Sunday 24 January 2016

KoW Game 12 - Abyssal Dwarfs - 2016/01/22


I had quite a break in gaming or general hobby so I am very happy to announce a new report, the very first in 2016! This game was long overdue and only thanks to an infinite patience of my opponent, Dustin, it actually happened in the end. Thanks so much for not giving up on me, Dustin! And sincere apologies for the fact I had to postpone our game for so long.

The good thing was that in the meantime Dustin tested a few versions of his list and settled on a very intriguing formation he called "The Brick"! 

Abyssal Dwarfs - Army List

40 Decimators, Horde, Heart-Seeking Chant (+1 Piercing) - 285
- Dragon-Fire Team, War Machine - 50
- Overmaster on Great Abyssal Dragon, Hero, Ensorcelled Armor (+1 Def) - 315
- 10 Gargoyles, Troop - 80
- 10 Gargoyles, Troop - 80
- 10 Gargoyles, Troop - 80
- 10 Gargoyles, Troop - 80

6 Lesser Obsidian Golems, Horde, Diadem of Dragon-Kind (Breath Weapon 10) - 240
- Dragon-Fire Team, War Machine - 50
- Abyssal Half-Breed Champion, Hero, Wings of Honeymaze (Flight and Spd 10) - 200

3 Lesser Obsidian Golems, Regiment - 135
- Iron-caster, Fireball (6), Heal (3), Surge (8), Inspiring Talisman - 140

3 Lesser Obsidian Golems, Regiment - 135
- Iron-caster, Fireball (6), Heal (3), Surge (8), Myrddin's Amulet of the Fireheart (Cast twice 1/game) - 130

Dustin was very kind to provide a detailed description of his own army and the way he envisioned how to use it as well as what are the roles of each element.

The core of the army is a horde of 40 dwarves with armor-piecing shotguns that just wreck whatever gets too close. Part of their power comes from the rules for Breath Weapons, which the shotguns are modeled as--no Cover penalty, no Move-and-fire penalty. So if a flying lands behind my lines the dwarves just turn around and shoot the shit out of it. The list is built around them because I thought this is a very cool unit.

The dwarves tend to march behind two regiments of 3 obsidian golems that form a wall. The obsidian golems are slow but hit really hard, and more importantly can walk to a flank of an enemy and be "Surged" in for a flank attack. Because of the Move-Shoot-Combat resolution in the game, this is a very powerful effect--if something breaks against my front, the golems walk around them, I shoot them, and then they also get charged (often in the flanks) by the golems.

The third golem unit, a horde of 6, always anchors one of my flanks. Often I deploy to a board edge or to ride a piece of terrain, so the big golem unit covers the open side giving no avenue to engage the dwarves. This unit usually survives the game since it is hard to kill in one round and I am able to heal any of the golem units. It also has the Diadem of Dragonkind, giving it a breath weapon, which again synergizes really well with Surge (though it isn't armor piercing) I can also do weird stuff where I stretch the threat of the Golems with a surge to "reach out and touch" an almost dead unit with their breath weapon, finishing them off.

The most important heroes to this formation are a pair of Iron-Casters who hide behind the golems. They can surge or heal the golems, the latter of which helps a ton against shooting. They can also shoot fireballs which is an excellent option when I need to kill a lot of weak units. One has the Inspiring Talisman, as I often move my Inspiring heroes (the overmaster and the halfbreed champion) out of the brick to do other jobs, and Inspiring is a really important durability buff in this game. The other has an item that lets him cast two spells in one turn once per game. I usually use it an the first opportunity to add a heal on top of a fireball or surge, but occasionally when in full-murder mode it's a fireball + surge.

The most recent additions to the brick are the Dragon-Fire teams. Before I had two rocket launchers and before that two mortars which were meant to put ranged pressure on the enemy. The artillery is great when it works but super unreliable. The Dragon-Fire teams are Individuals and can move and shoot, so what they provide is just two more breath weapons to reinforce the kill zone and help support the Decimators should something land in my back ranks.

