Friday 10 June 2016

Kings of Dave 4 - Game 4 - Abyssal Dwarfs - 2016/06/10


In the last game of the tournament I was about to play against Abyssal Dwarfs. The army I have played only once so far. While it is better than nothing it is not much of a huge experience either. 

It happened that the army of my opponent consisted of some of the already known units but also some that I didn't have a chance to play against yet. Interestingly enough, we were to play scenario Dominate, exactly the same as last time I played against this army. Here are the details of the force I was about to meet on the battle field.

Abyssal Dwarfs - Army List

40 Blacksouls, Horde - 190
- G'rog Mortar, War Engine - 100
- Overmaster on Abyssal Dragon, Hero, The Fog  - 315

20 Blacksouls, Regiment - 115
- G'rog Mortar, War Engine - 100
- Overmaster on Abyssal Dragon, Hero, Medallion of Life  - 315 
6 Lesser Obsidian Golems, Horde - 210
- G'rog Mortar, War Engine - 100
- Abyssal Halfbreed Champion, Hero - 160 
10 Abyssal Halfbreeds, Regiment - 195
- Abyssal Halfbreed Champion, Hero - 160 
6 Abyssal Grotesques, Horde - 250
- Abyssal Halfbreed Champion, Hero - 160 

As expected, the army in general is built according to the overall theme of Abyssal Dwarfs - brutal and tough. But while Dwarfs may be associated with being slow, this army was not. Let's have a look at its elements with more detail:

40 Blacksouls - horde of infantry and a regiment of the same type. Blacksouls seem to be standard warriors for this army, with very good defense and good nerve values. They are not particularly dangerous in terms of pure offensive power but they cannot be ignored either. In particular, that this army is Vicious. 

The good thing is they are slow so there is a possibility to outmaneuver them. However, they may as well stay put and act as an anvil, the purpose they are in the army for. 

6 Lesser Obsidian Golems - even tougher than blacksouls, not possible to waver, these guys can be even better anvil. But their Crushing Strength (2) attacks can also do a lot of damage to any enemy. At the same time they are even slower and without any Surge abilities in the army they cannot be used to their full potential. It might be the opportunity to exploit.

10 Abyssal Halfbreeds - this unit looks like a typical CS(1) + TC(1) cavalry on the offensive side. They are more dangerous though due to Vicious, as in general the army should be expected to deal more damage than a similar units in other armies. However, on the defensive part they are not as well armored as heavy cavalry. On the other hand, they Regenerate. That suggest they it might be a good idea to attack them in force, if possible, as they may be routed easier. And because if not then they can come back to their full strength eventually.

6 Abyssal Grotesques - this is a completely new unit for me and they did look intimidating. They hit way harder than Halfbreeds, they have better armor and regenerate. But they are a bit slower and have a bigger foot print so they may not be that maneuverable. They have higher nerve too so again, in order to take down the unit I would need to focus the effort of a few of my own to make sure I can damage it properly to rout it quickly and not allow it to regenerate.

G'rog Mortars - I noticed that war machines that have the rule Indirect were quite popular among my opponents. Every one of them had some kind of artillery of that type. I am not surprised, really, as the fact that you ignore cover is a huge advantage. D6+2 blast and Piercing (2) should ensure that some damage is done per hit no matter what. And to ensure that they hit something there are 3 of them. Hopefully, my fast elements will get to them early.

Overmasters on Abyssal Dragons - focal elements of the army, these two monstrosities caught the attention immediately. The fact that there are two dragons, not just one, makes completely different challenge on its own. In addition, these Dragons are protected further, one is harder to hit, the other one has regenerative abilities. As if they were not tough enough on their own! I have never faced two big fliers at the same time so I was trying to come up with some idea how to deal with them. 

Abyssal Halfbreed Champions - first impression is that they are not super dangerous. But when you look closer you notice they are. They are super fast and thanks to being individual they are also very maneuverable. They may not fly but they have the advantage of free pivot before the move so they have a potential radius of influence that has 16". That is huge. Their 6 attacks with CS(3) and Vicious means they usually are going to add as many points of damage. No matter if you are in defensive position or not. Then on top of that they are also hard to kill because they are Individuals (so shooting is less efficient) and they have good armor combined with regeneration. And there are 3 of them so Dragons are free to do whatever they like but the army should have plenty of inspiring around anyway.

