In the third game I played Chris and his Undead horde. We have played against each other a few times already and last time Chris defeated me during the Edge of the Abyss campaign. It was thus a great opportunity to even the score!
The interesting part of playing against the known player is that we both started developing certain behaviors as a result of previous encounters. Chris became even more patient with his army, slowly but purposely approaching my army, being careful not to expose the flanks. I learned some painful lessons about being too hasty in the attack or underestimating the power of Surge. I really hoped I would not make these mistakes again!
Chris had some usual suspects in his force but there were a few surprised for me too:
Undead - Army List
40 Zombies, Horde
- 10 Skeleton Warriors, Troops
- 5 Soul Reaver Cavalry, Troops
- 5 Revenant Cavalry, Troops
- Liche King, Hero
6 Barrow Wights, Horde
- Army Standard, Mounted
20 Wraiths, Regiment
40 Zombies - not only good due to thematic reasons but simply a very good unit to have. I wonder if not even better at this size of the game as there would be fewer powerful units that can combine their efforts to destroy the horde in one go. Especially that it would place them in a risky spot for counter attack.
6 Barrow Wights - the units from the Edge of the Abyss campaign were allowed and Chris took the opportunity to take this one. It is quite an interesting choice because on hand they Fly but on the other "only" at Speed 7 and they Shamble. However, with Surge it can be a really potent weapon. Crushing Strength 3 is scary as even with hitting on 4+ they will do substantial damage. I labeled it as the most dangerous unit in the enemy army and decided to focus on it. If I could eliminate that unit it would mean less worries for the army to counter and substantial dent in the enemy lines.
20 Wraiths - I was so used to playing against troops of Wights that when I looked at the regiment it was a bit of a nasty surprise. For only 60 extra points you get a unit with -/16 nerve and 6+ defense that is not that easy to take down. Interestingly, it does not increase the number of the attacks but it can be used in a more aggressive way. Again, combination with Surge is quite dangerous.
5 Revenant Cavalry - Chris has not fielded much of the cavalry so far (at least not in our games) so it was interesting to see some faster elements of that type. This cavalry is shambling but that also means that Surge is the thing to watch out for. 8 attacks hitting on 4+ may not seem like a big thing but against my small units I should be careful even in the case of a one-on-one attacks. -/14 is quite a good nerve on a troop type unit too.
5 Soul Reaver Cavalry - this unit is hard as nails with 6+ defense and hit very hard too. They are expensive but they are really good and I am glad I had only 1 unit to deal with. They are not shambling so bring a bit more speed to the army and can comfortably take on any of my units alone.
10 Skeleton Warriors - this unit is there probably for objective capturing and while it is not a threat on its own, it helps other, more powerful units to focus on destroying the enemy. May be easy to destroy so that it does not go in the way.
Liche King - With Surge (12) alone they are already very useful. Then Chris added Heal (6) for good measure so that any of his tough units would recover quickly and make it very hard to destroy them. He also sports high nerve as for a hero type of a unit so it is not that easy to take him down.
Army Standard - Mounted source of inspiring presence, he also had a small hammer artifact with him. But main role would be to inspire nearby troops.
In general, I faced quite a tough army with substantial number of units sporting 5+/6+ defense. With Heal(6) and Lifeleech it would be very hard to take these units down so I would really need to focus my shooting and probably still need a proper multiple charge to eliminate them. The trick would be to force hard choices such as to Surge or to Heal as the Liche King would not be able to do both at the same time.
However, I must admit I do not have a clear idea how to play against Undead, even after quite a few battles against Chris. I cannot comfortably surround his army as often it keeps the formation and does not allow any multiple charges. The shooting can be healed quickly and it feels like I am just wasting my time :) Fortunately, there are also scenario objectives and I intended to focus on these.
Deployment and Scenario
|Deployment and coffins as Loot Tokens.
|Deployment of the armies.
Due to the narrower battle fields the tokens could not be placed on one flank only. That was good as otherwise I would need to face the Undead head on and try to snatch the tokens before they can get it. It didn't quite work before and was quite costly so this time, at least, the tokens were spread along the width of the battle field.
Chris deployed on one flank and it looked like he gave up the token on the right. I knew I cannot just rush there and grab the tokens as with Surge I would be quickly attacked. In fact, it seemed like playing to Chris advantage if I collected the tokens in this way.
I started deployment with the shooters in the middle as I was not sure where each of the enemy would be but it looked like I am not in a good spot. I took the opportunity for the first turn to get into better positions.
Outcasts - Turn 1
|Careful maneuvering begins.
|Shooting at Barrow Wights.
Elves started moving to positions and being extra careful not to get too close to the Undead. They can be deceptively fast when they are ordered and aided by dark magic. The shooting focused on Barrow Wights despite them being in good cover and some damage was inflicted.
Undead - Turn 1
|The damage is undone!
The undead somewhat mirrored the Elven maneuvering and also started outflanking their foes while the bulk of the army shambled forward. However, instead of ranged attacks, the Liche King called upon dark magic to heal back the damage done to the Barrow Wights.