The overmaster on abyssal dragon is a hard-to-kill hero that just murders things. He can hang back with the brick to offer inspiration and close support or go Witch King on the enemy and fly ahead to disrupt, often flitting from cover to cover until there is a juicy target. He can use his speed to fly behind shooters as the brick continues forward and forces cavalry to make tough choices. He is dangerous and fast and presents a contrast to the rest of the group. Also, if the opponent is limited on things which can kill heavily armored targets, they have to split their attention between him and the obsidian golems.

The abyssal halfbreed champion with wings primarily hunts warmachines and disrupts shooters. He hits really hard, but due to being an individual does not get bonuses for flanking enemy units. Thus, he either goes off by himself to hunt warmachines or tagteams with the overmaster to murder hard targets, adding a few wounds on top of whatever the overmaster can cause. He's not nearly as tanky as the overmaster but he regenerates, so he requires actual attention to kill at range (melee will usually kill him handily).

The glue binding all this together is the gargoyles. There used to be three units, and when I switched from rockets to dragonfire I added a fourth. They do everything needed to keep the rest of the army functioning. They fill holes in the brick to prevent fliers from landing. They provide cover to the halfbreed. As the lines meet they move out in front of the brick to each the alpha so my golems and guns can counter. They can hang back all game and just go on objective runs at the end. They can charge and disrupt shooters. Gargoyles are extremely squishy and usually die to whatever attention comes their way, but when they don't, they have extreme regeneration and it is as though I have a new gargoyle unit. I'm not sold on four, but I originally had two and three was a lot better than two. I imagine four will work just fine, as two can hang out with the brick while the others do mobile missions, though of course with their speed plans can easily change.

So the structure of the army is a brick of annihilation comprised of golems and breath weapons, which trundles up the board until my opponent has to address it, rounded out by gargoyle chaff who keep the opponent honest and a pair of flying combat heroes who run murder missions against things the brick is likely never to get to.

Now let me provide a typical description of the Abyssal Dwarfs army from the point of view of my own force:

40 Decimators - These guys form the core of the army, as Dustin said. They can be expected to be in the very center of the formation as it gives them the versatility of picking the target. Their shooting is very dangerous because they don't care about cover with breath attacks and with the Artefact they have Piercing (2) which is huge even against my heavy cavalry! The good thing is their range is relatively short but on the other hand, unlike Archers for example, you have to worry about the radius rather than typical arc of sight. And majority of the entire area they can affect is also of 16" range as they can still pivot and move 4" to shoot without penalties.

The fact I have smaller units and no hordes might be an advantage here too because all this massive firepower from a horde might look as being wasted on almost any element I have in my army. However, I simply have to assume that whatever gets in range will be destroyed in a single round of shooting. 

Typical shooting horde treatment works here so I will be looking for opportunities for a Drakon Lord in particular to charge in and disrupt the Decimators. They are also more vulnerable than tough Golems so they can go down to a dedicated multiple charge.

Dragon Fire-Teams - Very useful shooting support. I noticed these small breath attack units, be it special teams like this or some heroes, are very handy. They can hide well but are very flexible and can pivot without penalty to shoot at whatever may come in range. With 10 Attacks each they can either spread the effort (might be a good idea against my army with more numerous but smaller units) or focus on a single target with Decimators. 

They might be hard to eliminate at a distance (Individual provides -1 to hit penalty) as they can hide well but are very vulnerable to melee as their enemies will triple their attacks as against any other war machine so that would be the way I would look for in order to kill them.

Overmaster on Great Abyssal Dragon - a great center piece of any army from the modelling perspective and a huge asset for the army. It is very tough (especially with the armor and effective Def6), very versatile with ability to fly but also with Breath Weapon on board as well as nice amount of attacks on its own with CS3! I must say I was concerned with how to deal with such a monster as I have never played against one in KoW before. The combination of Def6, good nerve and sheer speed makes it very hard to counter. 

However, what I have learned in the meantime about hard targets like this one is that it pays off to take a few wounds from it once in a while and try to discourage it from landing anywhere near to harder hitting units of my own. At the same time I wanted to position my units in the way that would threaten the dragon but once it flies away there would be another target for them. That forces the opponent to make decisions if he wants to safe the dragon but open the path for another attack or if he prefers to confront the threat directly. Easier said than done and not always a perfect option but I intended to try out what I can do and see if that works.

