Wait. That sounds bad...
On Saturday I finally had the pleasure of meeting Ben from the High Elves Anonymous support group, and his cousin Adam, at BIG (Bristol Independent Gaming) for a couple of games of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 5th Edition. Better? Slightly.
This was the second round of test games of the house rules/format for a possible Middlehammer Tournament that hopefully!) might take place next year. You can read Jon's excellent write up of the first two test battles here.
BIG have a huge range of tables spread across two levels of game rooms, plus a chill out area and a well stocked hobby shop. While we were playing Fantasy Battle upstairs there were games of WH40K being played in the main hall, and as we were leaving more people were arriving for the evening session.
Purely by chance (but with so many tables and scenery options to chose from, you are bound to find something that suits) we found a table already set up with suitably Mesoamerican style scenery and as the first battle was due to be Lizardmen vs High Elves a narrative began to form in my mind. These High Elves would be a patrol from the Citadel of Dusk at the southern tip of Lustria, and the Lizardmen directed by the cold calculating croaks of their Slann Mage-Priest masters would be protecting their jungles from further trespass. So, here we have...
Bloodbath at Nappa Valley (part 1)
High Elf Patrol:
HE Lord on barded steed w/ Lance, Shield and Hvy Armour + Ogre Blade, Amulet of Fire, and Dawnstone (263 pts)
7 Silverhelms (inc. Standard Bearer) on barded steeds w/ Lance, Shield, Hvy Armour + War Banner (369 pts)
Master Mage + Wand of Jet, Destroy Magic Scroll, Dispel Magic Scroll (344 pts)
17 Archers w/ Longbows (187 pts)
Repeater Bolt Thrower (100 pts)
15 Spearmen (inc. Standard Bearer) w/ Hvy Armour, Shield and Spear + Banner of Courage (235 pts)
Total 1498 pts
My High Elf list has two main themes. Firstly, it focuses on what I have painted - even if that means sometimes using comically bad paint jobs from my teenage years and secondly, it picks up on the accusation I used to have to put up with that High Elves are the fantasy battle equivalent of Space Marines (also my 40k army of choice back then). I don't disagree with that view, I just don't see it as a bad thing! Small numbers of elite high value troops, but who are tactically flexible and mentally resilient. This list takes that analogy further. I started to think of my army in three divisions. Tactical (Spearmen), Devastator (Archers w/Mage and Bolt Thrower), and Assault (Silverhelms w/General). I also wanted to make sure I was competitive in the magic phase so kitted out my Master Mage in true Herohammer fashion.
|The High Elf force on the field, but not how they actually set up for battle|
Slann Master Mage-Priest + Dispel Scroll (450 pts)
15 Saurus Temple Guard w/ Shields + Champion, Standard Bearer, Musician (358 pts)
15 Saurus Warriors w + Champion, Standard Bearer, Musician (288 pts)
16 Skinks w/ Bows and Poison + Champion, Standard Bearer, Musician (120 pts)
Skink Shaman (56 pts)
Kroxigor (45 pts)
2 Salamanders (90 pts)
Total: 1497 pts
Like the gentleman he is Ben shared his army list with me in advance (indeed we both did) and I immediately appreciated the balance to the force, and the lack of beardiness. As this was both my first time playing against Lizardmen/5th Edition I didn't yet realise how important my decision to max out my Master Mage with items would be in competing with a fellow High Magic user, nor how much grief the cold blooded rule was going to give me!
At this point I must apologise to Ben, and indeed to you dear reader, for not taking better photos of his Lizardmen set up. The shots of his right flank (Skinks and Saurus Warriors) were so blurry I couldn't use them. Apologies in fact for not taking more pictures in general, but that is a sign of how quickly the game flowed and how much fun we were having :)
|The Salamanders and the Slann Mage-Priest Hold the centre while the Temple Guard Hold the far left.|
Merlot The Well Aged, High Elf Master Mage narrowed his eyes and tutted under his breath as he approached Captain Pinot Grigio, leader of the Citadel of Dusk's regular patrol into the vine rich region of the Nappa Valley. The young fresh faced Elf was in conference with Chenin Blanc, the somewhat dry yet inoffensive leader and standard bearer of the small unit of Spearmen that made up a third of the patrol.
"Captain Grigio! You have finally slowed the march long enough for the archers escorting the Bolt Thrower to catch up I see." The wizard let out a sigh of frustration as he spoke.
