Saturday, 22 October 2016

KoW Game 28 - Varangur - 2016/10/22

Greetings!

It's been a while since I had a pleasure to play against Eastern Barbarian. Fortunately, he finally managed to find some time for Kings of War on Universal Battle and we scheduled the game. 

This time he decided to test Varangur army. He told me he almost has all the miniatures he wants for this force but a few games would allow to finalize the shopping list. 

Yet again I was about to play a game against a very well known player but using the army I have never had a chance to fight against! This is what he decided to field for his first game with Varangur:

Varangur - Army List

40 Bloodsworn, Horde, Headstrong and Fury - 240
- 5 Horse Riders, Troop - 115 
- 5 Horse Riders, Troop - 115
- Cavern Dweller, Monster - 205 
- Magus Conclave, War Engine, Famulus (Elite) - 110
- Skald on a Mount - 75

10 Mounted Sons of Korgaan, Regiment, Headstrong and Fury, Maccwar’s Potion of the Caterpillar (Pathfinder) - 280
- Skald on a Mount - 75 

10 Mounted Sons of Korgaan, Regiment, Headstrong and Fury, Brew of Strength (+1CS) - 290
- Cavern Dweller, Monster - 205 

3 Direfang Riders, Regiment, Headstrong and Fury, Blade of Slashing - 180
- Magus Conclave, War Engine, Famulus (Elite) - 110 

Quite a lot of Defense 5+ units! In addition a lot of them have Headstrong and Fury special rules meaning I should not count on any lucky waver results. Very good nerve values as well as Crushing Strength in addition to any Thunderous Charge mean the army can take a punch and immediately hit back! Tough! :)

 40 Bloodsworn - The only horde unit in the army, has all the advantages I have mentioned above. A bit slower than my own infantry but makes up for it with the best nerve value. The unit can be both an anvil and a hammer, in particular against my own infantry. But even against any other unit, with 25A and CS(1) there will be damage done. Wide frontage helps to send a few units against it at the same time but I don't expect to rout such regiment on a charge. As it is slower than other elements in the army I do not consider it as an immediate threat. It does not mean I intend to ignore it, quite the opposite! But it gives me some time before I am ready to engage.

10 Mounted Sons of Korgaan - these two regiments are the biggest threats to my army. They are fast, can take the frontal charge from any of my units and then hit back with enough power to delete any of them on the charge. Especially the one with Brew of Strength as getting rid of Thunderous Charge is not going to make much difference. 

The key here, I think, would be to get a unit to the flank and charge with a few at the same time. Sounds like a general approach for my army but in the case of Mounted Sons it is a necessity. Otherwise they will reduce that little advantage in the number of units I have very fast. 

3 Direfang Riders - very interesting unit. A bit faster than the infantry but not as quick as cavalry. Strider makes them very useful in attacking units behind obstacles or in difficult terrain. Very good nerve for a regiment although lower than Mounted Sons, for example. I think they would serve very well as a unit that bridges the gap between cavalry and infantry. Being able to support either mounted regiments faster than infantry (if needed) or be a reserve and counter charging element for infantry anvil. 

Relative vulnerability, i.e. in comparison to regiments units in the army, is the lower nerve combined with a little wider frontage than cavalry units. 

5 Horse Riders - this fast cavalry is very good. It is very versatile thanks to the fact they have good ranged attacks (Piercing), although not long range ones. At the same time they can hit reasonably well with Thunderous Charge (1). In fact, they fill the role of versatile medium cavalry. 

One of the priority targets for the shooters simply to reduce the ability of the enemy to interfere with my movement phase. 

2 x Cavern Dweller - this Monster is extremely dangerous. It has a very high nerve combined with very good armor but in addition it has regenerative abilities! That is huge and one of them can hold against a substantial numbers of the enemies. Random attacks may be hit and miss but hitting on 3+ with CS(3) will always do some damage. 

As fast as Elven infantry means they may be outpaced by some faster elements but again, need to be attacked with more units as otherwise any damage done will be eventually healed. 

2 x Magus Conclave - a fire support for the army. They are very lightly armored but its a war engine with Individual special rule meaning it is far more mobile and a bit harder to hit. In terms of ranged attacks it is a mobile bolt thrower. With Elite it will hit more often and if that fire is focused together with the throwing axes of horse riders then it may cause substantial damage. In particular against my small troops. 