Gargoyles - Being a great fan of fast support units I was on one hand very happy to see four units of these but on the other I knew they would cause trouble. It is claimed KoW is all about movement and I admit this is where I want to win my games in too. Hence, very often the priority is to eliminate these small, often vulnerable and not that expensive elements, so that I have more freedom in my own movement phase. 

The challenge would lie in the fact that I already could expect them to stay out of harms way, especially at the beginning. If I wanted to get in range I would need to put the shooters closer to other, more dangerous units of my enemy, and even then some penalties for cover would apply.

But again I think the fact I have a few more units on my would help here. At some stage Gargoyles would need to make a move. I could use my shooters then to eliminate some of them and attack in melee the others and still keep my main hard hitters not engaged. At least that was the plan :)

Lesser Obsidian Golems - The brick part in the brick wall :) What not to like about them. Def6 for starters. They cannot be wavered and nerve 14/17 for regiment/horde large infantry type is not too bad at all! CS2 and 9/18 Attacks is a very good offensive option as well. Height 3 means a lot can hide behind them. The good thing for me as an opponent is that Golems are slow, Sp5 and Surge means they will not get to my lines super fast. On the other hand, Surge adds to the ability of the army to counter fast units getting behind them. 

That creates a very interesting situation where the army actually can march forward, slowly but purposefully and do not be too worried about outflanking forces. Simply because they could always turn and shoot/surge units into melee.

Sending units with CS and Piercing shooting seems to be a must to combat the Golems. I expected to shoot at them because there might be a situation that there would be no other targets available. Exactly as planned by Dustin I am sure! However, it actually may work towards my advantage as any damage done helps to destroy these tough units and may force my opponent to heal them instead of surging them. 

Abysal Half-breed Champion - I have seen such flying individuals in other armies and they are definitely a great addition to any force. While the army has a potent shooting capabilities these are also short ranged and the Champion, obviously, is there to threaten the enemy units that can out range the Dwarfs. Very useful, very dangerous too and can sneak under the radar simply because of bigger and meaner threat :)

Iron-Casters - last but not least a pair of Wizards. Very important role to play as it is up to them to keep the Brick as healthy as possible and to Surge them when needed. On top of that they can add a few Fireballs to already significant amount of fire power. Fragile but as all individuals can easily hide so I needed to assume they will add their spells to the game on regular basis. 

So how to deal with the Brick? Well, I decided that since the army works in an unique way in comparison to what I have faced so far I need different approach. I cannot rely on outflanking or landing with the fliers behind enemy lines as that would play to the hands of my opponent. 

However, the comparison to a brick wall actually gave me an idea on how to break it! First, I need to get rid of the mortar, i.e. Gargoyles. That should help to divide the bricks and it is always easier to defeat the enemy piecemeal. Second, even the hardest rock can eventually crack if attacked repeatedly in the same place. That means that as soon as I start attacking any of the Golem units I will keep doing so until it is destroyed. I assumed I will need to keep the distance first to do so and only later attack close and personally.

On top of that I wanted to use the advantage of having more units. Since my opponent would deploy in two lines I need to attack in two or more waves too. So if I manage to get rid of Gargoyles to prevent them from interfering with my movement phase, and dent the Golems with shooting, I should be able to attack them with the first wave, either crack them further or even make the breach, force Decimators to shoot at the first wave and then follow with the second, stronger attack to break through and get to the softer belly. 

I used my usual list:

Outcasts - Army List

10 Stormwind, Regiment, 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, Dwarven Ale - 185
- 5 Stormwind, Troops - 140
- Bolt Thrower, War Machine - 90

20 Palace Guard, Regiment - 150
- 10 Archers - 115

- 10 Palace Guard, Troop - 105
- Bolt Thrower, War Machine - 90

20 Spearelves, Regiment - 140
- Elven Mage, Inspiring Talisman, Bane Chant - 110

20 Spearelves, Regiment - 140
- Battle Standard Bearer, Hero - 50 


Terrain Details


Deployment Order

Dustin won the roll off for sides and picked North. We also rolled Dominate scenario that suits Abyssal Dwarfs very well since they prefer defensive combat where the enemy has to attack their well fortified positions. 