"No such thing Merlot, and you must try and keep up at the rear! I thought you said you had a number of spells to effect the movement of troops?"
"Those are more for situations such as..."
"Never mind that now Merlot!" continued the young captain, "The forward scout has reported the clearing around that heathen monolith up ahead to be eerily quiet. I don't like it! It feels like a cold blooded lizardman trap."
"Yes sir. You might well be right." The wizard allowed in a moment of begrudging respect for the often rash cavalry officer. The High Elves knew enough to never trust the jungle when it went quiet.
"I want you and Blanc to take the Bolt Thrower to the high ground and form up there to draw the Lizardman attacks and hold them in place with your magic. Whilst they are occupied I shall lead the Silverhelms around their flank, round them up and ride them down."
It all sounds so easy doesn't it? As I said to Ben at the start of the game, I was going to blame any tactical ineptitude on my part on the sheer Arrogance of the High Elf commander. Luckily I drew a useful if very defensive hand of High Magic spells (Glamour of Teclis, Hand of Glory, and The Tempest) and with my tooled up Master Mage facing off against the undoubted mystic might of the Mage-Priest (who drew Fiery Convocation, Coruscation of Fenrir, and Assault of Stone, while the Skink Shaman drew Bless from the Battle Magic deck) it was clear that the magic phase was going to be key to success or failure for both sides. Unluckily the Lizardmen won the initiative for the first turn...
|Skinks and Silverhelms advance along the flanks with the center dominated by missile fire|
The two Salamanders are goaded into action by their Skink handlers and spit gobs of burning goo at the Elven archers opposite. One shot flies wide, but the other hits taking out one of the archers. First blood to the Lizardmen!
As predicted the magic phase was pivotal from the outset. In the first move of the phase the Slann Mage-Priest casts Fiery Convocation on the Silverhelms using Total Power, meaning the Amulet of Fire worn by my general was not able to protect them, and neither was my Mage able to use his aresenal of Dispels! Luckily only one Silverhelm fell to the firey blast, but the spell stayed in play and would hit the unit again before I would get a chance to dispel it. I had a bad feeling about this...
High Elf Turn One: The Silverhelms manage to survive the shock of being hit with a bloody great fireball with the swift realisation that the reflection of the unquenchable magical flames makes them look extra fabulous in their shiny armour, so they ignore them and advance slightly seeking the best position for a charge on the next turn spending the rest of the turn complimenting each other on how good their hair looks. Meanwhile the Spearmen march forward to block the advancing Skinks and/or Saurus warriors from rushing the Bolt Thrower unimpeded.
Now, it will come as no surprise that I was relying heavily on the superior archery of the Elves and so I was more than dismayed with my poor dice rolling resulting in the bolt thrower hitting just twice, wounding once and dropping just one Saurus warrior (Note: we failed to roll for penetrating ranks, this happened a couple of times and we adjusted when we realised later in the game). Meanwhile the archers made use of the range of their longbows (luckily they were still in range even though we made a slight error here at first) though 17 archers managed to drop just one of the hulking brutes. Not a good round of shooting for the High Elves, and my dice very nearly made an early departure to the fuck off box.
Never mind! Maybe the winds of magic will blow in my favour? We certainly got a bumper crop of cards, but the first order of business was to resolve the little matter of a Fiery Convocation. D6 S5 hits later and 2 more of my extremely expensive cavalry were burnt to a horse flavoured crisp. Right! Now it was finally my chance to dispel the damn thing and I invoked the power of my General's Amulet of Fire to do just that. I rolled a one...
There was genuinely a moment where my head was in my hands banging against the table to the sound of slightly unstable laughter. Thankfully they passed their panic test having lost more than 25% casualties from missile fire.
Anyway, moving swiftly on, I cast Tempest using the Wand of Jet to reduce the power cost to two, which would have caused all manner of mischief in the Lizardman lines and with their shooting - a key piece in Captain Grigio's plan. Unsurprisingly this forced the Mage-Priest to use it's Dispel Scroll. Luckily I managed to roll a 3 to keep the Wand of Jet in play. So much for the magic phase making up for a poor start!
|High Elf Cavalry. They might be on fire, but they still look fabulous as they die.|
Back in the centre the Salamanders and Mage-Priest hold their ground, and the Temple Guard on the left flank manoeuvre to close the gap with the centre in anticipation of the charge of the Silverhelms. We realised later that Ben had forgotten to move his Saurus Warriors this turn, which might have made things slightly interesting later on, but wouldn't have affected the outcome of the game.
