Thursday, 23 October 2014

Game 50 - Dark Elves - 2013/01/22


The practice for CanCon continues. I tried to get as many games as possible, given shorter time to do so. Fortunately for me I had a lot of friends around who were kind enough to offer me a game and this time I had a fantastic opportunity to play against Adam and his evil (but beautifully painted) Dark Elves. What is more we played that game on Adam's fantastic table! Real game with real miniatures on great table!   :D I must apologize, however, as not all the pictures I took were good enough to show, so not every turn is spiced up by the photo. I hope though that these I have are be good enough!

I met Adam at Hammer of Dave tournament but we didn't have a chance to play back then. Adam was playing Vampires and he also has Warriors of Chaos and Wood Elves but for out battle he chose Dark Elves. He designed his list with CanCon in mind to built a hard but fair army, which might not earn the highest comp but would not be asked for resubmission either.

We also wanted to play a scenario and since I haven't played Blood and Glory yet we picked up this one. At CanCon this scenario is going to be played with a modification. If the army is broken the game does not stop but the opponent earns extra 300 VP. I think it is an interesting twist as it adds a little extra to usual battle line (deployment wise too) but is not all-or-nothing scenario.

Army List and pre-battle considerations

As I have mentioned Adam wanted to give me a tough challenge and for that purpose he chose a magic heavy army. He also added some banners here and there to get more Fortitude points for that particular scenario.

Dark Elves - Army List

Supreme Sorceress, General, level 4, Pendant of Khaeleth, Darkstar Cloak, Lifetaker - Lore of Shadow
Supreme Sorceress, level 3, Dispel Scroll - Dark Magic
BSB with Cauldron of Blood
Master, Dark Pegasus, Shield, Lance, Cloak of Hag Graef, Dawnstone

35 Spearmen, Full Command, Banner of Eternal Flame
30+ Corsairs, Full Command, Sea Serpent Standard
12 Crossbowmen, Shields, Standard

12 Witch Elves
5 Harpies
5 Harpies
5 Shades
5 Shades

2 x Reaper Bolt Thrower

I have never had a chance to play against 2 lord level wizards before so that alone was enough for me to be very careful. Dark Elves can generate power dice like no other and combination of Dark and Shadow spells can be devastating. Think about Miasma and Pit of Shades. Or Withering and Black Horror. Two Power of Drakness spells also was something to be worried about as even mediocre roll for winds of magic can easily be turned into something way stronger. Actually, it might be even better for DE player as his opponent is not going to have many dispel dice to start with.

Two big units were also a challenge simply because both could produce a significant amount of attacks  and with eternal hatred every combat would be very bloody. On the other hand other regiments were very small and expendable if not that easy to hunt down. Shades in particular are always torn in the side with their awesome ballistic skill and DE crossbows with AP. Even heavy cavalry is not safe from them. Add to that 2 repeaters and some more regular crossbows and it looks like a considerable shooting power as well.

Witch Elves were an interesting addition but one I could not underestimate. In combats one-on-one not all my regiments could successfully stand up to the high requirements set by these crazy ladies. Dragon Princes could do it, Swordmasters too, maybe Sea Guard. But in the case of any lightly armored regiment even a few witches left can deal a lot of damage thanks to the nice combination of Frenzy, Poison and Eternal Hatred.

Last but not least, Master on Dark Pegasus is always a threat to deal with as soon as possible. Unfortunately his good armor save combined with Cloak that halves the strength of the missiles shot at him meant it would not be easy to get him either.

I must admit I didn't have a good plan to counter this army. I wanted to target his crossbows with my own shooters as I believe I could harm them quicker than they could do damage to my units. If the opportunity presents itself I also wanted to shot down Shades. If not (and after crossbows are eliminated) I wanted to focus on one of the big units or Witch Elves but I had a feeling Adam would not let me harm them so easily. :)

Frenzied troops can be lured out sometimes and I wanted to try to do so but then with Ld9 and BSB nearby it might be difficult. Unless the bait is tempting enough.


