Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Game 151 - Forces of the Abyss - 2020/12/23

Forces of the Abyss

Greetings!

In between the games of Rage of Isolation 2 tournament, I played a game at 2300 points against Jeff. I believe he wanted to test another army list and I had some of the ideas to test as well. I hoped to write a battle report from that game much earlier. I think it is quite a good description of how intense this year was for me when I write a battle report with a few months delay. I am really sorry for this, it has never been a plan to do it this way. However, I hope you will find the game interesting and entertaining. There is always something to learn from Jeff anyway!

This time Jeff brought Forces of the Abyss army with a small contingent of allied Night Stalkers.

Forces of the Abyss - Army List

Molochs Horde (M1), Large Infantry - 225
Molochs Horde (M2), Large Infantry - 225
Molochs Horde (M3), Large Infantry - 225

Abyssal Ghouls Regiment (AG1), Infantry - 90
Abyssal Ghouls Regiment (AG2), Infantry - 90
Flamebearers Regiment (F1), Infantry - 155
Flamebearers Regiment (F2), Infantry - 155

Gargoyles Troop (G1), Heavy Infantry - 85
Gargoyles Troop (G2), Heavy Infantry - 85
Gargoyles Troop (G3), Heavy Infantry - 85

Abyssal Warlock (AW1), Hero (Large Infantry) - 90
Abyssal Warlock (AW2), Hero (Large Infantry) - 90
Abyssal Warlock (AW3), Hero (Large Infantry) - 90
Manifestation of Ba'el (MoB), Hero (Monster) - 265

Nightstalkers Allies

Scarecrows Regiment (S), Infantry - 80
Dread-fiend (DF), Hero (Large Cavalry) - 135

There could be some magic artefacts but I cannot recall at the moment what these were. Very often Jeff does not add many, with Mace of Crushing and Blade of Slashing on some just to round up the points.

This army has 16 elements, all of them scoring with combined unit strength of 28. Although it is not unusual for Jeff to include some shooting with his armies, this force had a significant amount of firebolts that was a danger in its own. Two regiments of Flamebearers, three warlocks and the Manifestation of Ba'el with some Lightning Bolts, had enough firepower to eliminate a unit a turn (if not more!).

The army sported some good regenerative abilities as well and I knew it can be an issue if one does not eliminate the units fast. The challenge, however, was that quite a number of these units have also Fury special rule, which makes them very reliable in melee. I really needed to destroy them fast, as otherwise they would heal and strike back.

Molochs were obviously the hard hitters of the army but I learned that in Jeff's armies every regiment may be a trouble. Warlocks can always sneak around and attack exposed flanks if needed, even more so the Manifestation and allied Dread-Fiend. But Ghouls and Gargoyles, if left unattended, may cause trouble as well. In particular when attacking together with other units.

Gargoyles, the Manifestation and Dread-Fiend were also very good interceptors. Very important elements in the army that is comprised of infantry and large infantry units.

The usual challenge lies in the fact that such an army covers all the width of the battle field with no space for outflanking manoeuvres. While frontal charges may not be good enough to create break throughs. It is because the units would need to attack through terrain or would be exposed to counter attacks. 

I still wanted to use my own shooting to do some damage. Even with regeneration, the focused fire can be efficient enough to give me a chance to break through weakened unit. In general, I would need to be careful when to commit the regiments to a fight so that not only they can deal with the opponent but also be in a good position to continue the attack. Easier said than done, especially against Jeff!

I mentioned I wanted to test some ideas as well and here is the army I fielded in this game:

Outcasts - Army List

Stormwind Regiment (S), Cavalry, Chalice of Wrath - 230
Palace Guard Regiment (PG1), Infantry - 160
Palace Guard Regiment (PG2), Infantry - 160
Tallspears Regiment (T1), Infantry - 140
Tallspears Regiment (T2), Infantry - 140

Drakon Riders Regiment (DR1), Large Cavalry - 165
Drakon Riders Regiment (DR2), Large Cavalry - 165
Forest Shamblers Regiment (F1), Large Infantry - 120
Forest Shamblers Regiment (F2), Large Infantry - 120

Silverbreeze Troop (SB1), Cavalry - 130
Silverbreeze Troop (SB2), Cavalry - 130

Dave the Drakon Lord (DL1), Hero (Large Cavalry) - 170
Paul the King (K2), Hero (Cavalry), Hann's Sanguinary Scripture, Sabre-toothed Hunting Cat - 155
Pawel the King (K1), Hero (Infantry) - 100
Archibald the Archmage (A1), Hero (Infantry), Lighting Bolt (5), Inspiring Talisman - 115
Alexander the Archmage's Apprentice (A2), Hero (Infantry), Lighting Bolt (5) - 95

The new idea I wanted to test is the replacement of Drakon Lord and Army Standard with two Kings. One mounted, with the cat for heroes hunting and Lifeleech (1) and the second on foot with no upgrades. Both were designed by Paul Brown and I really liked how he used them in one of the tournaments. I talked to him on FB about this duo and he was kind enough to allow me to use them as well.