The Salamanders repeat their shooting from round one, with one on target and the other firing wildly off target. Two Archers were melted by the corrosive venom.
High Elven luck continued to fail in this time in close combat with the Skinks whose charge from cover saw them score 4 hits against the superior weapon skill of the spearmen, wounding two - who both failed their 4+ armour save. BOTH OF THEM! The Kroxigor, understandably for a giant club wielding crocodile, smashed two more to the ground. Now, it is true that the citizen levy rule of the High Elves started to come into play allowing all remaining spearmen to fight back, but despite a good many hits my rolls to wound were poor and only two Skinks are skewered as the armour save provided by their scaly skin manages to save one. The Spearmen lost the combat and failed their first Leadership save with another 11. Where the hell were these high rolls when I needed them!? What a good thing I brought that Standard of Courage, right? Yeah, they failed their re roll too. Disgracefully my dice continued to roll high as they fled a total of 8 inches, outpacing the pursuing Skinks by just one inch! The fleeing unit within 12" meant panic tests for the archers and the Bolt Thrower crew, but both passed and I breathed a sigh of relief.
|Damn, that was close!|
The winds of magic continued to blow strongly and we both found ourselves with a good selection of cards, but once again the first thing to resolve was the Fiery Convocation that continued to consume the Silverhelms. The conflagration intensified and all four remaining members of the unit were incinerated, their vaunted War Banner turning to ash in the wind, as the unit died leaving only the High Elf general, wondering what the hell had happened to his Amulet of Fire which YET AGAIN failed to dispel the flames. The Slann Mage Priest summons his power to cast Assault of Stone to move the hill out from under the bolt throwers to plonk it who knows where on the battle field but the Master Mage has had enough of having his powers thwarted and uses his Destroy Magic Scroll to automatically cancel the spell and succeeds in forcing the spell from the mind of the Old One in a rare moment of victory for the High Elves.
Meanwhile the Skink Shaman, finding his unit suddenly deep in Elven lines, attempts to cast Bless on his unit as protection, but once again the winds of magic blow to the Elven Mage's command and the Drain Magic card ends the phase and finally removes the thrice accursed Fiery Convocation from the Elven General. In the heat of the moment we forgot to test to see whether the draining of the winds of magic caused a drop in level of the Master Mage and, although Ben was very gracious when I later realised the error and pointed it out, it rankles me that I missed that in a game where the magic duel between the two main spell casters was so defining of it's character, although again it would not have changed the outcome of the battle.
High Elf Turn Two: While the Spearmen pass their test to rally and gather up their dropped spears, the High Elf general does the only decent thing and charges the Slann Mage Priest, the last of the magical flames dying as he rushed onwards. The archers continue to hold ground in the centre and do better in terms of hitting the Temple Guard, although a combination of high toughness and scaly skin meant only another two fell. High Elf aim was obviously improving as all 4 bolts hit the Saurus unit bringing up the rear on the other flank, and we adjusted for the shot from the previous round that should have penetrated a rank, so a total of 4 Saurus Warriors dropped, forcing a leadership test which the cold blooded Lizardmen easily passed on 3D6 (discarding the lowest).
|The view from the Elven back line as the general crashes into the palanquin bearing the Slann Mage-Priest|
The force of the armoured charge of the Elven general manages to score a single wound through the mystic Shield of the Old Ones, although he takes a wound in return as the Mage-Priest clobbers him over the head with a ceremonial war club. Luckily the charge wins the combat by one for the general, and the cold blooded Slann needs all 3D6 to stay in the fight. So close and yet so far!
The winds of magic begin to ebb and the High Elf Master Mage has to use his Wand of Jet to successfully cast Hand of Glory for one power (meaning all units within 12" will pass LD test automatically), and then Glamour of Teclis on the Temple Guard to try and prevent them joining the combat against my general. Ben played Destroy Magic which auto dispelled the casting, but failed to destroy the spell. Sadly this second casting also exhausted the Wand of Jet. No matter! I had preserved enough power to cast The Tempest without the wand, and hoped I had exhausted the most potent of Ben's defences. WRONG! He slapped down Mental Duel causing another auto dispel, but in their continued magical grudge match the duel was a draw and no wounds were caused on either side.