If possible, I will still try to get rid of them with my own shooting. It is risky as the penalties for to it rolls accumulate quickly. But whatever hits has a better chance to do damage and with lower nerve there are good odds of eliminating it.

2 x Skald - the only two sources of inspire. It is possible that Varangur armies, with higher nerve, may not need that option so badly. The bonus of ranged attacks is good to have, in particular in the last turns when that one point of damage may help to rout badly wounded units.

I find this army very dangerous because even the slowest elements may still get to my lines fast enough and all they need is a chance to charge once. Whatever they are going to attack will probably die. And as I have mentioned earlier, due to not so large advantage in the numbers of units I cannot allow too many exchanges and in particular no one-on-one combats. 

I decided, especially after the changes to the army list I was about to use, that I need to use my speed and maneuverability to try and isolate some units. And to get those multi charges right. Here is the most recent version of my army and the one I used in this game.

Outcasts - Army List

10 Stormwind, Regiment,
Maccwar’s Potion of the Caterpillar (Pathfinder) - 235
- 5 Silverbreeze, Troop - 145
- 5 Silverbreeze, Troop - 145
- Drakon Rider Lord, Hero, Large Cavalry - 160


3 Drakon Riders, Regiment - 180
- 5 Stormwind, Troops - 140

 - Army Standard, Hero, Mounted - 65

3 War Chariots, Regiment - 140
 - Army Standard, Hero, Mounted - 65
 
20 Palace Guard, Regiment - 150 
- 10 Palace Guard, Troop - 105
- Bolt Thrower, War Engine - 90
 
20 Sea Guard, Regiment - 170
- 10 Palace Guard, Troop - 105
- Elven Mage, Hero, Inspiring Talisman, Bane Chant(2) - 110

The main change is that I left one Bolt Thrower and one Sea Guard regiment at home. Instead, I included War Chariots and second troop of Palace Guard. In addition, with some savings thanks to selling some of the magic artifacts, I could afford another mounted Army Standard. 

That brought my army back to 15 elements total but also improved its melee potential. War Chariots are very interesting option, I have not considered until most recent discussions with my previous opponent, Mr. Laribold. We agreed that instead of support, I stared using the shooting as my main weapon. In addition, the infantry tended to be left alone, without faster support. War Chariots are to fill that gap and fix the problem. As a versatile unit they add similar ranged attacks as a regiment of Sea Guard. But have longer range of charge and with Thunderous Charge (2) they can actually inflict some damage against enemy troops. They can also aid other units, either by combining fire against single enemy target or charging together with other elements. 

Second troop of Palace Guard does not look like much but it adds a bit of redundancy and should mitigate a bit the fact that such units have lower nerve. They may fly under a radar for a while, as other units may be perceived as priority. Palace Guard troops may also have a better chance to avoid being seen due to narrow flank. 

Second Army Standard should give me more options about spreading the army wider and still have access to Inspire sources. And I also intend to use these heroes as road blockers to buy that one more turn for the units to get to the positions for proper combined charges. They are very fragile though and as individuals they need to align to the attacking enemy. But they should be annoying enough! :)

Unfortunately, it also meant I didn't have enough points for some artifacts and various types of wines or ales were not taken this time. In fact, I have only 2 artifacts this time, giving Inspire to my mage and Pathfinder to the Storm Wind regiment. 

I was very curious how these changes are going to affect my game now!

Terrain

Terrain - Map 5

We used one of the maps from Mantic forum: Kings of War - Maps We rolled map 5. The respective height of the terrain pieces were:
Hills - height 2
Forest - height 4
Wheat Field - height 0, difficult
Pond - height 0, difficult
House and Rocks - height 3

We rolled Invade as a scenario, again! I think it is third time in a row! But I guess it is also very fitting with the Varangur army as an opponent.
Eastern Barbarian won the roll off to pick the side and decided to take North (obviously! Varangur needs to invade from the North!)     

Deployment and Scenario

Deployment Order.


With the expensive, fast and hard hitting units, Invade seems to suit Varangur very well. They want to get into melee quick anyway and why not do that on the enemy half of the board. 

I tried to anticipate the formation of the foe but when EB positioned his Horsemen I was convinced he will deploy his army on a single flank. It allows him to protect one side of the formation while forcing me to fight head on. Something his army is far better at than mine. In addition, concentrating on one side would give him a better chance to be unstoppable in his advance into enemy territory.