Basically, the mounted King is there to charge relatively early, disrupt the enemies and use his mobility to move around units freely. In this way he can often stop some units from charging and allow other elements, mainly Stormwind cavalry, to get close enough to strike. Heroes hunting is a bonus and lifeleech can be quite useful in keeping him alive a bit longer. The second King acts as a more useful Army Standard with better nerve and armour. If engaging in melee, he usually adds a point of damage or two, quite similar to the effect of Bane Chant.

Other than that my army did not change much. As points allowed it, I added two units of Tallspears as well. Although I did not expect that their Phalanx special rule would mean much this time, I still wanted to use them. The army had 16 elements but only 12 of them were scoring, not my usual ratio. Combined unit strength was 26.

Terrain

Terrain Details

Deployment and Scenario

Elves vs Forces of the Abyss

In this game we played Salt the Earth scenario. I quite like it because of the additional dilemma as to when burn the tokens (if at all!). Very often it is hard to have any reserves left behind to guard such objectives or the units left for that duty are not the toughest in the army anyway. 

Another element that was important for my plan was where and how Jeff is going to deploy his shooters. He decided to keep them on one flank mainly which meant I had to come up with the idea how to limit their efficiency. Otherwise he would have destroyed my units quickly. Of course I was not able to see where all his units would go so I decided to place my shooters on the left anyway. The reason being that I could move infantry in front of them and be able to inflict some damage to help in the melee. Especially with the hill, I could have good shooting position and if possible, could control the objective nearby. 

I also used both, the hill and the forest on the right flank as an initial cover against the shooting if Jeff decided to place Flamebearers on either flank and if I did not get the first turn.

Not sure if I should run Palace Guard and Spears together or not, this time I decided to use them separately. Spears turned out to be on the right flank against Scarecrows and were to wait for the opportunity to outflank the enemy. Hence the support of fliers as well, so that I could either distract some of the enemy units or turn towards the centre if needed. The King on foot would support this group as they needed extra points of damage in the melee more than Palace Guard.

Last but not least, I positioned the Stormwind cavalry in the centre to challenge any unit approaching the objective in the middle. 

Because of the nature of the scenario, I needed to observe the ebb and flow of the battle and adapt quickly, rather than have fixed objectives from the start. For example, if possible, I would try to control the less defended objectives but if Jeff decided to destroy some of them before I got there, I would have to be ready to change the plan immediately.

I won the roll off and decide to take the first turn.

Outcasts - Turn 1

Elves advance in tight formation.

Elves advanced towards their enemies first. The main group was on the centre left and kept the tight formation. The shooters opened fire at the Molochs, the only available target at this stage but did not inflict significant damage.

The smaller part of the army on the centre right also advanced towards their enemies at a similar pace.


Forces of the Abyss - Turn 1

The power of the Firebolts!

The Forces of the Abyss manoeuvred to new positions as well, with majority of the army converging on the centre left. They moved so that the Elven units there faced potential outflanking. Only some of the units were left on the right to keep Elven regiments advancing there in check.

Then the storm of firebolts begun and Elves were badly damaged by the barrage. Only the centuries of training prevented them from panicking and for now, they continued their advance.


Outcasts - Turn 2

Early charges.

Elves decided to charge early on the left flank. This was to stop the devastating shooting or at least, to limit its effect. Drakon Riders engaged the Manifestation of Ba'el, the King charged one of the units of Flamebearers while Elven shooters targeted one of the Warlocks. 

This time, mainly the formation on the right moved towards the enemy, this time pivoting slightly towards the centre.

Forces of the Abyss - Turn 2

The Abyss strikes back.

Despite the attempts of the Elves to stop enemy shooters, the evil army of the Abyss still had enough ranged attacks to rout badly damaged Palace Guard. In addition, units on the left flank counter attacked but surprisingly, the Drakon Riders survived and with quite little damage considering that they were fighting two enemy units at the same time.

The rest of the army started dividing into two groups to face each Elven formation. Dread-fiend spotted convenient opening in the Elven battle line and moved at the double to exploit it.

Outcasts - Turn 3

Surprising result on the left flank.

Elves continued with the attack on the left, trying to capitalize on the unsuccessful counter charge against the Drakon Riders. Surprisingly, this attack went better than expected as not only the Forest Shamblers eliminated Gargoyles but Drakon Riders banished the Manifestation of Ba'el too! Furthermore, Silverbreeze cavalry and Archmages managed to inflict enough damage on the Flamebeaers to rout that unit as well.

This was a significant success and put pressure on that flank of the Forces of the Abyss.

Forces of the Abyss - Turn 3

The attack through the centre.

