Fantasy Battles – Age of Sigmar

I promised a long, long time ago to try out Age of Sigmar. Jen really wasn’t interested, but my old Warhammer buddy has gotten into it and offered to show me through it.

We played Wood Elves vs Warriors of Chaos (with a few Skaven thrown in) but I suppose in the new jargon that would be ‘Aelf Wanderers and Sylvaneth’ against… something else? We used Warscroll Builder to come up with 2000pt armies, and since I haven’t read more than the four-page rulebook (and dozens of pages of warscrolls for my two elf armies…) I don’t know if it accurately reflects all of the points options available. Compared to old Warhammer, there are far fewer options. I suppose it’s on the same sort of level as Kings of War – pick a unit, choose small/medium/large and off you go. But I’d have to see the Age of Sigmar supplement that describes pointed battles to understand it properly.

Headline response? I think I’ll try it again, but it’s definitely not hooked me yet. It wasn’t that hard to pick up, although I didn’t really get to learn how to use each unit well. The game played out strangely – because I had managed to get near an objective and that unit didn’t die fast enough, I scored a couple of points and technically won. However, I lost almost my entire army and what was left was too far away to do anything if we’d played longer. Compared to our Kings of War game this one took 3 hours to finish 3 turns, and that took under 2 hours to finish 6 or more – with roughly comparable armies.

Comparing to both Kings of War and old Warhammer, this game is more fiddly. Every model moves separately. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why it took so much time to play, since the other two games both involve pushing around whole trays of models that fight as a tight formation.

It also feels less tactical, although I suppose the tactics have just changed. I used a battalion rule that let me ambush and come on at any table edge to sneak in behind the enemy lines and start shooting. However, in Age of Sigmar turning around is impossibly easy, the combination of moving and charging means everything is a little bit closer and for bonus points, there is no benefit to flanking your opponents units. It looks like the game needs you to be smarter about which match-ups you get into or what support your units have (since combat no longer prevents you from shooting into or out of combat), and not necessarily smarter about how you move around the battlefield. The absence of any tactical movement rules like fleeing from a charge go along with this.

I’m not sure I like the new tactical direction. I liked the feel of drawing a unit somewhere it didn’t want to be and then hitting it in the side for maximum impact. Since I’ve almost always used Elves you need to be able to maximise their effectiveness with ganging up or gaining some sort of advantage, but there’s no major benefit to either of those in Age of Sigmar. It won’t matter where my Elf unit engages the Chaos Knights, they are screwed unless there are absolutely loads of them – and even then Battleshock will take care of the rest even if they win.

I do like Battleshock as a rule. I didn’t dislike fleeing and pursuing, but Battleshock is one area of the game that just goes faster and still does it’s job. It also keeps units in the fight so you’re not looking at all your fleeing units and wondering if you’ll be able to rally them in time to do something useful with them. The downside is when you realise that your units shouldn’t be in that fight in the first place, and you’d really rather they fled somewhere safer (although having ambushed right along the back line, my units had nowhere to run anyway…)

Another thing I liked was the individual melee weapon ranges. It’s a bit fiddly, the sort of thing that would go down well in Mordheim or Necromunda better, but the idea of a Treeman being able to reach over two models to hit a guy further back whereas swords are pretty much ‘base contact’ is really neat. I noticed that the spear wielders could still attack in two ‘ranks’ if they were bunched up together.

Overall, there are things I think I need to try again to see if I can get the hang of it. I almost feel like 2000pts is too big for a game where you’re moving individual models, measuring 1” ranges to see if they hit in combat (2” for spears) but I’ll try it with the Dark Elves (‘Aelf Exiles’) and see if they get on any better.

Forest Dragon Crystal

I got a game of Warhammer in this weekend- the first of the year! To inspire me to paint more, I chose to forego the Dark Elves (many of which remain unpainted) in favour of the Wood Elves (only a couple of special characters unused). The army was planned on the assumption that I’d be fighting Chaos but there was a surprise twist with my opponent, who decided to bring his Bretonnians instead.

Still, after the initial panic attack, I realised that we had a lot of forests that could be put down and I’d just have to stay out of reach of the nasty nasty lances.

dryad2Terrain was set up pretty much as a straight line down the middle of the table, consisting of a tower, a wall, four forests (after the Wood Elf free forest was placed) and an interesting candle holder that was sat near the scenery shelves, shaped like a dragon holding a crystal. On the agreement that we first remove the candle, we decided that it would make a great centrepiece for the game, and the story went roughly along the lines of “Bretonnian lord wants forest dragon crystal to bling up his castle, Wood Elves don’t like people wandering around the forest”. Nothing too major.

Using the forests to funnel the lances into really obvious traps didn’t quite work – they were a bit too obvious. Slowly, over the game, I picked off all the peasants and foot troops but failed to make much of a dent on the knights – including a combined charge from Wardancers, Dryads and Glade Riders. It reinforced my belief that Wood Elves should never, ever engage to the front of a unit. And that I should probably have used the Killing Blow dance. Also, angles of possible fleeing should be considered, as my Warhawk Riders drew a combat and automatically fled – though they would have rallied automatically too, they went through a block of peasant halberdiers and were wiped out. They could have quickly reached the other side of the battle (the one with all the knights) and helped with some rear charges to destroy a knight unit or two.

That being said, not too much of the army was destroyed – Wood Elves are very, very good at staying out of the way.

At the final tally, there were only 70 victory points between us (Wood Elves very slightly ahead) for an extremely solid draw. Hopefully we’ll have a rematch at some point, since that Bretonnian lord still wants his bling, and the Elves didn’t do enough to put him off yet – all they did was clear out the riff-raff from his army!

First Game of the Year, or Losing Well

I played my first game of Warhammer in 2010 at the weekend, and since a lot of my Dark Elves are organised in piles on shelves according to how ready they are for painting, I decided to take out my Wood Elves for the day.

It was a standard 2,500 point Pitched Battle, against my standard foe – the Empire. I went with an archer-heavy army, with a few fast units and led by a Treeman Ancient (because why the hell not).

In the second turn, due to a skin-of-the-teeth break test after a skin-of-the-teeth combat resolution, the Treeman broke, fled, and was caught by a skin-of-the-teeth pursuit. If he’d had teeth, he might have survived. Despite having lost almost half the army by this point in exchange for very few casualties, I still managed over the remaining four turns to not be completely wiped out, and succeeded in make a very good loss out of it. This was helped in part by the amazing power of the Glade Guard longbows at short range – becoming both more accurate and more deadly kept the whole lot of them alive.

In the end, I was massacred. But I didn’t make my usual mistake, which is misjudging charge ranges of the enemy or misaligning units to allow their targets to get out of sight or out of my charge ranges. My biggest enemy was being too close and not well hidden from the two Helblaster Volley Guns, which rolled incredibly well this week. The two Great Cannons took the brunt of the bad luck, almost never getting an opportunity to fire (most common result – cannot fire next turn), and I can’t actually recall them wounding more than one Glade Guard… I had great sympathy, despite how many of my units those cannons have claimed in the past.

All in all, another enjoyable game and some good practice in using skirmishers and fast cavalry again. I think while I work on the Dark Elves this year, I’ll be playing with the Wood Elves a bit more often, and try out a wider range of tactics.