Lizardman Turn 3: The Skinks and Kroxigor charge the reformed Spearmen, who auto pass their fear test thanks to the Hand of Glory spell. The Temple Guard turn in place and advance slightly ready to charge the HE Lord next turn and the Saurus Warrior reserve moved up into the gap between the pool and the rocks.
Salamander fire dissolved a further three archers into a puddle, but the depleted archers also auto passed their LD test thanks to the Hand of Glory.
In a turn of bad luck with the dice for Ben the Skinks hit the Spearmen twice, wounding once and the heavily armoured Elf duly failed his save, but the Kroxigor must have been tiring as it failed to hit with any of its attacks. The Spearmen however, still a credible fighting force despite taking losses and shamefully fleeing the first combat, score about 75% hits, and 4 wounds with no saves from the scaly skinned Skinks. The Spearmen win the combat soundly, but the skinks use the Kroxigors improved leadership score and the cold blooded unit passes on 3D6. By this point I was really cursing that cold blooded rule, but as I said to Ben at the time, it makes perfect sense for Lizardmen as a species, which adds character, which this game had in bucket loads!
|Lizardman Turn 3, just before the Skinks charge the reformed Spearmen|
The bloody combat between the High Elf general and the Slann Mage-Priest continued with the Elf seizing the initiative, drawing his Ogre Blade and reducing the Slann to just one wound. Again, so close!! In return the Slann slowly raised his club and smashed it into the Elf wounding him and the force of the blows reducing his considerable armour save to 5+, which he failed, twice, his 'Dawnstone' obviously sourced from the same shonky magic merchant he got his 'Amulet of Fire' from. Sheesh! This left both combatants on just a single wound.
With both magical combatants still exhausted from their mental duel in the previous round the winds of magic blew understandably weak with only 3 cards dealt out between the two players and the round ending without any casting.
High Elf Turn 3: With everyone involved in combat or being of a shooty type persuasion there was no movement, so the High Elf turn opened with the Bolt Thrower skewering two more Saurus warriors, forcing another panic test which the unfeeling brutes duly pass on 3D6. The Archers continue to pepper the Temple Guard with well placed arrows scoring 6 hits from a much depleted unit (where were these rolls earlier on!?) but only 1 wound which is saved.
In a stunning display of martial prowess, and totally justifying my faith in them, the Spearmen strike 7 times against the Skinks, sadly only causing 3 wounds, one of which was saved, but 2 Skink Kebabs kept the kill count up and when both the handful of remaining Skinks, Champion, and Shaman all failed to hit, along with the lumbering Kroxigor, the High Elves won the combat soundly with rank and standard bonuses taken into account and at last a Lizardman unit failed it's LD test and fled 8"
8" was a fair distance and I debated whether to pursue as it would definitely put me at risk of a counter charge from the Saurus Warriors next turn even if I was successful. I would not have had to test if I had decided to hold due to the Hand of Glory still being in play, but I decided that it was probably my one chance to save some face in this game and so I rolled the dice...
9 Inches! YES!! Get in!!!
The Skinks and the Kroxigor were caught and wiped out by the Spearmen, restoring some measure of Elven pride in taking out at least one unit of the opposing force. Small comfort that was however...
|The victorious Spearmen end up in line for a charge from the Saurus Warriors as predicted, but they dont care!|
Over on the other flank the now desperate combat between the HE general and the Slann Mage-Priest sees the Elf land a flurry of four blows, the mighty Ogre Blade (must be a genuine family Heirloom rather than a cheap import knock off) causing two wounds. Alas both wounds are deflected by the unmodifiable save of the Slann's Shield of the Old Ones. Once more the Slann rises up to rain blows upon the upstart Elf causing a barrage of 4 wounds. The General's Ithilmar armour stands up to the first two but the re-rolls from the 'so called' Dawnstone fail and the High Elf general falls to the ground. As his eyes begin to loose focus he turns the two under performing items in his hands, dimly making out an inscription there...
"Made in Cathay..."
The loss of the general would trigger panic tests across the army but thanks to the Hand of Glory the archers and Spearmen automatically pass, and the Bolt Thrower crew pass their panic test with ease. It would seem the loss of the cavalier Captain Pinot-Grigio is not to be mourned that much by the remaining members of the patrol.
The magic phase again passes with no casting or dispelling.