In general, I divided this army into the following elements: The Brick - all the units of the army, that can and probably would work together anyway as they have anvils, hammers and units that do both roles well. The Artillery - long range support that does not care about the cover. The Dragons - flying monsters with huge flexibility that can fly around, use breath attack and jump into favorable combats attacking from the most favorable direction. And last but not least - The Individuals. Very flexible elements, with huge range of influence but hard to kill.

I wanted to find my chance in the fact that artillery is stationary, the Brick may move slow (if it wants to maintain the tight and hard to break formation) and the Dragons may be moving fast forward. It means I could, potentially, attack the artillery that is not defended, outpace the Brick and try to break it and if I do it fast enough, I may have a chance before the dragons make me pay for that.


Terrain set up.

The terrain was quite simple. The hills were all height 1 so that didn't really matter for my opponent's mortars as they could comfortably aim at my cavalry. On the other hand it did affect my own shooting. Not good.

The rocks in the top left corner and the building were height 3 or 4 I think. And that's it. No forests to use Pathfinder :)

Deployment after vanguard.
Deployment order.

Final deployment.
My opponent deployed his units in two lines but very close to each other. That provided cover to the hard hitters behind the smaller Blacksouls but didn't block line of sight. It also made it more difficult to move over that formation. 

We played Dominate scenario so the Brick aimed at the very center of the battle field. It would park there and it would make it difficult to shift it while the artillery would be happy to shoot at any incoming enemy units.

At the same time Halfbreed champions would hold it all together and control the area further while the Dragons were on the far flank, avoiding bolt throwers. But I expected them to fly along the edge fast, then pivot towards the center and threaten the flank of my army.

I deployed my infantry behind the hill to engage the Black Souls as fast as possible. Cavalry and Drakons were to move along the flank and try to engage Golems and move behind the enemy army. The Kings, Gladestalkers and Hunters where there to engage the mortars, with Hunters possibly threatening the flank of the enemy. 

I was not happy with that deployment because I knew the Dragons will be faster than my cavalry but I decided to try this option anyway.

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 1

Dragons on the flank!

Opening fire.
Abyssal Dwarfs kept their super tight formation and started moving towards the center of the battle field. Slow but purposeful. At the same time both dragons flew fast along the flank and were already in a great position to threaten Elven army.

But it was up to the mortars to claim first kills. Gladestalkers and Hunters were caught in the open and were hit hard. Too far from their King and suffering heavy casualties, both units were effectively destroyed.

Outcasts - Turn 1


Elves move fast towards the enemy.
With the dragons on the flank  Elves had to move fast. The loss of two units was already a bad start. The infantry line approached their counter parts but it was clear they would not be able to attack yet. Unless Abyssal Dwarfs closed the distance too. 

The cavalry also moves forward but again, there is some unusual disorder among Elven ranks. What is more, the movement of the melee orientated troops obscure the line of sight for the shooter. Fortunately, the lone bolt thrower on the left destroyed one of the mortars. One down, two to go.

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 2

Dragons are getting closer.

Horrible fate of a bolt thrower crew.

The main force stayed where it was with only minor shifts of positions here and there. The mortars fired again but fortunately for Elves, this time they missed. One of the dragons destroyed nearby bolt thrower while the other got closer to the Elven troops. 

Outcasts - Turn 2

Noble sacrifice?

Preemptive attack.

Two Elven units moved forward to intercept enemy formation so that the rest of the army had time to counter attack. It was not easy because the open flank was threatened by the dragons. Once again, frantic maneuvers were performed at the cost of accuracy of the shooters. 

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 3

The dragons do not attack yet.

Surprisingly Elven line holds.

Abyssal Dwarfs counter attacked but surprisingly, Elven infantry held. Although left most Palace Guard wavered after vicious charge of two Halfbreed champions.

Yet again, the mortars missed their targets and the dragons flew a bit closer. 

Outcasts - Turn 3

Elven infantry attacks ...

