Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Clash of Kings Australia 1 - Game 1 - Varangur - 2017/02/08

Greetings!

Welcome to the very first battle report from the very first Clash of Kings Australia! :) In the round 1 I was about to meet Ken aka Stallandor (for those who frequent wargamerau.com forum) in a grudge game. He has his own blog on the forum:


where you can follow his adventures in the world of Mantica. Ken decided to bring his Varangur army this time. He is a firm believer in Hordes superiority in Kings of War and we had some interesting discussions about different approaches to the game. After a few posts exchanges Ken decided that the best thing to do is to play a game and what better chance to do it than to challenge the opponent for turn 1! 

I gladly accepted because I knew it would be a great game and I was looking forward to learning as much as possible too. After all, it is a great opportunity to do so when you play against a player who is currently ranked 2nd in Australia and who finished as number 2 during Australian Masters in December 2016! 

Here are the details of the army list Ken brought to Clash of Kings tournament:

Varangur - Army List

40 Bloodsworn, Horde, Headstrong, Fury
 - King on Chimera with Ensorcelled Armor

40 Bloodsworn, Horde, Headstrong, Fury
- Sorcerer, Lightning Bolt, Bane Chant, Talisman of Inspiration, Elite
  
6 Fallen, Horde, Brew of Strength
- Mounted Sorcerer, Fireball, Elite
 
10 Mounted Sons, Regiment, Pathfinder, Headstrong, Fury
- 5 Mounted Horsemen, Troop with Bows
- 5 Mounted Horsemen, Troop with Bows
- Mounted Skald with Breath Attacks 


A very tough army with a lot of defense 5+ units. Very good nerve values across the board too. On the other hand, only ten elements total. However, that means that these units are not going to be easy to eliminate at all. They can also easily attempt frontal assaults and kill many of my units on the charge. In addition, the army has good ranged attacks capabilities with Lightnings in particular being of a concern. As usual, let's have a look at each element with more detail:

2 x 40 Bloodsworn - two hordes of tough infantry that can take a lot of damage and keep pressing forward. They may be hitting on 4+ but Crushing Strength (1) and sheer volume of attacks make up for it nicely. In particular against lightly armored Elves. Even outflanked they may fight on and my previous experiences show I needed at least 2 waves to destroy one unit. At a bloody price too. 

They are a bit slower than my own infantry so that it is always a factor to be considered as they may not be able to keep up the pace with faster elements, in particular if there is some difficult terrain on the way.

6 Fallen - This is quite a unique unit. In terms of offensive power, defense and nerve, this is a typical hard hitting unit. Very fast and with built-in Pathfinder rule, it is difficult to stop. But it also has height 1 which can be often overlooked. In addition, they came equipped with Brew of Strength for effective Crushing Strength (2). It means this unit is very dangerous also in counter charges and may use Nimble to attack different enemy that the one that tries to hold them.

Unlike other units in the army, this one does not have Fury and Headstrong so it may be wavered. It is not a huge weakness, as one still needs to focus fire or prepare a multiple charge to stop them but it is definitely an option to use. 

10 Mounted Sons - another hard hitting and fast unit in the army. Harder to stop than Fallen due to Headstrong and Fury. As cavalry they can also see more but without Nimble it may be more difficult to avoid enemies. On the other hand I am not sure they want to avoid anyone :) Pathfinder upgrade is very popular on heavy cavalry and this unit benefits from that a lot too.   

2 x 5 Mounted Horsemen - two very good support units. I really like this type of fast cavalry as it is very flexible. Decent armor, ranged attacks but also good melee skills. I expected them to be a rear guard in our game to prevent outflanking or landing behind the lines and to stay alive in order to claim objectives later in the game. That is why I wanted to use my own fast cavalry to hunt them down. 

King on Chimera - the most powerful model on the battle field, even without Defense 6+ the King is the most dangerous element in Ken's army. With the armor it is extremely difficult to take him down. That's why my main goal was to slow him down by either not giving him the opportunity to charge my units too early or to attack him first and prevent the flying movement.