Lizardman Turn 4: The Saurus Warriors who have been holding back behind the rock formation finally get to see some action and charge the Spearmen. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if they had moved as intended on turn two, as firstly they would have been within 12" of the fleeing Skinks, although very likely to have passed the LD test on 3D6, but also their presence may have influenced my decision to pursue the Skinks. I think I probably still would have gone for it, and it may have been enough to carry the Spearmen into the Saurus Warriors and thus denying the charge. That's one of the reasons I like Warhammer, lots of 'what about when's' and 'if onlys' :)
Anyway, the Saurus Warriors cause 3 wounds, and the Heavy armour of the Spearmen finally proves its worth by saving two of them. Sadly the Spearmen can only inflict a single wound in return which is saved, and the Lizardmen win the combat. However, the Hand of Glory means the Spearmen auto pass their break test and stay in the combat.
The Salamanders had advanced suddenly in the centre so there was no shooting on the Lizardman side, but the winds of magic started to pick up again and the Slann Mage Priest attempted to summon another Fiery Convocation to immolate the Elven Archers, but the HE Mage uses the Dispel Magic Scroll he has been hanging on to to cancel the spell automatically and end the turn.
High Elf Turn 4: With no movement to declare, the remaining Archers shoot the advancing Salamanders at close range, but only manage to kill one Skink handler and failing to wound the Salamanders themselves. The Bolt Thrower fires a single bolt at the wounded Mage-Priest and hits! Alas my terrible dice rolling returns and I roll a one to wound.
More disappointment comes when the Spearmen score hits but no wounds against the Saurus Warriors, whose Champion manages to score two wounds in return. Thankfully these are both saved by the Spearmen's heavy armour, and their rank bonus means they win the combat by one point. In a crunch point in the game the Lizardmen pass their final LD test of the battle by a single point, even with the cold blooded bonus. Things could have looked a little different there at the end!
In a final monumental effort the High Elf Mage summons the winds of Magic once more, rolling an 11 and getting a fist full of cards but sadly not Total Power (we had recycled the whole deck by this point!), attempting to cast The Tempest as a means of covering the High Elves inevitable retreat. In the last act of the battle the Slann dispels the attempt and the High Elves are left to flee or be eaten.
The bloated form of Axidentl Tpk, the Slann Master Mage-Priest, exhaled a sigh of satisfaction as it looked upon the bloody feast that was taking place around him. The position of the stars and planets had foretold this would be a fortuitous time to face the High Elves in battle, and so it had proved. The loss of Potato Pi, the Skink Shaman, was a minor annoyance but there were many more mystic tadpoles in the spawning pool. The only thing that really worried the ancient intellect was the fact that the surprisingly capable Elven Mage had managed to escape the slaughter. The arcane duel had left the Mage-Priest more drained than it would like to admit, but for now it would take satisfaction from the sounds of Lizardmen gorging themselves on Elf flesh.
We didn't tally up victory points as it seemed rather pointless. I was too busy sobbing into my Vimto and swearing at my dice to contest the obvious Lizardman victory. Congratulations to Ben who was both charming and knowledgeable, and a pleasure to play against.
Looking back over the game now, my prediction that the magic phase would be decisive proved true and I feel my decision to kit out my Master Mage was justified, although I'm toying with the idea of replacing the Destroy Magic Scroll with a second Dispel Scroll and upgrading the magical banner for the Silverhelms. Although, Ben pointed out that having bought my general the Ogre blade his lance became redundant, so I could actually squeeze a couple more points and afford Musicians for the Spearmen and Archers. The combat between the Saurus Warriors and the Spearmen came down to a tie, which was broken by the Lizardman unit having a musician - a bonus I was not familiar with as in WFB4 Musicians only grant the ability to Reform the unit. Lesson learned for Tournament play!
I liked how my army design of Assault/Devastator/Tactical worked, and although there are no Elite unit choices per se, I would argue that the Citizen Levy rule for Elven warriors like Spearmen and Archers turns them into Elites. The stars of the show for me were the small unit of 15 Spearmen with the Banner of Courage. Although they did break once, they managed to get back in the fight and hold the High Elf flank admirably. The Hand of Glory did some of the work for the Banner in the end, but the principle was basically the same and I will look to use that combo again.
|Pointy caps off to the Elven Spearmen! I might even get round to sorting them out a banner for the next time|
I hope you enjoyed the battle report, despite the lack of better pictures. Don't forget to check out the report of our second game Bloodbath at Nappa Valley - Part 2: High Elves vs Orcs and Goblins!