I expected his Horde to be in between the fast cavalry and the big question was if he is going to use his Monsters and Mounted Sons together. I decided that I may have a chance to stop the advance if I deployed a small but fast force on the right and try to use the speed and maneuverability on the left to get those combined charges in early. 

Storm Wind troop and War Chariots were there to threaten early attack and slow down the enemy while also doing some damage. Drakons, Lord and Storm Wind Regiment were on the other flank to move fast and try to envelope the enemy. But they would also have a support of Palace Guard, that would use the hill to cover from the cavalry for a while. They would be close to not allow Varangur to simply turn to face my hard hitters. 

I had majority of the shooters in the center but I intended to advance with all the units anyway. First, to add some help and maintain battle line, second, to try and slow down the enemy in the middle and third, to use missile attacks to get rid of fast cavalry and maybe get a point of damage here and there to help in melees. Last but not least, they would be close to jump to the enemy territory too.

Final Deployment
EB won another roll off and took first turn. I think in this particular game it suited him better because he could get into melee faster and gave me less time to outflank him. 

Varangur - Turn 1

Varangur army advances without hesitation.

Varangur army begun the invasion. The heavily armored warriors moved forward, slowly gaining momentum. Fast cavalry spearheaded the advance while Caver Dwellers eagerly moved ahead of their masters.

Conclaves of evil mages started their dark rituals and soon bolts of black magic run across the sky, aiming at Silver Breeze cavalry. The Elves suffered first casualties but remained steadfast.

Outcasts -Turn 1

Early Elven attacks!


The Elves decided to carry the fight to the enemy. If the attack succeeded then Elven units would be in a good, outflanking position  while Varangur was not yet in perfect formation.

Storm Wind regiment attacked left most Cavern Dweller but even with the aid of Bane Chant spell, they didn't wound the beast hard enough. Now its friend was about to clash against the exposed flank despite the heroic efforts of Elven Army Standard.

On the opposite flank the Elven units performed some delaying actions and got lucky with wavering less experienced and young Varangur horsemen. That would block the unit of knights behind them and buy some precious time for the Elves.

Varangur - Turn 2

Elves are punished for their arrogance.

Cavern Dwellers hit hard and even the best Elven regiment could not hold against such an attack. The cream of Elven knights was destroyed and it was a heavy blow for the Elven army.

Sons of Korgaan destroyed the blocking fast cavalry with easy and reformed to face the fresh enemy.

Attrition Points: Varangur: 380 - Outcasts: 0

Outcasts -Turn 2

All out counter attack!

Despite initial failure, the Elves were determined to defend their territory and unleashed a powerful counter attack with almost all units in the army engaged in melee.

Palace Guard regiment attacked wounded Cavern Dweller and the beast went down finally. Second Monster was attacked too and badly damaged but kept fighting. The main attack went against Sons of Korgaan, however, who left some opening for flank attacks. While such charge was expected from the Drakons, Palace Guard troop that hit the flank in perfect coordination, significantly contributed to the success of this attack. 

In the middle, Bolt Thrower and Silver Breeze aimed at the enemy fast cavalry and managed to destroy them! While having one less enemy to deal with was good, it also opened the path for the Bloodsworn behind.

Last but not least, on the right flank small contingent attacked too. Both War Chariots and the Knights attacked Direfangs and managed to rout them too! Surprisingly successful, the Elves tried to pull back but they may have not been able to avoid the enemy. 

Attrition Points: Varangur: 380 - Outcasts: 780

Varangur - Turn 3

Varangur forces focus on the right flank


Warriors of Korgaan did not expect such an attack from the puny Elves but despite the losses they were pleased. It may be a worthy foe, after all. Not the one that hides and shoots arrow in a cowardly fashion.

With so many units gone in the middle of the battle field, Varangur army focused on the right flank. War Chariots and Storm Wind cavalry were both attacked by powerful units and could not hold against such might. Even with the inspiring presence of the Army Standard who alone kept enemy Horsemen from joining the fight.

Attrition Points: Varangur: 660 - Outcasts: 780

Outcasts -Turn 3

Elves keep attacking.

Elven army tried to keep the momentum of the attack. Drakons and one troop of the Palace Guard attacked the Bloodsworn frontally. The plan was to inflict some damage but mainly to hold this unit in place and try to box the rest of the enemy. 