I expected to lose some units in the process. However, when attacking from the front, even with 10 attacks he may sometimes waste 2 turns to eliminate the unit I send against him and that is what I really need. 

Sorceres and Mounted Skald - they form the main source of ranged attacks. It does not look like much but with Elite they can be expected to do damage in a consistent manner. And the points of damage would add up so that my regiments may be stopped and/or destroyed eventually.   

The Skald adds further ranged attacks as well as the source for inspiring presence. Flexible set of characters that would benefit from the fact that there are other, more intimidating threats to stay alive. I would prefer to take them down early but I was concerned that there would be no good opportunity to do so. 

Regardless of the scenario I expected Ken to play aggressively. I also expected him to have a tight formation with Bloodsworn, Fallen and Knights forming a single battle line. Possibly in a refused flank formation so that it would limit the option for out maneuvering for my more numerous units. 

The goal would be to divide the units and the fact that there is a big contingent of slower infantry could help in it. But at the same time the possible scenario is for three fast and hard hitting elements (The King, Fallen and Knights) to attack turn 2, overwhelm the flank and turn towards the center just in time for the Bloodsworn to arrive.    

Deployment and Scenario


Terrain and placement of objectives for Pillage! scenario.

The  scenarios for each game were predetermined and information on which one is going to be played each round was in the Player's Pack. I tried to come up with the frame for the plan that could take into account objectives placement for my army but also for my opponent. It is quite tricky because you also need to factor the possibility that if you place the objectives markers in one half, for example, then you may not end up on that side of the battle field anyway. You roll for the sides after you place the markers!

With that in mind I considered what would be a good option for my own force first. I came to the conclusion that in general, I would place them as far apart from each other as possible, preferably in the corners and/or behind some terrain pieces too. It is based on the assumption that I may have either the opportunity to stay on that side and keep my fast cavalry in the corners (in the case of 2 tokens) and other shooters near the other markers (in the case if I get to place 3 or 4). That allows me to play to the strength of the army as I can keep my shooters guarding the markers. It forces the enemy to spread the formation if it wants to grab those I placed too.

In the case if the enemy decides to pick "my" side of the table they would need to leave some elements to guard the objectives or leave them to be claimed by my fast units. However, this approach relies on my fast elements to stay alive. Either to be able to jump and contest markers or to claim those that are far away at the beginning.

Next, I had to take into account Ken's army and his playing style. Both suggested he is an aggressive player that looks for the opportunity to win the scenario but at the same time to destroy as many enemies as possible. Basically, Ken was after big wins as this is how you place well at the tournaments. Interestingly, Ken has a very good defensive abilities with his army as he can easily park his two infantry hordes in difficult terrain and let the enemy come at him. With fast elements ready to counter attack, that may be a tough nut to crack too. 

Despite the fact I knew the scenario and the opponent's army I didn't really feel I have an advantage. After all, my army and style is also well documented and experience was definitely on Ken's side. Ideally, I should play some games to practice but managed to organize only one against Eastern Barbarian. Fortunately for me he agreed to use Ken's army as EB is also building his own Varangur army. EB told me Ken's army is not exactly what he would have used but playing against it was still better than nothing!

I decided to test the theory of token placement and in our game, EB decided to switch sides so that I had to move to the opposite corners to claim the objectives while he placed his in the middle of the board. I managed to snatch a victory away from EB in that game but he made one crucial mistake, dice betrayed him and I still had to pay a bloody price to win the scenario. On attrition points we were equal. That told me I need a more solid plan against Ken because I cannot rely on him making mistakes and dice are always fickle. 