Deployment after vanguard and scouts placing

As expected Adam won the roll off and his was the first turn. The wizards had following spells:

Shadow Sorceress - Power of Darkness, Miasma, Enfeebling, Withering, Mindrazor
Dark Sorceress - Power of Darkness, Chillwind, Bladewind, Black Horror

Archmage - Drain Magic, Shield of Saphery, Courage of Aenarion, Fury of Khaine, Flames of the Phoenix

Dark Elves - Turn 1
Dark Elves advance slowly
Dark Elf army, confident in their shooting and even more in their magical superiority, advanced at slow pace only to get into range of spells and bolts. Anticipating the return fire might target crossbowmen in that shooting duel which was about to commence, general-sorceress ordered the hag to grant the blessing to that regiment.

Then she unleashed her powers ... Unfortunately she drunk too deeply into the magic energies and could not contain the power of darkness well enough. She was really surprised, that is the most fundamental spell and no self respecting sorceress makes mistake here. Those who did were already dead. She was very suspicious and her magical skills let her see a little interference pattern in the weaves. Now it was clear. Her "ally" but more like a rival for power tried to sabotage her spell casting attempts to harm and weaken her opponent. With an evil smile the sorceress deflected the upcoming feedback of magical energies at her "friend". Let's see how she deals with that ...

Two regiments in the High Elf army were the targets for the shooters. On the Eastern flank sea guard suffered considerable casualties but refused to give up their ground. In the center of formation, one of the legendary Swordmasters fell victims to barbed bolts. It was clear even arrogant Druchii preferred to fight these warriors at a distance.

Outcasts - Turn 1
High Elves shoot back!

High Elves moved a little faster and replied in kind to their dark brethren. All the shooters aimed at Crossbowmen but thanks to the Kkain's blessing many arrows were deflected and two dark elves survived the storm of arrows.

Dark Elves - Turn 2
Dark Elves form solid center ...
... and keep punishing High Elves from afar.

Main regiments formed the strong center facing outwards to prevent outflanking. Shades were guarding them anyway. Harpies were unleashed to harass the enemy too.

This time both sorceresses did work together, putting aside any power struggles for later. Shooters continued their job and more Swordmasters and High Elf marines lost their lives.

Outcasts - Turn 2
High Elves maneuver for better positions

And unleash their magic too!

On the West Dragon Princes recklessly turned to face Master on Pegasus ignoring the deadly danger of the Dark Elven reaper on the hill. Lions with surviving Swordmasters moved to set a trap on Corsairs but they had not much hope such obvious one will work on their dark cousins.

On the East heavy cavalry attempted to charge Shades but well placed bolts killed two knights and sufficiently slowed down their momentum so that they didn't reach their enemy. Reavers made a short work of harpies and one leathery beast that survived fled the battle.

White arrows reached fleeing crossbowmen who didn't manage to find the cover quickly enough. Then the Flames of the Phoenix erupted around spearmen and again Khain's blessing saved many of them.

Dark Elves - Turn 3
Dark Elves slow down their advance

But Witch Elves have other plan

Content with fighting their hated brethren from afar, Dark Elf army slows down. Only Witch Elves in their frenzy ignore their orders and attempt to attack White Lions but fail to reach them.

The shooters aim at different targets now, destroying Dragon Princes on the West and one of the Eagles on the East as well as claiming more Swordmasters and some Reavers.

Outcasts - Turn 3
High Elves abandon the Western flank ...

... and Reavers spearhead the counter attack on the East enacting vengeance upon cowardly Shades!
High Elves maneuver to reinforce Eastern front

Seeing that Western flank is dominated by the enemy, High Elves reform their battle line and move to the East. Cavalry counter attacks and while Dragon Princes fail to reach their enemy again, Reavers force Shades to abandon their positions and are fast enough to catch them in pursuit!

