Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Game 152 - Salamanders - 2021/01/26

Greetings!

Welcome to my first battle report in 2021! Although I must confess I still have a few games from 2020 to write about and the battle I am going to present today is not even the first battle of 2021. But don't worry, they will all be properly reported sooner (hopefully!) than later. 

What is then so special about this particular game that I decided to write about it first? Well, it is the first battle I played using Tabletop Simulator platform and I really would like to tell you about my experiences without too much of a delay!

Before I continue, I would like to thank Karl, who was very kind to be my guide, coach and the first opponent in this new universe! He prepared pretty much everything one may need to play Kings of War on Tabletop Simulator. As you can imagine, it is far easier to learn new things with someone experienced to show you the ropes. Hence, before I move to the game itself, let me tell you a bit more about Tabletop Simulator, especially if you have not heard about it before).

In short, Tabletop Simulator is a platform on Steam where you can potentially play any game you like (boardgames, table top games etc.). It is a tool to create all the components of the game of your choice and enjoy it online. In my opinion, it is not an alternative to games with real models but simply a fantastic expansion that allows you to play with people you would have otherwise have no chance to play. In the current circumstances, however, when a lot of people are in lockdowns, it can be the way to enjoy the hobby when nothing else is available at the moment.

The most recent addition to the ready-to-play armies - Undead

You do have to pay for it on Steam but you gain access to a lot of games and models you can even adapt to your own needs. But don't worry, there is enough already created in there for you by other people to simply play the game already! In fact, I highly recommend reading the following article written by Karl and that was published on Mantic website:

How to play Kings of War on Tabletop Simulator

It is a great description of an essential details that would allow you to play Kings of War on this platform. In addition, Karl organized a Facebook group for you and there is even more in there if you would like to learn more:

Kings of War - Tabletop Simulator

What I also found attractive in Tabletop Simulator, is that it not only gives you an opportunity to play your games online, but also makes it as close to the real life gaming experience as possible. With 3D models and terrain, and the ability to import renders of your real models (although this is a skill I have yet to learn), it has the potential to make your games look as alive and real as normal. 

I was thus very intrigued and could not wait to learn how to play with the new platform (new for me of course!)!

I am going to proceed to a regular report now but I tried to take some snapshots during the game that I will add as I would usually include photos from my games. I will then come back to a discussion about the platform and my first impressions after the battle report.

Salamanders vs Elves - Fool's Gold

Karl chose Salamanders as his army for the game and you could tell he spent some time preparing the units with great looking models and scenic bases. We decided to play with armies at 2000 points per side.

An example of one of Karl's great looking units.

What I always liked about Kings of War is the opportunity to create an unique army in each faction even if you may be using some of the popular choices. It was no different with Karl's army where he themed his force around more numerous contingents of Ancients inspiring the army in the battle instead the usual heroes.

Here are the details:

Salamanders - Army List

Tyrants Horde (T1), Large Infantry - 240
Tyrants Horde (T1), Large Infantry - 240

Kaisenor Lancers Regiment (KL1), Cavalry - 195
Kaisenor Lancers Regiment (KL2), Cavalry, Maccwar's Potion of Caterpillar - 215

Ancients* Troop (A1), Heavy Infantry - 120
Ancients* Troop (A2), Heavy Infantry - 120
Ancients* Troop (A3), Heavy Infantry - 120
Ancients* Troop (A4), Heavy Infantry - 120

Ghekkotah Warriors Troop (GW1), Infantry - 60
Ghekkotah Warriors Troop (GW2), Infantry - 60

Fire Drake (FD1), Titan - 210
Fire Drake (FD2), Titan - 210

Herald (H), Hero (Heavy Infantry), Lute of Insatiable Darkness - 85

This army has 13 elements, 12 of them scoring and combined unit strength of 20. The very interesting part is that the inspiring presence is almost exclusively provided by troops of Ancients. Very heavily armoured infantry, that cannot be wavered and is very reliable on its own too. 

The lancers and tyrants are army's heavy hitters and quite fast too. Only my own cavalry and fliers is faster than any of them and I had to avoid even frontal charges from either of the unit. They are fully capable of destroying any of my own on the charge. 

Fire Drakes are probably my personal favourites in this army. Very tough, very manoeuvrable and very flexible, they add a lot to any army. It is no surprise they are so popular!

Small Ghekkotah Warriors are not to be underestimated as they can hold the objectives and hide efficiently from the enemy. Pathfinder ability would help in that. Of course, due to being cheap unit, they are often expendable too. 

Here is the army I used in this battle:

Outcasts - Army List

Stormwind Regiment (S), Cavalry, Chalice of Wrath - 230
Palace Guard Regiment (PG1), Infantry - 160
Palace Guard Regiment (PG2), Infantry - 160
Archers Regiment (A1), Infantry - 120

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 (K), Hero (Cavalry), Hann's Sanguinary Scripture, Sabre-toothed Hunting Cat - 155
Archibald the Archmage (A), Hero (Infantry), Lighting Bolt (5), Inspiring Talisman - 115
Arnold the Army Standard (AS), Hero (Infantry) - 60


My army has 14 elements, with 12 of them scoring and combined unit strength of 22. Both our armies seem to be quite similar from this point of view. Karl's force is obviously tougher and more reliable, i.e. it is more difficult to waver the units (if at all!). It usually means that such army is better in the war of attrition so I would need to make sure the fights I pick are over quickly. This is to not only to eliminate enemy units but also to keep the speed and momentum.