Outcasts - Turn 2
|1st objective claimed.
|The shooting continues.
This time Elves withdrew some units on the left flank and tempted undead with some charges against Palace Guard. The shooters once again aimed at Barrow Wights and units on the right flank continued their maneuvering.
Undead - Turn 2
|Undead are very patient.
Undead rearranged the battle line so that it maintained the cohesion and did not allow faster Elves to use their maneuverability to attack any unit from multiple directions. Once again the shooting damage was undone by the Liche King!
Outcasts - Turn 3
|Elves decided to gamble.
|Would the noble sacrifice work?
Seeing that the things develop too slowly, the Elven commanders decided on a gamble. Palace Guard unit changed the direction of the attack and rushed towards the objective. War Chariots moved on the hill to cover that maneuver and block line of sight to the infantry. They would be in grave danger in doing so but hopefully the noble sacrifice would allow their companions to win the battle.
Undead - Turn 3
|Finally some charges!
Undead cavalry stormed through the center and routed Elven War Chariots. However, they could not yet capitalize on that success as fast and powerful Drakon Riders were threatening any advances with counter attacks. Thus, Undead consolidated their positions.
Outcasts - Turn 4
|Elves run away with the Loot.
|Brave Army Standard faces entire Undead army alone!
It was time to change the approach and use the speed to disengage from the enemy. With two out of three loot tokens, the Elves concluded the goals were achieved and it was time to secure them. Thus both Palace Guard units moved away from the enemy or hid behind their companions. At the same time the units on the left flank moved towards the right side at a top speed.
Only a single, brave Army Standard stood alone on the top of the hill to buy more time for the units to move to the safe positions.
Undead - Turn 4
|The chase begins.
The Undead army was ordered to pursue retreating Elves but the units in the South were not that fast without the support of the dark magic. Revenant cavalry attacked the Army Standard but the brave hero stood his ground!
Outcasts - Turn 5
|Fast cavalry joins the Army Standard.
|Palace Guard continues the great escape.
Palace Guard moved at a double to put more distance between themselves and the enemy. To make sure that the foe does not close too fast, the Silver Breeze cavalry moved forward to aid the Army Standard in its fight to slow down the enemy
Undead - Turn 5
|Silver Breeze and Army Standard hold the line!
(Edit: At this stage I was running out of time and did not take pictures. Hence, there may be some inaccuracies in the movement or positioning of some units. I apologize for that.)
Time and Elves were running out. Wights and the mounted Vampires attacked Silver Breeze but somehow the Elven fast cavalry held the line buying precious time for the Palace Guard.
Zombies covered the approach for Barrow Wights as they too moved in position to try and intercept escaping Elven units.
Outcasts - Turn 6
|Drakons counter attack!
Elves took some risk in moving Drakons in a more aggressive way in order to intercept Skeleton Warriors in their march towards the last objective. Both units could potentially be counter charged or attacked from flank/rear. However, in doing so they also provided a dilemma for the Liche King. To continue pursuing the Palace Guard or to catch the flying cavalry?
Undead - Turn 6
|Wights fail to catch the Palace Guard!
The Skeleton Warriors managed to reach the last objective. Soul Reaver cavalry destroyed the Silver Breeze this time but the most important maneuver was that of Barrow Wights. They flew towards the escaping and not protected Palace Guard but the dark magic was not strong enough to let them fly further and lucky Elves run away with their prize!
|Turn-by-turn summary animation.
Thanks a lot, Chris, for yet another great game! I got lucky to escape with the loot and to finish the rounds in time! I prepared for turn 7 to move my drakons only to catch your Skeleton Warriors in hope I will have enough to roll the dice :)
It is also worth noting that in this game I had 0 points for attrition as I didn't destroy a single unit! However, getting 2 out of 3 tokens helped to win the game! As the bracket for the attrition was wider than usual it also meant that Chris fell a bit short of getting 1 point extra. He destroyed Silver Breeze and Chariots and all he needed is to get rid of that stubborn Army Standard :)
I am really glad I managed to pull it off as I had no good plan at the start. Then I decided to gamble and steal the middle loot as my ranged attacks didn't work and my assault units were not in good positions to attack.
I think my deployment was not good though. I should have kept the shooters a bit longer to be able to use my ranged attacks better. Then the choice of Barrow Wights as a target was bad either. I should have aimed either at Revenant Cavalry or Skeleton Warriors instead as I had a better chance of destroying them. The loss of either unit is not a game winner in itself but would have forced Chris to come with other plan on how to proceed.
It was also huge mistake to leave the door open for Barrow Wights to move and Surge towards the Palace Guard. If that worked Chris would have won. Luckily for me the distance was still high and if I remember correctly it was something like 9-10 inches away. With Surge 12 the odds were not great but I should have prevented that.
From the point of view of the scoring systems I gained 1 more point with BlackJack than I would have with the CoK 2017 simply because of the different attrition bracket. But again, my focus was on winning the scenario and at no point during the game I considered different decisions due to different scoring system.
Thanks for reading!