Add caption

Elven infantry, in a desperate attack, charged the horde of Blacksouls but failed to rout them and now they were in a very bad position, surrounded by the enemy from all sides. 

The cavalry was still maneuvering, despite the opportunity to charge the Golems head on. Last but not least, Elven King attacked one of the mortars. However, he also failed to destroy it and it didn't look good for Elves at all.

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 4

Dragons attack!

Entire infantry is no more.

As Elven cavalry was occupied elsewhere and didn't guard the back of the infantry, it was a perfect moment for the dragons to attack. They picked one unit each and smashed them to pieces. The Halfbreed Champions finished another two of the units that have been already damaged. That attack destroyed entire Elven infantry line. 

The fact that the Huners somehow survived the attack of the Golems was only a small positive outcome.

Outcasts - Turn 4

Golems hold!

Seems like Elves got stuck.

With Hunters keeping the golems in place, heavy cavalry finally had a chance to attack the exposed flank of the enemy. However, the golems stubbornly held their position and the situation for Elves seemed to turn from bad to worse. 

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 5

Abyssal Dwarfs dominate the center.

Powerful individuals in action.
Abyssal Dwarfs started consolidating their positions. The dragons attacked fast cavalry but neither direct assault nor breath attacks resulted in routing the Elven units. However, one of them wavered and was pinned down.

One of the Halfbreed Champions spotted an opportunity and attacked the exposed flank of Drakon Riders and wavered them too.

Finally, Golems and Grotesques charged as well. While Golems didn't manage to rout Elven Knights, Grotesques had no problems in destroying already badly damaged Hunters.

Outcasts - Turn 5

Some successes for the Elven army.

Golems and Grotesques routed.

Elves were now fighting to make the margin of defeat smaller. The repeated attack saw Golems finally routed. Also Grotesques, who had to expose the rear to the attack of the Drakon Lord perished. Unfortunately, the Dwarven Ale was not potent enough to shake off the wavering effect for the Drakon Riders and they remained in the same position.

Abyssal Dwarfs - Turn 6

Abyssal Dwarfs control the center.

More Elven units die.

Second wave of the Abyssal Dwarfs army hit Elven units and many of them perished too. Fast cavalry, already in bad shape, could not hold against repeated attacks. Drakon riders had to face two Champions and it was too much for them as well. Finally, Drakon Lord tried desperately to hold his ground against Abyssal Halfbreed cavalry but failed too. 

Elves lost but it was still up to them to say the last word. 

Outcasts - Turn 6

Last charge.

Parting shots.

Elven cavalry charged Halfbreeds and routed them. Elven King finally destroyed the last of the mortars and bolt thrower crew managed to put an end to Blacksouls horde. But it all was too late and too little to shift the tide of battle. 

Remaining Elven forces withdrew from the battle field, before Abyssal Dragons would catch them too.


Turn-by-turn summary animation.

After-battle thoughts

My plan was bad, I made tons of mistakes which my opponent exploited mercilessly and the result could have been only one - defeat. It didn't help that in the course of battle I was also accused of making up rules. It seems it is up to me to prove I am not a cheater so here is the rule in question (page 3 of the FAQ document, under Movement label):

Q: Can a flying unit pivot while above another unit?
A: Yes, fliers may pivot while above other units as long as the flying unit's entire move ends clear of any units or blocking terrain. Unlike other units, fliers do not need to end their pivot clear of the other unit.

Since I could not prove I am correct during the game I didn't execute that move of course. Lesson for the future - don't forget FAQ. 

The good thing about mistakes is that one can learn from them.Let's have a look at what I think mainly contributed to my defeat:

1. Deployment - this is where it all started. First, I left the flank completely open for the Dragons. In the previous game against the Orcs I made the same mistake so I really need to stop doing that. I wonder, however, what would be a good force to counter two dragons at the same time. If I placed my heavy cavalry and fliers there I may have a chance but the dragons are still faster. And only regiment of Stormwind cavalry is strong enough to threaten them with a frontal charge.

The initial position of the infantry was a little too far. If I decided to attack early then they should have been on the edge of the deployment. Because they were not I was one turn later in melee and I also did that by sacrificing two infantry units. 