Archers and BSB get rid of the harpies while the Archmage once again unleashes the power of the Phoenix and more dark spearelves die despite protection of the god of murder.

Dark Elves - Turn 4
Dark Elf spearmen pull back
Dark Elves keep doing target practice

Spearmen, a little concerned by the heavy casualties they suffered, pull back, guarding wounded sorceress. Corsairs reform to move towards the center while Shades get rod of the annoying eagle. Witch elves approach the lions to keep them in check.

On the East brave Reavers are mercilessly killed by reapers.

Outcasts - Turn 4
High Elves press their attack on the East

Dragon Princes decide on a gamble and charge spearmen block to get to the wounded sorceress. However, spearmen decide to flee as the safety of the witch is more important. Seeing this Swordmasters attack as well but cannot reach the enemy and dark elves escape.

Other regiments keep going to the East while magic and shooting destroys one of the reapers and kills 3 shades.

Dark Elves - Turn 5
Master on Dark Pegasus finally attacks

Spearmen rally knowing they are safe. Master on Pegasus swoops down on the Swordmasters and their champion challenges Dark Elf but dies in that combat. His two companions refuse to flee though.

With considerably reduced shooting abilities Dark Elves cannot harm their enemy that badly as they could not so long time ago.

Outcasts - Turn 5
High Elves try to catch the spearmen

White Lions and Dragon princes try to get to the spearmen for one last charge. Master finishes two remaining Swordmasters.

Archers and BSB try to get last Shades lurking in the forest but their arrows hit only one of them. Smaller archer regiment moves forward to bait corsairs into reckless charge.

Dark Elves - Turn 6
Last attacks of Dark Elves

Master, confident in his abilities to punish weakened foes, charges exposed flank of the Archer unit but despite casualties Archers hold.

Witch elves attempt to charge another unit of High Elf shooters but they fail and single Shade is ordered to delay White Lions so they cannot use the opportunity to attack brides of Khaine.

In their last volley, the crew of the reaper aims at two High Elven knights and kill both of them.

Finally Dark Elf Sorceress weakens mighty Chracians if they attempt to attack the spearmen while the other Sorceress moves out from the unit to the safety of the nearby ruins.

Outcasts - Turn 6
Archers and BSB pursue fleeing Master

With no good opportunities for charging their enemy High Elves disengage and withdraw in good order

White Lions hunt down the last of Shades. Their companions are ordered to withdrew as the odds are not good for the combat against spearmen block.

BSB challenges the Master to a single combat but no one is able to hurt his enemy. However, the swirling and vicious exchange of blows unnerves the pegasus and Dark Elf Master has to flee to regain control over his mount. Much to the disappointment of the Archers they cannot catch fleeing enemy.

Another unit of Archers spies the fragile shadowy form of the Sorceress but the vision is obscured by the marching Corsairs and they are not successful in dealing the last wound to the enemy wizard.

With that attempt High Elves decide to disengage, as they are bloodied but yet unbroken.

After-battle thoughts

When we calculated the points it turned out that Adam collected a little more than 300 points that gave him 12-8 win.

It was a very interesting and challenging battle for me. Despite the fact it was not as bloody as usually civil wars are we both had a lot of moments were crucial decisions had to be made. Adam played cautiously but it well suited his army and there was no need for reckless charges. He controlled his frenzied troops very well and picked up the most threatening units with his shooting and magic. Even with low rolls for winds of magic two power of darkness spells made huge difference and I am sure I might suffer more from that if only Adam managed to roll better for the number of extra dice. The miscast in the first turn also helped me to suffer less.

On the other hand Adam's shooting was the main weapon against my army and I made a few mistakes that helped to make shooting phase even more efficient. First, I deployed Swordmasters too close so that Shades could shoot at them first turn. Second, I simply gave away Dragon Princes for free exposing their flank to the single shot from bolt thrower. And I didn't protect Swordmasters from the shooting later on. But that is due to my poor deployment.