Deployment Order:

1. Gargoyles (G1) - Archers
2. Obsidian Golems (OG2) - Silverbreeze (SB1)
3. Obsidian Golems (OG3) - Silverbreeze (SB2)
4. Decimators - Spearelves (S1)
5. Overmaster Spearelves (S1)
6. Obsidian Golems (OG1) - Palace Guard (PG1)
7. Gargoyles (G2)  - Bolt Thrower (BT1)
8. Dragon Fire-Team - Bolt Thrower (BT2)
9. Gargoyles (G3) - Mage
10. Dragon Fire-Team - Battle Standard Bearer
11. Iron-caster - Stormwind (SW2)
12. Gargoyles (G4) - Stormwind (SW1) 
13. Half-breed Champion - G1) Palace Guard (PG2)
14. Iron-caster - Rest of the Army 

Final Deployment
Despite the scenario conditions that were favorable to Abyssal Dwarfs I decided it does not change much in the general approach. It would force me to take more risks though because I really need to start eliminating enemy units fast. As always, my army cannot move towards the center and fortify there but need to kill more than enemy destroys in order to prevail.

Dominate seems to be a scenario that suggest the player that has second turn has the advantage. However, when I won the roll off I elected to go first anyway. My reasoning was that I had mobile shooters and wanted to start hunting down Gargoyles before they could fly to the safety of some terrain. 

Outcasts - Turn 1

Shy advance by the Outcasts

Elves moved slightly, adjusting positions to get into shooting range but avoid being charged by enemy fliers. Initial shooting did some damage but it was not yet enough to rout any enemies.

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 1

The Brick Rolls forward.

Abyssal Dwarfs rolled forward slowly, keeping their tight formation. Golems were healed by the Ironcasters and their obsidian bodies looked like newly forged again. Gargoyles could not regenerate their wounds though and flew to the safety of the nearby forest. 

Outcasts - Turn 2

Elven shooters improve their efficiency!

Elves decided to pull back on the flanks. On the right in order to prevent Half-breed champion to land behind their lines and on the left to avoid possible "surprise" moves of Golems that might magically move further than expected. 

Then the shooting started and this time Elven marksmanship proved why it is so feared across among the armies of Mantica. One unit of Silverbreeze cavalry finished off wounded Gargoyles beyond the forest. Combined efforts of second unit of fast cavalry and Archers routed another flock of flying beasts while Bolt Throwers hurt Golems again, badly!

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 2

Dwarfs consolidate their positions in the center.

If Dwarfs were impressed by Elven shooting they didn't let it show. They continued their slow march towards the center of the battle field as if nothing happened. Only Half-breed Champion flew fast forward as Elves left the opening for him and he could land behind them safely.

On the left Golems moved a bit more forward to be able to return the favor and dealt some damage to the Elven fast cavalry but it was not enough yet to rout them. Flock of Gargoyles were ordered by their masters to provide living shield cover for the big brutes behind them. 

Outcasts - Turn 3

Step back and shoot! But is it only for that purpose?

It seemed that Elves continued moving back and relied on keeping the distance to the enemy as well as peppering it with deadly accurate arrows. This part alone worked very well as another flock of Gargoyles perished while Golems were closer and closer to the point where they could finally crack. 

However, on the right flank Elven fliers moved to counter charge Halbreed Champion if he decided to attack any of the softer units. Or so they wanted the enemy to think!

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 3

Abyssal Dwarfs fortify their formation.

After a demise of almost all Gargoyles, the army of Abyssal Dwarfs remained in their formation and tightened the ranks. Now it was time for Elves to come to them if they wished.

Only Overmaster moved a bit to the flank to incinerate a few Elves for sport and Halfbreed Champions destroyed one of  these pesky Bolt Throwers. 

Outcasts - Turn 4

First wave of the attack

Always ready to take advantage of any opportunities, Elves charged in with the first wave. It surprised Abyssal Dwarfes as they didn't expect the attack coming from the right flank at all. Fortunately for Elves, the distances and arcs of sight were correct, barely but correct!