That's why I try to include a bit of shooting so that I can inflict some initial damage to help with the inevitable melee. But also to be able to force the nerve tests after combats where some of the enemies may be operational but damaged.

Fortunately, I have speed advantage to do it so let's see if that worked! :)

Terrain

Terrain Details

Deployment and Scenario

Elves (South) vs Salamanders (North) - Fool's Gold


We rolled for a scenario and got Fool's Gold. It is a very interesting scenario and does add that nice, story telling aspect to the game. I find it also very intriguing because you need to keep adapting your plan with every token revealed. And while you may have an idea how do you want to move to your opponent's half to claim or contest objectives there, things may change dramatically when you realize what is your enemy up to!

I decided to place "0" worth tokens on the left, then both "1" tokens in the middle-right and the most valuable one on the extreme right flank. It is because I wanted the enemy to come to me first and "abandon" the objectives behind it. In this way I wanted to achieve a few goals. Buy time to do some damage with shooting. Be in the position to control or at least contest objectives in my half. And perhaps use the fast units to find the gaps to race towards "my" objectives in the later part of the game when the enemy would be in a difficult position. Either to try and chase my fast units or try to fight its way through to "his" tokens.

Despite that, I still placed my heavy cavalry on the left as I needed to clear that flank and keep the centre safe to keep shooting as well as fighting without the risk of being overwhelmed from two sides. If I could win on the left, then the units would assist the rest of the army and slow enemy advance. Perhaps with an opening or two for my objectives.

Let's see what really happened!

Deployment of the armies with objectives placements.


Outcasts - Turn 1

Elves seize the initiative!


Elven army used the speed advantage and moved forward first. Shamblers scouted ahead of the army and were now approaching one of the hills to wait in ambush for any enemy unit willing to show up on the top of it.

The shooters were not yet able to focus fire on a single target so while majority of the arrows were aimed at the Fire Drake, some were directed at the Ancients.

Salamanders - Turn 1

Salamanders advance on the East and withdraw on the West.


Salamanders chose a different strategy. On the West, the units actually withdrew, with only the Fire Drake stepping forward and breathing fire at its smaller, flaying cousins. 

At the same time, the group on the East moved forward, using forest as a cover.

Salamanders on the Western flank.


Outcasts - Turn 2

Elves decided to attack early.


Elves had to attack fast to defeat the group on the Western flank before it brought local numerical superiority to their advantage. Drakon Lord and Riders flew over the Fire Drake and attempted to defeat the Ancients instead. With a bit of luck they hoped to rout the enemy. It didn't work but the move would at least block the Tyrants. At the same time the King charged in and scattered Ghekottas Warriors. Now the Kaisenor Lancers would need to decide if they wanted to attack him and get into a charging distance of enemy knights or let him move around unobstructed.

Using the extra momentum from the charge down the hill, Palace Guard regiments attacked early too. Once again, the charge was not sufficient to defeat the Ancients and despite some blocking action performed by the Drakons, Elves dangerously exposed their flanks to the enemy attacks. 


Salamanders - Turn 2

Salamanders counter attack


Salamanders quickly exploited the openings Elven attack left. Both Drakon Riders regiments perished as they stood no chance to hold against the fury of the Tyrants. The King himself was captured by the enemy cavalry.

Surprisingly, however, the flank charge by the Fire Drake against the Palace Guard only wavered the Elven infantry and left the Drake badly exposed in turn.

Outcasts - Turn 3

Second wave proves to be more powerful!

Elves continued their attack and the second punch was much more powerful. The Drakon Lord managed to finish the badly damaged Ancients and Forest Shamblers did great by routing the enemy cavalry as well! Unfortunately, Stormwind did not follow this example and ended up locked in a fight against the Tyrants.

On the Eastern side of the battle field fast and nimble Silverbreeze hunted down the Fire Drake they have been shooting at so far. Flank and rear charge, combined with extra power from the down the hill charge, made sure the attack was successful. 

However, Palace Guard regiments, suffering casualties already, had to prepare for the charge of some heavy hitters.

Salamanders - Turn 3

Elves are hard pressed


Unsurprisingly, the rear and flank charges that were offered to the Salamanders, resulted in routed Elven units. That placed Elves in a very difficult position, especially on the Eastern front. It was now clear where all the treasure is and they were left with fast but fragile units to stem the advance of powerful Lancers and Tyrants.

Interestingly, however, single regiment of Palace Guard survived and kept on fighting! (Edit - double 1!)

Outcasts - Turn 4

Attack is the best form of defence - right?


Elves had to buy some time to try and regroup the few units that remained in a fight. Drakon Lord and Shamblers attacked the Tyrants on the Western flank, simply to eliminate the threat.