In the end I decided to follow the idea with markers placement and deployment at the edge to buy me more time. Now, the next big factor to take into account was the terrain. When I saw our table I immediately considered both forests as a highway for Ken's knights and Fallen. It was also clear to me his King on Chimera will use the flank as cover for super fast approach along the edge. It was simply too good not to use it! The hordes had to follow nearby to form one big steam roller. The relative difference in speed was less of an issue because King, Knights and Fallen would need one turn extra to decimate everything on their path and turn the flank. And that was quite an interesting situation because I really think this set up provided a fantastic opportunity for approach for Ken's army. 

But I had to come up with some plan regardless and decided that I will follow with the similar marker placement. Ken positioned his even more aggressively that proved my prediction was correct and that he intended to move forward, claim objectives and kill my army in the process.

I decided to slightly modify my initial deployment (I won the roll off to pick the sides). 

Varangur ready to roll!

Deployment of the armies

The modification of the deployment was when I shifted SB2 towards the center to be able to shoot at the Horse Riders and to position Drakon Riders and Storm Wind in the center instead on the flank. The reason for that was that I wanted these units to be able to either counter the advance of the Hordes of Bloodsworn and to be able to pick the flanks of the fast units going through the forest.  

My goal for this battle was to stall the advancement as long as possible, try to separate infantry from cavalry and keep some fast units to be able to contest markers in the middle while keeping those in the corner. 

Ken won the roll off again and chose to move first.


Varangur - Turn 1

The speed of Varangur advance made the Elven cameraman very nervous! :)


Varangur army moves forward at a double.

The Varangur moved forward without a second of a hesitation. The units maintained cohesive battle line and only the King moved further ahead to challenge the Elven Lord while landing in tactically advantageous place. The Horsemen tried to engage Silver Breeze cavalry in a ranged duel but failed to do any damage. 

Outcasts - Turn 1

Drakon Lord charges the King!

The rest of the army shifts their positions.

The Elves decided to use the small opening on the West. The drakons landed to attack the flank while Drakon Lord challenged the King to a single combat. Elven Noble knew it is a suicidal mission but it bought some tome for the rest of the army.

In the meantime, the shooters picked both units of Horsemen as targets, did some damage and even wavered one of them!


Varangur - Turn 2

Varangur continues the advance!

First victim is claimed!


Drakon Lord is swiftly punished for his folly and the Kings calls for the aid of the Fallen to do so. At the same time Skald and one of the Sorcerers use evil magic to blast Drakons from the sky. Fortunately, Elven flying cavalry this time is not impressed.

The rest of the army keeps advancing but small gaps start to appear in the formation.

Outcasts - Turn 2

Elves attack on the flank.

Early charges by the Outcasts.

The Elves decided to take the risk and carry the fight to the enemy. Palace Guard and Storm Wind troops both charged in to occupy and distract their more powerful enemies. That was aimed to buy some time for the drakons to deal with the enemy knights. However, they proved to be too tough to rout in a single charge and Elven flying cavalry was in a difficult position now. 

The rest of the army pulled back a little while Silver Breeze cavalry on the right flank managed to get rid of the unit of Horsemen.

Varangur  - Turn 3

Elves are pressed against the edge.

Varangur Knights are stranded in the forest.


The King, surprisingly, could not rout the troop of Palace Guard but nearby Fallen had no problem with destroying Elven cavalry. The fight in the nearby forest, however, resulted in a few surprises. On one hand, Mounted Sons of Korgaan failed to kill damaged unit of Drakon Riders and only wavered them. That had dire consequences as they now exposed their flank to a regiment of Palace Guard. On the other, second unit of Drakon Riders was shot at and blasted from the skies! 

Trusting that their King would control the situation on the flank, Bloodsworn marched towards the Elves at a double and left no space for maneuvering. 

Outcasts - Turn 3

Another set of evasive maneuvers.

Elves hit back!


Palace Guard units on the left flank attack again. The troop once again wound the King and he was slowed down one more time. The regiment destroyed the Knights and reformed to face the center of the line, using nearby Drakons as a cover from the Fallen.

The rest of the units moved back in order to let both Army Standards to attack both enemy infantry hordes in their typical bravado. Would that heroic sacrifice allow the rest of the army to engineer counter charge efficiently?

