustre performance continued as he failed to stop Crack’s Call from ripping across my army, pulling down two Zombies and a Wraith. Unsurprisingly, his Warlock followed up by carving through the Zombies on combat resolution alone, but the worst was yet to come…
… in combat, the Skaven Warlord issued a challenge and Mannfred, lacking a rear rank to hide in, had to accept. The Acolyte’s lack of armour, ward saves or indeed any protection beyond “I’m on a horse” came back to bite him as the Warlord scored two wounds at Strength 5 and, well, that was the end of that. The Knights had to take three Unstable tests – one for losing the combat, one for losing the General, and one for the start of the next turn since there were no other Wizards to take over. They did not like taking three Unstable tests, and decided to go on strike. Everything else had to eat two, and I was left with about fifteen Skeletons and three Wraiths with which to do my worst.
The Wraiths charged the Skaven Warlock and his block (no point in going for the Jezzails, they’d Stand and Shoot and that’d be bye-bye ghostie-men… although now that I think of it, they would have had to pass a Terror test on less-than-brilliant odds before doing so), while the Skeletons went for the Warlord. The Wraiths didn’t embarrass themselves too badly, at least putting a wound on the Warlock and chopping up a rodent or two, but the Skeletons whiffed badly and were battered into their component parts by an angry Warlord.
Well, this just involved me removing three Wraiths at the end of Simon’s combat phase. It doesn’t really warrant a whole paragraph.
At The End…
Well, that tabling’s taught me a valuable lesson. It doesn’t matter how small the game is; Undead Generals need a Ward save. To be honest I was sort of expecting it, but I wanted to try out a) this list and b) a Loremaster, just because there were still some new Necromancy spells I hadn’t used. Probably threw the game away with that charge on the Warlord’s unit – moving Mannfred about and Invoking might have been a damn sight more sensible, but I suppose if he hadn’t gotten Raise Dead off, he’d have been charged and eaten by the Warlock’s unit, and I couldn’t be sure that was going to happen. Still, we live and learn, or in Mannfred’s case we don’t live at all. He’ll be back though. He always comes back.