Having said that I think it would have been better if I placed my heavy cavalry and fliers on the same flank. At least it would prevent dragons from landing on my flank so early. And I would have avoided the confusion among the units that started going into each others way.

The shooters were positioned badly too. Bolt throwers could not have clear line of sight, fast cavalry was constantly blocked and Gladestalkers were dead before they shot a single arrow. 

I also forgot to use the Gem this game but I am not sure if that would have mattered that much. In any case, the alternative deployment I would have tried would be with the heavy cavalry and fliers on the left flank, melee infantry in the middle and shooters on the middle-right, with possibly a unit or two of the hunters to protect them a bit. 

2. Vanguard - I definitely messed that up here. My two units on the left simply moved into harms range and out of inspiring range. They got hurt badly anyway but there is always a better chance to survive with a re-roll. It really showed here that I used the special rule badly.

3. Movement - while partially the consequence of bad deployment, I kept making mistakes in the movement phase. For example, if I decided to attack the golems I should have pushed against them harder, probably sacrificing hunters one turn earlier. 

I didn't use fliers well either. One possibility was simply to charge Blacksouls and then jump over them to attack mortars or simply land behind the enemy lines. It is of course not a guarantee of a success, especially with highly mobile and hard hitting Halfbreed Champions. But at least it would cause more headaches for my opponent. 

Fast cavalry was wasted too. Instead of closing in and shooting at Halfbreed I should have tried to keep them away from the dragons longer. Or at least make them fly further from the center. If they followed then they would not contribute to the scenario objectives. If they didn't I could shoot at them. While they are tough targets, taking some wounds here and there might have helped. 

In this game I focused on eliminating enemy units but it was the expensive heroes who secured the victory for my opponent. This time the Brick smashed MSU and I need to come up with a much better idea how to combat individuals and large monsters. 

I wish this game was more interesting and less one sided but I hope that will be a good example of how not to play at Kings of War :)

Thanks for reading!


  1. Tough loss. I wonder if you could have hung back more and used your superior shooting? His Dragons could get to your lines fast but then they would be going in unsupported against your whole army. Two heavy fliers are hard to deal with regardless.

    1. Hi Sean!

      I definitely consider such an option too. I could potentially deploy with my infantry and the shooters in the middle, keep cavalry on the left to threaten the dragons anyway and then stay put in similarly tight formation.

      And while two heavy fliers are tough to deal with it is even a better motivation to look for a proper solution to the problem. :)

  2. Tough one that game it seems SM.

    Man those dragons and halfbreed champions seem tough as nails. The opening moves seemed to have you on the back foot from the opening turns and he dictated the pace and location of the fights. Normally when you achieve your victories it is because you have the initiative and you decide where the fights happen and ironically enough against an army of evil stunties it appears to have happened to you.

    I'm sure this will lead to more conversations for us but you're fantastic at analysing your own play and you've already suggested alternative planning. Well done.

    Thanks for the reports as per usual!

    1. Hi Jimmy,

      Well, such game happen sometimes. But as you well know it is from games like that you learn the most.

      It is a very good observation. I started reacting to my opponent's moves and hesitated in addition so now wonder my own charges were not coordinated well. However, I think I did help him by poor deployment. All he had to do was to exploit the mistakes I made.

      And thanks a lot for kind words! I try to learn from my games and the reports are extremely helpful in that. I am always amazed how many things I can see after the game on these maps!

      I just hope even the defeats like that are a good read and can help other players to devise their own plans to combat armies similar to those my opponents use.


  3. The Cube of Despair! It's a tough puzzle to crack, I've not seen it solved in the short time I've been involved in KoW and paying attention to [the abyssal dwarf player]'s games.

    1. Hi Tas!

      Indeed, this army is well designed and uses KoW rules very well. But as I mentioned in an earlier reply to Sean, that motivates me even more to find a solution to the problem. :)

      It may take time but I hope that I would at least put a better fight next time I face something similar.

      It seems my game reinforces something players tend to say often on the forums. That in KoW at the moment you may need to have the elements to deal with:
      1. Big fliers.
      2. Tough and fast Individuals.
      3. Artillery/Shooters.