Varangur - Turn 4


The Fallen charge through the gap in the battle line.
One of the infantry hordes attack Sea Guard too!

Unfortunately for the Elves, they left a single open path and the Fallen immediately jumped into it to attack an exposed flank of the Silver Breeze cavalry. The King also routed his enemies and was ready to fly towards the center.

Both infantry hordes attacked the Army Standards opponents and while one managed to kill foolish Elf and carry on into a fresh fight against Sea Guard, the other failed to rout theirs! 


Outcasts - Turn 4


Elves keep fighting!

Elves counter attack!

The Elves keep fighting back and manage to rout one of the hordes thanks to a well coordinated attack with two Guards regiments. But the frontal charge of the three units against second horde of Bloodsworn does not hit hard enough to destroy them. 

Varangur - Turn 5

Elves are hit very hard.


Elven resistance collapses.


Varangur pressed their advantage and attacked damaged Elven units. The King and the Fallen charged Guards regiments and routed them. The sorcerers focused on Storm Wind and destroyed Elven Knights too. Finally, Bloodsworn Horde decimated Elven Chariots.

The resistance collapsed and Elves lost any chance to prevail in that mortal combat. However, they kept fighting to make their enemy suffer more losses.

Outcasts  - Turn 5

One more act of defiance.

The Bloodsworn Horde holds!

The last remaining Palace Guard charged Bloodsworn but still could not rout them! The dice gods truly abandoned Elven warriors!

Varangur - Turn 6

Bloodsworn claim another unit.

The King was content with the killing done and flew away to secure the objective. The Fallen got rid of the stubborn Army Standard and approached a second marker. Bloodsworn destroyed last Palace Guard.

Outcasts - Turn 6

Bloodsworn are finally destroyed!


The Elves still had some ranged attacks to utilize and Silver Breeze cavalry managed to rout the Bloodsworn at last! And while the battle has been already decided, the fight raged on for a little while.

Turn 7

We got turn 7 to play but it was quite a swift affair. Sorcerers blasted my last unit and my mage got the Skald in revenge. Varangur claimed the victory and destroyed entire Elven army bar the single Mage!

Summary

Turn-by-turn animation summary.


After-battle thoughts

First of all, many thanks to Ken for challenging me and giving me the opportunity to play a fantastic game against great opponent! Congratulations on the well deserved win and for a great overall performance during the entire tournament that gave him 5th place!

The end result of that bloody game was 17:3 in Ken's favor with the attrition points 1880:1095.

It was a challenge indeed and while I lost the game I like to think I learned a valuable lesson. There are several moments I would like to discuss too, as I think they affected the result of the game significantly.

1. Objective markers placement - I keep wondering if placing them in the corners with this particular set up was a good plan. I didn't leave any unit on the left side to at least divert Ken's units. But seeing the terrain and how tempting it was the forests as a venue for advance, maybe I should have placed my markers on the right half instead. This way I could use some units to defend them, the distance would have been longer etc. But then, I don't have that much of a shooting threat that Ken's army would need to be afraid of and he could simply respond by deploying on the right flank. It is still an interesting subject to think about!

2. Deployment - this is always a very important part of any analysis. I am considering the following changes if I were to replay that game. First, I think it would have been better to position Storm Wind and Silver Breeze units on center/the right flank. The knights would have had a better option to charge and do some damage while fast cavalry would have had more space to maneuver around and shoot at the enemy characters. They added important points of damage to my units, either softening them up before the charges or finishing units off. Having fast cavalry behind enemy lines would have allowed me to at least limit the characters movement options.

Infantry and Drakons are generally better at fighting in the terrain because they still have their Crushing Strength bonus. And having Chariots and Sea Guard in the center-left would have be enough shooting to threaten the Horsemen.

I guess I need to be more flexible in my deployment in general. I tend to group units in particular way but the advantage of MSU approach is that I can build these task forces in many different ways, choosing the best option for particular configuration of enemy, terrain and scenario.