At the same time, the Palace Guard and one of the Silverbreeze cavalry units, attacked the other unit of Tyrants. They had some chance to inflict damage there but mainly it was to slow down all three enemy units there. 

Salamanders - Turn 4

Thin blue line still holds!


Salamanders were sure that one more attack would simply break Elven resolve. But this is not what happened! Despite the flank attack and being overwhelmed by two most powerful units in the enemy army, Palace Guard heroically held its ground! (Edit - yet another double 1!)

Outcasts - Turn 5

Everything hangs in the balance!


Drakon Lord left the Forest Shamblers to keep the Fire Drake busy and flew over to help where it really mattered. 

Unfortunately, despite good positions on the hills, Forest Shamblers and Silverbreeze cavalry did not do significant damage to the Ancients. Instead of breaking towards another objective, they were locked in combat.

Heroic Palace Guard mustered more strength to fight the Tyrants but were not able to push them back. 

Salamanders - Turn 5

The Palace Guard still holds!


Surely this time the Salamanders would break through, right? Well, it definitely started well with both Ancients units defeating the fast cavalry units. But miraculously, Palace Guard was still holding against two enemy units! (Third double 1's in a row and 62 points of damage on the unit - and still kept on fighting! - very bad luck for Karl who felt much more devastated than the battered Palace Guard

Outcasts - Turn 6

Palace Guard defeats the Tyrants!


Both armies were quite exhausted at this point but had to keep on fighting. Forest Shamblers locked in combat against the Ancients but were not able to break stubborn veterans. Drakon Lord repositioned to control the objective and threaten other units. 

But it was once again the unbelievable Palace Guard that surprised everyone. Not only did the regiment survived for so long against all odds, but it finally defeated the Tyrants! 

Salamanders - Turn 6

Secure the treasure!


At this stage the Salamanders decided to focus on the objectives instead. The lancers withdraw and did not attack the Palace Guard anymore. Instead, their presence secured one of the objectives and at this moment of the fight it was a draw.

Elves did not want to tempt the fate any further withdrew with what they managed to collect and accepted that the battle, although bloody, remained unresolved.

Summary

Turn-by-turn animation summary.

After-battle

Many thanks to Karl for a great game and a lot of patience in guiding me through the Tabletop Simulator! It was a fantastic experience and I am really happy that I finally had an opportunity to play against Karl. I believe we attended some events in the past but we have never had a chance to play. I would highly recommend reaching out to him to organize some games not only because he is an excellent teacher but mainly because he is a fantastic player! 

Looking at the game itself, I came to the conclusion that I was too reckless. It made sense to me on the Western flank. I needed to act fast before the Salamanders blocked my units completely. But I didn't follow the plan to keep shooting for a while, draw the enemy towards me and attack when I had better support. 

It was a crucial mistake and should have resulted in a lost battle. It was only thanks to the Palace Guard holding against overwhelming enemies for three rounds in a row.

I do think that Karl should have won this game. In such situations I try to see if there were different options that perhaps would have resulted in a more favourable outcomes. This is also to be able to make sure I do not make silly mistakes myself!

I would like to focus on two situations from this game, that in my opinion are worth looking at in more detail. 

First one is with the Fire Drake that charged the exposed flank of the Palace Guard (PG2). It is a bit with a benefit of a hindsight, but I think it would have been far more difficult for me if the Drake charged together with the Ancients against Palace Guard (PG1). There were better odds to eliminate that threat in the single turn. And then the Fire Drake would have not been exposed to simultaneous flank and rear attack.

Second, once again with the full benefit of a hindsight, the Tyrants had enough killing power to win against already damaged Palace Guard. The Lancers did not need to add to it at all and even if they spent one turn manoeuvring, they would have been in far batter position. While the double 1's three times in a row is really bad luck, it would have not mattered at all if the Lancers were free to move as I had nothing to stop them. 

I definitely need to have a better plan and far better execution next time we play with Karl, as I am sure I used up my luck for many games to come! :)

Tabletop Simulator - First Impressions

I would also like to share my first impressions with the new platform. I really like it and I think it has a great potential for those who would like their online games to look spectacular. I learned a lot from Karl and it makes the whole process of acquiring a new skill much easier and faster.

As with any new tool or skill, I need more practice as I am a bit slow with some of the functionalities. For example, you can look at the table from many angles and points of view. But because you are rotating the table rather than moving around it, takes a bit of time to get used to. At least for me :) That's why I did not yet take many photos as I focused on learning. Hopefully next time there will be more to share!

There is also a lot to learn about how to create tables, terrains, models and any useful gadgets that are also personalized to your own needs. There is a lot to explore, in particular from other games. I think this may also be quite attractive for some, as it allows to create some really unique visual effects.

I personally would like to start with building the tables and terrain features with battle reports in mind. I think that showcasing some really cool things people have already made available by adapting them to Kings of War is something to start with. Karl tells me that in other systems you have something like dedicated teams of players who prepare all sorts of things for others to use. 

I really hope the number of users will grow and that people will start using this tool as yet another way of playing your games. After all, variety is a spice of life!

Thanks for reading!

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