In the meantime, the rest of the infantry either followed to help soon or finished the badly damaged Cavern Dweller. Second beast went down, its infamous regenerative skills not having a chance to heal it back to full strength. 

The shooters also noted some successes, when Silver Breeze destroyed one of the Conclaves with a well placed volley while the second one, hit by a Bolt Thrower, were clearly shaken.

Attrition Points: Varangur: 660 - Outcasts:1095

Varangur - Turn 4

The exchange of blows continues.

The preemptive attack of the Elves allowed both, the Bloodsworn and the Sons of Kargaan to find suitable targets. Both went against Elven Drakons, the Bloodsworn destroyed the regiment while the Knights captured the Elven Lord. Only the Horsemen continued their pillow fight against lone Elven Army Standard!

It was clear that Elves were paying high price for their aggressive plan but so far they kept the enemy out of their territory.

Attrition Points: Varangur: 995 - Outcasts:1095

Outcasts -Turn 4

Can Elven infantry prevail?
  
With the fast elements gone, Elves had to fight a war of attrition. Their enemies took significant damage already but their units also bleed heavily. The battle was still undecided and entered the final, decisive stage.

Palace Guard avenged their winged companions who bought them time to prepare the attack and this time even Bloodsworn didn't have enough resilience to hold their ground. But even with the largest enemy unit destroyed the intimidating presence of fresh Knights was something that could still tip the balance into the favor of Varangur.

Attrition Points: Varangur: 995 - Outcasts:1335

Varangur - Turn 5

Army Standard is captured!


The Sons of Korgaan rejoiced as it was now almost entirely up to them to bring glory to their warrior god. Once again, they had to deal with some annoying light horse to get to the enemy infantry but as long as the enemies kept dying they were content.

Elven Army Standard finally fell and Horsemen were eager to prove themselves once more. 

Attrition Points: Varangur: 1295 - Outcasts:1335

Outcasts -Turn 5

Frontal assault.


There was no more time for subtle attacks and Elves decided to risk it and attack against the Knights with all available units. They did substantial damage but the Knights only laughed laud as they prepared to swing back at the Elven infantry (Edit: I needed 8+ with a re-roll to rout them and I was happy with being able to inflict 10 points of damage but to make sure I rolled double 1's for nerve test :))

 Attrition Points: Varangur: 1295 - Outcasts:1335

Varangur - Turn 6

A miracle! Palace Guard holds!

Varangur methodically destroyed Elven units one by one. First, Horsemen redeemed themselves by destroying Palace Guard troop with a well timed flank charge. Second, the Conclave finally finished off the second troop of Elven elite.

And it was up to Sons of Korgaan to deliver the killing blow but stubborn Elves held against all odds and despite the horrendous damage inflicted! (Edit: Palace Guard regiment needed 5 or less to survive such onslaught. EB was extremely kind to roll double 1's and on a re-roll too! What a drama! :))

That gave the Elves a glimmer of hope that all the sacrifice would finally pay off.

Attrition Points: Varangur: 1505 - Outcasts:1335

Outcasts -Turn 6

Final push!

Not disputing the smile of fortune for too long, the Elves coordinated the attacks and routed powerful enemy Knights. Seeing that the Skalds decided the invasion into enemy territory with only handful of Horsemen would not fulfill their strategic goals and withdrew in good order. Elven infantry would not be able to catch them even when fresh so the battle ended.

The Elves, thanks to unexpected luck, managed to win by the narrowest of margin!

Attrition Points: Varangur: 1505 - Outcasts:1625

Summary

Turn-by-turn summary animation


After-battle thoughts

The games against Eastern Barbarian are always great but I think this one is probably one of the best we have ever had. The casualties on both sides were very high and in the end, in terms of attrition points it was still a draw! Thanks a lot EB, it was fantastic to have a game, especially after quite a long break since we have played against each other for the last time.

I managed to get 375 points worth (My Mage is worth half the points for the purpose of scenario) into enemy territory while EB had only his Skald on my half, thus I managed to get that lucky win in the end. But to be fair, I think a draw is much better result to describe that game.

I was definitely impressed how tough Varangur is and how powerful it can strike, even after taking some serious damage. I expected that but seeing it in action is definitely a sight to behold. I hope EB will add some of his observations after the game so I am not going to discuss his part of the battle much yet. I must say, however, that if he kept light cavalry as a reserve rather than the shield and moved his Knights and Bloodsworn fast forward (the infantry should have started in the open to do that) then I would have been in much a bigger trouble.