Brave Spearelves led the attack and smashed into wounded Golems and destroyed them on the charge! Drakon Riders nearby hit second unit hard but since this regiment was not attacked before, they held. Finally, Palace Guard surprised the Overmaster with a flank attack through the forest and despite the impact being hindered due to charging through difficult terrain, enemy general was seriously wounded. 

The shooters all aimed at the Halfbreed Champion but it was much harder to hit such a fast moving target. Last but not least, the units on the left flank moved forward to get into range for their turn to charge or at least to close to the enemy.  

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 4

Was it shooting or just fireworks?

Abyssal Dwarfs champions flew against Stormwind and squadron of Elven heavy cavalry ceased to exist. But the main action was happening in the center of the battle field.

The Elves who formed the first wave of attack knew very well they might not survive it and were bracing for impact. Decimators were waiting for such an opportunity and didn't waste time. However, after smoke cleared, the Drakon Riders were still there! Then Dragon Fire-Team opened fire, then Ironcaster added some fireballs followed by more fiery attacks from the horde of Golems but Drakon Riders seemed to be totally fire proof! Finally, regiment of Golems was magically pushed to the combat with Drakon Riders but even they could not get rid of the Elven unit.

(Edit: It was such a horrible luck for Dustin here! He hit only 4-5 times out of 25 attacks from Decimators alone needing 4+ to hit. 30 more 4+ to hit attacks didn't do a single point of damage. And to add insult to injury, out of 9 attacks from Golems only one resulted in a wound! On top of that Drakons passed their nerve test without even wavering. Ouch!

Outcasts - Turn 5

Second wave hits in!

Not believing their own luck but not questioning the choices of Lady Fortune, Elves charged in again. This time, Spearelves and Drakon Lord used their good position to go after Decimators directly. Initial plan was to disrupt them only but this time the chances were the proper damage can be done too. Decimators held without a problem but they were indeed hurt and Abyssal Dwarfs fortress was under siege.

The most lucky of all, Drakon Riders, charged in against wounded Golems and with the aid of the magic, turn them into dust. The outer wall is broken!

In such circumstances, the reserves moved in while Stormwind cavalry annihilated last flock of Gargoyles. The shooters tried to get rid of the Champion and this time they succeeded in wavering him!

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 5

Abyssal Dwarfs strike back!

Abyssal Dwarfs got really angry and enacted some revenge. Overmaster himself flew back and destroyed troop of Palace Guard who exposed their flank. Decimators counter charged Drakon Lord and wounded him but he held his ground. Finally, last Golems destroyed annoying Drakon Riders. 

However, despite these successes and being able to reclaim the control over the center of the battlefield, Abyssal Dwarfs had to brace for impact as third wave of Elven attacks was coming.

Outcasts - Turn 6

Stormwind cavalry - the dragon hunters!

The third and most powerful wave of Elven attacks came in! Drakon Lord and Spearelves finished off Decimators! Thunderous Charge of Stormwind cavalry, further supported by powerful magic gave ni chance to Overmaster and Abyssal Dwarfs general was dead!

Finally, Palace Guard smashed poor Fire Team but fell short of overrunning into exposed flank of the last Golems!  (Edit: I needed 4+ to get there but rolled a 3 :)). The rest of the army moved in towards the center too in order to overwhelm enemy forces there.

Abyssal Dwarfs still had some strong assets to use though!

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 6

Abyssal Dwarfs do not give up!

Though Abyssal Dwarfs had very few resources left these were still very strong units. Golems charged without hesitation and Elven Drakon Lord could not hold them on his own. Nearby Spearelves gor wavered and that complicated things further. 

Halfbreed Champion, regenerating his wounds fast, attacked Silverbreeze cavalry that was shielding other units from Golems. Luckily they survived! (for now!) Finally, Ironcasters moved in to block Palace Guard from charging against Golems.

(Edit: At this stage Elves were winning with a safe margin but the dice roll said we were to fight one more turn!)

Outcasts - Turn 7

Elves converge around the center

Unfortunately for Elves, despite having many more units left, majority of them were not in a good position to attack. Palace Guard charged interfering Ironcaster but he passed his nerve check and Elves could not overrun to get his companion too.  

The shooters could not finish off the Champion either and it was now up to Abyssal Dwarfs to say the last word.