      The trick is to be able to do so when all are present and of course, in addition to the army itself. :)

  4. No one accused you of cheating. All that was asked was - can you show me the faq? Which I pointed out was online and offered you my phone - to which you declined even though you spent the entire game checking rules. Then you asked the TO and he ruled against you. Finally I offered to play it your way anyway and you declined.

    Your behaviour after this incident was deplorable and I must say I'm extremely disappointed that you would rewrite history like that - doubly so because up to that point I enjoyed reading this blog and I hadn't played a person in KoW that I wouldst play again.

    1. I am sorry but that is not how it happened. And now in addition to accusing me of making up the rules you are calling me a lier.

  5. Nah champ - only thing youre being accussed of is being overly dramatic and a poor opponent. If I thought you were a liar or a cheat I would say that

  6. Tough opponent who used blocking terrain and big footprints to his advantage. Three mortars and two dragons! Not sure I'd know where to start. Disappointing to have to take abuse on your own blog - fairly decent of you to not delete the comments. I'd say if you are doing something and your opponent demands you prove it is legal, I think it is reasonable to take that as implicitly suggesting it is not and therefore cheating. I think your opponent may be better taking the approach 'yeah, sorry, you were right about that - sorry if you thought I was accusing you of cheating, didn't mean to come across like that, great game though', rather than this sort of sniping.

    Got to say every battle in this tournament seems to be of a really high standard - a bit disconcerting!

    1. Hi Jonah!

      Thanks a lot for the support!

      Indeed, I wanted to clarify I didn't make up the rules but it turns out I am far worse. It's really sad, because his comments are also misleading. For example, I didn't ask TO for the ruling, my opponent asked the player next table. His own grasp of rules was not perfect either. But I didn't complain when he thought his own Golems are height 2 and I had to show that they are height 3 or when I had to correct him about the fact that Drakon Lord is Large Cavalry and not a Monster. What's ironic in this situation is also the fact that the rule I showed is actually beneficial to him as he is using fliers as well.

      I would not mind discuss the differences in order to come up with a compromise and some sort of solution for the future to avoid problems. But if somebody comes back with names calling and insults ...

      The good thing is I learned quite a few things from that game about the use of different types of the units. I think Dominate suits armies that have a good staying power that could just sit in the center. While fast but hard hitting units, tough individuals and artillery can disrupt any attempt of dismantling such formation.

      Interestingly, I got the units this game but could not harm the heroes. As the scenario does not distinguish between heroes and units, and the heroes are pretty expensive, then it is ok to lose the units if the characters could stay alive.

      Potentially, I could try to harm dragons and characters instead of units then. However, that seemed to me more difficult task to accomplish. But I definitely should not leave the flank that open.

      I am glad to know you consider all the battles to be fought at a high level. That is how you learn to be better too, don't feel intimidated, just try to come up with a plan to deal with the threats. If that works, great! If not, then at least you know what to change. :)


  7. Hey Swordmaster - that is slightly incorrect. I asked Dave (the TO) who was at the next table which had Mark Ward on it. And yes it was exactly as I said - but that is irrelevant. I will say if you had taken the high road and not implied that it was me that had cheated you in the original blog it would have been fine. Also I will point out that there are online faqs and 40+ mobile phones in the room. Now normally I play exactly as Jonah suggests - but if someone consistently asks to see rules or checks them then I am in my right to ask the same - which you were correct on!

    And correct up till that point we had let small things through ...such as you consistently not measuring from the centre point or still moving your cav like warhammer (ie so many reforms you could just move them and not show your opponent the turns) plus some errors on your part with cover and not understanding that rule (while I admit I also got my height wrong on my golems).

    Anyway this will probably never be agreed.

    As far as the game - you didn't lose because of dragons, or individuals and definitely not because of cannons. You lost that game because you played it like it was warhammer. You didn't focus on the objective of the game enough. You never should have gone round the building after the golems and the black souls were a big trap that you shouldnt have gone into.

    1. That is simply not true. I didn't say anywhere I was cheated by you (or anybody else for that matter) and I didn't imply it either.