Another thing is that I deployed far away from the enemy. It is not a bad thing but I also believe I should have positioned units at the very front of the deployment zone. That allows to threaten enemy earlier and may help to slow it down. Or, if the enemy still approaches aggressively, give the opportunity to land behind the main formation.

3. Drakon Riders/Drakon Lord use - The idea to place one on the flank and the other in the center was not too bad I think. But I could have done a few things better. First, when I landed on the flank and turned to face the center, I left the opening for the King. Ken rolled well for the advance and simply moved away from my unit. I could not attack the King from the flank or even rear together with Palace Guard. It would have been a better option for sure and would have made Ken thinking harder about his next move.

The attack into the woods was probably too optimistic. I was hitting on 4+ so even with Elite and flank attack such charge was risky. Losing Thunderous Charge also meant dealing damage on 4+ and with high nerve and Inspiring Presence, I needed a lot of luck to kill the knights on the charge. That simply looked like a charge that was premature.

Sacrificing Drakon Lord is also a thing I am wondering about. On one hand I slowed down the King and that was very important to do. I could not avoid him but maybe setting the units in a way that would allow others to counter, would have been a better idea? What I mean is that I could have kept Drakons, Lord and Palace Guard as potential targets for the King but not for the Fallen and/or Mounted Sons. Thus the King would have needed to attack alone. That's always risky and potentially could separate a powerful character from the rest of the army.

What I am mainly concerned here with is that I started losing units very early and the ones I needed the most too. I needed better placement of the infantry for support and cooperation here.

4. Turns 2 and 3 - these were, in my opinion, crucial and I made two mistakes that affected the course of battle. First, I should have moved my Army Standards in front of the Bloodsworn turn 2. That would have stopped them from blocking my units against the edge. And in turn would have allowed me to shoot first and then charge, even frontally, with the units I wanted to against a single horde. But it was mainly about keeping that space for maneuver.

And turn 3 opening for the Fallen was absolutely unacceptable. It just made all the things crumble in no time. As a consequence, my battle line folded much faster and the fact I lost 4 units in a single turn at some stage was a consequence of that mistake.

I don't know if that would have been enough to draw or even win the game on scenario but would have resulted in fewer casualties, 1 more turn delay in advance of Ken's army and definitely better options for the second half of the game.

But despite the loss and all the mistakes I made I ended the game with optimism. I think that I had a fighting chance and hopefully with more experience and better plan I will be able to obtain a better score against similar armies and even against top players. This game just shows that it is the general to be blamed for his bad decisions as the army has the tools to put up the fight and win.

I am very curious about your ideas and what could have been done differently and/or better. So please, don't be shy in providing the feedback!

Thanks for reading!

8 comments:

  1. What a fascinating battle. I thought you were going to get smashed, but you killed way more than I thought you would, very effective use of chaff and positioning to get flanks. The King on a Chimera is a very tough nut to crack, and any hard-hitting nimble large infantry hordes are just a nightmare to try and screen. Very entertaining report, well done both players.

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    1. Hi Tas!

      Thanks a lot for your comment! I am very glad to know you found the report entertaining, that is one of the goals I hope to achieve :)

      It was a tough challenge, indeed and I am happy I could do some damage to Ken's army.

      Just one clarification, there is no chaff in my army, only heroic individuals or units that are always prepared to take one for the team :-P

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    2. Yeah I was thinking about your ASBs. I remember how annoying they were when you played me. I wonder if I could use something similar in my Trident Realms army. Individuals with ensnare can be very irritating to finish off. Don't have a cheap mounted option though, which complicates things.

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    3. Hi Tas,

      I am sure there is a way to use individuals in a similar fashion, even if they are not as fast as in other armies. For example, if you have one just behind your Naiads, you can move him forward and pull them back so that they have time to regenerate their damage.

      While it is always good idea to look at other armies and players for inspiration, you should always play to the strengths of your own army, instead of imitating what other forces can do.