Blood and Glory has narrower but deployment zone than usual. It is not as bad as in the battle for the pass but it still posed some problems. I wanted to position some regiments facing the sides of the board so I could turn them in my turn and march forward but at the same time I could not do it for the fear of being shot by reapers.

The initial idea of engaging enemy shooters with my own worked. I knew I would suffer casualties but I managed to eliminate crossbows and reaper (although with magic help). But the rest of the deployment was bad. I should have deployed Lions in the center and Swordmasters behind them to get that protection from shooting. I also should have started with them almost at the edge of the table, to make it more difficult to shoot at anything for Adam. He had considerable amount of shooting but it was 24" in range so I might as well let him come to me a little.

Dragon Princes should have been deployed as last and both on the Eastern flank. Or center and flank. Then I could close with Spearmen and since they had Flaming Attacks I had a chance to hold there for a while, maybe even grinding them down slowly.

I also could move aggressively there so that considerable amount of shooting Adam had would not be that efficient and I might had a chance to kill his shooters faster.

As always there were a few moments when a little luck would have helped to get some more points. Dragon Princes failed their 3 charges with 2 of them on a good distance. Reavers did great (I had to roll 11+ to catch shades). But unfortunately Swordmastes could not repeat the fit (I needed 9+ to catch the spearmen with sorceress). I also could not wound the sorceress enough to claim her life with many Flames of the Phoenix spells. And the only time she was wounded blessing from cauldron saved her life. Last turn chance, when 6 archers were hitting her at 5+ due to hard cover from intervening corsair unit also failed (I think I failed to wound). A few shots at the Shades could have been better too. Especially annoying were 1's to wound with Reaver Bow :)

On the other hand I was happy Archers held against Master (although with BSB there and steadfast the odds were good for that). Then it was a little unlucky for Adam not to wound at all with his S4 attacks and I was risking a lot to go to the challenge but had to do that when my Archmage rolled double 1 for the Fury of Khaine before he cast Courage of Aenarion.

But that is also the beauty of the game :)

I think we both were too careful and not sure what our respective armies can do to each other hence the fewer casualties than expected. I am sure we are going to have some rematch. In fact we are already planning a second game, this time at 3000 so watch this space for it!

I would like to thank Adam for the invitation and an opportunity to play the game on a great table against beautifully painted army! It was a privilege! :)

Thanks for reading! :)



  1. Hey, thanks for posting this blog, I love the approach to MSU and how you describe the battles. I had a question. I understand the goal of MSU, however at an extreme it seems sort of counter productive to High Elf strengths, namely Martial Prowess. Have you ever considered slightly larger units? Twenty for spear, fifteen for melee, and nine for cavalry to gain the advantage of every single model in the unit attacking while maintaining as small a front as possible? Just curious, and keep the BR's coming they are an enjoyable read.

    1. Hi Rick,

      Thanks a lot for your comment. I am very glad you enjoy the reports!

      MSU may indeed be less likely to use Martial Prowess but it is still there to apply. Please, bear in mind that the games I post in my blog are still from the time before the new army book.

      In order to try and use new tools I sometimes do the following:

      1. Form Lions 3 wide - Lion Cubs have smaller frontage, hit with 9 attacks and since they are stubborn it makes less difference if they have ranks or not. It also allows to fit them into smaller gaps so that they are more mobile.

      2. Sisters 2-3 wide - even small units can benefit from that as they don't have musicians. However, smaller frontage allows for more efficient wheels and that can help to acquire new targets.

      3. Cavalry 2 wide - I haven't used 5-6 models in cavalry darts myself but I have seen it done by others and that is definitely the option.

      I have also considered bigger units to overcome the loss of re-rolls for Swordmasters and White Lions in particular but that may mean I am losing number of units in the process and my army stops being MSU. One bigger regiment may still find the place in the army. In fact, I plan to test 8 Silver Helms at some stage and with mounted BSB they might use their "lance" formation!

      Thanks again for your comments!