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 7

Abyssal Dwarfs claim last kills

Abyssal Dwarfs used their last chance to shift the balance into their favor well. Golems destroyed yet another unit and Halfbreed Champion finished wounded Silverbreeze cavalry. Fortunately for the Elves, they still managed to control the center with enough units to remain victorious!

Final standings

These Abyssal Dwarfs heroes are quite expensive! Dustin had the total of 710 points, while I had 945 points in the middle of the battle field. That gave me 235 points advantage, just above require 10% for the scenario conditions. Very close! 

If not for the 7th turn I would have had additional 285 points there :) I am glad I moved all the units I could to have enough of them to make a difference.  


Turn-by-turn summary animation

After-battle thoughts

First of all I would like to thank Dustin for a great game. It was our first encounter but I can tell you that he is a great opponent. He will give you the toughest challenge he can and he plays as a true gentlemen. If you happen to meet him on UB, play a game against him! I guarantee you will enjoy it! 

From my point of view it was very exciting to play against the army that has totally opposite approach to mine. Where I try to use different formations each game, his focuses on a single, bullet proof one. Where I try to arrange multiple charges from different directions, his army is a steamroller. 

Hence, it was very interesting to see for me which approach would be victorious this time. And I am very happy I managed to grasp the victory. However, I am fully aware that if we were to play again, even in the same scenario and with similar moves, the outcome could have been totally different.

I am glad I spotted some opportunities in time to gain some advantage but I also need to admit I made mistakes that should have been avoided.

First of all, I left the back door open. That was unacceptable and Halfbreed Champion not only destroyed my two units alone and third one together with Overmaster but contributed his considerable cost (200 points) to the value of troops in the middle for scenario purposes.

Second, I messed up with reforming sometimes. For instance, when I lost Stormwind troop my other heavy cavalry regiment could have been in far better position to counter charge (or maybe even prevent such an attack). I then forgot that individuals don't multiply their attacks against units when attacking from the flank/rear and reformed Stormwind cavalry (SW1) to face him rather than Golems. That led to the situation where I could not attack anything turn 7 at all to secure my position. Luckily, I still had enough of an advantage to win.

Dustin's bad luck was horrendous in that single turn where he simply could not hurt Drakon Riders. I really feel sorry for him and I did assume my unit is good as dead but I wanted to use that first wave to scratch the Golems so that  they can be finished off soon after. In a way I counted on that because that would have opened a free path to enemy units. Of course if I needed, I could also fly over with Drakons but I simply used them to charge second time because they could destroy the enemy by themselves.

Having said that I think a few minor things also helped me in that battle. First, Gargoyles were exposed on the right flank a bit too early. With Silverbreeze that hits on 4+ even after movement and ability to use Bolt Throwers if needed to target enemies further away it was risky move. I think in the initial stage it might be more beneficial to Dustin to lose one regiment of Golems than Gargoyles.

Second, that flank charge against the Dragon was really close call and it simply happens sometimes that a little pivot right or left makes a difference between front or flank charge. I took it because it is always beneficial to harm such target and by doing so I forced Dustin to make a decision. Either charge Stormwind and prevent them from charging him or counter charge Palace Guard and prevent them from attacking his flank.

I didn't use it to the full advantage though as I didn't reform Palace Guard after they destroyed Dragonfire team but I still think it was a good idea. 

I am sure there will be more findings and hidden opportunities revealed later on. I am also looking forward to playing more games against Dustin to see if I can break another wall :)

Thanks for reading!  


  1. Gutted for the ADs! The dice gods are clearly celestians! Great report!

    1. Hi Jonah,

      I don't like these crazy roll either! They simply leave the impression I won the game thanks to dice rather than good plan. :)

      Now I need to schedule a rematch and prove it was not a coincidence :D

  2. This was an amazingly useful writeup and very enjoyable! As an aspiring Abyssal Dwarf player, I found it most educational = )

    1. Hi RiTides!

      Thanks a lot! I am very happy that you found the report both enjoyable and educational! For that part you need to thank my opponent, Dustin, who developed his nice style over the course of 10+ battles! I hope we will have a chance for a rematch or, who knows, maybe a longer series of games.