      Cheers!

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  2. Hi swordmaster! That was a very entertaining read! I think the reports are even more interesting when the armies are so contrasting in styles. I think both players played great, and I believe you showcased the strengths of the MSU style well.

    I think the deployment was solid but you raised some interesting points about how you could have used the right flank differently. I do wonder if in hindsight, you would have taken the combo charge on the fallen with drakon and cav instead of double drakon charge into the woods. This would have allowed the other drakons to move toward the rear of his army from the right flank to apply more pressure from there. Just another option!

    I'm hoping to get started on KoW soon and plan on an MSU approach with Twilight kin. An MSU related question: do you feel that 4 inspiring sources is the sweet spot or could you get away with less?

    Thanks again for the report!

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    1. Hi Dan!

      Thanks! I hoped that this game will be interesting due to the very fact the armies and the players present completely different styles. I am happy then I could deliver an entertaining battle report. Thanks for the kind words too!

      There were quite a few options to use the drakons early in the game. It would be fantastic to play each option and see how the game would have developed! :)

      I didn't attack the Fallen because I thought I had a chance to get the Knights. I think I was too optimistic about it. With the Fallen I thought my chances were smaller because I would have to rely on Drakons alone to do the damage. And then the sorcerers would simply obliterate my damaged fliers, while the Sons would have had a free path to go forward.

      Another option, suggested by Edzig on Mantic forum, was to attack the heroes with the Drakons. I had a chance to kill the Skald and then advance into a sorcerer. Looking at this situation from the hindsight I believe that would have been better option. And yes, I would have probably had two drakon units behind the enemy lines!

      As you can see there are at least 3 different ways in that single moment! It is, to me, a sign that the game offers a lot of tactical variety and flexibility and I simply need to practice to get better with the army.

      Great to know you plan to start KoW! It is a very good game and I highly recommend trying it.

      To answer your question. I feel better with 4 sources of inspire because I noticed I am more likely to use wider formation. Before I often put my units too close to each other.

      However, the main reason to include both Army Standards was to have fast but cheap elements to block some enemies. I considered an Elven Prince in a similar role and he has the advantage of being able to do some damage too! Very handy when trying to pin down the fliers or disorder the shooters. But 4 sources of Inspire is something I can always apply while Prince may or may not have a good target to charge.

      I hope that helps!

      Thanks!

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  3. Hi Sword Master great to read your battle reports as usual. Your MSU style looks to have translated in a reasonable fashion to KoW. :) Your lists and play style teach me and many others a lot of things. Certainly not how I'd use those ABS, not intentionally anyway. I was surprised at the deployment as you had 4-5 extra deployments one of the armies real strengths IMO. I was surprised you didn't concentrate more of the fast hard hitting units on the right flank. Then scoot past him to offer those hordes a real interesting choice. ie face me or get flank/rear charged. Look forward to the rest of your BR. Sean

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    1. Hi Sean!

      Long time no see! How are you these days?

      Thanks for the kind words, I am glad my adventure into world of Mantica provides some good reads. And looking at this particular game it probably shows a few things which one should avoid in his battles :)

      The reason I deployed in this fashion is that I wanted some fast and harder hitting elements to keep the enemy in check. I would not prevent them from coming after me but if I had only infantry, Ken would race towards them much faster. His first turn move with the Fallen and Mounted Sons showed a bit of restraint, mainly because there were those drakons around.

      However, I do agree I should have deployed better and that I didn't use the right flank space to my advantage. And yes, even a single unit behind the lines would have caused harder choices for Ken.

      I think this game shows very well where I am in general in terms of Kings of War. I reminds me about my very first CanCon when we had a great game too! Back then I was at the start of my MSU journey. It does feel the same this time too. I have had some good games so far, I am happy with the army list and collected very good experience during this event.

      I will do my best to post next reports as soon as possible and I will be very curious about your overall impression on the list and my performance :)

      Cheers!

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