The Abyssals did not slow down at all and attacked through the centre instead. Dread-fiend charged the exposed flank of the Palace Guard, while Gargoyles intercepted the Drakon Lord. Scarecrows attacked too, if only to slow down the advancing Tallspears.


Outcasts - Turn 4

Elves attack on all fronts

Elven army had to press forward and attacked with another wave, this time across entire battle field. On the left, the Drakons eliminated second unit of Flamebearers and the King singlehandedly defeated one of the Warlocks. The shooters helped by adding more damage on the Molochs and even wavered them in the process!

On the right, the Tallspears finished Scarecrows quickly while Drakon Riders intercepted one of the flocks of Gargoyles, thanks to covering attack by Forest Shamblers. Unfortunately, neither Drakon Lord, nor Palace Guard and Stormwind duo, managed to defeat their enemies. Both fights turned out to be very important.


Forces of the Abyss - Turn 4 

Elves lose quite a number of units too.

Forces of the Abyss were still very dangerous and despite significant losses, fought back as hard. First, Dread-fiend found another Elven unit that exposed its flank and this time the Drakon Riders were not lucky to survive the fight. The Palace Guard had to face Molochs on their own and were not in good shape to hold the ground. But more importantly, the Drakon Lord was defeated by Gargoyles and that was a devastating blow for the Elven army.


Outcasts - Turn 5

The bitter fight continues

There was no turning back and Elves kept fighting. The shooters on the left kept targeting Molochs but this time they were not as lucky with the effect of their shooting. 

Tallspears on the right attacked the Molochs together with the King and did some damage too but not enough to stop the enemy yet. 

And in the centre, the Stormwind and Drakon Riders defeated their opponents. However, the Forces of the Abyss still had plenty of units to counter attack with.


Forces of the Abyss - Turn 5

More losses for the Elves

Unfortunately for the Elves, the Stormwind cavalry was isolated and without support to hold against the attack of Molochs and Abyssal Ghouls. On the other hand, Tallspears somehow managed to hold off an attack of the similar enemy.

However, with the Stormwind gone, Elves were too far to contest the centre, unless ...

Outcasts - Turn 6

Molochs hold the centre.

The chances to defeat the Molochs in the centre were slim but Drakon Riders and the King charged anyway. The damage inflicted, however, was not sufficient to defeat the enemy. 

On the other hand, Tallspears defeated their opponent and started marching towards the centre.


Forces of the Abyss - Turn 6

Situation at the beginning of Abyssals turn 6

Unfortunately, I did not take the screenshot of the last turn and I am not sure if I recall the details correctly. However, I think this is what happened:

Molochs counter-charged Drakons and defeated them. Ghouls charged Tallspears and also routed them (they had 10 points of damage already). This blocked the second unit from attacking Molochs in case there was turn 7.

Abyssal Ghouls most likely charged Silverbreeze together with Warlock but I can't remember if this unit was defeated. And there was also possibility that Dread-fiend would move at a double to secure the second objective.

In the end, Jeff won thanks to the control over the centre alone and there was no turn 7 after all.


Summary

Turn-by-turn animation summary

After-battle

Many thanks to Jeff for a great game and congratulations for a well deserved victory! Despite early game misfortunes, he kept on fighting (as usual!) and proved that he can return to claim the win, no matter what. It is always great to play against Jeff and every battle is a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best.

I must admit that the initial luck gave me more hope for victory than expected but I still needed to play flawless game to have a real shot at it. It is easy to say I was unlucky in return when I did not rout Molochs in the centre in turn 4 or when I lost my Drakon Lord in the fight against Gargoyles. In the same way Jeff was unlucky not to get rid of the Drakon Riders and to lose his flying monstrous hero so early.

I'd rather look at the things I could have done better, especially those that would help me regardless of the luck in dice. 

First, I wonder if it was not a mistake to position Tallspears on the right flank. Perhaps I should have swapped them with Forest Shamblers. In this way, Shambles could still go forward to fight the Scarecrows. But Tallspears would have been closer to the centre.

Second, even in the position they started with, I did not need to attack Scarecrows with all of the units at the same time. Another option was to leave one unit of Tallspears to continue the fight and move second regiment with the King to get closer to the action. Especially that other enemy units were engaged there.

More importantly, I left enough room for Gargoyles to attack the Drakon Lord which turned out to be a disaster. I really needed him in the centre, either helping in the attack against Molochs or at least being there as a threat and additional scoring unit. Instead, I had to use Drakon Riders to get rid of the Gargoyles and as a result, was too late to the fight in the middle. 

I am not sure if that would have been sufficient but these are the things I noticed and that I think I should have done better.

As always, I am always interested in your comments on any aspect of the game, be it armies involved, their deployment or any particular moment in during the battle.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I used to name the heroes and I forgot we had a discussion with Paul about it some time ago. I have just amended the army list to include the appropriate names :)



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