The risk I took in my first turn charge didn't pay off. At least not directly. My Storm Wind regiment went down fast and while it helped to destroy Cavern Dweller in the end it was costly also because the Knights have such a long charge range. I thought I would be able to inflict more damage, especially with the aid of Bane Chant. It seems, however, that I needed to take into account the possibility it may not go that well. 

My precautions, i.e. placing Army Standard to block second Cavern Dweller and using Silver Breeze to block the enemy Knights, only slightly mitigated the problem. With Army Standard actually dying for nothing here. I guess I should have maneuvered better turn one, staying out of the range of the Cavern Dwellers.

On the other hand, I was very happy with the fact I managed to spot the opportunity turn 2 when I had a chance for multiple combined charges. That powerful attack helped me to overcome the flank fast and keep the pressure on the enemy army. I am in particular pleased with what Palace Guard troops can do when in the flank of the enemy units. This example shows that they don't need that much space to do so and I am glad I moved them forward to be able to attack if opportunity presents itself.

The interesting option I noticed in Turn 2 but which I didn't try was to charge Horsemen HR1 with my Silver Breeze SB2. That attack had lower chance of routing the enemy cavalry and that would have benefited me more because the Bloodsworn would have been blocked. That in turn would have saved the War Chariots and possibly allow them to attack with the infantry against the Horde. It is definitely an option to consider where killing the enemy unit is not the best solution. :)

I really liked having War Chariots in the army. I think they supplement it in the way I like, adding very versatile element that may not do lot of damage on its own but with the flexibility it provides it can help in many situations. Longer range for charge with TC(2) is nice to have and I was lucky to bring my both units against Direfangs. I got a good roll and routed the enemy too! 

It will be interesting to see what I can do with that regiment when combining the efforts of War Chariots, Sea Guard and Silver Breeze as a mobile shooting platform that can also fight under the right circumstances. 

Another option I was considering, after writing the report and thinking about the alternative moves, is the situation in turn 3. I kept attacking, which in itself does not have to be a bad thing but I started going for those frontal charges. That obviously favors Varangur. I attacked the horde of Bloodsworn and did quite well but I didn't expect to rout them in that attack. The problem was that I exposed my Lord to the attack of the Knights. Not only I lost a powerful and highly maneuverable unit but I also helped the Knights to move out of the confinement. 

I think better option was to attack the Bloodsworn with Drakons and Palace Guard. They would inflict considerable damage but I would have had the Lord free to re-position. I could have also attacked with troop of PG alone and let the fliers maneuver to better spots and prepare a better coordinated attack too. I think was simply carried away with blood rage and simply wanted to attack too quickly! 

From the moment I lost my fliers I had to rely on my infantry in war of attrition. It was very difficult task and with every turn I was losing my units. Luckily for me that double 1's result happened and I could finish off the Knights. I didn't lose the unit and had enough advantage to win on scenario. Otherwise, if the game ended in 6th turn as it did, EB would have secured a draw with advantage in attrition points. 

Even with that unexpected success I was also lucky to have the game ended in turn 6. In turn 7 I was sure to lose Palace Guard even to shooting from two Skalds. The horsemen and Conclave then could aim at Sea Guard to try a lucky rout. But no matter if they did the advantage I had would have melted and I would not have had enough points to win the scenario anymore. 

I know we both learned some valuable lessons and I am sure EB will get me next time if we happen to have a rematch. He was very close already and it is often the pattern in our games. When he tries something new he needs 1-2 games to get used to new toys and then ha usually has his revenge!

Epilogue

New, different world - old memories. New, different land - old animosities and the enemies.  And the same mark, mark of the Outcasts. The army looked similar but there were new elements to it. War Chariots and Drakon Riders were not part of the old memories. Yet their armor and heraldry definitely were from the past. So they belonged. 

The new leaders had different names but soldiers, somehow, kept telling the stories of the eccentric Archie the Archmage, the tactician Larry the Loremaster and the stoic Bob the Battle Standard Bearer. 

It was a new time, new world. It needed to be explored to add new chapters to the legacy carried over in a mysterious way from the world that was. The battle against strangely familiar looking Varangur was such a chapter for sure.

 

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